Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Where's Your Nose?

Currently, I've got my nose stuck in several books and have a few more queued up to follow these. . .
  
 
I'm often asked how I find the time to read, which in my little mind translates into, "How do you find time to breathe?" Reading isn't simply a want, it's a need. Especially if you're a writer. Why? Because it hones your craft, expands your creativity, gives you something to aspire to and/or steal to re-work in your own words. Yes, writers do that. Get over it. 

I mostly read at the gym when I'm on an elliptical or treadmill. I know that doesn't necessarily make for the best workout, but hey, it's better than parking my rear on the couch while nibbling bon bons. I also keep a book bedside to snatch a sentence or two before sleeping and I stow a book in my car for those times when I'll end up in a waiting room.

And I'm in good company. Curious about what other movers and shakers are reading? Click on the photo below and find out.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Take a Zombie to Lunch Day

Dare I admit it? Up until a few days ago, I've been a zombie virgin. But now, for the very first time, I'm reading a book with a few characters that are undead. Before your undies bunch up in quite an unseemly wad, let me add that at least it's a historical. . .


The story includes Mr. Darcy and Lizzie and Jane and all, but you never know when one of the undead is going to show up and change the plot a bit. It's entertaining, in a freakish sort of way, though not for the squeamish because of the blood and guts.

So what's up with me and zombies? Am I caving in to cultural peer pressure? Tilting off my sound theological axis? Turning toward the dark side of the current paranormal craze?

Nope. Mostly just curious how Austen and flesh eaters could coexist in one novel. Don't worry. This satisfies the itch and I will not be delving into more books of the undead, lurid tattoos or tongue piercings.

It did, however, make me stop and think about zombies and why people are drawn to them. My conclusion? An affectionate association. We can all relate to zombies because we have either been one or are currently still in an undead state.

Oh, put down your pitchfork. Sheesh. Gimme a minute to explain.

See, we're all walking dead people until God breathes life into us via repentance and salvation. We spiritually live our lives with unseeing eyes, unbeating hearts, no consciousness whatsoever until God grants mercy to see our utter wretched condition in light of His holiness. Even more, He shows his great love and creates a new life because of what Jesus did on the cross.

But not everyone is saved. The walking dead are still among us. So, take a zombie to lunch today and share the Gospel.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Party With the Bard

I missed the big 450th birthday bash for William Shakespeare this weekend, but I did eat a slab of chocolate cake in his honor. My personal favorite piece of the Bard's writing is The Taming of the Shrew. What's yours? What's that? You haven't actually read any Shakespeare? No worries. You're probably using Shakespearean language more than you know. Here are some everyday phrases we take for granted that good ol' Will penned himself (unless you buy into the black helicopter conspiracy that he was really Sir Francis Bacon). . .

"Knock knock! Who's there?" - Macbeth
"For goodness sake" - Henry VIII
"All of a sudden" - The Taming of the Shrew
"All's well that ends well" - All's Well That Ends Well
"A wild goose chase" - Romeo and Juliet
"What the dickens" - The Merry Wives of Windsor
"Wear your heart on your sleeve" - Othello

And here are a few words coined by Shakespeare

Zany - Love's Labors Lost
Luggage - King Henry IV
Addiction - Henry V
Worthless - King Henry VI
Lonely - Coriolanus
Skim Milk - King Henry IV
Blanket - King Lear

I could go on and on, but you can click on the links I provided. There's another slab of chocolate cake calling my name.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tidbit: Butlers

How do you tell a butler from a gentleman? By his black cravat of course. What? You were expecting a joke? Nope. Butlers really did wear black neck ties as opposed the the standard white of a gentleman. How the heck do I know? Because I've been researching butlers this week, and you're about to be educated. . .

Butlers During the Regency Era

If a household was prominent enough to employ a steward, then he'd be the top dog of the servant world (unless, of course, a valet was present, then he ranked). Think Carson of Downton Abbey. Some of his duties included:

  • Being in charge of the wine cellar
  • Being in charge of the household silver and china
  • Dealing with visitors / employing proper etiquette and being aware of social distinctions
  • Supervision of footmen and other underling male servants
  • Household security

The butler was always called by his surname, hence "Carson" in Downton versus Mr. Carson. Butlers were allowed to and often were married, but that didn't mean he lived in his own home with his wife or that his wife was allowed to live in the household. A good employer might give a butler some days off to go home and spend time with his wife, but while the butler was on duty, his employer wanted his whole attention.

While butlers were paid more than lower staff, the highest paid servant was the "French man-cook" who made 60% more than a butler. Ooh-la-la! Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

I haven't decided yet how big a role the butler in my current story will serve. I'm only on chapter 6 and he's shown up once so far. But after all this research, at least I know where to find him if I need him...in the cellar or counting forks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's Your Excuse?

I hear it all the time.
"I'm gonna write a book someday." Really? To that I say, "Shut your pie hole and do it."

And that's exactly what 93 year old Wendell Ware did. He seriously wrote a novel and published it at ninety-freaking-three! If that isn't inspiration, I don't know what is. Here's his life in a nutshell. . .

Wendell R. Ware was born in 1918 in West Virginia. He graduated from St. Petersburg College in Florida and the University of North Carolina, then went on to serve in the air force as a pilot, seeing lots of action in the Southwest Pacific during World War II from 1943-1946. He was the Commanding Officer of the 35th Fighter Control Squadron during the atom bomb missions that led to the end of the war. As if that weren't enough, he served an additional 27 months in the Korean War. After his military stint, he became President of Micro Publication Systems, with international offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, London and Paris.

All that to say, the man clearly was NOT a slacker.

So when he turned 93, he figured he'd "slow" down and write a novel. Here's the back cover copy from his book, Arise My Love and Come Away With Me

Wynn always dreamed of becoming a pilot, flying from the age of ten, and making his first solo flight as a teenager. While studying at the University of North Carolina he meets Doey Brooks, a beautiful young woman studying law at Duke University. Their shared passion for flying becomes an inspiring love story that begins as a college romance and grows in depth and meaning as World War II becomes an ever-looming menace. As their relationship blossoms, the war stalls their plans to marry.

Wynn and Doey's story harkens back to a kinder, gentler time when loyalty, good manners, and personal integrity were the rule rather than the exception.

Okay, so whether a WWII love story is your genre or not, are you going to let a senior citizen kick your butt at writing? Don't wait until you're in your nineties. If there's a book inside of you screaming to get out, open the door and let it fly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writer's Day

Once a month I pull out my tweed blazer with the leather patches on the elbows and go to a writer's get together. There I shmooz with other authors, sip cognac from a fluted glass, and perfect an arched brow while saying "Oh how droll" in a British accent.

Just kidding. I don't even know what cognac is but it sounds highfalutin. Not to mention I don't own a suit jacket, with or without patches. I do, however, have some author buddies that I meet with once a month, and today was the day.

What do we really do? Here's a peek, though I've shortened their names to a single letter to protect the innocent.

"S" drapes herself over the arm of the couch. One look at her and you'd think she was either:
A. Sleeping off a binge drinking weekend
B. Coming down with ebola
C. A slackard with a permanent slouch

The answer is D, none of the above. She's mentally in another world, intent on hammering down the next exciting plot point in her story.

"J" sits at the dining room table, staring at his screen, fingers frozen on the keyboard. To all appearances he is:
A. Socially inept with real humans and instead is ogling a cyber babe
B. Clearly having a bad case of writer's block
C. Stroked out and unable to move

Again, it's D. He's editing. Mulling over each phrase, every word, deciding on just the right ones.

"H" is in the bedroom, propped up in a nest of pillows, pounding away at a keyboard all alone because:
A. Remaining in the same room with other people triggers an anxiety attack
B. Pillows are her muse
C. Just in case an EMP bomb goes off, she wants to make sure she's in a safe place

Yep. D. None of the above. She's completely engrossed in a romantic suspense, that's all.

How does a writer's day work? We meet at 10:00 a.m. and spend 10 minutes catching up on any writing news. Then we pray and split up to work until noon. We bring bag lunches, and afterwards, it's time to share critiques of each other's work. That wraps up around 2:00, when we break out and write again until 4:00.

A Writer's Day is a great way to be productive, and you don't even have to wear a stupid blazer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Word Diet

Anyone else out there in a food coma from Easter brunch yesterday? My jeans are a little pinchy in the waist today because who can resist those little cheesecake squares? Certainly not me. Yes sir, time to cut back my food intake for awhile.

And it's always time to cut back on unnecessary words.

Okay, so that was a lame-oh segue, but the point is that all of us can stand to go on a word diet and I'm here to help you get your writing bikini ready.

TOP 10 WORDS TO CUT FROM YOUR WRITING DIET

1. Very
2. Really
3. Got
4. Just
5. Perhaps / Maybe
6. Literally
7. Stuff
8. Things
9. Amazing
10. Quite

These are the fluffy words, the high calorie, empty nutrition kind that do nothing for your writing. I'm not saying you can't ever use these words, but use them sparingly. Go ahead and put them in your first draft to keep your flow moving, then when you return for a final edit, be ruthless. You'll be a svelte prose writing babe in no time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

It's tradition here at Writer Off the Leash to trade the Good Friday fun vlog for something a little more weighty. Enjoy.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tidbit: 3 C's

This week I've been heavy into research so buckle up, students. It's time for a history lesson. . .

Cashiering
No, I'm not talking about the gal at the supermarket popping her gum as she rings up your broccoli. This kind of cashiering is a ritual dismissal of an individual from a position of responsibility for a breach of discipline. Think of the general getting his stars and little brass buttons ripped off his uniform in front of a bunch of lower ranking minions. Embarrassing, eh? Yep. It's meant to be. And in the British army, you lost out on the fee you paid to become an officer in the first place, so it not only hurt your pride, but nipped your pocketbook as well.

Congreve Rockets
Did you know rockets were in use way back when in the early 19th century? 1805 was when the Royal Arsenal first demonstrated solid fuel rockets. These weapons of destruction were used effectively in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. Think of the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner... and the rocket's red glare... yeah. Congreves.

Courtesy
Manners and etiquette were big deals back in the Regency era but especially so during a dinner party. When dinner was announced, guests didn't just belly up to the bar and chow down. Ladies and gentlemen entered the dining room according to rank. The mistress of the house would request the lady first in rank to lead in the others. The master of the house did the same with the gentlemen. Each took their place at the table in the same order. It was considered a mark of ill-breeding for a person to seat him or herself higher than they ought.

There. Ready for a quiz?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

5 Surprising Social Media Trends

Like most people, I tweet, check the ol' statuses on Facebook to see what's up, shrug on a blazer and pretend I'm wearing panty hose when I log into LinkedIn, and chill with the cool kids over at Tumblr. Because of all that, I feel like I'm somewhat savvy when it comes to social media, but whoa dang, I came across some interesting statistics that not even I knew. So allow me to share the enlightenment so that we're all educated. . .

#1. Social media isn't just for punks.
The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 year age bracket. This demographic has grown 79% since 2012.
The 45-54 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on both Facebook and Google+. For Facebook, this group has jumped 46%. For Google+, 56%.

#2. LinkedIn sounds stuffy, but don't let the word "professional" intimidate you.
Every second 2 new members join LinkedIn, a network which is handy as a source of information and conversation for professionals who want to connect to others in their industry.

#3. Social Media has kicked porn to the curb.
The most popular activity on the web is no longer ogling naked bodies. Social networking sites are now the hottest attractions according to an article over at Reuters.

#4. 25% of smartphone owners aged 18-44 can't remember the last time their smartphone wasn't with them.
That means there are probably very few times when they're not connected in some way to the internet.

#5. 25% of Facebook users don't bother with privacy settings.
Not that the NSA and/or a stalker isn't going to run an end goal around whatever precautions you try to take, still, there's no reason to make their job easier. 

Which reminds me. . . have you all changed your passwords on all your social media sites and other password protected places you visit? HEARTBLEED is a nasty virus used to steal encrypted information such as, well, passwords. Most social media sites have updated against this bug but you still need to change your old passwords in case your information was compromised.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Are Writers Strange?

"Writers have always been weird."
~ Jeff Goins

Last night, I finally got around to seeing the movie Saving Mr. Banks. A short synopsis is that it's the story behind the anguished author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers. Great movie. Freak of an author. Which raises the question: why are writers so weird? What is it that causes such eccentricities?

I think it's a mixed cocktail of imagination and a set of filters that are a grade too wide. Creative types sometimes say exactly what they're thinking, and often that's way different than what others are thinking. But again, that begs the question why?

Scientific Answer:

According to neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen, creative people are open to new experiences, have a high level of tolerance for ambiguity, and their approach to life enables them to perceive things in a fresh and novel way. This is opposed to the average Joe Schmoe who generally "quickly responds to situations based on what they have been told by people in authority, while creatives live in a more fluid and nebulous world."

Psychologically, writers often live in two worlds: the real one and the other that is a repository for their creative ides. Being able to escape reality--which yes, could be construed as psychotic--is actually an advantageous necessity.

My Answer:

Writers are freaks.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Trend: Silent Reading Parties

While I was trolling around the internet this weekend...wait a minute. Lest you think I sat on my heinie eating bon bons and watching YouTube, I did actually create my office (finally) so that I'm no longer working out of Rubbermaid containers stacked up in my bedroom closet. Wanna see?



So. There.

Now then, when I did take a break (sheesh, you people are slave drivers), I toodled over to GalleyCat, which is my go-to site for keeping up on the publishing biz. Seems like there's a crazy new trend happening that sounds uber fun to me! Silent Reading Parties are all the rage amongst hipsters and/or people who just love to read.

What is it? Exactly what it sounds like. Everyone brings whatever they feel like reading and they...uh...read. Generally this takes place in a coffee shop but some people are hosting them in their homes as well. Here's what one looks like:


Quiet music is played in the background. One place was jazzy enough to have live harp music to spice up the ambiance.

Personally, sounds like a great idea to me. . . as long as everyone can keep their mouth shut and read.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bird Bars


BIRD BARS

1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup coconut
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
4 Tablespoons ground flax
1/3 cup honey (or maple syrup)
1/3 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)

1. Finely grind oats and coconut in food processor then pour into bowl.

2. Pulse peanuts and cashews in food processor until evenly ground. Leave slightly chunky. Add to oat/coconut mixture.

3. Add sunflower seeds, sesame seeds & flax.

4. Melt and mix together honey and peanut butter in small pan (or nuke it). Remove from heat, let cool, then add to seed/nut mixture and combine.

5. Put into 8 x 8 dish and press down firmly (this is key) until it forms a solid brick mass. Cover and pop into frig to harden.

YUMMY!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tidbit: RBS

Wanna know where I'm at in my latest manuscript? Not any farther than I was last week. I have been self-diagnosed with the dreaded RBS, not to be confused with RLS.

RBS is an ailment usually contracted by writers, most often in the spring. Kind of like a nasty cold that grabs ahold of your throat and lungs in early April. How do you know if you have it? It's easy to spot. There's only one symptom. . . you can't keep your rear-end in the chair long enough to write down anything of significance. Yes, my friends Restless Butt Syndrome is nothing to be sneezed at.

Oh yeah, did I mention I have a cold as well?

So while I haven't made any great progress on my word count, I do have a few new ideas floating around. I went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier which inspired me to hide a hide-out in a hide-out.

I also started an inspiring music playlist for Moore's Maiden on Spotify. So far I've only got 3 songs on it, but I'm open to suggestions. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy a few moments of sweet music.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's the Point of Giving Away a Free eBook?

Last week my recent release, A HEART DECEIVED, was offered for free in ebook format. Unless you're self-pubbed, authors don't have a say in when promos like that happen. They just do. Oh, I suppose the publishing marketing gurus have a grand plan for when and why, but to the average Joe Schmo writer like me, it's a mystery akin to why a bird poops on my car right after I've washed it.

The first time one of my books rocketed into cyberspace with a $0 price tag dangling from the corner, I admit I was tempted to pull out my cranky pants from my closet and shimmy into them (cranky pants are notoriously tight...enhancing that pinchy feeling that really makes one snarl). Giving away my hard work for free does not go a long way toward paying my mortgage or even my morning cup of java.

Do you ever see a plumber fixing a toilet for nothing? Sorry for the butt-crack visual, but my point is that the usual routine is that a worker works and the end result is a paycheck. Newsflash: that doesn't happen when you give your work away.

So why in the world do it? Several reasons, actually. . .

It gets your name out there.
I don't care how great your mother thinks you are, the fact is that not everyone is familiar with your sweet storytelling skills. A reader is a bajillion times more likely to download a book from an author they don't know than fork over some cash for it. Okay, so maybe not an entire bajillion, but a whole freaking lot.

You're not really losing money.
It only seems like it. I know that sounds like a bunch of smoke and mirrors, but consider this. . . if someone who never would've otherwise read your book downloads your digital data and reads it without paying, you don't lose anything since that reader was not going to buy it in the first place. Savvy?

It ups reviews.
Word of mouth is the name of the game, baby. The more people who have read your book, the more likely they are to write a review about it, spreading the word. Face it. People are lemmings. If a reader sees a pack of furry furry mammals running toward a particular author, they are going to join the herd.

Increased sales.
If a reader really goes all gushy on a story, they are more likely to purchase a print copy to display that little trophy on their bookshelf. Also, free ebooks that do well stand a good chance to continue riding the crest of that download wave after the promotion is over, increasing sales. A great way to really hang ten is to follow-up that freebie with a sale.

And lo and behold...that's exactly what's going on with my book. If you missed the freebie of A Heart Deceived, don't beat yourself up. Let me do it. Or you can still scoop it up for a sale price of $2.39 for the next 4 days at CBD (Christian Book Distributors).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Liar Liar

freedigitalphotos.net
No, this will not be a discourse on Obama or his administration, so don't get your undies all kinked up (but there is a hilarious post HERE by Matt Walsh if you're feeling politically inclined).

Nor am I going to engage in a debate about if fiction is really outright lying just to make a buck. Not saying I won't in the future, however.

Today we'll roam the neighborhood of fib telling. Writers need to know a fair amount about lying because we often have lying characters. Why? Because this is a relatable and believable situation. Think about it. I'm sure you have some experience with a liar in your past, or possibly even your present. Did you know when you were being lied to? Can you spot a liar?

99u has a great interactive quiz to test your abilities. Check out How Good Are You At Spotting Liars? I got 7 out of 10. See if you can beat me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Puppies and England and Tights

This weekend I ran away to the magical land of Wisconsin where I bought a seriously oh-my-gosh-squeel-squee-squee cute-o-rama puppy! She's only 4 weeks old, though, so I don't get her until May 4th. So that gives us plenty of time to come up with a name, right? Leave any girly type monikers in the comment section below and I will consider each and every one. So far all I've got on my favorites list is Miss Millicent Barker (Milly for short).

Guess what else I bought. With the advance from my upcoming Bow Street Runners novel, I booked a ticket to England. Yeah, baby. I'll see what kind of international scandals I can cause next fall when I hop a plane and skip across the pond. This is nothing, however, compared to the advance Senator Ted Cruz just landed with HarperCollins. The dude bagged $1.5 million! Dang. That's like a gazillion trips to England. High-five to you, Ted.

I attended a ballet today for which I did not have to buy tickets. My daughter was in it as one of the extras so hello comp tickets. It's not like I've never been to a ballet before, but...umm...times have changed, my friends. I swear the men were NOT wearing tights but instead merely painted white on their legs and other bulgy parts. Sorry for the visual, but what is this world coming to? And why am I in this handbasket?

Okay, now that I've got all those randomosities off my chest, it's time to get back to my regularly scheduled programming. I've got a book to write.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Uhh . . . Spring?



Disclaimer: In the making of this film, NO wiener dogs were folded, spindled, or mutilated. Nor were they punched in the head, though it kind of looks like it. The snowman, however, was completely obliterated.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tidbit:

Currently I'm this close **touches forefinger nearly to thumb** to finishing up editing my Bow Street Runner manuscript and hitting send. I will finish it today, and when I do, I shall eat cake. Anyone else out there love cake? Chocolate, with chocolate mousse filling, and chocolate frosting. Maybe a sprinkling of walnuts on top. Of course I don't mind me a slab of white cake with coconut frosting.

Squirrel!

As I was saying, the next step after hitting send is to wait. What for? The magical fairies in publishing land to sprinkle glitter all over it and then resend it to me. For more editing, of course. That will be the macro edit, wherein I get to fix plot holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through. Hit repeat for the same process, and I'll get a content edit, fixing up wonky grammar and making sure Aunt Frieda wears a blue flowery dress for all of chapter one instead of changing it to green half-way through. No, I don't really have an Aunt Frieda, but super fun name, eh? Kind of like Francisco or Mr. Bingley. Names like that are a fun rollercoaster ride for your tongue.

Squirrel!

Oh yeah, so somewhere in the midst of all this editing, I'll hopefully get a comp of the cover. I'm expecting great things from Barbour. Check out some of their yummy covers HERE.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spritz

I have a stupid phone, but for those of you who don't, Spritz is an app you might enjoy. It increases your reading speed by displaying words in quick succession. It claims that you could even devour a book like Harry Potter in only 77 minutes. Sounds interesting. I might give it a whirl just for the heck of it, but personally I wouldn't want to read an entire novel this way.

Why? Because . . .

I like the physical act of turning a page, feeling the crispiness of paper between forefinger and thumb, hearing the shush of pulling the page from right to left. Is that too kinesthetic? Maybe. But I like to rub the satin edge on my blankie as well. Hey, don't judge me.

Call me an artsy-fartsy, doobie tokin' flower child, but I like to see the shapes words make on a page and look at the negative space around the paragraph formations. That is some serious eye candy.

Reading is a feast. I like to savor each word, roll 'em around in my head for awhile, inhale their aroma. When I sit down with a book, I read every, single word. No, really. I do. Which is why it takes me so long to read a book. I know how much effort went into creating those word pictures, so I feel like I owe it to the author to appreciate that work.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I'd never use Spritz. I think it would come in handy for those down-times when I'm standing in the wrong LONG line at the grocery store or waiting forever in a doctor's office. At the very least, it's fun to check out the SPRITZ WEBSITE and see what reading speed feels comfortable to you.

Oh yeah, and for those of you with stupid phones like me, they are developing a computer/website version as well.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

History Lesson. No, I'm Not Kidding.

Since I'm a historical writer, I think it's appropriate that today I lecture on the history of April Fool's Day. Don't worry. I won't make you memorize any dates.

Way back when gladiators duked it out with sharp, pointy swords in the Coliseum, there was the Roman festival of Hilaria. Sounds, umm, hilarious, eh? Yes, Captain Obvious, that is where the word comes from. It was held on March 25th.

Another theory is that France changed its calendar in the 1500's so that the New Year would begin in January, matching the Roman calendar instead of beginning at the start of spring. However, lacking Twitter, word traveled slowly and many people in rural areas continued to celebrate the New Year in the spring. These country hicks became known as "April fools."

In India, Holi (a Hindi festival that entices non-Hindi participants to join in) is celebrated by people playing jokes and throwing colorful dyes on each other, kind of like a 5k color run but without sweating.

In France, people who are fooled on April 1 are called "Poisson d'Avril," which means the "April Fish." A common prank is to hook a cardboard fish to the back of someone, kind of like slapping on a "Kick Me" sign. No one is sure what's up with the fish thing, but some believe it's tied to the early Christian fish symbol (ichthys) or maybe the Zodiac sign of Pisces, which falls near April. Napoleon earned the Poisson d'Avril nickname when he married Marie-Louise of Austria on April 1, 1810.

Honestly, no one really knows where or how it began, but it is doggone fun to put sugar in the salt shaker and vice versa.
 
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