Monday, June 28, 2010

A Closer Look

OK—this is what it looks like on the inside. Just had my post-surgery checkup—all well—and the surgeon kindly presented me with a souvenir X-ray of my right leg, with unicompartmental knee in place. [g] (This is, if I’m not mistaken, a back view of my right leg (taken while I was unconscious following surgery). I _think_ that they flipped the negative while making the copy, thus making it look like my left leg.)

Many thanks to all the kind people who’ve sent me flowers, Starbucks cards, get-well cookies, and lovely cards and emails! Buoyed by so many positive vibes, I did get back to work after only a few days of blissful drug-induced stupor [g], and have been beavering away. Mostly on a story for an anthology, which is really due pretty much Right Now, but it’s nearly finished.

This one is for an anthology titled DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, which has a sort of mystery/thriller-with-fantasy-elements theme. I’m not sure as to the title; I have been calling it “Terror Daemonium” (that’s Latin for “Terror of Demons”—it’s from the Catholic Litany of St. Joseph, in case you couldn’t quite place it), but for the last couple of days have been thinking of calling it “The Space Between.” I’ll know better when it’s finished.

Anyway, the story itself deals with Michael Murray—Young Ian’s elder brother, another of Jamie Fraser’s nephews—whom we saw briefly in AN ECHO IN THE BONE—and with Joan MacKimmie, Marsali’s younger sister, whom we also saw briefly in ECHO.

Joan has a vocation to be a nun, and—there not being many convents in the Highlands—is going to France in order to do so. Michael, junior partner in a flourishing wine business in Paris, has offered to see her safely there. The road to the convent may present a few challenges, though.
This bit takes place on the Channel ferry, taking them across to France. Joan has just gone up for air, leaving the passengers in the cabin.

“Terror Daemonium”
Copyright 2010 Diana Gabaldon

“What a waste of a wonderful arse,” Monsieur Brechin remarked in French, watching Joan’s ascent from the far side of the cabin. “And mon Dieu, those legs! Imagine those wrapped around your back, eh? Would you have her keep the striped stockings on? I would.”

It hadn’t occurred to Michael to imagine that, but he was now having a hard time dismissing the image. He coughed into his handkerchief to hide the reddening of his face.

Madame Brechin gave her husband a sharp elbow in the ribs. He grunted, but seemed undisturbed by what was evidently a normal form of marital communication.

“Beast,” she said, with no apparent heat. “Speaking so of a Bride of Christ. You will be lucky if God Himself doesn’t strike you dead with a lightning bolt.”

“Well, she isn’t His bride yet,” Monsieur protested. “And who created that arse in the first place? Surely God would be flattered to hear a little sincere appreciation of His handiwork. From one who is, after all, a connoisseur in such matters.” He leered affectionately at Madame, who snorted.

A faint snigger from the young man across the cabin indicated that Monsieur was not alone in his appreciation, and Madame turned a reproving glare on the young man. Michael wiped his lips carefully, trying not to catch Monsieur’s eye. His insides were quivering, and not entirely either from amusement or the shock of inadvertent lust. He felt very queer.

Monsieur sighed as Joan’s striped stockings disappeared through the hatchway.

“Christ will not warm her bed,” he said, shaking his head.

“Christ will not fart in her bed, either,” said Madame, taking out her knitting.

“Pardonnez-moi…” Michael said in a strangled voice, and clapping his handkerchief to his mouth, made hastily for the ladder, as though sea-sickness might be catching.

It wasn’t mal-de-mer that was surging up from his belly, though. He caught sight of Joan at the rail, and turned quickly aside, going to the other side, where he gripped the rail s though it were a life-raft, and let the overwhelming waves of grief wash through him. It was the only way he’d been able to manage, these last few weeks. Hold on as long as he could, keeping a cheerful face, until some small unexpected thing, some bit of emotional debris, struck him through the heart like a hunter’s arrow, and then hurry to find a place to hide, curling up on himself in mindless pain until he could get a grip of himself.

This time, it was Madame’s remark that had come like a dart out of the blue, and he grimaced painfully, laughing in spite of the tears that poured down his face, remembering Lili. She’d eaten eels in garlic sauce for dinner—those always made her fart with a silent deadliness, like poison swamp gas. As the ghastly miasma had risen up round him, he’d sat bolt upright in bed, only to find her staring at him, a look of indignant horror on her face.

“How dare you?” she’d said, in a voice of offended majesty. “Really, Michel.”

“You know it wasn’t me!”

Her mouth had dropped open, outrage added to horror and distaste.

“Oh!” she gasped, gathering her small pug-dog to her bosom. “You not only fart like a rotting whale, you attempt to blame it on my poor puppy! Cochon!” Whereupon she had begun to shake the bedsheets delicately, using her free hand to waft the noxious odors in his direction, addressing censorious remarks to Plonplon, who gave Michael a sanctimonious look before turning to lick his mistress’s face with great enthusiasm.

“Oh, Jesus,” he whispered, and sinking down, pressed his face against the rail. “Oh, God, lass, I love you!”

He shook, silently, head buried in his arms, aware of sailors passing now and then behind him, but none of them took notice of him. At last the agony eased a little, and he drew breath.

All right, then. He’d be all right now, for a time. And he thanked God, belatedy, that he had Joan—or Sister Gregory, if she liked—to look after for a bit. He didn’t know how he’d manage to walk through the streets of Paris to his house, alone. Go in, greet the servants, face their sorrow, order a meal, sit down…and all the time wanting to throw himself on the floor of their empty bedroom and howl like a lost soul. He’d have to face it, sooner or later—but not just yet. And right now, he’d take the grace of any respite that offered.

He blew his nose with resolution, tucked away his mangled handkerchief, and went downstairs to fetch the basket his mother had sent. He couldn’t swallow a thing, himself, but feeding Sister Joan would maybe keep his mind off things for that one minute more.

“That’s how ye do it,” his brother Ian had told him, as they leant together on the rail of their mother’s sheep pen, the winter’s wind cold on their faces, waiting for their Da to find his way through dying. “Ye find a way to live for just one more minute. And then another. And another.”

He ‘d wiped his face—he could weep before Ian, while he couldn’t, with his elder brother or the girls, certainly not in front of his mother—and asked, “And it gets better after a time, is that what ye’re telling me?”

His brother had looked at him straight on, the quiet in his eyes showing through the outlandish Mohawk tattoos.

“No,” he’d said softly. “But after a time, ye find ye’re in a different place than ye were. A different person than ye were. And then ye look about, and see what’s there with ye. Ye’ll maybe find a use for yourself. That helps.”

“Aye, fine,” he said, under his breath, and squared his shoulders. “We’ll see, then.”


  1. I am glad you are healing well. :o)

    I love Michael in Echo. I am glad we get to see more of Michael and Joan. I hope we see Michael through his pain and grief into a better place.

    What is that saying...Life is an endurance race not a sprint.
    Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Sara

  2. A mere segment of Michael and Joan and Ian and you bring tears to my eyes...whatever the title, this will be another wondrous segment of the tale. Thank you for being so generous with snippets of your work--when will "Down These Strange Streets" be coming out? And, is that the same anthology that will contain the story of Roger's Da?

    I have already intrigued new readers of your tales by simply quoting to them the first line of "The Custom of the Army"--I know that now they have bought "Warriors" for that story, they will buy all the rest ;-)

    Thank you for writing through pain and may your knee heal perfectly and quickly ;-)

  3. Dear Linda--

    No, the anthology with the story about Roger's parents is SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, which will be out this November. I don't know when the STRANGE STREETS anthology will be out, but will post the information when I have it.

    Many thanks to everyone for all their good wishes!

  4. Just curious if the stories that revolve around the Outlander characters which are scattered among various anthologies, etc will ever be put together in a Diana Gabaldon only collection at some point in time.

  5. I'm glad to hear everything's going swimmingly Diana! And thanks for putting up all these photos, they're fascinating.
    This excerpt is so full of emotion. Just for the knitting bit though I'm going to link to it on my blog :-)

  6. I am verra, verra happy that you feel better, and that you continue your work on so many projects.
    I hope you'll have some news in regards to the eight Outlander book. I cannot wait for it to come out.
    I wish you all the best!

  7. Thanks, Deniz! [g]

    I imagine all these scattered pieces of the Big Story will eventually be collected--whether in one book or several [g]. Most anthologies want n period of exclusivity of two years post-publication--after which you can reprint a story wherever you like. "Hellfire Club" and "Succubus," for instance, were originally published in anthologies, but are past their exclusivitiy period, so could be used in HAND OF DEVILS. ("Haunted Soldier", on the other hand, was written specifically for HAND OF DEVILS and was never published anywhere else.)

    Yes, I am working on Book Eight. [g] _And_ SCOTTISH PRISONER. Or rather, I will be in a couple more days, as soon as "Terror Daemonium" is done.

  8. Ian is one of my faves -- thanks for the snippet. I can't wait for Exile, Scottish Prisoner, & Book 8!

  9. Awww, I am in love with these characters now! Any tidbit of Ian makes my palms itch. Thank you for the nibble.

  10. You take good a x-ray, Diana.(:
    I love that you continue to weave the characters together. Joan shows a lot of strength, as does Michael. They will make an excellent team. I forward to reading more of their travels.
    My husband Peter thought my squeal was a bit much, but then, it's not everyday I can get excited by new reading prospects!

  11. I still haven't been able to find a copy of Warriors, and am feeling that I'm missing out on Custom of the Army, but will be in the US (yay!) next week and will look for it there.
    In the meantime, thanks so much for posting this snippet. I'm currently re-listening to Echo (thanks Audible for the freebie offer!) and have just passed the bit where Joanie talks about her vocation with Jamie.
    Jen in wintry Oz

  12. Heal quickly, I like to see more of this when it finished. :)


  13. I'm glad to hear you are doing better and improving. I really enjoyed the read about Michael. Your character development is amazing, in these few lines I could already picture and feel this character. Well done!

  14. Oh! Thank you so much for the unexpected treat. I was very fond of Michael, and of Joan, in Echo and it's nice to know I'll get to see more of them soon. I'm glad to hear you're healing so well, too!

    Maria in Jackson, MI

  15. Ooh, thanks for sharing! I've the got the book title saved for future reference and am eagerly awaiting the rest of the story!

    Glad you are healing well.

  16. Dear Diana,

    great to hear, you´re feeling better.

    I´m not sure if I understood well: You say, the story about Rogers Dad is in the Anthologie called SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH; is this kind of Volume II after "A Leaf in the Wind of All Hallows" in "STAR-CROSSED LOVERS"?

    Best regards
    Susan Pilastro

  17. Glad that the healing is going well. The excerp is fantastic, thank you for feeding my love for your characters. Their lives transport me even if it is only for the briefest moment. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!!

  18. Your writing always manages to bring out a variety of emotions in me, and this excerpt in no exception. I love both Michael and Joan in An Echo in the Bone, and it will be great to learn more about them.

    I am glad to hear that you are feeling a little better, and hope you are feeling 100% very soon.

  19. Fantastic treat, that excerpt! So glad you're mending well.


  20. Dear Diana

    My sincere best wishes for your sound post-operative recovery.

    Having smashed-up my knee as a teenager, I did find the photos unexpectedly retch-inducing. I know you warned us, but I didn't know how I'd react until confronted with the photos >.<

    I enjoyed the excerpt, which, again, caught me off-guard. I didn’t pay any particular attention to Michael in Echo, having parked him as a plot device to demonstrate Claire’s knowledge of the future by predicting the French Revolution.

    But in a few short paragraphs you’ve managed to conjure so many strong, earthy, funny, moving themes, and give a really strong impression of Michael and his relationship with Lili.

    Thanks – I found this unexpectedly cheering!
    Annette in (currently sweltering) London, UK

  21. I hate to post as "Anonymous" - but I really should be working....

    Just a quick thanks for your wonderful writing. I get made fun of quite a bit for taking your books wherever I go. I have brought my entire (bibliophilic) family over to the Outlander side, plus girlfriends, book club friends and strangers at the pediatrician's office. I love to re-read and these books give me something to bite into again and again.
    Best wishes from Texas on a speedy recovery! Carrie

  22. The xray is the correct way!

  23. Excellent excerpt!
    My DH is a kinesiology major and really liked the x-ray. (he wondered what it looked like before, and thinks you have great muscle tone in your calves BTW). lol.

  24. Cristina is right. The xray is correct. The film was put underneath your knee and the xray tube above your knee the radiation passing from the anterior portion of your knee to the posterior then striking the film. When xrays are looked at by the radiologist they like to look at them in the AP position or anterior-posterior position. That is what your leg looks like if someone is looking at you and has xray vision.

  25. First, having had knee surgery myself I am super impressed you are up and blogging and all that - I think I was in a stupor for almost three weeks and can't imagine having to write on those fabulous drugs they give you :-) !!!

    It is therefore with even more gusto that I thank you for sharing the snippet - I usually love your work but these little bits of emotion connected to the characters I love makes me swoon and totally made my night. Please, please keep up your amazing writing - it has gotten me through a lot in my life and I constantly long for more! Very few books compare. since I am gushing so much, I will add that as a biologist I love the way you integrate so many subjects into such moving work....

    hope I don't sound like too much of a crazy fan!

    a hot and humid,

  26. please send out more tit bits for use to read !!

  27. Many thanks for the expert opinions on the X-ray! [g] (You see the surgeon signed it for me; I told him I'd bring him a book next week when I go back to have the (internal) stitches removed.)

    Susan--I haven't forgotten your email about the family tree! Just haven't got myself together to figure out how to set it up correctly; will do that soon, though.

    In the meantime, no--the anthology with "Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" (the story about Roger's parents) _was_ originally titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS, and the title was then changed to SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH (to play off George RR Martin's SONGS OF FIRE AND ICE series--George being one of the editors). That anthology will be out this November in the US!

    The anthology with Michael and Joan's story (which I've been calling "Terror Daemonium," but might possibly change to "The Space Between") is another one, also with George and Gardner Dozois as editors. This one is (right now) called DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, and is meant to be a collection of stories that are mysteries or thrillers or detective stories, all with a fantasy or supernatural theme. No pub date on that one yet.

  28. Thanks for the quick answer. I´ll put the Anthologie-News on my german blog as soon as I get better (laryngitis :-( )

    I´m looking forward to hearing from you, but take your time.

  29. I really enjoyed that excerpt - so interesting to find out whats on Michael's mind
    Glad your leg is recovering also

  30. Diana,

    That was some very fine writing. You captured well the feeling of desolation and being caught unawares, gripped by a sense of loss so profound as to stop one's breathing. And Ian's remarks to Michael.... so right on. Thank you.

    Please continue to follow your doctor's orders and any directions from the PT. We are all rooting for your complete return to health.

    Warm regards,


  31. Diana,

    I'm so glad you are feeling well enough to write. In a few paragraphs I am already engrossed in the story and wanting more. And who would have thought that flatulence could lead to such an emotionally moving scene! Only you could pull that off!

    -Lady Grey

  32. Love the x-ray Diana. The x-ray is correct, when you look at an AP(Anterior or front) view of your body, the Rt side is on the LT and the LT on the RT. Being a Radiation Therapist I look at them all day long, I love them, it is so fascinating to see the little things that have happened to the body that you can't see from the outside. :)

    And I love the excerpt! I think these two are going to make great friends.



  33. I'm with Linda--it made me weep a bit. I love these tidbits. Thank you, m' lady.

  34. You always make me laugh out loud with your stories. Thanks

  35. Dear Diana,

    I am glad to hear, that you feeling better.

    Thanks for sharing the little part of how it is going on with Joanie and Michael. I would love to read more.

    Little Ian is right, my dad died last October, and I sometimes think, I am not the person I was before. I have changed myself a bit. It makes you think about life and what to do with it.

    Get well soon.

  36. Wow! Away from the computer for two weeks on vacation in Scotland and I missed all this? We learned about your surgery on our Outlander tour and hope you enjoyed our group card of good wishes for a speedy recovery [thanks to Judy, the ever efficient dynamo]. Thanks again Diana for the inspiration to explore such a beautiful and historic place. Loved every minute of it. Glad to see that you are well on the mend and back to writing with such vigor. The excerpt of Michael and Joan's story adds yet another dimension to the many characters you've created in the Outlander books and I look forward to reading the completed version. The excerpt was humorous and then gut-wrenching - just the style we've come to love and admire. Your blog entries are the best methadone treatment you can give us between books! Meanwhile enjoy those happy pills while you can.

  37. Thank you for sharing. I have read your series over the last 6 months, finishing Echo in May, and Lord John in June. I miss you characters greatly and appreciate this opportunity to taste the new book. Good luck with your knee!! Deb

  38. Hi Diana, I did not know about your surgery, I'm glad you're recovering well! It's been six months since I have ordered my ECHO from a local bookstore but it has not arrived yet... It's great to see new characters, then. Been to Scotland again last May and missed the time we met you at the Gathering last year. the BBC interview was great, I met J. in Glasgow and she gave me a copy. Wish you well. Dea.

  39. Glad to hear that you are recovering well and may you continue to do so :)
    And thank you for the excerpt- makes me want to start and read the whole series--again....... :D

  40. Thanks for sharing the excerpt! Its wonderful to get these little windows into the other characters lives! I cannot wait to see the rest of the anthology!