• “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
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  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

An Advent Candle

Today is the first Sunday of Advent! As many of you may know, Catholics observe a four-week season of spiritual contemplation, preparation and anticipation of Christmas, called Advent. (Yes, I’m a Roman Catholic. Surely you knew that, if you’ve been reading my books. ) As a symbol of this season, we have Advent wreaths and calendars, marking the weeks and/or days ’til Christmas. An Advent wreath has four candles; you light one candle on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so on.

Barbara Schnell, who runs the German-language version of this website, suggested to me that it might be nice to share the season with all of you, by posting an excerpt from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD for each of the four Sundays of Advent. I thought that was a great idea–so whether in English or German, we hope you’ll enjoy this small Advent gift–and may the season find you blessed.


June 16th, 1778
The forest between Philadelphia and Valley Forge

Ian Murray stood with a stone in his hand, eyeing the ground he’d chosen. A small clearing, out of the way, up among a scatter of great lichened boulders, under the shadow of firs and at the foot of a big red-cedar; a place where no casual passerby would go, but not inaccessible. He meant to bring them up here—the family.

Fergus, to begin with. Maybe just Fergus, by himself. Mam had raised Fergus from the time he was ten, and he’d had no mother before that. Ian himself had been born about that same time, so Fergus had known Mam as long as he had, and loved her as much. Maybe more, he thought, his grief aggravated by guilt. Fergus had stayed with her at Lallybroch, helped to take care of her and the place; he hadn’t. He swallowed hard and walking into the small clear space, set his stone in the middle, then stood back to look.

Even as he did so, he found himself shaking his head. No, it had to be two cairns. His Mam and Uncle
Jamie were brother and sister, and the family could mourn them here together—but there were others he might bring, maybe, to remember and pay their respects. And those were the folk who would have known Jamie Fraser and loved him well, but wouldn’t ken Jenny Murray from a hole in the—

The image of his mother in a hole in the ground stabbed him like a fork, retreated with the recollection that she wasn’t after all in a grave, and stabbed again all the harder for that. He really couldn’t bear the vision of them drowning, maybe clinging to each other, struggling to keep—

A Dhia!” he said violently, and dropped the stone, turning back at once to find more. He’d seen people drown.

Tears ran down his face with the sweat of the summer day; he didn’t mind it, only stopping now and then to wipe his nose on his sleeve. He’d tied a rolled kerchief round his head to keep the hair and the stinging sweat out of his eyes; it was sopping before he’d added more than twenty stones to each of the cairns.

He and his brothers had built a fine cairn for their father, at the head of the carved stone that bore his name—all his names, in spite of the expense—in the burying-ground at Lallybroch. And all the family, followed by the tenants and then the servants, had come one by one to add a stone each to the weight of remembrance.

Fergus, then. Or…no, what was he thinking? Auntie Claire must be the first he brought here. She wasn’t Scots herself, but she kent fine what a cairn was, and would maybe be comforted a bit, to see Uncle Jamie’s. Aye, right. Auntie Claire, then Fergus. Uncle Jamie was Fergus’s foster father; he had a right. And then maybe Marsali and the children. But maybe Germain was old enough to come with Fergus? He was almost eleven, near enough to being a man to understand, to be treated like a man. And Uncle Jamie was his grandsire; it was proper.

He stepped back again and wiped his face, breathing heavily. Bugs whined and buzzed past his ears and hovered over him, wanting his blood, but he’d stripped to a loincloth and rubbed himself with bear-grease and mint in the Mohawk way; they didn’t touch him.

“Look over them, O spirit of red cedar,” he said softly in Mohawk, looking up into the fragrant branches of the tree. “Guard their souls and keep their presence here, fresh as thy branches.”

He crossed himself and bent to dig about in the soft leaf-mold. A few more rocks, he thought. In case they might be scattered by some passing animal. Scattered like his thoughts, that roamed restless to and fro among the faces of his family, the folk of the Ridge—God, might he ever go back there? Brianna. Oh, Jesus, Brianna…

He bit his lip and tasted salt, licked it away and moved on, foraging. She was safe with Roger Mac and the weans. But Jesus, he could have used her advice—even more, Roger Mac’s.

Who was left for him to ask, if he needed help in taking care of them all?

Thought of Rachel came to him, and the tightness in his chest eased a little. Aye, if he had Rachel…she was younger than him, nay more than nineteen, and being a Quaker, had very strange notions of how things should be, but if he had her, he’d have solid rock under his feet. He hoped he would have her, but there were still things he must say to her, and the thought of that conversation made the tightness in his chest come back.

The picture of his cousin Brianna came back, too, and lingered in his mind: tall, long-nosed and strong-boned as her father…and with it rose the image of his _other_ cousin, Bree’s half-brother. Holy God, William. And what ought he to do about William? He doubted the man kent the truth, kent that he was Jamie Fraser’s son—was it Ian’s responsibility to tell him so? To bring him here, and explain what he’d lost?

He must have groaned at the thought, for his dog Rollo lifted his massive head and looked at him in concern.

“No, I dinna ken that either,” Ian told him. “Let it bide, aye?” Rollo laid his head back on his paws, shivered his shaggy hide against the flies and relaxed in boneless peace.

Ian worked a while longer, and let the thoughts drain away with his sweat and his tears. He finally stopped when the sinking sun touched the tops of his cairns, feeling tired but more at peace. The cairns rose knee-high, side by side, small but solid.

He stood still for a bit, not thinking anymore, just listening to the fussing of wee birds in the grass and the breathing of the wind among the trees. Then he sighed deeply, squatted and touched one of the cairns.

Mo gragh, a mathair,” he said softly. My love is on you, mother. Closed his eyes and laid a scuffed hand on the other heap of stones. The dirt ground into his skin made his fingers feel strange, as though he could maybe reach straight through the earth and touch what he needed.

He stayed still, breathing, then opened his eyes.

“Help me wi’ this, Uncle Jamie,” he said. “I dinna think I can manage, alone.”

[end section] — Copyright 2012 Diana Gabaldon (no reproduction or reposting please–though you’re certainly welcome to post links to this, if you’d like to.)

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82 Responses »

  1. I left the church years ago trying to limit my own hypocrisy, at least to the extent I’m aware. I still miss the liturgical year and the ritual of it. I’m much more in tune with Ian’s ritual of building the cairns. Oh, his pain! Ian feels so deeply. I worry about how Ian will cope when Rollo’s time comes. I hope when Ian settles down with Rachel – please the gods – that Rollo finds a nice girl doggie and has a fine litter. I an will need the pups. And his own babies.

    • Hi Marta – Please consider coming back to the Church! Remember, hypocrisy is not believing what you confess. Failing to DO what you confess is plain old sin, and the Church is full of sinners. As Jesus said, it’s the sick people who need a doctor, not the healthy ones. There is a reason that your heart is longing for the beauty of the liturgical year.

      Also, nice excerpt, Diana! :-)

  2. I love the idea of an Advent excerpt – much better than a Santa window. Your writing makes everything so real – it’s like finding out what has become of old friends.
    A blessed Advent to you and yours.

  3. Thank you Diana and I wish you a peaceful and happy Advent. God Bless You!

  4. Diana, we observe Advent in the Methodist Church, too, and lit the first candle during services yesterday (Sunday, December 2) with scripture being read at the same time. So eager for the next saga of Claire and Jamie, but hope they won’t die!

  5. Thank you for this start of Advent. I went to Mass yesterday for the first time in months, wanting to start Advent properly. Unfortunately, for me the Homily was yet another political diatribe that left me feeling as marginalized by my Church as I did during the election. I am living for the winter in a very different place than my physical home and I was feeling a kind of spiritual homesickness that yesterdays service made only worse. But the story you shared helped me to realize that all things, including pain, lonliness, and political ranting are transient but God and His Love is constant.

    I really needed to remember that, so thank you.


  6. LOL, Catherine beat me to it. Thanks for coming back to her on that, Diana. And thank you for a lovely advent surprise. Now, if I had been Barbara, I might have held out for the whole advent calendar *grin* Reminds me when I had time to drop into CompuServe sometimes. Don’t they call it biggin… or something like that over there?!

    Also a massive thanks for the Daily Lines! Working from home, I often set myself a target for the day and my reward for reaching it is to be allowed to check out your Facebook page for a morsel. It is often the only reason I log onto the web. And on the topic of biggin… any news from my favourite family, the McKenzies ;-) I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be lots about Bree, Mandy, Jemmy and Roger in the next book.. and about William… and Hal… and Germaine… and…. well, family interaction is my thing, I guess, and you just do it so well!!!

    Hope you and all my fellow fans of your books have a peaceful and joyful advent time.

    Lots of love to you all from England
    Anette x

  7. Hello Diana from Paris ! Thankyou so much for that beautiful Christmas treat, you are such a storyteller ! I devoured “A Trail of Fire” and love the 4 novellas so much ! They left so many openings for more… I was baptized a Catholic (my husband in the Greek Orthodox Church), I don’t go to church though but like Christmas and Easter traditions anyway. Happy Christmas Season to you and your family and I’ll be looking forward to next Sunday ! All the best, Christiane

  8. I am Presbyterian and we light an Advent candle every Sunday, too.

  9. Dear Diana,
    That was a such wonderful passage, thank you. We have advent calenders here but saw a lovely thing this afternoon. I went with the two little boys I look after (age 6 and 10) to there school Christmas fete. It started with then singing Christmas songs and then they dipped the lights and lit the ‘Memory Tree’ lights. The tree had been decorated with card baubles coloured by the children who then could write on the back the name of someone they had lost and would miss at Christmas.
    I thought this was such a beautiful idea and it brought quite a lump to my throat.

    Blessings, Diana.


  10. Thanks for the excerpt.

    Maybe some of you will like my advent calendar book. :)

  11. Thank you Thank you Thank you

    You are the BEST writer — The Outlander Series is a family affair here — all my daughters and sons — have read them over and over and over–persoanly Vogaer is my favorite I have read it 27 times! Of the others 25 times — As a Catholic there are many times my family and I will comment on prayers and things (such as the guilt trip of moms! LOL) where Ian has been in this series! This is one of a wonderful insight. Thank you Diana for this great gift! Keep writting stop reading we ‘re on pins and needles waiting — I have read 108 books this year AND NOT A ONE is on your level of talent.

    Merry Christmas


  12. Thank you, Diana. During a time when my family is going through stress, this came as a remembrance of a season of hope and faith. A beloved pastor recently gave a sermon in which he said that, “Faith is seeing with the imagination of God.” I thought these words were beautiful. And your words and thoughts expressed through your characters are heartfelt and loving. Your characters navigate dilemmas and maintain their devotion and compass. Lastly, thank you for caring about your readers.

  13. Thanks. I was needing a little “Gabaldon-fix”. Hope you enjoy a wonderful Christmas this year.

  14. Diana, thank you for the gift of advent! Christmas always reminds us family and your characters are a part of my family and have to keep reading and rereading entire Outlander series to keep in touch with them, then each part of the book is like a letter or a phone call from each. A big hug to you and would like to say how each book you write about Jamie, Claire, and their family is a special gift.

  15. Oh my, that was a lovely way to start Advent. Ian with his own sorrow and thoughts of how how he will take care of everyone as Jamie did.
    Peace and Love to you and your family during this Advent season.

  16. Thank you, Diana. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas season with your newly expanded family.

  17. Merry Christmas Ms. Gabaldon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I try not to read what you post on fb,only Because I am at the point thta I want to be truly surprised when I read the new book when it comes out. I’m glad you are feeling better after your knee surgery….I had knee surgery bout 10 years ago,they took scar tissue out from under the knee cap…..Congrats to your son and his new book………..Congrats on your daughter’s marriage and the impending wedding for your other daughter! Again Merry Christmas! Waiting patiently for the new book,……. Regina

  18. Dear Diana, Catherine and Anette picked up what I did in this beautiful excerpt! As often happens with your books, the passage brought mist to my eyes and tugged at my heart. Thank you for such a lovely Advent gift.

    Having been raised a Southern Baptist I didn’t know what Advent was until I joined the Lutheran Church as an adult. We lit our first Advent candle last Sunday, too. It is truly a season of joyful anticipation.

    May the Lord watch over you and your family always and may you have a truly blessed Advent and Christmas.

  19. I just read the little book ‘a Leaf On The Wind of All Hallows”. i was shocked to read in the authors notes that there is an excerpt in “An Echo in The Bone” that tells more about the two men that rescued Jerry MacKenzie. I must have missed it. Does anyone know exactly where it is found?

  20. Diana-thank you…I so love this excerpt…and Ian. Have a happy holiday.

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