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Book Review ~ The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

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5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Review

 

Robyn Carr writes with a casual flaire that makes the reader feel like they’re sitting in a comfy chair, by a crackling fire, wearing warm socks.

I am a huge fan of the Sullivan’s Crossing series and this latest contribution is a winner. At least three love stories are woven together like a fine tapestry in The Best of Us. Catching up to what’s been happening to the recurring characters in her stories is like running into some good friends  you haven’t seen in a while. While a new character drives the whole story when she meets and falls for Rob Shandon, the pub owner.

And the writing is without a misstep. A perfect blend of encounters, conflicts, reunions and  happy endings. Bubbling along like a happy creek, you hardly know you’ve finished the book and are left wanting the next in the series….right now!

Released January 8th so get your copy now!

Did you miss my Interview with Robyn? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with author, Molly Gloss

TS. Molly likes to brag (just a little) that on her mother’s side, she’s fourth generation Oregonian, from German immigrants. On her father’s side she’s fourth-generation Texan, as her great grandmother  was the first white child born in Irion County, Texas. She is widowed with one son and was recently blessed with a new grandson!  She says, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how magical this would be?! Oh, right, they did tell me, I just wasn’t listening!” She’s been writing full-time since  1980. “I’m a slow writer, but I’ve managed to eke out six novels and about 20 short stories.” She currently lives in Portland, Ore. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

Writing….

MG. I like to be comfortable. I wrote The Jump-Off Creek in longhand while sitting in my favorite overstuffed chair. When desktop computers became the thing, I wrote while sitting at a desk, but I never loved it, and now I write on a laptop, sitting on the living room sofa with my feet propped up on an ottoman and the laptop literally in my lap.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

MG. Nope. I open the file I’m working on, reread the last few pages, and go to work wrestling with the next sentence. But I do have to have my favorite Roget’s Thesaurus close to hand. And also The American Thesaurus of Slang. Good for finding just the right period-perfect term for historical fiction.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MG. I have never lived on the “dry side” of the West where many of my novels and stories are set. I grew up on the “wet side” and live here still, in a suburban townhouse at the edge of Portland.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

MG. I try to write from post-breakfast to pre-dinner, with a short break for lunch, but that schedule can vary greatly now that I live alone and have no children or husband or dog to contend with. Now sometimes I surprise myself by writing late at night. But it’s a sad irony that I do have more trouble sticking to a set schedule now that I have more time to write. When I had a family at home and had to keep up the housework, the grocery shopping, the gardening, making meals, etc, I was more disciplined about squeezing my writing into the available time. Now I’ve become a procrastinator!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MG. Speaking of which! I’m not the best person to give this advice, as I’ve become a terrible procrastinator myself, horribly addicted to the lure of the internet. I had to go away to a place without wifi in order to finish my last novel. Perhaps that’s my advice? Disconnect from wifi!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MG. More often than not, a new character arises out of research for a previous novel. In researching for The Jump-Off Creek, which is a novel about a single woman homesteader, I came upon Teresa Jordan’s book of oral histories, COWGIRLS: WOMEN OF THE AMERICAN WEST, and there for the first time heard about young girls traveling the countryside breaking horses during the nineteen-tens, and my character Martha Lessen in THE HEARTS OF HORSES arose out of that research. And then while I was researching the history of horse training for that novel, I fell into a cache of material about how horses were trained (and misused) in the Western movies of the 1930s, and that was the beginning of my character Bud Frazer, a Hollywood stunt rider in FALLING FROM HORSES.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

MG. I’ve always wanted to write. I was a voracious reader and I think I’ve often been driven by a desire to write the story I couldn’t find on the library shelves.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

MG.They are intertwined. The character doesn’t exist for me until I know what sort of situation they are in. And the situation doesn’t mean anything to me unless I can see how it impacts a particular person.

Don’t miss Part two of this Interview on January 25th
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Playwright, Author, Alretha Thomas

  Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, this prolific writer soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.  In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country.  Alretha was awarded the Jessie Redmon Fauset Literary Award for her indie novel Four Ladies Only. Alretha returned to acting and is now writing and acting full time. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AT. I write in the family dining room/hang out room. My computer is up against a wall and it’s my special place.
Whenever my husband wants to get my attention, he’ll leave a note on my keyboard knowing it won’t be missed! He calls it my home within the home. Lol! My husband and I often talk about buying a bigger home, if, and when we get a windfall. My dream workspace would have a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

AT. I have to be very comfortable when I write. Thus, I write in very loose-fitting clothing. Usually my blue sundress my husband bought me or my ripped up blue robe. I guess it’s something about blue.  I also must have my desk fan blasting. I have about a half dozen little stuff animals and toys that I keep to the right of me. I think they’re my good luck charms.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AT. I volunteer every Tuesday at a nursing home not too far from my home. There are about six people there that I feel very close to. I paint nails for the ladies, tell stories and most times just listen. The residents have no idea how much they do for me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are wonderful people who for one reason or another are in the nursing home. It makes me grateful and it makes me appreciate being able to get around right now. No one knows what the future holds.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

AT. I love writing at night after my husband has gone to bed and it’s quiet in the house and the neighborhood. I just love it. I feel like a little girl in a sandbox. No matter what I’m doing during the day, I get excited when I think about the fact that later that night I’ll be writing. So many ideas about what my characters are going to say and do flood my head during the day. It’s wonderful when I can put it on paper.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AT. Just do it! I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block or procrastination. Thank goodness. If anything, you have to pull me away from the computer!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

AT. I believe my characters discover me. They enter my subconscious and take over my being. They slowly began to evolve. Case in point are the main characters in my latest mystery novel, “The Women on Retford Drive.” I’ve never met anyone like my protagonist Julia Pritchard or her stepdaughter Blythe Pritchard. One day I just had this feeling about writing about a mother and step daughter being abused and working together to escape their plight. From there, the story just took off.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

AT. My fifth-grade teacher inspired me to write. She gave the class a short story assignment. I got an idea to write a story about a bag boy in a supermarket who falls in love with a young customer. I guess you could say that was my first romance story. The following day our teacher congratulated the entire class on our work. However, she said there was one story that stood out. And that story was mine. I nearly fell out of my chair. I couldn’t believe it. She read it aloud and the class was riveted. While I was watching the expressions on the faces of my peers, I knew in that moment I wanted to be a writer for life.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Join Us with Part Two of this fascinating Interview on October 26th
To Purchase Alretha’s books, click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Book Review ~~ Mistletoe Miracles by Jodi Thomas

 

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5 out of 5 quills ~~ A Review

I didn’t want this one to end. 

Jodi Thomas weaves three stories into one. Three sets of lovers finding each other, getting lost again, and finding each other for keeps.
The lovers are diverse with really only one common thread, that being a tiny town, Crossroads, Texas. An arranged marriage, a wounded warrior, and mistaken identity all meld into a wonderful trilogy within one book. I loved it!

There’s never a misplaced word when this writer tells a story. The characters capture the reader within the first few pages. The story line (in this case three) is interesting and believable.
You won’t get a spoiler from this reviewer. For me it’s all about the writing and this author writes like a dream. Interesting settings, great, colorful characters richly drawn and wonderful dialog. 

To Purchase Mistletoe Miracles Click Here 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Interview with Best Selling author, Susan Mallery

Photo: Annie Brady

TS.   I have read everything that Susan Mallery has written and I am here to tell you, she’s never written a bad book.  Just good, solid stories about real people and their lives. And I love me some good storytelling! After, literally, years of requesting an interview from this busy author (at least four new books a year!) I have finally caught her at maybe a not so busy moment. For whatever reason I succeeded in interviewing this best selling author.  I am so happy to share with my readers a few casual moments with one of my favorite writers.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

SM. When life is going smoothly, I write in my home office, surrounded by sleeping pets. (Two ragdoll cats and a small poodle.) But when there’s chaos at home, I go to what I call my “faux

Stark rented space

office.” It’s a real office space that I rent outside my home, but I hate it. It’s very utilitarian, with no personal touches whatsoever—deliberately. Just a boring box. No artwork on the walls, no internet, not great cell phone service. I make it as unpleasant as possible so I’ll get my pages done and can go home. There is a window, but I keep my back to it so I will be less likely to be distracted. (I’m very distractible.)

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

SM. I’m afraid of flying. Not to the point that I won’t do it, but I’m wildly uncomfortable every time. I was once on a plane that depressurized during turbulence, and I was already a little nervous before that. I’m a writer, with a writer’s overactive imagination, so every time I get on a plane, my brain goes through all the possible horror stories. I usually distract myself with a Disney movie.   So if you ever come to one of my book signings, just know that I truly sacrificed for my readers in order to be there.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

SM. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to write. When the writing isn’t going well, everything will sound more appealing than putting words on the page—even cleaning your baseboards with an old toothbrush. No one is going to stand over your shoulder and make sure you write. The motivation has to come from you. If you give yourself an inch, you’ll take a mile. You must require more of yourself. Have a goal for the number of pages or scenes you want to write that day, and don’t let yourself do anything else until that work is done. Even if you’re not happy with what you’ve written, at least you have moved the story forward. You can always come back and revise, but the first step is to get the story down, from opening line to The End.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Head Shot. Lucy and Susan

SM. They’re intrinsically tied together. What comes to me first is usually a character in a specific situation, and then the story builds from there.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

SM. I always have a new book coming out! I usually publish four books a year, sometimes more. I think it ties in to the whole “I’m easily distracted” thing. If I don’t write fast, I get bored, so I need to write multiple books a year to keep myself entertained.

Next up is WHY NOT TONIGHT, part of my Happily Inc series. (A Fool’s Gold spinoff. Happily Inc is a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale.) Ronan Mitchell has been wounded by his parents—emotionally. A couple years ago, he discovered that he is the result of his father’s affair. He is not his brother’s twin at all, but a half brother. And the worst part of it is that his beloved mother lied to his face his entire life. He doesn’t feel he can count on anything, and it has shattered his self-image.

When he meets Natalie, she’s so filled with joy that he assumes incorrectly that nothing bad has ever happened to her. But Natalie has had tragedy in her life, too, and has made the decision not to let sadness bog her down. Ronan will learn a lot from her as they fall in love. Readers can learn more at HappilyInc.com.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

SM. My life is far too boring for fiction. (Thank goodness!) To be interesting, fiction must be dramatic in a way that I’m glad my life is not. Happily married to the same guy for many years, a lot of peaceful time at home with the occasional dinner out… not really riveting fiction. And if I did use my life for inspiration, readers would get really weary of reading variations on the same stories over and over again.

My stories come purely from my imagination, and always grow from a point of me asking how the characters might feel about what’s happening in the story. Our emotions drive our actions unless we deliberately choose not to let them—and that says something about a character, too. My job is to take readers out of their everyday lives and let them experience the world through someone else’s eyes, at least for a little while.

Did you miss my REVIEW of Mallery’s When We Found Home?

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Want to see more interviews? Click here

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    June: Manning Wolfe. July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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A Book Review ~~ The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing     3 out of 5 quills     A Review

I was disappointed in this latest offering in the Maggie Hope series. The plot was so implausible that, after a few chapters, I hurried to the back of the book, hoping for an author’s note. Sure enough, this plot was  far-fetched but based upon truth.  MI-6 and S.O.E. actually had a ‘cooler’ where the British intelligence community sent, what they deemed, their ‘unstable’ agents. 

So why was I having such a hard time connecting with the story? Usually I adore  Maggie Hope and the series. For one thing,  I didn’t care about the other agents. There wasn’t enough of a back story on each of them for this reader to care whether they lived or died.

Just too many clichés for me. A castle and a stormy night, tripping over dead bodies, the wife locked in a castle tower. By this time in the series, Maggie is too high up in the espionage business to be unceremoniously thrown into an island prison by her own government! I couldn’t buy it. She has kept countless secrets for the realm, why is she not being trusted to keep this latest one?

Then in the last forty pages, or so, I felt like I’d been dropped into an action film, with bombs going off and Maggie having to swim for her life. It was disconcerting and unbelievable.  I just wasn’t that excited about this book, but I remain a fan. The rest of the series is one of my favorites in this genre. 

Released today. Click here

Did you miss my Interview with this author?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.  June: Manning Wolfe. July K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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A Book Review ~~ Green Fees by Manning Wolfe

3 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

The plot was good, the story entertaining. The main characters were interesting, but the supportive characters (Deuteragonists) were more dynamic than the main protagonists. Merit Bridges frequently teetered on being a cliché  but was  brought back just in the nick of time. Mark Green was empathetic and I found  myself rooting for him. 

The story was too golf specific for the general reading public. Golfers will love how the author weaved the game of golf  through the plot. But non-golfers might find it too much. Those readers will not understand the lingo or care anything about the PGA. This reviewer fears it might be a turn-off.  And if the author is going to tell a story where golf plays such a large role (it’s almost a character in itself) then she should have stopped to integrate an explanation of golf terms into the story. Or a glossary should have been included.
For example I don’t remember seeing an explanation for the word ‘par’. (Par is the predetermined number of strokes that a scratch/expert golfer should require to complete a hole. Par is determined by guidelines set by the US Golf Association.) 

If a non-golf enthusiast gets as far as the last round of the PGA Championship (20 pages before the end of the book) they will be drawn in because of the excellent writing in this section. Despite their lack of knowledge (about golf) they will be cheering Mark Green on to victory. 

Did you miss my Interview with Manning Wolfe
Green Fees on sale now 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  June: Manning Wolfe. July: K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. Sept: Jonathan Rabb, December: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

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5 out of 5 quills ~~ A Review

 

Perfection!  Saying anything more would be superfluous.

If you’re a fan of Susan Mallery, you must read this one!  If you’ve never heard of Susan (fat chance) you must read this story. The writing is (like I said) perfect. The characters are so interesting and believable. And the plot…oh, the plot.  Delicious! 

Readers of my reviews know that I don’t write spoilers…nothing has changed. I’m not a writer of cliff notes. You have to experience this entire journey that Susan takes her readers on.  But I will say this; the way Mallery brings the four main characters together is flawless writing.  

Reminder: In August I will be interviewing Susan Mallery and asking her about her writing processes.

To Purchase When We Found Home 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Manning Wolfe. July:  K.M. Ecke. August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Create Your Own Story Board if It Helps….

Visuals really are important! Create your own story board if it helps you write. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw; cut and paste. After all, nobody is going to see it except you, right?

Sketch for layout of Title and credit/s

At this point, in my story, I had to see a visual. My illustrator would not be working on this part of the tale for weeks, so I created my own.

Excerpt from “Cheets Heads for Trouble-sville” ©

‘Cheets, the elf,  swooped down and dove into the empty box. The carrot beaconed to him from the far end of the box. Cheets tipped-toed across the box, lightly stepping up on a silver platform.

SNAP! B.A.N.G! The door to the cage slammed shut. Cheets whirled around and ran back.  Cheets grabbed the side of the door in the cage and shook it as hard as he could. Nothing. It wouldn’t open.  He shook it and shook it. He was trapped.  The big, juicy carrot didn’t look so good now. 

Two large human hands clutched the sides of the box and lifted it down. A shadow fell over Cheets and he looked up.  What appeared to be a huge, rough man stood over the cage and grinned at him.

Original art by Jefferson O’Neal

“Got’cha!” He extolled. “Ya little varmint!” He turned away. “Hey, Simon. SIMON!  Lookie what I got.”

Across the aisle, Simon turned and looked at his friend. “What? I’m busy, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“You’re gonna wanna see this! Hurry up!” Herman said.

“Okay, okay, keep your shirt on.” Simon yelled.

A moment later Simon was in front of Herman’s stall. “What’s the big to-do?”

“Ta-Da!” Herman whipped off a rag he’d put over the cage. He grinned at his friend. “Whad’ya think that is?”

“Holy smokes! Ya caught the little bugger!” He leaned over and peered closer, “What is it?”

“Don’t know. It ain’t a dragon-fly or a bat. I’m stumped.”

A crowd quickly formed when the news spread through the farmer’s market that Herman had caught something in a trap.

“Lemme see!”

“I can’t see!”

“What is that?”

“Does it bite?”

“I can’t see!”

“Whad’ya gonna do with it, Herman?”’

Postscript: My illustrator finally caught up with me and here is a sample of his delightful images. Jefferson O’Neal. 

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MY features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    
March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy.  April: World Traveler, Tal Gur. June: mystery author, Manning Wolfe.
                                                                                   
                                         Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!

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New Children’s Play Released!

Children’s Play  (#5 in the Fabled Forest Series) has been released!  Children’s story book by the same name.

The story is in play form. A one hour children’s play, by the same title, offers a part for every child who auditions. 

New characters are introduce: Barcode and Fiona the two cats. Reginald the Raccoon and his merry band of baby raccoons. And lots of others.

Synopsis: Cheets is looking for an adventure!  The elf had heard about ‘town’. Emma and her mother went all the time but no one from the fabled forest had been there. Cheets was certain it was a magical place and he decided that he must head for Troublesville. He stows away in the car one day and finds himself in busy, noisy streets all alone. He begins his adventure by befriending two cats who live in a house with two humans. Then because of his obsession with carrots, he is captured in a trap and that’s when his adventure no longer is any fun.  6f. 15m. (many roles non-gender)

Recurring characters from the series return to help find Cheets. Don’t miss Cheets’ escapade and daring rescue!  Full color illustrations by Jefferson O’Neal.

 

To preview or Purchase, click here

Story book

Emma and the Lost Unicorn, The Exciting Exploits of an effervescent Elf, and Stanley, the Stalwart Dragon: Go to Samuel French, Inc.

Bertie, the Bookworm and the Bully Boys: Go to: Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MY features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months? March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy.  April: World Traveler, Tal Gur. June: mystery author, Manning Wolfe.
                                                                                   
                                         Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!

To receive my posts sign up on the home page, enter your email address. 

Thanks! 

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