It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things I Like ...

Diana Gabaldon

I'm a huge fan of the author Diana Gabaldon and her amazing series of "Outlander" books.  I've been reading Diana's "Claire & Jamie" series of books for about 15 years and they are seriously absolutely addictive.  I'm not even sure how to describe her books, so here's what Diana herself has to say about what she does:-

The OUTLANDER series started by accident, when I decided to write a novel for practice, in order a) to learn what it took to write a novel, and b) to decide whether I really wanted to do that for real.  I did, and I did–and here we all are, still trying to figure out what the heck you call books that nobody can describe, but that fortunately most people seem to enjoy.
In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction, ala James Clavell and James Michener.  However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they  include…
history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…
you know, the usual stuff of literature.
I don’t like  to do things I’ve already done, so (in spite of the fact that this is a series, and does involve the same central characters throughout) each book is unique in structure, tone, approach, and theme. The books can be read independently of each other (I can’t be sure that people seeing the newest one on a bookstore table will realize that it’s part of a series, so the books are (with minor exceptions) engineered to stand alone)–but if you have a choice, I’d strongly recommend beginning at the beginning, with OUTLANDER, and reading through the story in order of publication  (I’d say “in chronological order,” but that isn’t necessarily a useful term when you’re playing fast and loose with time, which I not infrequently do):
  1. Outlander (also published in some countries as Cross Stitch)
  2. Dragonfly In Amber
  3. Voyager
  4. Drums of Autumn
  5. The Fiery Cross
  6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
  7. An Echo In The Bone
  8. Written In My Own Heart’s Blood: Will be released in early 2013.
    1. [The Lord John Grey novels are in fact part of the series, rather than being a spin-off--but these novels are constructed differently and are focused on Lord John as a central character.  Also, while they do include Jamie Fraser as an important character, they don't include Claire, as they (so far) take place during a stretch of time where Claire wasn't physically present.   This sub-series can be read either independently of the main series, or as part of it.  If you choose to read it as part of the series, you can read these novels after reading VOYAGER.]
      Now, there is one more addition to the Outlander series–the newly released graphic novel, THE EXILE.
      For those unfamiliar with the term, a graphic novel is–in essence–a comic book for grown-ups. {g}  That is, the story is conveyed in visual images, augmented by dialogue.   THE EXILE covers (roughly) the first third of  the material in OUTLANDER, but is not just an adaptation of the original novel.  The editor who invited me to do it (an opportunity I leapt at, as I grew up reading comic books, and in fact, used to write comic scripts for Walt Disney) asked for “a new Jamie and Claire story, but one set within the parameters of OUTLANDER.”   To which I said, “Hmmmm….”  And what I came up with is Jamie’s (and his godfather Murtagh’s) view of events–meaning that we see all the things Claire didn’t see, didn’t understand, or was kept out of.

These books are highly addictive, and like Diana says, they do stand alone, but I'd definitely start with Outlander so you get a good background to work with.  Here's a blurb describing Outlander:-

OUTLANDER (published in the UK under the title CROSS STITCH) is the first novel in the Outlander series.  Frankly, I’ve never been able to describe this book in twenty-five words or less, and neither has anyone else in the twenty years since it was first published.
I’ve seen it (and the rest of the series) sold—with evident success—as <deep breath>  Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical NON-fiction (really.  Well, they are very accurate), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Military History (no, honest), Gay and Lesbian Fiction, and…Horror.  (Really!  One of my books beat both George R.R. Martin and Stephen King for a Quill Award in 2006.)  Anyway, the only way I’ve ever found of describing this book to anyone is to begin telling them the story.  So here goes….
In 1946, after WWII, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank.   She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family.  But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones—such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain.  She walks through a cleft stone in the circle….and disappears.  Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform.  This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank—and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather.  Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall—though for other reasons.
In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen.  So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall—and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry.   The story rolls on from there…
If this is the first you've heard of Diana or her amazing novels, you need to give the first novel a try.  That said, I'm in no way responsible for you falling in love with these stories and putting everything else aside as you sit on the sofa, unable to be torn away from the pages, whilst your house falls into disarray around you ...


  1. Ok, I'm intrigued, but your last paragraph alarms me because that is exactly what would happen!

    I'm also weirded out that one of the characters has the same name of the CEO where I work :)

  2. The first one is on right now! Grab it and you'll be hooked.

  3. LOVE these books, although I confess, I've had the last two sitting untouched in my unread pile....I haven't had the inclination to let everything fall apart around me as I got sucked in to the story!!!

    Dressology HQ

    1. I'm almost finished "The Scottish Prisoner" and it's good, but not as good as the others in my opinion, because Claire isn't in it (well, not yet, and there aren't many pages left).

  4. This scares me a lot. I spend too much time reading as it is!!!

    1. Your reading style is similar to mine, you are going to be hooked. Get one and wait for the first kicking snow storm - the day will just fade away.


Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!