• “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

Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games: Dingbats and Whale Penises

Had a wonderful (if very busy!) time at Fergus last weekend! Thanks to everyone who came, and my apologies to all the Very Patient People who waited in line for _hours_. (Not that I was slow signing, but there were a heck of a lot of people, and many of them took me at my word when I said I’d sign anything they felt like lugging through the fairgrounds. {g})

And speaking of such Patient People, here’s a charming blog post from MichelleK’s anotherlookbookreview, on her own Fergus Experience. {g}

I had a good time speaking to y’all–and for those who asked about the whale penises {cough}–

I was explaining about what-all goes on with a book _after_ I deliver the manuscript (and why the book doesn’t appear instantly on the shelves the moment I finish writing it), and had got to the part about the book designer–that wonderful person who decides what the pages will look like, what typeface will be used, how wide the margins are, how the lines are spaced, where the page number appears….and what dingbat to use to delineate one scene from another. A dingbat is a symbol that’s used generally as a spacer or placeholder in the text; you might see asterisks, curlicues, or some other scenic bit–there are a lot of them, but the same dingbat has been used in all my books as a spacer between scenes. It’s a graceful sort of thick curvy shape, which my beloved first editor invariably referred to as a “whale penis.”

That’s because, around the time the first book was being laid out, I happened to tell her the story of what happened when my eldest daughter’s fourth-grade teacher asked me to come and talk to the class–not about writing, but about marine biology. (I used to be a marine biologist, briefly, at one point in my scientific incarnation.)

Well, we were getting along nicely, the fourth-graders and me, talking about pelagic (free-swimming) and sessile (fixed in place) organisms, when one intelligent lad asked me, “If barnacles are stuck in one place, how do they mate?” So I explained–they shed their gametes into the water, where they fertilize and develop into free-swimming forms, which then settle down and stick to the substrate. This evidently started a train of thought, though, because the kid’s next question was “Do whales have penises?”

“Indeed they do,” I said. Which led naturally to the next question. (About six feet) And the next–why don’t you ever see a whale’s penis at Seaworld? “Well, they’re retractable,” I said. “You know–drag.”

At this point, I observed the teacher in the back of the room, who had evidently turned into a pillar of salt. Oddly enough, I was never invited back to talk to the students about marine biology.

But that’s the story of the whale penises.

And yes, I _will_ put up the excerpt that made a tent full of two hundred people gasp out loud–but not tonight. {g}

One nice gentleman took a brief video of me signing, and I’ll _try_ posting a link to that here, but no guarantees. (I have my laptop working momentarily and wanted to take advantage of the ability to upload pictures.)

Thanks to Lynn Boland Richardson, Warren Trask, and the other amazing people who organize the Fergus Festival–this was their 66th anniversary, and a great time had by all!

And many thanks also to Iwona, who sent me the photos here, of me with her son’s fiancee, Natasha, her daughter, Farida, and herself–in the bottom photo, with me and my husband, Doug.

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40 Responses »

  1. I think I saw you! Were you in NYC last month and tried to get tickets for sold out War Horse? We were sitting in the cancellations waiting area (twice) finally got to see the play, FABULOUS!

    If it was not you, oh well, still go see War Horse.

    One of the millions who think of you as a friend,

  2. Hi DIana,

    I am in Scottsdale visiting from a small town in Canada. I am a big fan of yours, but my mother is one of your biggest. When she heard we were coming to Scottsdale, she wanted me to see if you would be making any appearances. Will you be doing any signings this week? My mother would be so thrilled to have a book signed by you. After reading the series for the second time, she predicted another book and I have just read that there is one on the way…. happy to hear it.

    Thanks for all the wonderful hours of reading!!

    • Dear Karen–

      You picked a beastly hot time of year to visit Scottsdale! {g} I actually will be in New Mexico this weekend, at the Bubonicon sf/f convention in Albuquerque. I hope you and your mother enjoy your visit! (I will probably be doing a _short_ tour in Canada when SCOTTISH pRISONER is released at the end of November, but I don’t yet know where they propose to send me. Perhaps I’ll have the good luck to meet you then!).


  3. Diana,

    The first time that I went to the Fergus Scottish Festival was after I finished reading Outlander (3 years ago). My friend introduced me to the series and mentioned that you would be there. It was so entertaining and enjoyable. The same friend also said that you only come around every three years, so it was a great suprise that you were there again after only 2 years. Is there a possibility that this would be a annual event? I look forward to the Fergus Scottish Festival every year (I find as soon as I am driving home) and find that it is way better when I can look forward to hearing your stories.

    I am looking forward to The Scottish Prisoner in November. Jamie and John are my two favorite characters.

  4. Hello Diana ,

    I was one of the fortunate people who got to listen to and see you at the highland games earlier this month. I brought my family with me and did make them endure the long wait for book signing , but seeing as they knew what a die hard fan i am of yours ,they did not complain. (although I think my husband spent more money than he thought,keeping the kids entertained ;) I did get my 20th anniversary book signed, but did not ask for anything in particular to be written. I am embarassed to ask , but my curiosity is getting the better of me. Did you write a ” saying ” as a general comment in most books , is it Gaelic? I cant quite make it out. ( I know you signed a lot of books that day, and very generously) I hope you are not offended but I can’t read your writing other than my name and yours. My son kept saying to me what does it say , and what does it mean?
    any thoughts,
    thanks again, it was a real thrill meeting you.

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