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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

Why There Will Always Be People Who Don’t Understand Your Creative Live

By Lucy Mitchell


This can be a tough one to accept.

If you are a creative person there will always be people in your life who will never: . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

BlondeWriteMore blog

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

Why Writer Friends Are Like Lighthouses The Closer You Get To Publication

By Lucy Mitchell


I am likening the process of getting closer to publishing my book to sailing a small boat across a violent sea at night.

It doesn’t matter which route you take to get to publication. From the tweets and blog posts I read from other writers and authors, we all end up in the same little publication boat; in total darkness, weary and desperately clinging onto something, a life dream of being an author perhaps, with no idea where we are going to end up and cursing ourselves for even thinking about setting off on a journey like this.

So, here we all are, alone in our boat, being tossed about by . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Blonde Write More’s blog

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

5 ways to fuel inspiration

By Lorraine Ambers

In this week’s post, I’ll be sharing the top 5 ways I find inspiration for my flash fiction, novels and short stories. So let’s dive straight in.

1. Music is . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Lorraine Ambers’ blog

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

Job Description – Romance Writer

By Lucy Mitchell

As a romance writer I thought it would be fun to create a mini job description.

Vacancy – Romance Writer

Do you enjoy writing about the first flushes of love and want to excite millions of romance readers around the world?

About The Role . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

BlondeWriteMore blog

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Here’s an interesting idea to get your brain pumping. Medical ethicist Art Caplan recently told CNN that an invitro fertilization procedure using DNA from three different people may be able to prevent illnesses passed from mother to child via the mitochondria, diseases like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems, or mitochondrial disorders that can lead to heart or liver problems.

The technology, called oocyt modification, involves scooping out potentially mutated mitochondrial DNA from a woman’s egg and replacing it with the DNA of an unaffected donor woman. By doing this the hope is that the transmission of inherited mitochondrial disease can be prevented. Once the DNA is swapped, the egg is fertilized in the lab with the father’s sperm and implanted back in the mother to be carried to term.

Caplan believes that this procedure, often nicknamed three-parent IVF, will be useful in preventing diseases that can be passed down from generation to generation and would be ethical as long as it proves to be safe. We’re all for preventing diseases, but messing with our DNA could potentially be disastrous, in our humble opinion.

The writer in us started crafting scenarios the minute we read this, not the least of which has to do with what one could do using this technology for the opposite of good. Before we go any further in this idea exercise, we must emphasize that any scenarios we list here are purely from our imaginations, and not something that the creators of this procedure have planned. We are not saying we believe this is right or wrong, and we are not inviting comments or opinions about the ethicalness of this subject. This is merely an exercise in how to take an idea or news clip and turn it upside down to create a fiction story.

So, without any further disclaimers, here are some interesting concepts we came up with from reading this article.

  • Stepford Children, based on the Stepford Wives movie concept; perfect mothers and housekeepers who bent to every whim of their husbands. You remember that creepy story from the 60s? Ooh, what could go horribly wrong?
  • The unintentional creation of a new disease from the combining of three parental sets of DNA. Think Zombie War here or I am Legend, but different.
  • A realignment of the basic family concept. Lots of room for conflict there. It takes two females and one male for this procedure. If you changed the basic family unit, the poor child would have two moms nagging him to clean his room, find a wife, get a job. You get the idea. And we won’t even mention the polygamous adult relationships in this complication.
  • When you can create the perfect child, what happens to the rest of the children who didn’t get that chance to be created perfectly? Would there be a rag-tag population who live in a dystopian setting on the border of the perfect children and their perfect three parent families in their perfect world?

These are only four possible story scenarios we came up with using a controversial news clip as a jumping off point. We challenge you to go find your own interesting news article and come up with some new twists using the basic concept of the story. If this helped you see how to use the news to create a book idea, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Interested in learning more about three-parent babies? Check out these websites:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/making-babies-with-3-genetic-parents-gets-fda-hearing/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/26/health/ivf-mitochondria/

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Photo by Pennie Gibson

We’ve been watching Dancing With the Stars—The All Star Season for several weeks now. Our hometown  favorite Drew Lachey was kicked off early, in spite of the numerous votes we gave him. The show is coming down to the semi-finals and we are rooting for Apollo Ohno, Kelly Monaco, Shawn Johnson, Giles Marini, and Melissa Rycroft. They’re all so good it’s hard to choose a favorite. But this blog isn’t about who we want to win, but how the show is soooo like becoming a writer.

At the beginning of the season there was a segment where the stars told why they wanted to come back and put themselves through 10 weeks of grueling 8-hour day practices, risking injury, sore aching bodies, and possibly failure. We found their reasons interesting.

They came back because:

  • It’s fun
  • They want the challenge
  • They want to get the shiny mirror ball prize this time
  • They want their children /family to see them dance
  • They want to get redemption
  • They want to do it different and go forward this time
  • They fell in love with dancing

As we listened to all their reasons, we realized as writers we share some of the same desires the All-Star Cast members have. We, too, write because it’s fun. We enjoy the challenge of figuring out a plot, finding the story twist that will make our writing unique and memorable, creating characters readers love, or love to hate. We want that shiny prize—that book contract, the New York Bestsellers listing, the money! Sometimes we want to write to encourage our family, or leave a legacy for them. We keep writing because we want to get redemption—to have someone prove that we are worthy of our calling. We want to go forward in our writing—get better, learn the craft.

But most of all we keep writing, going back to that blank page, working through the writer’s block or writer’s avoidance, facing those rejections, because we LOVE to write. And, like Dancing with the Stars Cast, we just can’t stop. Nor would we ever want to.

So, fellow writers, keep on writing and dancing to your own tunes. The prize is within reach. We know that for certain.

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The  Writer’s Alphabet

© C. D. Hersh

Photo from Wikimedia

Every writer should know their ABCs. If you’re like me you might have to sing them to remember what comes after L or Q. Here’s a fresh look at the ABCs as they apply to the writing life.

A ffirmation-As writers we get a lot of rejection.  It helps if we have some affirmation.  So, the next time you get a good comment from a critique partner, an editor, or even your child who says “You’re a good writer, Mommy,” tuck it away in a special file.  Then when you feel like chucking the computer out the window and giving up on writing, pull out those affirmations and tell yourself, “ I can do this.  I am a Writer!”

B rainstorming-Brainstorm without putting checks on your imagination.  Don’t be afraid to think of the most outrageous ideas when you’re brainstorming.  “What if” may be the best tool a writer has to stimulate his imagination.

C reativity-Never let anyone say you don’t have creativity.  The very fact that you want to write shows you have creativity.  Just keep thinking about your story, asking “What if”, and letting all your skills and thoughts take you into the world where your characters live.  Eventually, you’ll find, or create, what you need.

D iscipline-Every writer needs it; most of us do not have it.  The discipline to sit down in front of the computer every day, even when you don’t feel like it, will get you through the rough parts of your stories.

E dit-ISSAC B. SINGER said, “The wastepaper basket is the writer’s best friend.”

Think of yourself as a writer first and an editor second.  Write, rewrite and rewrite some more.  Never, ever, send that first draft to an editor.

F odder-Everything you see and hear and everyone you meet is fodder for a writer.  Writers have great excuses for eavesdropping on the world.  Ideas, character sketches, names, plot twists-you name it and you can find inspiration for it among your family, friends and the guy sitting next to you in McDonalds. Don’t let them know what you’re up to, however.  If they recognize themselves in your next story they may never speak again when you’re around.

G rammar-Webster defines grammar as “a study of what is to be preferred and what is to be avoided in inflection and in syntax.”  When you present your manuscript make sure the grammar is correct.  Don’t depend solely on your computer grammar check; its suggestions are not always right.  Instead, invest in a good English or grammar handbook and use it.  The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual has a nice section on grammar and punctuation that I use all the time.  If you have trouble with grammar find a friend or an adult enrichment class that can help you brush up on your grammar.  You don’t have to be able to diagram a sentence, but you do have to be able to put it together correctly.  That goes for punctuation too.

H ope-Hope should spring eternal in the hearts of writers.  As long as you have something circulating among editors you should always have hope. Never give up, not even when you have enough rejection letters to wallpaper your office.

I deas-There are no bad ideas.  Even the worst idea can provide a springboard for something better.  Keep all your ideas in a file so you can pull them out whenever you have a dry spell.  You’ll be surprised what new, and better, ideas might spring from an idea you considered trashing.

J ournaling-Journaling is a great way to keep your writing flowing, especially on those days when you can’t, or don’t, get to the computer.  Write at night, in the morning, in the bathroom, or any place where you and your journal can go.  Put down your emotions, your thoughts, impressions, snatches of conversations, or visual images.  All these things can be story sparkers or sensory descriptions you might be able to use in some other writing.

K now How-Like every profession, writing is a job that takes skill.  You can’t be an electrician or a plumber without learning the ropes-the skills and the tricks of the trade.  That’s true in writing too.  To become a success as a writer you have to study your craft, learn the best way to write an article, a scene, a chapter, a book.  You have to know how to structure your plots and characters, and you have to become knowledgeable about the business.  Learn all you can about writing and the writing business so you can succeed.

L aughter-Keep a sense of humor about yourself and your writing.  There will be plenty of times that you will get your feelings hurt as a writer-someone won’t like your baby, a critique will rub you the wrong way, an editor might ask for umpteen revisions.  If you can face life, and writing, with humor you’ll be able to get through most anything-and even have some good story material in the process.

M arketing-If you want to sell, then know your market.  Don’t waste your time, and an editor’s time, by sending manuscripts that aren’t suitable for the publication.

N etworking-Do it!  Network with anyone in the writing business that you can.  Editors are besieged with unsolicited manuscripts.  Any time they can connect a face, organization, or conference to you, you are one step ahead of the game.  Take every opportunity to meet, talk with and mingle with editors.  Don’t forget networking with other writers too.  You can’t know all there is to know about the publishing world and what is going on.  Take advantage of any information other writers have to offer.  Getting published is not always about talent.  Sometimes it’s also about being in the right place, or submitting to the right place at the right time.

O rganization-If you can’t find the computer, your copious notes, or the paper and pencil under the clutter in your office, then you can’t write. The more organized you are the less time you’ll spend hunting and the more time you’ll have for writing.

P erspiration-Don’t wait for the Muse.  Writing is one-percent inspiration and 99-percent perspiration.  If you wait for inspiration, you might as well be taking a nap while you’re sitting in front of you computer.

Q uery Letter-Queries can be more intimidating and frustrating than writing the whole darn book.  I know plenty of writers who dread the “Query Letter.”  The query is an editor’s first glimpse of you and your story.  Consider it an important, but necessary, evil of your craft, and learn to conquer it.  The Writer’s Market has great examples of how to write a good query.

R eading-“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero

A writer who doesn’t read will soon find himself out of touch with the very world for which he is writing.  Read, read, and read everything that you can.  Fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, cookbooks, cereal boxes, dictionaries, children’s literature, and certainly read in whatever genre in which you want to write.

S olitude-The life of a writer is a solitary one. “Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of a writer.  He must be alone, uninterrupted and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” LAWRENCE CLARK POWELL  Learn when, and how, to shut the door and lock out the world.  Find the time and the place that works best for you.

T enacity-“ A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” RICHARD BACH

Dr. Seuss had his first book rejected 64 times and was ready to toss it in the trash.  A friend convinced him to try just one more publisher-the rest is history.  Seuss could have remained an amateur if he had given up.  Don’t give up.  You might miss your chance at a bestseller.

U niversality-Want to sell?  Then make sure your stories and articles have a universal appeal. There is nothing new under the sun, just a different way to tell it.  Stories with universal appeal never go out of style.

Vi rgin Reader-Every writer needs one of these.  We get so close to our “babies” that we can’t see their flaws.  But, believe me, an editor will.  So, find someone you trust to give you fair, constructive criticism-someone with a fresh set of eyes to look at your writing-and let them be a Virgin.

W rite-“Planning to write is not writing.  Outlining a book is not writing.  Researching is not writing.  Talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing.  Writing is writing.” E. L.  DOCTROW

‘Nuff said.

X ercise-(Yes, I know it’s not spelled that way) Writing takes a lot of mental power but doesn’t exercise the other body muscle groups (except the fingers).  So, to keep yourself healthy-and maybe even sneak in some writer avoidance time-take time to exercise.  You’ll come back to the keyboard refreshed and awake. A bonus-getting the endorphins revved can even kick your brain into gear and help you solve whatever writing problem you’ve been facing.

Ying and Yang—A writer needs balance, in his life and on the page. Too much time alone with the book isn’t a good thing. Neither are pages of narrative or back story with no dialogue or action. Find that happy medium in your life and your literary pursuits.

Z eal-“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.” GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

If a writer’s “dog’s life” isn’t what you want, then you had just as well close your notebook, break your pencil in half, and find something else to do with your life.  Zeal, passion and a love of your work will keep your writing fresh and alive.  If you don’t like what you are doing you probably will not succeed at it.

Do you have a letter you’re particularly good at or one that you suck at?

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photo from Microsoft Clip Art

May 3 is Paranormal Day, a day to talk about scary things like ghosts, vampires and other undead creatures that go bump in the night, and sometimes in broad daylight.

Where we live, in Southwestern Ohio, one of the most haunted cities in the area is Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s a sampling of some haunted spots in that fair city.

  • Music Hall, in downtown Cincinnati, built on top of a pauper’s grave, is rumored to be haunted and was selected as one of the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America.

Union Terminal
photo by Donald Hershberger

  • Union Terminal, or the Cincinnati Museum Center as it’s known now, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a security guard named Shirley, who was murdered there.
  • At the Cincinnati Art Museum a seven foot specter rises from a mummy sarcophagus.
  • Kings Island Amusement Park employees have reported sightings of a little girl in a period 1900s blue dress believed to come from the graveyard adjacent to the park.
  • Mother of Mercy High School has a nun, Sister Mary Carlos, who haunts the auditorium, which is named after her. The Sister interferes with performances unless she is asked for permission to use the space and is invited to the performance.
  • At the Cincinnati Zoo not all the animals are caged. A ghostly lioness prowls the park at night.

We haven’t seen any of these apparitions, and don’t plan on going ghost hunting to find them, but Catherine has lived in a few places her family believed to be haunted.

As a young girl she lived in an old house that had been subdivided into apartments, and her parents believed the apartment they lived in was haunted. Pictures and items would be moved to different places when they came home; a cousin saw a man standing at the foot of her bed one night; and when the neighbor’s children would call at the door for Catherine and her sister to come out and play, a man’s voice would answer saying, “They aren’t home.” Funny thing was, no one was home when kids came calling … except the ghost.

In another home where Catherine lived a murder had taken place years before. Her folks kept the scary information a secret from the children. While she lived in the house, Catherine had a recurring dream of a woman who appeared at her bedroom door and urged her to climb out the second story bedroom. Catherine would always awaken before she made it out the window. When the family moved, she mentioned her dream to her mother, who told her about the murdered woman. She had died at the top of the steps by the door to Catherine’s bedroom. Her mother believed the ghost of the woman was trying to kill Catherine and that if she had ever gone fully out the window she would have died. That dream, no matter how hard she tried to replicate it, has never occurred in any other home where Catherine has lived.

Westwood Town Hall
photo by Donald Hershberger

Catherine’s sister Carolyn lived in an apartment in the basement of Westwood Town Hall, in Cincinnati, Ohio, another reported hot spot for spooks. The town hall is reported to be haunted by the ghost of a former security guard who hung himself in the building after he was fired. Some resources say the ghost is known as Willy, others say his name is Wesley. There are many reports of stage sets, costumes and orderly things found in disarray. Water faucets turn on by themselves and locked doors are unlocked, lights turn off and on and children have reported seeing a man on the ground and in the building.

Carolyn and her husband were caretakers for the hall around 1971. “We had to clean the buildings,” Carolyn said, “and we would hear whispers around us.” Carolyn believes there is more than one ghost because of the multiple voices they heard. They would be in bed in their basement apartment of the town hall and could hear racket going on and what sounded like people bumping into the walls when they knew no one was there. “On one occasion we had to clean a room on the upper floor where a train group met. We could hear voices in the room and the door wouldn’t unlock. When we finally got the door open, there was no one inside.”

After Catherine’s sister learned the building was haunted she wouldn’t go into the main area by herself.

Can’t say that I blame her!

Now that I’ve thoroughly frightened myself by writing about all this spooky stuff at night, I think I’ll go double check the dead bolts, flip on all the lights, and look up some paranormal ghost busters … just in case.

Happy Haunting!

Have you ever had any spooky, paranormal encounters?

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Last week we blogged about our earliest writings. This week we’ll take a look at things that have led us into the paranormal genre.

Catherine’s mother loved good old-fashioned monster and horror movies. In fact, she got so scared watching a monster movie when she was pregnant with Catherine that she got goose bumps. Later, when Catherine developed what appeared to be permanent goose bumps on her arms, her mother said she had “marked” her by watching such a scary story during pregnancy. One could say, based on this story and the old wives’ tale her mother’s explanation came from, Catherine’s destiny to write about the paranormal developed in the womb. In reality, the steady diet of supernatural themed movies and television shows she viewed as a youngster had the biggest influence. Vampires, werewolves, things from outer space, Frankenstein, zombies and ghosts whetted her appetite for the paranormal and made her run like mad past the graveyard when she had to walk home in the dark, wear a cross at all times, and avoid going out alone on a full moon. Thanks Mom.

Her grandmother also contributed to Catherine’s taste for fantasy. Grandma’s favorite scary story, which she told to her grandchildren at nearly every visit, was about an old woman who accidentally dug up a monster’s big toe, while hoeing her potatoes, and ate it for dinner. (Why the toe was not attached to the monster is lost somewhere in Catherine’s memory, but the gist of the story remains.) The monster, naturally, was upset and haunted the woman every night, moaning, “I want my big toe.” The haunting drove the old lady crazy and the monster gobbled her up in revenge. Catherine also reread Mary Poppins and Grimms Fairytales, two of the books on Grandma’s shelves, every time she visited.

And of course, we can’t forget Walt Disney. His romanticized tales of fairy godmothers, men under curses who could only be released by true love’s kiss, and evil witches have primed children everywhere to love the paranormal. Catherine was no exception.

Aside from his science-fiction fantasy Tom Swift books, Donald’s other genre influences have been television shows like The Twilight Zone and comic books—a reading choice of many boys. His favorites included supernatural heroes like Superman, Flash Gordon, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, and the Justice League of America.  Lois Lane, with her unrequited love for Superman and inability to see the value of Clark Kent’s love, influenced his taste for romance. Donald also attributes his foray into the paranormal to Catherine. Having spent two-thirds of his life with her makes it hard to ignore what she’s interested in … and makes him a smart man for paying attention.

Can you attribute your love of the genre you write in or read to a childhood influence? If not, is there another instance you can point to that started you down a particular genre path?

Photo by Evgeni Dinev from freedigitalphotos.net   http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1256

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Holiday Romance by Charles Dickens—Fun, Fanciful and Fantastic

While surfing the Kindle bookstore for romance book freebies I came across a book by Charles Dickens entitled, Holiday Romance, which has been recently put into e-book format. Romance by Dickens? The title had my attention and I downloaded it.

I haven’t read much Dickens since high school where the obligatory Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield with its flowery language was enough to stifle any desire to read more. Oh, I enjoy A Christmas Carol and its many rewrites, but, as a general rule, I have no burning desire to drown myself in Dickens’ classic works. That all changed with the reading of the opening line in the second paragraph of the book.

“Nettie Ashford is my bride. We were married in the right-hand closet in the corner of the dancing-school, where first we met, with a ring (a green one) from Wilkingwater’s toy shop. I owed for it out of my pocket money.”1

He had me with that line. I wanted to know more about the closet romance between this couple. The subsequent quick reading of book did not disappoint me, not because it is a romance in the fashion of the genre today.

The book is written from the viewpoint of four children, ages six and a half to nine and has four parts. The first part, The Trial of William Tinkley, is an adventure in which the children marry one another. The Magic Fishbone is a fairy tale where a Victorian era Cinderella gets her prince and the promise of thirty-five children, seventeen boys and eighteen girls.  In Boldheart and the Latin Grammar Master the young seafaring pirate captain obtains permission to marry his love after proving his worth on the high seas. The fourth part, Mrs. Orange, is a domestic romance with role reversals of adults and children showcasing a frazzled child-mother who  decides to place her brood of adult-children, whom she dotes on but for whom her husband doesn’t care much about, in boarding school.

While there is a romantic element in the childish love stories, the book is a romance mostly in the literary sense of romanticism—a literary style that revolts against the aristocratic social and political norms of the day. In spite of (or maybe because of the social commentary in the book) and the easy flow of the language, I found this to be a delightfully funny children’s book that made me laugh out loud.

Holiday Romance is unique for several reasons.

  • Originally written as a four-part series for Our Young Folks, An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls, the book is Dickens’ only fictional work for children.
  • He is writing for children using their language and perspective.
  • Published in 1868, near the end of his life, it has also rarely been reprinted as a whole.
  • The use of fairy tales (which he opposed as a vehicle for promoting moral causes) is a primary literary vehicle for parts of the book.

So you ask, “What does Holiday Romance have to do with writing today?” It’s Dickens combination of realism and fantasy that strikes a chord with me. Dickens knew he was writing something off the wall when he penned Holiday Romance. In fact, he wrote to James Field in 1867 commenting about the implausibility of his work saying, “I hope the Americans will see the joke of Holiday Romance. The writing seems to me so like children’s that dull folks (on any side of any water) might rate it accordingly.” 2

For me, the humor and appeal of Holiday Romance lies in the fantastical element. I know children don’t get married in coat closets. Nor do they sail off on pirate ships, have fairy godmothers, or put their parents in boarding school. But those situations are fun, fanciful, and fantastic and that’s what makes this book work.

Likewise a paranormal story without the extraordinary elements of the supernatural would just be another story. Vampires, shape shifters, ghosts, things that go bump in the night are core to the genre. We all know these things don’t exist, but we are willing to suspend belief and enter into the writer’s world and let them take us for a ride. When a writer skillfully sets these elements in a realism that makes the reader want to look over her shoulder in a dark alley, load her conceal and carry gun with silver bullets, triple check the deadbolts, and keep the lights on after midnight, the author has turned those improbable essentials into something as close to reality as they will ever get. That thrill of finding the unexpected and abnormal is what lures most readers to paranormal. It’s also what makes most of us write it too.

Dickens may have had a social agenda when he wrote Holiday Romance, but I don’t care about that. I just thought it was a funny read. And how often can you say that about Dickens?

 

 

1 Holiday Romance –In Four Parts by Charles Dickens

2http://users.unimi.it/dickens/essays/Craft/bacile.pdf

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