North Carolina beach trip with the fam…and Jamie Fraser?!

Fort Johnston Garrison House, Southport, NC

I just returned from a relaxing week of vacation with my family on the beautiful coast of North Carolina. My grandparents own a house just outside of Southport and we’ve been going each summer for as long as I’ve been alive. This year we did the usual stuff: daily walks on the beach, lounging around in the sun, reading, and eating lots of delicious food. (Thai Peppers = Greatest. Food. Ever.) We broke from the norm this year, however, when my Mom suggested renting bicycles and cruising around historic Southport for a day. We had also seen signs for a Farmer’s Market by the water and wanted to check it out as well.

The Market was held in front of the Fort Johnston Garrison House, which was built in the early 1800’s on top of what remained of Fort Johnston. Fort Johnston was burned down during the Revolutionary War in 1775. As I was strolling around, sort of mindlessly admiring the food and crafts for sale, I noticed this historic marker. I read it and snapped a picture and paused for a moment. I felt this nagging feeling in the back of my mind, like I was familiar with the names on that plaque…Josiah Martinthe Cruizerwhere do I know that from?…and then it hits me – A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES!

Naturally, I was extremely excited about this realization and I immediately started blabbering about Jamie Fraser. It went something like this:

me: “OH MY GOD!!! THIS IS WHERE GOVERNOR MARTIN BROUGHT CLAIRE??? THIS IS THE FORT THAT JAMIE FRASER HELPED BURN DOWN BEFORE RESCUING HER!!!!!”

my husband: “OH MY GOD. Jamie Fraser IS NOT REAL.”

my mom: “Oh! Is that the man from that book you like so well?”

me: “Yes Mom *rolls eyes* the one that you still haven’t even started reading even though you’ve had it for 3 months now! HOLY CRAP, I HAD NO IDEA THAT THIS IS WHERE IT HAPPENED!!! I LOVE SOUTHPORT EVEN MORE NOW!!! ”

my husband: *shaking his head in disgust* “This is where the fort was burned down and where the Governor fled, but since Jamie and Claire Fraser are NOT REAL PEOPLE, they were not here.”

me: “This is where Jamie rowed out to rescue Claire from the ship! Can you imagine looking out across the water RIGHT HERE to see him rowing out of the smoke?!! *clutching bosom* Then he boards the ship and rips her cap off, tosses it into the water and fluffs her hair before giving her a deep, romantic kiss! *swoon* It was one of my favorite parts of the book!!!” *squeeeeeel*

my husband: *turns around and walks away*

Well, the hubs clearly didn’t see the significance of this unexpected, yet AMAZING surprise. And just for the record, I do realize that Jamie and Claire are fictional people, but the prospect of getting to see or experience actual locations discussed in my favorite books (or any book that I’m reading, and not just the Outlander series) gives me the sense of knowing the characters that much better. It enhances the intimacy of the relationships by giving me another perspective from which to view the story, as well as adding to my precious cache of mental imagery. Of course, everything is magnified when it comes to Diana Gabaldon’s characters since they are already so incredibly vivid and realistic to me.

I took lots of photos and made a panoramic of the view from Fort Johnston, looking out into the waterway where the mouth of the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean (please ignore my lackluster photo-stiching skills). This is where Jamie would have gotten into a boat after helping set fire to the fort and rowed out to rescue Claire from the Cruizer, which was anchored just offshore (if they were real people, of course). Very exciting for us Jamie fans!

Waterfront view from Fort Johnston Garrison House

Actually, I shouldn’t act like that was the first time that the Fraser’s were mentioned during this trip. En route to the beach, we drove through Asheville, NC and I couldn’t help but declare “Just think, Jamie and Claire made this trip across the state many times to Jocasta’s house, but they had to do it on horseback! Can you imagine?” (This statement was met with a car-full of chirping crickets.) I also joined Twitter so that I could follow Diana G and I cheerfully kept my eager family (note the extreme sarcasm) up to date on her postings.

In addition to the aforementioned exciting events, September 22 was the anniversary of our wedding in 2007. We didn’t do anything extravagant since being at the beach and getting to eat at my favorite restaurant of all time was celebration enough. I had time, however, to pause and remember that fateful proposal on the top of Roan Mountain. The hubs gets mad props for his chosen location for said event, he put a lot of thought into it to make sure that it would be a place that was near and dear to my heart. We had just found out that my Dad had sold his house on top of Roan Mountain and that he would only be in possession of the house for one more weekend (I think Pops had “forgotten” to mention that he sold the house because he knew I would be upset about it, thus we found out at the last-minute.). We hastily made plans to travel to East Tennessee and spend the last weekend there. Before we left though, he told a minor fib about going to help a friend move a washing machine while he was really rushing out to buy a ring (since he was wasn’t expecting the Roan Mtn house to be going anywhere anytime soon). We hiked to the top of the mountain, he proposed and we watched the sunset. It was very romantic.  

Husband, if you are reading this…look away now! (Trust me…don’t go any further!) As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I can connect my wedding proposal (and so much more) to Jamie and Claire Fraser (mad skills, I tell you). Claire mentions in Drums of Autumn that she can see Roan Mountain from Fraser’s Ridge, so when I think back to the gorgeous view from atop the mountain, I can’t help but think of how Jamie and Claire were looking at the same beautiful scenery :)

Actual view from proposal spot on Roan Mountain...Breathtaking!

The actual inspiration for Jamie Fraser’s naked behind!

During her panel at Dragon*Con, Diana Gabaldon told us that while touring the National Gallery of Art in London, she saw a nude painting that made her think “that is what Jamie’s naked behind would look like.” It made such an impact that she sent a copy of the image to Mr. Nguyen to be used as a model for Jamie in the graphic novel. This obviously piqued my curiosity, and I meant to ask her exactly which painting she was referring to when I met her afterwards, but I was too starstruck and only managed to mumble about how amazing she is and how much I love the books.

Anyhoo, I did ask her later via her blog and she wrote me back!!! She said “It’s a postcard of a painting in the National Gallery in London. I don’t recall the artist’s name at the moment (and I’m not in the office where the postcard is), but it was titled something like, “A study for the Academy.” A male nude, seen from behind, standing with one arm over his head and a very tidy bottom.” I did a little searching and from the info that she was able to give me, I am pretty confident that it is the image posted below, titled An Académie.

 

Does anyone else find this insanely exciting?! I am so thrilled to get to see the inspiration for Jamie Fraser’s naked backside! Thank you, Diana!!

Dragon*Con 2010 Rundown

I’ve been meaning to write about the crazy shenanigans that went down at Dragon*Con ever since I got home on Monday, but alas, said plans have been thwarted each and every day by a menagerie of evil-doings. First of all, and much to my horror, I have apparently contracted the “Con Crud.” I know, could they have devised a more disgusting name?? Just saying it makes me feel worse. I had never been exposed to so many nerds at one time, so I guess my body had no immunity to the nerdy germs of over 40,000 con-goers. (Note: everyone there was a proud, self-proclaimed nerd, so I shouldn’t be offending anyone with my liberal use of the term.) The runny nose, sore throat and throbbing headache have obstructed my ability to form coherent sentences thus far. 

Before that however, my arms and shoulders were out of commission as a result of having to carry my very large and very heavy luggage down 17 flights of stairs. Let me explain…we stayed in the Hyatt, which was sort of the central hubbub of the entire event and needless to say, it was insanely crowded. You could easily wait 20-30 minutes for an elevator and when you finally did get one, it was so full that you were most uncomfortably up close and personal with those around you. Those nerds were fearless too, because they would pack into the elevator to the point that the safety buzzer would sound (over the weight limit) and of course, there would inevitably be some drunk person who would start jumping up and down and exclaim “we’re gonna die!” Yeah, I have a touch of claustrophobia, so as of Saturday, I started taking the stairs. We were staying on the 17th floor. I managed pretty well, with the exception of Saturday night and Monday afternoon. 

Vampire squid (notice the heels!) and Jellyfish

Saturday night we went to the Georgia Aquarium. In costume, of course. I was all gussied-up in my vampire squid costume and 3 inch heels. By the time we got back to the hotel, my feet were pretty much killing me since I don’t wear heels on a regular basis. I debated whether or not to venture back out into the crowds in said heels and eventually decided to give it a go for the sake of looking cute in any photos that might be taken. Well, I made it down the 17 flights of stairs, through the hotel, and to the top of another set of stairs leading to the street when I faced the reality that there was no way I’d survive the rest of the night in those shoes. I made the decision to turn back alone, face the crowds and venture back to the room. This was a daunting task, mind you. And I’ll admit, I had had a few beers so I was teetering a bit already.  

This decision turned out to be a very bad one, as by the time I reached the stairwell, there was a steady flow of people moving up the stairs at an alarming speed. I was somehow swept into the stream and found myself practically jogging in order to keep up. Pain. Oh, the pain. Why didn’t I just stop and squeeze into the corner and hobble up the stairs at my own decrepid pace? I don’t know. I think I told myself to just push through it and get it over with as soon as possible. Anyhoo, there was a nice young man behind me who exclaimed “How are you running up these stairs in those heels?!” He then asked me what floor I was on and upon hearing the 17th, he declared himself my “stair buddy” because he was seriously worried that I was going to fall out. Thank goodness for my stair buddy, because by the time we made it to the 17th floor, he literally had to hold me up to get me to my room. It was rough. 

It wasn’t as rough as Monday afternoon though, when after waiting over 30 minutes for an elevator space big enough to accommodate myself and my luggage, I made the foolish decision to just carry it down the stairs. You see, the back stairwells had not been cleaned the entire weekend and by the end of the convention, the stairs were riddled with vomit, broken glass and puddles of sticky liquid at every turn. I have new luggage that is zebra print on the outside and silky purple on the inside (I’m sort of in love with it) and I didn’t want it touching that floor. So I carried it down. Big mistake. I used muscles that I don’t think have ever been used before. On Tuesday, my neck, shoulder, and arm muscles were so sore that it literally hurt to be wearing a shirt, much less typing on a computer. 

And to top off my excruciatingly long excuse for why I haven’t posted anything all week, I’ve been working 10 hour days to make up for the time I took off and spending my nights doing laundry and cleaning the house that the hubs so lovingly left a wreck for me. Dragon*Con: the gift that keeps on giving. So, without further ado, here is what went down… 

Diana Gabaldon 

Diana Gabaldon was the reason I decided to go to Dragon*Con in the first place, so naturally she was the highlight of the trip for me. She mainly talked about The Exile, the new graphic novel coming out this month. She also read an excerpt from book 8 (a continuation of the Jamie/Lord John/Claire fiasco), which was a total spoiler for me since I haven’t finished book 7 yet. She did warn us prior to the reading, but I didn’t want to get up and leave, and I was so enthralled by the story that by the end I realized I was leaning forward on the edge of my seat with my mouth hanging open like an idiot. I pulled myself together, shut my mouth and inwardly shouted “Claire!!! How could you?!?” I look forward to finding out how on earth such debauchery transpired… 

Anyhoo, Diana G was awesome. She is so gorgeous in person! And she seems like a genuinely nice person. She was giving out complimentary copies of Outlander (you know, one can never have too many) and stayed to sign books and take photos. She told a story about an interview that she did in Germany where she was asked to explain the fascination with men in kilts. She responded “I suppose it’s the idea that he could have me up against the wall in less than 30 seconds.” Yowza! Just when I thought I couldn’t like this lady any more… ;) 

She told us that we’ll have to wait until 2012 (at least) for the release of book 8.  Her next book, Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner, will be released in 2011. Jamie is the Scottish prisoner so she thinks that should tide us over until book 8 comes out, but I am still fretting over how I will manage to cope with the withdrawal….Oh, and there is a short story about Roger’s parents titled “Leaf on the Wind” which is in the anthology Songs of Love and Death, to be released in November 2010. (Rumor has it that Roger’s dad was a time traveler as well and supposedly this was hinted at somewhere in the Outlander series…I totally missed that, but I’m super pumped about learning more about his parents because I have lots of love for Roger Mac.) 

(It was suggested after the fact that I should’ve held up a sign that read “Skarsgard as Jamie Fraser!” Oh well, hindsight is 20/20, right?) 

Kiltblowing 

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a large number of men in kilts at the convention. I don’t know why, but since it’s best not to question a good thing, I just enjoyed the view :) As is the yearly tradition at Dragon*Con, Jenny from TheDevilsPanties.com rounded up all the (willing) men in kilts for a good old-fashioned kiltblowing! She sets up a stage with lighting and photography equipment and when each kilted man graces the stage, she blows up their kilt with a leaf blower! I know what you’re thinking, and I agree…it’s a genius idea! It’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds however; she made it perfectly clear at the beginning that this is not a pornographic event and she kindly asked the men to hold their kilts down in the front to prevent any unnecessary exposure. Most of them cooperated, but of course there were a few who were all too willing to flash the crowd and bare it all (and a few who accidentally bared it all!). Personally, I found this particular event to be utterly entertaining and quite possibly one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. 

Laurell K. Hamilton

There was one participant who was, shall we say, particularly nerdy and he was clearly nervous about getting up in front of a room-full of screaming women. He didn’t quite know what to do with himself on stage, so he did a few clumsy pelvic thrusts and jerked about for a minute before leaping off the stage and into the arms of his, hmmm…shall we say, super-nerdy girlfriend (in a most unbecoming Little Bo Peep get-up). Actually, while he was in mid-air, she reached up and grabbed the lanyard around his neck to pull him into her lap. They proceeded to very sloppily grope and make-out with each other before she literally dragged him out of the room. Oh. my. god. it. was. hysterical. Bravo for him for having the guts to act out his gal’s fantasy! This is probably my favorite story from Dragon*Con. Unfortunately I didn’t get said extravaganza on video, but you can rest assured that I pulled the video camera out after that one! (I will try to figure out how to post videos and share some with you.) 

Oh, and Laurell K. Hamilton was present at the kiltblowing and she got up on stage to “get blown” as well. 

Costumes 

I wanted to see lots of crazy costumes and Dragon*Con did not disappoint. These people take their getups very seriously. It was like a 4 day long Halloween party where everyone actually participates! I discovered a new genre of costuming called “Steampunk,” which combines Victorian era clothing with futuristic technology that is steam-powered with brass gears and dials. I couldn’t get enough of it. It reminded me of There Will Be Blood with crazy bronze weapons and fancy dresses and a touch of piratical whimsy, if that makes any sense. We literally spent hours just people watching and I only got photos of a minute fraction of the impressive costumes that blew me away.  Some of the costumes were hilarious, like this “Carl” from Aqua Teen Hunger Force… 

He was so excited about getting his picture made, which of course made it even better :)

 And some were painstakingly detailed and beautiful beyond words, like these ladies from Gone With The Wind… 

This is my kind of costume!

 And of course there were plenty of comic book characters… 

 

I’m not sure what this guy is, but his costume was most creative! 

 

I have no idea what this guy is supposed to be either, but he was so cool and I think that it’s steampunked, whatever it is… 

 

There were creepy costumes too, like this one (no one seems to know what it is) and we did see a few Furries as well. 

 

While waiting for our table at Trader Vics, we befriended this zombie Superman. Here I am, innocently giving him a hug, when little did I know, his suit was…er…let’s just say that it was WAY too revealing in the frontal region. I suppose I never looked below his belt until Rachel showed me the full-body photo of us and I was most appalled to discover what was going on down there! 

 

Of course, that wasn’t nearly as creepy as this old man that we saw outside on the street. We tried to discreetly get a photo of him, so Rachel used me as decoy. I’m pretty sure that he’s wearing a girl’s skirt (which is obviously waaaaaaaaay too short and revealing) and what makes this so incredibly frightening is that I don’t think he’s wearing it as a costume. There’s always a few bad apples in the bunch, I suppose. 

 

True Blood 

I sat in on three True Blood panels with Sam (Sam Trammell), Pam (Kristin Bauer), Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), and Maryann (Michelle Forbes). While I was very disappointed that Alexander Skarsgard wasn’t there, I did get to hear lots of stories about him. They didn’t divulge any juicy secrets about the up-coming finale or season 4, but it was interesting to see them in person. Sam was the most entertaining, he was very charming and in my opinion, much better looking in real life than he is on-screen. My friends (and even my Mom) always dither about whether Sam is hot or not, but after seeing him at Dragon*Con, I conclude the verdict to be hot. 

Well, that pretty much concludes the summary of my first Dragon*Con experience. The last-minute cancellations of the Fringe panel and Paul Wesley from The Vampire Diaries were very disappointing, but I came away with some good memories all the same. It was wonderful to meet Greggo! And I got my book signed by Herself! Haven’t yet decided if I’ll ever make it back, but I have plenty of amazing costume ideas floating around in my head if I do!

Musings on A Breath of Snow and Ashes and the amazingness that is Diana Gabaldon

I finally finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes last night. And I’m feeling a little weepy.  I already cornered the husband this morning and spent 20 minutes telling him all about the ending. (He knows practically the whole storyline now and even has his own theories as to what will happen next – “did they capture Jamie and put him on a ship back to England yet?”- not that he would admit that to anyone.)  

I don’t know how to write a review of this book, or any book from the Outlander series, for that matter. There is just too much detail and the storylines are so convoluted and complex that there is no way to summarize without giving too much away. Also, when I start to talk about these books, my mind slips into that happy place where I unconsciously clutch my bosom,  my eyes drift skyward with a dreamy glaze, and a huge goofy grin spreads across my face and the only adjective that seems to come to mind is “amazing.” Well, this book is definitely amazing.

So far, Drums of Autumn is still my favorite in the series, but I must say that  A Breath of Snow and Ashes is a close second. There is a rescue scene (don’t worry, there will be no spoilers in this post) in this book that is easily one of the most dramatic things I’ve ever read. Diana Gabaldon is truly in a league of her own when it comes to making the reader feel completely immersed in the storyline and as if the things you are reading are REALLY HAPPENING. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

There is non-stop action in this book, which is an abrupt departure from The Fiery Cross, and honestly, it sort of wore me out. I get really emotional when things happen to the Frasers and the MacKenzies. During the horrendous scene with Roger in The Fiery Cross, my heart was beating so fast that I was having trouble breathing and I practically had a heart attack, followed by piteous weepage. Seriously. I’m going to lay all my nerdiness out on the table here and say that I am so attached to the characters in these books that I truly feel like they are living, breathing people. To me, these characters have souls. When I’m not reading, I rest assured that they are just living their day-to-day lives in North Carolina, going about their business until I get back to the book.

I had a minor panic attack at work a few days ago when it hit me that Jamie Fraser is probably going to die very soon. Possibly in book 8. He’s already old in book 6 and he’s clearly breaking down physically (don’t get me wrong, he’s still as heroic as ever, but it’s much harder on him). And what is the life expectancy for someone in the 1700’s? Especially for someone who has lived through the abuses that Jamie has had to endure? Even though Claire is older, I feel pretty confidant that she will outlive Jamie, which means that she will have to bury him, which means that it will be the most tragic scene to ever exist. I had to talk to someone about it, but since I can’t talk to Bridget or Angela because they’re so far behind me in the series (pick up the pace, ladies!!), I broke down and called my dear, sweet, most-patient-human-being-ever husband. He was clearly miffed about being forced to endure my premature anxiety about a fictional character, but he took it like a champ and cracked me up by concluding the phone call with “Wow. Um. Well, I guess I’m glad that I could be here for you(??).” Love ya, babe.

So now that I don’t have book 6 constantly calling my name, I have no more excuses and I really must attend to the so-far non-existent squid costume that has to be finished by tomorrow night (my own personal goal). Dragon*Con is in less than a week!!! (As a side note, my boss cracked me up yesterday by asking what dragons had to do with squid and I had to laugh and say “I don’t really know, I’m just rolling with it.”) I know that I must sew…but I REALLY want to start An Echo In the Bone…(fist waving in the air) damn you, Jamie Fraser!!!

It’s official: Alexander Skarsgard is MY Jamie Fraser

This photo was brought to my attention today at work and I practically *swooned* right out of my chair.  If ever there were any doubts about Skarsgard’s ability to play Jamie Fraser, this pic has to dispel them. My poor, feeble mind literally stops working when I look at him in this picture. (This must be what it feels like to be a man-no offense, guys.) Wow. Yep.

Jamie Fraser is just a Black Mountain Bitter away….

(Consider yourself warned: what you are about to read is a potentially frightening glimpse into the mind of an obsessive fangirl.)

I have special skills when it comes to seeing/making connections between those things that I love and obsess over and random things that I come across in daily life. Right now, I’m riding high on my Jamie Fraser kick and consequently noticing Scottish references everywhere. I watched Alice in Wonderland yesterday and was thrilled to see Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter as an angry Scotsman! When he dons a kilt and sporran during the final battle against the Jabberwocky and in his flashbacks to happier days before the Red Queen when he is sporting long red hair, my mind couldn’t help but make the jump to Jamie Fraser. (And by the way, Johnny Depp doing a Scottish accent= amazing. No matter what crazy make-up or costume that man is wearing, he still gets me every time…)

Gaelic Ale

I recently discovered my new favorite beer, the Highland Brewing Company, and yes, I’m going to connect it to Mr. Fraser as well. I was drawn to it and decided to try it based solely on the fact that 1) the label has a Scotsman on it and 2) there were varieties with names such as “Gaelic Ale” and “Black Mountain Bitter,” but it turns out that it’s really good! On top of that, it’s made in Asheville, North Carolina! Now, if you know me then you know that I have been obsessed with Asheville for the better part of my life. (One day, I tell you, if it’s the last thing I do, I WILL live there! )  The Last of the Mohicans was filmed in Asheville and that movie makes me think of Young Ian in Drums of Autumn. (I was totally envisioning Daniel Day-Lewis the entire time I was reading about Ian in that book.) If you aren’t familiar with the area, Asheville is located very close to Roan Mountain, TN and Black Mountain, NC. It’s mentioned in Drums of Autumn that Claire can see Roan Mountain from Fraser’s Ridge and when at River Run, Claire longs to get back to Black Mountain. Roan Mountain also holds a very special place in my heart and I was so excited to see it mentioned in the book.  My dad used to own a house there and my husband proposed to me on top of Roan Mtn! It’s arguably some of the most beautiful country you’ll ever lay eyes on and perhaps since I have so many ties to the area, it strengthens my connection to the characters? So anyhoo, to sum it all up, I feel a little link to the Frasers when I drink Highland Brewing beer because it has a picture of a Scotsman on the label, and it’s made in Asheville, which is close to where Fraser’s Ridge is located, and reminds me of the scenery in Drums of Autumn, which is my most favorite book in the Outlander series. Don’t judge.

Skarsgard as Jamie Fraser? Yes, please!

If you are a fellow Outlander fan, you can probably relate when I say that it’s pretty hard to get a concrete idea in your head of what Jamie Fraser would look like. The closest I’ve ever come is Alexander Skarsgard. He’s got the slanted blue eyes, the height, and the Norse/Viking-esqe features that Diana Gabaldon describes, but I could never envision him with red hair. That being said, you can imagine my excitement when I opened an e-mail from Bridget this morning and found this:

 
 
 
 

 

 

Bridget, it took you long enough to hop onto my Jamie Fraser bandwagon, but I’m glad to see you are now fully aboard :)