Thursday, October 11, 2018

GI Clare and Russ

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Writers used to have readers. I mean, we still have readers, of course, but the dramatic increase in social media (combined with an effort to get out there and meet folks at libraries, bookstores and conferences) has changed the game a bit. Now we have fans.

Fans are wonderful. They send you sweet emails and bring you cookies when you're on tour. They take pictures with you and tell their friends to read all your books. But I have a fan that went WAY above and beyond that.

Meet GI Russ and Clare.

They arrived, totally unheralded and unexpected, at the start of the past holiday weekend. I opened up the post office mailer to discover this box.

You can't see it - I missed it at first - but there's a sticker on top that says "Clare and Russ - MKPD" When I opened the bok, it was, as advertised, a GI Jane helicopter pilot. However, like my heroine Clare, this gal had a teeny tiny clerical dicky on.

And she wasn't alone! There was Russ, wearing the khaki-and-brown Millers Kill Police Department uniform.

You know it's MKPD because there's an actual teeny-tiny shoulder patch that reads "MKPD"

Russ is ready for action. In the sixth book in the series, I SHALL NOT WANT, Russ gets shot because, as his deputy chief says, he's not wearing his goddam vest. This Russ has learned his lesson, and has his tactical gear on. 

Clare is suited up for her job as a National Guard helicopter pilot, with her flight vest and helmet.

But of course, her heart is in her clerical service, and for that, she has a black cassock. She's all set to celebrate the Eucharist. 

Of course, if it were all gunshots and piloting, my books wouldn't be as popular as they are. There's also... forbidden love.

Forbidden Love.

FORBIDDEN LOVE.

Of course, it's not so forbidden since Russ and Clare tied the knot in ONE WAS A SOLDIER. Don't they make a lovely couple?

Okay, you two, chill out.

GET A ROOM.

I can't convey to you the delight with which I pulled each piece out of the box and how much fun I had dressing Russ and Clare up and playing with them. This really is the most extraordinary thing (my daughters would say "extra") any fan has ever done.

Reds and readers, is there anything that fans have done for you that made you marvel? Is there something you've done for someone whose work you love?

66 comments:

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  2. I’m chuckling and smiling and thinking that that this is a truly clever idea . . . I marvel at the creativity. I can’t claim any such cleverness, but I do buy and read books and rave about the authors who write the books I love . . . .

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  3. That is truly extra, Julia! I am gobsmacked. And...can I send this fan some of my books? ;^)

    One of my fans needlepointed my name onto a lovely piece of cloth and sent it. Another, husband of a local fan, made a fabulous wooden Westbury sign for the fictional town in my Local Foods Mysteries (which is based on West Newbury, where they live and where I had my small farm).

    But now I really want action figures. Imagine my 1880s Quaker midwife with her satchel and bonnet and cloak, and her dashing doctor fiance!

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  4. I have not done anything like that for any of the authors that I enjoy. I've seen stuff like it in the past due to my involvement in the comic book world, which has a large contingent of highly creative people. I've seen them alter existing action figures into other characters that don't have their own figures and it always amazes me the level of their talent. Probably because I don't have that talent or ambition to try something like that.

    I go to signings and get my copies of the books signed. For me, the talk time and the signed books are enough. And I figure that when I go to a signing, the authors can kind of grasp that I'm a fan of their work. Beyond that, I never want to go too far in showing my admiration for their work so I never come off as too creepy or anything.

    My dad read a series of fly fishing mysteries set in Vermont by the late author David Leitz. He liked them so much that he wrote to the author and received replies. When Leitz did an area signing, my dad not only went to the signing, he had a baseball hat made up with the name of the lodge featured in the series sewn into the hat. The author loved it!

    And don't forget that while readers can surprise the writers, there are times when writers or other such luminaries can really make a fan's day. Here's an excerpt from my 2016 article about the 2016 Rhode Island Comic Con and how John Ratzenberger from "Cheers" made the day for a young fan: "The second best part of the show for me was something that didn't even happen to me. Instead it was the person in front of me in Ratzenberger's line. It was a little girl about 10 or 11 years old. She was looking at the table full of pictures to choose one to have him sign. Now when you see someone that young, you pretty much figure she's going to pick one of the Pixar movie character stills. However, she ended up choosing one from his Cheers days.

    When it was her turn to talk to him, she was a bundle of nervous energy, bouncing on her feet and shaking like a leaf in excitement. She was getting to meet "Cliff"! Yes indeed, this girl was a megafan of the show that ended years before she was even born. John talked to her for a few minutes, seemingly a little surprised that she watched the show and was a huge fan. He asked her if she was from Rhode Island, but it turns out the girl and her family were at the convention all the way from Clearwater, Florida.

    I found it to be so cool to see someone that young be such a huge fan of something you wouldn't expect her to be. She left the table with her signed photo like she was walking on air! As I said, it was such a great moment to witness."

    So it goes both ways. Readers/fans show their support for their favorites, but writers/celebrities can do the same.

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    1. Jay, it makes me happy to know Ratzenberger, who always seems like a nice guy in his roles, is really a nice man in person.

      And I lve that your dad had a cap "from" the fictional fishing lodge! I bet that made David Leitz's week.

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  5. Oh, wow, Julia! I only wish I had thought of that!

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    1. Don't worry - I can honestly say it would NEVER have occurred to me to turn fictional characters into action figures!

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  6. That's an astonishing surprise Julia--I'm sure she meant to tell you hurry up and finish the next book!

    I agree with Jay that almost always we authors are happy as clams to meet people at signings or receive kind emails--all of that means so much after sweating for hours and hours and hours over a book.

    The only thing I ever sent to a celebrity was a birthday party package to Micky Dolenz of the Monkees when I was thirteen. Homemade paper birthday hats and decorations and lord knows what else:). He DID NOT write a blog about me!

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    1. Wow, someone agrees with me? That doesn't happen often.

      By the way, fandom pays off in ways you don't expect sometimes too.

      Back in 1990, I wrote a couple of fan letters to Leather Leone, who was the singer for the metal band Chastain. I received handwritten replies back both times. Fast forward to earlier this year and I got to do an interview with her for one of the websites that I write for.

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    2. Very cool. And yes, I suspect that for anyone less famous than Micky Dolenz, recipients of letters, etc, DO think fondly of the people who sent them.

      And heck, even Micky Dolenz probably isn't swamped with fans these days. Maybe Roberta should try again...

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    3. My sister and Leather have been friends since elementary school (she wasn't Leather in those days!). I'm not at all surprised that she replied to you, Jay.

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    4. Christine,

      OK, color me shocked, SHOCKED I say! To discover that someone on JRW knows who Leather Leone is. And that is pretty fantastic that your sister has been friends with her for all this time.

      Funny thing is, I didn't even know her real name until this year. I just never felt the need to know it. She was simply Leather to me. I had been looking for a Leather Leone T-shirt and Leather told me she had one in my size and I sent her the money via Paypal. As it turned out she had her real first name on her account. It struck me funny that she has such a "regular" name as opposed to her beloved stage name.

      And she is amazingly awesome. When I told her I was going to see her in concert during the interview, she asked "Where am I seeing you?" which made me chuckle because the idea of her seeing me as opposed to me seeing her was just hilarious.

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    5. It's a small world, Jay, isn't it? Her music isn't for me so I'd never have heard of her without the family (and small town) connection.

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    6. Christine,

      Yes it does seem to be a small world. As for her music, it is definitely for me and I've loved her as an artist since discovering her and Chastain since the late 80's.

      When the opportunity came up for someone to do an interview with her, I gave in on my long standing reticence to do interviews (I'd only done one before, with Hank) and had the arrangements made so I could do it. One of the best 30 minutes of my life. The interview came out rather great if I do say so myself. I was prepared like you wouldn't believe. And though you'll have to take my word for it, her new album is freaking amazing!

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  7. Absolutely too clever for words. I am in awe. All I have done for authors I love is to buy their books and spread the word. I did make sure that my local library had copies of the book written by a childhood friend, had her down to speak with my book group (she now lives in MA), and told everyone about her book.
    I don't have an action figure but my clever husband had a bobble-head figure of Alexander Hamilton waiting on my desk after I finally got to see "Hamilton".

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    1. They also serve who "only" buy the books and spread the word!

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  8. The late Roberta Gellis was a friend and after she died I was surprised when her son showed me action-figures a fan had sent her. A Medieval madame action figure is not something I expected to find in her office. LOL

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    1. Roberta Gellis was your friend?!? OMG, I met her at the first or second Malice Domestic I attended - she was writing her Magdelene la Batarde mysteries then. She was sitting all alone at a table with her husband and I came over, shaking, and practically prostrated myself at her feet. I had read every one of her historical novels 800 times and was in AWE.

      She must have been amused at my total fangirl moment. She was very sweet and gracious.

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    2. Julia, she was a sweet and gracious lady. I first met her at Magna cum Murder and we laughed ourselves silly over the fact that I'd known her son for several years before he mentioned that his mom was THAT Roberta Gellis.

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  9. So fabulous! I’ve never seen anything so clever and thoughtful! So great and incredibly touching—it brings tears to my eyes.

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  10. Fabulous! What is really great to share is your pleasure in the gift, Julia--who knows what plot developments will come from your playtime with clare and Russ??!

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    1. Right? There was an unsigned note enclosed - "In the hopes this gives you some in-spire-ation." And a picture of a church.

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  11. That's impressive! But it's sure making the rest of us look like fall-downs. LOL

    When my grandson was born 13 years ago, a fan I've still not met but who has been an online fan and friend since the Usenet days in the late 1980's, crocheted a sweater for him. It was adorable, a baby blue cowboy jacket, complete with white fringe and stars. I'm 100% sure my daughter did not realize the work involved, sadly, and that she never once put it on him, but I was in awe. Still am, for that matter.

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    1. That sounds spectacular, Karen. And yes, if you haven't seen anyone knit/crochet a piece of clothing, I don't think you have any idea the labor that goes into it.

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  12. What a gift of love, Julia. Timing is everything I think.

    I've never done anything remotely like that for a favorite author and doubt I will. I do give good review tho.

    Also, I misread the following: "However, like my heroine Clare, this gal had a teeny tiny clerical dicky on." You can guess. Kinky, huh?

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    1. I had to re-read that, too. Ann!

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    2. It was “clerical” that threw us, right?

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    3. You gals have dirty, dirty minds. :-)

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  13. This is SO SWEET! And such perfect details.
    The only thing that comes close in my experience is when my dear friend whose dollmaker mother inspired my YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR gave me a doll her mother had made. It went on tour with me.

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    1. Hallie, do you keep that doll out in plain sight or is that too scary for the grandchildren? And people like me?

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    2. It's sweet. Not creepy. Sez me.

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    3. What she doesn't tell us is how, when she leaves the room and comes back in, the doll isn't quite in the same place it was before...

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  14. Julia, great post and great photos. Very creative to dress up these dolls in your characters, Clare and Russ.

    When Rhys Bowen had a book event at Book Passage, we brought her a English Christmas tin with candy or was it biscuits / cookies?

    You mentioned that writers start out as readers. I started wondering if writers decide to write books that they want to read? I have stories in my head that I want to write and they are books that I would want to read.

    Off topic here. Who is excited about Princess Eugenie and Jack Brookbank's wedding tomorrow on Friday the 12th of October? It will be on the TLC channel in the USA. I was surprised that BBC is not covering the wedding.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I still have that tin! Thank you

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    2. Diana, I absolutely write the books I want to read. I have said many times before that if only someone else would write Clare and Russ, I wouldn't have to.

      OT: I read the BBC declined to cover the wedding because they thought the audience wouldn't measure up. I thought that was odd, but especially if the wedding is on a Friday, I can see it. How many people will skip work to watch the telly? (Or be able to stream it all day at the office?)

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    3. But then, Julia, they wouldn't be Clare and Russ. They would be Christine and Roger or Clarice and Rodrick. Clare and Russ are yours and yours alone. Thank you for sharing them with the Reds, the Red commenters, all your readers, and all your fans. Those action figures are just so much love.

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    4. Rhys, I am happy that you loved the Christmas tin! That was a great event!

      Julia, it looks like the Princess Eugenie's Royal Wedding will be on TLC early Friday morning! I am getting up early to watch the Royal wedding.

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  15. This is amazing! And so funny.

    Here I was excited that a reader sent me an actual, physical note card. =)

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Just think of what you have to look forward to, Mary/Liz!

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  16. I'm always amazed at the gifts I am given on tour,Julia. From a hand crocheted 1929s hat to a hand embroidered towel to a bottle of beer with one of Queenie's sayings on it. I have a Ceramic if Welsh ladies and I'm trying to remember what else..sometimes food. One lady used to make sausage rolls for my event. . It's rare I go home without something. But... Never anything as cool as this. Have fun but keep them in separate boxes!

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    1. LOL. Maybe someone will now send me a Russ and Clare's baby doll.

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  17. Oh golly, I can see it now. A whole set of Jungle Red Action Figures. Starting with Lady Georgie Barbie and GI Darcy.

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    1. And I have to admit, as a miniaturist, I have a few representative 1:12 dolls of writers (both real and fictional.) Harriet D. Vane, Jessica Fletcher and (wait for it....) Grace Metalious.
      (https://dalyght.wordpress.com/category/big-trashy-novels/)

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    2. Susan, that tableau (and the entire article!) is wonderful!

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  18. Julia, that is fabulous!! I am in awe of your fan's creativity! You must keep Action Clare and Action Russ on your desk to help you work out those tricky dialogue passages!

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  19. Wow -- that truly is extraordinary!

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    1. I know! Imagine my face as I pulled out one figure, then the other, then discovered all the little details and accessories...

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  20. That's so sweet! I have one reader who has become an email pal. She was going into surgery a couple years ago so I sent her a paperback copy of one of my books to read while she was waiting for the operation. A few weeks later she mailed me back a throw pillow with a picture of my cats on it. I thought it was a really touching gesture.

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  21. WINNeR WINNER WINNER of Doug Burgess's Fogland Point:

    AND THE WINNER IS: Margie Bunting! Margie, email me at hryan at whdh dot com with your address!

    And now back Action Clare and Russ!

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  22. Julia, I think the word gobsmacking was invented for just this sort of extraordinary. The fantastic dolls and those outfits! Wow!

    I didn't do anything on that level, but at the recent Bouchercon, my friend and amazing author Domenica de Rosa/Elly Griffiths was there from England. I had read in an interview Dom did that her first book/story she wrote as a young girl was entitled, "The Hair of the Dog." I was able to find a drinking glass with those words on it, and I had a drink from the restaurant where we ate deliver it to her in that glass. She was so surprised and teary-eyed, as it took her back to her mother's unwavering support, before she died, from that story on.

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    1. Kathy, what a lovely, special gift, and how beautiful that it sparked such sweet memories in the recipient.

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  23. That's hilarious, Julia. I think action figures Clare and Russ should be like the Elf on the Shelf during this holiday season! You never know where they might turn up!

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  24. This is the BEST!!! I love this so much! I agree with Ingrid. You have the best Elf on the Shelf potential with these two. You must keep us updated on their shenanigans. I'm afraid to answer your question in case I've forgotten something that someone has done for me. Frankly, with a book due in three weeks, my brain is a cheese ball. Ack!

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  25. Wow! I would never thought of that! I think it's time to reread Clare and Russ :)

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  26. Thanks to this thread, After I finish this Star Trek novel (The Light Fantastic) that I'm in the midst of reading, I think I'm finally going to start on Julia's 1st novel that a certain Kristopher Zgorski discovered at the Brookline Booksmith for me when we were all there for the Lucy/Rhys double book launch party this summer.

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    1. OMG, you'd better, Jay! And then you get to read them all in order (straight through, preferably). SUCH a treat.

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    2. Edith, I wish I could read them all in order straight through, but I've found I typically like to space out my reading of new to me series. Just natural reader wanderlust and the fact I get "interrupted" when new batches of review copies come in.

      Julia, I'm sure that I will. I've been given enough raves from others about the series that I almost like it madly before even reading it.

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  27. Well I guess just reading every one of your books more than five times isn’t enough anymore.

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