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Author Interview – Christa Conklin

March 26, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest novel?

In my youth, my father filled my bookshelves with Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Alexander, and Eddings. As I entered adulthood, he bought me Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books as they released.

My dad’s health declined. I began writing my own fantasy novel, transforming my useless anxiety into imaginative scribbling.

During this time, Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a disease similar to my father’s. They endured identical treatments, even taking part in a study for the same drug.

Jordan passed away before completing the series which was finished by Brandon Sanderson. My husband gave me those last three books because my father was gone too.

The sole connection between my dad and Jordan may appear tragic, but out of despair came Tranquility.

How did you come up with the title?

Tranquility is the name of a book within my novel. I wanted the title of that book to clearly represent peace, which was the intended purpose of the rules in that book.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

When I buy a fantasy book, I’m looking for a good story to curl up with and enjoy. I wrote a book I would want to read. Great books stick with me, and make me want to discuss them with other readers. A fictional story becomes the reader’s once the book is in their hands, and any message received is personal. I hope my book provides what good fiction should be: enjoyment; a story that remains in hearts and minds; and a reason for thoughtful discussion. That’s a tall order, I know.

Tranquility - Front Cover.png

How much of the book is realistic?

My hope is that the emotions, characters, and general circumstances connect to the real world enough for readers to identify with them. Some of the setting and characters were inspired by the Adirondacks, one of my favorite places. The messengers in the last chapter were inspired by a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, who still reside at the Philadelphia Zoo. However, this is an absolute work of fiction.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There are pieces of me, people I know, and experiences I have sprinkled throughout the story. Close family and friends tease me about certain characters, who remind them of me. The best fun is when people project themselves on characters, who are not at all inspired by them.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

My website is the best place to connect with me. I do not have a blog.

http://www.christaconklin.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christaconklinauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/christaconklin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christaconklinauthor/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17528828.Christa_Conklin

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christa-Conklin/e/B0788392DJ/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christa-conklin-72002669/

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I have the first few chapters of a stand alone WIP written and sitting on the back burner. The sequel to Tranquility is taking precedence.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I think Taelmai is high on my list of favorite characters. She struggles with hypochondria, but her nurturing personality drives her to care deeply for others, allowing an underlying bravery to well up. She’s a complicated, anxious, loving person, and I wonder about her reliability. She feels very human to me as I care for, worry about, and doubt her.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

Fantasy is my favorite genre. I do like to dabble. My short story Kat, The Jailer, and Jack is a retelling of an Indian folk tale The Tiger, The Brahmin, and the Jackal. This was fun to write because it was backwards for me. I took this old story filled with personification and reworked it into a modern all human cast of characters.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

Seat of my pants, definitely! Reading an interview with Madeleine L’Engle was a huge inspiration to me. Until I read it, I knew I had a basic idea for a story, but I didn’t know where it would go or how it would end. I thought I needed to have this outline to be a REAL writer. Then I read “The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy” by Leonard S. Marcus. He asked L’Engle, “Did you know from the start how the story would end?” she responded, “No. I’ve never done that! It is more fun not to know. If you know exactly what is going to happen, it doesn’t work. But if you start to write the story and listen to it, see where it wants to go … well, I think that’s how God creates.”

Reading this from one of my most-admired authors freed me from self-imposed constraints. I began to write, and the story unfolded.

What is your best marketing tip?

I value personal, grass roots effort as a strong starting place. I have a small teen/young adult tribe who have agreed to help me promote my book. They will be involved in everything from sharing and creating social media posts to live-streaming my author events and overseeing craft tables to talking to group leaders at their schools. Their peers are my readers. There is no better way to reach a population than to have some enthusiastic members encouraging their peers to enjoy what they have enjoyed. Also, talk to people and listen well. I discovered three friends, who have connections to newspaper/magazine publications. All three of them have helped me secure feature articles about my book. Talking to my town’s librarian and comic book store owner have secured me two author events. When I was on vacation in the Adirondacks, I talked to bookstore owners and loon conservationists about my book and its being inspired by their part of the world and the creatures residing there. I’ve made some great connections. Get yourself out there!

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

I have mixed feelings about social media. Tending to it takes a lot of time away from my writing and the personal engagement I prefer. However, it is a convenient way to reach a lot of people.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy losing myself in the story as it develops. This feels very similar to why I love to read.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I usually read for pleasure, but now that I am a writer, I find myself reading differently, noticing technical writing choices. I try hard to put that away, and just enjoy, but sometimes I am struck by a point of view or how dialogue is handled and I become thoughtful about the craft instead of the story.

Where is your favorite writing space?

I dream of writing in a cafe, using WiFi, and sipping a cafe mocha. However, I am a homeschooling mom, who is thankful for the times that my kids are learning independently, taking a class, volunteering, at practice, or playing outside so that I can write by daylight. For me, it’s more about a favorite time to write. That would be by daylight, but out of necessity, most of my writing happens in the wee hours. As for where this happens, I mix it up between my kitchen table, dining room table, and sometimes, when the sun is still up, the desk in my bedroom. That makes me feel fancy!

Bio:

CHRISTA CONKLIN is the author of several articles, and two short stories: Moontail and Kat, the Jailer, and Jack. Tranquility is her debut novel for which she received the 2016 Cascade Award for Unpublished Speculative Fiction. She teaches piano and
woodwinds at a music school in her small New Jersey town. Her family hikes mountains, paddles lakes, strolls city streets, and picks their own everything at local farms and from their own gardens. She and her meteorologist husband home school
their children and don’t train their Miniature Goldendoodle.
Visit her at christaconklin.com.

Review:

Tranquility  by Christa Conklin
“Tranquility is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre. Filled with magic, prophecies,
and plenty of mythical beings, Conklin weaves an intriguing, imaginative
tale that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the last page. With a rich cast of
characters, vivid world building, and a story you’ll be talking about long after you
finish reading, Tranquility leaves readers both satisfied and yearning for the next
adventure in the series.” —Kathryn Lee Martin, author, the Snow Spark Saga
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
March 20, 2019

Blurb:
She must prove there’s more to life than peace and more to death than dying.
The One People find guidance to peace and unity in the pages of TRANQUILITY. Drethene views the methods prescribed in the book as hurtful attempts to escape their diverse ancestry. Such pain is personal, as her parents aim to conceal how different she looks from the rest of their people. Even her job keeps Drethene quiet and secluded. While working in the Academy library, she secretly reads histories used only to teach future leaders to loathe the past. Drethene is inspired by these books filled with cultural variety. When she discovers another world as part of her people’s heritage, a well established enemy is revealed, and she rises to meet the truth and save both worlds.
Now Drethene must convince the One People that their lives are not as tranquil as they seem. They are being hunted and must reunite with a sisterworld that has been erased from their past. If they choose to remain in the comfort of their rewritten history and false sense of peace. they will be dragged into a maelstrom they have forgotten to fear.

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 31, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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One of my characters in The Twesome Loop is an abuser. Readers have commented that they really hated him, which, of course was the idea. However, during the editing/revision process, I was asked to give some sort of an empathetic side to his character (a reason for his behavior). This I did and it ‘explained’ his motivation to some extent.

When I recently watched the Ted Bundy tapes (which are truly terrifying due to his charm & ‘normalcy’ to those who knew him) it made me think that in fiction we ‘explain’ character motives but in reality there may never be one that makes sense.

Today’s question is: Have you been asked to ‘explain’ a character trait?

Were you happy to explain it or do/did you feel it took something away from the narrative?

Click on the post heading and then scroll to the comments. Looking forward to everyone’s opinion and experiences.

 

Author Interview – C. A. Asbrey

October 19, 2018
mandyevebarnett


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CA Asbrey

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It definitely lights a fire under me when I have a tale which wants to come out. I can sometime stay up until 3-4am if I have to finish a scene. At other times I can agonize over a phrase or sentence and before I know it the day has gone and I’ve only written a paragraph. I miss it when I can’t write.  

What is your writing Kryptonite

Emotional upset for sure. My last book took me a year to write as I was distracted by my husband being injured in an accident and my mother-in-law passing away from a long illness. I was very lucky to have a lovely mother-in-law. She is sorely missed.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

The Innocents

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve met many wonderful people on this journey and I’ve found them to be an incredibly generous and open community. I’d really encourage new writers to reach out and make contact. Not only will you find that they share resources, but you’ll probably make all kinds of new friends too. There are too many to mention but Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier deserve a special mention. Both have been so supportive and inspiring to a brand new writer and have gone the extra mile in helping me cross over so many barriers. Kit introduced me to her publisher after reading my work, and helped me out of the slush pile. Joanie helped to point me towards the various groups which help a new writer with marketing and publicity. Not only that but she actually made up some advertising material and told me to ‘get my swag on.’ I was being far too Scottish—reticent and unwilling to look like I was bragging by saying my book was good. Both ladies have been incredible and I can’t thank them enough. Read their books and you’ll soon see how lucky I was to be assisted by them.

Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

‘The Innocents’ is definitely meant to be part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’s plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

So far it’s been on editing. I’ve learned so much from every bit of feedback given to me and I they all go towards making me better writer. That said there’s been free advice from other writers. As a newcomer to the writing community I have found great generosity of spirit and so many people have shared some of their valuable time to help me. I’ll be very happy to pay that forward. On another note I have just spent some money on publicity. I’ve yet to see how that will work. That may be my new enthusiasm if it really pays off.   

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation. It’s useful for a writer to grasp that and be able to shift the dynamics in a scene through clever use of words.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 

Lol, maybe a giant sloth? Or one of those dogs or cats which go viral for bumping into glass doors or falling off things.

Innocent-As-Sin-CAAsbrey-Web

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

‘The Innocents’ has been written and re-written to death. It’s probably in about its tenth incarnation. The second book in the trilogy was launched on 26th July and the third is at the editing stage before being submitted for publication. I have numerous other mysteries plotted. It all depends on public demand on whether or not I continue the series or write them as standalone mysteries.

What does literary success look like to you?

 To have people read and enjoy my stories. I make no pretence at literary genius or at writing anything worthy. I write stories which I hope people will enjoy.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 

Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it. Everything which influences every aspect of the stories. Abigail’s ability to disguise herself and alter her accent is taken directly from reports on the skills of the original female Pinkerton, Kate Warne. The theatrical make up and wigs were also true to the period. Stage make up had been primitive earlier in the century, but better stage lighting revealed a need for far better make up techniques, products, and prosthetics. Greasepaint was invented in the 1860s by Ludwig Leichner, building on the work of Karl Freidrich Baudius (1796–1860) in the 1850s. Lighting also improved costumes and acting techniques. It drove a desire for more natural representations in every area, simply because people could see the stage more clearly. Crepe hair went out and quality wigs came in. Colors were mixed to mimic skin tones and classes in their application were popular in the acting profession. Latex wasn’t invented until 1920, but prior to that rubber was moulded or even applied to a light fabric backing. When it was the right shape it was expertly painted to look exactly like a nose, dewlap, bald cap, or any other body part. I even researched whether someone with as much hair as the average Victorian woman could wear a short wig. The answer came from a young woman who enjoys cosplay – and she explains online how to pleat her long thick hair and coil it flat under the cap before putting the short wig on. It absolutely IS possible. I was really surprised to find how many really strange crimes and mass murders from the past seem to have been forgotten by all but a few. The past is littered with remarkable characters; honest and dishonest. There are cross-dressers, madmen, greedy people, selfish people, arrogant people, and clever people on both sides of the law. I was also conscious of how often history repeats itself and how themes come up time and time again as history stratifies the same issues and concerns time and time again. I was also impressed by the dedication of a few clever people who worked to catch criminals and close down their attempts to cover their tracks.

How many hours a day/week do you write? 

I have no set timetable. I wish I was that organised. Some days I write into the wee small hours, other times I can be researching and go down the rabbit hole following some amazing character or story. In the end all of it is productive and results in a story though. The actual process of writing is only the end of a longer mechanism. The invention has to come first.

How do you select the names of your characters?

As I write 19th century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him. It disturbed people who initially saw this as a straight romance, which it isn’t. 

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I only write mystery. I loved them right from the start because the reader can play along with the story. There are rules to writing a mystery, and the writer has to keep to them if the reader is to be able to play along. The story has to keep moving, all the clues need to be available and the plot needs to be convincing. The rules were set out in ‘The Detective Club’ which featured members such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterson, and E. C. Bentley. Not all the rules hold true today – for instance rule 5 states, “No Chinaman must figure in the story.” That I simply a ridiculous premise today. Agatha Christie broke rule 7 “The detective must not himself commit the crime” but they still provide a framework for the modern mystery writer. The method of murdering the victim must be a robust and feasible technique and not invented or spurious. The motive for murder in a whodunit should be personal, and not an act of war or part of a professional hit. That takes the killing into a different genre of writing. Many of the old rules say that a twin or a servant cannot be used as the murderer, but those rules have also been broken in modern writing and shown to be no longer relevant.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been playing with this story and universe since 2008. It looks like I’m a slow developer. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.

What inspires you?

Anything and everything. I can meet someone with an unusual name and I have to note it. I can read news story, read remarkable history, or find some amazing spy gadget. Somehow I piece them all together to form a mystery.  

How do you find or make time to write?

I found myself with enforced leisure after a serious accident.  Like many people I always wanted to write but life and family got in the way. I got hooked and wanted to get good enough to be taken seriously. I’m lucky to be in a position to dedicate time every day to writing. I look in awe at friends with families and job and wonder how they do it.   

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m editing the third of ‘The Innocents’ trilogy and have outlined some more mysteries I can have my characters solve if they are a success. I also have a completely separate mystery set in 19th century Edinburgh planned which I’m quite excited about starting.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Another mystery. No surprised there. I want to continue with the universe I created in ‘The Innocents’ as I think there are still a lot I can do with the characters. I also have a Gothic 19th century medical mystery set in Edinburgh in mind which is not related to that series.

Share a link to your author website.

Blog which includes things obscure and strange in the Victorian period     http://caasbrey.com/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/CAASBREY

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/mysteryscrivener/

Facebook group for The Innocents Mystery Series 

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/?ref=br_rs

Link to book https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BMHFXSJ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_wTSSAb8J40Q9H

Bio:

Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office.    

In that role she produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and wrote guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She was Media Trained, by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. She has also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.

 

 

Author Interview – Leslie Hodgins

October 5, 2018
mandyevebarnett


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Leslie

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing usually energizes me. There’s nothing better than getting some ideas that have been running around in my head down on paper.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

My kryptonite would have to be grammar and sometimes, punctuation. I get confused by all the rules. I’d rather just write.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

   No. I always pictured my name on the books I wrote.

  1. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

     Eva Blaskovic, Mandy-Eve Barnett, Konn Lavery. These guys have been huge inspirations and very supportive. Plus, they write awesome content.

  1. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

For the most part, I’m writing stand alones. I might have a signature that shows up in all my writing but all my works are going to be different genres and different characters

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

So far, just getting my book published. Spending money on that is creating a dream that I’ve had since I was a young girl.

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I don’t remember anything specific but jokes and puns were one way I learned about the power of language.

  1. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That’s a hard one to answer but probably Shade’s Children.

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

An anchor. It symbolizes my interest in pirates as well as helps me stay grounded. I’ve always been very attracted to anchors, whether in print, jewelry or real life.

Rebel-Destiny-CMYK-4x6

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Two on paper and one in my head.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Walking past a bookshop and seeing your book there, and having people talk about it, either in person or on social media.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Most of my writing has to do in the sci-fi and/or fantasy genre. I researched a lot of myths, history, and science fiction that other authors or TV producers have put out. I don’t know the hours that I put in before writing. Usually, I get an idea, start writing and then research as I go along.

  1. How many hours a day/week do you write?

Depends on where in the book I am. Could be anywhere from 4-20/week

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

I generally want the names of my characters to reflect something of their personality so I’ll research some names and then pick the ones I like best. If I can’t find anything, I’ll just look up some names until something feels right. If that fails, I’ll find a random name generator and pick some from that.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

There’s a scene where one of my characters (who’s been having nightmares that no one else can understand) has a fight with her boyfriend about them. It was the point where she’s starting to lose her cool, from being scared all the time, confused and hurt as well as exhausted. It was hard to write her in a way that wasn’t to be confused with her throwing a fit. I had to choose my wording and emotional descriptions carefully.

  1. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I grew up watching and reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy. That genre really excites me and just seems to be a part of who I am. It makes sense for me when I’m writing in that genre.

  1. How long have you been writing?

Actually writing, probably since I was 6 but my mom told me I used to make up stories right from the time I was 3 or 4.

  1. What inspires you?  

I pretty much get inspiration from everywhere. Music, dreams, reading other books or watching something on T.V., nature walks. I have a pretty vivid imagination and will usually get a scene playing out in my mind daily.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

It’s hard with kids and a business, but it’s something I can’t not do, so that means, sometimes staying up into the wee hours of the morning, or escaping to a coffee shop on a weekend.

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

I have a spin-off to the book I’m launching this year, and am currently splitting my time between a detective story set in a parallel 1920’s with some science fiction and steampunk elements. And, a science fiction book set in the future that has some inspiration from evolution and biology (that one will need lots of research).

  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

Hopefully publishing them and getting more well known in the author world.

  1. Share a link to your author website.

www.thatwellnessspot.com

I am a Wellness Coach but my book will be available through my site after September 29, 2018.

Bio:

Leslie Hodgins has been writing for years. Her areas of interest are science fiction and fantasy. She is a wife, a mom of two busy boys, a nature lover and a coffee addict. Music is a major inspiration, and when she’s writing, it’s always on.

When she’s not writing, she’s helping people through wellness coaching and helping them manage stress.

Leslie currently lives in Edmonton, AB with her husband, sons and her dog, Oscar.

Genres of Literature – Varsity or Campus Novel

July 30, 2018
mandyevebarnett


campus

Although these two ‘titles’ are dependent on subject rather than genre, I have merged them into one. As you can see the definitions are very alike.

In a varsity or campus novel, the main action is set in and around the campus of a university.  The varsity novel focuses on the students rather than faculty, while the campus novel centers on the faculty. The novels are told from the viewpoint of a faculty member or, of course from a student’s point of view. The novels can be comic or satirical and often counterpoint intellectual pretensions and human weaknesses. These narrative are also called academic novels. The novels exploit the fictional possibilities created by the closed environment of the university, with idiosyncratic characters inhabiting unambiguous hierarchies. They may describe the reaction of a fixed socio-cultural perspective (the academic staff) to new social attitudes (the new student intake).

This genre is largely an Anglophone tradition. Mary McCarthy’s The Groves of Academe (1952)  is usually thought to be the first campus novel. However there are others predating that. Examples include Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue and Stephen Fry’s The Liar and Making History. 

Although the genre may seem limited because of the location, there are numerous characters to utilize with their backgrounds, personalities and ambitions enabling an author to create dozens of possibilities.

Do you have a varsity novel favorite?

Brideshead Revisited is mine by far, with it’s social expectations and damaging secrets.

 

 

 

 

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