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Watch "The Naked Writer" Write, Live (But Not in the Nude)

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Most of us who write for a living recoil at the thought of other people (outsiders!) watching us write, live, as it happens -- the masses would see not only our terrible typers typos, but also have a way to judge our ultra-slow progress. Most of us don't write in a gallery with a crowd watching. So it's surprising that author Silvia Hartmann has invited readers to watch her write her novel The Dragon Lords live on Google Docs. Yes, Hartmann has asked the world to watch every keystroke as it lands, every plot as it's laid down and later stripped out, and every lordly dragon as it is revealed. She started yesterday, on September 12th, and calls herself "The Naked Writer," although of course that is metaphorical, at least so far (one never knows what could end up in a Google Doc).

As I write this, the Google Doc is overloaded with viewers, despite the fact that Hartmann is not currently writing anything -- according to the end of the document (and her Facebook page), she's in a series of interviews. It will be interesting to see how she balances media attention with writing time, as this publicity stunt-slash-literary experiment picks up steam.

Nick StarFields & Self-Help Books

Hartmann has written previous fantasy novels under the pseudonym Nick StarFields, and has written a bunch of self-help books under her own name, sometimes styling herself as "Dr. Silvia Hartmann" (she apparently holds a "doctorate in ENERGY"). In addition to the many books on offer, she also operates sites like MindMillion.com, which offers to "Clear Blocks to Wealth, Prosperity, & Abundance" (one of its main features is a heavily search-engine-optimized page offering money-related clip art). This is a writer who knows how to sell stuff online.

But Hartmann's quirky side-businesses aside, she is in fact writing a novel online -- and is interacting with fans as she does. According to her website, fans proposed possible titles as the project began, and Hartmann selected "The Dragon Lords" from among those crowdsourced options. So far, the book is about a mysterious man who shows up, nude, on a woman's doorstep. The first sentence reads: "It was not every day that Mrs Delhany found a naked man in the driveway." The first section is devoted to a fairly pedestrian exploration of who this man might be, and so is the second -- though in the latest chapter, we start getting into the dragon-related material. It's not exactly Shakespeare, but it's worth a click, especially given what Hartmann said to The Guardian: "[The book] may well be a little sexy." Sexy dragons? Sexy dragon lords is my bet.

How to Follow Along at Home

If you want to watch the project unfold, check out Hartmann's Naked Writer Project site -- it has links to all the relevant stuff. She plans to publish the book on November 26, so the writing process will necessarily be pretty swift. For more on Hartmann and previous similar projects by other authors, check out Daily Dot's story on the project.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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