Monday, June 30, 2014

Embracing Frustration

I read an interesting blog post over at Editionally the other day. I know. I just broke a big, fat rule of blogging by directing you to someone else's site right from the get-go. didn't see the scarlet rule-breaker badge on my chest?

Anyway, the point of the post was the frustration of a creative type person to capture what's in their head and breathe life into it for the world to see. That frustration is enough to make anyone want to quit, and I've seen it firsthand. I met so many wannabe authors when I started writing who are no longer penning even a stupid shopping list.

The thing is that this frustration is normal to every writer. No one can capture perfectly with words the image they have in mind, but that's a good thing. It allows the reader the freedom to embrace the picture you've created in their head and make it their own. It gives the reader ownership in your story, blog post, devotional, whatever, and makes a more lasting impression.

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you . . . We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work . . . It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions . . . It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 
~ Ira Glass

So go ahead and growl all you like, but don't give up.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cover Reveal for Brentwood's Ward

Pre-order at Amazon for paperback or audio book. Here's a blurb:

There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Yo...What You Reading?

I ran across a disturbing statistic that has nothing to do with how fast a doughnut's calories morph directly into belly bat. That would just be horrifying. What disturbs me is the downward trend of good, old fashioned reading. According to a recent research study put out by the Labor Department, here is how much time average Americans spend reading on weekends and holidays (when they should theoretically have some kind of leisure time to read):

15-19 year olds  =  4.2 minutes
20-24 year olds  =  10.2 minutes
25-34 year olds  =  7.8 minutes
55-64 year olds  =  26.4 minutes

What's up with that? Too busy texting? Facebooking? Stuffing their faces with french fries and Big Gulps?

Let's reverse that trend, people. Save an author; read a book. Here's what I've currently got my nose stuck in. . .

By Travis Thrasher
For years Dennis Shore has thrilled readers with his spooky bestselling novels. Now a widower, Dennis is finally alone in his house, his daughter attending college out of state. When he's stricken by a paralyzing case of writer's block and a looming deadline, Dennis becomes desperate. Against better judgment, he claims someone else's writing as his own, accepting undeserved accolades for the stolen work. He thinks he's gotten away with it . . . until he's greeted by a young man named Cillian Reed--the true author of the stolen manuscript.
What begins as a minor case of harassment quickly spirals out of control. As Cillian's threats escalate, Dennis finds himself on the brink of losing his career, his sanity, and even his life. The horror he's spent years writing about has arrived on his doorstep, and Dennis has nowhere to run.


John has been living the perfect dream with loving family and a successful business…until his wife quits talking to him and he discovers his coffee shop is deep in debt.

What if he had it all to do over again? If he hadn’t quit baseball? If he’d saved money? And if he hadn’t gone out of town the weekend his college fiancee Kim disappeared for good?

John inexplicably wakes up back at Oklahoma University, reliving Kim’s last day. Can he find some answers? Or prevent her death? But if he succeeds in changing history, what happens to his wife and kids?

By Francis Chan, Mark Beuving, David Platt

Jesus gave his followers a command: “Follow me.” And a promise: “And I will equip you to find others to follow me.” We were made to make disciples.

Designed for use in discipleship relationships and other focused settings,Multiply will equip you to carry out Jesus’s ministry. Each of the twenty-four sessions in the book corresponds with an online video at, where New York Times bestselling author David Platt joins Francis in guiding you through each part of Multiply. One plus one plus one. Every copy of Multiply is designed to do what Jesus did: make disciples who make disciples who make disciples…. Until the world knows the truth of Jesus Christ.

Rosaria, by the standards of many, was living a very good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. There, her partner rehabilitated abandoned and abused dogs. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department's curriculum. And then, in her late 30s, Rosaria encountered something that turned her world upside down-the idea that Christianity, a religion that she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was, an idea that flew in the face of the people and causes that she most loved. What follows is a story of what she describes as a "train wreck" at the hand of the supernatural. These are her secret thoughts about those events, written as only a reflective English professor could.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Are You a Literature Expert?

On Sunday mornings you will find me in Preschool. Can't get enough of those 3 year olds! Well, that and I love their toys, especially games. Don't worry. I'm not going to pull out Candy Land and expect you to play with me. I've found something better.

Find out how well you know some famous novelists by taking a quick literary quiz. Are you a true literature expert? Find out HERE.

I got 15 out of 20. See if you can beat me!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Elementary, My Dear Writerly Watson

I don't watch TV. Leastwise, I'm not a garden-variety, one episode a week kind of gal. I wait for the whole kit and kaboodle of a show to appear on Netflix, then I get sucked in for the entire season in one sitting. Don't worry. I take potty breaks.

My latest craze is Sherlock. After watching the pilot episode, I wasn't convinced I loved it, so I watched just one more, and bam. I was hooked. Hubby too. Just in case you're not familiar with it, the story takes place in contemporary times with a present-day Sherlock and Watson. . . which got me to thinking, why did the writers decide to set it in the 21st century? Was there some kind of copyright legal falderal or what?

Turns out there was a recent lawsuit between Arthur Conan Doyle's estate and Leslie S. Klinger, the author of a new original piece of fiction starring Holmes called A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon. The court ruled that the original 46 Sherlock Holmes stories and 4 novels are in the public domain, making them no longer subject to copyright, though by now Random House paid the fees requested by the Doyle estate.

But none of that really has to do with the TV show and why they chose to refashion Sherlock with an iPad and a hipster overcoat. They simply wanted to freshen the character up. In the writers' words, "We're setting out to do something new."

And that is exactly the goal we should all strive to attain. Be bold. Try something new. Readers are begging for freshness. It's an elementary concept, Watson, so take a risk in your writing today.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Art Virus

"Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced."
~ Leo Tolstoy

Author Leo Tolstoy believed that art was a form of consciousness and a mode of communication. What the heck does that mean? Basically that successful art has the ability to infect the viewers/readers with the same feelings the artist felt while creating. Tolstoy says:
The stronger the infection, the better is the art as art, speaking now apart from its subject matter, i.e., not considering the quality of the feelings it transmits. And the degree of the infectiousness of art depends on three conditions: 
1. On the greater or lesser individuality of the feeling transmitted.
2. On the greater or lesser clearness with which the feeling is transmitted.
3. On the sincerity of the artist, i.e., on the greater or lesser force with which the artist himself feels the emotion he transmits.
In other words. . . the more feeling that is transmitted, the more impression that art makes on the viewer/reader.

Now then, think back on the books you've read over your lifetime. Personally, my short list is Charlotte Bronte, John Steinbeck, Michael Crichton, Francine Rivers, Jessica Dotta. . . and that's naming only a few. 

Which stories did your emotions get tangled up in? What authors infected you?

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Heart Deceived Soiree Winner

How do you end a soiree? With a door prize, of course. Find out who the A Heart Deceived Anniversary Soiree grand prize winner is. . .

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tidbit: Soiree Marketing


What cartoon bubble just popped into your head? Did it involve a smoking jacket and a chaise lounge with maybe a side of bon bons? Or an avant garde jetsetter sporting round spectacles, carrying on blasé conversations in a lazy Paris street café?

Newsflash: a writer’s life is NOT that glamorous. It’s pretty much wedging writing time into life with a tire iron. . . and a good portion of that time is spent on marketing. Hence, the Heart Deceived Anniversary Soiree.

Has this little venture increased sales? Beats me. Because I’m not self-published, I don’t see the numbers. Oh, I will, eventually, but honestly I have no way of knowing what marketing gimmick I try really pays off. That’s why I pick and choose what I want to do—like this soiree—because if I’m not having fun with it, then nobody will. The same holds true for writing.

If a writer isn’t having fun with creating a story but is merely writing for the market to sell a book, then the reader is going to pick up on it.

Trust me. I’ve read a few of those. Painful. The bottom line is to enjoy what you do, whether that’s writing novels or slinging hamburgers at McDonalds. It’s a choice. An attitude. Go out there today, little mongrels, and stick your head out the window of life with your tongue hanging out.


There's a famous Reverend in A Heart Deceived that tells Ethan, "God works powerfully, lad, but for the most part gradually and gently." What is that famous reverend's name? Hint: It's the same fella who wrote Amazing Grace.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Does Fiction Have To Be Factual?

“The reason we use truth in fiction is so we can tell a bigger, better lie.”

We all know fiction isn't fact, so why would a reader get all bent out of shape if a fairy pops in with a flourish of glittery magic dust and saves the day at the last minute? Or if a scene takes place in Minneapolis but you've put the Mississippi River on the west side of the city. If fiction is primarily about imaginary events and people, then why in the world should a writer care about getting the facts straight?

Several reasons. . .

~ Because that's cheating, author, and a reader knows that you just took the lazy way out.

~ The goal of a story is to never yank a reader out of it while they're reading. Inaccuracies will do that.

~ It makes your writing more believable.

~ You will be crucified if you get your facts wrong. This is especially true if you write historical fiction. Readers will come after you with pitchforks and rotten tomatoes. No, really. I have red stains on my white shirt and circular scars where the pokey end of the fork stuck me in the…never mind. My biggest blunder to date is using the word shenanigans in a Regency era book, but the word didn't show up until about 30 years later. Oops.

Make sure not to error on the flip side, though, either. Encyclopedias have their place. Fiction isn't it. Dole out your facts like chocolate chips in cookies. Wait a minute. Bad analogy. One can never have too much chocolate in a cookie.


Name one historical fact that was mentioned in A HEART DECEIVED.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do You Need a Lucky Elephant?

Is there a certain amount of luck in getting published? Do you need to know all the lyrics to The Age of Aquarius, or master a writerly gangsta handshake, or own a secret publisher decoder ring? Is getting awarded a contract merely a crapshoot?

Sometimes it is, but most often it's simply writing a killer story, and guess what...that's probably not going to happen your first time out the chute. Think of your writing as a fine wine or an aged piece of Cheddar. Translation: it takes time. Experience. And tons of writing.

Most new writers don't want to hear that. I didn't. I was going to prove the system wrong. And actually, that's a good attitude to hold on to for as long as you can. Otherwise you'll quit.

"Perseverance is the hard work you do
after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did."
~ Newt Gingrich


There is a character in A HEART DECEIVED that is deeply superstitious, especially when it comes to luck . . . to the point of rubbing the belly of a porcelain elephant. Who is it? Leave your answer in the comment section, and if you're correct, I'll enter your name in the soiree drawing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Heart Deceived Anniversary Soiree

Well don't you look stunning! All dressed up and ready to participate in the A HEART DECEIVED Anniversary Soiree. Yeah, I know. The word soiree is a bit pretentious, bringing to mind poofy ball gowns and tuxedoes. I feel a little out of my league using it because I'm a jeans and tee-shirt kind of gal with dirt under my fingernails and a fine sprinkling of dog hair to boot. Nevertheless, I chose the word soiree because it invokes the Regency era of A Heart Deceived.

As a writer, implementing the right word is important, but even more so when deciding upon character names. The names you choose should reveal something about your characters, who they are at the core of their being or a foreshadowing of who they will become.

5 Things to Consider When Naming a Character

1. Tone
The tone of the name Winky Beaverson brings to mind a skinny kid with buck teeth, not a strapping hero to save the day. Instead, use stalwart, courageous names for heroes or heroines. The flip side of that is to go for ugly, wicked words for villains.

2. Creativity
Go ahead. Make something up. That's what writing is all about. Try combining two words together. Dickens was a master at this. My personal favorite is Mr. Smallweed from Bleak House. Note: This works better for last names than for first.

3. Historicity
Even if you're not a historical fiction author, you still need to think about and research whether the name you chose would be appropriate decade-wise for your character. Sometimes writers make the mistake of using a name that is popular now for an adult character, a name that wouldn't have been used around the time of that character's birth. And if you are writing historically, whoa baby. Do the research or you will be crucified by readers.

4. Meaning
Readers love to ponder the bigger picture of a story, especially character names--and especially junior high literature teachers. Why not give them something to work with? Think of ways to incorporate meaning into your character's name. Example: if your heroine is a botanist, it would be too obvious to name her Flower, not to mention stupid, but dig a little deeper and name her Sage or Linnea.

5. Endearment
Try something outside the box and go with a nickname instead of the usual. A unique name can lodge itself pretty deep into the grey matter of a reader, making your story memorable. Who doesn't remember Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird?

Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of creating a new story. . . and yes, I had a heap of fun with the names in A Heart Deceived. Now then, here is your chance to get your name entered into the grand prize drawing. Simply answer the question in the comment section and I'll toss your name into the hat.


Many of the characters in A HEART DECEIVED have surnames that reflect a particular aspect of their character. Choose one of the characters and tell me in the comment section what character trait their name reveals.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Soiree Kick-Off

It's the one year anniversary of A HEART DECEIVED, which definitely calls for a party, right?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tidbit: Extras

This week I've been working on "extras" for my new release -- BRENTWOOD'S WARD -- which will come out in January. I know. I hear you. "Michelle, it's only June. Are you a freaking overachiever or what? Don't you have a life? I suppose you've already filed next years taxes as well."

To which I promptly respond, "Whatever."

The thing is that just because a book comes out in January, that doesn't mean an author waits until the last minute to write up discussion questions or historical notes. All the little writerly duckies must be lined up in a row for a successful book launch.

What kind of extras do you like at the end of a book?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

5 Secrets to Getting Published
Psst. Hey buddy. Step over here and I'll tell you the secret to getting published. . .

#1. Learn the craft.
You have to know the writing rules to break the writing rules. Yes, even if you're wearing a leather jacket and have a pack of Pall Malls rolled up in your tee-shirt sleeve. How can you rebel if you don't know what you're rebelling against? There are certain writing rules you need to know simply to have an intelligent conversation with another writer, things like point of view, showing vs. telling, writing tight, or the endless debate on whether a Pilot G3 beats out a Uni-Ball Jetstream (and it does, every flipping time).

#2. Write a kick a** story.
Even when you've learned the craft of writing, story is still king. If a reader doesn't care about the sweeping saga of a lovestruck coyote pining for a rock badger in Colonial America, you're not going to sell the dang thing. There's got to be an oh-my-goodness-what-happens-next kind of breadcrumb trail to lead your reader from beginning to end.

#3. Breathe life into your characters.
And not just the hero and heroine, baby. Any character that shows up in your story needs to be a person of interest, even if that "person" is a dolphin. Your reader needs to relate to your characters in some way, shape, or form or they just won't care a fig about them. And personally, I hate figs. Fig Newtons included.

#4. Finish what you start.
Newsflash: if you keep re-writing and overthinking the first few chapters, you'll never type "The End." Seriously, didn't you learn this in preschool? Listen up, class. When we begin a project, we should see it through to completion. Unless, of course, you're sheet-rocking a ceiling. In that case, just hire it out.

#5. Slap on a smile and get out there and network.
I understand you're an introvert. Most writers are. Still, they do sell big boy and big girl undies at Target. Just ask a clerk. The point is that you need to suck it up and go meet agents and editors. They are the gatekeepers for traditional publishers. And even if you decide to self-publish, you'll need to network to get the word out about your book.

There you have it, boys and girls. It really is as simple as pounding your head against the wall. Getting published takes perseverance and a bucketload of blood, sweat and tears, so stock up on band-aids, deodorant, and kleenex and you'll be good to go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Five Tricksy Words

Most often I mess up words as they come out of my mouth, mostly because I don't have a Google chip implanted in my gray matter. . . which would actually be kind of sweet, eh? Searching for definitions before you speak so you don't sound like an idiot might be bonus. On the down side, though, you'd be connected 24/7. Going off the grid would be impossible. Besides, it's way to Mark of the Beast and End Times and all that.

So let's do this the old fashioned way, shall we? Here are the definitions of 5 commonly confused sets of words. . .

1. Adverse and Averse

Adverse means unfavorable or harmful.
Example: Drinking Drano will cause adverse eruptions in your esophagus. 

Averse means dislike or opposition.
Example: I am averse to drinking Drano because it tastes like pureed fruitcake and leaves a gritty film on my tongue.

2. Affect and Effect

Affect means to influence.
Example: I paused for affect then announced, "Your hair is on fire, madam."

Effect means to accomplish something.
Example: The overall effect of the small fire on Mildred's head was positively gorgeous.

Of course, those examples are when you're using affect and effect as a verb. For nouns, effect is almost always correct. . . as in "personal effects."

3. Criteria and Criterion

Criterion is one. Criteria is two or more. 'Nuff said.

4. Discreet and Discrete

Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment.
Example: She made a discreet inquiry to determine which proctologist had the gentlest touch.

Discrete means individual, separate or distinct.
Example: After a lengthy examination, the proctologist organized his report on Mrs. Murdock's "Down Under Problems" into discrete chapters.

5. Imply and Infer

Imply means to suggest.
Example: Just because my face turned blue from laughing does not mean I imply there is anything wrong with the way you dress.

Infer means to deduce.
Example: I inferred from the way my husband passed out when he balanced the checkbook that perhaps I had overdrawn the account again.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Everyone Needs a Hero. . . Especially a Story

Read this word. . .


What pops into your mind? I'm thinking muscular, long hair, five o'clock shadow on a strongly cut jaw, tall, a piercing gaze, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and kill a spider without screaming like a little girl.

Okay, so that's what's in my cartoon bubble, but a hero doesn't have to look that way. It could be a puny one-armed boy with a lisp who saves the day, but regardless of the shape and form, every story needs a hero.


Because deep down, we all crave a hero. Someone to save us from evil. To bring to rights all that is wrong. To go after and slay the demons that torment us. To hold us in strong arms and whisper that everything will be all right.

Whether we admit to this craving or not, we all have it, but where does that craving come from?

I think we're born with it. Deep down, we all know we need saving and there's only one ultimate hero that can rescue us.


Don't worry. I'm not going to smack you upside the head with a 2x4 Bible. I don't have to. That's God's job. But think about Jesus as the ultimate hero for a minute. What do we know about Him?
~ He beat death
~ He whooped Satan
~ He crushed the gates of Hell
~ He gave Himself up willingly for our soul's sake
~ He was compassionate enough to heal the sick and lame and allow little children to climb up on His lap

Are those not the qualities of a breath stealing hero? Go therefore and do likewise with your fictional heroes if you want your story to connect with the reader in a primal way.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tidbit: Using Routine for Inspiration

Earlier this week I wrote about creative rituals. Rituals do not have to be specifically creative, however, in order to be used for inspiration. Case in point: my morning Bible time. I spend anywhere from 15-45 minutes a day in God's word. My usual routine is to read a few chapters, working my way all the way through until I get to the end and then I start over again.

I also take some time to write in a Journible. A Journible is a book organized so that you can write out your own copy of the Scripture. You write the Bible text on the right hand page of the book, and the left is open for notes or sometimes there are questions to help with further study.

What does any of this have to do with writing a novel? Sometimes I get some great ideas that I work into my stories. Here are a few from the list I keep that I haven't used yet. . .

Exodus 10:21 "Darkness that could be felt."
Wowzer. What in the world would that feel like? Heavy? Damp? Suffocating? Take a moment and think about what darkness might feel like to you.

Psalm 141: 7 "Bones are scattered at the mouth of a grave."
The first question that pops into my mind is why? What in the world were the bones doing outside the grave? Who dug them up? What were they going to do with those bones? Recently I went and visited my dad's grave for Memorial Day. How would I feel if I saw a pile of bones there?

Numbers 22 ~ The story of Balaam
Balaam was a prophet who spoke blessings or curses. What would the job description be for someone who was only a curse speaker? How would a curse speaker get the job? How would other people treat you?

Those are the kinds of crazy thoughts that run through an author's mind simply from an everyday activity. Routine doesn't have to be the bane of existence. With just a little thought, you can use any daily task as an opportunity to let your mind wander off the leash and discover a whole new neighborhood of creativity.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Six Word Twitter Festival Starts Today

Today's the day! It's the first day of the second annual Six Word Twitter Festival. This virtual storytelling celebration runs from June 4-6 and consists of 6 word prompts and tweets.

Need some examples?

~ Said he loved me, he lied.

~ A memory buried always comes back.

~ The only thing constant is change.

How can you enter?

1. Follow @sixwords on Twitter

2. Check on the Six-Word Festival page for the full schedule, real-time tweets during the festival, daily editors’ favorites, as well as all the judges’ winners.

3. On June 4, 5, and 6 share your six-word responses to challenges posed by our amazing cast of celebrity tweeters and judges.

4. Download the Six-Word App for quick sixing on the go.

Why should you enter?

The best responses as determined by celebrity judges will be retweeted and announced on—as well as be included in a new book of Six-Word Advice, publishing in Fall 2015 from St. Martin’s Press.

Go ahead, give it a whirl. Hey, those are my six words. And so were those. Go make your own Tweet.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Creative Rituals

When I hear the word ritual, I think gutted animals tied up in tree limbs, usually involving goats and pentagrams. Don't worry. I'm not going all Ouija board on you today. I simply came across an interesting article about Creative Rituals You Should Steal and . . . well . . . I am stealing them and sharing them with you.

#1. Create an interesting people fund.
Save up some moolah and some time, then spend it to meet and/or hang out with interesting people. By pre-committing, you'll be more likely to do it. You can't make quirky characters if you don't actually spend time with some.

#2. Get out of the building.
Take a nature hike. Go eavesdrop on the beach. Change up your scenery.

#3. Brainstorm at the coffee shop.
Okay, so I love java, but if you don't, then choose a different atmosphere that engages your mind. This is somewhat like #2, but the difference is that here you're refining a specific project or have a certain goal in mind.

#4. Partake of Morphological Synthesis.
I know. Sounds like a disease. Nope, it's just a way of segmenting your thinking process into parts by basically asking questions. It's like playing the What-If game with your plot or characters. To generate ideas, simply ask what happens if fill-in-the-blank. Once you have an answer for that, repeat the process with that answer. Keep it up and you'll have all kinds of new ideas.

#5. Envision what you'll be remembered for.
Think legacy. Refresh your mind of what your mission statement is to keep you on track.

#6. Take a quarterly vacation.
Yeah, it'd be nice to cruise the Mediterranean 4 times a year, but shoot. I haven't even been there once. A vacation doesn't have to cost big bucks, though. Just unplug and get away from your routine for a long weekend. Get off the grid.

#7. Hold a "Retrospective" after a project.
Basically this is a de-briefing with yourself. What things did you do right on whatever your most recent creative project was? What things went wrong?

#8. Write every day.
It'd be nice to pound out 10 pages each morning before noon, but realistically, that's not going to happen. Don't sweat the word count. Just write, even if it's a simple little blog post.

#9. Keep "Tear Sheets" to get inspired.
For me, this is my Pinterest boards. For others, it might be magazines. Movies. Beautiful artwork or even greeting cards or invitations that are particularly interesting.

#10. Take a nap.
Grab your satin-edged blankie and curl up for 10 minutes or so. You don't have to actually sleep. Just close your eyes and relax.

What are some of your creative rituals? Share in the comment section so we can all steal expand our ideas.
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