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Creative Edge – Author Interview – VS Holmes

February 17, 2022

1. You are continuing Nel Bently’s adventures in book four, Heretics. Did you always know where the story would take her from the first book?

When I first started out, Travelers was intended to be a standalone dual POV between an archaeologist in current days and the person whose bones she was excavating 13,000 years before. However, I quickly realized that, given Nel’s site in Chile, writing the latter POV wasn’t a story meant for me to tell. Instead, I leaned into the sci-fi aspect a bit more and the Stars Edge world was born. Once it was finished, I couldn’t let the characters go, and knew Nel–and I had a lot more to explore.

2. What has changed for Nel from book one to book four?

Her entire world for one! But, on a more intimate level, a lot about how she sees the world and where she sees herself in it has been turned on its head. She’s still battling through grief in Heretics, but now instead of drowning her feelings in the nearest bottle or pretty face, she is facing her anger and commitment-phobia through reluctant therapy (okay, and maybe a few drinks of high-end tequila stolen from the spaceport!) She has a long way to go, still, as does Lin in her own way, but she’s realizing that running can only take her so far.

3. Where do you see Nel in the future?

Oh, perhaps around the 2073 range? Just teasing! I’ve got two more books before this arc of her adventure will come to a close! I am currently working on Fugitives, the fifth and penultimate book It’s tough to share too much without running into spoiler territory, but I’ll say that while I might step away from her story for a bit after the final book, I do have a lot more planned for her world, and I’m not entirely ready to say goodbye.

4. Do you have fun incorporating your archeology in this series?

It’s a fun challenge, we’ll say. I adore my job as an archaeologist and dreaming up ways, both good and bad, that the field might change in the future with advancing technology, is a real blast. It can get tricky when my fellow archies read my work, however, because there’s no good way to make all the science perfect while maintaining good pacing in the narrative (and don’t get me started on the differing methodologies!) I think my favorite blending of sci-fi tech and digging in the series so far is when Nel, who is a map-lover like myself, is introduced to the tech that allows digital maps of her site–complete with color coding, grid lines, and artifact concentrations–to be projected onto her atmosuit helm. I would love to be able to use something similar on our big sites!

5. When did your interest in archeology begin?

I’ve always loved the sciences, but unlike a lot of people who planned a career in arch since they first saw Indy pick up his hat, I came to it later. I was finishing my pre-med courses and three years into a healthcare career. Disenchanted with the bureaucracy and systemic prejudice in the field, I had begun looking at pursuing human evolution instead. Then, on a ferry ride to my grandmother’s funeral, I noted an interesting article discussing a Homo erectus site on the front page of my table mate’s newspaper. When I asked if I could read it, he admitted it was his site. After a weekend of grief, laughter, and scientific discussion he made an offer: they needed volunteers and if I could get there, I could dig. That summer I dug my trowel into the stony, arid soil of Crete and have never looked back.

6. Do you have a master plan for your book series? Which method do you use – a vision board, sticky notes or something else?

I’ve recently pivoted a bit from a hardcore plotter to more of a discovery writer. While I have a good idea of where I want my stories to begin and end, how my characters get to that end and who ultimately survives that long, let’s be real it is subject to change several times throughout the process. My planning now involves bullet-points at the beginning of each document, with notes about the following book added as I go. I untangle plot-knots all the time when I’m at work or driving, too, so there are a fair number of epiphanies scribbled in note books, on field notes, or between level depths on my work pants.

7.  Why did you write the two series – Blood of Titans and Stars Edge – rather than one?

For starters, I was exploring two very different ideas with the two. I started with Blood of Titans many years ago, and those books took a lot longer to write. While working on the last two books, the first scene from Travelers, with its vandalized site and foul-tempered archaeologist, popped into my head. As for why I wrote them simultaneously? Well, I guess I enjoy punishment! I found it’s useful to have multiple projects, so when I grow frustrated with one, I can turn to another.

8. What drew you to this specific genre?

I was exposed to a lot more fantasy as a kid and found I was more likely to find characters like myself, ironically, in worlds that had no grounding in ours. As I got older and developed my craft, I realized I wanted to write worlds that could serve as inspiration for how to move past some of the challenges our world faces–rather than the glaring warning signs that are embedded in a lot of classic sci-fi.

9.  Do you have a favorite sci-fi author?

I don’t think I could pick a favorite, as there are so, so many incredible worlds. However, a few that have stood out to me recently are O. E. Tearmann, who writes a wonderful blend of cyberpunk and solarpunk with a fantastic cast of diverse characters, and Karen Lord, whose The Best of All Possible Worlds was a beautiful, thoughtful examination of immigration and melting-pot culture. As for old favorites: the loving juxtaposition of faith and science in Sagan’s Contact changed my world.

10. Where can your readers find you and your books?

You can check out my website,, and grab a free sci-fi or fantasy short to see if you like my work, read my FAQ, and send me an email! Plus, if you become an Explorer you’ll get exclusive updates, free books, and more. All of my work is available on Amazon’s KU as well as in paperback wherever books are sold (or borrowed, you just have to ask!) As for social media, I’m most active and candid on Twitter and Instagram as @VS_Holmes and also on Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads.

Heretics – Stars Edge 4 Nel Bently

Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.
Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn. They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.


V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the BLOOD OF TITANS series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold in 2020. Travelers is also included in the Peregrine Moon Lander mission as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule. In addition, they have published short fiction in several anthologies.

As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds. When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their dog Rory, and own too many books.








Author Interview Nathan Hystad

May 4, 2018



  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I do most of my writing in the morning, but after a shower. I get up just after 5 am and get an early start at the day. It energizes me, and gets my brain and body going. I find that by doing this, I can go to my day job and be extremely productive. If I’m on a push, or am doing NaNoWriMo (writing 50K words in a month) I’ll write right after work as well, before dinner. I am not a late-night writer.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

I don’t get writers block. I have very specific projects, and for the most part they are outlined, at least as bullet points, with the tighter plot in my head. I made writing part of my daily routine last summer, and when you do that, you get trained to need that time. But if I have to choose something, I’ll say golfing. In the summer I love to go golfing once or twice a week, and that can end up taking out some desk time.

The Event

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

My novels are all currently under my real name, but I do have a series coming out late this year that will be using a pen name. It’s a collaborative project, and it works out better that way.

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

I’ve been lucky enough to make a really close-knit group of author friends that I talk to on a daily basis. Without them I wouldn’t be the same writer today. I also interact with a wide net of amazing indie science fiction authors. Being able to bounce ideas off them, whether its marketing or cover ideas is priceless. They are all virtual friends, but I’m heading to a 20bookstoVegas event this November where I’m going to meet a bunch of them.

New Threat

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

I’ve written two stand alone’s so far. Sleepy Grove is a supernatural thriller about a woman who works at a cemetery and see spirits. It was a great experience but I don’t think it will see the light of day. Red Creek is out May 18th, and is a hometown horror. It may be my best novel to date (according to me) and I had such a great time writing it.

That leads to what I’ve done with my Sci-Fi series, The Survivors. It starts with The Event, and so far it’s a three book series with the first two out, and book three out May 29th.

They say splitting genres isn’t ideal, but I have so many stories to tell, that I will break conventions to get them out there if necessary.

New World

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

Covers and editing. A book needs professional editing, and when I was publishing my first Explorations anthology, I found the artist many of the top selling SF authors were using and had him custom make the cover. I’ve used him for nearly all of my Woodbridge books, and all 4 of my own novels. Tom Edwards is amazing!

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

I was a reader from a young age. My mom claims to have taught me to read when I was 3, and I loved to read. I remember winning the book award in grade one, which was basically a construction paper bird travelling around the room on a scale of books read. I still have little stories from grade 3-4 I wrote.


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

I read a lot of books, mostly fantasy and science fiction. I also have read a ton of indie stuff, so I could name far too many that are under-appreciated.

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

I’d be a duck. Calm on the surface, but flailing around under the water.

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

I have Sleepy Grove sitting there, and me and my writing partner are working on a 3 book series to release this fall. Book one is done, and I’m currently writing book 2.

Explorations 2

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

I’ve never wanted to write that masterpiece high school students read in a hundred years. I want to write books people can enjoy, and move on to the next one. My first book only came out two months ago, and I still have a best-seller tag on Amazon, so I’ve already surpassed any life-time goals on that front.

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

Depends on the project. I use google maps a lot, and to be honest, I try to write what I know. You’ll see a lot of New York in my writing, and that’s because I’ve been there on vacation four times, and love the place. I find that life experience is the best research for writing you can find.

Red Creek

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

I write almost every day of the week, and would say I spend at least 20 hours on book stuff a week. (Plus the time thinking about it…)

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

Some of the names are nuggets for people I know, and some are random. I try to fit a name with the vibe of the character or location. Not a lot of science to it for me.


  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

I’ve written some heavy scenes. The Event has a particularly emotional one. The main character’s wife died a few years before the book, and I have a few flashbacks of them together at the start of the book, which are relevant to the plot of the series. Here’s an excerpt:

Janine was in bed sleeping soundly when I stepped into the room. The hot soup cup was burning my hands, and I just stood there with the pain. I felt like I needed the distraction, like the burning would make my other pain go away somehow. Even though we were in our own house, the smell of the hospital still stuck in my nostrils, and I wasn’t sure if the chemical scent would ever be gone.

It was time, and Janine demanded to come home for the end. How could I deny that beautiful woman’s wishes when she was so small and frail, her life slipping away in hours and minutes instead of decades and years like someone her age should have left?

I put the soup down, sat at the foot of the bed, and just watched her breathe. The sounds lulled me, and I felt my own eyes getting droopy. I lay down and curled up beside my wife like I always did when we went to bed. Even if it was too warm, I needed to feel her body next to mine to fall asleep. I’d become dependent on her in so many ways, and I had no idea what I was going to do when she was gone. As I closed my eyes, I thought about dying and wondered if we would be together in some sort of afterlife if I ended my own life when she was gone. My last thoughts were of a bottle of whiskey and a vial of pills before sleep took over my exhausted body.

I woke to her touch. A soft kiss on my lips; her hair cascading down on my face. I cried and felt shame in my pain. She was the one dying and I was the one crying about it like a baby constantly. The worst part was, it seemed like she was okay with having a husband who couldn’t stop blubbering.

“Janny, I love you so much. I’m so sorry this happened,” I blurted between sobs.

She looked me in the eyes, and for the first time in weeks, I saw her own eyes well up. A single tear fell slowly and splashed on my cheek. It mingled with my own, and somehow, I felt better for it.

  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 love science fiction, and always have. It was natural for me to write there. I also have a long-time love of horror, and needed to write in that genre too. My main focus will be in Sci-fi now that I’ve found success there, but hope to still do some passion projects.

  1. How long have you been writing?

I used to dabble, but really only for the last 4 years. I started to write, and the floodgates opened up inside me. There was no turning back.


  1. What inspires you?  

A lot of things. The outdoors, trees, green grass, the smell of autumn, the energy of a big city…so many things inspire my thought process, and I take them all and use it in my writing.

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

Routine. I get up early to do it. No excuses.

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

I’m working on my final final final proof read of Red Creek, and about to send New World (Survivors book 3) to my formatter.


  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m going to be releasing a 3 book pen name series this fall, as well as book 4 of The Survivors. From there, I have many plans for 2019!

  1. Share a link to your author website.

You can follow along at I haven’t been around it to blog much lately, but you can follow my newsletter from there, and see what I’m up to. I also run with some friends where we promote the best indie authors and their deals and new releases. Follow along there for some amazing promotions.


Nathan Hystad is an author from outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He lives there with his wife, dog and piles of books. He runs Woodbridge Press, and is the series editor and creator of the Explorations series of anthologies. 



Leslie Van Zwol & Megan Fennell – Joint Interview…

July 30, 2015

Megan & LeslieLeslie Van Zwol and Megan Fennell are a co-writing team from Lethbridge, Alberta, publishing under the pseudonym ‘V. F. LeSann’. We are both individually published authors in our own right, but find that teaming up leads to truly impressive results. Kind of like Power Rangers.

Leslie Van Zwol is an avid genre writer who enjoys adding a dash of grit to mystical worlds. She spends her days working for justice to support her nighttime writing habit, and is always on the lookout for her next adventure or inspiration. She also attributes the accuracy of this story to the noisy magpies that were constantly squawking outside of her window during the writing process. (Although the crows continually voiced their objection to the subject matter.)

Megan Fennell is a court clerk, cat owner, and writer of strange tales, currently living and working in Lethbridge, Alberta. Although loving magpies to the point of having two of them tattooed on her, it was the Danish myth of the Valravn that held her corvid-like attention span for this anthology. Her stories can also be found in Wrestling with Gods: Tesseracts 18, Tesseracts 17, OnSpec Magazine, and the charity anthology Help: Twelve Tales of Healing.

What inspired you to write your first story?

Cherry beer, sunshine on the patio, and chicken wings. But seriously though, that was where the plot-storming started. It was a very casual, natural situation. We had helped each other with independent projects before this and it seemed like a logical step we both wanted to try. It turned out so well, we’ve kept with it!

How did you come up with the title of your first project? 

As a joke. We were bantering about titles once the project was done and things weren’t going well. Leslie got up and stalked away, and suggested a title in jest as she left. She stopped and came back in the room and the two of us knew we had our title.

Is this your first story? How many stories have you written (published or unpublished)?

As a combined unit we have three and a half. But a few more plots/projects are on the horizon for us.

Is there a message in any of your stories that you want readers to grasp? 

There is always an underlying message or theme in our stories. There is a purpose to all of them. It’s always interesting to hear what readers take out of a story versus what we intend them to take away from the experience.

How much of the story is realistic? 

We strive for realistic human emotion and interaction even when the world is unrecognizable.

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

Not very often. Most are born at the same time as the plot and each piece fits into the other, like a puzzle!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest story? 

Nope. It’s a winner. (It is our favourite so far!)

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Hi! Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!

What is your favorite part of your story?

It’s a toss-up: we love the whimsical moments and the punch-in-the-gut parts the best. It’s all part of a balanced breakfast!

What is your favourite theme/genre to write? 

I don’t think we narrow ourselves to anything, I think we actually step outside of our comfort zones and try to attempt something new with each story. That said, we both love a good monster or underdog character any day.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

Something boring. If we find it boring to write about, the reader will be snoring too.

What book are you reading now?

Leslie: “The Diabolical Miss. Hyde” by Viola Carr.

Megan: “The Arrivals” by Melissa Marr.

… those authors rhyme! (We didn’t plan that!)

Do you see writing as a career? 

A career in which we do what we love and remain broke, yeah. Much like Peter Parker, we also need a day job.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

“Not dead?” – Leslie. “Don’t say that! Too morbid.” – Megan. “Well, we won’t see ourselves if we’re dead.” – Leslie. “This works as the answer…. Write it as a conversation.” – Megan.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

Editing. So much editing. And editing as a unit is pretty painstaking. But we still make it out in one piece, and wine helps!

Have you ever hated something you wrote? 

Oh yeah. Daily. Luckily, we tend to like each other’s writing and hate our own. So it works out well. We champion each other’s words!

What book do you wish you had written?

(Instantaneous unanimous answer!) Anything by Neil Gaiman. Seriously.

What is your best marketing tip?

Hahaha…. Marketing? We don’t do marketing… We just make words pretty. (But we are getting better at advertising that we have stories out and people should buy them. Sadly, that’s pretty much the whole pitch right there.)

What genre is your next project? What is it about?

Sci-Fi. For an upcoming anthology. But all else is top secret!

Can you tell us about your upcoming stories?

We each have individual stories coming out in World Weaver Press’s Corvidae (July 2015) and Scarecrow (August 2015) anthologies. Check those out! They are fantastic! (See marketing question.)


How do we find your books, blog and bio?

Online is best. @fennellfiction and @bobbistylz on twitter. We are working on a combined ‘V. F. LeSann’ Facebook account to come out in the future!


Excerpt # 5 Clickety Click…

June 18, 2015

monster claw

Before Alice could ask their destination, Totoran began transitioning, she follow suit, shrugging and stretching into her Griffian form. Leaping from the bedroom window both winged forms soared into the early evening sky. Alice flew to one side of Totoran making note of their route over the forest and towards the mountains. The air began to cool the closer they got to the snowcapped peaks. Totoran turned to face her regularly encouraging her with a smile but she could see his concern. Flight was a nighttime activity normally to prevent discovery by low flying aircraft or hikers with binoculars. Alice viewed the terrain below as the trees gave way to rocky outcrops. She looked up just in time to see Totoran deftly change direction and dive sharply to the right. In her haste, Alice swiveled too quickly and plunged a few hundred feet before regaining her flight. Totoran was far ahead of her and she called out.

“Totoran, please, wait for me!”

With expert ease, he swung around and hovered in place, smiling at her plea. Alice caught up to him and thanked him for waiting.

“We have another thirty minutes flight, are you okay? Do you need to rest?”

“No let’s keep flying, I’m all right.”

Alice was tired and her wings ached deep into her shoulders but she knew if she stopped now it would be harder to start flying again. She flapped hard then glided to ease the pain as it continued to radiate through her back. She wondered if she should ask to stop but Totoran signaled and pointed to a massive rock formation projecting from the side of a grey, mist covered mountain. Alice followed Totoran’s movements exactly as he twisted and turned through overhangs and narrow fissures in the rocks.

“We need to hover and descend slowly, Alice. You have done well mimicking my movements until now. Stay focused and copy me.”

Alice spread her wings fully and hovered to one side of her guide. Gradually, a formation of carved rock faces came into view. Alice saw balconies, windows and doorways. Cloaked figures walked narrow paths carved into the rock faces. Totoran landed on a ledge and waited for Alice. She landed beside him.

“We are home, our ancestral home and the place you and all of our kind are safe.”

Totoran turned and walked toward a large entranceway. Alice noticed passing Griffian’s bowed their heads at him but dismissed her without a second glance. The doors at the entrance opened slowly as they approached by two menacing Griffians holding long jagged edged swords. Alice quickened her pace to walk in Totoran’s shadow and kept her head low. The interior was a vast cavern with thousands of tool marks on the stone from the floor to ceiling. There were tables fashioned from solid blocks of rock and ornate chairs carved from quartz. With no natural light the cavern’s gloom was illuminated with hundreds of candles. Wax dripped into containers set below them. They must reuse it, Alice thought. She turned to Totoran to ask how long he had lived in the cavern but while she’d inspected the rock room, he’d walked out of sight.

Unsure what to do and afraid to approach the large guards at the door, she stood still hoping Totoran returned quickly.

“May I help you?”

A small voice made Alice jump. An old woman with black eyes and teeth grinned at Alice. Alice kept her manners and did not grimace at the rotting teeth but answered as sweetly as she could.

“I seem to have lost my guide. His name is Totoran. Have you seen him? Do you know which way he went?”

“You mean the Prince?”

“Oh no, not a prince. I mean Totoran. He guided me here.”

“My young one, you are quite innocent. Totoran is the Prince of the Griffians and one day he will become King. He probably went into the Staterooms to speak with his father. Best you sit here for a while. I can bring you refreshments.”

“Totoran is really the prince? Oh my, how stupid of me. I will stay here and wait for him. I am quite thirsty and hungry, if I may have something. Thank you.”

The old woman shuffled away. When she was out of sight, Alice wondered what she would bring back. She didn’t have to wait long. With her arrival heralded by soft scuffing on the stone floor, the withered faced woman brought back a wooden dish full of thinly sliced raw meat.

“This will satisfy your hunger.”

When Alice’s nose creased and her mouth grimaced, the woman chuckled softly.

“Not fully developed then, are we? No matter I have something you will find more palatable.”

Alice sighed in relief as the dish was discarded on the table. The replacement dish was indeed more to Alice’s liking, cooked meat paddy and a large juicy tomato.

“Thank you. I’m sorry I didn’t get your name. I’m Alice.”

“I am called Wrightsen, if you need anything else just call. I have duties to see to.”

“Will I be allowed to stay here?”

“Of course but do not wander along the corridors unless escorted. Parts of the caverns are not for novices.”

Alice watched fascinated by the many Griffians walking through the grand hall. She could tell the ages of the ones in human form, but the others in full transition were less obvious in their age. She gradually realized she was a curiosity in the community as an increasing number of visitors either walked from one side of the hall to the other or merely peered at her from numerous vantage points. Alice began to feel self-conscious but had no option but to sit and wait.

“Alice, come we will find you quarters.”

Totoran’s voice was a welcome one. Alice let out a sigh and turned to face him but could not help let out a gasp at his magnificent robes.

“Please do not let my appearance intimidate you, Alice. My father expects me to dress properly when at home.”

Totoran leaned towards her and whispered.

“I’d rather be out flying and free of these heavy robes to be honest. Come I will show you to your room. Then we can explore.”

“Alice stayed close to Totoran as they walked along several corridors. Eyes glanced at her from the many bowed heads as they passed Griffians going about their daily tasks. She was amazed at the scale of the palace.

“How long did it take to dig all of this out of the mountain, Totoran? We seem to have walked for a long time.”

“The first visitors manipulated an original cave in the mountain but it has taken a thousand generations to carve out the palace and surrounding dwellings to today’s magnificent state. We still carve out new areas every year to accommodate newcomers, repair damaged areas or clear rock falls.”

“You must have some powerful machinery to do all this.”

Alice was surprised at Totoran’s laughter. What did I say that was funny?

             “I apologize, Alice the thought of any machinery being capable of this kind of endeavor is funny.”

“Well, I know they use explosives and massive rock crushing machines to drive through railway tunnels. I thought you would have something similar.”

“Well, yes that is true but the human’s methods are crude and more destructive than need be. Their explosions cause stress to the integrity of the rock and cracks inevitably result leaving unstable areas. We do not endanger lives with such methods.”

“So what do you use then?”

“We have miners who did the rock.”

“Well I gathered that but what tools do they use?”

Totoran turned to her as if to speak but instead took hold of her arm and guided her into a less imposing corridor. The light was dim and Alice was glad of Totoran’s hand. As they turned a corner the previous dull sound of pounding became deafening. Alice covered her ears. Totoran pointed ahead and downward. Alice followed the direction of his finger. Before her in a large cavern were huge beasts with large crab-like claws digging into the rock as though it was butter. Huge wooden carts on tracks stood behind them gradually filling up as the mining creatures threw boulders over their shoulders into them. Alice stood wide-eyed until Totoran tapped her on the shoulder and motioned for them to leave the way they had come. Once they were far enough away Alice uncovered her ears and spoke to Totoran in awe.

“They made slicing the rock look so easy. That is incredible. Are they Griffian’s like us?”

“Not exactly. They are a mutation of a creature from our own planet especially bred for mining.

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