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!]


  1. Dear Diana, Its good to see two posts from you in quick sucession. A rare treat these days.
    I just got a copy of Echo In the Bone from a friend. She gave me hers in exchange for mine because she accidently got a signed copy. She thought i deserve the signed one for introducing her to the series.
    Needless to say i am over the moon especially since i missed you at the signing in Ottawa in October.

    Just as a note, how do your fans know what your signature looks like? It seems pretty small for your name.


  2. I've still have not started Echo in the Bone, but I am hoping over the holidays to have some alone time to read it.

    Ahhh towels are my favorite thing to buy. Did you know that you should not but softer in the washer or dry with the towels? The reason you don't is because it tend to make them less absorbent.

    Sorry I missed you in Ottawa, too. My son's surgery went very well.

  3. Dear Angelina--

    I'm glad to hear your son's surgery was successful!

    We don't use fabric softener on anything, but we do run the towels through the tumble dryer. (Putting them outside to dry not only fades them pretty fast, but leaves them stiff.)

  4. Dear Alifiya--

    What my signature looks like has a lot to do with how many books I had to sign at the time. At one point, I signed 1600 books in two hours, and while the result was uniquely mine [g], it wasn't the Catholic school penmanship I learned at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Flagstaff, either.

    I like to sign a legible, flowing signature--but when you got 500 people who all want their books (plural, and multiple copies, often) signed at an may be more flowing than legible.

  5. Dear Diana,

    Simple pleasures...I love it! You'll have to let us know how the Land's End towels hold up. I purchased LL Bean towels a few years ago, thinking that they would be superior to what I could find at Walmart. I even had them monogrammed. The lint was horrendous, and they discolored. So they've been replaced with Walmart cheapies. I don't use fabric softener either. I use distilled white vinegar. It works very well, and doesn't smell when dried.

  6. Lovely towels... I love Bamboo clothing and yarn to knit with so I am sure these are lovely and soft.

  7. I'm so glad to see you home and relaxed enough to post about towels *g*

    I LOVE Land's End towels! They are just full of awesome and last forever (provided they're not used to sop up Stuff That Shall Not Be Named or to wrap Precious Greasy Car Parts in) and those colors are the ones I have in my upstairs bath.

    I too use white vinegar. It helps to rinse all the soap build up out. I also don't use a lot of soap when I wash them, just the minimum I think I can get away with. The more absorbent, the more they tend to hold the soap in them so rather than rinsing them again, the vinegar works. :)

  8. Dearest Diana!
    A heartfelt "hello" from sunny Greece. (That's right STILL sunny....winter hasn't show his face yet and we're in danger of celebrating Tropical Christmas!)
    I just wanted to say you how much i enjoyed all of your Outlander books. You make me very fond and enthusiastic about Scotland, you improved my English language skill - well, you and Jane Austen, that is- and you have spoiled me for any other author, alas !
    For your information, in Greece are available translated "Outlander" and "Dragonfly in Amber" - that resulted in actually 4 volumes in Greek language which made the cost double. Ofcourse after having read them i had to order and read the rest of your saga in English ! I was ready to order your last book, when to my utter astonishment i saw that it was available in one of the biggest bookstores in Athens - what a fine surprise ! I'm doing my best to spread the Outlandish spirit in this side of the world.
    God bless you and your family for the holidays, and always !

  9. I think I may be inspired to go buy new towels! And what a fun way to celebrate finishing a book! I have been celebrating you every night as I read my ECHO!

  10. What a cathartic note to sing at the end of each journey!! I don't know why new towels are so refreshing to us, but they are a nice treat to splurge on.

    I'm glad I stopped in on the comments - I did not realize that fabric softener sheets might be a problem for my towels!!

    I lived in Korea for a year and had no dryer - during the cold months, it was impossible to get your towel fully dry and it was always crusty feeling from not having the dryer to fluff it.

    oh---and I usually just do a soft return under a picture, change my font size and italicize to make a photo caption. I think that's the normal way for blogspot.

    I'm halfway through Echo - loving it!

  11. I love buying new towels as well. They never seem to stay nice and new for long though. I just love the picture of Homer hunting lizards. They would drive my dogs crazy :)

  12. It is a rare treat to read two new posts from you on the same day! Thank you, thank you! I just finished reading Echo in the Bone for the second time. I have decided to read the series in reverse order this time, just for a change. I have read all six previous books several times in order, and figure "what the heck", I might as well go the other direction! So, tomorrow its Breath of Snow and Ashes.

    I loved seeing you in Calgary - what a great morning! Thank you for signing my book. I can only imagine how wonderful it must feel for you to be home. You and your husband must be delighted, and I hope he is showing just how glad he is that you are home! After a perilous journey of my own yesterday [], I have been basking in the joy of being home with two lively boys all day by baking things for them -- cookies, banana bread and popcorn balls. Perhaps when the snow lets up, I will drive over to the mall and get some new towels to hide in my closet... ahhh, civilization!

    Anyhow, I love your characters; they are so alive to me! Ever since I wrote my dissertation, I have found solace and peace in your books when the demands of being a professor, a wife, a mother, a daughter & sister, and family gopher get to be too much. Many, many thanks. Cheers!!!

  13. I'm glad to see you're getting a chance to relax and do some of the things you haven't had time for while you entertained us. *G* The towels are very nice, love the color combo!

  14. Dear Diana,
    Greetings from New Zealand. I have just finished echo in the bone and thoroughly enjoyed it - no surprises there. I have enjoyed each novel in this series. I cant wait for the next one. Thank you for sharing your talent. I am looking for the next instalment of the lives of Claire, Jamie, Ian, Rachel, Jenny, William, Roger and Brianna and their family with baited breath. Thanks again

  15. Echo in the Bone, by the way, was soooo great!

    As for the captions, I can tell you how to do it, but you might not want a "caption tutorial" on your blog comments. Especially the way I write tutorials...the way you write books (ie: three years long)~g~

  16. Dear Diana,
    The pictures of your dogs are sweet.

    I think it'll still take some time for me until I will read your new book 'cause my Mom gave it as a present to my father today on St Nicholas. Dunno if you celebrate that in the USA.
    He's not the fastest reader. :) So my whole family is reading your books. Well my Mom doesn't like the Lord John books.

    I hope I can see you in Germany next year and you are somewhere close to where I live.
    Have a good time at home.


  17. Buying towels sounds like the perfect reward. I love new towels and Lands End ones are divine. I've resorted to just white towels. Makes everything easier, laundrywise.

    Thank you again for touring and signing books. Love Outlander!!! Echo by far has been my favorite, though.

  18. Enjoy your R&R Diana. Thanks for putting up with touring and for being so kind to your fans!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  19. mmmm... bamboo towels sound delightful. *whispers* I really like my bamboo undies. ;-)

    cute doggies!

  20. Hi Diana

    Glad to read you're enjoying some quiet time with the doggies.

    I'm utterly intrigued by the Chicken and mushroom orange sauce... would you mind sharing the recipe (when you have time, of course?) :) Thanks.

  21. Mrs Mac--
    I knew I had seen that recipe. Googled "Gabaldon chicken mushrooms orange" and came up with only Diana's post from last January with a list of her favorite recipes...names only. But I knew I'd seen it somewhere in conjunction with Diana, not just on a recipe site.
    Where could it have been?
    Finally, inspiration struck.
    It's on page 289 of The Outlandish Companion.
    Diana, please, whenever you do Companion II, can it include a comprehensive index?
    And, as long as I'm here, months ago, you promised to write something about Dana Stabenow, another of my favorites. I realize you've been busy, but I'd love to see what you have to say.
    Please thank whoever had the brilliant idea of having fans give away copies of Outlander. I was one of the lucky recipients of a case of books, and was that fun!
    Although when I told my book group that I had copies to give away, I had to say, "No it's really not suitable for us." (We're a synagogue group, focused on "books by Jewish authors and/or of Jewish interest." Which led to me recounting the Mayer Rothschild scene.)
    Anyhow, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy New Year to all.

  22. There's no place like home. :)

    Thank you for coming to Dayton (specifically Beavercreek), Ohio. I was one of the first in line and it was a pleasure to meet you!

    About adding captions - I add them first, then upload the pictures. Once they show up at the top I click and drag them to where I want them to go. Sometimes I cut and paste them, but if this doesn't go correctly then I lose the picture and have to upload them again. (Annoying.)

    I was wondering about that tug-of-war picture with the dogs... please tell me that's not a cat that they're tugging on. ;)

  23. Dear Diana,

    I love the pictures of your dogs - they sure are cute. I can sympathize with your towel story. My husband is constantly using mine for things I would rather that he didn't. I have one special towel I keep for myself to have something nice to dry off with!

    I'm glad you made it home safe and sound from your travels. I LOVED An Echo in the Bone. I've introduced my sister to the series and she is a bit upset that I've kept it secret for so many years.

    I did a recent poll on my blog for most romantic hero and Jamie Fraser won with Mr. Rochester #2 and Mr. Darcy #3. This caused a lot of comment on my blog and on facebook. I think it's safe to say that Mr. Fraser makes a lot of female hearts flutter! :-)

    Just a final note - thanks for having Brianna be a strong female engineer. I'm an engineer myself and there are very few engineers in literature, and a female engineer is almost nonexistant. It's nice to have that out there that women can do it and be scientists and engineers!


  24. I love buying new towels as well-they have so many beautiful colors (although I usually decide I have to do the bathroom completely over in order to match the new towels!). There is nothing like a soft, cozy towel to snuggle up with after a warm shower. One of the simpler pleasures!
    And I love the pictures of the pups! Such joy!

  25. Actually, the Golden Retreiver, Ranger, is mine and Homer & JJ were invited for a sleep-over while Diana was in Scotland.

    And no, the tug-o-war victim is not a cat...well, not real anyway. It's a stuffed canvas pet toy called "the Big Mean Kitty," and Ranger was happy to have two such worthy opponents for a friendly game. Unfortunately, the toy didn't survive the melee - a tiny puncture eroded into a larger hole while all THREE dogs took turns disembowling it, resulting in fluffy-stuff all over my living room floor!

    Ranger wants to know when The Guys will be coming back to play again... :-)

  26. diana, i personally have made the switch to turkish towels and waffle towels. LOVE THEM. you may want to consider them after book 8. :)

  27. What a fun post to read, Diana!

    I participated in NaNoWriMo this year...uploaded 85K+ words to "win" (only required 50K)...of course it's not done yet.

    I'm sure it's mostly awful, but at least I can now say, "I wrote a really crappy novel!"

    We had a really nice snowstorm up here in Flagstaff yesterday. We ended up with about 26 inches of the white stuff in our yard (we live down in KV). It's really beautiful this morning, a winter wonderland out there!

    Thanks for your nice posts, they are always fun to read.

  28. I can sympathize entirely in having the towels used to wrap greasy engine parts in. In my house we have white towels for women and dark brown towels for men. ;)

    I'll second Kaylen on her suggestion for photo comments. There is no separate function to add photo comments in blogger - you have to type your own text in the body of the post. I usually italicize the caption and choose a smaller font for it, and then center-align it under the photo.

    I also like to be fancy and add a :: on each end of the caption too, but I'm just fussy. You can see examples on either of my blogs.

    Thank-you for posting the chicken/mushroom/orange recipe - I think that's dinner tomorrow!

  29. Welcome home, Diana! Thank you for all of it - your stories, your time, and your generosity with both. Have a Very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Year's!
    Cheers ~

  30. I'm glad for your return to the "norm", so to speak. I'd like to take a moment, while everything is calm (calmish, maybe?), and thank you not only for this Book (Echo, I mean specifically), but for the accuracy and diligent research. As an amatuer genealogist who's been spending a good deal of time researching the ancestor who was a Fusilier of the Hesse-Cassel Erbprinz regiment. I know it's a lot of blahblah to most, but reading some of the battle scenes that you wrote, kind of seemed to bring home the humanity of this one fella, who left Germany at 18, never to go back (He instead, went to Kentucky and had a ton of children. *smile*).

    Bah, anyway, seriously, thank you. As my ten year old would say, "You are chock full of awesome." *laugh*

  31. I am loving the lizard hunting photo! Too cute! I am glad you are able to return to the tedium of it all, bet it feels pretty good.