Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm breaking up with you gluten, it's not me, it's you

My life is in a state of turmoil right now, big time. One of the challenges I've been facing is what I like to call Quasi eye. I may have talked about this here on the blog before. It's been happening for about 6 months now where my eyes get so puffed up I resemble Quasimodo.  It is, in a word, hideous.

It wasn't that bad at first, just a little swollen, I thought perhaps we were just having a dry fall. My eye doctor thought my tear ducts were clogged. He gave me some advice, which I followed and I switched from extended wear contacts to dailies.

None of which helped Quasi eye.

Then a couple months ago I thought, after a night of having maybe a glass too much of wine and waking up with swollen eyes that I was allergic to red wine, but then decided that was silly, as I drink red wine on a semi regular basis and Quasi is pretty erratic and comes and goes when it pleases.

After a 48 hour bout with Quasi eye last week, in which my eyes were swollen halfway shut,  I finally went to my doctor. I though maybe I was gluten or glucose intolerant. I'd never had food allergies, but hey, they can pop up any time during life, and now's a good time as any.

She thinks it's actually airborne allergies, gave me a prescription and told me some other things to do and take, but she did an allergy palette as well, just to see if anything else is out of whack. I already know I have allergies by the way, I'm allergic to everything under the sun. I've never had a problem with hay fever before and my eyes have never been affected, but she, as well as others have told me that sometimes it can do strange things to you one year, then never again.

Anyway, this all brings me back to gluten. Whether or not I'm allergic to wheat or gluten or the Glyphosate-based pesticides our food is soaked in (as a friend told me yesterday), many people have told me that going gluten free has made them feel better and made their allergies better. So I'm trying it.


Which may be difficult because I love me my bread. Nothing else matters. But hey, I can eat things like Garfava, Amaranth, and Job's Tears (really? WTF are those things?)

I will probably be annoying and intolerable for awhile, but at least I still have my staples: popcorn, greek yogurt and red wine.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ronald McDonald will never be cool

I'm in marketing. I'm sure you know that if you've read me for awhile. And well, I'm a writer and we have to be in marketing. But my day job is also in marketing. One of my Facebook friends posted the dumbest thing I've seen in marketing in awhile. Ronald McDonald's Millennial Makeover.

The new Ronald McDonald will be wearing yellow cargo pants.

The new Ronald McDonald will be wearing a spiffy yellow vest with red piping.

The new Ronald McDonald will be wearing a white and red striped rugby shirt.


There is still some things seriously wrong with this picture.

Ronald McDonald is still wearing yellow with red piping.

Ronald McDonald's name is still Ronald McDonald.

Ronald McDonald's hair is still an unnatural color of red.

Ronald McDonald has unusually large feet.

Ronald McDonald is a clown.

Maybe instead of changing Ronald McDonald's wardrobe you should just go ahead and change Ronald McDonald. Does anyone really like him anyway? No one really likes clowns, do they?

Here is the original picture from the announcement.

First maybe we should change the color of his outfit because...well...I've done a lot of research on color psychology...no one likes the color yellow.

How about a nice blue. Everyone's favorite color is blue.

Okay, that's a little better, but his hands and feet are still freakish. I think we should update them and make them a little more normal. What do you think?

Yeah, I know, the shoes are cool, he's got regular hands, but he's still a freaky ass clown. Hmmmm...Okay, can't he be a good looking red head, like one of these below?

And since we're giving him a full blown make over, the name Ronald McDonald isn't cool. How about Finn Flanagan or Brady Burns or Cody Collins.

Now I would buy a burger and fries from these guys even if their clothes were still a little "off." What about you?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's Earth Day Motherf*ckers!!

Yes, it's Earth Day and I happen to enjoy the Earth, but there are some strange
things about the Earth that you may not know (yes, stranger than this picture to the right).

  • We're the only planet not named after a god. Dafuq?
  • Some people think we had a sister planet, Theia (also named after a God(dess) and our Earth absorbed it after they collided 4.5 billion years ago and the rest of Theia is now our moon. O.o Sounds legit.
  • The Earth isn't really round. It's geoid, meaning it has love handles.
  • The pull of gravity differs across the globe, meaning, you are technically lighter or heavier in certain locations on Earth. I'm going to assume I live where we weigh heavier.
  • This:
  • The Earth has tectonic plates, which allow the crust to recycle itself, and is the only planet to have them.
  • We're getting jilted out of our days. The Earth actually takes about 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.091to rotate around its axis.
  • 400 billion gallons of water is used every day across the globe. Sheesuz.
  • Asia has too much mass and too many people. Okay, that's not exactly what the stat said, but it was more funny.
  • 100 pounds on Earth would weigh 30 on Mars. We should all move to mars and eat pizza.
  • The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in Antarctica. It was minus 128.6 degrees. No thanks.
  • The hottest temp ever recorded was in El Azizia, Libya, where it hit 136 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Quakes on the moon can affect our tides here on Earth.
  • Coral reefs are the longest living structures on Earth, which creeps me out a little.
  • Humans can only survive unprotected in space for 2 minutes. So don't leave the Earth. It's good to you and you should be kind in return.
There you have it. Happy Earth Day. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Bike or Walk to work, plant a tree or some flowers. Do something nice for Mother Nature today. Don't be this asshole kid on the right.

Monday, April 21, 2014

These Vines Have Sour Grapes

I have been hanging out a little bit at the writer's forums at the Amazon
Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (which I said I wouldn't do) and let me tell you, just like every year, things have turned ugly since the quarter final cuts.

People aren't happy. They are complaining about their reviews about Amazon's Vine reviewers not being professionals so they have no business judging the competition etc.

Like I said, it happens every year. I believe this is the 7th year of the contest and I've entered 6. Of those 6 times, I have made it to the quarter finals twice, the first year and this year. Did I have sour grapes? Honestly, I don't remember. It's possible, but as a veteran and seeing it happen, I would say probably not. I would say I probably got my reviews, maybe bitched a little and went back to improving my manuscript.

Except the 4th year, but I've already talked about that. And speaking of that, yes, sometimes you will get a person who is not a good reviewer and if you do that sucks. That's what happened to me that 4th year. And when I am talking about a someone who is not a good reviewer, I'm not talking about someone who didn't like my book. Shit happens move on. I'm talking about a person who:
  1. Says nothing at all about your writing in their review.
  2. Adds their biased opinions about ____________(fill in the blank, it could be homosexuals, the death penalty, drugs, whatever) and decides your book is no good because it includes it.
  3. Is obvious they didn't read your entry or openly say they didn't read it yet gave it low marks.
  4. Gives no constructive criticism whatsoever.
  5. Gives criticism in the form of insults, snark and sarcasm.
  6. Instead of encouraging you to work on your craft tells you to quit altogether or worse, kill yourself (yes, the latter has been done).
So, if you get a reviewer like this in the contest the only thing you can really do is
report them to Amazon and hope they never choose them for the contest again. Other than that, it's a done deal.

There are people on the forum bashing the contest, saying it's stupid and Viners shouldn't judge and they will never enter again. Okay. Those people have that right. I just had to point out a few things though:

  • ABNA is a free contest.
  • Amazon gives away 6 publishing contracts and advances in the amount of $125,000
  • It's Amazon's contest, who else are they going to get to judge the 500 excerpts but their own reviewers.
  • You can't judge the entirety of the contest on a couple bad reviewers.
  • Amazon states in the rules who is judging the contest and who they are.
  • It actually prepares you for the real publishing world as it is subjective and some people will hate your work and some people will like it and you will have to learn to deal with that.
I have gone far, I have been cut. I've received good reviews and I have probably
seen the worse review the contest has ever seen, but I will continued to enter because 1) It's free. 2) I'm still a Mid Lister 3) It's a good opportunity to meet other writers 4)I like getting the feedback on my work, which always helps me learn and grow as a writer.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reviews of Girl in Motion

I wanted to share this yesterday, but I worked late, then there was some Good Friday after hour drinks to be had, a nap because I was going to a show in Seattle and then I didn't get home until like 1 am. BTW, if you like good music and like good country, like old country (because I'm not a country music fan, but I like me some classic stuff like Americana stuff) and some bluesy country and rock, you should check out Clear Plastic Masks and Hurray for the Riff Raff. Effingfantastic stuff.

Also, while you're there checking those out on Youtube, you should check out my latest vlog, Glamorous Life of a Midlist Author, Episode 3.

Okay, back to these reviews. In a word, they were pretty awesome. The first reviewer was not as glowing as the second and that's fine. I've not read the manuscript in a while and though I disagree in some respects (awkward sentences, it's more of a voice thing, but maybe if I rework them, I'll see the light), I'm sure others are spot on, so here is the first review:

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The author uses good details that add to the emotion of the piece - like the moment when the narrator sees the undertakers rolling her mother out in a black plastic bag with the zipper down the front. The specificity of certain moments in the excerpt allow us to more clearly see and understand the characters. The description of the urn, how Chelsea straps it carefully into the front seat of the car before she leaves - all of these are the moments that make this book seem emotionally moving. I think the author could have more of these moments and further develop the ones s/he already has

What aspect needs the most work?

I think this text could use a couple rounds of editing. There are some awkward sentences, for example: "I slept when she finally died after just three months, and I was glad for it" and "I like how Idgie and Ruth stood up for what was right and by each other in the hardest of times."

I also feel that there are moments where the author doesn't fully develop the scene, character, or dialogue. Often the writing feels like a series of "and then this happened, and then this" without a lo of developed scenes. The strongest moment is when the George's come to take the body, because here we have an emotional scene that has good attention to detail. More moments like this.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Overall I think this is a fairly strong premise and excerpt - I'm interested in Chelsea and her future with her unknown father. I think it could do well in the Young Adult genre. I do think it could benefit from some more (fairly substantial) editing to further develop the characters and scenes.
Review #2:

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

"Girl in Motion" is an excellent portrait of a sixteen year old girl confronting the death of one parent and her attempted reconnection with her noncustodial parent. Having lost my father when I was seventeen gave me greater insight into this topic and to the emotions expressed in the excerpt. The author's depiction of Chelsea's reaction to the undertakers is exacting and could only have been written by someone who has experienced a similar event or who is extraordinarily empathetic.

What aspect needs the most work?

"Girl in Motion" was another excerpt that I found so compelling that I was unable to find any significant weakness needing additional work. The author captured the characters' attitudes and emotions quite well. Individuals' reactions to various challenges and conflicts were genuine and were those most would also experience. If one thing might add to the piece, it would be helpful to know the cause of Chelsea's parents' divorce and the reason for her lack of contact with her father.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I thought "Girl in Motion" was an excellent piece of writing that promises to develop into a fine work of young adult fiction. The situations in this piece are ones many teens confront; the reactions true to life; and the outcome uncertain - as in life. The characters are relatable and appealing. Their resilience is part of the story and their eventual triumph is something the reader hopes will occur. 
 Needless to say, I'm very happy with these reviews I've received. You can now
go read and review my excerpt of Girl In Motion here, and I would love if you did because I believe they are taken into some kind of account during the contest.
Next step: Top 25 (Semi-Finalists) announced June 13th at ABNA. The Semi-Finalists will be determined by ranking each Quarter Finalist Entry based on the average Judging Criteria score given to each Quarter Finalist Entry by Publishers Weekly. We reserve the right to advance fewer than 5 Entries from each Category to the Semi-Finals if, in our sole discretion, we do not receive a sufficient number of eligible and qualified Entries.
There you have it. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

So, I don't even know if I mentioned that I entered this contest again. This is the...wait, I need to count...1,2,3,4,5...6th time I've entered the ABNA contest. The first time I went to to the semi-finals. After the first year, they changed the way they did things drastically. The 2-4 time I got past the pitch phase. If you make it that far, you received reviews from the first round of reviewers, I think in the 2nd year it was Publisher's Weekly, but since, it's been Amazon Vine reviewers. The 5th year, I didn't make it anywhere.

I was trying to locate the reviews I received, but alas, could not, except for the scathing one I received in year 4. You see, although I was ousted in year 2, both my reviews were good. Year 3, the reviewers like my writing, but not the subject matter (school shooting, graphic violence, meh).

However, year 4...oy. I don't even remember my 2nd review (though I think it was pretty good) because this one blew my mind. If there was every a person that didn't "get" my writing, or the voice, it was this guy. And I only say guy because that's the vibe I got from the review. I will add that the reviewer though I was a teenager,
which I take as a compliment to the voice of my character being spot on, although he didn't get that.  But this is also a sad statement because if I had been a teenager, this person probably would have made me quit writing forever. The following is not constructive criticism. It is an attack and would do no writer any good. I will also add that by the time I entered this contest, I already had my book contract for Never Eighteen.

 Here are a few of my favorite lines from that review.

"Unfortunately you have failed to pay attention in the one class required to be able to write well - English."

Um, really? I think Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would disagree.

"It's a shame that you didn't write anything that hasn't been written hundreds of times already this year."

Yes, because in 2010 I'd seen tons of book out there about girls who wanted to play high school football to gain the attention of their estranged father. O.o

"If this was a school paper, I'd have to give it an 'F'."

Well thank god it wasn't!

"It is way too easy today for people to get published and sincerely hope you do not see that as an option. Frankly this is no where good enough to be called a "book" and you to be called an "author.""

First of all, really? It's too easy to get published today? What alternate reality are you living in? And um, you think I'm like 16 and you're going to say something like that to me. Yeah, way to dash the hopes and dreams of tomorrow's future. I'll think I'll go shave my head, put on some black clothing, read some Plath and cut into my thighs. Sheesh.

In a word, this guy(woman, whatever) was a douche. I've learned to handle bad
reviews and criticism, but I was like, bewildered. *Blink Blink* Did I really just read that?

So anyway, I digress. The point of writing this blog was to tell you that I have made it to the quarter finals of the ABNA contest for the first time since the first year I entered and with the same book I entered that received this scathing review.  Girl in Motion - football book. So, there you have it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm old(er)

Today I turn 45. Every year I make myself promises to myself about how I'm going to be when my next birthday rolls around. While most of those promises are abandoned throughout the year, and I may be thicker around the waist (and let's face wider in other places and sagging in places I wasn't before) and have more wrinkles and gray hairs, in other ways I've improved.
  • I'm stronger, physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • I'm more resilient - I bounce back much more easily than I used to.
  • I've learned that it's okay to say "no."
  • I do not let people take advantage of me. 
  • I take "me" time.
  • I ask for help.
  • When I'm in a rut, I switch gears
  • When I feel overwhelmed, I slow down instead of break down.
In the last five years I have become a different person, I think for the better.  For a time, I was a shell of a former me, and I finally broke out of that shell and became a new and improved me, more like my younger self, the self I lost along the way somewhere. 

If I were to give someone words of wisdom from an aging woman it would be this: 
  • Never compromise who you are for anyone. 
  • Never put aside your dreams for the dreams of others, though if you need to, work on them side by side, hand in hand. 
  • Never let yourself be manipulated into something you don't want to do, you could find yourself there for a very long time with no way out. 
  • Always surround yourself with people who will be a positive force in your life, who will support you when you need them - those people you know would move the earth for you. 
  • In turn, be that person for them.
  • Be good to your children and your parents, always (unless there is a VERY good reason not to, I think you know what I mean).
Happy Friday everyone. Hug your mother and have a drink for me today. Saluté!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Road rage and other horror stories

Yes, I was the victim of road rage yesterday. I was driving home from the *gasp* mall. God, I loathe the mall. Anyway, I was on the highway and it was pretty well packed as it was rush hour I have 5 million cars in front of me and a white van behind me following very close. The cars in front of me brake, so of course I break because, duh, I'm not an idiot, forcing the guy behind me to slam his brakes on because, as I said, he's following very close.

Apparently he did not like this. Oh no. He continues to follow behind me.  As soon as the HOV lane opens up to my left, that's High Occupancy Vehicle for those who are acronymically challenged, he speeds over, though I notice he does not have a passenger, tsk, tsk, and as soon as he passes me, gets back in front of me and slams on his brakes.

Wow, mature much.

I flip him off.

Wow, mature much.

He then moves into the right lane allowing me to pass then gets behind me. Then when I get into the right lane, because eventually I have to exit, he gets behind me. So now the King of Douchebagastan is following me.

You see, I'm not an idiot 1 of 5 things could happen here.

  1. He could actually continue to follow me, so of course I'm not going home, I'm going to the police station which is approximately .5 miles from my house.
  2. He could rear end me, which would be really stupid as I'm the daughter of one of the best personal injury attorneys in the state and I also work for him. He would unwittingly be totally screwed.
  3. He could shoot me dead. Then I would be totally screwed, but he probably would too because the intersection I'm stopping at is a busy one and he'd get caught.
  4.  He could do serious harm to me, but let me live. See # 3.
  5. He could take his empty threats and kiss my ass because he's nothing more than a bully being a douchebag.
He chose 5. When I got to my exit, I got into the exit lane and he followed behind me. As soon as the exit lane separated from the rest of the highway, he jerked his van back onto the highway. Ooooh, scary man in a work van.

I am sorry that guy was having such a bad day that he felt the need to tailgate me in the first place, then be a complete ass when I had to put my brakes on. I mean, his day must have been from hell. Either that, or he's just a douche. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope it's the former.

I recently read a quote I like.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be nice.

I'm going to try to remember than when I meet up with people like my road rage guy.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My writing process blog tour!

I’ve been invited to participate in a blog tour about the writing process, started by Maya Rock.  Maya used to be a literary agent at Writer's House. I know this because I queried her a couple times because she seemed totally cool and like someone I'd like to work with, but we all now how the query process is and, well, that didn't pan out. Now she's an editor and writer and the one who started this blog hop. Go check out her website. Her first YA novel comes out next year. Yay Maya!!

So this blog hop is an ongoing opportunity to get to know something about how writers see their processes (um, processes? are there such things as processes?) It's kind of like playing tag. Today I'm it. I was chosen by Facebook friend and fellow YA author, Stephanie Feuer (see how her name is a link? click on that and go check her out). You will see who I've tagged and will be posting a week from today at the end of this post.

Let's get started shall we. I'm supposed to answer four questions. Let's see...where did those damn questions get too...(pushes side sticky notes, grabs legal pads with scribbles on them) oh yes. Here we go...

1. What am I working on?

 Oh I just this very second tweeted about this. Would you like to read my tweet?
When you tell your kids the plot of the MS you're writing & they say, "What's wrong with you?" & "You're sick"
 Yes. Contemporary YA. For some reason I'm drawn to it. The plot is this: A teenage boy, who is quite the douchebag (womanizer, homophobe, racist, treats his mother, his girlfriend, pretty much everyone like shit), finds tornado debris in his front yard. His mom makes him help clean it up much to his dismay. Among the debris is a notebook, a journal if you will. He begins to read it and finds the words of a troubled teenage girl. A girl whose mom is an alcoholic, whose stepfather is abusive, who is bullied at school, basically whose life is a miserable mess.

Because he's such a douche, he thinks it's funny at first. But the more he reads into this girl's life, the more he starts to feel for her. He also starts to see parallels into his own life and his own faults are coming to the surface. When it comes down to the end of the journal, and the girl wanting nothing more than to die, he sets out to find her and stop her before that happens, to show her that at least there is one person out there that cares about her. But will he be too late? It's currently titled, A Tattered Life, but I'm not sold on the title.  

You can read an excerpt here.

I'm also working on revising a novel I want to put out this fall titled Girl in Motion. So there's that to contend with. Also still trying to market Dissected. Not too good at the multi-tasking stuffs. Oy. Working on it though.

That seemed like a really long drawn out answer.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Tough one.  I think I take risks other authors aren't willing to take. I write about hard things other authors won't write about and some people, yeah, they won't publish it. I write about the ugly truths, the not-so-happily-ever-afters.  The fact is that the good people don't always survive, and the boy doesn't always get the girl in the end, and some people don't always want to read about how perfect life is because it's not.

Sometimes life is hard and dark and painful. Sometimes we need THOSE characters to relate to. Sometimes we need to read about people who hurt like us and feel like us and not just the people who lead exciting existences and get what they want and you know in the end everything is going to be all right.

And I may not always end on the happily-ever-after, but I do end on the everthing-will-be-okay. I always end on a ray of hope. I don't write beautiful stories, but I think I write stories that need to be told. I don't know who said it, but there's a quote that really resonates with me, and I write it in my book, Dissected when I sign it.

"But without the dark, we'd never see the stars."
3. Why do I write what I do?

I think I sort of answered this above. The hard stories, the dark stories, for some reason I am just drawn to them. I think they're important and need to be written and that I'm one of the writers that needs to write them. 

I suppose it's because of my experiences too. I've seen a lot and suffered through some and that makes it easier to write this contemporary fiction that is so emotionally raw like an exposed nerve. It also makes it easier to put myself in my characters shoes and bring out their most inner feelings, fears and dreams.

I do want to write other things. I have different stories in different genres started, but I keep getting drawn back here to this place. Too many stories, too little time...

4. How does your writing process work?

And here is the hardest question to answer. I'm not sure what I do is a "process" per se. 

As far as the when and where...time seems to be fleeting these days. I write whenever I can. I have a day job, so I try to write in the afternoon. If I get up early enough, I write before work. I sit at my kitchen table in front of my sliding glass door, it's the place in my house where the most sunlight comes in. 

I also write in many notebooks whenever I'm out and about. I have notebooks scattered all over. At times I gather them all up in a central location and find where I've written everything. I counted the last time I did it, there are about 20 notebooks around my house, car and in various bags laying around.

As far as the how, I sit down, I write. That's what I do. While I'm writing, I research. Probably to a fault. I think I get a little overzealous when it comes to authenticity.

Anyway, so I write and I research and I get a 1st draft down and it's crap and way too short (when I write the first draft is always way too short and always way too crappy)

So I do a next draft and flesh it out. I add details about people, places, make the prose prettier. Sometimes I have to add characters, pets. I usually find after a first draft that everyone is an only child, has one dead parent, and no one has pets.

I do a next draft, get Beta readers to give me feedback, give it to a couple editors, do another  _________rewrites (changes with every novel). Then I worry about how horrible it is for the rest of its days, no matter its future, published or sucked into the abyss of a word file for the rest of its existence.

So, for next week, here are the next three contestants...
Hart Johnson, Angel Young, and S.D. Skye. They will be posting on April 14.

First up, Hart Johnson...

Hart Johnson writes books from her bathtub. A social scientist by day, Hart spends her evenings plotting grand conspiracies and murdering people on paper. She is author via pen name (Alyse Carlson) of the Garden Society Mysteries and is serially publishing an apocalyptic flu conspiracy tale called A Shot in the Light.

 For her post next week, visit her blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart 

You can buy her books here. (they didn't tell us to do that, but I'm awesome like that)

Next, Angel Young...

Angel Young is a bit eccentric by nature. She's a writer, photographer, artist, dreamer, and all around weirdo. She cut teeth on vampire movies and carried around a beloved Wolfman doll as a child (appropriately named 'Wolfy'), pretended she was the Caped Crusader, and waited for her letter to Hogwarts. Not much has changed. She's a 23 year old girl battling an autoimmune disease, Sjogrens, with a lot of dreams, adventures, and a firm belief in nurturing her inner child. While her creative outlets are always being added to, writing will always be her favorite passion. To sum it up: A Batman-addicted weirdo covered in tattoos, almost always in Converse, running around in her own La-La Land.

Visit Angel's blog, Misadventures of a Misfit on Monday. (see what I did there?)

S.D. Skye, author of the J.J. McCall series, is an award-winning author and former FBI counterintelligence analyst. She's a native Washingtonian (D.C.) and professed nerd-girl who loves all things Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Big Bang Theory. She's a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, the Maryland Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime and lives to write novels, especially those involving 3-letter agencies and Beltway intrigue. She's hard at work on the next installment of the series. 

You'll find Ms. Skye's blog, here

Until next time...

My Dad. He's awesome.

John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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