Let’s Discuss: Swag


A good friend and I were discussing the pros and cons of swag. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Right? There’s something about it that makes us stand up and want it even if we have no use for it. Authors and publishers use promotional items to help spread the word about upcoming releases. Swag can be bookmarks, postcards, soap, lip balm, pens, etc. It is suppose to remind us about an author or prompt us to look up information regarding a book and/or author.

I’m not a fan of swag I can’t use. I’ll use a pen, but admit it won’t prompt me to research an author. As for postcards, I like the ones you can write a message to someone and drop it off in the mail. A win-win situation for an author since two people and quite possibly the mailer carrier gets to see it. Magnets I won’t say no to since you can always use them, as well as coffee mugs. Even if you don’t end up drinking from it, you can use it to store pens, paper clips, and well just about anything. As for tote bags, I’m on the fence. I’ve attended a lot of academic conferences where they give you a tote upon your registration and I’m not sure what to do with the totes I already have. I like the idea of lip balm, but I admit I have a basket full of balm I never use and just pass it on (unused because used would be gross). I don’t particularly like temp tattoos. I’m not twelve (okay at that age they were so cool) and I’ve been known to pass off any temp tattoos to people I know with children. So don’t look twice if you see a child walking around with a D-Bags tattoo (band from SC Stephen’s Thoughtless series).

In the end, the reason why I’m not a big fan of swag is because I’m not sure what to do with it. I have a ton of bookmarks and while I’m reading forget to use them so they just sit there unused. Mini-flashlights burn themselves out and are useful to carry around when walking at night with the dog (although my phone has a flashlight app so I’ll use that instead). Matchbooks are nice to have. I have a ton of Fangtasia matches from when my sister worked at Atlantic and they had matchbooks made up for the True Blood soundtrack. I admit never bother to use a matchbook when lighting candles and use a candle lighter instead. So where do I keep the swag I do get? In a shoebox.

I will admit to swag envy. Of course when I see what celebrities get, my mouth drops and my heart pines to reach out and go through the swag bag. Then of course there’s the swag haul that makes me wish I had been there. I quickly remind myself, “swag in a box Jess.” I’d rather let all the swag go to someone who really wants it.

Do you like swag? If so, do you have a favorite type and where do you keep it? Authors, what type of swag have you noticed most readers gravitate towards?

Feature & Follow #1

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read. It’s a fun way to find other blogs and meet new bloggers.

You can follow Lit, etc via Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to the blog via email. Please let me know if you’re a new follower and I’ll follow back.

Q: Write a letter to your favorite character. Rant, rave or gush…just pretend like they are real and you just want to let them know a “few things”. – Activity courtesy of author, Kelly Walker
I’ve decided on Archie Sheridan from the Archie / Gretchen series by Chelsea Cain.

Dear Archie:

I should be more formal since you are a detective, but like Susan, I’ve been on a few cases with you and feel like I already know you. I have a confession…I’ve meet Gretchen Lowell and I know it was dangerous to do so considering she IS the Beauty Killer, but at the time I didn’t know her. Meeting her brought me to you.

I worry for you. I know the years haven’t been kind to you and you still hold scars from the torture you endured at her hands, but I wish you’d let others in. Go to Henry and talk to him. Trust Susan (even though I’m jealous of her) and know that she would never break your heart. The past two books have left me in tears with regards to what you do for Susan. That is the man I’m sure Debbie fell in love with and misses. You can still be that man…the man before Gretchen came into your life. I will always be your biggest supporter and I know everyone wants you to move on and forget things, that you can’t.

I’m on pins and needles awaiting the upcoming August release of Let Me Go. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m hoping Chelsea is kind to you and doesn’t torture you some more because I have to keep asking, how much more can you endure? A lot by what she’s shown us and you’re a pillar of strength.

Affectionately yours,

An Open Letter to Jane Austen

Alyssa Goodnight and Stiletto Storytime teamed up to host a Pride & Prejudice 200th Anniversary Party Hop. There are over 70 blogs participating and I encourage everyone to check out the participants since each post will be slightly different and a few are hosting giveaways as well! How do you plan to celebrate the occasion?

Dear Jane:

Congratulations! Today marks 200 years of Pride and Prejudice‘s publication. 200 years in which girls have fallen in love with Darcy and wishing we had our own. Generations of women have formed friendships because of their love for the book. Mothers and daughters bond over discussions and of course seeing the adaptations. One cannot forget the first time we read Pride and Prejudice nor can we forget our very first screen Darcy (mine is Laurence Olivier).

A lot has changed socially since your book’s publication. Women attend university and have the right to vote. Single women no longer have to rely on their male family members to provide for them since we now can earn our own living and depend solely on ourselves. Family members still pester a few regarding marriage, but it is acceptable to remain single should our own Mr. Darcy never arrive. Although some women still do marry for money, a majority of women in today’s society marry for love. It is also acceptable to set up our own household and live alone as well as travel alone.

Pride and Prejudice has sold over 20 million copies since its initial publication. It’s been adapted for stage, film, and even television. You’re probably wondering what film or television is and this is the best I can describe it: think of it as a play, but instead of a stationary stage, there are moving pieces. These pieces are recorded frame by frame to create a moving picture. Pride and Prejudice also has inspired authors to write their own version based on your plot.

My favorite Pride and Prejudice television / film adaptation is the Andrew Davies production of 1995. It stars Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. It also inspired the Lost in Austen adaptation to feature the famous lake scene from the 1995 version, where Amanda asks Mr. Darcy to emerge himself in the water as Colin Firth had done.

These adaptations also expand on Darcy’s proposal since you didn’t actually give us his entire speech. I really like the 1995 proposal:

In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. In declaring myself thus I’m fully aware that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family, my friends, and, I hardly need add, my own better judgment. The relative situation of our families is such that any alliance between us must be regarded as a highly reprehensible connection. Indeed, as a rational man I cannot but regard it as such myself, but it cannot be helped. Almost from the earliest moments of our acquaintance I have come to feel for you a passionate admiration and regard, which despite my struggles has overcome every rational objection, and I beg you, most fervently, to relieve my suffering and consent to be my wife.

We learned a lot from Pride and Prejudice. You taught us to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. Family members may embarrass us on occasion, but they are still family. Things may look dire and we think we’ll never recover from a situation, but in the end we are stronger than we think we are and do recover. You also taught us to never settle for a Mr. Collins.
That there are always two sides to a story and even the most dashing man may have an ulterior motive. Through you we learned, that first impressions aren’t always what they seem and it is okay to change your mind. Most importantly you taught us, that he’s worth waiting for. When we finally meet our Darcy, he will do anything to make us happy even if involves facing his own past and knowing it is humiliating to him.

We owe a lot to you Jane. I do wish you could see the influence of not only Pride and Prejudice, but of all your books in our society. You should be proud of your accomplishment and how I wish I could turn back time and inform you not to sell your copyright, but alas that is not possible.

Thank you. Thank you for giving us a beautiful story; for the lessons learned and for the friendships formed.

Yours very affectionately,

Thoughts on Fox’s The Following

When I first heard James Purefoy passed on Game of Thrones to star in Fox’s The Following, I thought he was crazy. I absolutely adore Purefoy as an actor and I never pass up an opportunity to see anything he’s in. I was unsure about The Following because of the premise, but the fact that Kevin Williamson is involved as the creator and a producer, I was willing to put away doubts and give it a chance.

Premise: A brilliant and charismatic, yet psychotic serial killer communicates with other active serial killers and activates a cult of believers following his every command.

If you’ve seen any of the Scream films, well the first two since they were written by Williamson, then you know his work and there’s no doubt The Following IS a Williamson production.  I couldn’t help, but make comparisons between Scream 2 and The Following in terms of the use of a sorority and it taking place on a college campus.  Oddly enough the statement about 300 active serial killers in the US, is uttered in Scream 2.  The Following is what in many ways should have been Scream 3.  It turns out Williamson already had an idea for Scream 3’s plot; however, the studio brought in a different writer and he was off the project.  Years later he takes the idea of people committing murder based on a leader’s instructions.  This isn’t new, after all, Charles Manson’s followers did what he asked in 1969.

Kevin Bacon is Ryan Hardy, the FBI agent who brought down Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).  Carroll is an English Lit professor whose specialty is Edgar Allan Poe. When Carroll’s much anticipated book fails, he begins to kill women on his university campus in the name of Poe. His 15th victim, Sarah Fuller, is saved by Hardy and when Carroll escapes prison he’s out to write the ending he was denied.

I thought I might go more traditional this time, you know, villain, good versus evil. I need a strong protagonist so that the reader can truly invest, a flawed, broken man searching for redemption, and that is you. You are my flawed hero. Yes, I ensured that by killing Sarah. She was the inciting incident, the hero’s call to action. This is merely the prologue, this is just the beginning. That was the entire point of Sarah’s death. It was for you. It’s just the beginning.-Joe Carroll talking to Ryan Hardy

What made me wary about the show? As some of you know, I’m a big fan of the Chelsea Cain Archie / Gretchen series.  For those not familiar with the series, it’s about a beautiful serial killer who captures the lead detective and tortures him.  Gretchen Lowell becomes this instant celebrity because of how beautiful she is and inspires shirts that say “Run Gretchen Run,” when she escapes prison.  As for the detective, Archie Sheridan is never the same and Gretchen figures heavily in the background.  The series is currently made of 5 books with a 6th to be released later in the year.  Cain sold the rights to the series this past year and FX is developing the series.  There’s still a way to go and that involves a pilot being filmed, etc.  I was unsure about The Following because in the Cain novels, Gretchen has what I call apprentices.  Archie asks her how many people are out there that are ticking time bombs.  To hear a plot about a serial killer with a following who commits murder at his request made me really think about wanting to see this.  I have a suspicion that Gretchen plays a much deeper role in the crimes committed by others in the series.  It’s inevitable if the Cain series does air that the two will get compared just like Archie / Gretchen get compared to Clarice / Hannibal Lecter’s relationship.

As I watched, I was surprised at how much I liked it. It was a bit predictable, but I believe most pilots these days are.  If Williamson stays on as the producer of the series, I can foresee it lasting longer than a season.  It will be interesting to see what other aspects they bring in especially with regards to symbolism and Poe’s work. I know some viewers have a problem with the way Poe’s work is being depicted and going so far to say that Poe wasn’t homicidal. True, but I think they are missing the point: this is Carroll’s interpretation of Poe’s work. The fact Carroll is an academic professor pretty much sums it all. Those of us in academia have encountered others we have disagreed with when it comes to a text. Keeping that in mind, I have to say Carroll isn’t using Poe’s work to commit murder because Poe believed in it, but rather this is just one man’s academic interpretation of an author’s work.

A warning: it is gory and disturbing.  I’m actually quite surprised at how much they got away with.  It’s a bold move for regular network television and it leaves me wondering if this will set the bar for others to follow.

Overall, The Following was good and enjoyable.  I’ll be sleeping with the lights on and making sure I don’t take out the trash too late at night.

Did anyone else see it? If so what are your thoughts?

Meeting Gretchen Lowell

I normally don’t read the serial killer genre, as it’s not something that appeals to me. So imagine my surprise at falling in love with Gretchen Lowell. I still remember the day I met Gretchen; May 8th of this year. She was thrilling and beautiful. Once we were introduced I couldn’t let go. You, dear reader, probably think I’m crazy at this point. Let me explain how I met Gretchen and who my true love really is, but if you’ve read my fictional men I love post then you’ve already met him.

As previously mentioned, on May 8th I met Gretchen Lowell. I came across news announcing FX had bought the rights to develop a series based on a beautiful serial killer and a damaged police detective. My interest was piqued and searched for the first book. The synopsis was interesting and when I noticed my local library had the first book in the series, Heartsick, I immediately requested it. That evening I couldn’t walk away from Archie and Gretchen. I read the entire series in a week and cursed myself for reading too fast. Since that day, I’ve never looked back.

There’s something thrilling about solving a mystery. Whether or not you’re a mystery fan, I believe we all have a fondness for the thrill of the chase. For me, it’s the satisfaction of proving my instincts were correct. Then again, I love the ones that leave you reeling and breathless. Those make of point of proving to me that although I was off, I too have met a worthy opponent that would make any detective proud. Detectives do get it wrong in real life and like them I have no control over the outcome.

What makes the Cain series so special to me is not trying to figure out Gretchen Lowell; although I admit I do try. It’s the emotions. Archie’s emotions are the ones that get to me, but I look back at all five books and realize that each principal character has become a piece of me. I can relate to Susan’s awkwardness and her use of facts. I’ve been known to insert useless facts in company and happily recite what I know, for example: a historical fact. Archie’s inability to forgive himself for his mistake (my lips are sealed regarding this) and holding on to the past resonates with me. Then I scare myself because I want to be Gretchen. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to BE Gretchen, but the beautiful Gretchen. The one that makes men stop in their tracks and suddenly I envy her. Only in the looks department, not the psychopath she is and I remind myself that while her beauty stops traffic, it also comes with a whole bunch of other problems. Of course we also have Henry with his protective nature and always watching out for Archie. Sometimes I think Gretchen envies his friendship with Henry. Gretchen may be able to get what she wants, but she’ll never have a Henry in her life. Archie is lucky to have Henry’s support.

There’s been a lot of talk about Archie among readers. Some insist he has Stockholm Syndrome and in fact during our nightly discussion of Heartsick, I brought up the question. I’ve always believed (and still do) that no, he doesn’t have it. As we progress through the series we see why he can’t let go of Gretchen. Never mind the fact he spent ten years tracking the Beauty Killer. My heart aches for him and every time someone tells him to move on, I want to shake them and ask how? How can Archie just move past his mistakes and forget his torture? He came across corpses from the Beauty Killer that no doubt still haunt him. He never asked to be taken off the task force. Every holiday and birthday celebration for his children, if a phone call came in about a new body, he was there. His personal family life was put on the back burner so he could he find a monster and let the public feel at ease and at peace.

I know I’ve asked the question of how much more torture Archie can endure. Cain has proven Archie is strong and resilient. I still cringe at the scene in Evil At Heart with the hooks. The Archie we first meet in Heartsick isn’t the same we see in Kill You Twice. He’s grown stronger and at ease with his inner demons. As you know, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love him. Of all my fictional boyfriends, he’s at the top of the list. What he does in The Night Season for Susan made me cry. His concern for her in Kill You Twice broke me. He many not think himself worthy of love, but he’s wrong. He is and although he claims to be “emotionally retarded,” we know he’s not. And because of what he is and his actions, he’s number one.

Cain makes me love all of her characters regardless of their background. Yes even the psychotic ones. When something happens to Susan I begin to worry. If a secondary character dies I sob for hours. Cain always leaves me an emotional mess for days after. I walk around town in a sort of a zombie state wondering why no one else is affected the way I am. Do they not know Archie was _____ or that Susan admitted _______? What about what Gretchen just did? Ack! I stop myself and take a deep breath and continue to read.

Characters in a series become your friends. I love saying hi to Archie and the gang. I’m always surprised at how much I missed them and don’t realize it until I reach the end of the book. I skim favorite passages from a new book for days. When I finally put them away I’m sad, but then remind myself I can visit anytime I want. Five books await my visit anytime with a few more in the future.

Yes, in many ways I owe my relationship with Cain’s books to Gretchen. Like Archie I can’t forget the day I met her and she’s always with me.