Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 22, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-22-2016

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The last of the heat waves have passed, and now fall is upon us—which also means book award time!

Check out the National Book Award Long List nominees and the Man Booker Prize Short List.

Some literary lights have gone out this week: playwright Edward Albee dies at 88, and author W.P. Kinsella dies at 81.

This week would have marked Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday.

The controversy of the week concerns Lionel Shriver’s speech about cultural appropriation. Author Suki Kim discusses the situation eloquently, and Yassmin Abdel-Magied explains why she walked out of the speech.

As Viet Thanh Nguyen reminds us, to have true diversity in the literary industry—or any industry—the powerbrokers, gatekeepers, and owners need to be diverse.

If you know anyone who thinks public libraries are no longer relevant, point them to this article: Pew Research shows that public libraries remain vital to communities.

Tim Vernimmen examines where creativity comes from.

As writers, we often are asked why we write. Roz Morris discusses the question: is your writing a hobby, an art, a business, a vocation, or a profession? (Hint: there’s no single right answer).


With October just around the corner, deadlines for spooky stories are popping up. Ross MacKenzie shares 5 tips for writing scary stories.

When writing any story, we have to get the story elements balanced and make them carry their weight. Jami Gold tells us when backstory is necessary, and Margie Lawson explains how to finesse backstory.

Angela Ackerman discusses the storyteller’s Swiss Army knife—setting, and Alex Bledsoe gives 5 practical tips for worldbuilding.

Almost every story has a plot, and plot comes with its own elements and conventions to deal with. Melissa Donovan defines plot, Zoe M. McCarthy describes the role the inciting incident plays in both plot and character, and Brian DeLeonard takes a look at rebooting “the chosen one” trope.

Character seems to have been on a lot of people’s minds this week—hardly a surprise given how vital characters are to a successful story. Martina Boone reminds us that all stories are character driven, Kim English shows how to make characters round, and John Thornton Williams explores interiority of character utilizing indirection of image.

David King advises to give your characters roots, Becca Puglisi explores what’s in a character’s name, and K.M. Weiland shares the secret to writing dynamic characters.

Alex Limberg explains how body language can add depth to your fiction, Lee Wind reveals what to call different groups of people, and Sacha Black delves into the 6 most sinister villain personalities.

When we’ve got that first draft in the bag, we need to revise to make it amazing. Janice Hardy looks at the different types of revisions you may be facing (and how to handle each one), Mark Nichols examines 5 types of punctuation problems, Susan Brooks talks about the importance and knowing your genre, and Jami Gold has guidelines for balancing all the elements of your story.

Ursula K. Le Guin discusses her first attempt at a novel, and Catherine Ryan Howard explores why people refuse to believe that your fiction is exactly that—fiction, and not based on your life.

Nancy L. Erickson shows how dedicated reading time can improve your writing, Larry Brooks talks about the importance of craft, and James Scott Bell warns us never to assume we don’t need more improvement.


Amy Collins brings us the latest news on Barnes & Noble concept stores, Pew Research authors can use, and the rise of self-published books on the USA Today Bestseller lists.

Caleb Mason posits that the future of book publishing is all about scale.

Andrew Liptak reports that orders for comics have hit a 20-year high.

Since people DO judge a book by its cover, Diana Urban rounds up 19 fantastic book cover design resources.

Does having to find comp titles make you crazy? You are not alone. Agent Janet Reid talks about comp titles and keeping your sanity. If you are searching for an agent, new agent Jess Dallow of Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency seeks YA and adult fiction writers.

Marketing is something all writers must deal with. Amazon reviews are a must for a book to be successful, and Cate Baum goes over what is and is not allowed in Amazon book reviews, while Rachel Straub shows how she tackled Amazon’s Top Reviewer list.

One way to get reviews is to mobilize any and all publicity avenues to get the word out about your book. Robert Wilder discusses the power of pods, and getting friends to lead mini-brigades for you, and Debbie Young examines outside-the-box ways to sell your self-published books.

The online world is where much of our author outreach happens. Kristen Lamb explores if Facebook sells books and if writers need an author page, while Anne R. Allen shares 5 things authors should never do when email marketing.


Check out these 16 book covers that match New York Fashion Week styles (some matches are amazing!)

Know your words? Take the 4-minute vocabulary test, learn these 28 underused English words, and try to pass this punctuation and capitalization quiz.

Speaking of vocabulary, look at how the Oxford English Dictionary chooses new words.

Ever have a time in your life when you just don’t want to read? Sharanya Sharma explains why it’s okay to be in a reading slump.

For Mary Stewart fans, a newly uncovered novella has been published.

You can find almost anything in the New York Public Library, including every issue of The New York Times (first published September 18, 1851) and the Library’s radical zine collection.

If you vacation in the British Isles, you can spend time following one of these famous British authors’ trails.

If you want the literary cachet but not the travel, you could own F. Scot Fitzgerald’s house.

Rumaan Alam rounds up the great rooms in children’s literature, and Patrick Smith has 17 funny and thoughtful books for children under 5.

Victoria Dawson examines the significance of Nat Turner’s Bible in his rebellion.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to the Ocean City Free Public Library, in Ocean City, NJ.

Amazing murals in the Children's area at Ocean City Library

Amazing murals in the Children’s area at Ocean City Library

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!





Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 15, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-15-2016

Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | September 14, 2016


School has started and with it the pace and schedule of our lives switched from a summer sauntering to more of a school year march. An alarm wakes me at 6am. I listen until I hear my teen moving before getting ready myself. Then the morning flashes by as the children one after the other go to school.

Next I look after whatever is alive. This includes chickens, dogs, guinea pigs and a small cat. They are fed, watered, walked, eggs gathered, etc. Then I sit down with my computer and work. The first day was hardest, over the summer my time to work shrank to what felt like twenty minutes three times a week. The first day I was faced with a computer and no disruptions I could barely concentrate. The next day it was easier for me to focus and by the third day I was back into the swing.

It’s not that the children are disruptive, they’re just people with needs. My younger child is able to feed himself breakfast (so long as its cereal) and he’d cheerfully eat cereal for lunch and dinner. His sister, a teenager, would be happy to exist on tea alone if given the chance. There’s more of a chance of fruits and vegetables being eaten when I get involved. So over the summer meals other than dinner must be made. After that walks taken, pools swum in and streams stomped. All the while my WIP was crying out for attention, the internship I love was neglected and my very, very, VERY patient blog mates generously forgave my rather erratic schedule.

Thank you, summer, for the time I got to spend with my two favorite people and look out, fall. I’ve got a lot to do.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 8, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-08-2016

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 1, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-01-2016

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of September! It’s back-to-school time, and all writer-parents are rejoicing!

Books and school go hand-in-hand. Julia Seales lists 11 things all book lovers do when going back to school.


Writers are encouraged to write more, faster as a key to success. Steve Laube writes in praise of slow writing, and Roz Morris gives us 3 ways to measure progress with a slow-burn book.

How do we fashion an idea into something readable? Monica Hoffman shares 8 steps to writing a coherent novel, Janice Hardy shows how to take your novel from premise to plot, and Laura Drake lists craft books for pantsers.

Characters need to feel real to pull the readers in. Angela Ackerman discusses the emotional wound of being bullied, and Bridget McNulty has 7 rules for writing fantastic conversations.

After we write that first draft, we need to edit to make it shine. K.M. Weiland gives us a 6-step checklist to find the right critique partner, Joshua David Bellin shows how to clean clutter from manuscripts, and Elizabeth Law shares 7 ways to de-clutter your writing and your life.

Jenny Hansen asks if fear is hurting your writing dreams, and Jami Gold asks if you share your works-in-progress.

Elizabeth S. Craig explores writing in busy times, and John Saito describes how to design words.

Author Jonathan Safran Foer describes his writing day and struggles, while Clare Langley-Hawthorne tackles the issue of handling reviews.


If you are self-publishing, David Kudler examines ebook anatomy with a look inside the block box. Meanwhile, Anne R. Allen warns against jumping into self-publishing your first novel until you’ve thought it through.

Mary Kole discusses the question of whether agents and editors flogging their own books is somehow a conflict of interest.

Writers constantly hear about platform and brand. Kristen Lamb explains that ads are not a brand and promotion is not platform, while Jim Stewart shows how Yoast SEO can help polish your brand.

Promotion is the key to sales, but it can be difficult to get our books in front of our audience. Andre Calilhana shares book discovery sites that can help you find more readers, Matt Banner lays out how to promote your latest book with a blog, and Brian Jud tells us how to break into the multi-billion dollar gift shop market.

Publicity, publicity. Dorit Sasson asks: should you pay for a publicist?, while Chris Well examines how social media fits into your publicity strategy.

We spend a great deal of time on social media. Colleen Story has 7 ways to keep social media from ruining your mood, and Kirsten Oliphant shows how to be active on social media without losing your mind.


Take a look at 21 words stemming from the Latin word for “look at”.

Check out 10 weird and wonderful Guinness World Records titles about books.
Alanna Bennett celebrates raggedy-ass books.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to the Abington Township Public Library in Abington, PA.


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you again next week!



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 30, 2016

Reading — New Reasons It’s Good For You!

My bookshelves are overflowing. Books also sit on dressers, chests, the coffee table, side tables, counters, and any other available surface. Boxes of books line the upstairs hallway. Some of these books are my husband’s, but most are mine.

books-1260734__180 via Pixabay - Author Chronicles

As you may have guessed, I hate getting rid of books that I enjoyed reading, and I’ve read many of my favorites more than once. Recently, however, the lack of places to put new books has made me look at my overabundance of books from a new perspective. I’ve realized that I will probably never have time (or desire) to reread the hundreds and hundreds of books in my house, not when so many fascinating new books are published each year. So I’ve begun the difficult task of going through the piles, boxes, and shelves of books and donating all except those I can’t bear to part with. (My husband thinks there are still too many of the latter.)

One unexpected result of this book clean-out is more reading on my part. I’ve reread a lot of books that have sat on my shelves for decades, and I’ve once more enjoyed the magic of being transported to those other times and places and situations with characters I love.

Of course, even when I’m the busiest and don’t have time to pick up a book, I still read newspapers and magazines as well as blog posts. From this reading comes not only information that helps me in my daily life, but also a continuous source of ideas for stories, characters, and settings.

newspaper-1595773__180 via Pixabay - Author Chronicles

Yes, I’ve always appreciated reading and don’t need scientific studies to show how it benefits me. Still, I really love when researchers discover new virtues of reading.

If you check out The Author Chronicles regularly, you know that we chroniclers are staunch advocates of reading as well as of writing. Our Top Picks Thursday includes blog posts about reading whenever we can find them, and I was pleased to include four posts about reading in the August 18th Top Picks Thursday. One of these posts, from, discussed research that indicates that readers may live longer than non-readers. This finding really thrills me: living longer means having time to read more books … and thus live even longer!

Last week I found more good news for readers when I picked up the September issue of Prevention magazine. A short article in their Daily Pulse section reports that researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have discovered that listening to story podcasts activated sensations, emotions, and memories throughout the entire brain, not just on one side. In other words, listening to stories engages the brain more than music or math.

Increased brain engagement (brain exercise) is a good thing, and while we can’t say for certain from the results of the University of California study, I’d imagine that listening to audiobooks and also reading paper and ebooks would have similar effects.  Stories activate many areas of our brains (People in my family won’t be surprised by this. When I’m deep in a novel, my mind is so engaged that I’m unaware of anything that’s going on around me.) — and maybe this extra brain activity is one reason people who read live longer.

Certainly, new studies will discover further benefits from reading, although I don’t need any more reasons to pick up a book and read. Do you?

books - shelf-159852__180 via Pixabay - Author Chronicles - reading

Are your bookshelves overflowing? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Images of books and newspapers from

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 25, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 08-25-2016

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The Olympics have ended, which means I can once more go to bed at a decent hour.

Did you know librarians have Olympics, too? As if Librarian Olympics isn’t cool enough, Finland’s hot new karaoke bar is in a public library. Of course, you can still get books from a library. Check out some of the books on President Obama’s summer reading list.

A big congratulations to the 2016 Hugo Award winners!


Sometimes the beginning isn’t the best place to start. Jennifer Fenn discusses when beginning at the end is helpful.

Although “show don’t tell” is a frequent piece of writing advice, Martina Boone shares 4 times when “show don’t tell” can kill your work.

Getting the details right can make or break your book. A.D. Shrum examines the speed of communication in the world you build, Iain Bain explores how to write funny, Angela Ackerman creates mood in a scene using light and shadow, and Jodie Renner discusses the how and when to use hyphens, dashes, and ellipses.

Those pesky characters can keep us writers up at night. Jody Hedlund has 6 key things to consider when developing characters, Becca Puglisi explores the emotional wound of being rejected by your peers, Zoe M. McCarthy shows how to use point of view to deepen your scene, and Jami Gold seeks the best approach to character arc development.

We all have a writing process, and no writer’s is the same as another. Sacha Black lists 8 steps to discover your perfect writing process, while Jeff Goins shares his 3-bucket system to get writing done every day.

When you’ve done all you can with your manuscript, you need an editor. Maya Rock lays out 6 ways to vet a freelance editor, because en editor can help your manuscript give your readers a delicious book hangover, as described by Ash Krafton.

Writers write because they love it—it’s part of who they are. C.S. Lakin discusses how to avoid killing your passion for writing, while Richelle Morgan advocates feeding your inner artist.

We all know people who seem to radiate energy—and those who suck the energy from us. Kathryn Craft asks what you bring to your support team, while Sarah McCoy examines the lost art of listening.

Attending writing conferences can help take our craft and business knowledge to the next level. Nancy L. Erickson explores how a writing conference can help you become a successful author, while Bill Ferris shows us how to panel like a pro.


Steve Laube has some general industry news, and S.E. Zbasnick tells us how to avoid marketing scams.

If you’re self-publishing, you need to make your book look and sound great. Joel Friedlander explains how to work with cover artists and interior designers, Dan Balow shows how to choose a good title for your book, and Kristen Lamb explores why your book isn’t selling.

If you are going the traditional route, you need to woo agents/publishers. Jane Friedman lays out how to write a non-fiction book proposal and how to distinguish yourself among agents and editors, agent Carly Watters shares 5 tips for authors, Susan Brooks discusses the importance of genre specific books, and Mary C. Moore talks about titling your manuscript for submission.

Eric Smith has 4 ways to build your platform that have nothing to do with your Twitter following, and Dorit Sasson tells us how to get speaking gigs even when you don’t have a lot of speaking experience.

While offline marketing is important, writers also reach people online. Kristen Lamb discusses how to grow your author blog, Jane Friedman talks about her use of autoresponders in her marketing campaigns, Melissa Flickinger explains why Buffer is the perfect social media manager, and Frances Caballo lists the only 10 social media applications you’ll ever need.


LitHub interviews Farley’s Bookshop. For when you go to a bookstore, Michael Swanwick has a list of fantasy novels that aren’t shelved in the fantasy section.

Chawton House Library has rare novels and plays by women writers from 1600-1830 available online.

Literary figures’ houses can become meccas to writers and readers, but 2 such houses are in danger of disappearing. Thomas Mann’s Los Angeles “magic villa” is up for sale and in danger of demolition, as its agent has “a hard time imagining that any potential buyers would be interested in its history,” and the battle continues to save Langston Hughes’ $3 million home in Harlem.

Take the quiz: can you tell the difference between Edith Wharton and Henry James’ writing styles?

Famed writer E.B. White expounds on white and brown eggs.

Jane Austen finished writing Persuasion on August 6, 1816—and here’s a page of the manuscript.

Hunter S. Thompson’s widow returns the antlers Thompson stole from Hemingway’s estate.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 23, 2016

The Longhand Revision Experiment

Veritas Cover ArtLike many writers, I have more than one Work-In-Progress (WIP) at any time. I have sent out one WIP to beta readers, and I have FINALLY gotten back to my revision WIP, Veritas. I had not worked on Veritas since June 28th, which gave me all sorts of angst. But this past week I was able to revise 4,878 words—4 chapters.

One reason not being able to work on Veritas was eating at me was because I was in a pivotal point in my writing process. I mentioned that I have returned to writing longhand at certain points in my process. I began doing that last year, when I realized that I could not revise deeply on the screen—and the first chapter I revised longhand was Chapter 51 of Veritas. I revised in that manner to the end of the book, then started at the beginning. And where was I in the revision when everything ground to a halt in June?

Chapter 50. One chapter away from closing the loop.

This revision has been slow, as I expected. After all, some chapters I was writing longhand almost from scratch. Other chapters I would write longhand just the sections of the chapter that really needed more depth added. Still, it’s a long process when you’re dealing with an entire novel.

But this week, I closed the gap. And now that I am back into the section I already revised longhand, I can see that I will be faster from here to the end. Sure, there’s still places I need to fix, but I think they are all fixes I feel I can do on-screen.

Handwritten page blurredMy experiment into revising longhand has been a success. I see more depth, more creativity in word choice, more subtle character development, and a distinct change in my writing style. I still have to figure out at what point I want to use longhand when I start novels from scratch, but I will definitely use it.

What tricks have you learned that help you with the revision process? And if you use longhand, where in your process do you use it?



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 18, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 08-18-2016

Library in Biltmore House, NC; Top Picks Thursday: The Author Chronicles

Library in Biltmore House, NC

A warm hello and welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We continue to muddle through a heat wave with so much humidity you can experience a sauna just by walking outside. Good weather to sit in the air conditioning and read a good book, at home or in your local library.

Good news for writers and readers: Erin Blakemore of Smithsonian reports that readers may live longer. So maybe we all ought to get away from the screen more often and pick up a book. Unfortunately, Natasha Onwuemezi reveals that adult library usage has fallen significantly across all age groups. If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, get on over there and see what they have to offer. And then — read, read, read!

If we haven’t yet convinced you that reading is important, Maria Popova presents Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on why we read and what books do for the human experience. Reading is especially important for writers: Emily Harstone looks at why writers need to be readers and author DBC Pierre provides his list of the top 10 books writers should read.


For those getting started on a writing project, C. S. Lakin reveals the secret to generating great ideas for stories, Jami Gold examines story beginnings, and Zoe M. McCarthy details what to put into your story so a great pitch comes out.

The number ten was on the mind of a couple bloggers: Chuck Wendig lists 10 things Stranger Things taught him about storytelling and Roz Morris shares 10 eye-opening tips to add impact to your storytelling.

Do you wonder which genre to choose for your project? Leanne Sowul explains why creativity is essential for all genres and Kate Moretti wonders: does genre dumb it down or make it rain?

To help crime fiction writers, Lucy V. Hay lists 5 crime fiction blunders to avoid and Elaine Viets writes about real vs. fictional justice.

Whatever the genre, the story is built upon characters in conflict. Melissa Donovan discusses creating characters that resonate, Claire Langley-Hawthorne delves into emotional resonance, and Angela the Librarian offers a checklist to help writers make sure your character’s emotions stand out, while Gerald DiPego remind us to create believable characters.

And for more on characters, James Scott Bell illuminates how to describe a character, Janice Hardy warns: don’t let your characters “nod” off, Mary Kole discusses the importance of evolving relationships in a story, and Janice Hardy asks what makes your protagonist heroic?

If you’re stuck on plot, Janice Hardy advises starting at the end and also looks at using internal conflict to create plot.

Another important story element is theme, and blogger K. M. Weiland expounds on the best way to write powerful themes.

Kristen Lamb takes a look at description: the good, the bad, and the just please stop.

For those who have trouble getting to the end, Philip Overby considers how to finish that endless manuscript.

Once your manuscript is finished, you may want to have beta readers and/or critique partners take a look at it. For those using beta readers, Dawn Field lays out how to be a good beta reader, while K. M. Weiland considers how to find the right critique partner and offers a six-step checklist, and Martina Boone zeroes in on how to find and be a good critique partner and mentions guidelines for their critique partner match up, happening this week.

To polish up your manuscript, consider employing an editor. Before sending your manuscript off to the line editor, Rebecca Faith Heyman recommends editorial assessments: finding music in the noise. Maya Rock lists 6 ways to vet freelance editors, and Dario Ciriello discusses copyediting for Indie authors.

Chuck Wendig shares 25 reasons why I stopped reading your book.


The big question: self or traditional publishing? Jami Gold discusses choosing your publishing path. And if you choose to be a hybrid author and use both, Sangeeta Mehta reports on a conversation with Bob Mecoy and Kristin Nelson about literary agents and the hybrid author.

If you’re looking at contracts, Kristine Kathryn Rusch illuminates the agent clause (contracts/dealbreakers) and Susan Spann stresses understanding ebook rights.

Whatever type of publication you choose, publication can be a lengthy process. Sarah Callender contemplates enduring the long road to publication.

Should you take credit for ghost writing or not? Roz Morris considers the ethics of ghost-writing.

For Indie authors, Claire Patel-Campbell provides seven tips to stay (mentally) healthy while you crowdfund your novel and Rochelle Carter sets out five essentials of your author marketing plan.

How’s your social media presence? Caroline Black discusses your online reputation and author brand, John Stevens reveals how to get 10x more blog traffic without spending a dime on advertising, and Anne R. Allen shares 7 tips to help author-bloggers get more blog traffic. Two bloggers feel visuals are vital: Rachel Thompson asserts this is the reason you need to create visuals now and Kimberley Grabas lays out how to build an epic visual strategy for your author brand. Jane Friedman explains why she started using pop-ups on her website and Becca Puglisi illuminates the most neglected resource for reviews: YouTube.


Melissa Donovan ponders Robert Frost’s thoughts about poetry and emotions.

For parents worried about what their children are reading, Kate Milford and Fran Wilde explain how monsters and magic can help kids through tough times.

Jason Daley reports on the Smithsonian’s giant collection of 19th century paper peepshows that allowed children a peep at the past.

Readers pick Scotland’s favorite books. Have you read any of them?

BuzzFeed‘s Jarry Lee has compiled a terrific list of 51 of the most powerful pieces of advice from books.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to the Main Branch of the Burlington County Library, located in Westampton, NJ.

Fiction section of the main branch of the Burlington County Library, NJ

Fiction section of the main branch of the Burlington County Library, NJ

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week. And visit your local library!


Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | August 16, 2016

Flaws, Perfection, and Steady Progress


I performed at Musikfest in Bethlehem this past weekend. It was a solid performance, I admit that, but it wasn’t perfect. Since there’s no better way to improve than to see oneself performing, I had a friend record some of our performance on my phone.

Despite getting a number of compliments (from perfect strangers, not family or friends), when I viewed our performance, all I could focus on was my flaws.

Today, I got an email with another compliment and sent a self deprecating reply only minutes before a friend whose opinion I really respect reread one of my old stories. “This is really good,” he said.

It may not surprise you to know that I found some way to turn that smile upside down.

If I was a character in a book, I could give you the back story of why I do that.  Since I’m not that character, I’ll spare you that and jump past the villain’s evils right to where I understand that I need to focus on my steady progress if I, the hero in this story, am to win the battle.

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