• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

A Pleasant Sunday in Paradise

The gecko is in his usual place, clinging to the slanted wooden ceiling twelve feet above my head. The living room of our cottage is open in front, and I’m looking out into a blackness filled with the sound of the sea. People who live next to it probably get used to it; I don’t think I ever would.

I’m thinking the gecko could be a bit more proactive in his hunting; I’ve been gnawed by mosquitoes the last two days, and I see them now, tiny things casually floating around, pretending to be bits of dust. Our charming hostess has given me a bottle of oil of citronella, though, and this seems to help, though I don’t know whether the scent puts them off (luckily my husband finds it attractive; also luckily, he has nothing whatever in common with a mosquito), or whether they find the oil impenetrable.

If oil gums up their little probosces, so much the better. I had a massage this afternoon, in the massage hut—a small, circular stone hut, open to the sea (which is about fifteen feet away, crashing

(A big black cat has just leapt silently into the living room and set about eating a bag of CheeseZillas (a cross between your ordinary cheesy-poof and a styrofoam packing peanut) someone left on the coffee table. He’s welcome to them. Most of the Jamaican delicacies we’ve tried have been marvelous, from the ubiquitous jerk chicken—sold everywhere from upscale restaurants to the equally ubiquitous road-side grills, these being independent enterprises consisting of a proprietor with an oil-drum sawed in half and converted to a smoker/grill—to the grilled lobster tail soused in garlic butter I had for dinner tonight—but CheeseZillas are not among the marvelous)

…crashing on the rocks. This isn’t a beach resort; the ocean laps at the foot of limestone cliffs, and you drop into the water (turquoise over the inshore reef, a dark blue further out) from a blue iron ladder. There are places where one could climb up or down the rocks into the water—save that the underwater rocks are a) sharp coral/limestone rock, b) the surge of the surf scrapes you across said rocks, and c) said rocks are covered with an interesting variety of sea-life, including assorted tunicates, anemones, chitons…and an immense population of sea urchins. Ask me how I know this.

(If one happens to set foot or hand unwarily on a sea-urchin—no, I didn’t; my poor husband was not so fortunate—a goodly number of its sharp little spines penetrate your flesh AND BREAK OFF. They do eventually emerge again, encouraged by regular applications of spirits of ammonia (or urine. Everyone urged my husband—and another male guest who’d been much more severely punctured—to pee on the site). Luckily one does not pee on abrasions—I have three or four small ones on my lower legs—as women are really not constructed for logistical peeing.)

Anyway, being rubbed while lying face-down on a towel-covered massage table, looking down (when one can be bothered to open one’s eyes) at a charmingly artistic arrangement of green leaves, bougainvillaea flowers (pink, red, white, and orange) and small bits of white coral (along with a bleached sea-urchin skeleton) lying on the ground under the headrest and listening to the regular thud of the surf is pretty relaxing—even when the massage involves “Deep Tissue” manipulations by the redoubtable Nadine, a lovely (and muscular) Jamaican lady who told me assorted things in such a strong accent that I only understood two of them: “That de pectoralis muscle. It’s always tender in a wooman, stronger in a man,” (this in response to a high-pitched noise that emerged involuntarily when she drove her entire weight, centered on the edge of her hand, through said pectoralis), and “You got a lotta tension in you eye-sockets.” (Oddly enough, I don’t believe I have ever had my eye-sockets massaged before.) I emerged from this sensual experience pureed and covered thickly in aromatic oils, which I doubt that even the most intrepid mosquito could penetrate. I can also move my neck, which is a Good Thing.

(The cat has given up on the CheezeZillas and leapt silently back into the blackness from whence it came, a part of the night once more.)

It’s been a relaxing day, all in all. This morning we went, with our hosts and another couple, to church. St.Paul’s, an old plantation church, out in the middle of a sugar-cane field, surrounded by the bleached white bones of its graveyard, with monuments and stones carved from the local limestone. (Houses here are built on the basis of one of two strategies: solid limestone and mortar, basic bunker construction—or shacks made of such flimsy wood that you could push them over with a good shove. Both strategies are a response to hurricanes. It’s perhaps worth noting that many of the seaside bunker-type houses and inns are deserted, while the brightly-painted shacks are all inhabited and thriving.)

St. Paul’s is an Anglican church (Jamaica must have Catholic churches here and there, but none in close proximity to Negril), whose very small congregation (about 25 elderly black gentlemen and ladies—the ladies all dignified by large, proper church hats) welcomed us warmly to worship with them.

It’s a big, lovely church, airy and well-proportioned, with evidence of the donations of wealthy past parishioners—a beautiful old (the church was built in 1863) stained-glass window behind the altar, mahogany paneling in the sanctuary, and a clay-tiled ornamental panel inset into the aisle, reading, “Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me,” in gothic lettering. (Two little children were in fact present, a boy and a girl, obviously lugged in by their grandparents.)

Like many churches these days, St. Paul’s has a circuit-riding parson—a minister who tends several churches, and therefore isn’t able to preside over every service. Today was the 5th Sunday of the month, so the service was a modest “Matins and Sermon,” according to the notice-board out front, rather than the “Sung Eucharist and Sermon” that one gets on the 2nd or 4th Sunday, when the priest is there.

Both service and sermon were conducted with great conviction by the ladies of the parish, supported intermittently by a very elderly cassocked gentleman on the organ, who appeared to have a slight difficulty in coordinating the manual and pedal keyboards, but grimly pursued each hymn through its many verses, hunting it to a triumphant conclusion as the congregation at last managed to sync with him in time to come down hard on the last three notes.

You definitely get value for money at St. Paul’s; services ran two hours, including a rousing sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, and a blessing of the 50th anniversary of Brother and Sister Lynch’s wedding vows, wherein the Lynches came down the aisle to the strains of “Here Comes the Bride,” the bride beaming over a lovely bouquet of small palm fronds and deep blue flowers.

It wasn’t our usual ritual, of course, but it was both soothing—with a gentle breeze sweeping through the open doors, rustling the pages of the open hymnals and sweeping small leaves and dried blossoms across the “Suffer the Little Children” tiles—and uplifting, and we were most grateful to the congregation for their welcome of us to their worship.

The gecko has worked its way up to the topmost rafters and is hiding in the shadows, and the black cat is likely out having acute indigestion in the shrubbery, so it’s probably time for bed. I hope you all had a pleasant Sunday, too!

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61 Responses »

  1. Diana, I’m enjoying your Outlander series very much. I have one question. I just finished reading “The Voyager” and I can’t find anywhere in the book what happened to the English soldiers that Jamie kidnapped and put in the hold of the ship Artemis. You usually tie up all the loose ends of a story somewhere along the line, but I can’t find this one and I’ve re-read it several times. What did he do with them?

  2. Ahhhh Diana dear, you make me long for the sun, being as I am deep in snow, and freezing! Good for you to take a wondeful vacation with your hubby, and hope you enjoy every second of it!
    As Always,
    Your Number One FAn!

  3. Dear Diana,

    I haven’t been to Jamaica but my parents have, i really wish i was there now relaxing. But this Blizzard that’s blowing though in Illinois is killing me. I have to shovel snow every hour for my dogs so they have a way to go outside. But really wish i was there! oh well i can just dream can’t i ?


  4. Hopefully the cat and the gecko will not cross paths. Bats would be more likely than geckos to make a dent in the mosquito population. The urchin encounter reminds me of the scene in Dr. No where James Bond sucks the spines out of Honey Ryder’s foot and comments on girls being quite tasty. Urchin roe as an ingredient in japanese appetizers are also quite tasty. Has any one taken pictures that could be shared-stained glass, masseuse, cheesezillas, etc.? Perhaps Lord John could have adventures on the beach…

    • Dear Belinda–

      Yes, I do have a few pictures, but they were taken with a borrowed camera. The person whose camera it was has just forwarded them to me, though, so will put up a few tomorrow.


  5. Wonderful trip for you and your husband, Diana! Enjoy!

  6. Dear Diana,
    Thank you for sharing your vacation experiences with us. You are such an amazing writer~even this short post had me entranced. :0) I found myself thinking about back when Jamie and Claire and even Lord John were on the island. And then wondering where this adventure of yours might pop up in one of their adventures again. lol Can you say one track mind? I just started Lord John and the Private Matter last night. The LJ books are the only ones i havent read yet. I just read The Exile night before last. Outstanding! I greatly enjoyed it. Thank you so much for everything I Love to read lol Have fun on the rest of your vacation


  7. Dear Diana.
    Your sense of humor, irony, perception and of course the marvelous way you write, makes any of your pieces a delight
    I’m bound for the sun on Friday(weather allowing) to enjoy a little of those treats of our beautiful planet.

  8. Diana! I did archaeology on the beach at a marine site on O`ahu, and Hawai`i mosquitoes are huge and vicious!
    CUTTER INSECT REPELLENT STICK was our ONLY WORKABLE protection!! A cloud of the nasty objects (I’m allergic to their bites) would form a cloud around BUT NEVER ON us. Do try some and avoid DEET! Can’t count my re-reads of your Outlander & Lord John books and it’s been a delight to meet you 3 times in CA; I’m the woman who provided the cough drop at Capitola Book Cafe and always searching for lapiz info for you. You’re a wonder, a force, a damned good author, and I send you & yours Aloha! Kanani Burns

    • Dear Kanani–

      The cough drop was much appreciated! {g} As is the advice re Cutter Instect Stick, which I will definitely get one of. I was using oil of citronella on Jamaica (courtesy of my hostess), which helped substantially.


  9. “Awaiting Moderation” OK, leave out everything but CUTTER INSECT REPELLENT STICK!!!

  10. Soooo envious Diana! I have been telling my hubby all winter I want to go somewhere warm and tropical…hopefully in May!

    Several years ago I scraped my knee on coral while diving. It wouldn’t heal…so I asked my PT friend who is a wound specialist about it. Since coral is alive…I ended up with some of them under my skin and the only thing we found that worked was applying Bacitracin for a couple of weeks. (just fyi)

    As for the gecko…if he starts talking to you and tries to sell you insurance…then you are doing something in Jamaica that you shouldn’t be! ;)

    Happy Travels!

  11. We came back from the Duncan’s area on January 7th…with a very similar experience, with the exception that we could wade out into the surf. Not quite so many rocks and we didn’t encounter any se urchins! Hope Doug has recovered from the incursion of spines into his person!

    If you are still there, I hope you get a chance to enjoy Akee and Salt Fish, and Pepper Pot Soup, the curried goat is amazing too. Our favourite sweet were the coconut drops, sort of like a praline, but with ginger and coconut along with the pecans! Beware of the Jamaican dumplings…they sit like stones in the stomach.

    We were in Silver Sands for a family reunion and had a memorial service for my Great, great grandfather in the Webb Memorial Church in Stewart Town. ((Renamed for him after he was pastor there for 50 years) The church boasted a key boardest and a drummer (very different experience). The church has a lovely congregation and included a lively walk about and meet everyone in the middle of the service to “Mary Had a Baby Boy and She Named him Jesus”.

    Wish I was back there with the thundering surf, the amazing geckos, lightening bugs and crickets, not to mention temperatures on the plus side! (It was -30 C here last night!)

    Wishing you an Arie good time…keep those eye sockets limber!


  12. Sounds like so far, you are having a lovely time in Jamaica. I am just a tad bit jealous as I deal with frigid temperatures and ice and snow in S. Central PA. Have fun for all the rest of us!

  13. I was looking for a place to leave a message for Diana, so hopefully a response to her latest blog entry will be good as any.
    I only discovered you a few short years ago, and with the exception of An Echo in the Bone, all my books are paper back, dog eared, taped together, and much loved. I have lent them out one at a time(can’t have the next book until I get the other back is my rule). You have truly become my favorite author. Well, to get to my point… Today is my birthday. My husband yelled out that my coffee was on the kitchen table and when I went in the kitchen, there was my coffee sitting on this HUGE package. My lovely husband bought me the first 6 books in hardcover! Just wanted to share, the best birthday present ever!

  14. I just finished “The Exile” and have never been a comic book fan. Now I think I’m a graphic novel fan. Image my suprise when I opened the first page and one of my favor actors, Sean Bean, is looking back at me. I’m sure it was not Mr Nguyen intention to do such a close resembilance but it looks just like him to me. This is a beautifully put together book. A little Vargist maybe with the woman, but great.

    Anyway loved this book and look forward to another, hopefully in the near future.

    With great regard to your talent,

    Cilla Whitcher, fan.

  15. Sounds wonderful except for the sea-urchin part. My son had the same experience in the Bahamas once and had to spend several hours in a hospital there. It was pretty awful. However, the rest of your trip leaves me envious. We are inundated with snow and ice in the northeast. Enjoy your warm respite.

  16. This is my first time to post to you. I have got to tell you how much I love the Outlander series! I found the book in August and have just finished the last one. Already I have read Lord John and the Private Matter as well as the Hell Club and have just started with Brotherhood of the Blade. Um, I confess I also already have the Hand of Devils downloaded on my Kindle so as not to be without once I finish this book. Needless to say, I have been addicted to your books and story telling! Thank you so much for the hours of joyful reading and companyship with your characters.
    I am not pleased, however, with the short ending of events with Jamie, Claire, Roger, Bree and Jem. You have left me (us) hanging. PLEASE tell me there will be continued journeys for them. I miss them already.
    Thank you, again. I am so glad that I stumbled upon the Outlanders and got hooked. Bless your heart for writing and much continued success.

    • Dear Adella–

      Well…if you looked at the front page of this website, you’ll already know that the story continues {g} (though how anyone could be in doubt about that, I don’t know…geez, guys–a deliberate _triple_ cliffhanger ending, and you can’t tell whether there’s another book to come?). Hope you’ll enjoy it!


  17. Hi Diana:
    I discovered your Outlander series books a little over a year while wandering at my favorite book store in search for a good read. One of the male employees recommended them to me with the promise that I would go back for more. Was he right! Anyway, after reading all seven in less than two months I grew curious of the Lord John series. His participation in Echo was extremely relevant. I had to find out what was all that fascination with this character.
    Honestly, the first book I read, “Lord John and The Private Matter” did not engage me much with his character. I found a reasonable explanation: 18th century closet case military dude from the British aristocracy. He has to put some barriers before he lets you in.

    Months later I ventured into “The Brotherhood of the Blade”, and I got to know him for what the character really is. Then, I understood the need of his existence to complete The James Fraser character. Both men of honor who would sacrifice their lives in the name of friendship, love, or family. So similar and dissimilar at the same time, especially when it comes to sexual preferences. They would never go after the same woman for sure; however one would love to get into the other’s pants. Brilliant.
    My love affair with Lord John continued with the compilation of the three novellas “The Hand of the Devils”. Besides laughing with the ever outspoken and adventurous Tom Byrd, I came to understand that Gray and Fraser, had ensured each others survival, through their very intimate spiritual relationship.
    I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in this great series. I believe it’s coming out soon?

  18. Hi again,

    This question again isn’t pertaining to this specific blog. I work with girls my same age and most of us go to school. I got one of my friends hooked on your books and the other one that i work with has given up reading until she graduates college. I know weird but anyway. So instead of her reading the novels, I take on the role as story teller. She enjoys the novels just like I and my other friend do. And our question is a simple one. The Outlander novels are so intense and complex, what inspired you to write about Scotland in particular? I’ve read that you began writing it by accident just to see how you might like it, but what inspired the theme?
    This part is funny though, I’ve finished reading the first three and my friend just started reading the second one and she fell in love the Jaime and I kept having to tell, her to just stick in there. Like me the beginning was making me nervous because we didn’t know whether or not we would meet Jaime again of course with Claire. But I am a person that is extremely against giving out spoilers.

    I know this question has probably been asked numerous times and it probably gets redundant but your books are very intriguing and somewhat inspirational.

    Have a great day,

  19. I have been reading Time Travel Romances for a couple of years. A lady told me to read your books and I became acquainted with the series. I have been recommending your books to many customers and now some of them are out reading me. I can’t keep up with the stock. And now you have a new title coming. I have much reading to do. I am presently editing a book but, still can’t put your’s down. So… I work then read.

  20. I’m glad you had a relaxing time in Jamaica. Sounds like a wonderful place to spend a few days. I can see the gecko on the ceiling and the black cat prowling around. The crashing waves could put me to sleep. A good time to be in warm weather.

    Take care,

    Lisa >^..^<

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