The Dark Tower Is Coming to the Small Screen

Last year, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower was adapted for the big screen, and fans everywhere rejoiced. After all, the series is considered somewhat of a cornerstone, tying together much of King’s work. Various elements of his novels and short stories collide throughout the series, making the existence of an entire Stephen King Universe that much more overt.

Dark Tower Series

When the film made it into theaters, however, the reviews were…not great. It was a blemish on a year that had been all about Stephen King.

But now Deadline reports that the series is facing a reboot as part of a deal Amazon made to bring a number of high-profile titles to its streaming service.

In a past post, I had asked if there was such a thing as too many Stephen King adaptations. Now, I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as too many Dark Tower adaptations, especially considering its poor showing in theaters. And it’s not as if the universe of the Dark Tower hasn’t been tackled before: There have been tie-in books by both King and other authors (including the children’s book Charlie the Choo-Choo), a prequel comic series, other comic adaptations, and even an online game.

But considering how compelling the series seems to be for readers, other writers, and for King himself, I suppose I’ll keep my lips zipped until I see the darn thing.

Preview the timely, election-themed new book in Amy Stewart’s Miss Kopp series

Over the past few years, Amy Stewart has brought to life Constance Kopp, one of the first women deputy sheriffs in the country, in her series of best-selling detective novels. And in that time Constance and her sisters Norma and Fleurette have exploded in popular culture: They’re now the subjects of a hilarious Drunk History sketch and an in-development limited series being produced by Elizabeth Banks.

Stewart, meanwhile, is bringing more of Constance’s thrilling adventures to life for readers to consume. Her latest, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, features some timely political undertones as well. The book tells the true story of Constance struggling with her job on the line, while at the same time withstanding gender-based attacks in the 1916 sheriff’s elections. “She wasn’t running for office — she couldn’t even vote — but she was a campaign issue for the sheriff’s election nonetheless,” Stewart tells EW. “The criticisms against her were nasty and relentless — which made it impossible for me to ignore the similarities to the 2016 election season, especially since I started writing this novel on Nov. 10, 2016!”

In addition to exclusively revealing the book’s cover and an excerpt, Stewart also teased the primary plot of the book to EW, which is based on real events and speaks to tensions of our present moment. “On one night in 1916, had to deal with an inmate escape and a woman wrongly committed to an insane asylum,” she explains. “Both of those events spun out in ways she couldn’t predict. She carried out a daring rescue in the Hackensack River, which you see on the cover. This made headlines nationwide in ways that never would have happened for a male deputy. She faced a nasty backlash as a result. Then, by digging into the murky circumstances that often surround women being committed to asylums, she went up against powerful public officials and exposed serious wrongdoing.”

You can check out the cover and excerpt for Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, the fourth in the series, below. Pre-order the book here ahead of its Sept. 11 release.

Excerpt from “Miss Kipp Just Won’t Quit,” by Amy Stewart

On the day I took Anna Kayser to the insane asylum, I was first obliged to catch a thief.

I say “obliged” as if it were a hardship, but in fact I enjoy a good chase. A man fleeing a crime scene presents any sworn officer with the rare gift of an easy win. Nothing is more heartening than a solid arrest, made after a little gratifying physical exertion, particularly when the thief is caught in the act and there are no bothersome questions later about a lack of evidence or an unreliable witness.

My duties are hardly ever so straightforward, and my victories rarely so decisive, as Anna Kayser’s case would demonstrate. Perhaps this is why the business with the thief lingers so clearly in my memory.

The scene of this particular crime was the Italian butcher where I liked to stop for my lunch. The proprietor, Mr. Giordano, put out a kind of Italian sausage called salsicciotto on Tuesdays that he seasoned with salt and peppercorns, then smothered in olive oil for two months, to extraordinary effect. He could sell every last one in an afternoon if he wanted to, but by doling them out on Tuesdays, he found that he could lure people into his shop once a week and make sure they left with all manner of goods imported from Italy: soap, perfume, hard cheese, enameled plates, lemon candy. The profits from those trinkets helped compensate for the cost of shipping over the extravagantly priced olive oil in which he ages the salsicciotto. I was but one of many willing participants in his scheme. Along with the sausage I took a bag of lemon candy weekly, finding it useful to dispense during interrogations.

The man ran out of the shop just as I rounded the corner onto Passaic Avenue. Mr. Giordano gave case, but the thief had the advantage: he was young and trim, while the butcher was a rotund gentleman of advanced age who could do little more than stump along, huffing and shaking his fist.

He would’ve been out of luck, but there I happened to be, in my uniform, equipped with a gun, handcuffs, and a badge. I did what any officer of the law would do: I tucked my handbag under my arm, gathered my skirts in my hands, and ran him down.

Mr. Giordano heard my boots pounding along behind him on the wooden sidewalk and jumped out of the way. I must’ve given him a start, because he launched into a coughing fit when he saw who had come to his rescue.

In giving chase, I flew past a livery driver watering his horses, a druggist sweeping out his shop, and a boy of about twelve staring idly into a bookstore window. The boy was too engrossed or slow-witted to step out of the way. I’m sorry to say I shoved him down to the ground, rather roughly. I hated to do it, but children are sturdy and quick to heal. I raced on.

The thief himself hadn’t looked back and had no idea who was in pursuit, which was a shame, as men often stumble and lose their resolve when confronted by a lady deputy. I was always happy to use the element of surprise to my advantage. But this one ducked down a side street, deft as you please, no doubt believing that if he stayed on bustling Passaic Avenue, more passers-by would join the chase and he’d soon be caught.

The detour didn’t bother me, though. I preferred to go after him on a quiet tree-lined lane, with no more danger of loiterers stumbling into my path. I rounded the corner effortlessly and picked up speed.

He chose for his escape a neighborhood of large and graceful homes that offered very few places to hide. I closed the distance between us and was already looking for a soft patch of grass ahead on which to toss him down, but he saw an opportunity ahead. He’d done this before — I had to credit him that. He hurled himself over a low fence and into a backyard.

Here is where an agile man of slight build has the advantage. I was forced to abandon my handbag and to heft myself over the fence in the most undignified manner. Hems caught on nails, seams split, and stockings were shredded into ribbons. I landed on one knee and knew right away I’d be limping for a week. It occurred to me, at last, to wonder what, exactly, the man had stolen, and if he was really worth catching. If I’d abandoned the chase at that moment, no one — not even Mr. Giordano — would’ve blamed me.

But no matter, I had to have him. The man stumbled into a backyard populated by placid hens under the supervision of an overworked bantam rooster. He (the man, not the rooster) turned his head just long enough to cast a wistful glance at the chicken coop, which might’ve offered him a hiding place, a chicken dinner, or both, had I not been thumping along behind him.

The next hurdle was only a low stone wall. He cleared it with a nimble leap, as if he did that sort of thing every day, and he probably did. I tossed one leg over and knocked a few stones loose with the other, but by then I was only five feet behind and saw victory ahead.

It was my great good fortune that the next garden held no chickens or any other sort of hindrance, only a generous expanse of lawn fringed by an inviting bed of chrysanthemums that gave me the soft landing spot I required.

“Oooof” was all he could say when I took him by the collar and tossed him down. I landed on top of him, which was just as well, because his shirt tore when I grabbed him and he might’ve slipped right out of it and vanished, had I not thrown myself on him.

I didn’t say a thing at first, because I’d given that last sprint all I had and wouldn’t have lasted a minute more. It took us both a short while to recover ourselves. No one was at home in the house whose garden we’d just trampled: otherwise, the sight of a rather substantially sized woman sprawled atop a slender shop-thief certainly would’ve brought the entire family out.

Once we were sitting upright, and I had a firm grip on the thief’s arm, we sized each other up for the first time. I found myself in possession of a tired-looking factory man, with the bloodshot eyes and glazed aspect of a drunkard.

The thief, for his part, didn’t seem particularly surprised to have been caught by a tall lady in a battered gray hat. The business of thievery leads to all sorts of surprises: one must be prepared for novelties. He tried half-heartedly to shrug me off and muttered something in what I took to be Polish. When I refused to let go, he allowed himself to be dragged to his feet. The papery orange petals of the chrysanthemums adhered to us, making us look as though we’d been showered in confetti. I didn’t bother to brush them off. The man hadn’t yet been handcuffed and was likely to be slippery.

“Let’s see what you stole,” I proposed. When he only looked at me dejectedly, I yanked open his jacket and found within it a long and slender salami (not the salsicciotto, mind you — those were kept behind the counter under Mr. Giordano’s watchful eye — but the cheap type that hung in the window and were easy to snatch.) He’d also lifted a loaf of bread, now flattened, and a bottle of the yellow Italian spirits that Mr. Giordano sold as a curative.

It wasn’t much of a haul, considering the trouble he put me through. I hated to throw a man in jail for stealing his lunch and bore some faint hope that I might return him to the shopkeeper and negotiate a truce.

“What’s your name?” I asked (sternly, one had to be stern).

He spat on the ground, which was every habitual criminal’s idea of how to ignore a question put to him by the law.

“Well, you made an awful lot of trouble.” I slipped the handcuffs from my belt and bound his wrists behind his back. “Try to work up a convincing apology before we get there.”

The man seemed to take my meaning and perhaps had some idea that I might be trying to help him, as much as any officer could. He had a resignation about him that suggested he’d done all this before. He walked limply alongside me, with his head down. For a man who gave such a spirited chase, he was as soft as a bundle of rags under my grip.

I retrieved my handbag at the edge of the fence and in a few minutes we were back at the shop. Mr. Giordano was sitting outside on an overturned barrel with the anticipation of a man waiting along a parade route. When we rounded the corner, he jumped up, beaming, and clapped his hands together. He was very pleasant-looking: old Italian men always are. His eyes gleamed, his cheeks were ruddy, and he grinned with unabashed delight at the prospect of a good story to tell over the dinner table that night.

Then came the words I’d been hoping not to hear.

“He took from me before! He steal anything I have. Egg, butter, shoe, soap, tin plate, button.” Mr. Giordano ticked the items off with his stubby fingers.

It made for quite a list, but I didn’t doubt it. The shop was overfull of small merchandise, easy to pocket.

“He stole needful things, then,” I offered, hoping to play to his sympathies.

“Needful! I only sell needful things! Look down his pants. Black shoes for little girl.”

It hardly need be said that I had no wish to look down his pants and was grateful to the thief for sparing us both the indignity. He appeared well-versed in the universal language of accusative shopkeepers, and shook his trousers as vigorously as he could considering that both his wrists were cuffed together. It was enough to make the shoes — tiny darling shoes of a sort rarely seen in Hackensack — fall from his trousers.

The shopkeeper snatched them up triumphantly, and rummaged through the man’s pockets for the rest of his stolen goods. He looked disgusted over the condition of the loaf of bread, but set the salami carefully aside for resale and tucked the bottle of liquor into his apron.

Then he poked at my badge, which happens more often than one might think. People seem to feel they have a right to put their fingers all over a deputy’s star, as if they own it.

“Sheriff?” he asked. “Sheriff Heath? Go tell him. He knows this one.” Then he pushed his finger into the thief’s chest. I had to step between them before all this poking escalated to fisticuffs.

With the likelihood of a peaceful settlement ever more remote, I said, “Mr. Giordano, are you quite sure this is the man who stole from you before? Couldn’t it have been someone else? These thieves move awfully fast and it’s hard to get a good look at them.”

Mr. Giordano stuck his chin out defiantly. “No. It is him. Go to his house. Look for tin plates with painted roses. Look for sewing box with Giordano label. My wife!”

The effrontery of the theft of Mrs. Giordano’s sewing kit was too much for even the man who did it, for he, too, turned shamefacedly away.

“He take money, too, but you won’t find that,” the shopkeeper said. “All gone.”

That changed things. Money made it a more serious crime.

“Have you reported him to the police?” I asked.

Mr. Giordano nodded vigorously. “I report, I report, I report. Ask the sheriff.”

What could I do, then, but to take him to jail? I turned out the man’s shirt pockets for good measure and found a package of handkerchiefs with the Giordano ribbon still attached. If he had anything else tucked away, it would fall to the male guards to find it.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Giordano, and this man is sorry too,” I offered. The thief didn’t respond to a firm shake of the arm, so I tapped him under the chin and made him raise his eyes.

“Zorry,” the thief said.

Mr. Giordano spat on the sidewalk. “Poles.”

Excerpted from Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart. Copyright © 2018 by Amy Stewart. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved

These YA Romance Novels Will Make You Believe In Love

Some might say that the very existence of the category “YA romance novels” is redundant. Don’t all YA novels fall under the category of romance? After all, romantic elements figure heavily into most YA novels. Even while barely surviving the extremely violent dystopia of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen has time to ponder a love triangle.

And that makes sense. The teen years are when many people experience a whole new set of feelings for the first time. It would be like eating pizza, after years of having cheese and bread separately. You’d be like, wow — pizza is all I want to talk about. Why are people talking about taxes, when they could be talking about pizza? Why would I read presidential biographies, when I could read about pizza? Yes, that is what love is like when you’re a teenager.

But it would false to proclaim all YA books were romances. Some books, like the ones in this round-up, are more concerned with love than others (No matter what anyone says, The Hunger Games is not a romance novel). These books will plunge you into the big, exploratory questions of the teen years, and make you a more empathetic adult in the process. Relive what it feels like to be 16 — you know you kind of want to.

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sanya Menon (2017)

Dimple Shah knows what she wants out of her life. The problem is, her parents also know what they want out of her life: A proper match with a good Indian boy. Dimple heads to a summer program about app development (goodbye, summer camp), and ends up meeting the guy they chose for her — Rishi Patel. Weirdest of all, she ends up liking him. Will Dimple be able to satisfy her parents, and her self?

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (2018)

Alice is the kind of person I would be best friends with. Her summer plans consist of TV marathons, working at the library, and reading. And definitely not thinking about her ex-girlfriend, who just broke up with her after Alice came out as asexual. And then, the unexpected happens: She develops feelings for her coworker, Takumi.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)

Eleanor & Park is one of the most universally beloved love stories to come out in the YA genre in recent years. The year is 1986. The place: Omaha, Nebraska. Eleanor Douglas is the new girl, and brings a whiff of chaos everywhere she goes. Park Sheridan, on the other hand, has learned to make himself as invisible as possible. Park and Eleanor’s love story will make you remember that heady, no-holds-barred experience with first love.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)

You can find a precise record of Lara Jean Song Covey’s heart in a box she keeps under her bed. Lara Jean has a habit of writing letters to the boys she’s loved, and stores them in her special, secret box. When Lara Jean’s older sister, Margot, goes away to Scotland, Lara Jean feels unhinged. She misses her sister – but also has a crush on the boy her sister left behind. Worst of all, someone steals her box, and starts doing what Lara Jean had never intended: Mailing the letters to the recipients.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (2017)

Over the course of her 17 years, Molly Peskin-Suso has racked up a whopping 26 unrequited crushes. Her twin sister, Cassie, has the opposite experience — she’s tumbled head first into a thrilling romance with a girl named Mina. Cassie introduces Molly to a boy named Will, who’s shaping up to be Crush Number 27. But Molly finds herself falling for her coworker, a Tolkien nerd – and that might not be unrequited at all.

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (2002)

Growing up, I would put down whatever book I was reading when a new Sarah Dessen novel came out, and immediately switch to that one. She’s the queen of YA romance (or my queen). In This Lullaby, one of Dessen’s first novels, a recent high-school grad named Remy has her cynical, rough exterior melted by an aspiring rockstar named Dexter. But their romance is spoiled by a looming end date — Remy’s headed far away for college in the spring. This Lullaby showcases Dessen’s ability to create compelling, three-dimensional characters whose interactions you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Every Day by David Levithan (2012)

Every Day is a romance with an underlying thesis – you should love people for who they are on the inside. Gooey, I know. But Levithan packages the message in a truly unique conceit, and so the book works. A, the narrator in Every Day wakes up each morning in a different body. A has access to their memories, and can pretend to live like the person. It’s an empty existence — until A wakes up as a man named Justin, and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. Every day, and in every different body, A finds Rhiannon. They love each others souls, people.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (2013)

You might not think that JFK Airport would be the ideal spot for love at first sight, but this book will prove you wrong. Hadley Sullivan just missed her flight and is grumpily waiting to travel to London for her father’s wedding to a total stranger. It’s in the JFK waiting room that she sees the dashing British college student Oliver, who’s on the same flight – in her row, to be exact. The book cleverly explores the magic ingredient of so many romance novels: timing.

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How to Write a Book in 100 Days

Let’s start with the obvious: You don’t know how to write a book. I’ve written seven books, and I don’t really know how to write a book either. I have a process that works, sure, but with writing, as with many things in life, it’s always when you think you know what you’re doing that you get into trouble.

So let’s just admit right now, you don’t know how to write a book, and definitely not in 100 days, and that’s okay. There, don’t you feel better?

How to Write a Book in 100 Days.

There’s this one moment I think about all the time. I had just finished work—I had this horrible desk job at the time—and as I was getting ready to go home, I felt this urge come over me to become a writer. I had felt like I wanted to become a writer before, for years actually, but in that moment, it was all-consuming. Have you ever felt like that before?

And so, instead of going home, I got out a blank piece of paper, and I stared at it. I stared at that blank piece of paper for a really long time. Because I was looking for a book. If only I could come up with the perfect idea, if only I could write a book, then I’d finally feel like a writer.

But I couldn’t think of anything, or at least nothing worthy, and after staring at that blank piece of paper for an hour with nothing, I gave up. In that moment, I felt like I was further from my goal to become a writer than I ever had be. I was so discouraged.

I was discouraged because I didn’t know how to write a book.

Honestly, I might still be there today if I hadn’t had a few lucky breaks and several mentors to teach me the process of how to write a book.

Are you ready to finish your book in 100 days? Join the 100 Day Book program.

13 Writers Who Finished Their Books in 100 Days

You might say you’re not able write a book in 100 days. You might worry that you’re not able to write a book at all. But I don’t believe that. I honestly believe that everyone can write a book, and I’m not just saying that. I believe it because I’ve done it.

In fact I wrote my first book in fewer than 100 days. I wrote my latest book in just sixty-three days.

I’m not alone, either. I’ve worked with hundreds of other writers to write their books, too. Here are just a few:

Fall 2017 Cohort

These writers are just a few who finished their books in our Fall semester of the 100 Day Book program.

Stella Moreux had been “marinating” on an idea for her “southern fried” fantasy novel for more than three years, but it wasn’t until she signed up for the 100 Day Book program that she seriously started writing it. “I won’t mince words when I say this was hard,” Stella says in her post about the writing process. “However, I would not trade this experience for anything. I survived and finished! The 100 Day Book Program is a challenge but worth it!”

Jodi Elderton had written short stories, but never a novel, and with almost two jobs and young kids, she worried she never would. But she says, “This program made it doable, if you stick with it.” By the end, she finished her novel and said to her writing community, “We made it!” Read Jodi’s full story here.

Rita Harris had an incredibly hard year. After committing to writing her novel, she says she had a marriage breakdown, sold her house and moved, and then had a health scare. Any one of those things could have derailed her writing process, but she kept going, motivated by the writing team she had surrounded herself with and the accountability she agreed to. Despite everything, she finished her book, “something which I doubt I would have had even without the life challenges I faced during the course of my writing if I had not enrolled in the program.” Read her story of determination here.

Karin Weiss‘s novel, A Roaring Deep Within, had been languishing half-finished for years. When she began the process, she thought it would be easy, mostly rewriting, but the process proved much more difficult than expected. What saved her was the writing community in the 100 Day Book program. “I found there a ‘writer’s community,’” she says, “that was available night and day that gave me support and motivation to keep going when my energy dragged, or when I felt discouraged at a tough point in my writing.” Read more about how Karin finally finished her novel-in-progress here.

Spring 2017 Cohort

These writers are just a few who finished their books in our Spring semester of the 100 Day Book program.

Sef Churchill decided to write her book in 100 days “on an impulse one Thursday night.” She followed our process, and by Sunday had committed to an idea. How did it go? “Now I have a book,” she says, “a book which before that first Sunday, I had not even dreamed of.” Check out the 10 lessons she learned about the book writing process.

Ella J. Smyth wrote two of her Romance novels (two novels!) in a little over a 100 days. She talks about her experience, and the power of accountability, here.

Nathan Salley set aside one day a week to write his book, and in that restricted amount of time he was able to finish his book in less than 100 days. You can read about Nathan’s experience (and his next steps into publishing) here.

When Margherita Crystal Lotus told me her sci-fi/fantasy mashup novel was going to be over 100,000 words, and that she was going to do it in 100 days, I had a few doubts she would be able to finish it in time. But she did finish in time, a few days early in fact. And now she’s about to publish the finished book. You can read more about her novel The Color Game here.

Kira Swanson rewrote her novel, which she finished in NaNoWriMo, expanding it from a 70,000-word first draft into a 100,000-word second draft. She recently pitched it to agents and had five of them ask to see the finished manuscript. You can read more about her novel revision experience here.

100 Day Book Challenge Performance

Kira Swanson’s goals and accountability helped her rewrite her novel in 100 days.

Sandra Whitten was feeling lost and unprepared in the midst of her first book. But after she signed up for our course, she began writing every day for the first time and finally finished her book. You can read more about Sandra’s experience here.

Fran Benfield said that before she signed up for our program, she was “drowning in a sea of words” (I can relate to that feeling!). But she did finish, and found her voice through the process. You can read about how she wrote her memoir here.

Uma Eachempati had been wanting to write about her father’s experience as a prisoner of war during World War II for years. She finally finished it in August, writing it in less than 100 days!

Doug Smith told me he had been thinking about his idea for a novel, Phoenix Searching, “for more years than I care to admit to.” By following our process, he finally finished his novel in May! “What I thought was a long shot,” he says, “turned out to be totally doable.”

These writers have finished their books in less than 100 days, and the reality is you can too. You just need to have the right process.

How to Write a Book in 100 Days: 5 Steps

What did these writers do differently? How do you actually write a book in 100 days? There are five steps:

1. Commit to an idea.

Having an idea is easy. Committing to an idea isn’t, especially if you’re like most writers I know and have dozens of them!

The first step to writing a book is to commit to executing—no matter how you feel about your writing during the process, no matter how many new ideas you come up with in the meantime, no matter what other important things come up. You have to commit to finishing no matter what.

2.  Create a plan.

I’ve found that the people who have planned are much more likely to finish their books. A plan doesn’t have to look like a detailed outline, though, so if you’re not into plotting, that’s okay.

Here are a few things your plan should include:

  • Word count. How long will your book be? (Here’s a word count cheat sheet.) Divide that by how many days you have to write: e.g. there are about 71 weekdays in 100 days.
  • Intention. Where will you write each day? How long will you write each day? Visualize yourself writing there for that long.
  • Publishing and Marketing process. Not because you need to know that now, but because by thinking about it and visualizing it, you improve your chances of actually getting there.

If you think through each step of your book, from your initial idea through the writing process to the publication and marketing of your book, you’ll be much more prepared when the writing goes wrong (because it will).

3. Get a team.

Most people think they can write a book on their own. Most people think they don’t need support or encouragement or accountability to write a book. And that’s why most people fail to finish their books.

That was me. I used to think that I could do it own my own. Honestly, I thought I had no choice but to do it on my own. And I failed again and again and again.

Don’t be most people. The great writers throughout history wrote in the midst of a community of other writers. You need a community, too.

A team might look like:

  • A writer’s group
  • A writing course or class
  • An editor or mentor

When you get stuck, as you inevitably will, it’s your team who will help you get unstuck. Don’t start writing your book without one.

4. Write badly every day.

Your first draft will not be perfect. Far from it. You may not be able to stand how bad your writing is. Your sentences might come out as deformed monsters. Your story or logic might go off on strange tangents. You may feel like everything you write is stupid, shallow, and boring.

Write anyway.

It always starts out like this. Writing is iterative. Your second draft will be better than your first. And your fifth draft will be better than your second.

Write badly all the way to the end. You can fix it later.

5. Get accountability.

I had been writing my latest book for two years, two unproductive years of feeling bad about myself all the time for not writing. This was my seventh book. I should have known how to write a book by now. I didn’t.

It took two writing friends calling me out (see step 3) for me to finally realize I needed to take drastic measures.

And so I wrote a check for $1,000 to the presidential candidate I disliked the most (this was during the 2016 election), and gave it to a friend with orders to send the check if I missed my deadline. I’ve never been more focused in my life, and I finished my book in sixty-three days.

Pretty good accountability, right? Most writers need deadlines and accountability to stay focused and do the hard work of writing.

You Can Try to Do This on Your Own, But You Probably Won’t

Have you ever tried to write a book and failed? I have. Many many times over. My biggest mistake was trying to do it alone.

Honestly, it wasn’t until I hired a coach and found a writing mentor that I finally finished my first book.

If you want to write a book, I would love to help you. Right now, for a limited time, you can join the 100 Day Book program. Over the course of 100 days, I’ll guide you through the writing process, and by the end of the 100 days, you’ll have a finished book.

So many writers have finished their books in this program (including the writers above), and so can you. If you want to join the program and finish your book in 100 days like the writers above, you can sign up here.

Have you finished writing a book? What was the most important thing that enabled you to finish? Let us know in the comments!

PRACTICE

Have a book idea? Commit to finishing it, no matter what. Let us know in the comments what your book idea is and publicly commit to finishing it.

Happy writing!

The post How to Write a Book in 100 Days appeared first on The Write Practice.

Twitter Fiction Turns a Fashion Show into Dante’s Inferno for the Modern Age

This Twitter Fiction Turns a Fashion Show into Dante’s Inferno for the Modern Age

Ever wonder what a runway collection looks like in the Bad Place? Wonder no more

It’s exactly like this, except fashion

You may remember artist and Twitter fabulist Jared Pechacek from his dystopian fashion show story. This week, he turned another couture collection (this one’s Gucci) into a deathless piece of literature—this time, a series of linked vignettes about poetic justice in the afterlife for a parade of modern sins.

Perhaps you are familiar with Dante’s Inferno, in which the 14th-century poet describes his trip through Hell, being introduced to the eternal and oh-so-apropos sufferings of various types of miscreant. Well, if you read about the Hypocrites in the Inferno and thought “hmm, what about gilded leaden robes, but make it fashion,” this is the allegory for you.

This Twitter Thread About a Fashion Show is the Best Dystopian Novel We’ve Read in Ages


Twitter Fiction Turns a Fashion Show into Dante’s Inferno for the Modern Age was originally published in Electric Literature on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Leo Tolstoy Makes a List of the 50+ Books That Influenced Him Most (1891)

War and PeaceAnna KareninaThe Death of Ivan Ilyich many of us have felt the influence, to the good or the ill of our own reading and writing, of Leo Tolstoy. But whose influence did Leo Tolstoy feel the most? As luck would have it, we can give you chapter and verse on this, since the novelist drew up just such a list in 1891, which would have put him at age 63.

A Russian publisher had asked 2,000 professors, scholars, artists, and men of letters, public figures, and other luminaries to name the books important to them, and Tolstoy responded with this list divided into five ages of man, with their actual degree of influence (“enormous,” “v. great,” or merely “great”) noted.

It comes as something of a rarity, up to now only available transcribed in a post at Northampton, Massachusetts’ Valley Advocate:

WORKS WHICH MADE AN IMPRESSION

Childhood to the age of 14 or so

The story of Joseph from the Bible – Enormous

Tales from The Thousand and One Nights: the 40 Thieves, Prince Qam-al-Zaman – Great

The Little Black Hen by Pogorelsky – V. great

Russian byliny: Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets, Alyosha Popovich. Folk Tales – Enormous

Puskin’s poems: Napoleon – Great

Age 14 to 20

Matthew’s Gospel: Sermon on the Mount – Enormous

Sterne’s Sentimental Journey – V. great

Rousseau Confessions – Enormous

Emile – Enormous

Nouvelle Héloise – V. great

Pushkin’s Yevgeny Onegin – V. great

Schiller’s Die Räuber – V. great

Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect – Great

“Viy” [a story by Gogol] – Enormous

Dead Souls – V. great

Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches – V. great

Druzhinin’s Polinka Sachs – V. great

Grigorovich’s The Hapless Anton – V. great

Dickens’ David Copperfield – Enormous

Lermontov’s A Hero for our Time, Taman – V. great

Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico – Great

Age 20 to 35

Goethe. Hermann and Dorothea – V. great

Victor Hugo. Notre Dame de Paris – V. great

Tyutchev’s poems – Great

Koltsov’s poems – Great

The Odyssey and The Iliad (read in Russian) – Great

Fet’s poems – Great

Plato’s Phaedo and Symposium (in Cousin’s translation) – Great

Age 35 to 50

The Odyssey and The Iliad (in Greek) – V. great

The byliny – V. great

Victor Hugo. Les Misérables – Enormous

Xenophon’s Anabasis – V. great

Mrs. [Henry] Wood. Novels – Great

George Eliot. Novels – Great

Trollope, Novels – Great

Age 50 to 63

All the Gospels in Greek – Enormous

Book of Genesis (in Hebrew) – V. great

Henry George. Progress and Poverty – V. great

[Theodore] Parker. Discourse on religious subject – Great

[Frederick William] Robertson’s sermons – Great

Feuerbach (I forget the title; work on Christianity) [“The Essence of Christianity”] – Great

Pascal’s Pensées – Enormous

Epictetus – Enormous

Confucius and Mencius – V. great

On the Buddha. Well-known Frenchman (I forget) [“Lalita Vistara”] – Enormous

Lao-Tzu. Julien [S. Julien, French translator] – Enormous

The writer at the Valley Advocate, a Tolstoy aficionado, came across the list by sheer happenstance. “On my way to work, I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk,” they write: a biography of Tolstoy with “something cooler inside”: a “yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping” from 1978 containing the full list as Tolstoy wrote it. “Gold,” in other words, “for this wannabe Tolstoy scholar.” If you, too count yourself among the ranks of wannabe Tolstoy scholars — or indeed credentialed Tolstoy scholars — you’ll no doubt find more than a few intriguing selections here. And if you simply admire Tolstoy, well, get to reading: learn not how to make the same things your idols made, I often say, but to think how they thought. Not that any of us have time to write War and Peace these days anyway, though with luck, we do still have time to read it — along with The Thousand and One NightsDavid CopperfieldThe Odyssey, and so on. Many of these works you can find in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from Audible.com? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared on our site in July, 2014.

Related Content:

Rare Recording: Leo Tolstoy Reads From His Last Major Work in Four Languages, 1909

Why Should We Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (and Finish It)? A TED-Ed Animation Makes the Case

Vintage Footage of Leo Tolstoy: Video Captures the Great Novelist During His Final Days

The Complete Works of Leo Tolstoy Online: New Archive Will Present 90 Volumes for Free (in Russian)

Leo Tolstoy’s Family Recipe for Macaroni and Cheese

Tolstoy and Gandhi Exchange Letters: Two Thinkers’ Quest for Gentleness, Humility & Love (1909)

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Leo Tolstoy Makes a List of the 50+ Books That Influenced Him Most (1891) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

Thomas Pierce’s Haunting and Transcendent Spin on Fictional Afterlives

Image by Dylan Collette, via Wikimedia Commons

In the Talking Heads song “Heaven,” David Byrne memorably described the afterlife in question as “a place where nothing/ Nothing ever happens.” This is probably why the number of memorable novels set in some sort of paradisiacal afterlife are not exactly numerous – especially not in comparison with those set in its hellish opposite. Dante Alighieri may have covered all of his bases by setting volumes of The Divine Comedy in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, but most writers since then have opted for the latter two options.

It’s not hard to see why the appeal of this structure causes more writers (and more storytellers in general) to lean in that direction. Telling the story of a good person in a perfect paradise doesn’t leave a lot of space for conflict, and that’s what drives most narratives. There are certainly exceptions: Joshua Cohen’s novel A Heaven of Others, for instance, which uses concepts of heaven to explore questions of faith, intolerance, extremism, and identity. And some stories have memorably riffed on the idea of an afterlife that doesn’t really conform to religious notions of what one can be. The television show “The Good Place” is one example; Kevin Brockmeier’s novel The Brief History of the Dead, set in a city in which the deceased remain for as long as they’re remembered by the living, is another.

Some writers have preferred a science-fictional spin on the afterlife, a place where the consciousness can go when the body has died, but where some sort of technology (rather than a divine or metaphysical figure) is responsible for maintaining order. Iain M. Banks’s novel Surface Detail uses this concept to memorable effect, and television shows like “Black Mirror” and “Doctor Who” have also explored the notion of an afterlife rooted in technology rather than metaphysics.

The new novel by Thomas Pierce is titled The Afterlives, and as the presence of a plural suggests, the novel is an exploration of a number of possible riffs on life after death. The novel opens in the aftermath of narrator Jim Byrd’s death – at least in the clinical sense. His heart stops; he’s soon revived, and a technological device is placed in his heart to ensure that it functions normally. (The novel is set in a very near future, with slight advances in technology in a few areas key to the plot.) Jim’s own experience leads him towards a number of different plot threads that each, in their own way, ruminate on questions of life after death and where (if anywhere) our consciousness might end up.

There’s a subplot involving a location in a local business that seems to be haunted: people have reported strange sightings there, and Jim’s father experiences a bizarre sensation that appears to be paranormal in nature. Jim begins attending services at a local church, whose speakers include a scientist obsessed with quantifying the idea of an afterlife. A man with the ability to channel the dead makes a brief and memorable appearance later in the novel. And there’s Jim’s own brush with death, which sometimes prompts him to wonder if everything he’s experiencing is actually a hallucination in his last moments of life.

Narratively speaking, Jim’s experiences follow a winding path, encompassing love, loss, and the quest for something greater. But Pierce’s utilization of so many seemingly conflicting viewpoints on life after death makes for a intriguing story: any one of these could have sustained an intriguing book, but all of them in one place gives a sense of the novel as a sort of panel discussion, evoking the lectures at Jim’s church, where experts from a variety of intellectual traditions engage one another in heated banter, sometimes finding common ground and sometimes contradicting one another on a fundamental level.

Pierce establishes a complex dynamic as he spins this tale, and a second narrative, about the history of the seemingly haunted structure that sets much of the plot into motion, makes for an interesting counterpoint to Jim’s search for answers. It’s a paradoxical work, elusive and comprehensive; it both stresses the potential for answers to some of the biggest questions we as humans ask and retains a sense of mystery.

The result, as befits a novel with mysterious and spectral presences lurking in the background, is decidedly haunting, but also offers the potential for transcendence. That seems just about right.

The post Thomas Pierce’s Haunting and Transcendent Spin on Fictional Afterlives appeared first on Signature Reads.

An Evolutionary Anatomy of Affect: Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio on How and Why We Feel What We Feel

“How and what we create culturally and how we react to cultural phenomena depend on the tricks of our imperfect memories as manipulated by feelings.”


An Evolutionary Anatomy of Affect: Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio on How and Why We Feel What We Feel

“A purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity,” William James wrote in his pioneering 1884 theory of how our bodies affect our feelings. In the century-some since, breakthroughs in neurology, psychobiology, and neuroscience have contributed leaps of layered (though still incomplete) understanding of the relationship between the physical body and our emotional experience. That tessellated relationship is what neuroscientist Antonio Damasio examines in The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (public library) — a title inspired by the disorienting fact that several billion years ago, single-cell organisms began exhibiting behaviors strikingly analogous to certain human social behaviors and 100 million years ago insects developed interactions, instruments, and cooperative strategies that we might call cultural. That such sociocultural behaviors long predate the development of the human brain casts new light on the ancient mind-body problem and offers a radical revision of how we understand mind, feeling, consciousness, and the construction of cultures.

Two decades after his landmark exploration of how the relationship between the body and the mind shapes our conscious experience, Damasio draws a visionary link between biology and social science in a fascinating investigation of homeostasis — the delicate balance that underpins our physical existence, ensures our survival, and defines our flourishing. At the heart of his inquiry is his lifelong interest in the nature of human affect — why we feel what we feel, how we use emotions to construct selfhood, what makes our intentions and our feelings so frequently contradictory, how the body and the mind conspire in the inception of emotional reality. What emerges is not an arsenal of certitudes and answers but a celebration of curiosity and a reminder that intelligent, informed speculation is how we expand the territory of knowledge by moving the boundary of the knowable further into the unknown.

One of Salvador Dalí’s illustrations for the essays of Montaigne

Feelings, Damasio argues, are the unheralded germinators of human culture:

Human beings have distinguished themselves from all other beings by creating a spectacular collection of objects, practices, and ideas, collectively known as cultures. The collection includes the arts, philosophical inquiry, moral systems and religious beliefs, justice, governance, economic institutions, and technology and science.

[…]

Language, sociality, knowledge, and reason are the inventors and executors of these complicated processes. But feelings get to motivate them and stay on to check the results… Cultural activity began and remains deeply embedded in feeling. The favorable and unfavorable interplay of feeling and reason must be acknowledged if we are to understand the conflicts and contradictions of the human condition.

Only by understanding the nature and origin of feelings, Damasio notes, can we begin to understand the astonishing array of potentialities which human nature holds — our noblest and basest tendencies, our most generative and most destructive behaviors, and the myriad ways in which our multitudes are in constant interplay and frequent contradiction with one another. Observing that no such understanding can be complete unless it is traced back to the origin of life itself, long predating human beings, he writes:

In the history of life, events did not comply with the conventional notions that we humans have formed for how to build the beautiful instrument I like to call a cultural mind.

Damasio examines the nature of feelings and the origin of cultures through the lens of homeostasis:

Feelings are the mental expressions of homeostasis, while homeostasis, acting under the cover of feeling, is the functional thread that links early life-forms to the extraordinary partnership of bodies and nervous systems. That partnership is responsible for the emergence of conscious, feeling minds that are, in turn, responsible for what is most distinctive about humanity: cultures and civilizations….

Connecting cultures to feeling and homeostasis strengthens their links to nature and deepens the humanization of the cultural process. Feelings and creative cultural minds were assembled by a long process in which genetic selection guided by homeostasis played a prominent role. Connecting cultures to feelings, homeostasis, and genetics counters the growing detachment of cultural ideas, practices, and objects from the process of life.

Every time science has revised the human animal’s place in the order of things — not at the center of the universe, as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo proved nearly at the cost of their lives; not at the center of “Creation,” as Darwin demonstrated against a formidable tide of dogma — humans have reacted with hostile defensiveness to the perception of their diminished status. Damasio offers a necessary counterpoint to this reflexive tendency as he traces the origin of feelings — a faculty long presumed to be singularly human — to far simpler and older organisms:

Discovering the roots of human cultures in nonhuman biology does not diminish the exceptional status of humans at all. The exceptional status of each human being derives from the unique significance of suffering and flourishing in the context of our remembrances of the past and of the memories we have constructed of the future we anticipate.

Among the curious phenomena Damasio examines is the tendency to revise past experiences in hindsight, amplifying their positive aspects in memory beyond the magnitude of the actual lived experience — a kind of “affectively positive reshaping of remembrances,” to which some people are more susceptible than others. He considers the importance of this phenomenon as it relates to our anticipation of the future, as individuals and as cultures:

What one hopes for and how one faces the life ahead depend on how the past has been lived, not only in objective, factually verifiable terms, but also in the experience or reconstruction of the objective data in one’s remembrances. Recollection is at the mercy of all that makes us unique individuals. The styles of our personalities in numerous aspects have to do with typical cognitive and affective modes, the balance of individual experiences in affective terms, cultural identities, achievements, luck.

How and what we create culturally and how we react to cultural phenomena depend on the tricks of our imperfect memories as manipulated by feelings.

Art by Oliver Jeffers from The Heart and the Bottle, a tender illustrated parable of what happens when we deny our difficult emotions

This world of affect exists as a parallel reality to the physical world through which we move our bodies, and yet it too arises from the physical body and defines the “qualia” at the heart of our conscious experience. In mapping its terrain, Damasio offers a taxonomy of affect that illuminates the crucial difference between emotions and feelings:

The aspect of mind that dominates our existence, or so it seems, concerns the world around us, actual or recalled from memory, with its objects and events, human and not, as represented by myriad images of every sensory stripe, often translated in verbal languages and structured in narratives. And yet, a remarkable yet, there is a parallel mental world that accompanies all those images, often so subtle that it does not demand any attention for itself but occasionally so significant that it alters the course of the dominant part of the mind, sometimes arrestingly so. That is the parallel world of affect, a world in which we find feelings traveling alongside the usually more salient images of our minds. The immediate causes of feelings include (a) the background flow of life processes in our organisms, which are experienced as spontaneous or homeostatic feelings; (b) the emotive responses triggered by processing myriad sensory stimuli such as tastes, smells, tactile, auditory, and visual stimuli, the experience of which is one of the sources of qualia; and (c) the emotive responses resulting from engaging drives (such as hunger or thirst) or motivations (such as lust and play) or emotions, in the more conventional sense of the term, which are action programs activated by confrontation with numerous and sometimes complex situations; examples of emotions include joy, sadness, fear, anger, envy, jealousy, contempt, compassion, and admiration. The emotive responses described under (b) and (c) generate provoked feelings rather than the spontaneous variety that arises from the “unaffected” homeostatic flow.

Damasio draws on the immense evolutionary and informational value of feelings to refute the notion that they are a mere adornment of consciousness:

Feelings accompany the unfolding of life in our organisms, whatever one perceives, learns, remembers, imagines, reasons, judges, decides, plans, or mentally creates. Regarding feelings as occasional visitors to the mind or as caused only by the typical emotions does not do justice to the ubiquity and functional importance of the phenomenon.

Most every image in the main procession we call mind, from the moment the item enters a mental spotlight of attention until it leaves, has a feeling by its side. Images are so desperate for affective company that even the images that constitute a prominent feeling can be accompanied by other feelings, a bit like the harmonics of a sound or the circles that form once a pebble hits the water surface. There is no being, in the proper sense of the term, without a spontaneous mental experience of life, a feeling of existence. The ground zero of being corresponds to a deceptively continuous and endless feeling state, a more or less intense mental choir underscoring everything else mental… The complete absence of feelings would spell a suspension of being, but even a less radical removal of feeling would compromise human nature.

Without feelings, we wouldn’t be able to respond to beauty — which may be our mightiest conduit of connection with the living world — and therefore wouldn’t be able to recognize and classify things as beautiful; we wouldn’t distinguish between pleasurable and painful experiences; we wouldn’t have ideals that motivate us to reach beyond ourselves; we wouldn’t register the rewarding gratification of making a discovery or exercising generosity or creating something new, and therefore wouldn’t be impelled to do those things. Echoing philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s assertion that feelings are an indelible part of our reasoning, Damasio writes:

The conventional contrast between affect and reason comes from a narrow conception of emotions and feelings as largely negative and capable of undermining facts and reasoning. In reality, emotions and feelings come in multiple flavors, and only a few are disruptive. Most emotions and feelings are essential to power the intellectual and creative process… The neglect of affect impoverishes the description of human nature. No satisfactory account of the human cultural mind is possible without factoring in affect.

And yet feelings are not some mental abstraction that operates above and beyond our creaturely being — feelings are rooted in the elemental machinery of the body, literally arising from the gut. Damasio writes:

The circumstances, actual or recalled from memory, that can cause feelings are infinite. By contrast, the list of elementary contents of feelings is restricted, confined to only one class of object: the living organism of their owner, by which I mean components of the body itself and their current state. But let us dig deeper in this idea, and note that the reference to the organism is dominated by one sector of the body: the old interior world of the viscera that are located in the abdomen, thorax, and thick of the skin, along with the attendant chemical processes. The contents of feelings that dominate our conscious mind correspond largely to the ongoing actions of viscera, for example, the degree of contraction or relaxation of the smooth muscles that form the walls of tubular organs such as the trachea, bronchi, and gut, as well as countless blood vessels in the skin and visceral cavities. Equally prominent among the contents is the state of the mucosae — think of your throat, dry, moist, or just plain sore, or of your esophagus or stomach when you eat too much or are famished. The typical content of our feelings is governed by the degree to which the operations of the viscera listed above are smooth and uncomplicated or else labored and erratic. To make matters more complex, all of these varied organ states are the result of the action of chemical molecules — circulating in the blood or arising in nerve terminals distributed throughout the viscera — for example, cortisol, serotonin, dopamine, endogenous opioids, oxytocin. Some of these potions and elixirs are so powerful that their results are instantaneous. Last, the degree of tension or relaxation of the voluntary muscles (which… are part of the newer interior world of the body frame) also contributes to the content of feelings. Examples include the patterns of muscular activation of the face. They are so closely associated with certain emotional states that their deployment in our faces can rapidly conjure up feelings such as joy and surprise. We do not need to look in the mirror to know that we are experiencing such states.

In sum, feelings are experiences of certain aspects of the state of life within an organism. Those experiences are not mere decoration. They accomplish something extraordinary: a moment-to-moment report on the state of life in the interior of an organism.

Illustration by Marianne Dubuc from The Lion and the Bird

The complex interplay of the activity of our endocrine glands, the dilation and contraction of our blood vessels and tubular organs, the undulation of our respiratory and circadian rhythms, provokes a mental representation of certain feeling states, so that we may call delight the sparkling state of relaxation untroubled by negative stress. Damasio writes:

The “provocation” of emotive responses to countless image components or to entire narratives is one of the most central and incessant aspects of our mental lives.

And yet as physically grounded as these emotive responses are, they are not fixed, not hard-wired beyond rewiring. Rather, they are malleable in the hands of intention, chance, and environment:

Certain brain systems, planted there by the grace of natural selection with the help of our genes and with more or fewer jitters from the environments of the womb and infanthood. [But] all manner of environmental factors can modify the emotive deployment as we develop. It turns out that the machinery of our affect is educable, to a certain extent, and that a good part of what we call civilization occurs through the education of that machinery in a conducive environment of home, school, and culture. In a curious way, what one calls temperament — the more or less harmonious manner with which we react to the shocks and jolts of life, in the day to day — is the result of that long process of education as it interacts with the basics of emotional reactivity that one is given as a result of all the biological factors at play during our development: — gene endowment, varied developmental factors pre- and postnatal, luck of the draw. One thing is certain, however. The machinery of affect is responsible for generating emotive responses and, as a result, for influencing behaviors that, one could have innocently thought, would be under the sole control of the most knowledgeable and discerning components of our minds. Drives, motivations, and emotions often have something to add or subtract to decisions one would have expected to be purely rational.

But although “human emotions are recognizable pieces of a standard repertoire” which stretches all the way back to single-cell organisms and which evolved in order to produce the possibility of sociality and cooperation between organisms, something does make human feelings unique — something philosopher Simone Weil touched on in her poignant meditation on how to make use of our suffering. Damasio writes:

Any image that enters the mind is entitled to an emotive response. That even applies to the images called feelings themselves. The state of being in pain, of feeling pain, for example, can become enriched by a new layer of processing — a secondary feeling, as it were — prompted by varied thoughts with which we react to the basic situation. The depth of this layered feeling state is probably a hallmark of human minds. It is the sort of process likely to undergird what we call suffering.

Illustration by Olivier Tallec from Blob by Joy Sorman

This process, to be sure, is also decidedly physical, but neither purely bodily nor purely neural. With an eye to the corporeal construction and consequence of a feeling like sadness — which mobilizes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland to release a cascade of molecules, reducing homeostasis and inflicting physical damage on organs like muscles and blood vessels — Damasio refutes Descartes:

Mind and brain influence the body proper just as much as the body proper can influence the brain and the mind. They are merely two aspects of the very same being.

[…]

If there is no distance between body and brain, if body and brain interact and form an organismic single unit, then feeling is not a perception of the body state in the conventional sense of the term. Here the duality of subject-object, of perceiver-perceived, breaks down. Relative to this part of the process, there is unity instead. Feeling is the mental aspect of that unity.

Reinstating feelings to their rightful cultural stature, Damasio writes:

It is not possible to talk about thinking, intelligence, and creativity in any meaningful way without factoring in feelings.

In the remainder of the thoroughly fascinating The Strange Order of Things, Damasio goes on to examine the relationship between feeling and intellect, how advances in medicine and artificial intelligence transfigure the problem of immortality, the origin of mind along the arrow of evolution, the dialogue between image-making and memory in how we construct and experience emotion, and how feelings illuminate various other aspects of the evolution of culture and consciousness. Complement it with pioneering immunologist Esther Sternberg on how our emotions affect our susceptibility to burnout and disease, PTSD researcher Bessel van der Kolk on how our minds and our bodies converge in the healing of emotional trauma, and philosopher Martha Nussbaum on the intelligence of emotions.


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3 Reasons Self-Publishers Should Crowdfund Their Book

With the explosion of the self-publishing industry and the popularity of platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, crowdfunding has become an increasingly viable option for authors.

It only takes a cursory search to find encouraging case studies, like how one author raised $12,755 in 30 days to get you excited about the possibilities.

The excitement is justified, but crowdfunding a book takes a tremendous commitment of time and is a grueling journey for many authors. However, for those who navigate the process, crowdfunding can provide value that stretches far deeper than just earning upfront dollars to finance your book.

Below are the top three reasons why authors should consider crowdfunding.

1. Crowdfunding helps defray publishing costs

First time authors often underestimate the amount of money that it takes to get their book to market.

In order to bring a polished book to market, an author must plan to invest in at least the following services:

  • Cover design
  • Professional editing
  • Interior/exterior formatting

These costs can vary widely depending on the level of service you choose.

For instance, a professional cover design will range anywhere from $100 – $1,500 depending if you choose a provider that repurposes stock images or designs a completely original cover from scratch.

Beyond that, editing will generally range between $.02 and $.10 per word. This means that a 100,000 word novel could set you back anywhere from $2,000 – $10,000.

If you are planning on using print on-demand services (such as CreateSpace) or only releasing an ebook, the upfront costs might stop there. But, if you want to do your own print run of physical copies, you’ll have to invest another few thousand dollars to get books in hand.

What’s so appealing about crowdfunding is that it allows you to raise money before you ever incur these costs. Prior to crowdfunding, these costs might have presented an insurmountable challenge to authors.

Now, authors have the ability to bring a professional quality book to market without worrying about the ability to float the expenses.

crowdfund book2. Crowdfunding makes selling your book easier

Crowdfunding presents a unique opportunity for authors to sell  books and build an audience.

Successful crowdfunding campaigns do more than just get fans excited about your book. They get fans excited about the book’s journey. With crowdfunding, your backers are more than just customers. Backers become part of the reason that your book exists, and this creates a level of excitement that simply doesn’t occur after your book is printed.

Further, crowdfunding campaigns inherently impose a sense of urgency.

One of the most difficult objections to overcome when selling your book is fighting people’s urge to say “I’ll buy it later.” The time limit of crowdfunding campaigns (generally 30 days) helps you push people beyond this hurdle.

Crowdfunding can put authors in a position to sell more books and build an audience faster than they ever could otherwise. The blend of urgency and excitement that crowdfunding provides is a crucial element in turning interested fans into paying customers.

3. It can possibly help you get a publisher

There are a number of crowdfunding platforms for authors to choose from. They range from the mega platforms (like Kickstarter and Indiegogo) to more specialized platforms that specifically target authors. This is where authors can leverage their campaign to potentially get a publisher.

For instance some platforms such as Inkshares and Unbound actually act as publishing houses themselves. If you run your campaign on their platform, there’s a chance that they will pick you up and bring your book to market.

Additionally, there are platforms such as Publishizer that will act as your virtual agent. Based on the success of your campaign they will query your book to prospective publishers on your behalf.

However, authors should be aware that many of the “publishers” that offer authors a deal are actually vanity presses. These companies offer to print your book in exchange for a service fee and provide limited (if any) support on marketing and distribution.

Depending on your goals, this might still be the right decision, but authors should investigate further before signing on.

These three factors create a compelling case for authors to launch their book via crowdfunding.

Savvy authors can utilize crowdfunding as a tool to not only offset the costs of bringing their book to market, but also to accelerate sales and their ability to build an audience. If you are willing to put in the work, crowdfunding can be your ticket to bringing a professional book to market without paying the price.

Have you considered crowdfunding your book? Let us know in the comments below!

The post 3 Reasons Self-Publishers Should Crowdfund Their Book appeared first on The Write Life.

Reader Review: “The Wife Between Us”

by Steph (Charlottesville): I want to avoid as much plot as possible because I don’t want to ruin a single thing. There are some fantastic twisty bits to The Wife Between Us that genuinely run you over like a semi truck and I don’t want to offer any hints. I did have to go back and reread some portions to try and suss out exactly what was going on. You’ll need to use your brain a bit for this one.

Vanessa, ex-wife to Richard, is down on her luck and living in a small apartment with her aunt. Post divorce, she’s gone from housewife to retail hell at Saks. She’s an addict, alcohol being her drug of choice. I think that was one major thing that bothered me about The Wife Between Us. It’s very en vogue these days to use alcohol issues as the perfect foil to create an unreliable narrator. It’s been done several times and ways and every time I’m left feeling a little cold.

Nellie, Richard’s soon to be new wife, is the anti-Vanessa. She’s bright, teaches pre-school and is a genuinely happy and refreshing interval every other chapter. Where Vanessa is dark and brooding, Nellie is light and joyful… until Richard’s ex starts to turn up. Or so it seems.

Initially I gave The Wife Between Us three stars. Then I thought about the book for a few days, always a good sign, and bumped it to 3.5. And then I sat down to review it today and thought “what the heck” and put it up to four. The fact that I’m still thinking about it even two weeks later means it has stuck with me, and with as many books as I read that’s quite an accomplishment.

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