A sweetness that cuts…a reflection on Outlander episode 4.9 “Birds and the Bees



I signed up for a Diana Gabaldon talk and book signing in Fairfax, Virginia well before Outlander Starz was a thing.  It was a sold out event and the one and only time I ever stood in line to meet someone famous. Worried about my navigating (and rightfully so) D.C. traffic, my husband drove me five and a half hours for an event he didn’t have a ticket for. Unbeknownst to him, I had put him on the waiting list and he got in!!!! He was thrilled (hard eye roll here)!!!! As it was our first time at such an event, we didn’t know what to expect and were a little shocked to see a line into the auditorium that wrapped itself through and around a very large campus building.  I was walking with a cane at the time and crestfallen, I knew I would not be able to stand in line. My big burly manly man of a husband breached the crowds of plaid clad women to secure us a place while I sat feeling guilty in a chair.  It remains one of the nicest things he has ever done for me.  Listening to Diana speak and meeting her in person was a surreal ordeal, but well worth everything we went through.  As great as it was to meet her and despite my love for the actors on the show, I can’t see myself waiting outside or inside a venue for the hours it seems to take to meet them.  However, …I swear I would for Matt B. Roberts, LOL! What can I say?  I’m a fan of writing and Outlander and he is my favorite Outlander script writer. I feel like I “get” him and the way he thinks. Well. at least about Outlander. No, …I really DO get how he thinks BECAUSE of Outlander.

I have learned that not everything a writer wants to be said or happen on a show comes to fruition. There are a lot of voices and logistics influencing the final product.  However, it is obvious to me what are Matt’s focuses and influences when I see an episode he has written.  In my humble opinion, he truly understands why this story and its characters are special. He sees through to the heart of what is happening. He gets what the story is saying about people, life, love, and family. That he is able to translate that visually continues to be a wonder to me.  Case in point? Outlander episode 4.9 “The Birds and the Bees”.

I recently republished a blog post  in honor of the 4.9 episode. I wrote about how I have grown to appreciate Diana’s imaginings of the first meeting of Jamie and his adult daughter. In that article, I point out how the expectations of that moment would have to have been unrealistic. The import placed on this meeting cannot be understated for either the characters or the fandom. I remember the first time I read it, I was a bit disappointed. Not exactly sure why, but I think I was expecting some equivalent of colonial fireworks.  Diana didn’t give me or Brianna what we expected instead she gave us what we …needed. I found myself measuring this episode against that standard.  Did Matt B. Roberts and writing partner Toni Graphia give us what we expected or what we needed?

We Needed to See Their Faces

I’m starting to appreciate how important it is for actors to emote. Not everything can be communicated in dialogue nor should it be in a visual medium.  We sometimes need to see what a character is feeling and I felt there were some really important feelings revealed in this episode.  Lizzie, Ian, Murtagh, Roger and all three Frasers told us volumes with a mere expression.

I found myself really looking at Roger’s face in this scene.  At first he seems just irritated that he still has to deal with Bonnet.  He doesn’t have time to deal with this piece of shit. He needs to find Brianna. When the reality of what the Captain is saying, he will be sailing to Philadelphia, starts to sink in you can see the resignation.  I’m not sure why, but I felt like Roger’s expression was slightly sardonic. Of course he isn’t done with Bonnet, of course he is about to get pulled away from Brianna before he can tell her he hasn’t left.  This is no idle threat. He is well and truly screwed. However, he cannot show too much emotion. You don’t want to give this monster any clues as to how you are feeling and give him any ammunition. How ironic that the one person he is desperate to protect from Bonnet is already his victim. His “especially when it comes to women” line made me cringe.  I think uttering “poor Roger” under my breath is about to become a regular thing.

Brianna…Within the span of a few minutes we see her face reveal what has to be the entire span of human emotion. I felt emotionally exhausted just watching her swing from grief to hope and back again.


I’m not sure I need to comment.  These faces speak for themselves.

We Needed to Know Roger Didn’t Leave


There were some pretty big departures from the book in the last few episodes and I have learned (not easily mind you) to be patient.  Episodic TV can try that patience when you have to wait a whole week to get answers and everyone in the fandom is speculating and spouting disappointment. There are some things I still need to know about Roger and his storyline, but the biggest thing I needed to know was if he actually left. I needed to know he didn’t. I needed to know that it was just an argument fueled by some really piss poor communication, but that it was just an argument and not an abandonment. Nothing more happened than what has happened in my own and many other’s relationships. People got angry and said stuff they really didn’t mean out of hurt and stubborn pride. I needed to see when Roger did leave it wasn’t his choice. I knew when he left with Bonnet, he was coming back.

We Needed This Scene, This Exact Scene


Jamie meets the child he sacrificed all for. The child he never thought to see. Like all important moments like this, reality is never quite as we expected.  Nothing is ever as good or as bad as we might think.  Brianna only knows what she has been told about her “father” Jamie. He had to seem the stuff of legend and fairy tales to her. Her first view of her father was of him relieving himself. That very human reality took him very quickly from fairytale hero to just a man.  It was exactly what she needed. Her expectations needed this adjustment.  I was thrilled to see they kept this part of the book!  Well, maybe not actually thrilled, maybe a bit uncomfortable, but you get the point.  She rounded that corner looking for someone bigger than life and found a man, a man whose arms were a safe place to rest.

In my blog, I point out that Brianna learned more about her father in the few minutes he didn’t know who she was than in all the stories she could have been told about him.  We know fans can often loudly complain about any changes from the book. There were changes to this scene, but none that greatly affected its impact. Brianna learns that her father is loyal, firm, but kind and most importantly that he loves her.  It was so very close to how Diana imagined it.  Creating that visual representation of her imaginings was definitely made easier by actors who seem to inhabit their characters. Sam Heughan was absolutely amazing.  Sophie Skelton played Bree’s excitement and trepidation to perfection. When she fell into Jamie’s arms all felt right with the world.

We Needed Our Mothers


I still struggle with Claire’s decision to leave her daughter in the future. I appreciate that the show allowed Claire to show us she still struggled with that decision. Although she seemed shocked and overjoyed to see Bree, I had the sense that she was also dismayed.  The past is a dangerous place for a woman and I was struck by all that happened because Bree needed her mother. I would find it difficult to reconcile all that loss and wondered at how it would affect Claire’s relationship with Jamie. Bree is obviously struggling and Claire can see it, but she also knows that Bree is a woman now and as such can no longer be compelled as a child to tell her what is going on. However, Brianna needs her mother maybe more than she ever has.  She needs her mother to draw her out and comfort her.  We needed to see that happen.

We Needed To Feel Our Way


I love that this show takes its time with people. The tender and tentative dance between Bree and Jamie was needed.  They are virtual strangers. Strangers who want and hope and long and need to find a way to a come together and build a relationship. We needed to see them tiptoe around Frank. We needed to hear Jamie’s gratitude towards Frank and Bree’s guilty feelings about wanting to be with Jamie. We needed to see Jamie’s avid attentiveness to Bree’s every move and his constant furtive glances and smiles. We needed childhood stories, working together on the ridge, and time around the family table.

We Needed to See That Bree Understood


While it was obvious that Jamie was studying Bree.  It wasn’t quite as obvious that she was studying him and maybe more importantly, she was studying Jamie with Claire.  Bree telling Claire about Franks’s knowing she came back to Jamie was unexpected. The sadness with which this news was received gave me a lump in my throat. I felt for all of well-intentioned choices and unintentional pain in Claire’s marriage to Frank. I’m not sure what Claire was supposed to do with that knowledge except feel guilt and regret, but Bree’s acknowledging she understood why Claire had to return was also unexpected and a…gift.

We Needed to Share Our Feelings


The quiet conversations between Jamie and Claire were everything. I get another lump in my throat just thinking about them. Jamie sitting on the edge of the bed rubbing his aching hand, a reminder to us that he too suffered what he does not yet know Brianna suffered. It reminds us that he has known so much pain and loss in his life and Brianna’s return is an unforseen and never dreamed of reality that he doesn’t want to end. He is human after all and a father wants his child to stay. Jamie’s openness and vulnerability with Claire is one of the main reasons this couple holds a special place in my heart. He is able to share his fears and regrets and his joys with her and know she does not judge him. In her arms, he is safe to be himself without fear. In return, we know that he constantly thinks of her and a large part of his joy in Brianna’s return is because he knows Claire misses her so much. This child was the impetus for all the sacrifice and the 20 years of loneliness. The couple’s constant touching and silent looks communicate their gratitude for all they have. But, I also feel each touch acknowledges the weight of all they have lost. They have Bree now, but they lost 20 years together with her.

We Needed Something to be Simple


In the end, Bree’s pregnancy, Claire’s promise, Lizzie’s mistaken assumptions, Jamie’s parental protective instincts, will result in complications that will change everything for everyone and I can’t say I’m looking forward to witnessing what happens.  And so, I’m grateful that Matt and Toni gave us something else we needed. They gave us something simple. They gave us birds, and bees and a simple name Jamie has longed to hear …Da.




Get ready for sexy old folks……a reflection on Outlander season 3



Caitriona Balfe just celebrated her 37th birthday on October 4th.  All-day long, I saw well wishes for her flash across my social media sites.  Outlander’s fans, the cast, crew, and creators were all wishing her the happiest of days and thanking her for bringing Diana Gabaldon’s character the WWII nurse, Claire Randall Fraser, to life.  Her birthday fell in close proximity to a few casting and award announcements and the unveiling of a new EW cover (the cover was tweeted one day after I wrote this http://wp.me/p4mtBT-4BP coincidence?…I think I’m clairvoyant! LOL).  All of this news had me thinking about season 3 and I’ve got ideas jotted down and several articles in the creation about Fergus and Ian and Marsali.  There has been lots of inspiration for an Outlander blog! Today, however, I find myself still thinking of Caitriona’s birthday.  She is 37 on the upward slope toward forty which often is the point of no return or should I say no role for most actresses. Have you seen Amy Schumer’s skit on the subject?  https://youtu.be/XPpsI8mWKmg

I know that Cait has said that she has no interest in being a starlet and so, I’m wondering if she had any real idea how fortuitous it was she said yes to playing Claire? She has an opportunity to play a character that will not only continue to grow as a person, but she will get the chance to play a character who ages.  She is going to get to play a female character who still has an active sex life past forty.  In fact, her character still has a passionate sex life…until she’s…well, last time I checked Claire and her Jamie were grandparents who indulge their appetite for each other…often. Folks,…Outlander has the chance to once again break some ground in portraying sex on TV. Brace yourselves there is a chance we will see hot sex between two older monogamous married people who are passionately committed to each other.

First, let me say that the older I get the older still being young seems to get.  I can remember when  I thought 50 seemed the end of the line for everything including being sexy.  I recall reading a reflection Erma Bombeck wrote about turning 50. She was looking forward to being able to dress in loose pants and going to the grocery store without makeup.  She believed there would be less pressure to conform because nobody cared what you looked like when you turned fifty.  Evidently, Erma and I believed there was an expiration date on sexual attractiveness.


I’ve been married to the same man going on 41 years.  We still hold hands and kiss…in front of people…like our children, which for some reason totally grosses them out.  We hear things like “Stop!  We get it, we get it, you still have sex, but just… STOP!”  LOL!  It’s not like we are groping each other and swallowing each other’s tongues and need to be told to get a room.  Usually, it’s just a “moment” when we feel affection or gratitude and lean in for a gentle kiss and a look into each other’s eyes.  I would think knowing your parents feel this way about each other would be a good thing, but evidently,…not so much. This leads me to wonder how Outlander will portray sex between it’s two main characters who are rapidly approaching fifty.  I’m wondering if they know they have the chance to once again break the mold when it comes to how sex is portrayed on the screen because believe or not, people over fifty do have sex lives.  One of the things that have kept me attracted to this book series is Diana Gabaldon’s decision to go beyond the falling in love stage in relationships.  She decided to write about love that lasts for fifty years.  I think that’s why some of the books that come later in the series like A Breath of Snow and Ashes are my favorites.  I read them and find myself nodding in recognition of the truth of what it is like to be in a committed relationship.  

I believe that our society has a very unrealistic view of being in love which Hollywood has tended to perpetuate.  We tend to believe it’s like the fairytale. Happy endings aren’t necessarily easy to obtain. Ms. Gabaldon’s books take the reader beyond falling in love and into the everyday realities of how people stay in love despite tragedy and hardship.  


My husband once told me about a conversation he had with one of his young college football players. The young man had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was going to drop out of school. My husband told him our story which included my getting pregnant at 18 and his not dropping out of college.  He told him it could be done and he would help him find a way to make it happen if the young man wanted to stay in school.  My husband said he felt the need to tell the young man the truth about marriage, “Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is the thing I am the proudest of”. Diana’s books give us a portrait of the self-sacrifice, acceptance, loyalty, and sometimes the forgiving it takes to maintain a long-term relationship.  One of the reasons some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together.  Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words.  It rings true to me, sex is important for a variety of reasons in a marriage and I hope season three of Outlander will show us sex between this older couple that comes close to approximating real-life because, for the most part, Hollywood hasn’t.

I find myself more and more fascinated by the role film plays in our perceptions, particularly of women. In general, Hollywood has an abysmal record when it comes to representing women as real members of the human race and that includes representing aging women in film.

Men over 40 accounted for 53% of characters whereas women that age represented 30%. That has implications for the number of female authority figures onscreen.

Age is one issue among many that has endured in Hollywood. The study found that among actors over 40 in film and television, 74.3% of characters are male and only 25.7% are female.


When they do put older women paired with an older man in a film the relationship still isn’t portrayed as sexy, but instead is “typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous”. It is about companionship rather than a real relationship.

If you watch a random assortment of Hollywood movies, you could be forgiven for believing that the only people who have sex are in their 20s and, occasionally, 30s. When people in their 50s and older engage in an on-screen romance, their relationship is typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous.

In other words, the message that film-makers send us is, “Sex is for when you are young. Companionship is for when you’re older.” While it’s true that most of us know more about relationships now than we did as teenagers, this certainly doesn’t mean that sex has left the building. Far from it! In real life, baby boomers are saying that sex gets better with age.  (read this great article with Dame Helen Mirren about sex after 60) http://sixtyandme.com/should-hollywood-embrace-sex-after-50/


Curious, I began looking for information to read about older women and sex in film.  One article link that popped up on my screen was entitled “The Top Ten Sex Scenes of Actresses Over 50” on a webpage called MiddleSexy which promotes the idea that sex, when we are older, can be better than when we are younger “older/better/sexier”.  I was hopeful that what I would find was a list of films that showed women over fifty in “realistic” sexual relationships…not so much.  In this article, 9 out of 10 of the films listed involved older women having sex with younger men and one about incest.  Evidently, Hollywood and the author believe only “cougars” can be sexy or have hot sex.  http://middlesexy.com/2014/10/21/top-10-movie-sex-scenes-featuring-actresses-over-50/

Men, as Amy Shumer’s skit suggests, don’t have an expiration date and are still seen as f*able no matter how old they are.  Do you remember the fuss over Carrie Fisher’s not aging well in the new Star Wars movie? http://wp.me/p65lj4-2r Women are consistently told they are too old to play the love interest of men older than themselves.  https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/maggie-gyllenhaal-too-old-hollywood

I asked myself if I could remember a film that actually showed an older couple having hot sex. The only movie I could think of was The Thomas Crown Affair with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan.  It was definitely sexy, but missing a key component for me…the ever after part.  This was still just another falling in love story. However, it should still be considered ground-breaking for it’s the portrayal of an older couple having passionate sex. I would have loved to have seen a sequel to that movie. Were those two characters able to make a relationship work?! 



The good news is that there seems to be more attention being paid to Hollywood’s issues with women in general.  Outlander has been part of a movement that has shown that TV with a female protagonist can generate audiences and money.  One of the biggest reasons we don’t see more realistic portrayals of older couples on the screen is because there aren’t enough women behind the camera and enough good roles being written for older women.

You’ve got to go behind the camera to fix things in front of the camera.http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/youre-the-worsts-aya-cash-on-ageism-in-hollywood.html

But, here’s some even better news…Outlander has two seasons to show the world that sex between two older committed people can be hot and meaningful too.  

What I heard Diana Gabaldon say… Outlander’s EW cover.




Wow. Just wow. That cover stirred up some controversy.  Even Diana encouraged fans to discuss. She left two images on her Facebook page, one a cover she wrote for her books and the EW cover.  She then left instructions for folks to leave comments and promised she would be back later to tell us all what she thought.  Mixed in with the belittlement, name-calling, and worship there were some opinions expressed and viewpoints shared that were worthy of consideration.  But, what, we all wanted to know,  would  Diana have to say?  So, the fandom waited to hear what the author thought of the cover marketing the show and ultimately her story.

Having read and watched Diana’s responses to previous fan issues, I  made some pretty accurate educated guesses.  Diana is direct.  She was.  Diana explains her views clearly. She did.  She is very pragmatic.  She was.  Here is what I heard Diana say:

  • the romance element is the easiest to sell and promote
  • there isn’t one image that could ever define Outlander
  • one magazine cover isn’t going to define the series
  • the magazine is trying to catch their perceived audience’s attention
  • the cover isn’t scandalous

After reading, I tweeted those points.  Her response sounded like what it was, an answer from someone who, as she put it, has “been in the trenches for over 25 years”.  She has seen her genre bending books and story marketed as a lot of different things,



She seemed pretty accepting of the whole thing as a reality, but I’ll admit I had a tough time squaring that acceptance with this video of her reaction to Barnes and Noble marketing her books as Romances https://youtu.be/72lRj-ewq6s  (5 min mark it gets good). Overall, I agreed with what she had to say, however, there are a couple of things I’d like to revisit.

She didn’t exactly say she was happy with the cover headlines with the picture.




This was one of the main points I was trying to make in my article.  It wasn’t the picture I had an issue with, but rather the way it was coupled with those headlines. In fact, I found someone I would have liked to have written those headlines!  Here is a great article written by Brooke Corso that beautifully explores the meaning behind that photo for fans of the series and books http://popwrapped.com/necessary-outlander-cover/  .  Couple the picture with some of her words and I’m buying the whole thing!


The Kilt Drops



She insinuates and rightly so, that it seems fairly hypocritical to take umbrage with this picture’s marketing if no one had an issue with the “kilt drops” campaign.  The fandom’s presence on social media was fairly new when Starz rolled out the kilted street performers and covered buildings with this marketing ploy.  However, there was a group of us who did say a word about it, in fact, we said lots of words about it.  In fact, I mentioned this campaign in a recent article http://wp.me/p4mtBT-1af .  That Diana didn’t see our protests isn’t surprising , but some of us _did_ speak up!

Several hundred times this week, I’ve been told that sex sells and it would be naïve to think otherwise cuz its been used to sell things for eons.  I’ve come to the conclusion I could not work in advertising. I understand it is their job to understand the psychology of what sells, including sex, but I’m pretty sure my conscience would bother me if I had to write a campaign suggesting a person could get laid if they only bought the right car!  <g>   I consider myself to be a fairly pragmatic person like DG, but I’ll admit that I do object to this type of marketing on a theoretical basis. I know Diana says that the term bodice-ripper= historical romance to virtually all marketing people and that nothing negative is intended.  I’m not so sure.  I believe there is a negative connotation associated with the term bodice-ripper.  I believe it is often used to demean women,  I THINK the use of this term is meant to suggest that the books or TV series’ value should be questioned because women, especially “middle-age women” are fans. I find it very disturbing that in addition to disparaging middle-age, it seems being a woman disqualifies us as purveyors of what is worthy. Those cover headlines….were marketed to a perceived audience alright…women who would be dismayed that Jamie was going to wear pants.  As I said in my previous article on this topic, I realize this is just one magazine cover, but I sure hope this isn’t a trend.

Not comfortable being the poster child for the stuff in that article

So, I check on the blog stats at least once a week.  I like seeing where I’m being read and how people found the blog.  This morning I was amused to see that someone had put in the search box “”if  @SamHeughan is a blonde who gets to dye his hair” and got my blog!  I also noticed a few clicks to another blog.  Curious, I clicked and was taken to Outlander Cast.  I saw in the introduction of their latest article this statement “Whatever you want to say about the cover, whether it’s good like us, or critical like other well known Outlander Blogs, you have to admit that the picture is freakin’ sexy as hell.”  The link takes you to my article!  First, I guess I should be flattered to be identified as other well known Blogs, but the link ONLY takes you to me!  And, eventually the article degenerates into the same name-calling, belittling seen all over the fandom.  Basically, anyone who doesn’t like everything about that cover must have issues with sex.  So, as a sexually active woman in a 40 plus year marriage who said repeatedly that I had no issues with the picture and in fact, found it striking, I am bit confused.  If they are trying to say not everyone thought the same then okay, but if not….then I do have issues  and they aren’t with sex!

Lumping and labeling


I’ve said before and I’ll say it again.  You don’t have to agree with anybody, but why lump and label anyone who doesn’t agree with your viewpoint?  It was obvious that Diana didn’t agree with some fans take on the issue.  However, she never once insulted anyone or called them names.  She did tell folks they needed to get out more and it sounds like pretty good advice to me! I think I’ll take that advice and ask my sexy husband to take me on a date tonight and maybe later we’ll do a little Jamie and Claire role-play.  I’m sure I have a little linen and plaid somewhere, ….


P.S. These are the last comments on this issue!  I promised I would address DG’s comments. Next post will be waaayyyy up beat!



Outlander’s acting…How do they do that with a camera in their face?




I’m amazed.  I’m amazed every time I see a behind the scenes photograph of the actors of Outlander. It amazes me because the reality of filming seems so intrusive.  I am amazed that actors who have microphones hanging over their heads and cameras in their faces can manage to make a scene feel real and intimate.  My understanding of the challenges an actor faces has increased and so has my respect for their skills. You’ve heard me say before that I’m curious and that I am often inspired to look a bit deeper.  Today that inspiration came from this picture. 


It is a simple scene and yet for me it helped clarify what is actually happening during filming and it is far from intimate.  In fact, it appears to take a village to raise a film. Movies take years to plan, months to shoot and thousands of people to create. On average the top films of the past two decades have each had 3.5 writers, 7 producers, 55 people in the art department, 32 in sound, 55 in camera / electrical and 156 in visual effects. There are 19 people listed for hair and makeup alone and 37 in the camera electrical department for Outlander on IMBD. The list of folks working on the show is pretty impressive and worth a look. Suffice it to say, there is a crowd surrounding these actors most of the time.

You are probably aware that the author of the Outlander series of books, Diana Gabaldon, was asked to write scripts for Season 2 and had the experience of filming those episodes.  I was entertained by her less than glamorous pictures of traipsing through mud and her Scottish weather uniform including her pink boots. ( btw, I found a great blog about a typical day on a set. https://www.friendsinfilm.com/typical-day-on-set )

Quite frankly, it looked cold, uncomfortable and sounded like a study in patience when she explained that the same scenes were often filmed over and over. Her day started early and ended late with her falling across her bed sometimes too tired to eat. For the actors who have to get into makeup (I’ve read it takes somewhere near 4 hours to put the prosthetic on Sam’s back) and costume, I can imagine it might even be more time consuming and more exhausting. Despite all this they must be ready to be in character and stay in character on demand and get up and do it all again the next day. Ron Moore talked about the stamina it took for Cait to be in almost every scene, I’m starting to really appreciate what he meant and why Sam and Cait appreciate having a co-star that is a friend.

I’ve  written a bit about how costuming and set design can affect an actor’s performance http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Zo ,  http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Yx . I’ve even written about different schools of thought on acting and a bit about why someone might want to act http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Pd .  I can see how certain acting techniques could work, especially as a stage actor performing the same material night after night, but this acting for a film series seems to be a different animal.  For instance, how does filming out of sequence affect your performance?  I would think that you would need to act in some sort of chronological order to build upon what happens to the character.  The only response I ever got to that question was from Terry Dresbach, Outlander’s costume designer, who told me she has never been part of a production that was any other way.  After following this show’s production for the last couple of years, I’ve come to understand the “why” of filming out of sequence, but I still don’t know how it doesn’t negatively impact actor’s performances.  The fact that Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and all the others are able to get inside their characters’ heads on cue continues to baffle and as I said….amaze.  How do they tune it all out? How do they make us believe those emotions are real?

images (7)

Outlander has gained a reputation for portraying its story in an honest manner.  The scenes feel like what might actually happen between real people including the sex.  I’m astonished to realize that what appears to us as romantic and passionate and intimate was created in a room with directors, camera people, sound guys, etc.  I found it amusing when Ron Moore said they wanted to give the characters some privacy and so they made the crew skeletal! Skeletal there’s a relative term! LOL!

Yeah, we got to get it right. But the subject matter — Caitrna [Balfe] and I have never done anything like this before, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We were lucky that the director, Anna Foerster, was good. We did a lot of rehearsals. We discussed how we wanted it to work. When you watch the episode there is a progression in the way that Jamie and Claire get to know each other. Their relationship grows quite quickly so by the end of the episode, you can see that they’re basically making love, it’s not just consummating the marriage.    Sam Heughan http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/outlander-sam-heughan-jamie-claires-732878

I’m sorry, but if I’m wearing nothing but a modesty patch simulating sex with an equally naked co-star and people are filming and giving me instructions like hold him here, touch her there, I’m going to have tough time not being embarrassed! Get it right?! Yeah, they got it so right I felt slightly voyeuristic watching!


I found some great insight in an article in the Atlantic.  It took a look at the emerging interest in the psychology of acting and how it could give us insight into the science of why people do the things they do. The article asserts that acting is just a different way of looking at human behavior.  What I discovered is that becoming a character isn’t easy and not without cost, especially when playing scenes like episode 15 and 16.

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I found myself getting a little worried about our actors while reading this article, but I’m happy to say that it ended by concluding that good acting may be less about becoming your character and more about simply concentrating.

“Intensity gets misinterpreted. Not all acting is necessarily extremely intense. But it is concentrated and very much about being here, now.”

The toll of at least temporarily living in a character and world you’ve created is emotionally consuming and an actor needs to cultivate ways to disengage from their work of acting.  I’m happy to say that our actors appear to be aware of the need of self-care and I love that they share that they laugh on set, eat healthy, hike Munros, drink the occasional whiskey, and spend time with family and friends who know who they were before they played Jamie, Claire or Black Jack.  I still don’t understand how they do it, but wow, they are good at it and this fan is grateful! 


SPOILERS: Voyager…Outlander’s journey back to love


Over the Sea to Skye

In celebration of the announcement of a season 3 + 4 for Outlander, I thought I would republish this article because….print shop. 😉


This morning on Twitter, Richard Kahan, a member of the Outlander on Starz writing team and new “tweep” shared that he was about to start reading Voyager.  Someone else shared that they were starting the Fiery Cross.  Someone else shared that they had been completely spoiled by the Outlander series and have other books to read, but find themselves rereading…again.

I found myself nodding my head and responding to them all!

“Voyager is one of my favorites! It’s so quotable! Poignant! ”

The Fiery Cross” Loved it! The longest day ever written! LOL! Love that each book is so different! ”

“I keep going back to ABOSAA because it reveals so many truths about true love.”

” Yep…never been able to duplicate the reading experience Diana has created for me.  I NEVER tire of reading her books…again…and again. I’m ruined.”

I’m constantly thinking about why this series resonates so much.  Right now, however, I’m thinking about Richard reading Voyager and what he’ll find revealed between those pages.

The book opens on the battlefield and it is truly one of the best opening scenes I’ve ever read. Culloden’s legacy was one of grief, starvation, and despair for the people of the Highlands and for Voyager’s main character’s Jamie and Claire.  They both believe the other is lost to them forever and they are trying to find a way to live “without their hearts”. They are starved for each other’s company and face the despair of knowing they will never again have the kind of mutual love they shared. Too many of us can relate to their need to go on living despite devastating loss.  In Claire’s case, she pushes forward for Bree and Jamie for Jenny, Ian and their children. They go on…they exist.  Diana lets the reader see that our beloved couple are never far from each other’s thoughts. She paints us a picture of two people who truly aren’t complete without the other. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.

I love the way Diana has structured this book. The mixture of the present day with flashbacks to the past slowly builds the suspense and intensity of emotion.  The search for evidence of Jamie’s survival is then followed by the reality of the Dun Bonnet’s real story and we see the names on the Ardsmuir roll sheet in the flesh. And… experience the years of the empty and deprived life Jamie led in Claire’s absence. We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience. She did love Frank and I know those feelings must surface, but Claire’s heart is truly and irrevocably Jamie’s. What ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. And, despite what I know some fans think, I believe Frank’s biggest sin is that he simply isn’t Jamie.  When Claire finally realizes that Jamie is most probably alive, we see her struggle with her choice to leave her daughter forever and we see more of what her relationship with Frank was really like.

“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he?  He was like her?”


He breathed heavily, almost a snort.

“I could see it in your face– when you’d look at her, I could see you thinking of him.  damn you Claire Beauchamp, ” he said, very softly.  “damn you and your face that can’t hide a thing you think or feel.”

“…I did love you, ” I said, softly, at last. “Once.”

They go on to discuss why he didn’t leave and Frank wonders out loud,

“...but you couldn’t see her (Bree) without thinking of him, could you?  Without that constant memory, I wonder__ would you have forgotten him, in time?”


They are moving scenes, but I have to say Jamie’s solidtary existence and yearning tears me up. From the moment he becomes conscious that he has survived the battle, his first thoughts are of Claire.

…he began to take stock of whatever other torments he might be required to endure.  There were numerous cuts, gashes, and bruises here and there, and he was fairly sure he’d broken the fourth finger of his right hand again__difficult to protect it, the way it stuck out so stiff, with the joint frozen.  None of that was too bad, though. What else?

“Claire. The name knifed across his heart with a pain that was more racking than anything his body had ever been called on to with stand.”

“…Lord that she may be safe. She and the child.”

I always felt Jamie’s celibacy spoke volumes.   As Jenny surmises, this is a man who is not meant to sleep alone, but he so closely relates sex to love that he cannot bring himself to seek out solace in someone else’s arms.  He has resigned himself to living a lonely existence.,”…but he had long since accepted the fact that for him, life was unlikely to ever be otherwise.”  Any of you, who have read the scene in The Scottish Prisoner where Lord John over hears Jamie longing for his “dead” wife, actually emit a choked sob while reading? (Raising my hand)  They both dream of being in each other’s arms once again. So, when their ‘voyage’ back to love is finally realized, as readers we are entirely invested in the reunion of these two lost souls.

The reuniting of these two characters gives birth to some of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes.  Let’s start with the scene after Jamie realizes Claire has truly returned to him.  They are holding each other and Claire notices they are both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”.  They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene.  The intensity of their need of each other was palpable.  Not the intensity of lust, but of need. And the scene where Claire shows Jamie Bree’s pictures?  My favorite. When he turns and ‘falls to pieces” in her arms, I couldn’t help but think he had been needing to fall apart for twenty years, but her arms were the only place he could do that…be himself…without fear.

I love that they do not fall in to bed right away.  We get to see the delicate dance of their becoming re-acquainted with their lost other half.  They are shy with one another; she lets us feel their insecurity,  “...Will ye take me__and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew...”

And even when they do at last come together physically Jamie lets us know that this romance isn’t just sex,

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.  And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”

Later, we find that Jamie did try to pick up his life and move on without Claire.  It didn’t work, but he is now left with responsibilities and…another wife…which he hides from Claire.  I was so moved by his desperate explanation,

…” I was half-sobbing with rage, gasping between words.  “You should have told me, the minute I came!  Why in hell didn’t you tell me?”  …” I drew back my fist and hit him in the chest.

“Why?” I shrieked, hitting him again and again and again, the sound of the blows thudding against his chest. “Why, why, why?!

“Because I was afraid!” He got hold of my wrists and threw me backward, so I fell across the bed.  He stood over me, fists clenched, breathing hard.

“I am a coward, damn you! I couldna tell ye, for fear ye would leave me, and unmanly thing that I am, I thought I couldna bear that!”

“…do ye know what is like to live twenty years without a heart?  To live half a man, and accustom yourself to living in the bit that’s left, filling in the cracks wi’ what mortar comes handy?’

“Do I know? I echoed. …” Yes, you bloody bastard, I know that! What did you think, I’d gone straight back to Frank and lived happily ever after?”

This revelation results in Claire’s leaving.  On the road away from Jamie we see her grieve for the life she spent in constraint, detachment and disengagement.  Only with Jamie is she able to be herself.

“...with him, given him soul as well as body, let him see me naked, trusted him to see me whole and cherish my frailties–because he once had.”

“I had feared he couldn’t, again.  or wouldn’t.  and, then had known those few days of perfect joy, thinking that what had been true was true once more; I was free to love him, with everything I had and was, and be loved with an honesty that matched my own”

When circumstances return her to his side she understands how shallow was her wounded pride because her love of Jamie was like “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”

And then,… she hears his fevered confessions , “I was so afraid to lose ye again, mo chridhe, ‘ he murmured. “So afraid, I havena loved anyone but you, my Sassenach, ever since the day I saw ye–…

Is it any wonder why so many of us treasure these books and characters? Voyager’s journey back to love is a story savor.

Do you know, his voice said, whispering,” What it means, to say again “I love you” and mean it?” 

Enjoy Richard…

SPOILERS THROUGH VOYAGER! Frank’s wisdom… loving a special woman



It has been brought to my attention that I write about the characters in Outlander as if they were real people.  I’d like to acknowledge this truth and maybe explain…if I can.  First, I’m not delusional.  I’m aware they are not real and totally the creations of Diana Gabaldon’s prolific imagination.  Second, I think my ability to write about her characters as if they were real people could be seen as a tribute to her skill. She has written characters of such depth that she has made it possible to analyze their personalities.  I’ve read some of what she has said about her writing process and I know that she “listens” to her characters. To say I am jealous would be a bit of an understatement!   They speak to her and appear to act out of their own values and personalities.  The more I write about her writing the more I understand how truly gifted she is and the more intimidated I become!  It hasn’t stopped me from trying to write, but wow…just wow.

Diana posted an article I’d written about Claire and womanhood on her Facebook page (how totally freakin awesome is that?)  I wrote about Claire being a wonderful example of a woman of worth and substance. Her acceptance of herself and all that means to her life is what I’m still thinking about today. Specifically, I’m thinking of her knowing she was meant to heal and her decision to become a doctor in a time when women just didn’t do  that.

Anytime a women decides to do something as monumental and time-consuming as becoming a doctor they must consider the cost.  They just do.  Fair or not fair, women have biological clocks that have expiration dates. Many women who seek extremely time-consuming careers choose to delay starting a family or know their choice will leave them with precious little time to be with their loved ones. It’s a no-win situation for women, as both choices require a sacrifice.

I find when I read Diana’s stories it is easy to make parallels with real life.  I have a cousin who obtained her dream job of being a college Sociology professor. Her husband worked in the world of business and finance.  Like many of us they started a family and balanced parenthood with full-time jobs.  Their second child was born and it soon became obvious that their newest had special needs and would require full-time care.

May we ALL..find a partner in life… like my cousin’s husband.  I’m sure they had exhausted all options and had finally come to the conclusion that one of them needed to stay home with their child.  When the time came to have “the conversation”, my cousin’s husband told her that he would stay home because, “I  just have a job, but you have a job you love”.  He understood the sacrifice would be too great for his wife.  I can’t even imagine her relief and gratitude.   In a society where a man’s job often defines him, this man chose to be a father and husband first. His insight into his wife’s needs and then…his actions based on that knowledge showed him to be a very wise man indeed.

In Claire’s case, she already has a child and a husband when she chooses to pursue her passion. Throughout the books, Frank is portrayed as the stereotypical 1950’s man.  He has bought into the nuclear family status quo. He has every intention of bringing home the bacon and letting Claire fry it up in the pan. She is taking up a study of medicinal herbs as a hobby to fill the void of no longer nursing.  We aren’t privy to any conversation that lead to this decision; we just know that it is true. Can you imagine Claire as a housewife only? Me either.

Outlander 2014

Outlander 2014

In Voyager, Claire has returned to Frank, but she has not returned to being the little woman.  She knows she is meant to heal and this changes everything for her.  Claire isn’t cooperating with the role to which she had been assigned. Instead, she is breaking the gender mold, pushing the envelope, and is wholly unapologetic.  His wife has returned, but she is not the woman he went on a second honeymoon with to Scotland. Claire is there in the 1950’s, but she left her heart in the 1750’s.

Upon her return, Claire offers Frank a divorce, but they are Catholic and have a daughter (Frank gets mega bonus points from me for loving this child). Given the time period and Claire’s resignation to her loss of Jamie, and the fact that Frank isn’t a “Cad”, they stay together. I can only imagine Frank’s consternation and frustration.

Frank…I’m still not sure I’ve figured this man out. In my opinion, he is one of the most enigmatic characters in the series.  I’ve run the gamut of dislike to pity to admiration with this man. And,…just when I think I understand him, Diana throws in a moment like the moment my cousins must have had…things have come to a boil and Claire and Frank have “the conversation”…

Claire is late coming home from the hospital…again. Fed up, Brianna’s babysitter leaves the child alone and Brianna goes looking for her mother. She is hit by a car. Thankfully, her injuries are not severe, but this close call causes Claire to question (I’m sure not for the first time)  her decision to leave her child in the care of a yet another stranger while she pursues her medical degree. The cost has become too great and she tells Frank she is going to quit. He could have let her. He didn’t.

“I can’t stand leaving Bree, and not knowing if she’s well cared for-and knowing she isn’t happy.  You know she doesn’t really like any of the sitters we’ve tried.”

“I know that, yes.”… he said, “But I don’t think you should resign.”

…”You don’t?”

“Ah, Claire.” He spoke impatiently, but with a tinge of affection nonetheless.  “You’ve known forever who you are. Do you realize at all how unusual it is to know that?”

…”No, I suppose not,” he said.

…”I haven’t got that, ” he said quietly at last.  ‘I’m good, all right.  At what I do– the teaching, the writing.  Bloody splendid sometimes, in fact.  And I like it a good bit, enjoy what I do.  But the thing is–”  He hesitated,then looked at me straight on, hazel-eyed and earnest.  “I could do something else, and be as good.  Care as much, or as little. I haven’t got that absolute conviction that there’s something in life I’m meant to do — and you have.”

He goes on to tell her that having her kind of passion is very rare and wonders if some people are born with that passion or just find it along the way. He also  feels the need to warn her.

” But Claire–“…”They paid for it”…

Claire nods her head in agreement and feels the despair of failure.  She believes she has made a mess of everything; her career, motherhood, and her role as Frank’s wife.  And then, he does the last thing she expects, he says…

“I’ll take Bree.”


I’ve always been willing to give Jamie the benefit of a doubt. After all, he’s an 18th century man and we can’t expect him to have the same sensibilities as a modern man. So, when Jamie rises above his 18th century upbringing, we are in awe and love him for his open mind and heart.  Why I can’t seem to cut Frank the same break is something I might want to take a closer look at.  After all, Frank is a man of his time period as well. We admire Jamie for his ability to express what he feels.  However, I was recently reminded that MOST men are unable to express their feelings as poetically as Jamie.  That doesn’t mean they feel less. And, despite Frank’s stiff British upper lip and his 1950’s male perspective (remember when he thought Claire did nothing all day because she was home with the baby?) He seems to do the honorable thing…often.

I would love to say that his choice was made solely because of his love and understanding of Claire.  That isn’t exactly the feeling I get when I read this scene. His wisdom seems tempered with reality rather than love.  He knows Claire is meant to heal and recognizes that life will just be easier for them all if he just steps up to the plate…I think. But, there is another side of me that says no matter how the choice is presented, he still made the choice and allowed Claire to be exactly who she is.  He overcomes his own 1950’s gender expectations and sensibilities. He loves her even if he does think she’s a pain in the arse. (sounds pretty familiar to me!)   It’s not easy loving Claire!  There is a price to be paid for passion and for loving a special woman.  Frank’s wisdom in this situation should be a lesson to us all.

Jamie Fraser….portrait of a father…in Outlander


My re-blog in time for Father’s Day!

My Outlander Blog!


Spoilers: this post contains info about the entire series





Every year, Father’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. on a Sunday in June. This day is often filled with family get-togethers, BBQ and gifts of some really ugly ties!  This wonderful family day can be bittersweet for many including myself. Memories of imperfect relationships, complicated emotions, and regret tend to rear their ugly heads.  It took me years of living and reflection to be able to look at this particular relationship with any semblance of objectivity. I had to become an adult with adult children before I could truly begin to understand my father.  I’ve heard people say, when discussing parental dysfunction, “he did the best he could with what he had”. I’m not sure that was true in my fathers’ case. It seems to me he had been given a lot to work with…

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“I expected to be entertained , not healed”… OUTLANDER AND READER RESPONSE



My readers have graciously requested that I continue to write during “Droughtlander the Sequel”. Admittedly, I was a bit worried about that. I wondered what I would write about after the show was over! Oh, I of little faith, the fan-dom has given me plenty of fodder! They are constantly saying or doing something that inspires me to think and then write.  For instance, Diana Gabaldon recently posted a favorite fan comment of the day.


“Outlander was thrust upon me by a very insistent long time fan. I expected to be entertained, not healed.”

–Beth B.

My response to this was “Awwwww”

Other readers? Not so much…

See what I mean? Plenty of inspiration fodder!

When I went to college, I was already an adult with 28 yrs of life experience. My husband gave me a little insight into what college was likely to be like for someone such as myself, “You’ll be like a sponge . You’ll love every minute.  The professors will love you and the kids will hate you for making them look bad! “. He was pretty prophetic.  I did love every minute and the kids tended to roll their eyes at me and my eagerly raised hand. I wanted to discuss and share! They wanted to pass the class with as little effort as possible and I was making them look bad. However, after a long night partying and a short night studying, some of my fellow students saw me as a valuable commodity,”Let’s ask Beth what the reading was about”.  I may have gotten my fellow students out of a sticky situation temporarily, but I always felt they were missing the point…reading was life changing.  At least, I felt so.

One of the things I learned while earning my English degree was a theory called Reader Response. In a nutshell, the theory proposes the idea that no two readers have the same reading experience because no two people are the same.  We come to a book or movie for that matter with everything we’ve read and seen and all of our life-experiences. In addition, we often come to a reading from different places in our life’s journey. Some may read a piece of literature as an 18 yr old virgin others as a 40 something well “seasoned’ individual. Some may come to a book having just experienced a most meaningful moment of human bonding. Another reader may have just experienced a devastating loss. The theory proposes that all of these things affect our response to what we read. We all make meaning and then incorporate what we’ve learned from what we read to suit our individual needs and experience. What moves me may not move you and vice versa. We react to what we read and it becomes part of us.  It makes sense and I have seen nothing since that refutes that theory.  In fact, we now have some brain science to back its validity!

Author Hilary Freeman was intrigued by the benefits of reading and wrote the article “Getting Lost in a Good Book Can Keep You Healthy”.

…there’s increasing evidence that reading for pleasure isn’t just another leisure pursuit, or merely a way of improving literacy skills and factual knowledge….It might actually be good for our mental and physical health too.”

She cites the findings of several studies and quotes neuroscientists in her article.  She concludes that reading for pleasure has both mental and physical benefits. It helps us think more clearly, enriches our relationships and can even increase our empathy.  One of the more interesting things I read in this article was a quote from John Stein, emeritus professor of neuroscience at Magdalen College, Oxford.

‘When we “get lost” in a good book, we’re doing more than simply following a story. Imagining what’s happening is as good at activating the brain as “doing” it.’

Recent brain scan studies show that when we read the same areas of the brain, “that are used to process these experiences in real life are activated, creating new neural pathways”.  So, when we read it is as if we are experiencing it ourselves.  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2193496/Getting-lost-good-book-help-healthy.html#ixzz3cZZ0UZgR

Reading helps us to experience things we may never have the chance to in real life.  And, these studies are indicating that people are inspired to make changes in their own lives as a result. In the article,  If You Didn’t Love Reading Before You See This, You’ll Love It After  by Sarah White,  the author says that  studies show that reading fiction,

“…teaches you to be human…helps you see other people’s perspectives. A good book is the closest we can get to being in another person’s skin, and it can help us understand the real people in our lives a little better. …Reading can give you a new perspective. Here I’m not just talking about getting to peer into different worlds, but the fact that reading about life situations similar to your own may give you a different perspective on things. Whether you need help navigating a breakup or dealing with your parents, there’s a book for that.”


So, it would appear that books have the potential to heal as Diana’s reader suggested. When we get lost in a book, studies have shown that we might actually change our own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character.  It is a phenomenon that researchers are calling “experience-taking”. They found that “experience-taking’ can lead to real-life changes. Strongly identifying with a character who overcomes can lead to over-coming!

I’m sure, I’m not the only one who has found this to be true in their own lives.  Like Diana’s reader who found herself surprised to be healed by Ms. Gabaldon’s story of Jamie and Claire and all the other myriad characters she has work through all of life’s challenges and ironies, I too have been changed by books. The Box Car Children and Queenie Peavy helped to shape the child I became.  Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place taught me about faith and what it means to care for others and …


Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series has helped to enrich my relationships with those I love. So, can a book heal? I’m gonna vote yes and feel sorry for those whose worlds and experiences are limited by a life without fiction.

By the Pricking of my Thumbs…Evil as represented in Outlander.




“By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.”

William Shakespeare MacBeth

The Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon is full of multi-layered characters including its villains. I’ve come to believe that Diana is masterful at playing with themes and ideas about human actions and behavior because she doesn’t appear to be satisfied to give us just one example or side of anything.

In the past, I have written about Diana’s characters and their faith:

Ms. Gabaldon’s portrayal of “men and women of God” is  a microcosm of the religious world at large.  Her priests and ministers range the spectrum between legalistic to philosophical.  Her Catholics and Protestants are at odds and her natives in tune with  the natural world.


Her look at what it means to be or do evil seems just as varied.

While considering this subject, I decided I needed to come up with a clear definition of evil.  What I found was sort of what I expected to find; no clear definition.  It appears that we use the word “evil” because we just don’t have a better word to describe what we feel.  It is a matter of degree and the word bad isn’t enough.

The dictionary definition for evil is “profoundly immoral and malevolent”, but defining what is profoundly immoral and malevolent seems somewhat subjective. It appears everyone has a slightly different idea of what the word “evil” truly means. It might stand to reason that “evil” would be acts of intentional malevolence, but evil intention doesn’t always have to precede evil results. People don’t always intend to do evil, but the results of their actions can and do hurt people in ways that we have come to label as evil. On the other hand, some people do act out of intention to do evil and appear to revel in the painful results of their choices.

There are many characters in the books who represent the different facets of what it means to be or do evil. For instance, Malva, Stephen Bonnet, Bonnie Prince Charlie and a sixteen year-old named Laoghaire are all great looks at the different faces “evil” can take. Intentional or not.

In the book, “Evil in Modern Thought,” from 2002, Susan Neiman says,

“Evil is a way of marking the fact that it shatters our trust in the world. Evil is both harmful and inexplicable, but not just that; what defines an evil act is that it is permanently disorienting for all those touched by it. It hints at dark forces, at the obscure, unfathomable depths of human motivation.”

Two of the most interesting looks at “evil” and the unfathomable depths of human motivation in the Outlander series can be found in the characters of Black Jack Randall and Gellis Duncan. I find these two faces of evil to be fascinating. Their motives and if you will, rationale for their actions appears to reflect the broad spectrum of evil in the modern world.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that both BJR and Gellis are perceived as villains. But, personally, I find Gellis to be the more insidious. I doubt there are very few people who meet BJR who do not recognize the need to be careful in his presence. The man practically drips malevolence. Gellis on the other hand keeps her nature very well hidden under a quirky wit and charm. Claire is fooled by her and as a result so are we, at least for a while.

It is said that evil requires agency. If so, then BJR could be the poster child for “his evil deeds” or “the evil that men do”.  He is a person through which power is exerted to allow evil to be achieved.  It would appear that he actively seeks out ways to harm to satisfy his own twisted desires and needs.  We don’t like to believe that men are born evil (because that would open up a whole new idea of culpability) .  And, I don’t believe that is the case here, but only Diana truly knows and she has chosen not to reveal Jack’s back story to us. We know very little of this villain. We know he is a middle child who has a younger brother that he loves. We know his parents went to lengths to correct his accent. We know he is in league with a powerful man who protects him from being held accountable by his superiors.

What we do not know is his true motives for his actions. Diana hints at his damaged past and even allows the reader to approach something akin to pity for him when he cries for “Alex” (who Alex is remains a mystery) to love him and when he is grieved by his younger brother’s death, but it is never enough to balance what is seen as at the least sadistic or maybe sociopathic behavior.  Jack always has the ability to choose between inflicting tremendous harm or not doing so and chooses harm. I found it ironic that Jack’s plans are never foiled by his evilness, but rather by what little in his character is honorable. In his own sick way, he remains a gentleman and a man of his word. A character “flaw” Jamie takes advantage of to save Claire.

Gellis’ evil is more intangible and a more modern representation. While researching this piece, I found information that suggested that our world’s idea of what it meant to be evil was drastically altered after WWII.  We had to deal with the atrocities of Nazi Germany and its death camps. This new view has been coined the “Auschwitz” evil. It was difficult for us to wrap our minds around a modern civilized society perpetrating such evil. In fact, during the Nuremberg Trials America sent psychologists to interview and test the Nazi defendants. They felt sure that these crimes had to have been committed by monsters and several of the interviewers did label the Nazis as psychopaths, but many more noted how “normal” these men seemed.

Interviewer Hannah Arendt had another explanation for how such normal men could be capable of such evil. She called it the “banality of evil”. It wasn’t mental illness, but a lack of thinking and poor decisions. They had bought into a cause and the men making the decisions. They truly didn’t believe they were doing wrong they were just following orders.

When I think of Gellis, I think of this “Auschwitz” evil.  In many respects, she appeared to be “normal” even being a friend to Claire. But, on further “interviewing” (when they were kept together before the witch trail) we see the “matter of fact” way she describes killing her husband and her zeal for the Jacobite cause. Not unlike the Nazis, she has bought into an ideal, a belief  and given over her thinking to bringing about a free Scotland. What ever she needs to do to make that happen she does. She sees her actions as justifiable and the damage she inflicts collateral. To me, it is this lack of remorse that labels her as evil and…maybe she is mentally ill. She represents the idea that evil can come in many guises including a person who believes their actions are going to right an injustice and make the world a better place.

Diana always loves a twist, I find it interesting that both of these evil characters are the ancestral relations of two of the more lovable and honorable characters in the series Roger and Frank. Is this her nod to nature versus nurture and predestination versus free-will? What ever it is, I love it. The complexity and variety of her characters and their experiences keep me reading and recommending her books.

Writing sex …the difference between Outlander and Fifty Shades of Grey.


fifty-shades-of-grey-lip-bite Fifty Shades of Grey, a movie based on the novel of the same name, is premiering this week and the media frenzy/blitz has been filling up the air waves and internet pages. It is hard not to know about the phenomenon that is FSOG, because it’s every where. I must first disclose that I have never read the novel nor do I intend too.  I have read excerpts and know the premise behind the story and that was enough for me  to know this wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m sure there are people who do want to spend their time reading this story. In fact, there are millions of them. To say their interest baffles me would be a gross understatement.  I understand sex sells, but this is being touted as a love story! The timing for its release was Valentines’s day! Really?!  Sex story? Okay. But, love story?

This past year, I  was shocked to find my high school students reading this novel.  When I asked a particular student if her mother knew she was reading this book, she informed me , “My mother is the one who gave it to me”.  It is hard for me to believe the mother thought it to be a typical and relatively harmless romance novel.The apparent “mainstreaming” of this book and its subject matter is, in my opinion, a step backwards for women and relationships in general. I’m dismayed when I hear woman talk about Christen Grey, the main male character in the novel, as if he represents the ideal in romantic heroes.  I know I shouldn’t have to make this point, but sex and love are not necessarily the same thing. I know the book is part of a trilogy and I’m told the relationship evolves.  There are folks who have read the novels and believe it is a love story. However, once again, I find myself grateful for Diana Gabaldon, her characters and the story she has written.

I want to tell the world there are better relationships to read about and some of the best can be found in the pages of the Outlander series! Let me say again, I have not read  FSOG, so it would be difficult for me to make a side by side comparison between the fictional couples Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and Outlander’s Jamie and Claire Fraser.  However, I can describe the relationship between Jamie and Claire and let you decide which couple best represents the kind of a love story and relationship women should want. Outlander is not without sex. In fact, some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve ever read are found in Ms. Gabaldon’s books, Like a good life, a good story is enhanced by good sex.  One of the main reasons the sex scenes between the main characters in Outlander are different  is the context.  The hot sex between this couple is part of a loving committed and passionate relationship.  It isn’t all about the physical act.  The reader isn’t subject to a play by play of people touching each other’s body parts in inventive ways.  Not that Jamie and Claire don’t explore each other’s bodies, they do, its just that they do it as part of the bigger whole of their relationship. And in my opinion, the writing and relationship is the sexier for it.

One of the most quoted lines of dialogue from FSOG is Christian Grey’s informing his partner, “I don’t do romance”. However, he does give her the grand experiences that only a young kinky billionaire can provide.  It is then insinuated that Mr.Grey is unaware that his actions are indeed romantic. Their relationship is sealed with a contract spelling out the terms of her submission…literally.  He says, ” I don’t make love, I f*ck…hard”.  I know this kind of “rough” talk is a turn on for some and to each his own. I prefer my love stories to sound like this….After twenty years apart, Outlander’s Jamie and Claire have just made love and are lying in bed together and Jamie is trying to tell her their relationship isn’t just about the hot sex: “…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.—Diana Gabaldon, Voyager

Diana Gabaldon is known to be generous with her wanna be writer fans and often writes about writing. She explains that writing a great sex scene is about the exchange of emotions…”not body fluids”. She goes on to explain that she believes lust is a hormonal response and not an emotion and as such, “going on” about is essentially boring.  She chooses to use dialogue and the senses express the emotional response her characters are feeling and experiencing  and…to great effect… “And I mean to hear ye groan like that again. And to moan and sob, even though you dinna wish to, for ye canna help it. I mean to make you sigh as though your heart would break, and scream with the wanting, and at last to cry out in my arms, and I shall know that I’ve served ye well.”  Diana Gabaldon, Outlander And, for me the most important part of the difference between the two stories is who these characters are as people. I was reading some reviews of FSOG and one readers’ comments caught my eye (and helped make my point) she said, “I love christian 😀 he´s so god damn hot and so f***ed up :D”. Jamie and Claire are characters with redeeming character.  They are people you could fall in love with, people to admire and emulate.  They are people with integrity, strength and kindness. They never lose their own identity in this relationship.  In fact, I don’t think they ever fail to appreciate who they are separately and the books are full of examples of them supporting and encouraging each other’s interests and endeavors. They are always foremost concerned for the other’s happiness and well-being. I’ve been known to read romance novels and enjoyed them… for about as long as it took me to read them, unlike Outlander, the one series of books I have read multiple times because I never tire of the relationship between the two main characters. When Jamie and Claire ” fall” in love the “slow burn” leading to the consummation of their relationship is exhilarating, but the maturing of their love is intoxicating and inspiring.  Their love spans impossibilities, heart-break, centuries and even time. Their love and attraction for one another is passionate, committed and mutual. Wisely, Diana Gabaldon knew that although falling in love is wonderful and interesting, there has to be more to keep a reader interested for the long haul!  Her characters have been written with depth. The reader continually learns more about Jamie and Claire as people and becomes invested in their relationship. The reader has the history of the long love story from which to draw understanding of what the characters are feeling when they come together physically. Their couplings are far from one dimensional. Outlander is a story full of passion, adventure and deeply satisfying relationships. The sex scenes are moving and far more interesting than hormone only driven scenes.   “