What do you-all do when a new birthday looms—or stretches out enticingly before you, like a friendly dog wanting a belly-rub? Look back? Look forward? Or just sit quietly and enjoy the moment?
I’m inclined to the last option there. I try to take a few deliberate minutes, to sit in my office in the depths of the night and Just Be. Whatever I am now, I won’t be again. On the other hand, what I am now, and what I’ve been every day since I was conceived, will go on with me in some form.
But it’s worthwhile checking, to see what’s me, and what might be mere baggage that I’m carrying—for myself, or another. Nothing wrong with baggage, but you ought to pack carefully; you don’t know how far you may have to carry it.
And, like Claire—you may have only today in which to prepare.
[Excerpt from UNTITLED BOOK 10, Copyright © 2023 Diana Gabaldon. No spoilers if you’ve read GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, but if you haven’t, then there definitely are…]
I woke with a list in my head. This was by no means unusual, but this list came with a spurt of adrenaline attached. I had—at most—only today in which to prepare not only to leave the Ridge for an unknown stretch of time, but to prepare the Ridge for being left.
I swung my feet out of bed, heart already speeding up, and then sat for a moment, trying to focus on what had to be done first. Well, that was simple… I fished the chamberpot out from under the bed and saw that it was clean and dry. Which meant either that Jamie had risen early and considerately gone out to the privy, or that he’d got up in the night and pissed out the window. While I had personally never felt the lack of a penis, I did admit that it was a handy thing to have along on a picnic…
My own sanitary needs being accomplished, I was clear-headed enough to brush my teeth, splash water over my face and run my wet hands through my hair. The hair was unlikely to be improved by the experience, but my hands were dry enough to pull my stockings on.
Find something like coffee.
Drink coffee-like substance.
Eat whatever was left over from yesterday’s feast, while inspecting pantry, pie-safe, simples closet and large cauldron Compile mental sublist of things to be found, things needing to be collected or dug up, put in cauldron to begin cooking…
Sylvia and her daughters had ceremoniously removed to Bobby’s cabin last night. I was happy for them all, but it did leave me somewhat short-handed. So… summon Fanny, Joanie and Fizzy and give them my list to start working on. Find Bree and run through separate list of people who might give trouble—medical, political or otherwise—over the next… how long?
“God knows,” I muttered. William had been looking for Lord John for three months [ck time]; what if Richardson had decided to take him to London and denounce him to the House of Lords or something?
Find Roger…. no, Jamie would already have found Roger and informed him that he was now, de facto, Himself for the foreseeable future.
Back to the list… By now, I was padding downstairs in my stocking-feet, shoes in hand.
Send Jem or Germain or the girls for Jenny and Rachel. Feed them first, my subconscious chimed in.
I inhaled hopefully. Yes, I could smell porridge and toast. And bacon? Yes, definitely bacon. Likely they were already eating, then. I was ravenous, in spite of everything I’d eaten yesterday.
Would Jenny and Rachel want to come down to the big house while Ian was gone with us? Company and help for Brianna… all those children… but then there were Jenny’s goats to be considered…
I emerged into the kitchen, to find William seated at the table, surrounded by children and closely attended by Fanny, armed with a platter of crispy bacon and a pot of peach jam.
“Mother Claire!” William half-rose to greet me, prevented from pushing back the bench to stand up by the weight of the children sharing said bench. “Er… how are you?”
“Somewhat better than you, probably,” I said, sitting down on a spare stool to put my shoes on. “Did you sleep at all last night?” He was very thin; his cheekbones showed like blades and his skin was an unhealthy sort of grayish-yellow under his tan. This looked still more disagreeable by contrast with his sprouting beard, which was red.
“I don’t remember sleeping, he said, rubbing a hand over his stubble, “but I definitely woke up, so I must have. I feel much better,” he assured me, taking a handful of bacon from Fanny’s platter. “Or I will, as soon as I’ve eaten. Thank you, Frances.”
“You should have milk, too,” she informed him. “To coat the insides of your stomach, after everything you drank last night.”
“Everything I drank?” A look of amusement crossed his face, despite the signs of road-weariness and hangover. “Were you keeping count, Frances? How very thoughtful of you. You’ll make some lucky man an excellent wife one day.”
She blushed crimson, but he smiled at her, and she gulped air and managed a tiny simper in return before tottering off to fetch more toast.
“What did I drink last night?” William asked me, lowering his voice. “I admit that I don’t recall very much about last night. I was… so very much relieved. To—to have…”
“Reached shelter?” I asked, sympathetically. “I imagine so. You’ve been alone for quite a while.”
He paused for moment, spreading jam on a slice of toast, then said quietly, “I have. Thank you. For—” he gestured briefly round the lively kitchen, then cleared his throat. “Do you think—er, that Mister Fraser will be…”
“Back soon? Yes.” He offered me the toast and I took it. I was starving and it was delicious, warm and crunchy and sweet. “Fanny?” I said, swallowing. “Has Mr. Fraser had any breakfast?”
“Yes’m,” she said. “He was just going out when I came down, but he had a piece of fried chicken in his hand.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“No, ma’am. He wasn’t armed,” she added helpfully. “Except his knife.”
“His dirk, or the little knife?” Her smooth brow crinkled in concentration, then relaxed.
He was leaving the property, then, but not going far.
What a wonderful surprise to find to start my day with!! You have mentioned before (thru Claire – LOL!) of ‘taking stock’ on ones birthday. It’s nice to see where her habit came from. Happy Birthday! I hope you have a wonderful day.
And, I love the snippets from the upcoming book and I certainly don’t consider them spoilers – more of a tease of things to come – LOL!!
What do I do when it’s my birthday coming up – I used to dread it because sometimes it turned out good and sometimes not so. Anyways, that don’t matter now. What I would do on my birthday, I would just enjoy being me as I am, even getting a year older. And just be grateful that I am at this age and being alive and in good health. And to enjoy the day as much as I can and try to have fun, too. Happy Birthday to you Diana! Just be you and have a fabulous day!
Happy birthday, Diana! And thank you for the birthday present you’ve given us, a nice visit on Fraser’s Ridge. As for thinking about getting older every birthday, I’ll follow my mom’s authority. She’s 101 years of age and recently stated firmly that you’re old when you’re 98. We all have a long way to go!
Happy birthday – I hope you are enjoying it as much as possible!
Happy Birthday Ms. Gabaldon! I too understand “taking stock” on one’s birthday. I also live here in Arizona, and I’m wishing you a beautiful, wonderful birthday.
Happy Birthday ( think I’m late at this point, sorry) , and thank you.
My daughter’s birthday is in a few days and I’ve been stressing a wee bit trying to prepare things. This nice little surprise and a dram suddenly have me in the mood for writing after what was otherwise a very long day.
Much as I loved the excerpt, reading it is a bit like being given just one potato chip or one sip of whisky or one bite of a perfect rare steak – it just re-kindles the craving. I can never resist the reading (and re-reading) the little bites, however.
So, thanks for the birthday present to all of us! And many happy returns – of the writing as well as the birthday.
Happy belated birthday, Ms. Gabaldon!
My birthday was January 10th. I went to work, but other than that, I didn’t do a lot of anything.
You are twenty years older than me almost to the day-one day off. Capricorns are the best!
Thank you so very much for giving us the gift of Outlander!
Happy Belated birthday Ms. Gabaldon!! Hope your day was marvelous!!
…and Thank YOU for the gift of this snippet. Your wonderful words again transported me into the Fraser household. I love your painting of the characters and story, I know so well. I hope for you joy and peace in 2023.
It’s a little belated but nevertheless heartfelt:
Happy birthday, Diana! May your new year be filled with joy and love and lots of inspiration for your story of Claire and Jamie et al. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
I am thoroughly grateful for your excerpts on this site. I know how careful and natural you are with your writing, but book 10 cannot come soon enough for me!
Due to a massively busy year in 2022, I save book nine for a whole year as I like to give it time and not rush. I’m 700 pages in and enjoying as I always do but I have to write and tell you how delighted I am that you (through Brianna) speak of Encaustic waxart. Here in the UK it s not popular but myself and a couple of friends get together fortnightly to share this craft. Hoorah!
Happy b-day, Diana!! Wishes for the best year yet! And, selfishly, thanks for this gift to your fans. When I was “just checking in” on your page, I squealed with delight (like a “to wee bairn”) to see a book #10 post/update.
Love the series, love the writing. Your novels have made me want to read books again (ie. intrinsically motivated). I’m currently rereading the entire Outlander series (which I’d originally finished in six months – with aid of audiobooks). I’m at book #6. Then, I’ll start the Lord John series. Super excited!!
Patiently awaiting Outlander #10. #ANewLoveForReading #CharacterObsessed #JAMMK
Happy belated birthday Diana. My 71st birthday was the 12th and I find looking forward is my natural bent. With that said, while I’m looking forward to book 10 and enjoy you tidbits, I still love going back to read 1-9. Best wishes Hugh Blair
It is a great pleasure to read each excerpts you put here. I Hope you had a very happy birthday. I am a devoted lector of your books, but in french translation. Save the tome 9, which I read last year when it was published. I could not wait for french translation, and was surprised about the facility of the reading. I am sure that tome 10 will be as delightful as the precedents. What a destiny and adventures for our dear Claire you create. You have all my admiration.
Happy birthday, dear writer-beautiful!
Happiest Birthday to you albeit belated… love the bits and bites of life thank you from a loving fan.
Thank you for this excerpt! It was a sweet surprise when I did my quick check on your site. I found Outlander in 2020, just as COVID picked up momentum. I lost my husband and Mom in late 2019, so became completely absorbed in the Outlander world. It continues to be a refuge but most importantly it makes me want to tell my family’s story. Thank you for your inspirational writing Ms Gabaldon. I pray you had a wonderful birthday and the year ahead is healthily and joyfully blessed.
Happy belated birthday Diana. Mine was on the 4th. I absolutely love your writing. I have read all 9 books more than once. I’m looking forward to book 10… And by the way, Claire’s parents must of been travelers (or at least one of them). I have wondered since the 80′s when I started reading the books, what their story was.
Thank you for the update on latest book 10 glance into the Ridge. Im hoping Lord John is ok❤️❤️