• “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


BWANGGGGG……feeple, feeple, ploop.

Which is—lest you not recognize this masterly example of onomatopoeia—the sound made by a rubber band that’s been tightly wrapped around a newspaper and is suddenly pushed off to shoot across the room, spin slightly and fall limp. It’s also the sound of my brain, suddenly decompressing.

Which is to say—it’s DONE. AN ECHO IN THE BONE went to press a couple of weeks ago, and the first hot-off-the-press copy arrived on my doorstep a few days ago (and a jolly good thing, too, since it’s due out on the 22nd of this month). It’s absolutely beautiful (huge thanks to Virginia Norey, the book-designer) and I’m Way Thrilled with it.

All my books come together differently; this one was undoubtedly written in more different places than any of the others. I wrote part of it during a short night aboard a plane to Scotland (the stewardi were most concerned, and kindly brought me endless Diet Cokes all night; if caffeine does anything bad to you, I expect we’ll find out here shortly)—thus arriving in the Highlands next day having slept only two hours out of the preceeding 36, which gives a whole new meaning to jet lag.

I wrote another part of it on the floor of the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament, though this was more or less an accident (I was kindly invited to witness the first-ever Clan Convention (a gathering of all the clan chieftains, and heads of clan societies), and was walking along with the chieftain of clan MacKenzie, whom I’d been fortunate enough to have dinner with earlier in the week, and was inadvertently shooed into the main chamber with him, rather than up to the Visitor’s Gallery—and then was unable to get out. So I nonchalantly sat down at a delegate’s desk, took out my netbook and flipped it open, in hopes that people would assume I was a journalist reporting on the proceedings. And…well, there I was, and there the computer was, and…

The more-or-less final bits were written during a long night in the Algonquin Hotel in New York (very appropriate, given the hotel’s literary history) on our way home (we have to break trips to Europe, as my husband is very tall, and Suffers Intensely on long flights, even in business class). I emailed the last chunk of manuscript to my editor just after dawn, and just before running out the door to catch a cab to the airport.

In the cab, naturally, I realized that I’d left out a couple of short bridges—and on the flight back to Phoenix, realized that there really had to be another scene in Part Six, and…well, anyway, I tidied up all the little subsidiary chunks and addressed the (luckily, very few) editorial comments on the earlier parts, all this while reading the copy-edited and/or already-typeset versions of the earlier chunks, which had been chasing me around Scotland for the preceding two weeks.

All of which is why I haven’t written anything but answers to interview questions and replies to (some of) the backed-up email for the last couple weeks. But my brain is beginning to twitch feebly again, and bits of this ‘n that are bubbling up. Just in time—I have a short story (well, sort of. Maybe. We hope) under contract for a new anthology (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois) titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. I don’t yet know what my story will be titled, but at least I do know what the story’s about: I’m going to tell the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents.

In other words….I’m baa-aack. [g]


I hope y’all had an excellent Easter, Passover, or Rite of Spring, depending. We had a wonderful time, with family, friends, a number of exceedingly Odd Easter eggs (owing to combinng the family and friends with a large quantity of champagne mojitos during the coloring), and a lovely Easter Vigil service. Followed, of course, by the Easter Feast.

We do Italian for Easter. Antipasto, Entertaining Olives (red Cerignolas this year, plus the usual Greek salad mix), berry salad, Lasagna, mini-pizzas, and Drunk Chicken Pasta Salad. Since that last is on my favorites of ’08, and it’s fresh in my mind (but not, alas, the refrigerator; we ate the Whole Thing on Easter Sunday, which is too bad, because it makes excellent leftovers), I figured I’d post the recipe. Hope you enjoy it!


3-4 large chicken breasts (well, one per person, really, but you’ll have to
adjust the other ingredients upward if you use more than four.)

tequila (any kind)

bottled margarita mix

garlic (lots)

1 medium red onion

2 green onions, chopped

artichoke hearts – two small jars, or one large one

1 lb. asparagus

6-7 large mushrooms (just the usual white or brown ceps type,
though if you really like other kinds, you can certainly substitute
or use them in addition. Just be careful if you use portabella, as
the gills will shed dark stuff all over the pasta)

about a cup of olives – pitted, preferably, and strong-flavored,
but any kind you like. Spanish queen olives are good; so are
kalamata and the big green Greek olives. I don’t recommend the
little Sicilian ones, just because they’re such a pain to cut up.


extra-virgin olive oil

a good balsamic vinegar

2-4 T. butter

one pkg. Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix

1 large box farfalle (bow-tie) pasta (I like Barilla, myself)

fresh romano or parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

1 very large bowl

OK. To start, you mince up four or five (or six or seven,
depending on size and how much you like garlic) cloves of garlic,
plus about a third of the red onion. Saute’ 2/3 the minced garlic
and chopped green onion in a deep frying pan with enough
olive oil to cover, and add some rosemary.

Trim the chicken breasts, then gash each one deeply several
times on both sides. Put chicken in the saute’ pan to brown, and
pour a tablespoon or so of tequila over each breast. As the
chicken cooks, alternate additional applications of tequila with
equal applications of margarita mix. As the chicken browns, the
liquid in the pan will cook slowly down into a thick blackish
glaze; make sure the breasts are well coated on both sides with
this. Cook until chicken is completely cooked through, then set
aside on chopping board.

While the chicken is browning, saute’ the remaining 1/3 of the
minced garlic and green onion in a couple of tablespoons of melted
butter. Break cleaned asparagus into small pieces (one or two
inches long) and add to saute’. Add herbs, finely minced. Add
sliced mushrooms, stirring frequently. When asparagus is tender
and mushrooms have absorbed all the butter, set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large quantity of boiling water. While
it’s cooking, quarter the olives, halve the artichoke hearts, and
slice the remaining red onion into thin rings.

Mix the Good Seasons salad dressing mix with balsamic vinegar and
Extra-virgin olive oil.

Dice the cooked chicken breasts.

In a very large bowl, combine a) the sliced olives, artichokes
and onions, b) the sauteed asparagus and mushrooms, c) the diced
“drunk” chicken, and d) the cooked bow-tie pasta. Slosh about 3/4
of the salad dressing over the mixture and toss thoroughly.

Serve warm, with fresh romano or parmesan cheese grated or
shredded on top, and additional dressing as desired.

It’s not at all difficult, but it _is_ time-consuming; it
normally takes me about an hour and a half to do. Worth it,


The Spymaster’s Lady

I like to recommend great books to folk, and for those who like historical romance, this is a splendid one. SPYMASTER’S LADY is by Joanna Bourne, who’s a friend of mine (I luckily have a number of friends who write wonderful books; tomorrow I’ll tell you about Kim Harrison and Dana Stabenow, who both have great new books out); it’s beautifully researched, beautifully written, and is by turns hilarious, moving, and sexy.

For any of you who may already have read the book and liked it–Jo tells me that SPYMASTER’S LADY is a finalist in the “DaBwaha” contest, sponsored by the “Dear Author” and “Smart Bitches” websites. Should you feel so moved, the final voting round is TODAY (4-6-09) and the place to vote is here.

"Survivor" Interview

Well, it is April Fools’ Day, but this isn’t a joke. [g] Mind, it isn’t that “Survivor,” either.

A friend of mine who runs an interesting blog on freelancing had asked me if I’d do an interview with her, for a series she was doing on the blog, explaining a bit about my own experiences with freelancing. I did, and if you’re interested in more of the background of what I did before I began writing novels [g], or what-all is involved with the business/promotional side of being an author…

Here it is.

Homer vs. The Blue Octopus

As you can see from the following, Homer is growing! Also proving true to his heritage as a mighty hunting dog, though badgers are thin on the ground in Santa Fe; thus his alternate prey.


I didn’t mean to go off and leave you with nothing but enchiladas to eat. [g] Been Really Busy here of late, though, what with the Final Frenzy (which is going well; about 120,000 words of ECHO has been dispatched to editors and German and Finnish translators. How much of the total is that? I have no idea. I think the book is going to be somewhere around the size of DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, but I’m always wrong about these things.

Anyway–here’s the machaca recipe. Hope you enjoy it!


Here’s a recipe that will work for Atkins’ followers or low-fat devotees—though I’m afraid there really isn’t a good vegetarian equivalent. Developed by Mexican peasants faced with the prospect of eating elderly goat, stringy rabbit, or the leftover remnants of the village cow, machaca is a way of rendering any cut of meat both edible and tasty. That being so, it really doesn’t matter what cut you select, or how big it is, but I usually buy a large rump roast, because it’s not very fatty, and is easy to clean. By and large, a pound of raw beef will yield about 10 to 12 ounces of machaca.
A large chunk of beef, any cut (one pound will probably feed 2-3 people)
1 onion, any color (yellow Spanish onion is traditional)
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 head of garlic
Cilantro, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

*Note: Traditional Mexican cookery occasionally uses carne seca—dried beef, or jerky—instead of fresh beef. In this case, you don’t need to boil or shred it, but will need to allow a longer steaming time. (Note: don’t use spiced jerky if you employ this option.)

Preparation has several steps; this isn’t a recipe for people rushing home from work and wondering what to microwave. On the other hand, once made, machaca will keep—and improve in flavor—for up to a week in the refrigerator, and can be used in a number of different quick, tasty dishes.

Boil the beef. This is simple; it just takes a while. Put the raw beef in a large pot, cover it with water, and put over a medium-high flame. Bring to a boil, and keep gently boiling for 3 to 5 hours. The only thing to remember is to check the pot and add more water, to prevent the meat boiling dry. You know it’s done when you stick a fork in the meat and it begins to fall apart.

Chill. Scoop the beef out of the water, put it in a large bowl, cover and put in the refrigerator to chill. Overnight is best, but 2 or 3 hours will do.

Shred the chilled, boiled beef with your fingers, removing any gristle or fat. Put shredded beef in a large frying pan or stewing pan—any wide, shallow pan with a lid (or that can be covered with a sheet of aluminum foil).

Add the vegetables and spices. The thing to observe here is that the vegetables are spice in this dish. Ergo, you don’t want to have big chunks of garlic, onion, and peppers—you want to use quantities of very finely minced vegetable, which will desiccate in the cooking and flavor the meat. How much? Depends on how much you like garlic, essentially. For a 4-to-6 pound roast, I’d use a whole head of garlic, myself. Mince a quantity of onion equivalent to the quantity of garlic, and an equal quantity each of red and green peppers. If you like cilantro (aka coriander leaf) and can get it fresh, add 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls, also minced. Mix all the minced vegetables into the shredded beef, adding a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Steam. Pour a small amount of water over the meat and vegetables—3 or 4 tablespoonfuls. The water is to keep the cooking meat from sticking to the pot, and gently steam it, not to braise or stew it, so you don’t need a lot. Cover the pan and set over a low heat. This is a good dish to make while you’re doing something else time-consuming in the kitchen, because while you don’t need to do anything but stir it occasionally, and now and then add more water, you do need to keep an eye on it. Check every 5 to 10 minutes, stirring the meat, adding water as needed, if the meat begins to dry or stick. Add additional salt or pepper, as desired, when stirring. Continue this process until all the vegetables are desiccated—appearing as no more than colorful shreds among the meat—and the meat is uniformly moist and totally shredded. This usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.

A version of this dish in Cuban cuisine is known as ropas viejas—“old clothes”—which will tell you something about what it looks like when done. Machaca can be served as a main dish, accompanied by fresh salsa, fried plantains, or fried potatoes, rice and beans (traditional Mexican-style Pinto beans—whole or refried—or Cuban black beans), or eggs. It also makes a delicious filling for tacos, flautas, enchiladas, tostadas or burritos—my favorite is a machaca burrito, made by ladling a couple of large spoonfuls of machaca into the center of a flour tortilla, covering with grated cheddar cheese, and sticking in the microwave for 30 seconds (just enough to melt the cheese). Top with chunky tomato salsa (fruit salsas are also great), wrap the tortilla, and eat!

Machaca is time-consuming, but remarkably simple to cook—and since the flavor will improve even more as the pepper-onion-garlic flavors continue to blend, it’s great to make a big batch to keep in the refrigerator—ideal for the Atkins’-approved snacking!


A variant on machaca is something called beef barbacoa. Essentially, this is machaca with red chile and a little additional water added. I use dried Pequin chile flakes, but Ancho or any other dried red chile will work. You add this to the steaming machaca, to taste—I judge it by color, myself; the meat should have a uniform reddish look, and be moister than regular machaca; enough liquid to ooze out when you drop a spoonful of the meat into a tortilla. Some people would leave the bell peppers and cilantro out of barbacoa, but I usually include the peppers.


I can already hear people screaming, “WHAT? Why are you doing that instead of finishing AN ECHO IN THE BONE?!?” [g]

Well, I am finishing ECHO, as fast as ever I can–and we do now have a pub date for it, too: September 22nd!

Still, it helps to have small things to do for mental distraction other than playing Solitaire, and when a Scottish gentleman named Lord Jamie Sempill came along some months ago and invited me to do a regular blog on Matters Scottish and Literary for his new venture, a website called “Panalba”, I said, “Sure, why not?” (Well, I didn’t know that the launch of Panalba was going to coincide with the Final Frenzy, is why not, but what the heck.)

Anyway, I was flatttered to be asked, and very pleased by the look and variety of Panalba, and have had fun doing the first couple of blogs for that site. It’s a site devoted specifically to Scotland and people who love that country, and features all sorts of fascinating personalities and information. As opposed to this personal blog (where I may talk about butt-cooties or anything else that takes my fancy [g]), the Panalba blog entries that I do will be specifically devoted to Scottish material—particularly things from the world of literature. (Well, all right, my first entry had to do with Men in Kilts, but still…)

I’ve just put up my second blog entry there: “Ye Canna Push Yer Granny Aff the Bus: Scots, Gaelic, and Miscellaneous Accents” — and cordially invite you to come check it (and the rest of the site) out here.

Good Book – Happy Valentine’s Day!

As a small treat (to go along with the chocolate, good wine and flowers I trust y’all are enjoying) for Valentine’s Day, allow me to recommend this as a good book for February.

Jewell Parker Rhodes is a friend of mine, and I always enjoy her books–well-written historical novels with vivid characters. I think this is one of her best.


Diana Makes the Funnies!

I was both flattered and amused to get an email from Bruce Tinsley, who draws (and writes) the “Mallard Fillmore” comic strip (it’s syndicated by Knight, so appears in a number of newspapers), saying that he’d done a strip on me and my books, inspired by a conversation he’d had with his wife, who is a fan of the books.

Here’s a link to the strip, which appeared in newspapers yesterday:


Lest anybody think that he was making fun of me or the books (well, hey, it’s a comic strip!), I asked Bruce if I could quote his email to me, which he kindly allowed me to do:

Dear Ms. Gabaldon,
My wife loves your books so much, that I had to put one in my comic strip, Mallard Fillmore, which is syndicated nationally by King Features.
The strip will appear on Feb. 11, and feature Chantel’s righteous indignation at Mallard’s stereotyping one of your books as a bodice-ripper. I, of course, had committed the same sin in real life, without having actually read your books, and gotten the same response.
I’ve read some now, and realize that you’ve got a great gift. I also really respect the time you seem to take encouraging other writers…..
Bruce Tinsley

So–Thank you, Bruce! This is even better than being the subject of Trivial Pursuit questions. [g]

(I showed the strip to one of my editors, who said, “Next thing, the New York Times crossword puzzle!” [g])

US Cover Proof for ECHO!

Well, the art department chose a different background color than the one I’d suggested–but they did a wonderful job with the caltrop! And over all, I think it’s quite striking, and in keeping with the rest of the series.