Outlander: Even the animals are well written! …how does she do that!?

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imageWe all know Diana writes characters that are so fleshed out they could walk off the page. The people in her series have depth and dimension, but they aren’t the only ones. Her animals are characters in their own right. They have personalities and play an important role in the telling of her tales.  Tell the truth… how many of you cried ugly tears when Rollo died?  Raising my hand right along with you! (While I wipe away some fresh tears) Even the animals can make me cry…good grief, I’m a goner.

Let’s start with Donas: It seems that Jamie is always coupled with a spirited horse.  Donas’ role in this story is to add to Jamie’s character development.  Jamie has the touch. He is able to control a high-spirited horse without breaking its spirit.  In a sense, Jamie’s patience and tolerance allows Donas to be the horse he was meant to be.  (Seeing any correlation?) With the wrong handler things could have gone a much different way.  Jamie’s fear for little Hamish getting near Donas is very real, Donas bites!  This animal could have remained a beast that everyone feared and his potential would have been lost.  But, instead, Jamie admires Donas for his strength and heart.  Jamie’s efforts with Donas pay dividends when The horse makes it possible for him to rescue Claire. “Lord that’s a good horse”, exclaims Jamie.

Gideon: The other spirited horse. I love this horse because it takes all that Jamie has to control him.  Jamie’s reaction to this horse is quite funny.  He’d put him down, but his own sense of waste is affronted! So….the struggle continues!  And it is a delight to read.

Rollo: Wolf brother. Boon companion.  Best friend.  These names come to mind when I think of Rollo.  Leave it to Diana to create a dog that is out of the ordinary.  Rollo is a wolf/dog half-breed who catches fish.  Lean and lanky and fiercely loyal, (Remind you of anyone?) Rollo makes Ian his master and friend.  I say make because given the reaction most people have to this fierce looking animal, I can’t picture this alpha dog letting anyone tell him what to do.  He’s his own man. I mean dog <g>. From the moment they meet, young Ian and Rollo are by each other’s side. Like Ian who is always at Jamie’s weak side, Rollo protects young Ian.  I believe they truly are brothers in spirit.  They commune without saying a word.

Clarence the mule:  I love this guy! A non-stubborn friendly mule!  He’s the stand-in alarm system and welcome wagon to The Ridge. Claire describes Clarence’s hee-haw as a joyous sound!  Or, at least, SHE hears Clarence’s joy.  Not sure what visitors hear!  Sweet spirited Clarence and his dependability become a part of Jamie and Clair’s life and therefore, part of their family.  And he’s happy to be there.  I can feel Claire’s excitement when Clarence lets everyone know they are close to home and I want to hug his neck.

The White Sow:  We probably have family members just like the white sow!  You know… people you can’t live with, but you can’t live without?  She’s bossy, cantankerous and down right mean, but she keeps the family in an embarrassing amount of pork!  Year after year! (Although Jamie can’t imagine what pig would have the balls to mate with her) Nobody likes her, but everybody respects her.  She just pushes her way into whatever and wherever she wants including Claire’s pantry. And….I’m thinking the Indians might be right; she might be a demon.  I can just picture her walking out from under the house covered in ashes giving herself a good shake and moving on as if nothing had happened!  Gotta be a possum out there somewhere that she can put in her maw.

Adso the cat:  Jamie found him in the woods under a bush, a fierce and proud little fur ball.  But, Jamie’s magic touch soon has him purring. (Once again…sound like anyone we know?)  I’ve heard Jamie say he’d like to treat Claire like a little kitten he can pet and keep in his shirt.  Cats in general are aloof and Adso, like Claire, is a pretty good judge of character.  He doesn’t just give his love to anyone.  He’s also one tough tiny kitten who doesn’t seem to know how small he is. Which is both amusing and admirable.  Adso keeps our Claire company.  He shadows her moves and always seems available for a one-sided chat.  Adso also has a few comic incidents with Major MacDonald and his wig!

Buton: This beloved dog is quite the character! Buton is constantly described as an odd looking dog who might have gotten more than his share of the Heinz 57 variety.  We’ve all heard the stories of dogs with cancer sniffing skills. Well, apparently this dog was waaaaay ahead of the curve in the use of his nose for diagnostic purposes.  I chuckled everytime Buton jumped on to a patient’s bed and began to sniff.  Shocked and baffled are what must have been the two most frequent reactions!  What a wonderful quirky interesting animal!

And…Ping the peaceful one:  We were treated to a pelican training. Who wasn’t  just amazed by Mr. Willoughby and his fishing bird.  Once again, wonderful, quirky, interesting.  And! He saves Claire’s life! A pelican!

I’m not sure this story would be as rich, amusing or as heartwarming if it wasn’t for Jamie and Claire’s animal friends.    I know Ms Gabaldon has a couple of dachshunds she cuddles.  She hasn’t forgotten all the other details that make life interesting and she sure hasn’t left out the companionship, comfort and frustration that animals bring to our lives.  Just another reason to admire and appreciate her skill at telling a story we can see and feel. Sigh….she even writes animals well…

What they do for love……the different faces of passion in Outlander.

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It is said that love makes the world go round.  It seems to me that everyone involved in the Outlander phenomenon from cast to crew to producers and from characters to author to fans are motivated by this sentiment.  I read a recent interview with Terry Dresbach Outlander Costume Designer and wife of Outlander Executive Producer Ron Moore, in which she discusses the fact that she has some influence on her husband’s decisions in regards to the show.  What follows is a pretty amusing, but comfortingly familiar domestic scene.  They are in bed arguing into the wee hours of the night about how best to tell the story of Claire and Jamie! Pretty sure I’ve had the same experience, maybe not about Outlander, but the scene she painted felt very real to me and very telling of their relationship and shared passion for what they do. They are motivated by love and respect for each other’s talents and opinions.

The cast appears to be motivated by a passion for the craft of acting. They love what they do as evidenced by the sacrifices and discomforts they are willing to suffer to bring Outlander’s characters to life.  Hours in the make-up chair to make scars look real, filming for hours in a shift in the bitter cold and at least a week of rehearsing sex scenes with an extremely good-looking co-star <g> are just a few examples of what these actors have to endure for love.

Seeing the relationship blossoming. between our two main characters has been wonderful, but today I find myself thinking of the others.  I’ve been thinking about Murtaugh, Gellis, the MacKenzie brothers, Father Bain, Loaghaire and Black Jack.  I’ve been thinking about what they all have in common.  They are all motivated by the same thing….love.  Now, what they love varies significantly, as does how they react to their desires, but love it is!  The song lyrics, “what I’d do for love” keep running through my head. Definite ear worm.

So, what is it they “do” for love:

The MacKenzie brothers:

The brothers share a love, they love the clan MacKenzie.  What they’ll do to protect the clan, and their place in it,  falls nothing short of murder.  Ron Moore and his crew are doing a great job of developing this part of the story-line. Claire wouldn’t be let go until the brothers could be sure she was no threat and if they could make use of her healing skills along the way, so be it.  Lucky, for them Claire is a healer and a kind person.  If I was being held prisoner I’m not sure I’d be as generous with my skills. But, …then Colum did almost knife a tailor and Dougal promised to slit her throat….so maybe I wouldn’t poison anybody either.  She didn’t score any points with the Hamish thing either.  The viewer KNOWS something’s up with that!  Thanks to the awkward silence and significant looks between everyone in the hall!  And, Jamie? That boy better watch his back! Even my Dear  husband, a devout non-reader, could pick up on the strain between those three.  The marriage may keep Claire safe from Black Jack Randall, but Dougal and Colum?  What will the brothers do for love? Anything they need to!

Murtaugh:

The viewer really doesn’t know much about Murtaugh except that he’s on Jamie’s side.  What the reader knows is that Murtaugh is motivated by love too.  Murtaugh loved Ellen, Jamie’s mother.  That love of course was unrequited because Ellen loved Brian, Jamie’s father.  Instead of feeling bitter, Murtaugh chose to continue to love Ellen and serve her the only way he could and that was by loving and protecting her child.  I’m not sure Jamie even knows, but eventually Claire figures it out.  What will Murtaugh do for love? Serve.

Loghaire:

Currently, what the viewer sees is a pretty young girl with a crush throwing herself at a man’s head.  Not unusual or terribly threatening. Or, is it? (Said in an ominous tone, with accompaniment of way foreshadowy music) Be leery of Loaghaire she’s green with envy. What will “Leery” do for love? Hmmmm, for Jamie? I know whàt I’d do (wink wink).

Gellis:

This is a tough one to talk about without giving away a major story point.  Suffice it to say that “the witch” has a lot of secrets and a love she is willing to sacrifice a normal life to obtain.  Complicated and convoluted is our Gellis.  I believe she said her husband had, “no notion of guile”.  Well, she sure does. In fact, she could probably teach a master’s level course, Gellis’ Guide to Mastering Guile. What would she do for love? More than you can imagine. Girls a freak!

Father Bain:

I’ve heard stories from friends who were Catholic school children that make me believe that Father Bain’s zeal is not unusual.  My friends may not have had an ear nailed to a pillory in an effort to save their souls, but they have nursed a few ruler rapped and bleeding knuckles.  Father Bain’s love for God is very real which makes him all the more frightening and threatening. His extremely legalistic faith stresses the idea that nothing is more important than loving people enough to save their souls.  And, if that means chopping off a hand or two so be it!  Father Bain’s love compels him to destroy any perceived threat to his parish.

Black Jack Randall:

It is difficult to imagine that BJR is motivated by love.  I don’t think we can easily place our selves in his mind set.  Finding beauty in Jamie’s mutilated back doesn’t make sense to us and signals that Jack may have crossed a line from which there is no return.  People make sense of their experiences as best they can.  Jack copes with his disappointing life by choosing to embrace anarchy.  His version of love is a black twisted mutilated thing.  He now lives and loves to hate the “very world itself”.

If Outlander is the example, then it appears that love is all that really matters. If that is the case, then I am rich because my life is full of things to love…including Outlander.

Because Diana wrote a book….Outlander impacted lives.

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imageI woke this morning to a tweeted response from Diana that cracked me up! She does that a lot. Witty lady is Herself. However, the response back from the man who wrote the post caused me to put my hand over my mouth to swallow a sob. His response was a perfect example of how much Diana’s books can impact people’s lives.

His story was similar to many others I’ve heard.  He said he began watching the show with his wife. He enjoyed it and added that he had begun to read the books. He was amazed there were eight. Diana laughingly responded that he could take his time reading because it takes her awhile to write a new one. I chuckled, but then I read his response. He shared that he suffered from PTSD and watching the show and reading the books have kept his mind busy. He then added that as a result, he didn’t have nightmares last night….I can still feel the lump in my throat. _Amazing_.

People have shared so many of these stories with the fandom. Luanne Uttley and her Outlander found friend from across the sea, Lori Renfro began a Facebook page as a place to collect and share stories of how Outlander has impacted lives. Lori and Luanne’s story is one of those special gifts that the universe can sometimes throw your way.  These two met while discussing their shared love of Outlander on social media. But, they soon discovered that they shared much more than fandom.  Because Diana wrote a book, these two found a support system and a real-life friendship.  To their amazement, they found that they shared a very unique and special sisterhood.  They both were the mothers of daughters who suffered a similar and rare disability.  From half-way around the world they found comfort and kinship. And, maybe the most rewarding thing that happened was that their daughters connected.  The girls share a disability that makes social interaction difficult, but, to their mothers’ amazement and delight they talk on the internet….for hours!

You can read story after story of people who found comfort and distraction from the illness and tragedy in their lives because they read Diana’s books. People who found the courage to stand up to an abuser. People whose marriages were saved or enriched because of the relationship they saw shared between Jamie and Claire. People who actually changed the course of their lives because what they read inspired them to take a risk.

Personally, these books inspired me to begin writing. I’m constantly finding some new truth about life in Diana’s stories to expound on! And, I’m learning a lot because Diana is wonderful at sharing her accumulated knowledge, especially about the craft of writing! Writing has brought me a lot of joy and a social life! Love to  talk and share ideas with other fans.

Because Diana wrote a book, I have gained real-life friends who share a love of Outlander and writing. I want to emphasize the “real-life” part of that statement because I didn’t expect it.  I was enjoying talking with other fans on social media , but I never expected that interaction to lead to real relationships.  One particular fan has become a particular friend, Connie Hertsenberg.  We actually got to meet at an Emulsion screening in Columbus. She gave me the best hug I’ve ever had! No really! Great hugger that Connie. We found we had so much in common that we decided to meet up for dinner with husbands in tow.  They got along too! She has been a constant supporter and a loyal friend. Truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And, when I was sick all the #cgng girls and other folks from around the country and world were so supportive. I got cards, phone calls, messages and I even got a bouquet of flowers from “Jamie” with a card expressing his desire that I be the last girl he kissed! (Still don’t know who sent that).  This has been an unexpected, but enriching experience.

If you’d like to read some stories about how Diana and her books have affected people’s lives go to Luanne and Lori’s web page on Facebook; All Because Diana Wrote A Book.  Believe me they are well worth the read. You might even be inspired to write your own story about how Diana’s books have affected your life.  You might even want to send Diana a thank you note <g>.

 

 

All the world’s a stage….our author becomes an actor!

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imageFor Outlander fans, this year has been wonderful.  I’ve told anyone who will listen ( my children actually time how long it takes me to mention Outlander) that this has been a singular experience.  I’ve had my favorite book turned into a TV series and I’ve had a chance to feel a part of things from casting to costumes.  Thanks to all involved who were so generous with their time; Ron, Terry, Maril, Matt, Sam, Caitronia, Starz, and many more.  It’s been a thrill to discuss the process with other fans and get glimpses from behind the scenes.  It’s been thrilling for me, but I can only imagine how thrilling it’s been for Diana.  Talk about falling down the rabbit hole! Despite her fame as an author and quite a few public appearances over the years, I’m pretty sure she has to be feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

First, I’m not sure she could have believed this was ever going to happen.  The rights to the story have been sold for many years. She’s never said exactly how many scripts she’s looked at over that time, but I get the feeling…a lot.  She told us that quite a few talented scriptwriters have ” had a go”  at adapting her book.  We’ve all heard how disastrous those attempts (anybody remember the turn white or burst into flame comments) were.  She had to be afraid someone would actually go ahead and film anyway.  I believe she said she couldn’t have stopped them because the rights were sold.  How scary!  Thank God no one ever did or I’m not sure Ron would have gotten his chance.  How do you pitch that one?

I wonder if she knew Ron had been trying and planning for three or more years, to get permission to pitch a TV series. When I heard it was being made into a series, I was so relieved.  How relieved was Herself when they came and pitched their ideas? I could only compare the feeling to sending your young adult child into the world and having them bring home a series of not so suitable prospective mates.  Finally, they bring “home” the right one to meet momma!

What a weekend that must have been! What was she thinking when she closed the door on that visit? I have this little mental picture of her being folded into Doug’s arms with a sigh of relief. And since then….they involved her!  I know she has said over and over that they are kind to listen to her and are under no obligation to take her advice, but they appear to be smart people who recognize a good thing when they see it!  Why would they not want to take advantage of such a valuable resource?  As Ron said in one of the trailers, ” the experience with Diana has been delightful”.

I know it’s silly. We are not best buds, but I feel protective of Diana.  Her books have become an important part of they my life and as a result, so has she. I get excited that she got a tour of the set, that they ask her advice, that she has relationships with the actors, and that she’s being filmed and interviewed everywhere!  I’m happy for her! I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  A reporter, who attended one of the San Diego events, wrote that she was surprised that even though the actors received warm welcomes from the fans the largest applause was reserved for the author.  I’m not surprised. I was proud of my fellow fans. Seeing our characters come to life is lovely and exciting, but we love Diana because she wrote _books_ that mean something to us.

Diana herself has expressed how odd and wonderful it is that one of the off shoots of her writing these books are the connections people have made with each other.  There are Facebook groups and Twitter groups that range from a shared  interest in knitting to sharing how Diana’s books have changed lives.  Some folks have even been inspired to write a blog (tee hee). She means a lot to a lot of people so, yeah, we are excited for our favorite author!

Tell me how thrilled we all were to see Diana’s moment in the sun on national morning TV and to see her resplendent and smiling on the red carpet!  So, this weekend we are sharing another “fallen down the rabbit hole experience” with Diana.  Herself is going to be an actress!  Millions of fans will be glued to their TVs hoping to catch a glimpse.  What a wonderful experience. We love you Diana and we are so excited for you and proud of your success.  Break a leg!

 

 

 

The feeling is mutual….the rare love between Jamie and Claire.

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imageAs a lot of you already know, I had a rough week. I’ve been in the hospital with a bilateral pulmonary embolism.  I’m on the mend and told I’m pretty lucky to be here. I am feeling pretty lucky, but I’ve also been here five days and I’m feeling pretty bored too. I’ve got a lot of time and that leads me to think and …that leads me to write.

Yesterday, it was announced that Outlander had received the go ahead for a second season. This was very exciting news and it started me thinking about what the viewers were going to see next season.  I thought of Claire’s decision and where that will lead them. I thought of the adventure and heart-break they will be facing. But, mostly… I thought of them, Jamie and Claire. I thought of their relationship and the depth of their love for one another.  I know I bristle at the idea that the series is a romance, but the truth of the matter is that the story is anchored by the love between these two people.

At Comic-Con this year, Diana was asked if Jamie and Claire’s relationship reflected her own parents’ relationship ( I’m thinking this sounds like a story I would like to read).  She responded that everything a writer experiences is some how reflected in their work. She shared that her parents were her first example of a passionate committed relationship and that she was lucky enough to find one of her own.  She then went on to remind me of one of the main reasons I love these books.  I love these books because they are about people who stay in love.

To me there is a difference between falling in love and being in love. In my opinion, so much of what we see, hear and read today is about the falling part. The media is currently all a buzz about the show’s “slow burn” build up to Jamie and Claire’s falling in love.  Falling in love is exhilarating! The emotions that are stirred leave us feeling special and as if we have found the meaning of life! Overall, a great experience.  But, as we all know, this feeling must mature and ripen if it is to last. Being “in love” is that more permanent state of being.  Jamie and Claire falling in love is exhilarating, but the maturing of their love is intoxicating and inspiring. Believe me folks the best is yet to come.  Their love spans impossibilities, heart-break, centuries and even time. Their love and attraction for one another is passionate, committed and mutual. Their lives are never easy, but their love never fails. This mutual love is rare and few of us are ever lucky enough to find it.

Once again, I am in awe of Diana Gabaldon’s innate ability to craft a story.  She juxtaposes the love between Claire and Frank and Claire and Jamie.  Brilliantly, this comparison doesn’t point out the flaws in Claire and Frank’s relationship. No, Diana is much more subtle than that, she shows us a loving relationship. Claire loves Frank. Frank loves Claire. What her juxtaposition does show us is the difference between great and something …more.

I’ve been reading and watching some of the interviews of the cast.  Several of the questions being posed are about Jamie and Claire’s relationship.  I’m thinking the actors get it and that makes me so happy.  I’ve heard them say things like;”I think they recognize a kindred soul”.  This is what I think about when I think of Jamie and Claire.  Maybe more than kindred souls, I think of the idea of soul-mates. I hesitate to use those two words because I fear they have become cliche.  But, I do believe they are connected on the level of the soul.  One is not complete, not whole, not themselves without the other.

I’m not sure I could pin-point a particular scene or line of dialogue to prove my point. I’m not sure I have my own words to express the rarity and difference in their love, but I recognize it when I see it and Diana lets me feel it.  I think that the books and the relationship is all the more fascinating because of this intangibility.  For Jamie, and Claire for that matter, the difference is often found in the intimacy of each other’s arms. Early in their relationship Jamie recognizes there is something different when he asks;

“….What I mean to ask is, is this…usual? What it is between us when I touch you, when you…lie with me? Is it always so between a man and woman?”

Claire, as baffled as he is, admits that what they have seems different.

They seem to wholly own one another.  They later recognize that it is a bit frightening to know that any one person could hold this much power over you.  “It seems I cannot master your soul without losing my own”.  Before you start thinking that this sounds a bit unhealthy, let me reassure you that they never lose their own identity in this relationship.  In fact, there is a mutual admiration club going on here. 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.  Do they argue? Yes. Do they drive each other crazy, at times? Yes.  Are they fulfilled by their relationship…yes.

I don’t want to spoil things for those new to the books and TV series, so I won’t spoil it by telling details about Jamie and Claire’s future. What I will say is that I’m hoping the show will get a chance to show how truly remarkable and rare is the love between these two people.

Looking for “kernels”….writing about Outlander.

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imageI’m fascinated with Diana Gabaldon’s wrting process.  As she has said before, she doesn’t write in a straight line or with an outline.  She writes scenes as they occur to her. At some point she has written enough scenes to be able to see a direction for the plot or as she puts it “a pattern”. In a recent twitter conversation with another aspiring writer, I was discussing this writing process when guess who commented on the conversation! She sees everything! She’s omnipotent! Actually, I’m not sure she sleeps. Her point was to do whatever it takes to get words on the page. Do what works for you; whatever it takes be that outline or no line.

I am so appreciative of her generous interaction with her fans and especially with those who aspire to write. Her insight is invaluable.  Her explanations are always clear and make total sense. She is a great teacher and I learn. This particular conversation revolved around the idea of revisiting written scenes to look for “kernels” that will lead to new insight into the characters and their actions. Often these kernels then lead to plot twists or direction.  This discovery process fascinates me and I set about to see if I could apply its principals to my own writing.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I already do! (How could I not know this?)

I fact, this is how I choose what to write about. I reflect on conversations, perhaps something I’ve seen or often, very often what I’ve read in the Outlander series.  I find “kernels” of truth about life in the pages and story that Diana has written.  Her work is my muse.   Her stories are my “cornfield” to harvest!  I’m hoping that someday soon my writing will move beyond my obsession with the series, but for now…it works. I’m writing and learning.

I’m amazed that I haven’t run out of things to write about Outlander.  As of this post, I have 29 blog posts all Outlander related. I think my ability to find new things to appreciate or write about the series are a testament to the richness of her story. Her characters are fleshed out to the point of being able to walk off the page. Her settings and story immerse the reader.  I truly feel I’m there when I read. The dialogue is engaging and real.  And, as I’ve expressed before, there is truth about the wonder and irony of life in the conflicts her characters strive to overcome. I always find something new to write about. Recently, I joked that all questions could be answered with an example from Outlander! It is my point of reference, along with the Bible and my own life experiences!  LOL!

My latest blog post was inspired by comments Diana made at the Comic Con screening panel.  She spoke about choosing to write about a love that lasts for fifty years.  I was inspired to look for the “kernels” of truth about a fifty year love in the story.  What I found was another truth about life. I found something new to appreciate. I found something new to write about.  It hasn’t  been my most read blog, but it is one of my favorites.  People are sharing with me their love stories. They are telling me I am expressing what they feel about Diana’s work. I’m moved by what they write and wonder if I’m getting a little taste of what she must experience when people tell her what her writing means to them.  I know she has said she  is always interested in hearing what people see and get from the books. Well, I can share that my readers get affirmation about what they believe to be true about life from her story of a man and woman and their everyday and not so everyday adventures.

Thank you Diana for sharing your gift and time and “kernels” of truth.

Diana reminds me again why I love these books…Jamie and Claire love that lasts.

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Like many in the fandom, I’m experiencing an Outlander hangover.  So much to see and watch in the last few days! My pre-occupation has been ratcheted up to walking-zombie status!  My head hurts from excessive goodness imbibing. I’m thinking, my sister-in-law might have had the smarter and more sensible approach. She just didn’t watch anything!  A moratorium on all things Outlander till August 9th and then they will feast! Literally. That girl has a great pre-premier Scottish/Outlander spread planned!  I’m sort of envious of her restraint, but…I…can’t…stop…watching….and…listening. Sigh.

Fans have been soooo generous with their pics and tweets! I’m grateful to them! Really. You guys were great!  In addition to the fan reports, I watched everything Starz posted and linked.  How cute was Sam taking over Instagram and Graham’s Scotch Talk (loved the laid out on the floor pic)! But, per usual for me, there is one tidbit I can’t stop thinking about. It’s toward the end of the Comic-Con panel and Diana is discussing writing the books. There seems to be a lot of discussion about the book’s romantic elements. Is it a romance? Is it an adventure? Will men like it? I loved Ron’s response that he thinks PEOPLE will like it because it’s a ripping good yarn!  In addressing this issue, Diana comments that there are a lot of story lines about falling in love, so SHE decided to write about staying in love…for 50 years. God, I love that woman.

Unlike a Romance novel, Jamie and Claire’s love story doesn’t stay in the falling in love honeymoon phase. Thank The Lord.  As some of us were discussing on Twitter, if they had, the stories would have held our interest for no longer than the time it took to read them.  Instead, many of us re-read the books over and over and never seem to tire of what is revealed between those pages.  Herself writes about what happens after people fall in love. She writes about the dynamics of enduring love, complicated relationships and the irony of life. This is what truly engages her readers. She gets deeper. As a fan tweeted, ” She gets that life doesn’t end at 20″.

I chuckle when I think how little luck she might have had if the books had started at Voyager.  What would the pitch have sounded like? “Well, it’s the story of a couple in their mid to late 40’s who reunite after 20 years of longing for each other”.  Knowing our youth-obsessed culture not sure how much interest that would have riled up!  But, those of us who love these books know Claire and Jamie’s age won’t matter to the reader. They won’t notice how old Jamie and Claire are because of “who” they are when they are together.  That is what attracts us.  It’s fascinating.

Diana has given us a look at a committed loving long-term relationship. If you’ve read my blog before you know how much I appreciate Ms. Gabaldon’s ability to write a poignant scene. 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. Deeper. She writes about depth.

I love that they do not fall into bed right away.  We get to see the delicate dance of their becoming reacquainted 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…” Deeper.

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.”

Sigh…. Definitely one of my favorites.  The product of an almost 39-year-old marriage, I can relate. In my husband’s presence, I become me. I can be me because of the trust and care I know exists.  My own Jamie once said, “I know everything isn’t perfect, but people would kill to have a relationship like ours”.  I get deeper.

The rest of Jamie and Claire’s story is no less engaging. Diana continues to write about their struggles with the big things in life. She also had the foresight to know that enduring love reveals itself in the everyday. The reader doesn’t only see Jamie and Claire in the big crisis-filled moments.  The reader can come along as they build a life together in the seemly mundane activities that make up the bulk of most of our lives.  In my opinion, this is where true love gets revealed. It’s easier to step up to the plate in the big moments because there’s not much choice in the matter. However, to choose to act out of love every day?  A hero’s work. These books are more than romance; they are a monument to real love.

Frank….what’s a man to do?….

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Dear Readers, 

There has been a lot of discussion in the fandom this week in regards to the Starz’ series portrayal of Frank.  I wrote this back in 2014 and very quickly discovered that the most polarizing character in the series is not in fact the villain Black Jack Randall or even Leghaire, it’s Frank. I wish I would have saved some of the Facebook responses and discussions to this article. They were thought-provoking to say the least!  They were also very respectful.  There weren’t any team Jamie or team Frank discussions.  There were however, Friends of Frank, who very gently and intelligently pointed out that what Diana wrote of Frank might lead us to believe Frank was at the least cheating on Claire and most certainly hiding information from her, but that there was enough ambiguity to what she wrote to cast some doubt on both of those assumptions. I know that my eyes were opened by some of the things my readers pointed out to me. I still believe a lot of what I wrote in this article, but I’ve come to believe that there is enough written in the story (It’s hard not to take into account the things the author has said, but there are many who believe the author’s intent should have nothing to do with the reader’s interpretation) for me to believe there is more to Frank’s story than what Claire would have us believe.

The show’s portrayal of Frank seems to be a hot button topic.  Some fans are resentful of the time spent on his character. Other’s believe Frank is being portrayed as a more sympathetic character than they believe him to have been written.  Personally, I don’t believe that anything they have done is out of the realm of possibility and like Diana isn’t done writing his story they aren’t done telling their version of Frank’s story.  As I say in this article, time and pressure will leave us no gems in the tale of Claire and Frank.  This relationship is going to get messy and ugly and sad.

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Frank.  An enigma. I like him.  I dislike him.  But, do I understand him?  There is the challenge and I mean that literally.  Recently, one of my readers inspired me to take a closer look at Frank.  So, here I am trying to find some empathy. After all, to quote Jamie, if Claire loved him, “…he must have been a good man”.

Jamie has always been easy for me to understand.  I know what motivates him and sustains him.  We’ve had eight books and a lot of character revealing situations from which to draw that understanding.  I can write about Jamie, but Frank?  Up until this point, I just hadn’t thought too much about Frank and certainly hadn’t much to write about him.  I think it’s because Jamie and Claire seem to be meant for each other and that trumped everything for me including Frank. Actually, that might say something more about me than it does him.  But, why doesn’t Frank evoke the strong emotions I feel for some of the other characters?  Certainly some of his choices are to be admired; taking Claire back, loving Brianna….  but, he also might cheat and lie.  I’m not sure I’ve truly looked at the WHY of any of these actions!  Guess it’s about time I did.

Where to start? Hmmmmm. The beginning? No, makes too much sense.  That damn letter in the desk drawer?  It did help me understand why…naw.  Where did Diana reveal his character? What situation was so stress-filled that we saw the real Frank…..? Got it, …the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do?  What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?

When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  What started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted bumpy mess.  Frank and Claire chose to remain married in a situation ripe for a divorce. Their reasons? Complicated.  I wish I could say Frank stayed because he loved Claire too much to leave her.  I wish I could say Claire stayed because she still loved Frank.  I can’t.

You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.  I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

So, what did we learn about Frank the night he died? What did his behavior and words tell us about him as a man and a person? Well…I’M still troubled over the studied casualness in which Frank told Claire he was leaving her. They were spooning for God’s sake!  That seemed pretty cold.  Did he think she really wouldn’t care? Or, that she didn’t care and his being casual was a defense mechanism.  Claire’s response to this matter-of-fact announcement was very telling, “this one must be really special”.  And Frank’s response to her knowledge?  No apology. No remorse. Some surprise.  “I thought I’d been discreet”, he pronounced.  So, urbane.  He then laid all the cards on the table and announced he was taking “his” daughter with him.

This pronouncement resulted in a shouting match between Claire and Frank. I get the feeling that this was the first time in twenty years that they had truly communicated their feelings.  Frank reveals his bigotry and jealousy.  When Claire denies having an affair with Dr. Abernathy, Frank doesn’t argue.  Deep down, I think he knows she is still the honest woman he’s always known her to be.  I think he was looking for a reason to blame her for his choices.  Claire then reveals that Frank’s infidelity hurt and that it mattered.  Frank speaks aloud the truth of it all, ” … not enough”….Not enough…. And he’s had enough. He’s had enough of waiting for Claire’s love to return to him. He’s had enough of finding solace and maybe revenge in someone else’s arms. He’s had enough of being reminded there is another man and damns Claire’s face that shows everything she feels.  He’s taking the only thing left to him.  The daughter he loves and I believe he thinks he’s owed, “you’re hardly ever home anyway”.  The tipping point of the whole evening is when Frank allows himself to be vulnerable enough to ask Claire if she could have forgotten Jamie.  She simply answers, “no”.  Finally, unable to avoid the truth, Frank leaves. In Claire’s defense, she told him the truth from the beginning.

So, what motivated them to stay together?  At first, I think Frank believed that Claire had been traumatized and as Claire said, “he wasn’t a cad”.  He didn’t leave her then because she was alone and pregnant and still his wife.  His identity as a man wouldn’t allow him.  And, I think he still loved her.  On the surface it seems very admirable.  But, I can’t stop comparing Frank to Jamie.

What would Jamie have done if Claire told him some wild story about time-travel and standing stones?  Oh wait, she did. The reactions were very different.  Frank’s reaction was disbelief, anger and a smashed vase.  Jamie, probably not able to believe this story anymore than Frank, reacted with compassion and a willingness to try.  But, once again Claire hasn’t left Jamie without an explanation. Once it became evident that Claire was sane, Frank became curious and began to investigate her story. After two found letters, the reader knows that Frank believed Claire enough to prepare his daughter for a possible future in the past and leave a gravestone where he knows Claire “might” find it.  He believes her story, but he never tells her that.  He knows the man Claire loves survived Culloden and that she might be able to return to him.  But…he doesn’t tell her…he’s afraid she’ll leave.  When Jamie finds out Claire’s story is true and there is a husband with a prior claim, he lets her go.  Despite loving her with all his heart…he lets her go.  Frank’s reaction is totally understandable, but it seems I may have been right in the first place. Frank’s biggest sin is that he is not Jamie.

At first, Claire stays with Frank because she is too depressed to care.  Without Jamie nothing really matters.  But, then comes Bree.  It becomes obvious that Frank loves Brianna.  Jamie is gone and after all, Claire loved Frank …once.  So, she stays and tries.  With a shared love of Brianna between them Frank stays and tries.  He tries, but, Frank isn’t Jamie.  In fact, I’m not sure Claire would have ever have been truly happy in a relationship with Frank. In a way, a way that matters, I think Frank’s modern sensibilities were more archaic than Jamie’s.  Jamie’s view of Claire as a woman and wife was much more open-minded.  Frank had beliefs about marriage, a woman’s place in that marriage and a woman’s place in the world that seem geared to keep Claire in her place.  I guess I never felt Frank truly understood Claire.  He tolerated what he saw as idiosyncrasies.  Oh, every once in awhile he surprised me with his insight, like watching Brianna while Claire went to med school.  But, he didn’t make this “sacrifice” for her.  He made it despite her. He was a smart man, he knew it would just be easier to give in.  Jamie wanted Claire to feel happy and fullfilled.  He loved her because of all of her “idiosyncrasies” what made her unique.  He was proud of her, he fought for her right to be herself. Frank loved Claire, but wanted her to fill his expectations of her as the wife of a college professor.  I do have empathy for Frank. He wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he was probably a great guy.  He certainly was a great father.  His intentions were good. None of what happened was Frank’s fault, he was a victim of fate. And after all, Claire did love him,… once.   I feel sad for Frank because he didn’t know that he never stood a chance against Claire’s love for Jamie.

Claire first cries over Frank the night he dies. She cries a second time for Frank in their bedroom on the cusp of returning to Jamie. Trying to make sense of the sadness that was their relationship, she tries to say goodbye.  She realizes that they had said goodbye… twenty years before on the green hill of Craig Na Dun.

P.S. The response to this post has been amazing. Lots of discussion! It was brought to my attention that Diana had a few things to say about the topic (pages).  The biggest thing I took away from reading her response to the Frank question was that we only see things from Claire’s perspective. Her bias and possibly self-serving reasons for viewing Frank and his behavior as she does should be considered when talking about Frank. She said Frank is an honorable man and that we don’t know the whole story. So….keep that in mind!

Jamie Fraser…… A life of faith

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Good morning, I decided to repost this blog for Easter and wanted to comment on how timely the issue of a personal relationship with God feels to me today.  In the current political climate, I have become very discouraged and disheartened by the intolerance being displayed by those who call themselves Christians.  “They shall know us by our Love” and We are all saved by Grace alone”.

 

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drawing credit to Sylvia

 

If you think that Outlander is a great read because of its romance and adventure you would be right.  If you love the medical and historical details, I’m right there with you!   In fact, every time I think about the story, I find something else to appreciate. But, in my opinion, Diana’s greatest gift to the reader is a look at human nature.  Her books contain so many characters with so many different perspectives and choices to make.  A reader commented that the author has created somewhere over 600 characters in the Outlander series?  From orphaned identical twins to the King of France, the stories give us a look at people of different stages and walks of life.  We’ve read about births, deaths, murders, marriages, wars,  and once even a resurrection!  It wasn’t a  very long resurrection, but hey, it was cool.

One of the aspects of human nature that Diana includes in her stories is religion/faith.  I found the need to use a slash because for many religion and faith are two sides of the same coin.  I’m not so sure about this and I think there is evidence in the series to suggest Diana might think likewise.  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.

Claire’s issues with faith and religion make perfect sense to me.  She is a pragmatic woman who has traveled the world and experienced different cultures.  Can anyone say standing stones?  As a time “traveler” she of all people would have the right to believe in things unseen.  However,  Claire is also a woman of science.  Because of all these seemingly conflicting variables, I believe our Claire’s faith is pretty fluid.  Adoration, witchcraft or science, she’ll use whatever she needs to get the job done.  Jamie, on the other hand, is a different story.

As a teenager, I lived in a low-income housing complex. Our “neighborhood” consisted of a circle of small attached two-story condominiums. We lived literally on top of one another. The walls were thin and the street was loud. You knew your neighbors because you saw and heard them every day in a kind of forced intimacy. While we lived there, my mother worked two jobs and that left us, five kids, with a lot of free time and freedom. We went where we wanted when we wanted. A couple of doors down from us lived a young family, the Harmons. The father was into a lot of the same “nerdy” things my brothers liked and they would spend time there building slot cars and trading baseball cards.  When Mom was home it would often be my job to go “find” my brothers.  I knew where they were and would go bring them home from the Harmons. This wasn’t something I looked forward to; the Harmon’s made me uncomfortable. Like most of the residents of the complex, they didn’t have a lot. They dined off a picnic table and went to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor. They were happy and generous people that were always looking out for somebody. I never knew who I would find in their house; talking, drinking coffee or eating sandwiches, but it was usually someone I would have crossed the street to avoid. They shared whatever they had and that wasn’t much. And…I think Jesus lived there. They talked about him and to him constantly. I kind of expected to turn around and find him sitting on the couch. It sort of freaked me out. I would visit and then not come back for weeks.  Over time, my visits got more frequent, I would listen, watch and process. They had something and I found myself fascinated. They weren’t religious people, they didn’t even go to church, but they were people with faith. They never preached their beliefs, they just…lived them.  When I think of Jamie’s faith, I think of the Harmons.

Like Claire, Jamie’s faith as been shaped by where he has lived and what he has experienced.  There are scholarly tomes written to the idea that Christianity in Jamie’s part of the world is different.  The term “Celtic Christianity”  is bandied about and argued over.   The idea in contention is that the legends and myths prevalent in Jamie’s part of the world have created a unique brand of Christian faith.  I’m not prepared to write a dissertation on the validity of “Celtic Christianity”, but I’m prepared to write what I’ve observed about Jamie’s brand of Christianity. Jamie has been raised with stories of the old folk and the idea that the natural world around him contains a divine essence. His world is full of ancient and sacred places; holy wells, fairy stones, cairns, etc.  The mystical and magical are the lenses through which his people see the world.  Once Christianity’s popularity grew in the Celtic world the two belief systems eventually blended. There is actually a term for this phenomenon, Syncretism.  In this case, Syncretism is the acceptance of previous beliefs or traditions of Celtic paganism and then the melding of these with Roman Catholic Christian beliefs and traditions.  We see evidence of this blend in Outlander and more specifically in Jamie’s expression of his faith.  He gives reverence to both simultaneously.   Quite frankly, I find Jamie’s brand of Christianity to be…beautiful and not at all disconcerting.  It fits.

It has been my experience that often higher education tends to pollute or negate the idea of personal Christian faith.   That does not appear to be true for Jamie.  We know that his studies in the University of Paris included philosophy and that he continues to read and discuss the topic throughout his life.  He is a learned philosophical man that has chosen to remain true to his Christian beliefs.  His Gaelic expressions of thankfulness and supplication acknowledge God’s role in his personal experience of the world.  Jamie is thoughtful and prays over the decisions in his life.  His choices are always colored by his Catholicism and his God.   And, I would add, he exhibits the fruits of the Spirit:

  • Love:  Is there any doubt that Jamie loves?  His family, his clan, the prisoners, Fergus, Marsali , Joan, Murtagh, etc.  And, Claire?  Jamie believes that she is God’s gift to him and that on judgment day his love for Claire will be his one defense to balance anything he may have done poorly, “…ye gave me a rare woman and Lord I loved her well”.
  • Gentleness:  Jamie describes himself as a bloody man, and yet, time after time we see his gentleness.  I think of his time in the stable with wee Hamish explaining the facts of life and scene where he is rocking a devastated Bree in his arms.
  • Faithfulness:  Once Jamie’s word is given he remains faithful to his course.  His promises are kept.  Time and time again.
  • Self-Control:  A virgin at 23?  That alone should prove the point, but I think of his promise to Claire not to kill Jack Randall.
  • Kindness: They say a person’s character can be measured by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.  Jamie is kind to those less fortunate and the weak.
  • Long-suffering:  I wish I could handle suffering like Jamie!  He does not complain.  In fact, I can only remember a few times he expressed disappointment or frustration.
  • Joy:  Jamie is grateful for all that he has and finds joy in what he had been given.
  • Goodness:  What is it that motivates Jamie?  Being the best man he can be, being a man his “fathers” can be proud of.  There are some that might argue that Jamie IS a bloody man and a murderer.  I point out that he does no violence with intent to murder that is not in defense of his family or country.  I believe there is a provision for this behavior.

Jamie’s faith sustains him.   It is what shapes his identity as a man.   His faith is as natural to him as breathing.  Like the Harmons of my childhood, Jamie doesn’t preach, he just lives. To me, this is what religion should be about and I think Jamie gives witness to what Christian life is and that is living with faith.

Maybe it’s all in the details….why I “feel” Outlander (spoilers)

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He’s humbled on the gravel floor begging her to give him but one moment. One moment to know something of his lost child.   Her heart is badly wounded and she clings to her depression, desperately afraid to let go of its numbing oblivion.  She is afraid to let herself be present with him again…..This is one of many poignant scenes in Outlander that have moved me to tears and beyond.  This story makes me feel.

As I’ve stated before, I am surprised at the emotions these books wring out of me.  I enjoy them so much that reading feels like a guilty pleasure.  I have laughingly commented that at times I feel voyeuristic .  I’m right there with them.  I’m the Peeping Tom in the bushes of Jamie and Claire’s life! I’m sitting broken-hearted beside Jamie in  the gazebo and I am trembling with Claire’s fear as she runs down the garden path.  It feels real.

I’ve asked myself if any other books have made me feel empathy and the answer of course is yes, but not to this extent and not with this depth.  Diana Gabaldon’s  skilled story-telling draws you in and makes you feel her characters’ emotions.   I found her characters and their lives to be so real that I missed  them when I wasn’t reading.  To tell the truth, I feel I know Jamie and Claire better than some of the REAL people in my life.  Which is a situation I may want to take a look at, but that’s the point!  How can I feel this way about fictional characters?

Maybe, it’s all in the details.  There is a scene during the honeymoon that has become one of my favorites.  It’s not one of those scenes you can pick right out as memorable, but it is rich in detail.  Jamie has taken Claire into the bracken to make love to her and in the aftermath she studies his naked sleeping body.  She describes the shape of Jamie’s form and a thought forms in her mind.  She expresses this thought with a single word, “damn”.  This detailed description coupled with the mumbled epiphany speaks volumes.  I’m drawn in and my mind’s eye travels the length of Jamie’s body and draws the same conclusion…damn…we’re in trouble.  It seems Ms. Gabaldon knows just when to bring us close enough to see the ant crawling across Jamie’s’ hand and when not.

Sometimes, it’s the mundane details of their daily life that make me feel I’m there.   Like, Claire taking stock in her pantry.  I can smell the apples and braids of onions.  I can see the yellow wheels of cheese and count the hanging hams.  Like Claire, I’m feeling good about the coming winter and fruits of their efforts. As a reader, I’m charmed by this look into pioneer life.  It makes me want to go create the same  sense of  well-being in my own home.   There is a scene where Jamie is going over the “books” and complaining about the costs of things like indigo.  He and Claire discuss their assets and make a plan for barter.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had this exact conversation.  Maybe not about the cost of indigo, but the cost of milk or heating fuel for sure.  While I’m reading this domestic scene, I’m chuckling with its familiarity and feeling closer to my new favorite couple.

I know Diana has generously written about her writing process and some great insight can be found on her web page.  She writes about what helps make her characters real and often it is their idiosyncrasies.  Some of my favorites are Jamie’s blush, his too tight shirt shrug ,  the tapping of his fingers, and of course the double eye blink.   I love Claire’s need for the occasional drink , her glass face, her constant battle with her hair, and of course, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”.

There isn’t anyone who has enjoyed the series that doesn’t have a favorite line or two…or more!  For me it’s more,  in fact, too many to list.  Some of the dialogue makes me laugh out loud and others bring me to tears. Some conversations are so heartbreakingly beautiful that I stop reading and allow myself to luxuriate; “Your face is my heart….” , “to say I love you and mean it…”.   Diana allows us to understand the relationships between her characters by once again paying attention to the details.  We know how her characters feel because she allows us to see facial expressions, body language and hear tones of voice.  I feel the intimacy of  Jamie and  Claire’s relationship in light touches, significant looks and passionate embraces.

So, what is it that I’m trying to say?  I think it is that Diana knows how to push my buttons.  She has created a reading experience that I have yet to recreate.  I read and reread and never tire of the adventure, history, relationships and feelings.  Her dedication to the details captures my attention and my heart.  Thanks Diana .