When a book idea strikes

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Monday musings on new ideas for books

By M.L. Doyle

It never fails. I usually get hit with the good idea stick when I’m at my desk … at my day job.

Like most indie authors, I don’t make millions writing books (don’t I wish), so I have to earn a living doing something not as fun or as cool or as fulfilling as writing books. Ah well.

That said, it’s at the job where I actually earn a living that I get ideas for the job that isn’t responsible for putting food on the table. I’ve never asked, but I’m guessing my real employer wouldn’t be too happy with me dashing off a chapter or two while I’m supposed to be doing what I get paid to do.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Between having the first two books in my Desert Goddess series made into audio books, I’m sketching out ideas for book three. I’d been rolling a bunch of ideas around but hadn’t really landed on anything that was worthy of a jumping-off point. Until, off course, I got to work.

It felt as if, as soon as I booted up my computer, opened Outlook and started scanning through the piles of emails that would govern my day, that Hester, Gilgamesh, Sarah, Reuben, Quincy, Rashid and everyone else in my made-up world, demanded my attention. The opening scene unfolded. The emotion and atmosphere made themselves real. I could hear Hester in my head and the new character that will make his debut in this book, finally became a solid, fleshed-out human. For the first time, I could see his thoughts, could feel his fatigue, his hunger and confusion. He finally took shape and I knew exactly how I would make him work.

I grabbed a post-it pad, scribbled a quick tease of the ideas, and stuck them in a notebook. Throughout the morning, between meetings, phone calls, discussions with colleagues, I kept scribbling ideas and setting them aside for later. By the end of the day, I had a decent stack.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

At home, I spent some time sticking the post-its to the wall, moved them around, tried to build a bit of a timeline. There is still a lot of work to do plot-wise, but I’m finding the sticky note method works for me.

Once I sat down to write, I flew through the words that tied all of those ideas together. Chapters one and two were done in a flash.

Writing and my day job, for obvious reasons, have to be separate, but I’ve yet to figure out how to tell my brain to stop firing when I get to the office. I’m not even going to try.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.co

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What to write?

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Monday musings on an author’s decision by bestselling author

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Raine Thomas

I’ve never met an author who didn’t have at least five stories running through their minds at any given time. I’m no different! I hear characters in my head whenever I’m not focused on anything else…while I’m walking the dog, washing the dishes, taking a shower, or riding in a car, for example. (I’d say I never heard them while I was driving, but that would make me a bald-faced liar.)

With so many stories to choose from, how do I decide what to write? Do I follow the trends? Listen to reader demands? Or do I cave into the loudest voices in my head and share their stories first?

In my career, it’s really been a combination of all of the above. I started writing my Young Adult Fantasy series about the Estilorians back when my daughter was a toddler. I had just lost my job and it was the perfect time to finally sit down and write the stories of sisters Amber, Olivia and Skye. It did so happen that YA, in general, was really popular at the time thanks to series like Harry Potter and Twilight, though I would have chosen to write the Estilorian books first in any case. They were simply the stories in my head begging to be written most.

Thanks to the popularity of my first Estilorian trilogy, it made the most sense to write more books in the series. Thus, the Firstborn trilogy came next. I got to know new characters in the world I’d spent years creating, which made it a fun writing journey. I’ll admit that the reader feedback (reviews) from my first books helped shape some of the characters in the Firstborn trilogy, and I’ll always be grateful for that. They’re some of my absolute favorites!

After publishing my sixth Estilorian book, New Adult fiction was all the rage. It was a new genre pioneered largely by indie authors and it called to me. I wrote For Everly (a New Adult baseball romance) in six weeks. It was the fastest and easiest I’d ever written a book, and it’s still one of my most popular and well-reviewed. I made more from sales of For Everly in the span of four months than I’d made in two years of my full-time job’s salary. I was sure I’d be writing full-time in no time!

Unfortunately, the New Adult market, like many others, quickly became saturated. Millions of new authors published books that year. I published Meant for Her (another New Adult baseball romance) five months after For Everly. Sales fizzled across the board and they’ve never bounced back. I heard the same story again and again from my fellow authors everywhere.

After that, I realized it was foolish to write to trends unless it happened to align with a story I want to tell. Now, I write the stories I want to write when I want to write them. It’s been remarkably liberating!

I published my seventh Estilorian novel, Deceive, the year after my baseball romances came out. From there, I moved on to my House of Archer series (New Adult rocker romances). Now I’m working on For the Win (a New Adult baseball romance). I’ve got plenty of other stories waiting patiently in the wings too…and I can’t wait to share them with the world!

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

Raine is a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know more about Raine on

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Why do I write?

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Monday musings by bestselling author

Scott Bury

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

This is a question that writers get a lot, right up there with “Where do you get your ideas from?” 

Both questions have the same answer: I write because I think of new stories all the time.

The ideas just come to me.

What’s going on in the world around me sparks many stories, but it seems my subconscious twists reality and often forges new ideas on its. own. 

This morning,while I was lying in bed awake after the false nuclear scare in Ontario, a story came to me. It’s about a fighter pilot with the nickname “Sapphire,” which is an oddly feminine nickname. Sapphire, himself, is not bothered by that, although others are. In the story, there is another person, not a pilot or even a military person, who is obesessed with Sapphire. However, the pilot is not. aware of this obsession, and only gradually becomes aware of being stalked. 

It’s only the beginning of a novel, of course. But the point is, this story came to me from … Well, I guess, my dreams.

There are so many other stories swirling in my mind. Stories I haven’t written down solely for lack of time.

RIght now, the story I am working on is a sequel to my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. I have come up with the title The Triumph of the Sky (you can work out the opposition forces from those clues.) But concentrating on that requires that I put these other stories on hold, at least until I finish Triumph

These are stories like:

  • Dead Man Lying — the revised, extended edition of the novella I published four years ago. Set in Hawai’i, it’s about the mysterious death of an aging rock star, and the conflicting stories he told his family.
  • A near-future dystopian story about life following a two-degree global warming, in which because of financial pressures, the U.S. has fractured and China is the sole superpower in the world.
  • Dark Clouds — extending the short story I published six years ago, combining urban occult fantasy and spy thriller
  • Echoes, the working title of a crime story based on two favourite songs from my teen years
  • The Travelling Cat, a humorous story about a cat who sneaks onto an airplane and learns the truth about airline food and other atrocities
  • Wine Country Mystery #2, the follow-up to Wildfire. In this one, I want to write about Ta migrant worker in California, falsely accused of a crime. 
  • The Doctor’s In-Laws (working title), essentially a story about not keeping up with the Joneses.
  • A magical realistic story set in Prague, about a Canadian woman who discovers hidden strengths.
  • How to Drive Your Wife Insane—sort of a reverse how-to book. I’m still working on the research.
  • The Last Tiger, a middle-grade book about two brothers in the Russian Far East.
  • The Outsiders — okay, I realize the title has been taken, but this is about people who want to make an impact on their society, but face the obstacle of not being part of the accepted club.
  • Lightning Strikes — 30 years ago, I wrote a novella that I never published and in fact showed only to one other person. It see it as the first part in a novel about a man forced into a life of crime by a corrupt corporation.

There are more, as well, but I won’t belabour the point.

Which is this: I write because there are stories that have to be told. 

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Rout of the Dem-Shyr

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A Thursday fantasy teaser from the second books of the Ascendant Series

By Raine Thomas

Kyr looked around and saw she was in a dimly lit room. She also realized that she was sitting in a death box.

A scream built in her throat. In an instant, she was standing beside the death box rather than inside of it. She had no memory of climbing out, nor did she know how long she stood beside it, staring at it as though it could offer her answers to the long stream of questions running through her barely functioning mind.

The sound of a door handle turning sent her skittering back into the shadows. She clung to a tall column in the middle of the room and tried not to make a sound. She wished she had thought to cover the death box, but knew there was nothing she could do about it now. Hushed whispers reached her ears as the door opened and closed. Unable to resist, she eased her head around the column to see who had entered the room.

Zasha, the Wrym who had seen to Kyr’s comforts since her return to Alametria, stepped into the dim light of a wall sconce. Her hair was covered by a red scarf. She wore a simple red dress, as well, reminding Kyr that the Alametrian color of mourning was red…the color of blood and pain. The flowers Zasha carried, however, were purple. Kyr’s favorite color.

Behind Zasha walked a male that Kyr didn’t recognize until he stepped into the light: LeoVawn. The pair walked all the way into the center of the room, stopping short when their eyes adjusted enough for them to see that the death box was now open and unoccupied. The container of flowers dropped from Zasha’s hands with a jarring thud.

Kyr couldn’t stop herself from stepping out of the shadows. She had to get some answers, and the only thoughts she received from the male and female in the room were shock and confusion. Those emotions heightened when Leo and Zasha saw her and recognized her. Their eyes went wide. Their complexions turned the color of wax.

And one single thought got through: But she’s dead.

Their reactions told Kyr why she had been in the death box. “Zasha,” she said, finding her voice at last. “Where’s Ty?”

The Wrym female stood rooted in place as Kyr approached her and took her by the upper arms. Leo watched with a slack jaw, but made no move to intervene.

Kyr tried again. “Please, Zasha. Please tell me where Ty is. Where is Dem-Shyr TaeDane?”

“Ma’jah,” Leo said in a hoarse voice. “This cannot be.”

Frustration made Kyr want to shout, but she knew anyone could be outside the doors and listening. Drawing on her growing abilities, she centered herself and sent calming thoughts to Zasha and Leo. She needed their help.

“I’m fine, Leo. You can see that. Please tell me where I can find the Dem-Shyr.”

Leo swallowed audibly before he replied, “I’m sorry to say that he’s been banished to the Dark Lands, Ma’jah.”

Kyr sifted through her still-muddy memories of her home planet. “The Dark Lands?” she repeated. “But I thought only murderers are sent there. It’s the punishment of eternal exile.”

“Yes, Ma’jah,” Leo whispered.

Emotion rose within Kyr. Disbelief. Horror. Anguish. Her gaze moved between Leo and Zasha, reading only truth in their thoughts and expressions.

“But…who did he kill?” she asked at last.

“You, Ma’jah,” Zasha answered with tears in her eyes. “He killed you.”

Rout of the Dem-Shyr

Touted as the future ruler and savior of worlds, Ascendant KyrVawn is ready to put her growing power to good use. She intends to begin with her home planet of Alametria, where hints of corruption have infiltrated the highest levels of the palace. It’s a monumental task, but one she won’t undertake alone.

By her side is her personal bodyguard and secret lover, Dem-Shyr TaeDane. Together, they’re determined to uncover the truth behind the changes that occurred while they were off-planet…changes that violate long-standing Alametrian laws.

But it’s hard for them to champion the rules when they don’t live by them. Their love is forbidden by official decree, and with every illicit touch, they edge closer and closer to discovery and disaster. Despite their good intentions, they’ll find out that sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

In fact, it might just be the very thing that destroys them.

Get it from:

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know Raine Thomas at:

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Boxing Day teaser: The Bones of the Earth

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Photo by Tanya Prodan on Unsplash

Today is bestselling author Scott Bury’s birthday, so for this Teaserday we offer a sample of his first-published book, The Bones of the Earth. This is the opening of Chapter 2.

Look down. Two young men, boys really, walk across the meadows and forests on the southern slopes of mountains that rise gently, then heave up suddenly to angry grey crags occasionally topped by snow. One of the boys is very tall, with long yellow-gold hair. His long legs propel him swiftly across a meadow thick with yellow and purple flowers. He pays no attention to flies buzzing around him, to crickets and rabbits that leap out of his way.

His companion is smaller with tangled, long black hair. Blotches of soft black fuzz swirl around his chin and down his neck. He scurries to keep up with the blonde’s strides and is out of breath. They have been walking fast, nearly running, for hours. It is the solstice, some time past the year’s highest noon. Birds are quiet in the hottest part of the day, but insects chirp and hum and trill. Leaves on the trees are still a light green, not yet burned dark by the summer. The air is warm, not hot, not yet.

The dark one gets more anxious with every step. But all morning, the blonde boy has ignored him. The dark boy recognizes this trait in his friend: his ability to focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else, for hours at a time. In their village, he was called “the dreamer,” or worse. Even in normal circumstances, you had to call him by name two or three times to get his attention. But now, he is following the trail of horsemen, mounted raiders, and no matter how many times the dark boy calls “Javor,” no matter how futile the quest, he cannot be pulled away.

Sometimes, it is easy to see the trampled grass or broken twigs and bushes, or a torn bit of cloth on a branch. Often, the light-haired boy seems to follow signs that his dark companion cannot see, and every time the dark boy doubts his friend and thinks they have lost the trail, he sees another sign—horse droppings, the surest of all, or once, a girl’s colourfully embroidered apron.

The dark boy begins touching every oak and birch tree they pass to pray to their spirits for protection, help, sanity for his friend. “You know, we keep going east. East is bad luck, Javor,” he puffs as they start up a slope.

Javor ignores that, too. At the crest of a ridge, he looks around, sees something that his friend cannot, continues at his same obsessive pace.

“You realize,” his friend says, trying hard to keep up, “that we fall farther behind them with every step we take. They’re on horses.” Still no response, so he reaches out and grabs Javor’s arm, forcing him to stop.

The blonde turns and looks at his friend without recognizing him. “Javor, we’re chasing mounted warriors,” the dark boy repeats. “We’ll never catch up.”

Javor blinks and looks uncomfortable. He seems to realize where he is, comes out of the trance he can put himself into.

“We’ve been chasing them for hours, and we have no more hope now of ever catching up to them than we ever did. Let’s go back home.”

“Home?” Javor says it like he has never heard the word before. “No. We have to get the girls back, Hrech.”

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Hit the Road, write a book

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Travel and writing series

Traveling puts you face to face with people and lifestyles you otherwise would never see or experience.

By M.L. Doyle

In 1996, I’d been in the Army Reserve about fifteen years when my unit was deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina for the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission. We were a small unit of public affairs journalists, broadcasters and media relations specialists and we had zero idea of what we’d be facing. It was both exciting and frightening.

Roll calls, early wake ups, long bus rides, briefings and more briefings. It was a very long road to get us from Minnesota to Bosnia, and the minute I stepped out of the Humvee at McGovern Base, a forward camp located just outside the city of Brcko, I knew I’d have to write about it all someday. More than ten years later, I finally sat down to use Bosnia as the backdrop for my first Master Sergeant Harper mystery, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

My time in uniform and working for the Army as a civilian means I’ve traveled a lot, providing plenty of fodder for fiction.

Once I started writing, it was easy to remember the people, the sounds and smells, the living conditions, the food, the controversies and rumors. There was plenty of fodder for a good military themed mystery in that war-torn place, and I used as much of it as I could.

Prior to deploying to Bosnia, my reserve unit had traveled to a lot of far-flung places. We’d gone to Thailand, where I met a team of Special Forces soldiers. A crew chief harnessed me to a spot right next to the rear door of the C130 we piled into. At fifteen thousand feet, the rear of the plane opened and I moved out to the farthest point the harness would allow so I could take pictures as the SF team rushed out the opening in a free fall HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) jump.

On that same trip, I’d gone to a tiny little village where an army vet told me the story of how he’d been walking from village to village in 90 degree heat, vaccinating oxen and goats. With a smile on his face, he told me he’d had to stick his plastic-encased arm up to his shoulder into the ass of an elephant to investigate some digestive issue. “You don’t get to do that every day,” he’d said.

My work as an Army Broadcaster and my deployment to Bosnia were the backdrops for my mystery series, beginning with The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

On December 20, 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama. My reserve unit had been scheduled to go to Panama for training in February, 1990, so when we arrived, there were still bullet-pockmarked buildings and burned out cars scattered along the roads. I’ll never forget the scorch marks and signs of utter carnage. That trip was the first time I’d seen the aftermath of war. It wouldn’t be the last.

On another trip, I went to Guatemala’s Soto Cano Airbase and from there, traveled around doing stories about what soldiers were doing in the Central American country. I decided to tell the soldier’s stories by at least trying to do what they were doing, to get my hands dirty a bit. So, I ran a rock crusher, picked up and emptied a bulldozer bucket of rocks. I lay cement blocks for the foundation of a school, dosed a few cows and horses with de-worming medication and gave vaccinations to a couple of kids. One of the military dentists asked me if I wanted to pull a tooth. I said no thanks to that.

During our trip to Honduras the troops did much of the same kinds of missions, but the mountain villages were much harder to reach and the small villages felt isolated and cut off from the world. That trip was the basis of the second book in my mystery series, The Sapper’s Plot.

As a civilian working for the Army, I spent week after week in Hohenfels, Germany, a massive training area in Bavaria. The mock towns, miles and miles of dirt roads and live fire ranges were the basis of my third book, The General’s Ambition.

The Ziggurat behind me was the inspiration for the Desert Goddess series and the books The Bonding Spell and The Bonding Blade.

Shortly after the start of the Iraq War, I was assigned a mission to go to Baghdad from Germany on the occasion of the change of command from one general officer to another. I decided to take advantage of the assignment by flying into Kuwait and convoying from there to Baghdad as a chance to shoot video and capture stories along the way. It took two days to get from Kuwait to Baghdad. Along the way, we stopped at an ancient Mesopotamian town called Ur. The Ziggurat in Ur and the streets of Baghdad were the basis of my urban fantasy series, beginning with The Bonding Spell.

Additionally, the trip between Kuwait and Baghdad helped me greatly when I co-authored Shoshana Johnson’s memoir. The stories she told me of the ambush her unit encountered, and the days she was held as a POW, were so vivid and easy for me to describe because I had been there, walked the sand, driven the roads, spoken to the people and knew at least the basics of what she saw. Her book, I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home, benefited from our shared experiences both from having been in those places and from being black women who had served in Army uniforms.

I haven’t written a book about my time in Thailand, but I’ve used bits and pieces of that trip to color other stories. And so far, I haven’t based a story in Guatemala or Panama, but I’ve taken some of what I saw in those places and woven them into other narratives. There are plenty of other countries, military bases and experiences that could be imagination-fueling fodder for a good story. I’ve barely tapped into the places I’ve visited on vacation or any of the stateside duty locations I’ve spent time in.

Without doubt, location plays a big role in how and what I write. I’ve always enjoyed learning about new places, interesting careers and unusual spots in the books I read. Where the story takes place is the backbone which leads to how the story will unfold.

For example, the third book in my Desert Goddess series will have some bits that take place in modern-day Iraq, something I’ve not done with any of the other books. The next Master Sergeant Harper mystery is probably going to take place at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I haven’t figured out the plot yet, but I know where the mystery will take place because of the different missions that take place on that installation. And a new novella series I’m working on may very well take place in the DMV – the D.C., Maryland and Virginia corridor where so many military bases and federal agencies are located. Yes, I know it’s a common place for a thriller style story, but it’s also the seat of the nation’s power and the Pentagon. Plus, I know the area and for this particular new series, it’s a perfect setting, at least for a start.

For me, location, location, location is more than just a mantra for buying property. It’s also an important character in my storytelling.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

Unafraid of genre jumping, Mary has co-authored two memoirs, a three-book mystery series, a four-novella erotic romance series, and has just published the first book in a planned urban fantasy series.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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