4 Apr 2014, 10:43am
The Great Way:

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How self-indulgent is it to link to my own updates?

Kickstarter update for April.

For the click-phobic, a brief summary. I received story edit notes on the trilogy and have some revisions to do. They will be extensive but not as terrible as I’d originally feared. First up, I’ll be writing a chapter that I skipped in the first draft. Fantasy novels are somewhat digressive, yes? Well, that’s what you’re getting. Plus, the new ending needs the setup.

In the meantime, I work, read Twitter, and watch the final episodes of Veronica Mars with the family. I also strenuously avoid Doge2048. Let us not think about it.

14 Mar 2014, 2:17pm
making books The Great Way:

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I am writing rpg gaming stuff now and it is hard

I’m supposed to be working right now but I’m not, and the reason is simple. Work is hard.

While The Great Way is getting an editorial working over, I’m putting together the game supplement for it. (For those who don’t know, I promised Kickstarter backers a Fate game supplement for the setting of those books.) Currently, it’s almost 10,000 words long, and not even half way done. Turns out that explaining your world-building takes time.

What’s more, writing game stuff is giving me major decision fatigue. With fiction, putting the sentences together is comparatively easy: There are characters who want things, places for them to pursue their desires, obstacles to overcome. That talk. They look at stuff. Maybe there’s a smell. It’s pretty straightforward.

In contrast, game material is all summarizing and making careful decisions on how stuff should work. What invokable aspects suit the capital city of this empire? How best to describe this sort of magic? What’s the best way to portray non-human intelligences without doing the xenophobe thing of giving them all a single personality? What if a player wants to play one of those non-humans?

Everything is as spare as possible, while trying to be as interesting as possible, while being as balanced as possible, while not contradicting anything I put in the trilogy, much of which I made up on the fly because shit sounded cool.

What the hell was I thinking?

17 Feb 2014, 7:16am
making books personal:

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You know what feels good? Selling fiction.

In Spring 2013, I was invited to take part in the Walk The Fire 2 shared-world anthology and I thought writers write and they sell stuff i should say yes and make money. After confirming that this anthology would have more gender parity in the table of contents, I accepted. The Kickstarter made goal, I wrote the story, boom.

Except there was a problem. The editor explained that the story broke the guidelines. It took me a while to figure out why, but the speculative element in the setting was that people would step into a special sort of fire here and emerge from another fire elsewhere. Essentially, teleportation.

However, somehow I got it into my head that this was like a wormhole through spacetime, and that not only could they travel through space, they could travel through time, too.

Oops. I apologized, obviously, and offered to write a new story. The editor thought it might be best for me to hold off for the third antho, but I’d helped pitch the Kickstarter and I didn’t want readers to back a book I wouldn’t be in.

So I sat down and wrote an honest-to-god science fiction story (if you don’t count the teleporting fire thing) set in the far future. Last night I got a note from the editor saying they wanted to accept it without asking for changes.

That feels good. After spending two years on this stinking trilogy–not to mention KEY/EGG, which has languished on my hard drive since the dawn of time–it’s nice to have a short-term goal and payoff.

Stepping back from the internet for a day

As I mentioned on Twitter, last night my Kickstarter passed 200% of goal. This morning it’s at 213%.

I’m waiting to hear back on some emails I sent, but in the mean time I’m going to take a day away from the internet to work on the actual book. I know, right? Crazy! A writer who’s writing.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Progress report

Let’s see if I can briefly cover everything that’s been going on.

First, I’m revamping the Kickstarter page pretty thoroughly. As I mentioned before, I asked some folks with KS experience to check it over and I made a bunch of changes. Then my agent had a look and she told me that I was underselling everything. Like a lot of writers, I’m not the best advocate for my own work. She encouraged me to explain why the books are actually fun instead of, you know, doing the whole “Here’s a thing I wrote you might like it maybe” bit that writers do.

So, revisions. I have new text for the main page ready to go and I’ll be shooting a new video this week. As some of you folks know, I get ugly red blotches on my face when I eat certain foods, so I’m trying to be super careful about every meal until then. I don’t think it would help me make my goal to have leprosy face.

By the way, if you want to know when the Kickstarter launches before anyone else, you should sign up for my newsletter in the form on this page.

The print edition of TWENTY PALACES is still a few weeks off. Everything takes longer than you think it should. That’s the law.

Finally, while the Kindle version of TWENTY PALACES is still only $2.99, there’s a sale price of $5.99 for CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, and CIRCLE OF ENEMIES. If you read from the Kindle and have been meaning to pick up some or all of my books, you’re not going to get a better price.

I recommend starting with the prequel, although I wrote each book to stand alone.

There are shiny new ideas for me to work on, but I have so much revision and other work ahead of me that I don’t expect to get to any of it before the end of the year. Yeah, that sucks; we only get so many productive years in this life, but it needs doing.

More later.

31 Aug 2013, 11:25am
making books:

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The State of the Kickstarter Address

You guys know I’ve finished draft zero of The Great Way and that I’m planning to bring it out into the world myself, via Kickstarter. “Where is this Kickstarter?” some have asked, “I have money I want to give you!”

Hey, I want to have new books to sell you, too. Since finishing Circle of Enemies, I’ve written more than half a million words, and only King Khan, the Spirit of the Century tie-in novel, is set to be published (later this fall). Sure, I was in a couple of anthologies last year, but you know, this is not how careers are built.

So, Kickstarter: since finishing the draft, I’ve been working pretty hard setting up the pledge drive. I type things, I erase them. I shoot a video of myself explaining the project, then watch it, then apologize to my wife for the way I look, then shoot another one. A lot of other peoples’ projects have little animations at the front, so I tried to make one, too. In the end, I pitched 90% of it. So while I wouldn’t say that time was wasted, I… oh wait, yes it was. Those days were totally wasted on stuff I’m not good at.

I’d hoped to be finished in time for a mid-August launch. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Once the project was ready, I asked some people to take a look at the preview and give me some feedback. Now I have to tear it all apart and revise.

Well, not all of it, but I’m a writer who lives and dies by his revisions. This needs revisions. And since the best time to launch a Kickstarter is the second half of the month, I’m now looking at mid-September.

Which means I don’t have to worry about the Labor Day weekend, I can revise the textual description of my books, and I can redo the video.

Yeah, that means you get the books a month later, but what can I tell you? Things take time, you guys.

20 Aug 2013, 7:47am
making books:

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When the cat’s at home the mice bust their asses

This week my wife’s workplace is shut down for their annual week of cleaning, which means that she can take kid patrol duties from me. A whole week.

I haven’t been around much lately but this means I’ll be on the internet even less as I try to get work done. My list

Finish and send short story
Finish KS video
Get KS up and running
Finish Lightning Source Registration
Send emails
Start revising The Great Way

Not in order of importance, obviously.

I expect this will keep my hopping while she’s gone and while she’s here, too. Hope you guys are doing well.

11 Aug 2013, 12:18pm
making books:

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First draft of The Great Way finished

Yesterday, Saturday, I put in a 4,334 word day to wrap up the rough draft of my epic fantasy trilogy, The Great Way. I’ve even come up with a third title for the individual volumes:

The Way Into Chaos
The Way Into Magic
The Way Into Darkness.

If I were smart, I’d switch the last two around so the series order would be alphabetical order, too. We’ll see how smart I am.

Anyway, I had several long days in a row to reach the end, and I think it’s a bit odd for the end of an epic fantasy. I think it works for the overall story, but I’m used to seeing a clash of armies at the end of a fantasy trilogy and in this story there are no armies left.

But that’s me, immediately thinking of all the ways something is wrong. I think they’re good books, and they’ll be much better when I get a revision done.

The Kickstarter to pay for art, editing, and design will be coming soon. Maybe as soon as a couple of weeks. I just have to work out a few questions regarding time and money budgets and do the video.

Holy shit. Kickstarter. This is a scary new world for me.

1 Aug 2013, 11:56am
making books:

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My last Clarion West writeathon post

It’s my last because I’m done. I wanted to add 40,000 words to my epic fantasy to reach 180,000, which I’d hoped would be the end. I’ve done that. If you pledged, thank you very much. If you haven’t, you still can here. Clarion West. It’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, I wanted to have this book wrapped up by now and I haven’t. That sucks. I have to say that, as the first fantasy writer to ever write long on an epic fantasy, my embarrassment is pretty huge.

Also huge is my desire to be done with this story and on to the next. I did 1600 words today and hope to double that tomorrow and Saturday. There’s a Kickstarter coming, and ebooks, and POD, and so on. Then it’ll be something new.

This week sucks

It was just Monday that I blogged about how grateful I am that folks are supporting me in the Clarion West writeathon and that I was taking those pledges seriously and hoping to get a lot done.

Then, later that day, I broke a tooth in a big way.

Tuesday, I discovered that I could not get in with my dentist that day.

Wednesday, I learned that I will probably need a root canal that I can’t afford.

Today, my wife found out that a very old friend of hers passed away. She’s processing it as best she can and I’m trying to stay close in case she needs support.

Guys, this week sucks. As soon as we can put this one in our rear-view mirror, lets.

On top of that, I realized too late that progress on the book had grown sluggish because my subconscious was telling me that I’d made a structural mistake. The book felt flat and I couldn’t keep pushing through it any more. This realization felt almost Strossian.

So, it’s late in the day but I’m going to go back and redo those pages in the proper way, and hopefully they will help to build the climax the way it’s meant to be done.

Week’s not over! It’s possible that tomorrow will be non-shitty. Let’s hope so.

8 Jul 2013, 6:56am
making books:

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Clarion West Writeathon total… so far

I want to thank everyone who has pledged in my name to benefit the famous Clarion West workshop. The six-week workshop is only in its second week, and already folks have donated $340.

I’m taking my part of this seriously, too, working to finish the promised pages by the end of the six-week period.

Each week I get a short email from the Clarion West folks letting me know where things stand, and each week the pledge total has been higher than before. If no one pledged another penny after this point, I would be grateful and flattered.

Thanks very much. The Great Way will be finished soon. That’s my pledge.

The Clarion West Write-a-thon

Yes, it’s the solstice, and yes, I’ve signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon.

That link above will take you directly to my pledge page, but if you want more information, here goes.

Clarion West is a famous writing workshop in Seattle.

For nearly 30 years, Clarion West has been run for six weeks during the summer. As you might guess, it spun off from an older workshop with the same format in Michigan (I think) called simply “Clarion”. It’s taught by five writers and one editor, each trading off for a week, and writers come from all over to attend. They quit jobs, end relationships, lose apartments, and generally uproot their lives to spend a month and a half sequestered away from the world working on their fiction.

I’m not a graduate. I applied once in the 90′s but was turned down. However, the list of graduates is sure to include authors you love.

Clarion West has a reading series.

This is how I know the workshop. As part of the fundraising efforts, the workshop runs a reading series. It was the first place I ever heard a writer read, way back in the early 90′s (back when they held them in the basement of Elliott Bay Books), and it helped me find some terrific writers.

This year’s instructors are: Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Margo Lanagan, Samuel R. Delany, and Ellen Datlow. Too bad I have a kid or I would definitely be busing across town for these.

Clarion West still needs support.

Times are tough for everyone, including non-profits. To help raise money, CW is holding a “Write-a-thon” in which people pledge to walk a certain distance write a certain amount of words while the workshop runs.

Me, I’m hoping to wrap up the first draft of THE GREAT WAY in that time, so any pledges in my name will be considered serious and for real motivation.

Hey, it’s a good organization and a good cause. If you can bear to make a pledge, please do. #SFWApro

Re-revised book has been sent

My agent just confirmed that she received the new version of THE WAY INTO CHAOS. That’s just the first part of a long-ass story that’s not even finished, but I have post-project blues anyway. Christ.

Five (Publishing) Things Make a (Publishing) Post

I’m a few hours from sending my much-revised book off to my agent. I’m writing this Thursday night but scheduling it for Friday morning. By the time this posts, I’ll already be sitting in a Starbucks, hunched over my laptop, taking contractions out of the dialog of two characters who appear spread out over 148K words. Fun! Okay, actually, I’m filled with misery over this, but this is the job and it isn’t always fun.

So: N things make a post.

1) Kameron Hurley takes up the subject of survivorship bias and the marketing of books. I really liked this post, long as it is, because marketing is something I know squat about and she covers a lot of useful ground for a noob like me. Also: pulp covers not as attractive to readers, apparently. Give that a read.

2) C.E. Murphy hosts a guest blog post by Judith Tarr on how publishing used to work and how everything now is so much better. Yes, there was more money when she started, but now authors no longer have to worry about vanishing if their publisher drops them. You can read the whole thing in one post here, or in part one, two, and three.

Why link to the same material four times? In this case, the comments. They’re worth reading. For example.

Anyway, it’s a concise summary of where we are now contrasted with a description of where publishing was back in the day from someone who was there. I’m a little annoyed at the “Mommy and Daddy” stuff, but people have to make their point.

3) Hugo-winner Lawrence Watt-Evans responds by talking about his plans for his upcoming books and how he intends to keep putting his work on the market. He was an early adopter of the model of posting a book a chapter at a time as donations came in from his readers.

4) Speaking of where we are now, Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt are trying to revive their zine FLYTRAP, and how are they doing it? Crowdfunding, of course. This is the way the future will work, guys. Check it out.

5) R.I.P. Jack Vance. I think I’m one of the people who’s more familiar with the work his books inspired than the original stuff.

Getting shit done and going offline.

So, this is a little embarrassing and I just have to come out and talk about it.

I haven’t released a new book in a long time.

Duh, right? It’s not like you guys don’t know this. My last novel was CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, which came out Labor Day 2011. What’s more, I’ve already mentioned that I finished the first draft of CoE in 2010, before GAME OF CAGES came out.

So what the hell have I been doing?

Well, the first thing I did is write A KEY, AND EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, which I had high hopes for but screwed up badly. I could probably whip it into shape in a month or so once I figure out how to manage the voice, but it’s back-burnered.

There’s also the Spirit of the Century novel I wrote for the game company Evil Hat. Kickstarter backers have already received their copies, but everyone else has to wait for this fall.

And there’s some short fiction, which I plan to collect and release as an ebook next month.

So what the hell? Where are the books?

Here’s the thing: When I started THE WAY INTO CHAOS (originally titled A BLESSING OF MONSTERS–you can decide which title you hate more) I’d planned to wrap up the whole story in 120K words. One volume.

That hasn’t happened. I’m at 270K right now and the end is in sight. However, I’ve stopped forward progress and gone back to the beginning for a major revision. It’s taking up a lot of my time and driving me a little nuts.

The whole thing is taking too long. I need to finish this and move on to another project; it hasn’t even sold and I’m sick to death of it. Also, it can take a year or more from the time my agent sells something to the time it’s released. Do I want my next novel to hit the shelves in 2015? 2016?

That’s too long.

So, in order to get more done and focus in on this project, I’m going on an internet fast. It’ll be at least this whole week, possibly longer. I will check my email once a day, but that’s it: no Facebook mentions, no Twitter replies, no LJ comments, nothing.

In the meantime, I will be doubling down on this book. I won’t finish in that time, but I plan to double my progress, at least.

I’ll also have some time to do some much needed chores.

In truth, I really enjoy social media but I feel over-committed at the moment. It’s become a bit of an obligation, so I’m shedding everything for w bit. When I come back I’ll take stock and see what I’ll need to change.

Funnily enough, just as I decided to do this, a guy hit the internet with his big “I just took a year away from the internet, and it didn’t solve all my problems” article. I understood the dude’s urge to change his routine, but is it really any surprise that his problems were internal rather than external?

Anyway, I’m not trying to fix my life here. I’m just freeing up time to work. There will be a couple of blog posts that will go live while I’m away, but you know.

Wish me luck.

15 Mar 2013, 9:37pm
The outside world:

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Good News! Joss Whedon said he’s ready to Kickstart a new DOLLHOUSE movie!

No really, that’s what he said! Good thing he was joking.

If you’re one of those people who have been going around the internet posting comments, tweets, and status updates like “Who’s this Veronica Mars? Kickstart me some more SERENITY!” you should probably click that link up there. He’s not planning to Kickstart a new Serenity movie because he’s tied up for the next several years with commitments, not to mention the commitments the actors have. Plus yada yada budget etc. Give it a quick read.

After that, you should read this post by LEVERAGE co-creator John Rogers, cleverly titled Veronica Mars Kickstarter Thoughts. If you want analysis from someone who is inside the TV business, Rogers is the guy to turn to right now. Until it was cancelled, Leverage was the only independently-owned TV show in the U.S. market, and he has a lot of insight about the nature of non-studio funding, whether Warner is taking a risk by giving the go-ahead, and much more. That’s worth reading.

Remember yesterday when I talked about ALL THE SHIRTS (limited-edition!) the VM people would have to deal with? Kickstarter fulfillment companies.

And, naturally, everyone is jumping up to say what shows should be next on the Kickstarter auction block: Chuck. Pushing Up Daisies. Sarah Connor Chronicles. Terriers. Deadwood.

Personally, none of those shows appealed to me in a serious way, so I’ll be waiting for that THUNDARR reboot.

Okay. Unless something very interesting happens, I’m going to lay off the TV Kickstarter posts for a while. I’ve got to steal time for my books at some point, right?

Currently I’m over 100K words on THE WAY INTO MAGIC, which is the sequel to THE WAY INTO CHAOS. I’m writing it as one long story, which is probably dumb, but there you go.

My life is incredibly dull! Good thing the internet is full of fun stuff.

After a rough weekend, a new book is released

This past weekend was pretty rough. The one bright spot was lunch on Saturday to catch up with an old friend, but the rest was a litany of minor difficulties: tiny black ants came through the wall that divides my bathroom from a neighboring unit, the section of book I’m writing “feels” wrong while I push through anyway, I’m getting phantom food reactions, and my son had one of his irregular bouts of insomnia which meant he was up in the ass-hours of the morning and punchy through most of the day.

It gets to the point where a guy can’t even steal time to post on his blog.

I have a post brewing about peoples’ tendency to see fantasy as a conservative genre and another about the interesting Amanda Palmer TEDTalk that’s been going around, but both have fallen victim to the demands of making wordcount for THE WAY INTO MAGIC.

But I do want to announce the release of this:


Yes, the Spirit of the Century tie-in novel I wrote for Evil Hat has been released as an ebook, but only to the people who backed the Kickstarter. If you’re one of those people, you can download the book from here. If you didn’t back the project when it first went live, you’ll have to wait a bit for it to hit the stores.

Now, I know there are lots of folks out there who could find a way to torrent a copy or whatever so they have a chance to read it right away. If you do, please consider buying it anyway when it hits the stores, maybe as a gift or something.


11 Jan 2013, 10:18am

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On a more personal note

This blog (LJ, DW, whatever) has been pretty much neglected lately. In truth, I’ve been battling a post-holiday case of the blues. A number of authors have been talking about this lately, including Danny Marks on his YouTube channel and Cat Valente on her LJ, and hearing about their symptoms and struggles makes me feel a bit of a whiner. I’ve never come to the point of collapse or been able to get out of bed, but I am frustrated, impatient, short-tempered and otherwise unhappy with human interaction. Even Twitter, which is a pretty easy place for me to hang out online, has been off-putting lately.

I wish I could say that I’ve been perfectly cheerful and charming with my family, but that isn’t true, either. I’m also not hitting my daily word count goals every day (and I should be working right now) which is frustrating. I’m not sure what I need, except possibly more reading time.

Anyway, this blog has never been terribly active but I’ve been neglecting it lately. That’s why. Things will get more active, I think. Maybe in the spring, if I can’t get my shit together before then.


I’m going to keep this short.

The most popular entry on this blog is the one where I dissect the reasons why my series was cancelled. I’m not what you’d call excited about that, but the fact remains. With luck, I’ll have a post in the new year that will finally draw more attention.

The year itself has been tough. I’d hoped to sell A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark but my agent was reluctant to send it out and I took her advice. Thank god. Last fall I took another look at the manuscript and realized I’d blown it. The novel needs major revisions and christ but the moment for it has pretty much passed. I’ll still finish it, eventually, but that leaves a big hole in my schedule. I put out no new work in 2012.

As for 2013, the only novel I expect to put out is King Khan, the tie-in novel for Spirit of the Century. If Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts sells, it’ll probably be scheduled for 2014. In any event, life is short. I am working constantly. I don’t have a lot to show for it right now.

On a personal level, my family life has only been getting better. I am a very, very lucky ugly fat man.

And that’s it. I don’t do New Years’ resolutions, because they carry the cultural baggage that no one keeps them, and I never wait until Jan first to make the changes in my life I think I need. But I’m going back to work now, and I’m going to keep working on a sequel to a book that hasn’t even sold yet and which probably won’t come out until 2015.

I don’t even know what to say about this except that I can muddle through it.

12 Dec 2012, 12:19pm
making books:

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“Your Next Big Thing” Book Meme

I’ve been tagged by S.K.S. Perry to do this meme and while I normally ignore tags, I was planning to do this anyway. You can read his here.

What is the working title of your next book?

EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS, but it’s also probably going to be called THE WAY INTO CHAOS.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted to do an epic fantasy, and the idea for this book came from a particular visual/event that occurs early in the book.

What genre does your book fall under?

Epic Fantasy, but it’s not medieval.

What is the synopsis or blurb for this book?

A sentient, contagious curse brings about the collapse of an empire.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s a sign of my old age that I don’t know much about current movie stars. No clue.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Are those the only two options?


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started it in October of 2011 and finished on the day THE AVENGERS came out. (May 4th?) I rewarded myself with a matinee.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Heh. So.

I homeschool my son and I wanted to start him on a long writing project. To that end, I bought a copy of Adventures in Fantasy by John Gust, which is a set of writing exercises to help kids think up and finish a fantasy “novel.” It also includes a number of terrific language lessons.

Because my son would never consent to do all those exercises by himself I did them with him, creating the basics of my book through those kid-oriented exercises.

Now, the way the book works, you create certain archetypal characters and put them through certain specific paces. To keep my own interest high, I fussed with and undermined the formula, sidelining the putative “hero” early and turning the sidekick and mentor characters into the actual heroes. We’ll see how well that works.

For his part, my son wrote a comic fantasy. I paid him a penny a word for it and published it on my blog. For such a young kid, he has a great voice.

I also wanted to deal with the idea of people who come from an empire, who don’t feel like they are particularly powerful within their culture nor do they think it’s fair that others see them as partly culpable for what the empire does, and what happens to them when they venture beyond the frontiers.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Good question. No clue.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Humans are not the only intelligent species, but the other creatures are not the usual humanoid monster/elf/dwarf types. They’re different enough that the characters at first don’t even realize they’re intelligent.

The book also has a number of magic portals in it, but they aren’t a source of excursion for the protagonists to explore other lands. They’re a source of incursion. The humans are being invaded here.

Finally, the tech level here is pre-medieval. The warriors are not knights, they’re more like hoplites (although the setting isn’t ancient Greece).

No tags! If you want to do this yourself, go for it.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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