NaNoWriMo Progress Report

November 9, 2013 at 3:04 am (Casualties of War, writing) (, , , , , , )

It’s day 8 and I’m almost at 14,500 words. Not a bad start. Concentrating on NaNo with so much else going on, like Hal-Con this weekend, means I’ve had to take a break from my blog, but I plan on posting the odd progress report, excerpt and maybe on an ambitious day I’ll even share some of my research. I learned a lot about crows while preparing for this novel and I wouldn’t mind preparing a piece on Cascade.

For now, I’m going to focus on getting myself ready for my day at the con tomorrow, including packing away the books I’m bringing with me. I have a couple I’m hoping to get autographed and four copies of my Masters and Renegades novel, Casualties of War. I intend on giving those away to four lucky folks who track me down, dressed in my blacks and purples. I’ll have my daughter with me and at some point I’ll be dropping down to visit the merchant room, where Tyche Books will be selling copies of the Masked Mosaic anthology.

Anyway, back to my preparations and more NaNo writing. I’ll have more to report back after the convention.

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A Current Endeavor – Crazy Busy

June 10, 2013 at 12:36 am (Casualties of War, fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I eked out a little Chapter 6 today but the last few days have been frantic. I attended a CMA conference on Thursday and Friday with some pretty incredible speakers and I’m still trying to process everything they had to say. Amanda Lang’s views on the necessity of changing how we think and how we educate our children so we all ask more questions and become more innovative sounded pretty sensible to me, and Bill Strickland’s keynote speech about treating people like assets and recognizing the value of generating hope where hope is lacking was very inspirational. I liked his notion that hope is the cure to spiritual cancer, and he ought to know considering the miraculous things he has accomplished in his life. I’ll be dedicating next month’s blog posts to him. I think after a year that has been pretty dismal to this point, I could use a little more hope in my life.

Yesterday was the date of my children’s school’s spring fair. In addition to baking a few things for their bake sale, I donated a copy of Casualties of War and The Blood Is Strong. The books went into one of the raffle prizes and I’m hoping someone will end up reading them. After the fair, I was planning a weekend of gardening, writing and rewriting when two e-mails popped up. I found myself spending eight hours reviewing the edits for Prisoners of Fate (followed by a quick proofread of a short story’s final edits) and now I can’t shake Ebon, Urwick, Shetland and Anna from running around in my head.

I’m very proud of my plot for that book. It is dizzyingly convoluted, in a good way, and an excellent example of the type of story – one with circular logic in places and multiple timeline cross-references – where an outline was absolutely required. As my hubby said: “without one, you would have definitely gotten lost.” But we’ll let the critics judge for themselves once it has been published. I’ll be offering up a teaser tale, “The Phoenix Egg,” for that book in the near future, once the book’s release is drawing near.

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Solutions not Resolutions – Avoiding Meltdown

January 24, 2013 at 11:54 pm (Casualties of War, Elevation, Fervor, Magic University, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , )

Sometimes you may hear stories about spontaneous human combustion. I’m getting to the point where I think I’m about to burst into flames any minute, exploding because I haven’t done any writing lately (not quite like this picture here). I’ve been doing plenty of editing, but it’s just not the same. As soon as I’m done my current editing project, I really want to start writing something new. My problem is not that I don’t have any ideas what to write, my problem is I have too many ideas and I can’t decide what to work on next. So I’m putting it out there … I’m going to post a selection of my latest book ideas here and on a variety of social networking sites and ask everyone’s opinion. What do you think I should write next, and why? E-mail me your suggestion at or post it as a comment here, or on facebook. I’ll send a copy of one of my books (Fervor, Elevation, MU, Casualties of War, The Blood is Strong or a zombie anthology) to the most creative explanation I receive detailing which book I should write next.

So here’s what I’m considering (** warning – there may be spoilers in these descriptions):

Masters & Renegades # 9 – Dagramar’s Zoo: Now that Renegade magic is legal in Seaforest, Nia and Snyder decide to seize upon the opportunity to visit their son and grandchild in Feltrey. When the pair fail to arrive at their destination, a frantic Prince Emrys and the captain of his guard, Jarvas are forced to head off in search of them, hoping that they are not lost beyond rescue. (the hubby didn’t want me working on this one until after #5 is published and #3 isn’t even out yet.)

M & R associated – I have a few possible prequels in contemplation:

An Urwick prequel – how he came to leave the underrealm and why he chose to become a Master when he was already a Renegade. It would also look at his run through the Admission Trials, the consequences and his apprenticeship to Jadira.

Another prequel would expand on Kraken Chasm and explore the creation of the Defiance.

Lastly, I could write a prequel based on the voyages of Traveller, from the Snowy Barrens to her employment with Galgamir.

Endeavour (Fervor #5)

When You Scream – Sequel to When You Whisper- Follows Felicia’s life after the first book

Ghost Coast:

Paranormal adventure/romance – Audrey’s father is an established writer who crashed hard after her mother’s death and has written nothing since. At the advice of his agent, he decides to change his environment, and he picks up Audrey and what is left of his life and moves to Sandor Island in hopes of finding solace and refuge from his grief. Audrey’s own life is upended, and at first she feels trapped and bored on the somewhat isolated island until she discovers that there is something very strange about the island’s other inhabitants, its history and its shores. Instead of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and nothing, she finds herself at the centre of a war between the ghosts of pirates and a clan of nereids. She also is introduced to love in a very unanticipated way – one she is not sure she is willing to explore.

Sifting the Ashes:

Post-apocalyptic horror/dark fantasy – a post-apocalyptic tale told from the point of view of Ash, a crow. “The humans rose from amidst the animals and we adapted. The humans started building their cities, and we adapted again. We changed with them, we grew with them, thriving and remaining strong. Now the humans have fallen and we will adapt again. The world is ours to make of it what we will.”

In Her Blood:

Fantasy Romance – An expansion on my short story “The Last” (posted on my account on Scribd and Wattpad.)

Nine choices – as many as I had contestants in MU. It’ll be interesting to see if I get many responses and how creative those responses will be. I’m looking forward to reading them.

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My Favourite Monsters A-Z – Imp

October 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm (Casualties of War, fantasy, Magic University, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Imps are by far my favourite demonic monster and can be found in a variety of literature, usually bound to an evil wizard or in service to a greater demon. They are most often depicted as small winged and horned creatures with sharp little fangs and claws and a pointed tail. I was so drawn to the idea of these nasty little beasties that I had to include one in my fantasy series, Masters & Renegades.

Stiggle makes an appearance in both Magic University, the first book in the series, and Casualties of War, the second. He is often getting into some kind of mischief or another:

Reid stood to approach the stage, momentarily loosening his hold on Stiggle’s collar. Stiggle had already decided that the closest basin of flowers looked very much like lunch, and feeling the tension on his collar relax, made a break for it. He launched himself at the basin, coming to rest on the lip at its edge. Said basin was precariously perched on the top of a lopsided pillar, which had been recently repaired with somewhat sloppy and fragile results. The entire construct teetered and collapsed, dowsing the crowd with water, flowers, sawdust and ceramic shards – along with one soggy and bruised imp. Reid rushed over and scooped Stiggle from the pile of unhappy and damp ceremony attendees. Pulling a bag from his belt, Reid shook the water from the demonic creature and tossed its wriggling body inside. Ignoring its ear-piercing shrieks, he slung it over his shoulder and made for the stage, a determined look settling across his features. He stepped into his spot on the stage, purposefully avoiding the grim stares from Fortia and Burrell. Fortia shook her head and turned back to the scrolls. Burrell glanced into the crowd, waiting for the chaos to settle before continuing.

Above is one of my sketches of an imp.

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My Favourite Monsters A-Z – Dragon-kin

October 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm (Casualties of War, fantasy, horror) (, , , , , , , , )

Drakes, dragons, dragonets and others of the draco persuasion are littered throughout horror and fantasy, myth and legend. While not all of them are scary per se, the ones who are can be downright ominous. Whole they almost all have scale-armoured bodies and sharp teeth and claws, some can breathe anything from fire to noxious gas, some are frightfully intelligent and can use their own magic, some have enormous strength and others can move at lightning speed. Big or small, winged or otherwise, you don’t want to catch one of these in a foul mood. Here’s an excerpt from Casualties of War involving one particularly nasty ice drake:

Reid had Dee approach the mouth of the cave with him, and the goat, while the others waited behind. He had already picked out a sturdy spot where they could attach the animal’s lead that was visible enough to the cavern’s interior to attract the drake. Reid had Dee move back once the goat was secured, after which he gave it a solid swat to the rump. It bleated loudly as a result. Then, Reid dashed away.

They hid amongst the bushes watching the goat as it stumbled about. Occasionally, it would stop and look into the cavern, or gaze out at the skyline as it swayed from side to side. Then suddenly it was not there. In blinking, they had missed the moment the drake had seized its prey. Dee was horribly startled by this. Dragons had the reputation of being slow because of their size, but their smaller, more-streamline cousin had moved at lightning speed. What it lacked in overall strength, it made up for in versatility. The only evidence left that the goat had ever been there was a trail of blood drops leading into the cavern. Dee shuddered and backed away quickly.

Above you’ll find my sketch of an ice drake.

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Battle of the Excerpts

September 22, 2012 at 12:05 am (Casualties of War, fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , )

I used to play this game with my writer friends, Ren and Justine, on a regular basis. So when my pal, Bruce, offered up an excerpt for the Word Blurb, I couldn’t resist (you can find his book blurb and bio on Monday’s posting). So here’s the excerpt he gave me and I’m countering with one from my latest fantasy novel, Casualties of War. Compare and contrast to your heart’s content. I know Bruce is wicked good, so I hope my excerpt can match his. Which is your favourite?

Excerpt: Blood of the King

Chapter 2 (Part 1)

A helm clattered off the wall walk, bouncing end over end down the stairs. It hit Khirro’s foot, startling him and sending a jolt of pain up his leg. When he looked to see what hit him, he recognized the dead eyes of a member of the king’s guard staring back at him from within the helm. A pained grimace twisted the face, blood dripped from severed tendons and ragged veins. Khirro recoiled, pain flashing down his spine. He kicked at the head, the sound of his armor scraping stone impossibly loud in his ears. His toe contacted the helmet painfully, sending it spinning across the landing. It trailed off blood spatters as it rolled to the edge then disappeared over the brink. Khirro breathed a sigh of relief.

“Help me.”

Khirro flinched. The king’s plea came again, a breathy whisper barely audible above the sounds of battle. Chickens ran about after their heads were removed, but nothing could speak without life remaining within. Khirro shifted painfully onto his side.

“My king,” he whispered.

Braymon lay in a tangled heap, hips wrenched farther than possible, one arm pinned beneath him, the other twisted behind. Blood streamed from his shaven head onto his cheeks and into his eyes, a mask of red through which little flesh showed. He blinked clearing his vision, a slow, lethargic movement, then directed his gaze toward Khirro. A pained smile twitched his lips; it quickly turned to a grimace.

“I thought you lost, lad.”

The blood drained from Khirro’s cheeks.

“No, your highness. I… I was knocked unconscious. I’ve only just woken to find you here beside me.” The lie tasted more bitter than the coppery tang of blood on his tongue.

Braymon coughed a fine spray of bloody spittle. Khirro knew it meant something inside him was bleeding.

“I’ve not much time. I need your help.”

“I owe you my life.”

“Then you can return the favor.”

Fear lumped into a mass at the back of Khirro’s throat. “What can I do?”

“The healer will know I’ve fallen,” Braymon said coughing again, face strained with the effort. “Take me to him.”

Relief. He didn’t ask to be avenged or dragged back to the battle to die a soldier’s death. Khirro glanced at the blood pooling beneath the king’s contorted body, flowing from some unseen spot under his plate mail, and pushed himself up to kneel beside Braymon to better assess his condition. The battle raged above but no one appeared on the stair.

“You shouldn’t be moved,” Khirro said after consideration. The way the king’s body twisted upon itself made him feel sick. “It would mean your life.”

Braymon shook his head minutely. “It matters not. I must get to the healer before the warmth has left my body or all is lost.”

“I don’t think–”

“Soldier,” Braymon said with a tone of command befitting a king. “If you do this thing, all else will be forgiven.”

Khirro gaped at the king’s words. He fought to keep tears at bay as guilt siphoned the strength from his limbs. His mouth moved trying to form the words to apologize for not rejoining the fight, to beg forgiveness, to explain, but his constricted throat choked them. Instead, he nodded.

“You’ll have to remove my armor to carry me.”

Khirro stripped the king’s armor as quickly and quietly as his hurts allowed. Each time he shifted the king, Braymon’s face contorted with deeper levels of pain, but he never cried out, and each piece of armor Khirro removed revealed more horror. The king’s blood-soaked underclothes stuck to him like a second skin; the jagged end of a bone punched through the flesh of one thigh; a loop of intestines protruded from a long cut in his abdomen. As he uncovered each injury, Khirro felt more grateful to be alive and whole and his own injuries seemed less significant. By the time he finished removing all the pieces, the king’s eyes were closed, his face taut with pain, cheeks pale. Khirro had to look closely to ensure he still drew breath.

“We’ve no time to lose.” Braymon said in a strained whisper. “Take me to the center keep.”

Khirro stood, teeth gritted against his own meager pain. He reached for Braymon but stopped, unsure how to proceed. He saw no way to pick up the injured man.

“Don’t concern yourself with my pain, it will end soon enough. Put me over your shoulder.”

A shudder wracked Khirro’s spine as he paused to look around. A few men ran about the courtyard below, but they were distant. Above, the fighting reached the top of the stairs. Two Kanosee soldiers—one wearing gray leather, the other the black breast plate splashed with red—hacked at soldiers of the king’s army who tried to keep them from the stairway. Khirro hoped they’d hold them long enough. He bent and hooked the king by the armpits, struggling to pull the dead weight from the ground. The king clenched his jaw, every muscle he could control straining to help.

Finally, the king’s limp form flopped over Khirro’s shoulder. He imagined he felt the soft flesh of his innards through his leather armor and his stomach flipped, forcing bile into his mouth. He swallowed it. The pain proved too much for the king and a cry tore from Braymon’s bloodied lips as his broken body pressed against Khirro’s shoulder.

Khirro looked back up the stairs, hoping no one heard. At first he thought the Gods with him as the fight continued, but one of the Erechanians fell and as the gray leather-clad Kanosee pulled his sword from the man, he leaned toward his companion and pointed down the stair.

A sword flashed and the man fell, but Khirro saw no more as he turned and rushed down the stairs, focusing on his feet hitting each one and not over-balancing under the king’s weight.

By the time he reached the bottom of the final flight, Khirro’s back and legs ached, his pulse beat in his temple as his breath came in ragged gasps. If he didn’t pause to catch his wind, he wouldn’t get much further. He stood at the foot of the switchback staircase, half-bent, and watched a pebble strike the ground near his foot. Khirro looked at it without understanding, his fatigued mind reeling from lack of oxygen, but realization came quickly. He twisted awkwardly, ignoring the pain in his back, to look up the stairs. Halfway down, the black and red mailed soldier hurried toward him, battle axe in hand.

Interestingly enough, and sheer coincidence because I wrote Reid into existence long before I knew Bruce, he and Reid, one of my main characters, actually share the same last name . Here’s my counter excerpt…let the battle begin!

Excerpt: Casualties of War

After what seemed like an eternity, the three travelers finally arrived in Anthis. As the wagon approached the school, Reid leaned forward in his seat. A solitary figure sat on the bench outside the front door. Reid recognized the short but muscular build as belonging to Nolan, one of his students. Gillis had labeled the young man as a lone wolf, and Reid considered it an apt description. Nolan offered no more friendly gestures than Dee, glaring with his black eyes through his unruly dark hair, which played mane to his bronze-skinned face. Reid drew the wagon up short.

“Wow, I didn’t expect you to be part of the welcome party,” Reid commented, trying to elicit a smile. The boy shrugged.

For the first time in hours, Dee spoke. “He would appear to be the entire welcome party,” she grunted.

 Nolan glanced her way. He pursed his lips and jutted out his chin in an open sign of aggression. Typical, thought Reid. Nolan preferred to put on a tough guy show. Reid was not sure if the boy did it out of insecurity because of his small stature, or if there were underlying stresses which Nolan kept to himself. The fact was that the young man did seem to bear a chip on his shoulder. Nolan gave Dee one last cold stare then turned to speak to Reid.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. It’s dangerous. I’d rather be in my mouse-hole of a room right now as opposed to out here exposed to the elements, but a cold’s nothing compared to what I could catch in there.”

It was Reid’s turn to frown.

“What are you talking about?” Reid climbed down from the driver seat and approached the surly student. “Where is everybody, Nolan?”

Nolan crossed his arms and eyed Reid with contempt.

“If you want to know so bad, go in and see for yourself.”

Without even considering the newcomer now perched on the edge of the wagon, Reid hurried over to the door. He opened it only to find Clayton, Gillis’s brother, standing on the other side. The lanky youth looked tired, and more nerve-ridden than normal, if that were possible. What disturbed Reid more than Clayton’s anxiety and obvious fatigue was the absolute expression of horror captured in the boy’s face.

“What is it, Clay?” Reid demanded. “Where’s Gillis?”

Clayton struggled to speak, glancing out past Reid at Nolan. Abandoning his attempts to explain, he resigned himself to silence and gestured for Reid to follow.

When they entered the space that had been designated the Common Room, Reid could no longer deny that something was drastically wrong. Several of the students were there, looking severely lethargic and drawn in the face. The more shocking sight, however, was Gillis. He lay sprawled in a settee when they came in, but struggled weakly to his feet when he realized exactly who it was who had arrived. His skin was grey in color and his cheeks sunken in. He wavered where he stood, having barely managed to muster enough strength to stand in the first place.

“Tell me I’m not hallucinating, Reid,” he breathed. “You’ve been here three times already, that I can remember…I’m sorry –so sorry.”

Reid remained frozen in place, trying to grasp what exactly was going on. Finally, he faced Gillis, who was now leaning on the settee for support.

“It’s the magic plague, isn’t it?” Reid stared at his partner, his eyes filled with dread. “How?” He sat back in one of the chairs, crumpling as though he had been kicked squarely in the groin.

Gillis shook his head. “I don’t know, but it’s worse than you might think. Nattie, she’s dead, Reid. She wasn’t in the best health to begin with. She only made it three days. I don’t know how long the rest of us have either.” As he spoke, he gestured towards the sickly students huddled about the room. He sat down quickly to avoid falling over.

 Reid sat near catatonic in his chair, overwhelmed by the situation. His dream had been blossoming, growing. There was still a great deal of work that had been ahead of him, and he had known that there would be challenges, but he had never expected anything like this. It was like a giant foot had come out of nowhere, treading down with great force and crushing everything he had managed to build.

“What are we going to do?” Reid murmured. His head was spinning.

Gillis slumped back in the settee, his expression grim.

“You have to go to the University, Reid. They have the cure. You have to get them to sell it to you, or trade it to you, or something…and you have to get enough for all of us. If any of these students die, we’re done for. Please, even if you can’t get enough for me, you have to get some for Clayton. I promised our parents I’d take care of him. Instead, he has been taking care of me. He may not be showing any of the symptoms of the plague, but he has been exposed.”

“The University! They won’t give me anything. Do you know how happy they will be to see us out of business? What are a few fatalities for the sake of eliminating the competition?” Reid’s shoulders sagged. He closed his eyes, wishing he could make all of this disappear.

So there you have it! Two dark excepts from two different fantasy tales. Bruce’s book is coming soon, and if you liked the excerpt from Casualties of War, you can find it here:

Let us know what you think – writers are suckers for feedback.

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Anything but Ordinary

May 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm (Casualties of War, fantasy, Magic University, writing) (, , , , , )

It’s funny how sometimes we can draw inspiration from characters. I’ve seen articles lately about how readers can be influenced by the characters in the books they read, carrying over elements of the characters into real life – a method of transforming theory into practice, I guess. If that works for readers, I suspect it also works for writers. I’m not sure if this is a common experience for all writers, but I often feel a profound connection with my characters, more so than the ones in the books I read – even those that have touched me in a very strong way.

I find myself identifying with the strangest of characters, like my gnomish ex-schoolteacher wizard’s apprentice, Reeree, who appears in my Masters and Renegades series, both in Magic University and my soon-to-be-released Casualties of War. Now I’m not a fan of the colour pink, and I’m often one of the taller people in a crowd, so on a physical level, I can’t relate to her very well. But what I do understand is playing it safe for the better part your life and then suddenly reaching a place where you realize a risk is necessary or your life will prove quite pointless. While nobody would ever accuse me of being normal, I certainly let things play out in an “ordinary” way, until I found it just wasn’t enough. Like Reeree, I came to the conclusion that I wanted my life to be something more than ordinary. I want to do something significant and meaningful. I want to serve some higher purpose.

At the point in my life where that notion truly hit home, I started taking chances. It would have been nice to make as drastic a change as Reeree – to make that leap without looking back…no regrets, but I’m afraid I wasn’t as bold. My chosen path has been slower going, a gradual transformation, but I’ve done a lot in the last few years, much of which I might have considered impossible before now. I’m hoping it will eventually lead me to that opportunity to make a real difference in the world, be it writing a book that moves people to better their lives, or even just helps one person to overcome some sort of adversity, or perhaps, make some sizable contribution to a charitable cause.

In the meantime, I’ll keep working towards that objective of being anything but ordinary, like Reeree, but with smaller steadier steps. I’ve managed to get this far in a very short amount of time and … hey … it doesn’t hurt to dream.

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She Doesn’t Have to Be an Amazon to Be “Strong”…

April 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm (Casualties of War, fantasy, writing) (, , , , , )

I noticed on a friend’s blog that archeologists have uncovered proof of another female gladiator in the Roman arenas. It brought me back to a discussion I had with a writer friend regarding strong female characters. When I suggested I like to see strong female characters, she automatically jumped to the idea that I was implying the stereotypical fantasy swordswoman, battling alongside the men with her rippling muscles, bronze brassiere and Xena-like war-cries.

Far from it.

All I meant was: “please don’t give me another story where every woman significant to the plot is either a doormat, an ornament or a victim.”

I admit – I do have warrior women in some of my tales. I have female Templars, soldiers like my Dee Aaronsod or Brianna, and my apprentice mercenary character, Carlisle. In fact the head of my Red-Sun mercenary guild is a villainous woman named Minerva. But a lot of my strong female characters are miles from the stereotypical Amazonian fighter. They range from a stout little middle-aged, ex-school teacher who is willing to brave a mountain full of dangers for the sake of helping others, my Reeree in the soon to be released “Casualties of War”, to my super-mom, Margot, who works as a financial administrative assistant and takes on some exceptional responsibilities, in “Just Another Day”. I even have a primary female character in my unpublished Snowy Barrens trilogy, the shamaness Fawn, who is extremely strong, despite being a healer, a social outcast because of some disturbing facial scarring, and a pacifist. I consider Sarah one of my strongest characters in Fervor, but she is not physically strong, wilful, contrary or bold. She is loving and understanding and offers as much of herself as she can possibly give, even though it might put her in danger.

Strong doesn’t just mean emotionally fierce and physically powerful. Strong can mean taking action, not bending when others oppose you, offering commitment to follow through on the things you’ve started and showing resolve when things get tough. It can mean not turning away and leaving things for others to fix, if they go bad. It can mean staying true to yourself, and helping those you love, or even helping complete strangers who need you, for that matter. Strength comes in various shades and designs, not just a single stereotype.

I’m not playing the feminist card and saying every woman in the story should be strong, for the sake of serving as a positive role model for any girls/young women who might be reading it. Fiction should reflect life, and there are a range of people out there, including doormats, ornaments and victims, so these personality types will play a part in stories – what I’m saying is there are an awful lot of women out there who make a very positive impact on others’ lives, and that should be reflected too, especially if you want me, as a reader, to be able to relate properly to your story.

So please, give me something other than just damsels in distress or women who can’t go on without their man. Give me something strong.

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