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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Won't You Answer My Question (F.A.Q.)

Question: Why didn't you answer my question? Why won't you answer my question? How do I ensure that you answer my question? 

Short answer: I might still be getting to it, or it may not have made the cut. If you want to be in like Flynn, make it short and sweet and something I haven't answered already.

Long answer: Back in the day I kind of had to beg for questions. People would mention something in passing during a face-to-face conversation and I would write it up as if they had been sent in to be answered on the blog. I would pause random conversations and say "Do you mind if I use that question in my blog." I would mine the comment sections on FB posts for anything I could respond to as if it had been sent in as a question.

These days I'm having the opposite problem. I can write one or two answers a week, and I get a couple of questions on a slow day. I'm sure even with our Math For Liberal Arts classes, we writers can figure out how this one goes.

So first of all, your question might take a while to answer. I have a queue, but I also triage a bit too based on what seems like it fits my mood. It's not every day I'm ready to apply poststructural, postmodernist deconstruction to Ren and Stimpy, and I have to be in a mood to really fire back at some of the hate mail with panache.

And some questions may never get answered

Here's a helpful little flowchart for you if you're hoping to get your question answered on the blog.

1) Play me like an instrument. Message me. We connect and eventually meet for crepes. You seem to like me but not be starstruck or weird about it. This is, of course, a ruse. You tell me (all lies) how much you like MST3K, Netflix binges, and threesomes. I am smitten. We go on a few more dates. Things get serious. You pretend to fall for me. We move in together and you discover how little I really make from writing, but stick with me for love. (It's all part of the plan.) We get married and have a couple of kids even though I worry I'm too old to start a family. I never notice the sinister spider-like look when our second child is born. Then, one day, you turn to me and say "Hey, if I asked you a question will you answer it on your blog THIS WEEK."

Absolutely yes!

Of course it'll be terrible when I realize this was all a long con to jump the Writing About Writing questions queue, and my life is a total sham, but that is totally one way to get your question answered.

Let's go on to number two though, just in case this isn't what you had in mind.

2) First check to see if your question has been answered before.  There's The Best of The Mailbox, The Not-So-Best of the Mailbox, and Rage Against the Brecheen. You should also check the FREQUENTLY asked questions both for the blog and for My Facebook Page.

I know that's a lot to slog through, but it's pretty well labeled.

I may occasionally answer a question again (or even more likely, revise my old answer a bit) if it's been a while or it could use some rehashing.

In a perfect world, I would have enough time to make sure everyone who asks a redundant question gets a reply with the URL to the old answer, but depending on how deep I am down the rabbit hole at any given time, I may not be able to do that.

3) Keep it short

I'm less likely to post a question that reads like a college essay. I know we're all writers and it takes three pages to write a question others would do in five words, but consider brevity the soul of wit when it comes to what I'll put up on the blog.

4) Keep an eye out for questions LIKE yours
I get a lot of questions, but many of them are similar or almost identical. I may put up a different version or a composite version of your question, but it is still basically YOUR question.

5) Send it to my email
I will answer questions I get through the "Private Message" function of Facebook, but I get a lot of those every day and there is no way to mark them as important. So your question is likely to get pushed down and fall out of sight and out of mind. It will be MUCH more likely to be answered if you drop it in my email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) where I can give it a star and come back to it when I have time.

Friday, September 22, 2017

25 Things to Let Go if you Want to Write Creatively for Money (Part 2)

Return to Part 1

9- Your purple prose (at least for now)
I get it. You like the classics. You clutch Victorian literature to your breast and weep at the beauty of the prose. You dig the days when writers "could really write." You have a little shrine to Ambrose Bierce. And since the Jane Austen group you follow on FB has thousands of members, clearly there's a market for this stuff and obviously it's okay if you are a little anachronistic in your style, right?

*deep sigh*

I have some bad news. You're not going to like it.

No one is going to buy that Brontë shit today. (Okay, maybe like five people.) Not unless it's actually written by one of the sisters Brontë.

I'm sorry. I love you. I love that stuff too. My fuck, but those Victorians turn a phrase. And sometimes I pause after a sentence and just sigh. But today, no one is going to buy it. Today we have different conventions for how to make a sentence pop off the page using prosaic structure that leans on visceral adjectives and punchy verbs instead of lots of languid multi-claused complex sentences and linking verbs. Even daedal writers are not mannered or overwrought.

I could get into some pretty complicated reasons why we've drifted away from that prose. The postmodernism movement demanded a much different kind of voice, even for its omniscient narrators. Instead of vivid, unnuanced characters, we have the opposite. The assumptions reflected in Victorian language (and even the structure to a lesser degree) were incredibly sexist, and racist even while reflecting fierce moral polemics and an intense interest in the working class. You might as well write in gothic or dark romanticism. (Understand, you can explore these themes and make a mint, but not necessarily emulate the language). Today few readers will give the time and energy needed to parse the anachronistic language of something that isn't already a classic.

Basically we're about half a dozen major literary movements (from realism through existentialism to the emerging movement of the 21st century that is being called transrealism) past that type of writing. And while there is no one single way to write today, and you can still win a Pulitzer prize for literature while writing half your sentences with no subject, today it takes a practiced hand to learn when and where to slip in those buttery Victorian words and creme filled sentences that won't make the whole dish far too rich for a modern pallet.

Today that kind of prose won't make money.  You can write that way if you really want, of course (you can write ANY way you really want), but get ready to write for a small collection of friends and fans rather than for the sweet song of the Benjamins.


I didn't say THAT!
Image description: Framed text: "Talentless is the new talented."
10- The idea of some shit called talent 
Okay look....

There might be this thing called talent.

Maybe.

Love of wordplay. Linguistic aptitude. Sense of story. Memory for a massive vocabulary. Maybe some cocktail of attributes and proficiencies and things taught SO early (like a deep seated love of books, a strong work ethic, artistic ambition) that they can't really be added or extracted to or from a person's alloy by adulthood (even though they may have more to do with a typical white middle class upbringing) all adds up to something we look at and refer to as "talent."

But honestly, no one really knows what those things are, and we certainly don't know how much of them is nature vs. nurture. There isn't a thing we don't shuck off to "talent" that can't be learned, practiced, developed like an acquired taste, or essentially cultivated through hard work. Guidelines of writing can be learned. Discipline can be refined. Even creativity can be improved on like a muscle one flexes a few times a day.

While there may be something out there called "talent," there's virtually nothing it can do that can't be reproduced by hard work on a long enough timeline. And there's nothing it will give you that will matter more than hard work at the end of the day. 99.9% of the time, anything called talent is no more than tremendous effort and an almost obsessive dedication expended over enough time to set someone apart from their peers.

Certainly there are Shakespeares and Faulkners and Baldwins and Morrisons and Euripideses (Euripidii?) who all but one in a billion of us must spend our lives looking up to in awe. But for everybody else, counting on talent to do anything that hard work won't is a long wait for a train that never comes.

Talent (if it exists at all) will not save you. Get to work.

11- Working for exposure

Just repeat to yourself "Artists die of exposure."

Sometimes their characters die of exposure too.
Image description: Jack London's To Build a Fire
If you're in a joint venture with someone who also has no money to pay you, is a friend jump starting their own thing, you are taking on a project that will really force you to be a better writer, or a venue like Huffpo wants to publish a piece you've already written, take it case-by-case, but don't walk into a situation thinking it's okay for you not to get paid. That's exploitation, and the only reason we laugh at the idea of a plumber working for exposure but not a writer is because writers want so badly to be known and famous that they regularly allow themselves to be taken advantage of just for the hope that a little bit of "exposure" will move them along.

What folks are hoping for–that people will come to recognize their name, and perhaps even equate it with quality writing– will take years. (Honestly, the rep of a quality plumber would spread faster.) Not only will it take years, it will take years of doing exactly the writing they want to be doing–not the writing someone else wants them to be doing. Consider how many first time novelists you've taken a chance on because you recognize their name from Huffpo articles? No? Didn't think so.

In the meantime, you are making them money. Your efforts, unpaid, are lining their pockets. Of course they don't want to pay you–apparently they don't need to. And when you start displaying the sense of self worth that you deserve to be paid, you will be replaced. You are putting everything into their brand and not even getting so much as a McDonald's value meal out of the deal. And all you ever really do is reinforce the belief that people can hire artists without paying them, and that your time isn't actually worth any money.

I know it might seem a little less than epiphanic to say that you won't make money if you write for free, and your freelance rate doesn't have to be $100/hr or anything. But if you want to make money, don't do it for free.

Let me say that again: If you want to make money, don't do it for free.

12- A bunch of existential bullshit about not being good enough
Image description: Blue life-sized muppet
gazing out upon the ocean.

Look if I wanted to, I could make an entire listicle for every way you've decided to convince yourself you're not good enough. From comparing yourself to others (don't do that) to worrying that you're too old to have a career in writing (you're not) to the idea that you lack talent (the very idea of talent is suspect) to worrying that you have anything to say (you do).

Ego and overconfidence won't actually serve a writer who wants to make money, but here's a little secret for you: we all lie in bed at night, stare at the ceiling and think about this stuff. Even bestselling authors wonder if their best books are behind them and if they'll ever write again like in their halcyon days before the selling out started. I constantly question my own time management, worry about whether I should have walked away from a steady job to write, wonder if my fiction is going to be any good, fail to live up to my own nearly impossible expectations for output, and think I sure wrote more edgy stuff before my audience was so large and am I self censoring?

But the next day, when working writers sit down, they let go of that crap and do the work. They have these thoughts, give them space, and maybe even think about how to deal with them, but they don't let themselves be paralyzed with fear about it. It's like in a normal job where you might wonder if your boss likes you or if you're on their shitlist or if you should have gone into real estate. Fine, but you still have to go in and do your job if you want to get paid.

Let your existential questions have a seat at your table because you're not Zapp Brannigan, but if you want to make money writing, don't let them steer the conversation about where you'll be vacationing this year.

Existential whosit? That sounds like something people have who aren't me.
Image description: Zapp Brannigan

Image description.
"Spook Chasers" toy–an obvious knock-off
of Ghostbusters
13- That you will write the "next" anything
Are you a professional speed writer who specializes in get rich quick schemes by shady gurus who literally advise people to rewrite books, rip off their titles and mimic them as closely as possible and leech off their success? Do you make your living filing off the serial numbers from huge selling items like 50 Shades of Gray or Harry Potter and selling them under titles like 50 Shades of Desire or Harold Potts and the Hogsmeade Magician School? Do you want to be the literary equivalent of a knock off toy, attaching like a lamprey to the bottom of a successful author and hoping your presence isn't noticed, lest they take the time to swat you with a lawsuit? Is that what you're trying to accomplish? Is that the kind of writer you really want to be? Is that your dream?

No?

Then stop trying to chase trends or write the "next" anything. You don't have the chops for it.


(By the way if the answer to those questions is yes, please just go die in a fire.)

There's a time and a place to consider what sells, and it's not when you're sitting down to the blank page.

Wait a second Chrisaroo, this whole fucking list is about writers making money! Don't give me that artistic integrity shit now!

This isn't even about fucking artistic integrity. It's about getting it done. It might seem counterintuitive, at first, but unless you're literally trying to be the book equivalent of the Spook Chasers toy up above with the character, who is no doubt named Egads Spanglez, chasing trends like that is a fool's errand. I'm not saying you can't write something derivative (lord knows it all is, really). I'm not saying you can't try your own hand at a vampire novel. I'm not saying your wizard school is going to be hella dope compared to Hogwarts.

What I'm saying is that to make money creative writing, first you have to NOT make money creative writing. So you better love it for its own sake while the not-getting-paid part is going on.

There are a lot of ways to make money writing. Freelance. Content. Tech writing. Speech writing. Blogging. And yes even bullshit knock off books can be the source of a paycheck. And you can get your first payday minutes after you smithed some words depending on the person you've done the writing for. But the creative writing takes a long time to come back around, and if the writing you're doing is sucking your soul out your fingertips, you're never going to make it. You're never going to see that book you aren't really passionate about (but figured might sell) through the three drafts and seven revisions and years of love and toil that it's going to need.

You have to write what you believe in. Whether that's a blog with ridiculous characters or a book that you burn to read, the finish line is TOO. FUCKING. FAR. to try and wing it through something you don't wake up in the morning and look forward to writing.

Of course when you're a big, successful writer making money like woah, you might have to revisit this exact question when it comes to "selling out" (and Stephen King's sixty page Kindle commercial is perfect evidence of that), but on this side of the Rubicon, there's only one reason to write a book: you really, really want to write that book.


Image description: dirty fingernails
14- Your oh-so-clean fingernails
I can't really tell you what is going to happen in your paid creative writing career. Maybe you go self publishing. Maybe you're going to go small presses and personally walk copies of your book to local small bookstores to put on consignment. Maybe you go traditional, and you will tour bookstores and sit for hours behind a table and a stack of your books, watching people glance from you to them and back with a "Who's that?" look. Maybe you run a blog and a Facebook page and use those to promote yourself and ask for donations. Maybe you Kickstarter and digitally publish but are hoping to be noticed.

I can't see your path.

However, here is some prescience I can claim. I know what isn't going to happen. I know the path that you will never walk. You will never simply sequester yourself away in your writing space, hand your finished manuscripts to an agent, and let your paychecks roll in. That's not gonna happen.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

In one form or another you're going to have to promote yourself and basically nudge people to spend money on you. Even if you try to stay above it all in traditional publishing, you will have to fire an agent, negotiate for a better book deal, do a book tour as a contractual obligation, or renegotiate when your book deal is up for renewal. Hell even if you're a household name, you'll end up having to press junkets work with publicists and shit.

I know bourgeois concepts of "high art" (as done by the idle rich) promotes a sense that art shouldn't be sullied by money, and that any artist who doesn't want to starve to death in a freezing apartment with a mouth of missing and rotted teeth obviously didn't really love the art for its own sake. And that is just ten kinds of classist bullshit. Artists need to eat. We need to pay rent. We need insurance.

At some point, if you want to make money writing, you're going to have to give up the idea that your work will be so spectacular that it will just speak for itself and people will just throw money at you. At some point, you will have to hold your head high and walk all the people superciliously sneering at you for "making it all about money." At some point, you will have promote yourself.


Image description: snowflake (surely a special one)
15- Your snowflake belief that you are the one writer in the fucking universe who can ignore the process
You're going to have to read constantly if you want to be a writer. "Not me. I watch a lot of quality HBO shows and film. I have a good sense of pacing. I don't really like reading that much."

You really do need an agent if you go the traditional publishing route. "Not me. My shit is going to wow a publisher if I solicit directly."

You have to write every day or almost every day or at LEAST every weekday. "Not me. I only write when the inspiration hits. If I write every day, it feels like a chore. No, of course I haven't ever tried it for more than a few days–I just know."

If you do self publishing you really need to drop the money on a content editor. "Not me. My friends all say it's awesome. Just need some copyediting and I'm good to go."

Okay, but seriously you're never going to publish your Nanowrimo manuscript without a couple of rewrites and major revisions. "No, mine is really good. I need someone to look at the grammar, but it's basically good to go."

This is going to take years of practice to get good. "Not me. I have talent."

As special as people who think these things are, they're all going to have one thing in common: when you check back in on them in a couple of years, they still won't be getting paid for creative writing.

If you want to get paid, it's time to let go of this snowflake crap and assume that the zillion writers who came before you know what they are talking about. Chances are your creativity and discipline have pretty much the same relationship as everyone else's, your prose strength comes from reading linguistic descriptions just like everyone else, you are going to have to revise no matter how good you think it is, and when you stop trying to be a special snowflake and just get your ass to work, you're almost certainly going to figure out that you work just about the same way as everyone else who has ever rubbed words together to put food in their belly.


16- Your self-washing hand
I know a number of talented writers and the reason they can't get their shit out there is that they are greedy fucknoodles about how other people can help them.

One of my most favorite teachers was almost aggressive about asking for social media signal boosting, but never had a second to return the favor. Ever. To anyone. And surprise surprise, he does quite well getting his signal boosted by current students and young writers and basically a bunch of people he's just encountered who all pretty much know each other, but the folks who have been writing for a while–exactly the ones with the bigger, broader followings who could really point a lot of people his way–aren't in the mood to do so because he's got a reputation for demanding favors without reciprocity.

"Hey will you proliferate this post?" "Hey will you share this story?" "Hey will you pass my name on to your agent friend?" "I'm not going to do anything in return of course. Ever. But please help me to put myself out there for absolutely no mutual benefit."

The same thing happens if you try to read at a literary event without ever coming as a member of the audience.

The same thing happens if you try to get people to critique your work without offering to do any in return.

Pretty soon, no one will deal with you. And then your job gets a whole lot harder.

It's a variation on a theme in any industry where those who consider how people can help them without returning the favor quickly wind up using up all the good will around them. One hand washes the other. When you're Donald Trump refusing to pay contractors, there's always another one to take their place (and apparently an entire wing of US politics as well), but when you're a writer, you find out quite quickly that this business is far more small and inscestuous than anybody might realize at first blush.  And reputations matter.

If you're really, really good or already famous, it may not ever matter that you leave behind a trail of people's goodwills like squeezed out toothpaste tubes, but for most starting writers, it can make or break their initial low-paid years to start having doors closed because they were a greedy anal sphincter. If you want to make money, think about how you can pay or trade services for or just do the same in return for those you're hoping to get favors from.

Part 3 coming soon (next Friday at the latest)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creatives and Sleep (Personal and Meta Update)

Image description: Writer looking over edge of desk.
And being hella cute.
Personal Update

Note: Some days, are not my best. And sometimes I look at what I've written after EIGHT HOURS of sitting in front of the screen and it's pretty much crap. But sitting there and forcing out the words is what makes the words come back faster and gives me the discipline to slam dunk them on better days. So here's a double lesson. If you wonder how I keep punching out writing day after day and getting readers and making money, it's because days when I'm writing shit like this I don't give up. Because I know it'll get better faster (and I'll be more ready to make the most of it when it does) if I just keep showing up and establishing good writing habits.

But if you ever wondered if someone making money at this has a shitty day, HO...BOY YES!!!


So come join me in some crap about sleep if you want to see exactly what it's like when I'm off my game.


First a non-sequitur. Though I suppose it's more like a slight-sequitur.

I'm the kind of nerd who takes linguistic anthropology classes for fun. I didn't need it. I already had my elective. My segment two was in human sexuality. But it sounded wicked fascinating. Decisions like that are probably why I graduated with nearly a year's worth of credits more than I needed to, but I don't regret them.

You can tell a lot about a culture by studying their language and the concepts they have a LOT of words for. Here's something anglophones care about tremendously: time. We have TWELVE tenses. If you're coming over in three hours and by the time you get here I will have been studying for two hours without you, there's a tense for that! (It's called future perfect progressive.)  We have a tremendous lexicon of words that break down time precisely and by impression. We have thousands of metaphors for time.

And indeed, look at how carefully we are constantly watching our time. Arrive at 9. (9:01 and you'll be marked late.)  Work for eight hours. (One minute over and you will accrue overtime, which will make management angry.) If you're on salary, you might be less beholden to minutes and hours, but your paid time off, days on, floating holidays, vacation time all carefully measured. None of this is surprising given the English speaking world's emphasis on labor based capitalism, but it does lead to some interesting side effects for our artists.

We end up in a culture with a powerful emphasis on productivity and strong messages external and deeply internalized that our self worth can be measured literally by how much we produce. This production isn't always in the form of a job with a physical product, but can also be how "constructive" our so-called leisure time is. If you don't believe me, imagine two people of identical health and fitness. One plays video games any time they're not at work and the other is in a local soccer team. Which one has to deal with their mom telling them to go do something?

Are we in danger of getting some sort of point anytime soon.

Shut up evil italics voice.

Think about how busy everyone is all the time, and often it's not regrettably so. There's a certain measure of pride in how fast one can live, and how many things one can accomplish. Consider how (essentially) prideful many people are about how little sleep they tend to get and how much caffeine they require to be functional.  ("My mochachino has five shots of espresso!" And I'm going to slam this energy drink.) Many many people have a socially acceptable addiction to a mild stimulant in order to perpetually tax their body beyond its limits....often in the name of being "productive."

If you've been following along, you know I got a diagnosis of exhaustion a little while back. Technically, they're not 100% sure, but other than drugs (which I wasn't on–prescribed or otherwise) it's probably the best explanation for some sleep walking that happened. I watched Danny Rand for hours and spelled a bunch of words wrong while I was asleep but moving around, so obviously I want to get that fixed as soon as possible.

We're all going to die of natural causes because you decided to free flow what was on your mind this morning when you were staring at the ceiling wondering what kind of erotica to m–

SHUT UP! I'm getting there.

Step one in a lot of cases of too much/not enough of something basic is to start keeping a journal to really become aware of how much/little one is getting over time, so I have a sleep journal that I've been doing for a little over a month. My own results are not that important.

I'll say. Were you going to get to the part where this has to do with writing soon?

Seriously shut up! I'm working on it. You beastly voice. I hate you.

Anyway, my results were that I tend to run a little behind on sleep for days at a time and then crash in some nap-filled display of what is paradoxically, but accurately, described as epic slothfulness. I've been working on getting to bed sooner (since I can't reliably sleep in with roommate's dogs) and trying to even things out, but also I'm still rubber stamping any requests my body makes for sleep no matter how weird they might feel or inconvenient the timing (within reason, of course). And it's evening out, but still has peaks and valleys.

And here's what I notice.

Oh joy! Have we reached the point?

Please shut up. Please! I'm begging you.

My writing is easier, smoother, and more creative when I've had sleep. During the times of "famine," I'm leaning more on discipline, habit, and going through perfunctory motions to get work done. The prose itself is more wooden and less inspired. (Yes, like today if you're wondering.) After a good night or a nap, ideas pop in unbidden and I draw exciting connections between different things.

The results of a gillion studies about creativity and sleep can sometimes fail to penetrate our cultural shields about the need to be ever busy and "productive," but it is important for writers, and really all creatives (and REALLY all humans) to get themselves enough sleep. While insomniac artists have more undirected time, and can feel like they are getting a lot done, study after study belies that they are genuinely more creative rather than just more productive because they're awake. In fact, these same studies, over and over, link creative, original thought to REM sleep.

Also, it is only after deep and satisfying sleep, and waking without an alarm clock, that we can fully engage in the waking creativity known as hypnagogia (which mimics REM sleep in terms of how the brain is processing information). Sometimes we forget that we're human and all our little human functions usually fail quite predictably without proper amounts of our basic needs. And we cruise right past all those studies and crack open a five hour energy drink, wash it down with a Rockstar and think "I'm going to get some shit done today!"

But maybe one lone blogger keeping a sleep journal and saying, "Yep. It works JUST like they said it would" might better sway you. (Anecdotal evidence is a bit of an achilles heel with us.)

Humans need sleep. Creatives need sleep. (I would say they need sleep more than most, but I don't really think that's true. I think most humans are stuck in an uncreative rut of stressing their body to its limits in the name of "being productive." I also think the results of not getting enough sleep become apparent to creatives faster.) I know some lives can't have a moment taken away from them without falling over like the last move in a Jenga game, but most of us can find something we probably are doing that isn't quite as important as a good night's sleep.




Meta

We are WAY behind on what I call "businessish" posts. Things like cleaning up tabs, revisions of old posts, best of from the last months but also plot posts and such. I know some of this is because our current poll has sucked up every third day's post, but I'm going to make a concerted attempt to catch up on that stuff soon. I mention it because it might need to replace some of our regularly scheduled posts (like Thursday's mailbox posts) for a few weeks. I'll rotate through what gets cannibalized, but it's not just your average jazz hands post. I really do need to get my shit together here.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shocking Shift

I know this will shock most of you, but I'm behind on writing and I'll do a post this weekend to make up for that.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Not So Fast Quarterfinals)

What is the best book or series written in the last 25 years? 

Today we have a very interesting poll, and it is actually NOT the first round of the quarterfinals. We have some housecleaning to do on that master list, and a few titles that looked like they were gone are about to get a second chance.

If you've been following along through our SEVEN ROUNDS of initial elimination, you know that this poll overwhelmed me. There were WAY too many nominations and almost all of them got someone to give them a second and suddenly we had like 60+ titles and it's hard to make a list because some people are very good about checking to see if their choice has already been nominated and others are not. And the comments were a mess. And....*hitching sobs*

I'm crying you a river here. Be impressed. 

It's my own fault. That "one nomination one second gets you to the poll" thing worked when I had fifteen regular readers, but now that these polls regularly get a few thousand page views each and are promoted on my Facebook page, where there close to 2/3 of a million, I really need to think of either smaller categories or the need for more than one "second" to make the poll (probably both).

The point is, I was doing a lot of copy and paste and not a lot of meticulous checking and we ended up with some redundancies on our master list.  (A couple of you noticed, and thank you for that.) Also it turns out Name of the Wind and The Kingkiller Chronicles are the same series. (It's on the list for years, but babies and loved ones with cancer and break ups and moves kind of make you take a pass on 700 page per book series.) I got all that cleaned up...I hope.

However, once I cleaned things up, we were about four titles short for a proper quarterfinal. So here's how this one works. I've gone back through all the initial round polls and pulled out the first cut off title (usually the fifth place title, but it was the sixth in a couple of places for various reasons).  All those books are on this poll.

You get three votes. The top four results will get a second chance in the quarterfinals.

There is no way to "rank" votes, so use as few as you can bare.

The poll itself is at the bottom left, under the "About The Author." 

For those of you on mobile devices, I'm told that if you scroll ALLLLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom, you can see the poll.

Note: If you see a title that is "breaking the rules" (older than 25 years–published before 1992) please let me know. I did not have time to cross check all of them.