Friday, December 25, 2009


Someone mentioned to me that ECHO is on the list of Goodreads' candidates for Best Book of 2009. At a glance, there seem to be a _lot_ of good books listed, and I'm honored to be among them.

If you happen to feel like voting for ECHO or any of the others, the link to do so is

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas -and a small treat for your stocking

Merry Christmas to all!

I've been telling you about various short pieces involving dragons and murder and what-not--but there's another short story you may want to hear about. This one is for (yet another) anthology, titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS, and the story itself is titled "A Leaf on the Wind." This is the story of What Happened to Roger's Father--those of you who've read AN ECHO IN THE BONE may be especially interested, [g] though I think most folks who've enjoyed the series--and Roger--will like this.

I've begun working on Book Eight, but really don't have anything resembling coherent (let alone suitable) scenes to show you from that as yet, so I thought I'd post a brief scene from this short story as a small token of love and esteem for Christmas--and I wish y'all many happinesses of the season!

"A Leaf on the Wind" (excerpt)
Copyright 2009 Diana Gabaldon
In STAR-CROSSED LOVERS (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois)

Marjorie MacKenzie—Dolly to her husband—opened the blackout curtains. No more than an inch…well, two inches. It wouldn’t matter; the inside of the little flat was dark as the inside of a coal-scuttle. London outside was equally dark; she knew the curtains were open only because she felt the cold glass of the window through the narrow crack. She leaned close, breathing on the glass, and felt the moisture of her breath condense, cool near her face. Couldn’t see the mist, but felt the squeak of her fingertip on the glass as she quickly drew a small heart there, the letter J inside.

It faded at once, of course, but that didn’t matter; the charm would be there when the light came in, invisible but there, standing between her husband and the sky.

When the light came, it would fall just so, across his pillow. She’d see his sleeping face in the light: the jackstraw hair, the fading bruise on his temple, the deep-set eyes, closed in innocence. He looked so young, asleep. Almost as young as he really was. Only twenty-two [ck.]; too young to have such lines in his face. She touched the corner of her mouth, but couldn’t feel the crease the mirror showed her—her mouth was swollen, tender, and the ball of her thumb ran across her lower lip, lightly, to and fro.

What else, what else? What more could she do for him? He’d left her with something of himself. Perhaps there would be another baby—something he gave her, but something she gave him, as well. Another baby. Another child to raise alone?

“Even so,” she whispered, her mouth tightening, face raw from hours of stubbled kissing; neither of them had been able to wait for him to shave. “Even so.”

At least he’d got to see Roger. Hold his little boy—and have said little boy spit up milk all down the back of his shirt. Jerry’d yelped in surprise, but hadn’t let her take Roger back; he’d held his son and petted him until the wee mannie fell asleep, only then laying him down in his basket and stripping off the stained shirt before coming to her.

It was cold in the room, and she hugged herself. She was wearing nothing but Jerry’s string vest—he thought she looked erotic in it--"lewd," he said, approving, his Highland accent making the word sound really dirty--and the thought made her smile. The thin cotton clung to her breasts, true enough, and her nipples poked out something scandalous, if only from the chill.

She wanted to go crawl in next to him, longing for his warmth, longing to keep touching him for as long as they had. He’d need to go at eight, to catch the train back; it would barely be light then. Some puritanical impulse of denial kept her hovering there, though, cold and wakeful in the dark. She felt as though if she denied herself, offered that denial as sacrifice, it would strengthen the magic, help to keep him safe and bring him back. God knew what a minister would say to that bit of superstition, and her tingling mouth twisted in self-mockery. And doubt.

Still, she sat in the dark, waiting for the cold blue light of the dawn that would take him.

Baby Roger put an end to her dithering, though; babies did. He rustled in his basket, making the little waking-up grunts that presaged an outraged roar at the discovery of a wet nappy and an empty stomach, and she hurried across the tiny room to his basket, breasts swinging heavy, already letting down her milk. She wanted to keep him from waking Jerry, but stubbed her toe on the spindly chair, and sent it over with a bang.

There was an explosion of bedclothes as Jerry sprang up with a loud “FNCK!” that drowned her own muffled “damn!” and Roger topped them both with a shriek like an air-raid siren. Like clockwork, old Mrs. Munns in the next flat thumped indignantly on the thin wall.

Jerry’s naked shape crossed the room in a bound. He pounded furiously on the partition with his fist, making the wallboard quiver and boom like a drum. He paused, fist still raised, waiting. Roger had stopped screeching, impressed by the racket.

Dead silence from the other side of the wall, and Marjorie pressed her mouth against Roger’s round little head to muffle her giggling. He smelled of baby-scent and fresh pee, and she cuddled him like a large hot-water bottle, his immediate warmth and need making her notions of watching over her men in the lonely cold seem silly.

Jerry gave a satisfied grunt and came across to her.

“Ha,” he said, and kissed her.

“What d’ye think you are?” she whispered, leaning into him. “A gorilla?”

“Yeah,” he whispered back, taking her hand and pressing it against him. “Want to see my banana?”


Thursday, December 17, 2009

HOW Long 'til the next book?!?

I have, as you might suppose, been getting a certain amount of agitated mail following publication of ECHO, [g] all centering on one question: HOW long is it until the next book will be out?!? (This accompanied by various pleas of increasing age or senility on the part of some readers. It's not that I'm not sympathetic, and I _am_ flattered--but the fact that you think you might not live long enough to read the next book really can't make me write any faster. Look, just exercise and take your vitamins; you'll be fine.) As to the question...

It wouldn't do much good to speculate; I'm always wrong. The books are invariably longer and more complex than I think they'll be, and _always_ take longer to finish than I think they will. Sufficiently so, that anyone who's had the misfortune to work production on one of the OUTLANDER books emerges from the experience with several new white hairs and trembling visibly in every limb.

General observation is that in terms of actual research/writing/etc., it takes me _about_ two to two-and-a-half years to write one of the big novels of the main series. That's baseline. However...

A) The books get increasingly popular. While this is, generally speaking, A Good Thing, it has side-effects. There's a HUGE demand on my time, in terms both of physical travel and in-person appearances, and the smaller drag created by endless email, propositions, invitations, cover quote pleas, and now--with the upsurge of online venues available--the demand to create TONS more subsidiary material for blogs, online chats, interviews, phone apps (don't even ask about that one; the publisher just suggested it and I have _no_ idea), enhanced e-books, viral animated videos, etc. I lose at least two/three months a year, if not more, to this kind of stuff (much more, in years when a new book is out and several different countries want me to come and tour. So far this year, I've done Scotland, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia--for a total of two and a half months _just on the road_--and will be doing the UK in January, Germany in March, and some miscellaneous Scottish stuff [g] in August. Three European trips in one year? It has its fun aspects, but man, it eats up your work time.

B) I don't work on one project exclusively, for the most part. I never have. Being able to switch mental tracks keeps me from ever having writer's block, and it's good for the separate projects, insofar as pushing one off the front burner while I deal with something else lets the first one simmer peacefully on the subconscious's lower heat--so the result has _lots_ more flavor and subtlety than it would if I cooked it at a furious boil and splashed it scalding into people's bowls (cf. James Patterson, if you want to know what _that_ looks like).

So (for instance), while the pub date for ECHO was four years after that for ABOSA, it doesn't mean that I spent four years tapping away on ECHO without cease or respite. I also wrote (and published) two other books in that time (LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, which was a complete novel, and LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS, a collection of novellas), wrote the complete script for THE EXILE (the first "Outlandish" graphic novel), did work on a contemporary crime novel (about half-done at present), worked on THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume II (rudimentary stuff, but still work), consulted on a film script, and poked around in the research material, coming up with bits and pieces of other, future books (like the first Master Raymond) that I haven't started working on in any focused way, but that are waiting on the sideboard for their turn.

So I have no idea when Book Eight'll be up. Not for at least two and a half years (the publisher does need _some_ lead time to actually print the book), but that's _all_ I could tell you for sure.

Now, I _can_ say what I plan to be working on during 2010 (putting aside all the roaming around the world stuff, promotion for the graphic novel, and Eldest Daughter's upcoming wedding): I'll be feeling my way into Book Eight, working in a serious way on LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, ditto the OC II (because I'd like to have that one done before the end of the year), and seeing if I can pull together the contemporary crime novel (which is about half-done, and I think I know where the other half _is_, more or less).

You will get a couple of things in 2010, though: 1) THE EXILE. This is the much-talked-about graphic novel, due out September 28!, 2) a new Lord John novella, "The Custom of the Army" (due in March from Tor books, in an anthology titled WARRIORS), and (probably) 3) "A Leaf on the Wind," a short story in a Penguin anthology titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. This one tells the story of what really happened to Roger's father, for those with a particular interest either in MacKenzie family history and/or time-travel. [g]

So you will get something to read, and fairly soon. As for Jem...don't worry about him; he's a pretty resourceful little guy.

Speaking of that, though--which is the storyline _you_ most want to see addressed Right Up Front in Book Eight?

Friday, December 11, 2009


If you're still in the market for stocking-stuffers, and have people on your list who prefer mystery to dragons….. PHOENIX NOIR is a brand-new paperback anthology of short crime stories set in—as one might suppose—Phoenix. I wrote one of the stories, titled "Dirty Scottsdale;" this one is a solo effort by me.

"Dirty Scottsdale" is also the debut in print of Tom Kolodzi, who's the protagonist of the contemporary crime novel I've been working on for some time (in and amongst other things), which I hope to finish sometime next year (along with SCOTTISH PRISONER and the second volume of THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION). As you can tell, Tom's' got a voice of his own:

Excerpt from
"Dirty Scottsdale"
in PHOENIX NOIR (edited by Patrick Millikin)

It was high noon, and 110. 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 odder than the veil of blood hanging like shark-bait in the water.
The girl by the pool was more appropriately dressed--if you could use that word to describe the triangles of turquoise fabric that covered her nominally private parts.
"The poor dope," I said, shaking my head. "He always wanted a pool. Well, in the end he got himself a pool--only the price turned out to be a little high."
The girl looked at me. She had a hot-pink towel clutched dramatically to her mouth, eyes wide above it. Turquoise eye-shadow, to match her suit, and a lot of waterproof mascara.
"Tom Kolodzi," I said, with a jerk of the head toward the uniformed cops. "I'm with the police." You notice I didn't say I was the police. "You know the guy in the pool?"
Her eyes got wider, and she shook her head . I took out my notebook and flipped it open, turning to shield it from the cops.
"Your name?"
She blinked, and lowered the towel. Her mouth was blurred with red, and she looked like a little kid who'd been eating a popsicle, breast implants notwithstanding.
"Chloe Eastwood."
"Any relation to Clint?" I smiled, friendly.
I should have flipped a coin and said "Call it, friendo." Instead, I asked, "Do you live here?"
She nodded like a bobble-head doll, her eyes going back to the body. "I just...I just came out to tan, and...there he was."
"You called it in?"
She shook her head, blonde ponytail swishing over baby-oiled shoulders.
"I screamed and Cooney came running out, and the yard-guys and everybody." She waved vaguely toward the house, where three nervous-looking Mexicans were clustered. A Mexican woman, too, with a blond boy of five or six clutching her leg. "I guess Cooney called."
Her eyes went to the homeowner: Mr. Bermuda Shorts, shoulders hunched in aggression. One of the uniforms caught sight of me and opened his mouth to order me out. The two uniforms exchanged a quick look, though, then looked right through me before turning deliberately toward the pool.
I relaxed a little. I'd been doing a ride-along--you always want to get acquainted with the cops in a new place--when the 410 call came through. They'd told me to stay in the car, of course, but didn't lock me in. It could get up to 140 in a parked car, and they didn't want to explain a dead reporter in the back seat. They didn't want to explain a live reporter in their crime scene, either; if I kept my mouth shut, they'd pretend they had no idea how I got there, and leave it to Homicide to throw me out.


Now, the Poisoned Pen definitely does have signed copies of PHOENIX NOIR in stock; I know, because I signed a bunch of them a week ago.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Dragon Book

I'm always a trifle taken aback to see myself described as one of "the masters of modern fantasy"—but I can't say that I really object to finding myself in the company of people like Gregory Maguire and Naomi Novik.

For those looking for something small and different, either as a Christmas gift or as a distraction from looking for Christmas gifts, let me call your attention to THE DRAGON BOOK, recently released. It is, as you probably suspect, an anthology of stories featuring dragons, in one way or another.

I do have to say that I feel somewhat more of an imposter here than I usually do when contributing to a fantasy anthology, insofar as the story with my name on it, "Humane Killer", was written largely by my co-author, Sam Sykes. It is, though, a Really Good—if Really Weird—story ( says, "…some of the weirdest characters that I have ever seen… I quite liked [it], for its surreal feel."

Let me just note for the record that this story has no ties to Jamie, Claire, Lord John Grey, or anybody else you're used to finding in my pages [g]—but I think you won't regret meeting Lenny, the pot-smoking zombie, let alone Sister Madeline:

" 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 but the church would have a…creature such as her?”

Nitz took private pleasure in the shudder Father Scheitzen gave 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 half of her skull and the grim darkness in 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.

“Ah, a Scarred Sister. 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 grimace 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 would shatter his pelvis."

For further entertainment, check out

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chicken and Mushrooms in Orange Sauce

This recipe is in THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, but I'm in Santa Fe right now and don't have a copy with me, so this is out of my head. It may read a little differently from the printed version, but it should taste the same. [g]

Chicken breasts (allow one per person) - diced

Garlic, minced

Onion, minced

Mushrooms, sliced or chopped – 2/3 good sized mushrooms per chicken breast.
(Any kind—I like a mixture of the regular ceps (default grocery-store mushrooms), porcini (these usually come dried and need to be soaked in water for half an hour before using—see below), and oyster mushrooms. You might not want to use portobello mushrooms, because while the texture is great and the flavor excellent with sauces, the gills will stain this sauce and make it look muddy. You can, though, if you really like them. Or if you or your spouse only like the ceps mushrooms, it's fine to use only those.)

Chicken broth/soup base/broth cubes
(I like Penzey's Chicken Soup Base, myself; it's a sort of strongly chicken-flavored paste, and easy to use. Fresh or canned broth or the little cube things will work fine, though.)

Orange juice, any kind (you need anywhere from 1-3 cups of it probably, so any size carton or bottle will supply enough)

Butter/Olive oil

Flour (3-6 Tablespoons, depending on quantity)

I like garlic and onion, so I use roughly two cloves garlic per chicken breast, and an equivalent amount (by volume) of onion. If you're not that fond of alliums [g], cut that in half. However much you use, mince it, and saute it in a heavy pan—I like to use a large saute' pan, but a sauce pan is fine, too; just not as easy to stir the chicken—with butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two (you want enough butter/oil to just cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 1/8"). Once the onions and garlic have begun to go translucent, add the chopped/sliced mushrooms*, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are also sauteed.

Add the diced chicken and brown, stirring occasionally. When chicken appears to be cooked through (it isn't actually brown [g]; that's just what you call it when you cook raw meat in a pan until it isn't raw anymore), sprinkle thickly with flour and stir, coating everything in the pan. Make sure all the flour gets in contact with butter/oil, no white lumps left. You want all your chicken pretty thickly coated with flour.

All right. Now you stir in orange juice a little at a time (alternating with porcini mushroom water, if you like) until you have a fairly runny sauce. Add chicken broth, in whatever form you like. I generally cook three chicken breasts at a time, and add about three teaspoons of the Penzey's Chicken Soup Base. (When I use bouillon cubes instead, I normally add only two, as these are pretty salty.) If you use liquid chicken broth, add it sparingly; you want more of the liquid to be orange juice.

Lower heat to simmer and if possible, cover pan (it's OK to cook uncovered, but you have to add liquid more often). Now cook your noodles (or rice, or whatever farinaceous substance you plan to serve this over), keeping an eye on the chicken/sauce. Add a little more orange juice every now and then, as the sauce thickens, and be sure to stir every few minutes, so it won't burn on the bottom (this shouldn't be a problem if you're just simmering it, but just in case).

You should get a feel fairly quickly for how long it takes the sauce to thicken; time your last additions of orange juice/broth/water so that the sauce will be a good consistency by the time the noodles are done. I don't add salt myself, finding that there's usually plenty supplied by the broth/soup base, nor pepper (because it makes me cough), but if you feel it needs salt or pepper, certainly go ahead and add them to taste.

Drain noodles, ladle the chicken and sauce onto them, and top with shredded romano cheese (freshly-shredded parmigiano reggiano is my favorite with this, but it's not nearly as convenient as the little tubs of shredded cheese you buy at the supermarket).

* Note on porcini mushrooms. As I said, these usually come dried in a packet, and are reconstituted by soaking them in water. You want to rinse them first, before soaking, as they shed a lot of dust and twiggy bits. Then you can save the water you soaked them in and use it in addition to the orange juice and chicken broth, to add flavor to the sauce.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Return to Domesticity

People now and then ask me what I do to celebrate finishing a book. Do I have a special spa ritual, a nice restaurant I go to, do I buy champagne? In fact, I buy towels.

It takes me about three years to write one of the big books of the main OUTLANDER series, and that's just about how long it takes for most of the towels around here to be worn out, destroyed in the wash, or taken away by Persons Unnamed to be used to wrap greasy engine parts in. So when a new book is finished, I ceremonially buy new towels for the household.

Back in the day when we had three kids (well, usually more like six, as our kids would bring home friends who liked living at our house more than theirs) and four dogs in the house, and the Person Unnamed would use good towels to wipe up Substances That Any Normal Person Would Use a Paper Towel For (if not a trowel and a blowtorch), I used to buy a special nice fluffy towel, (always red) which I would keep in my closet, hanging concealed inside my bathrobe, just so I could be sure of having something reasonably sanitary and findable, with which to take a shower.

Anyway, when I finished AN ECHO IN THE BONE, the household was down to three rather ratty towels. But I'd finished the book a mere five weeks prior to the publication date (you could hear the poor Production people screaming, all the way from New York, without a phone), and thus the next three weeks were a blinding flurry of last-minute copy-edits, galley proofs, corrections, etc. (which is why I have a brief "Errata" listing for that book, which will be along on the website soon. [cough] All books have errata, alas. And you're right, Ian couldn't have made it from Ticonderoga to the Dismal Swamp in the time apparent—but he could if "June 12" had been properly corrected to "June 1". We did instigate all the corrections in time for the trade paperback, which will be out this summer, they tell me.)

Once that was done, I had to race around like a mad thing, doing what I could of all the urgent stuff that I hadn't been doing for the last three months while finishing the book, and doing all the urgent stuff one has to do before leaving on a two-month, four country, two-continent tour (I didn't even try to count the cities. There were a lot of them, that's all I can tell you).

So I never managed to buy towels.

Well, then, I arrived back from Australia right into the teeth of Thanksgiving (see post on the delights of turkey sandwiches….ahhhh. We ate all the turkey in three days, but there's still plenty of white wine left; luckily, it goes really well with Chicken and Mushrooms in Orange Sauce on Noodles). So it was that I only this week got around to finally buying The New Towels.

And these are the towels I bought (I can't think why anyone would care, but people always ask, so just in case you do care [g]). In Graphite and Cajun Blue. They are in fact delightfully soft, very absorbent, and so far have not been used to swab down muddy dogs nor conscripted into a game of tug-o-war. So, the book is finished, the touring is Done (until mid-January, at least), I'm back in the heart of my household, and the cycle of creation is complete. [g]

[I've not yet figured out how to do captions with photos. The picture at the top there is Homer, hunting lizards in the backyard, while the bottom one is of Homer and his brother JJ playing Tug-o-War with their friend Ranger. (My husband just came in, glanced at the picture and remarked, "You know, _you_ can double-dog dare somebody, and back it up!") Photos courtesy of Ranger's mistress, Susan Butler. Thanks, Susan!]

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Turkey is good. Turkey sandwiches are better. Eaten without the distraction of pumpkin pie, mashed rutabagas (not my idea of a good time, but tastes vary), yam fries with maple aioli, and the other fripperies of a Thanksgiving table, turkey achieves its highest calling between two slices of bread.

I like two kinds of turkey sandwiches. The night-of-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, eaten late and alone, in the peaceful muzziness that follows a successful party, is moist white meat on 12-grain bread, with Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and leafy lettuce. With a nice glass of a full-bodied chardonnay to go with. Ahhhhh.

Day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is a little fancier. Eaten for lunch (with Diet Coke if working in the afternoon, otherwise, more wine [g]), again on 12-grain bread, but mixed white and dark meat, thickly daubed with gorgonzola cheese, heavily studded with walnuts, and layered with a sliced ripe pear. You put mayonnaise on the bread, but mostly to keep it all stuck together. Oooooh.

But of course turkey (etc.) is not the primary reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. (No, really. Add in a nice bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne, and I'm not saying, but….no, really.) So let us concentrate on the essentials.

I'm thankful for whatever it is that makes me write books.

I'm very thankful for those of you who read the books, because I might tell stories to amuse myself, but it's having those stories read that closes the cosmic circle of creation.

I'm especially thankful to have met so many of you (in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) over the last two months. I've never met so many nice people in such a short period of time. But…

I'm most thankful of all to be home with my family!

Hope you all had a lovely day, and much to be thankful for, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Dear Readers--

Well, AN ECHO IN THE BONE debuts on the New York Times list next week at #2! (My publisher sent me a large bottle of single-malt Scotch in congratulation--and, I suspect, in apology for having released Dan Brown's book a week before ECHO [g].)

HUGE thanks to all of you, and I'm thrilled that y'all seem to be enjoying the book!

A word about the ending...I did say, did I not, "Nobody's going to hit the end of _this_ book, and think it's the last one?" [g] Indeed it is not. There will certainly be a Book Eight--and no, I have no idea when that one will be out. At the moment, I'm home on a (very brief) furlough from book-touring; back on the road Monday, and won't be home for good until Thanksgiving, which is the soonest I could reasonably resume anything like a productive writing routine--as well as a prequel volume about Jamie's parents, a Volume II of the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, and heaven knows what-all else. But the story is definitely not over!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ECHO is out--and the party's at the BILTMORE!

Very exciting!

I'll be back later with observations on Game Day [g], but wanted to let y'all know right away that the launch party for the book is tonight _at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel_, not at the Poisoned Pen bookstore. (The Pen is organizing the event and selling books, but they can't possibly cram hundreds of people into the bookstore.)

Rosana, my webmistress, sent out an email this morning to the website subscribers, welcoming them to the party, but mistakenly ended it with " the Poisoned Pen." I'm sure she'll be sending out a quick PS shortly [g], but wanted to put in an early word here, since I don't know when she'll get my email about it.

Hope to see many of you in person, tonight and on the road--and I hope ALL of you will enjoy the new book! Thanks for buying it. [smile]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quick Dog Update

For those who've asked after Homer and JJ, I'm pleased to report that all is well.

JJ (the idiot) ate about a quarter-pound of kapok pillow stuffing a month ago. Kapok is not the benign fluff they fill dog-toys with. Four thousand dollars and a foot of small intestine later, though, the hound is fine, and the house once more resounds to the thunder of racing dachshunds and the crash of what my son describes as "puppy-Sumo."

(That's JJ standing on my lap, and Homer wallowing on the floor, in our living room in Santa Fe.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


OK, I have _no_ idea what I'm doing here, none. As part of the promotion for ECHO, though, Borders asked me if I'd come talk to people during a two-hour online chat thingie on their Facebook page next Tuesday. "Sure," I said--despite the fact that I've never been on Facebook in my life, have no idea how to get there, nor yet what to do when I _am_ there. But following initial advice from Youngest Daughter (who certainly _does_ know all about Facebook, and a good thing, too...), I created a "Celebrity" page, as well as making an individual account (which the Random House publicist said I'd need in order to do the chat on Tuesday).

So I did, and pretty darn confusing it is, though I imagine things will become clearer as I muddle around in it. I did somehow manage to link the page to this blog--thought I'd mention it in case any of y'all wondered what the heck that "Fan box" is doing there.

I'll try to put some actual content on said page, as soon as I figure out how to do if there's anything you'd like to see there, let me know!

Friday, September 11, 2009

THE EXILE - graphic novel is DONE!

Great news! The artwork for the graphic novel is done (bar little tweaks here and there) and it looks terrific! We don't have a specific pub date for this yet—sometime in 2010—but we do at least have a title. This is called THE EXILE (An OUTLANDER graphic novel).

I took some of the artwork with me to DragonCon last weekend (I did the Decatur Book Festival and DragonCon more or less simultaneously, which made for an interesting time all round), and was very pleased that everyone who saw it raved about it.

In celebration, here are two more sample pages, to show off Hoang's mastery of color and light (and anatomy). One small note: Please don't nab these pictures and go posting them all over the net. I don't own the copyright; that belongs to the artist, Hoang Nguyen, and these are posted here by his kind permission and that of the Ballantine editor. If you'd like to share these with your friends—and I'm all for it [g]—please just send them a link to this page.

And Some of Australia

I don't yet have a complete listing of places and events for Australia, but this is what we have so far:

Diana Gabaldon Australian Tour Schedule

1. Monday 9th November 2009 - Perth
10 am – 12 noon
Venue: Tompkins on Swan Function Centre
Address: Corner Dunkley Ave and Canning Highway, Alfred Cove (free parking is available)
Contact: Dymocks Garden City
Phone: 08 93647387

2. Tuesday 10th November - Adelaide TBC

3. Wednesday 11th November - Melbourne TBC

4. Thursday 12th November - Melbourne TBC

5. Friday 13th November – Melbourne TBC

6. Sunday 15th November - Hobart
1.30pm for 2pm
Venue: Hadley’s Hotel
Address: 34 Murray Street, Hobart
Contact: Dymocks Hobart
Phone: 03 6231 6656

7. Monday 16th November - Sydney
12.30pm – 3pm
Dymocks Literary Lunch
Four Seasons Hotel
Address: 199 George Street, Sydney
Contact: Judy Benson
Phone: 02 9449 4366

8. Tuesday 17th November – Sydney
1pm – 2pm
Stanton Library (free event)
Address: 234 Miller St. North Sydney
Contact: Constant Reader Bookshop
Phone: 02 9438 1763

9. Wednesday 18th November - Canberra TBC

10. Thursday 19th November – Brisbane TBC

11. Friday 20th November - Brisbane TBC

And one more...NEW ZEALAND events!

Event Details

Monday November 2 - CAMBRIDGE
Cocktail event in association with Wrights Bookshop Cambridge
Time: 7.30pm
Location: St Peter’s School, SH1 Cambridge
Entry $25, for more information phone Wrights Bookshop, 07 827 4360

Tuesday November 3 - DUNEDIN
A Conversation with Diana Gabaldon in association with Dunedin Public Libraries and Whitcoulls
Time: 5.30pm
Location: Sir Clifford Skeggs Gallery, Municipal Chambers, The Octagon
Entry free, RSVP essential, ph: 03 474 3690 or

Wednesday November 4 - CHRISTCHURCH
An Evening with Diana Gabaldon in association with Women on Air on Plains FM and Paper Plus Merivale
Time: 7.30pm
Location: Christchurch Girls’ High School
Entry $12, to buy tickets phone Ruth, 03 384 4721 or Morrin, 03 329 9789

Thursday November 5 - AUCKLAND
An Evening with Diana Gabaldon in association with North Shore Libraries Foundation and Paper Plus Takapuna
Time: 7pm
Location: Westlake Boys High School
Entry $15, tickets from Event Finder (click )

An Hour with Diana Gabaldon in association with Palmerston North City Library and Whitcoulls
Time: 12pm
Location: Palmerston North City Library
Entry free, RSVP essential, ph: 06 351 4519 (leave a message) or

Books and Bubbles hosted by Kerre Woodham in association with Paper Plus
Time: 7.00pm
Location: The Duxton Hotel, Wellington
Ticket price to be confirmed, contact Paper Plus Lower Hutt for more information 04 569 8406 or

Thursday, September 10, 2009

CANADA Book-Tour Dates and Events, 2009

Tuesday October 13th (Halifax)

7:00pm EVENT: Chapters/Indigo, Halifax
188 Chain Lake Drive / (902) 450-1023 / Contact: Karolyn
This is a speaking event, short Q & A, and book signing

Wednesday October 14th (Ottawa)

7:00pm EVENT: An Evening with Diana Gabaldon
Centurion Conference Centre, Main Ball Room
170 Colonnade Road, Nepean
$10 Tickets / Call Leishman Books for tickets: 613-722-8313
This is a speaking event, short Q & A, and book signing

Thursday October 15th (Toronto)

EVENT: An Evening with Diana Gabaldon
McNally Robinson, Don Mills / 416-384-0084
The speaking component of this event will be held outdoors
The book signing will take place in-store following the talk

(no time was attached, but it's probably 7:00 PM, too. Check with the bookstore to be sure, though.)

Friday October 16th (Winnipeg)

7:30pm EVENT: McNally Robinson, Grant Park
1120 Grant Avenue / (204) 453-0424
This is a speaking event, short Q & A, and book signing

Saturday October 17th (Calgary/Edmonton/Saskatoon)

10:00am EVENT: Calgary WordFest
Vertigo Theatre Playhouse, 161, 115 - 9 Avenue SE
Contact: Anne Green / 403-237-9068
Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased through the box office at 403-237-9068.
The suggested program is 30 minutes of speaking, to include a ten minute reading, followed by a signing. / 403-237-9068

4:00pm EVENT: Costco, Edmonton
South Edmonton, 2616 91st Street NW
This is a signing ONLY event

Sunday October 18th (Saskatoon/Kelowna)

10:30am EVENT: Chapters/Indigo Saskatoon
3322 8th Street East / (306)244-5317
This is a speaking event, short Q & A, and book signing

7:00pm EVENT: Mosaic Books
Kelowna Community Theater, 1375 Water St, Kelowna
Contact Mosaic Books for Tickets: (250) 763-4418
Tickets are $20.00 or $40 for book AND ticket
Books will be 25% off at the store
This is a speaking event, short Q & A, and book signing

Wednesday October 21st (Victoria)

7:30pm EVENT: An Evening with Diana Gabaldon
Alix Goolden Performance Hall
907 Pandora Avenue, Victoria
Tickets are $10/each
Contact Bolen Books for Tickets /(250) 595-4232

Thursday October 22nd (SIWC)

(SIWC is the Surrey International Writers Conference, where I'll be a presenter over the weekend. See their website at, if you're interested. This is a very neat conference; I do it every year.)

12:00pm EVENT: Black Bond Luncheon
Customers receive entry ballot with purchase of book
WIN a seat at a luncheon with Diana Gabaldon
15 winners + Cathy Jesson and Don Hoglung
1381 Guildford Town Ctr. /(604) 589-3680

Sunday October 25th (SIWC/Surrey)

2:00pm EVENT: Save-On Foods #918
9014-152nd Street, Surrey / 604-930-1133
Contact: Maureen
This is a SIGNING ONLY event

Wednesday, September 9, 2009



Just a note: Putting on a big signing event is not just a hassle for bookstores—it's expensive! They need to hire extra staff, often rent a larger venue, and always do a lot of local advertising. For that reason, some bookstores require a ticket to the event (though the ticket usually includes the price of the book), or will only allow you to have a book signed if you bought it from the store (though buying it from their online website is perfectly fine, too). I'd love to sign your books, but please do check with the bookstore ahead of time, just in case.

Tuesday, September 22nd
Scottsdale, AZ

6:00 p.m.
Poisoned Pen at the Arizona Biltmore
Arizona Biltmore
Grand Ballroom
2400 E Missouri Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Contact: Barbara Peters, (480) 947-2974
*This will be a reading/signing with Poisoned Pen to sell.

Wednesday, September 23rd
Denver, CO

7:30 p.m.
Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch
9315 Dorchester St.
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129-2521
Contact: Charles Stillwagon, 303-322-1965 Ext. 2736
*This will be a reading/signing.

Thursday, September 24th -
Nashville, TN

7:00 p.m.
Davis-Kidd Bookstore
The Mall at Green Hills
2121 Green Hills Village Drive
Nashville, TN 37215
Contact: Catherine Robinson, 615-385-2645
*This will be a reading/signing.

Friday, September 25th
Lexington, KY

7:00 p.m.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
161 Lexington Green Cir., Ste. B1
Lexington, KY 40503
Contact: Brooke Raby, 859 271 5330
* This will be a reading/signing.

Saturday, September 26th
Dayton, OH

1:00 p.m.
Books & Co.
The Greene Shopping Center
4453 Walnut Street
Beavercreek, OH 45440
Contact: Sharon Kelly Roth, 937-429-6302
*This will be a reading/signing.

Sunday, September 27th
Asheville, NC

7:00 p.m.
Malaprops Bookstore at Diana Wortham Theater
2 South Pack Square, Asheville
Contact: Alsace Young-Walentine Events, Coordinator
Hotline to order tickets (for fans): 800.441.9829 or 828.254.6734 (pre-pay for book and get complimentary ticket)
*Note: This theater is within walking distance of Malaprops Bookstore so you will walk to this event from your stock signing at the store.

Tuesday, September 29th
Washington, DC

12:00 p.m.
Howard County Library Lunch
6600 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045
Contact: Lisa Bankman, 410-313-7798 (office)/ 410.313.7750 (reception)/ 410.428.0217 (cell)/
*This will be a reading/signing.

7:00 p.m.
Borders Bailey’s Crossroads
5871 Crossroads Center Way
Baileys Crossroads, VA 22041
Contact: Laurie White, 734-477-1828
*This will be a reading/signing.

Wednesday, September 30th
Chicago, IL

12:00 p.m.
Bookstall “Women Writers” Lunch Series
Location: Mirani Restaurant, 727 Elm Street
Contact: Roberta Rubin, 847.446.8880/

7:00 p.m.
Anderson’s Bookshop at North Carolina College
North Carolina College
Pfeiffer Hall
310 East Benton Ave.
Naperville, IL 60540
Contact: Candy Purdom, 630-355-2665
* This will be a reading/signing.

Thursday, October 1st
Minneapolis, MN

7:00 p.m.
B&N Roseville
2100 North Snelling Ave.
Roseville, MN 55113
Contact: Janet Waller, 651-639-9256
*This will be a reading/signing.

Friday, October 2nd
Phoenix, AZ

7:00 p.m.
Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 S. McClintock Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85283
Contact: Cindy Dach, 480-730-1142
*This will be a reading/signing.

Saturday, October 3rd
Scottsdale, AZ

6:00 p.m.
The Poisoned Pen Bookstore
4014 N Goldwater Blvd. Suite 101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Contact Patrick Millikin, 480-947-2974
NB: This is the launch party for Phoenix Noir,
an anthology of urban-crime short stories, and many
of the other contributing authors will be present to sign books, besides me.

Monday, October 5th
Portland, OR

12:30-2:00 p.m.
Salem Public Library
Loucks Auditorium
585 Liberty Street
Salem, OR
Contact: Sonja Somerville, 503.588.6083/
*This will be a reading/signing. The library is approximately 1 hour from Portland.

7:00 p.m.
Powell’s Books Cedar Hills
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd
Beaverton, OR 97005
Contact: Michael Drannen, 503-228-4651 Ext. 5889
*This will be a reading/signing.

Tuesday, October 6th
Seattle, WA

7:00 p.m.
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE, Ste. A 101
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
Contact: Wendy Manning, 206-366-3316
*This will be a reading/signing.

Wednesday, October 7th
San Francisco, CA

7:30 p.m.
Books Inc. Mountain View
301 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
Contact: Contact: Rob Garcelon, 650-428-1234
*This will be a reading/signing.

Thursday, October 8th
San Francisco, CA

7:00 p.m.
Copperfield’s Books
2316 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Contact: Stephanie Deignan, 707-823-8991 Ext. 215
*This will be a reading/signing.

Saturday, October 10th
Tucson, AZ

2:00 p.m.
B&N Tucson
5130 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85711
Contact: Dena Roy, 520-512-1166
*This will be a reading/signing.

7:30 p.m.
B&N Scottsdale
10500 N. 90th Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
Contact: Larry Siegel, 480-391-0048


BWANGGGGG……feeple, feeple, ploop.

Which is—lest you not recognize this masterly example of onomatopoeia—the sound made by a rubber band that's been tightly wrapped around a newspaper and is suddenly pushed off to shoot across the room, spin slightly and fall limp. It's also the sound of my brain, suddenly decompressing.

Which is to say—it's DONE. AN ECHO IN THE BONE went to press a couple of weeks ago, and the first hot-off-the-press copy arrived on my doorstep a few days ago (and a jolly good thing, too, since it's due out on the 22nd of this month). It's absolutely beautiful (huge thanks to Virginia Norey, the book-designer) and I'm Way Thrilled with it.

All my books come together differently; this one was undoubtedly written in more different places than any of the others. I wrote part of it during a short night aboard a plane to Scotland (the stewardi were most concerned, and kindly brought me endless Diet Cokes all night; if caffeine does anything bad to you, I expect we'll find out here shortly)—thus arriving in the Highlands next day having slept only two hours out of the preceeding 36, which gives a whole new meaning to jet lag.

I wrote another part of it on the floor of the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament, though this was more or less an accident (I was kindly invited to witness the first-ever Clan Convention (a gathering of all the clan chieftains, and heads of clan societies), and was walking along with the chieftain of clan MacKenzie, whom I'd been fortunate enough to have dinner with earlier in the week, and was inadvertently shooed into the main chamber with him, rather than up to the Visitor's Gallery—and then was unable to get out. So I nonchalantly sat down at a delegate's desk, took out my netbook and flipped it open, in hopes that people would assume I was a journalist reporting on the proceedings. And…well, there I was, and there the computer was, and…

The more-or-less final bits were written during a long night in the Algonquin Hotel in New York (very appropriate, given the hotel's literary history) on our way home (we have to break trips to Europe, as my husband is very tall, and Suffers Intensely on long flights, even in business class). I emailed the last chunk of manuscript to my editor just after dawn, and just before running out the door to catch a cab to the airport.

In the cab, naturally, I realized that I'd left out a couple of short bridges—and on the flight back to Phoenix, realized that there really had to be another scene in Part Six, and…well, anyway, I tidied up all the little subsidiary chunks and addressed the (luckily, very few) editorial comments on the earlier parts, all this while reading the copy-edited and/or already-typeset versions of the earlier chunks, which had been chasing me around Scotland for the preceding two weeks.

All of which is why I haven't written anything but answers to interview questions and replies to (some of) the backed-up email for the last couple weeks. But my brain is beginning to twitch feebly again, and bits of this 'n that are bubbling up. Just in time—I have a short story (well, sort of. Maybe. We hope) under contract for a new anthology (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois) titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. I don't yet know what my story will be titled, but at least I do know what the story's about: I'm going to tell the story of Roger MacKenzie's parents.

In other words….I'm baa-aack. [g]

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I hope y'all had an excellent Easter, Passover, or Rite of Spring, depending. We had a wonderful time, with family, friends, a number of exceedingly Odd Easter eggs (owing to combinng the family and friends with a large quantity of champagne mojitos during the coloring), and a lovely Easter Vigil service. Followed, of course, by the Easter Feast.

We do Italian for Easter. Antipasto, Entertaining Olives (red Cerignolas this year, plus the usual Greek salad mix), berry salad, Lasagna, mini-pizzas, and Drunk Chicken Pasta Salad. Since that last is on my favorites of '08, and it's fresh in my mind (but not, alas, the refrigerator; we ate the Whole Thing on Easter Sunday, which is too bad, because it makes excellent leftovers), I figured I'd post the recipe. Hope you enjoy it!


3-4 large chicken breasts (well, one per person, really, but you'll have to
adjust the other ingredients upward if you use more than four.)

tequila (any kind)

bottled margarita mix

garlic (lots)

1 medium red onion

2 green onions, chopped

artichoke hearts - two small jars, or one large one

1 lb. asparagus

6-7 large mushrooms (just the usual white or brown ceps type,
though if you really like other kinds, you can certainly substitute
or use them in addition. Just be careful if you use portabella, as
the gills will shed dark stuff all over the pasta)

about a cup of olives - pitted, preferably, and strong-flavored,
but any kind you like. Spanish queen olives are good; so are
kalamata and the big green Greek olives. I don't recommend the
little Sicilian ones, just because they're such a pain to cut up.


extra-virgin olive oil

a good balsamic vinegar

2-4 T. butter

one pkg. Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix

1 large box farfalle (bow-tie) pasta (I like Barilla, myself)

fresh romano or parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

1 very large bowl

OK. To start, you mince up four or five (or six or seven,
depending on size and how much you like garlic) cloves of garlic,
plus about a third of the red onion. Saute' 2/3 the minced garlic
and chopped green onion in a deep frying pan with enough
olive oil to cover, and add some rosemary.

Trim the chicken breasts, then gash each one deeply several
times on both sides. Put chicken in the saute' pan to brown, and
pour a tablespoon or so of tequila over each breast. As the
chicken cooks, alternate additional applications of tequila with
equal applications of margarita mix. As the chicken browns, the
liquid in the pan will cook slowly down into a thick blackish
glaze; make sure the breasts are well coated on both sides with
this. Cook until chicken is completely cooked through, then set
aside on chopping board.

While the chicken is browning, saute' the remaining 1/3 of the
minced garlic and green onion in a couple of tablespoons of melted
butter. Break cleaned asparagus into small pieces (one or two
inches long) and add to saute'. Add herbs, finely minced. Add
sliced mushrooms, stirring frequently. When asparagus is tender
and mushrooms have absorbed all the butter, set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large quantity of boiling water. While
it's cooking, quarter the olives, halve the artichoke hearts, and
slice the remaining red onion into thin rings.

Mix the Good Seasons salad dressing mix with balsamic vinegar and
Extra-virgin olive oil.

Dice the cooked chicken breasts.

In a very large bowl, combine a) the sliced olives, artichokes
and onions, b) the sauteed asparagus and mushrooms, c) the diced
"drunk" chicken, and d) the cooked bow-tie pasta. Slosh about 3/4
of the salad dressing over the mixture and toss thoroughly.

Serve warm, with fresh romano or parmesan cheese grated or
shredded on top, and additional dressing as desired.

It's not at all difficult, but it _is_ time-consuming; it
normally takes me about an hour and a half to do. Worth it,


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Spymaster's Lady

I like to recommend great books to folk, and for those who like historical romance, this is a splendid one. SPYMASTER'S LADY is by Joanna Bourne, who's a friend of mine (I luckily have a number of friends who write wonderful books; tomorrow I'll tell you about Kim Harrison and Dana Stabenow, who both have great new books out); it's beautifully researched, beautifully written, and is by turns hilarious, moving, and sexy.

For any of you who may already have read the book and liked it--Jo tells me that SPYMASTER'S LADY is a finalist in the "DaBwaha" contest, sponsored by the "Dear Author" and "Smart Bitches" websites. Should you feel so moved, the final voting round is TODAY (4-6-09) and the place to vote is here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Survivor" Interview

Well, it is April Fools' Day, but this isn't a joke. [g] Mind, it isn't that "Survivor," either.

A friend of mine who runs an interesting blog on freelancing had asked me if I'd do an interview with her, for a series she was doing on the blog, explaining a bit about my own experiences with freelancing. I did, and if you're interested in more of the background of what I did before I began writing novels [g], or what-all is involved with the business/promotional side of being an author...

Here it is.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Homer vs. The Blue Octopus

As you can see from the following, Homer is growing! Also proving true to his heritage as a mighty hunting dog, though badgers are thin on the ground in Santa Fe; thus his alternate prey.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I didn't mean to go off and leave you with nothing but enchiladas to eat. [g] Been Really Busy here of late, though, what with the Final Frenzy (which is going well; about 120,000 words of ECHO has been dispatched to editors and German and Finnish translators. How much of the total is that? I have no idea. I think the book is going to be somewhere around the size of DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, but I'm always wrong about these things.

Anyway--here's the machaca recipe. Hope you enjoy it!


Here’s a recipe that will work for Atkins’ followers or low-fat devotees—though I’m afraid there really isn’t a good vegetarian equivalent. Developed by Mexican peasants faced with the prospect of eating elderly goat, stringy rabbit, or the leftover remnants of the village cow, machaca is a way of rendering any cut of meat both edible and tasty. That being so, it really doesn’t matter what cut you select, or how big it is, but I usually buy a large rump roast, because it’s not very fatty, and is easy to clean. By and large, a pound of raw beef will yield about 10 to 12 ounces of machaca.
A large chunk of beef, any cut (one pound will probably feed 2-3 people)
1 onion, any color (yellow Spanish onion is traditional)
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 head of garlic
Cilantro, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

*Note: Traditional Mexican cookery occasionally uses carne seca—dried beef, or jerky—instead of fresh beef. In this case, you don’t need to boil or shred it, but will need to allow a longer steaming time. (Note: don’t use spiced jerky if you employ this option.)

Preparation has several steps; this isn’t a recipe for people rushing home from work and wondering what to microwave. On the other hand, once made, machaca will keep—and improve in flavor—for up to a week in the refrigerator, and can be used in a number of different quick, tasty dishes.

Boil the beef. This is simple; it just takes a while. Put the raw beef in a large pot, cover it with water, and put over a medium-high flame. Bring to a boil, and keep gently boiling for 3 to 5 hours. The only thing to remember is to check the pot and add more water, to prevent the meat boiling dry. You know it’s done when you stick a fork in the meat and it begins to fall apart.

Chill. Scoop the beef out of the water, put it in a large bowl, cover and put in the refrigerator to chill. Overnight is best, but 2 or 3 hours will do.

Shred the chilled, boiled beef with your fingers, removing any gristle or fat. Put shredded beef in a large frying pan or stewing pan—any wide, shallow pan with a lid (or that can be covered with a sheet of aluminum foil).

Add the vegetables and spices. The thing to observe here is that the vegetables are spice in this dish. Ergo, you don’t want to have big chunks of garlic, onion, and peppers—you want to use quantities of very finely minced vegetable, which will desiccate in the cooking and flavor the meat. How much? Depends on how much you like garlic, essentially. For a 4-to-6 pound roast, I’d use a whole head of garlic, myself. Mince a quantity of onion equivalent to the quantity of garlic, and an equal quantity each of red and green peppers. If you like cilantro (aka coriander leaf) and can get it fresh, add 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls, also minced. Mix all the minced vegetables into the shredded beef, adding a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Steam. Pour a small amount of water over the meat and vegetables—3 or 4 tablespoonfuls. The water is to keep the cooking meat from sticking to the pot, and gently steam it, not to braise or stew it, so you don’t need a lot. Cover the pan and set over a low heat. This is a good dish to make while you’re doing something else time-consuming in the kitchen, because while you don’t need to do anything but stir it occasionally, and now and then add more water, you do need to keep an eye on it. Check every 5 to 10 minutes, stirring the meat, adding water as needed, if the meat begins to dry or stick. Add additional salt or pepper, as desired, when stirring. Continue this process until all the vegetables are desiccated—appearing as no more than colorful shreds among the meat—and the meat is uniformly moist and totally shredded. This usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.

A version of this dish in Cuban cuisine is known as ropas viejas—“old clothes”—which will tell you something about what it looks like when done. Machaca can be served as a main dish, accompanied by fresh salsa, fried plantains, or fried potatoes, rice and beans (traditional Mexican-style Pinto beans—whole or refried—or Cuban black beans), or eggs. It also makes a delicious filling for tacos, flautas, enchiladas, tostadas or burritos—my favorite is a machaca burrito, made by ladling a couple of large spoonfuls of machaca into the center of a flour tortilla, covering with grated cheddar cheese, and sticking in the microwave for 30 seconds (just enough to melt the cheese). Top with chunky tomato salsa (fruit salsas are also great), wrap the tortilla, and eat!

Machaca is time-consuming, but remarkably simple to cook—and since the flavor will improve even more as the pepper-onion-garlic flavors continue to blend, it’s great to make a big batch to keep in the refrigerator—ideal for the Atkins’-approved snacking!


A variant on machaca is something called beef barbacoa. Essentially, this is machaca with red chile and a little additional water added. I use dried Pequin chile flakes, but Ancho or any other dried red chile will work. You add this to the steaming machaca, to taste—I judge it by color, myself; the meat should have a uniform reddish look, and be moister than regular machaca; enough liquid to ooze out when you drop a spoonful of the meat into a tortilla. Some people would leave the bell peppers and cilantro out of barbacoa, but I usually include the peppers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I can already hear people screaming, "WHAT? Why are you doing that instead of finishing AN ECHO IN THE BONE?!?" [g]

Well, I am finishing ECHO, as fast as ever I can--and we do now have a pub date for it, too: September 22nd!

Still, it helps to have small things to do for mental distraction other than playing Solitaire, and when a Scottish gentleman named Lord Jamie Sempill came along some months ago and invited me to do a regular blog on Matters Scottish and Literary for his new venture, a website called "Panalba", I said, "Sure, why not?" (Well, I didn't know that the launch of Panalba was going to coincide with the Final Frenzy, is why not, but what the heck.)

Anyway, I was flatttered to be asked, and very pleased by the look and variety of Panalba, and have had fun doing the first couple of blogs for that site. It's a site devoted specifically to Scotland and people who love that country, and features all sorts of fascinating personalities and information. As opposed to this personal blog (where I may talk about butt-cooties or anything else that takes my fancy [g]), the Panalba blog entries that I do will be specifically devoted to Scottish material---particularly things from the world of literature. (Well, all right, my first entry had to do with Men in Kilts, but still...)

I've just put up my second blog entry there: "Ye Canna Push Yer Granny Aff the Bus: Scots, Gaelic, and Miscellaneous Accents" -- and cordially invite you to come check it (and the rest of the site) out here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Good Book - Happy Valentine's Day!

As a small treat (to go along with the chocolate, good wine and flowers I trust y'all are enjoying) for Valentine's Day, allow me to recommend this as a good book for February.

Jewell Parker Rhodes is a friend of mine, and I always enjoy her books--well-written historical novels with vivid characters. I think this is one of her best.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Diana Makes the Funnies!

I was both flattered and amused to get an email from Bruce Tinsley, who draws (and writes) the "Mallard Fillmore" comic strip (it's syndicated by Knight, so appears in a number of newspapers), saying that he'd done a strip on me and my books, inspired by a conversation he'd had with his wife, who is a fan of the books.

Here's a link to the strip, which appeared in newspapers yesterday:

Lest anybody think that he was making fun of me or the books (well, hey, it's a comic strip!), I asked Bruce if I could quote his email to me, which he kindly allowed me to do:

Dear Ms. Gabaldon,
My wife loves your books so much, that I had to put one in my comic strip, Mallard Fillmore, which is syndicated nationally by King Features.
The strip will appear on Feb. 11, and feature Chantel's righteous indignation at Mallard's stereotyping one of your books as a bodice-ripper. I, of course, had committed the same sin in real life, without having actually read your books, and gotten the same response.
I've read some now, and realize that you've got a great gift. I also really respect the time you seem to take encouraging other writers.....
Bruce Tinsley

So--Thank you, Bruce! This is even better than being the subject of Trivial Pursuit questions. [g]

(I showed the strip to one of my editors, who said, "Next thing, the New York Times crossword puzzle!" [g])

Friday, February 6, 2009

US Cover Proof for ECHO!

Well, the art department chose a different background color than the one I'd suggested--but they did a wonderful job with the caltrop! And over all, I think it's quite striking, and in keeping with the rest of the series.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Historical Fiction Workshop

Well, Homer is still exceedingly cute, and I really haven't forgotten about the next recipe (I've just been writing madly on ECHO; I mean it when I describe this stage as the Final Frenzy; I do precious little else!).

However, I do have to pause for a bit here, because a year or so ago, I agreed to teach a two-and-a-half hour workshop on Writing Historical Fiction, as part of a week of such workshops sponsored by a local group called Arizona Authors. (At the time, of course, I had no idea the FF was going to hit _now_).

Anyway--thought I'd ask, for any of you who might harbor ambitions (or merely curiosity) in this regard, whether there are any specific questions _you'd_ like answered, if you were taking such a workshop, or any particular material you'd like to see covered?

I think we may do a minor bit of writing in the class--can't do too much, as it takes quite a bit of time, but I'm thinking a few paragraphs might be fun; any topics that you'd suggest? (E.g., introduction of a major character, setting a historical background, etc.?)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

See if this worked.


Well, we are once again a dogged household. We've been without a dog--for the first time in thirty-odd years--since our aged Molly (she of the gruesome post-mortem encounter with coyotes) succumbed to congestive heart failure at the age of sixteen or so, a few months ago. I'd wanted a smooth standard dachshund like my beloved Gus, if I could find one; most breeders these days seem to supply only mini-dachshunds or the occasional longhaired or wire-haired variety.

I'd been looking for a while, when I came across Kristin Cihos-Williams's Alphadachs breeder listing online. On impulse, I called, got Kristin at once, and learned that she was sitting at home with a very pregnant dachshund named Lily, who was due that very day. We hit it off, and stayed in communication over the next three or four months, with the end result that our son and I drove to Indio on New Year's Day to pick up one of the puppies from this litter (Kristin lives in Temecula, CA, but was at a dog-show in Indio, which is substantially closer to Phoenix).

It's a four-hour trip from Phoenix to Indio, but the eight-hour drive was well worth it.

[Hmm. I tried to upload three photos of Homer here, but not working for some reason. Will try again tomorrow--gotta go to bed now. [yawn].]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Copyright 2009 Diana Gabaldon

My father was always one to recognize both merit and shortcomings. Consequently, while he was often generous with praise, all his compliments came with a "BUT..." attached. "This is wonderful, BUT..."

In fact, I remember only three unqualified compliments from him. Twenty years ago, he told me that my swimming stroke was perfect. Fifteen years ago, he told me that my children were beautiful. And on Christmas day ten years ago, he told me that my enchiladas were as good as his.

That Christmas Day was the last time I saw him. But he'll always be with me, in the pull of water past my arms, in the faces of my children--and in the smell of garlic and chile, floating gently through the air of my kitchen.


For them as don't know, an enchilada is an item of traditional Mexican food, composed of a tortilla (mostly corn tortillas) rolled into a cylinder around some type of filling (traditionally cheese, but can be anything from chicken or beef to spinach, mushrooms, and seafood, particularly in nouveau Southwest or turista restaurants), covered with a spicy sauce, and baked. (Some restaurants don't bother rolling their enchiladas, and just sprinkle cheese and fillings between flat tortillas, but we Do Not Approve.)

The traditional (cheese) form requires:

Garlic (one head)

olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of a large saucepan)

flour (a few tablespoons)

canola oil (or other light cooking oil) – enough to fill a small frying pan halfway
white or yellow onion - one

cheddar cheese – a pound will make 10-12 enchiladas

corn tortillas – these come in packages of 12, or three dozen. If you have more than two people coming to dinner, get three dozen. You can always make home-made tortilla chips out of the extras.

tomato sauce – three small cans

red chili (in any usable form; puree, frozen, powdered, or already mixed with the tomato sauce, which is my preferred variety; I use El Pato brand tomato sauce, which has the chili already in it)

I'm not giving quantities as such, because you can make enchiladas in any quanttity--but if you're going to the trouble, you might as well make a lot of them. [g] (They freeze well, though the tortillas will degrade when frozen and give you enchilada casserole, rather than discrete enchiladas.)

As a rule of thumb, a pound of cheese and twelve tortillas will make about a dozen enchiladas; sauce for a dozen enchiladas takes about one to one-a-and-a-half cans of El Pato, and three-four Tablespoons of olive oil. I almost always use three cans of El Pato, and end up with 2 1/2 - 3 dozen enchiladas.

All right. For starters, mince four or five (or six) cloves of garlic finely. Cover the bottom of a heavy saucepan with olive oil (about 1/8" deep) and saute the garlic in the oil (the bits of garlic should just about cover the bottom of the pan, thinly). Cook until the garlic turns BROWN, but be careful not to burn it.
Turn heat down to low (or pull the pan off the burner temporarily) and add flour a little at a time to make a roux (paste about the consistency of library paste). Add the El Pato (or plain tomato sauce) and stir into the roux. Add WATER, in an amount equal to the tomato sauce (I just fill up the El Pato cans with water and dump them in). Stir over low heat to mix, squishing out any lumps that may ocur. If you used plain tomato sauce, add chili to taste (or if you use El Pato and want it hotter, add extra chili)—roughly one large tablespoon of raw chile per can of tomato sauce.

Leave on very low heat, stirring occasionally, WHILE:

1) heating oil (I use canola oil, but you can use any vegetable oil, including soy, peanut, or olive) in a small, heavy frying pan. Heat over medium heat, and watch it as it gets hot; if it starts to smoke, it's too hot--turn it down.

2) grating cheese

3) and chopping onion coarsely.

At this point, the sauce should have thickened slightly, and will cling to a spoon, dripping slowly off. Turn off the heat under the sauce, or reduce to low simmer. (If at any time, the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little more water.) Stir occasionally to prevent it sticking.

Now put out a clean dinner plate for assembling the enchiladas, and a baking dish to put the completed ones in.

With a pair of tongs, dip a fresh corn tortilla briefly (just long enough for the oil to sputter--2-3 seconds) into the hot oil. Let excess oil run off into the pan, then dip the now-flexible tortilla into the sauce, laying it back and forth with the tongs to coat both sides.

Lay the coated tortilla on the dinner plate (and put down the tongs [g]). Take a good handful of cheese and spread a thick line of it across the center of the tortilla (you're aiming for a cylinder about two fingers thick). If you like onions in your enchiladas (I don't, but Doug does, so I make half and half), sprinkle chopped onions lightly over the cheese. Roll the tortilla into a cylinder (fold one side over the cheese, then roll up the rest of the way, and put the enchilada in the baking dish. (They won't have a lot of sauce on them at this point)).
When the baking dish is full, ladle additional sauce to cover the enchiladas thoroughly, and sprinkle additional cheese on top for decoration (I also sprinkle a few onions at one end of the baking dish, so I know which end is onion). Bake at 325 (F.) degrees for between 10-15 minutes--until cheese is thoroughly melted--you can see clear liquid from the melted cheese bubbling at the edge of the dish, and the enchiladas will look as though they've "fallen in" slightly, rather than being firmly rounded. Serve (with a spatula).

The method is the same for other kinds of enchiladas; you'd just make the filling (meat, seafood, etc.) as a separate step ahead of time, and use as you do cheese (for chicken enchiladas, brown diced chicken slowly in a little oil with minced garlic, onion, red and green bell pepper, and cilantro (coriander leaf)--bell pepper optional, and in very small quantity; for beef, you can use either ground beef or machaca).

It usually takes me a little more than an hour to do three dozen enchiladas, start to finish. Once the sauce is made, cheese grated, etc., though, the assembly is pretty fast.
Hope y'all enjoy them!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year - Top 8 of '08

Top 8 of '08

I had some difficulty coming up with a good list, largely because I like all kinds of things (dachshunds, murder mysteries, Audi SL6's, hickory-smoked barbecue…), but not necessarily eight of any of them. On the other hand, I do like to eat. And cook.

So here's a list of my favorite eight recipes. As time allows over the next couple of weeks, I'll actually post said recipes, but for now—I spent eight hours today driving to and from Indio, CA, to pick up my new dachshund puppy (name still up for grabs, though it might be Homer), and am consequently about to head for bed.









Happy New Year!