Back to Business on a Promotion Friday.

I’m sure there’s at least a few of you who may have wondered what happened to my gung-ho, Mon-Wed-Fri posting schedule that I was so excited about over a week ago, considering things have been pretty quiet over here on my blog. Let me assure you, I have not dropped the ball entirely so quickly, as the game instead had a bit of a time-out. Just yesterday, I returned back to Illinois after a four-day visit to Michigan, a little belated Christmastime with my family back home, to see everyone, distribute gifts, and introduce them all to my significant other who they had yet to meet. I thought perhaps I might get a little break here and there to post or write, but I should know better by now. When it comes to my family, you’re lucky to get even ten minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee by yourself before there’s a swarm of people chatting and catching up.

Needless to say, getting in a few blog posts was out of the question. And to make things worse, I got a touch of food poisoning (and I don’t even know what from!) yesterday, which put me out of commission, too. I’m feeling much better this morning, though, and, having awaken from my own bed to start in on my trusted routine, I feel the productivity flowing back to me once more. It’s nice to see my family, but it’s also good to be back home, ready to work.

One of the things I had hoped to get done on the trip that totally had no chance of getting done was finishing a few short stories to submit to a few contests that are ending tomorrow, January 31st. Since I will probably not get a chance to take advantage of these closing deadlines (unless a burst of creativity strikes with a vengeance tomorrow morning), I thought they’d make the perfect thing to promote on this Promotion Friday. Maybe you have something hanging around that might fit one of these, or perhaps you’re like me, and, even though you don’t think you’ll get the chance to submit, you feel it’s a good prompt to get something else started. Here’s what I’ve got:

Pssychopomp Magazine 2015 Contest with a prize of $500. They accept regular submissions, too, and are looking for something they’ve never seen before that push the boundaries of genre and form (which I always find ironic, because that’s a pretty typical guideline for a lot of magazines).

Jackson Daughtry Literary Honor Award, for novels. I really wanted to submit Madeline to this one, but, yeah, it’s not going to happen. The coolest thing about this contest other than the fact that it looks to be for the type of books I really like (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman), but it’s also judged by Ari Berk, who was actually one of my professors back at Central Michigan University. I took a mythology class with him my senior year, as an elective, and it was easily my best class that semester. It was on my bucket list, because Berk has worked with Brian Froud, of Labyrinth and Dark Crystal fame, so it was a really big deal for me. However, I just don’t think I could reasonable have Madeline finished in time. WOE.

The Dead Walk from Breaking Fate Publications is your good old zombie anthology, of which I started a story for, but never got around to finishing. Luckily, they have two other zombie related publications that close at a later date, so maybe I’ll have better luck with them

Speaking of zombies, there’s also No Place for Us from Good Mourning Media, which is looking for zombie apocalypse love stories. “Spring Thaw” would be perfect if only they accepted reprints….sigh. I love the idea of this anthology, but just didn’t have the time to cobble something together.

The 2015 Nelson Algren Award contest was the one I really wanted to submit to, and still might, with “Moon Night,” even if I don’t think it’s a “good fit.” They’re offering up to 10 prizes, all of them pretty decent, so it really is worth a shot if you’ve got something to send. Plus, it’s done by the Chicago Tribune. Chicago, represent!

The Tomato Anthology by Ink Monkey Mag & More technically closes on February 1st, but since it’s an anthology for stories about tomatoes, it’s really too fabulous to not share.

And, ending today, January 30th, if you’ve got the time: Monsters from Grey Matter Press, featuring stories about the most terrifying monsters out there: ourselves.

Happy writing!

Explaining the Obvious.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good rant, and there’s something that’s been popping up a lot lately as I’ve been pulling myself into more reading, and that’s a particular pet peeve I have about authors who feel the need to explain the obvious. Perhaps it just strikes me more as an author myself, one who spent a good deal of her college education breaking down language in fiction, but it drives me absolutely bonkers. It’s the classic Trust your Reader situation, where you have to make sure you’re not over-explaining because you’re desperate to make sure that your points are understood.

Take these following paragraphs into consideration, which I happened across while reading The Tell-Tale Corpse by Harold Schechter, a book so far so beautifully written that this violation of the Trust your Reader rule stuck out like a sore, bleeding, throbbing thumb under the floorboards:

     ‘I’ve a favor to ask, Fordyce. Nothing difficult, just a little errand. As you can see, our friend Poe here is a tad, ah, under the weather. Needs a bit of bracing up before returning to the bosom of his family. A few strong cups of black coffee should do the trick. Be a good fellow, will you, and fetch a pot from Sweeney’s. Have him charge it to my account.’
     Situated on Ann Street a short distance from the museum, Sweeney’s was a popular neighborhood eatery and–as I knew from having dined there on one or two occasions with the showman–one of his favorite resorts.

Am I being a completely tyrannical editor type in thinking that the second paragraph is completely unnecessary? Has the idea that “blatant exposition is bad” been pounded too heavily into my head? To me, this description of Sweeney’s stops the flow of the conversion that was having merely to have the narrator explain something to the reader that could be entirely inferred from the previous paragraph. We know it isn’t far from the museum if Fordyce can walk there on a “little errand.” We know it’s an eatery or coffee shop of some type if the errand is to fetch a few cups. We can ascertain that it’s popular with the speaker if the speaker has an account there. There entire point of the second paragraph is to reiterate, in a very lazy way, what we have already learned, in a much more clever way, from the previous paragraph.

Or am I completely wrong? Is there are purpose to the second paragraph I’m missing, or am I correct in assuming that the author does not trust his reader to have picked up on the very clear (to me) details in the first paragraph?

Few things irk me as much as being pulled out of a scene to have something I already figured out explained to me. Surely, I can’t be the only one. Trust your readers! They’re not stupid, they don’t need their hands held through the story, and by following something up with a needlessly expositionary paragraph, you’re only robbing your reader of that wonderful pleasure of discerning things for themselves.

Promotion Friday!

I’ve been looking forward to this particular post all week, as this is my first Promotional Friday post, where I beg all of you to spam the crap out of me with all sorts of cool things that you’re doing or that you’re reading or whatever else you’d like to promote. Seriously. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to get to everything, but, please, share whatever you’ve been itching to share lately with me and everyone else who is awesome enough to be reading my blog.

(This is also being posted stupid early for me because I have a random stupid early shift today, but that just means I’ll hopefully have lots of cool things to check out when I get home!)

Naturally, the thing I’d really like to promote this week is World Unknown Review Volume I, my recently published literary review. Seriously, for only 99 cents (or just over eight bucks for the print version), you get yourself 11 short stories from a lot of really spectacular writers and a novella from a pretty okay writer (me). Treat yourself to some really neat tales…and whip something up to submit for Volume II. Sure, you have until Halloween this year, but that’ll probably be here before you know it!

So, yes, if you follow this blog, obviously, you’ve seen me promoting WUR plenty already…so what else have you got for us? What have you been working on, or what do you think is worth everyone’s glances and ganders this week?

Happy promotion, everyone!

Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson.

“And just like that, the mood’s shit. That’s how it always is among tweakers. Ecstatic to miserable in less than a second. Either too much scante or not enough or a thought that burrows into your brain and becomes an itch and then a fully colored panorama and then it’s real, that vision like a DVD skipping, over and over and over again.”

Fiend” by Peter Stenson

A little tidbit to lead us into my first review of 2015: I find it interesting that the first book I read last year and this year share a few things in common. They’re both horror stories with one word titles. The similarities end there, though, as this year’s Fiend by Peter Stenson was significantly much more enjoyable than last year’s Breed by Chase Novak. I went into Fiend not having heard anything about it, while Breed was a book I had been looking forward to after being intrigued by the blurb on the back of a book. So at least Fiend has saved one-word horror titles from being a completely awful experience for me all around.

Sometimes, when I review a book, I’ll reference a testimonial on the cover, usually because I’ve got to gawk at how different an experience the critic had than me. However, on the back of Fiend‘s cover, we get a quote from that touts the books as “Shaun of the Dead meets Trainspotting,” and, really, stole all the thunder from every other reviewer ever because that is exactly the best way to describe this book, right down to the basic bones of SotD being about the main character tugging along a fat friend to save a girlfriend who has moved on from the zombies. I haven’t seen Trainspotting, but I assume that’s where all the drug stuff comes in.

Because, you see, Fiend‘s hook is that, one day, everyone wakes up as zombies, except for meth heads. Something about methamphetamine makes people immune to whatever disease is turning the world into decaying, chuckling zombies (I might also note with a little bit of sick glee that the zombies are called Chucks, due to their constant chuckling, which would have driven my fervently anti-chuckle college professor absolutely nuts). The story itself is pretty basic for a zombie novel: save the loved ones, confront the fact that you have to kill your zombie-fied loved ones, go on the constant defensive trying to look for somewhere safe before everything goes to hell in a handbasket again, this time with the added bonus of, “Oh, shit, our cook is dead, we have to find another cook.” However, the story is told in a bit of a drug-induced haze, long rambling sentences, no quotation marks, that kind of thing, and, very often, the author tends to lean toward the device of making things more “raw” by using unnecessarily graphic or crude metaphors to give his writing an “edge.” This drove me crazy more than anything, especially at the beginning and end of the book (either he lightens up on it in the middle, or I just got used to it). I can handle the lack of quotations marks as a stylistic choice, especially considering that the narrator is a sped-up meth head, but I cannot forgive a turn of phrase that seems to exist solely for the purpose of being “shocking.”

Overall, I enjoyed Fiend, despite some of the flaws in style, the generally predictable plot, and a few details I’m not quite convinced on (why are so many Chucks in the prison naked? Do prisoners sleep naked and I just didn’t realize it? Sounds…unlikely, but, hey, the most experience I’ve had with prison is Orange is the New Black). Stenson has written some truly gripping sections in this book, the rambling mind of his main character drawing you right into his fucked up perception to the point where you realize you were forgetting to breathe, so you let out a sigh of relief right with them. I don’t want to say too much on how the main character develops, because I don’t want to give anything away. I found the journey into discovering who Chase Daniels really was to be fascinating and heartbreaking and emotion, on various levels, and I really enjoyed that ride the most. I don’t want to spoil anyone else’s by saying too much.

It’s a pretty good, solid zombie yarn, nothing too spectacular, though I can appreciate the new perspective and spin, and I’m ultimately glad I read it, though I don’t think it would necessarily make any of my “must-read” lists. I could see it being a great example in a class, though, were I ever to do something on zombie fic.

Books read: 001/100.

Spicy Roasted Broosel Sproots.

Welcome to the first installment of my new Meatless Monday recipe initiative, where I’ll share one of the things in my ever-growing wheelhouse of yummy vegan recipes. Today, I bring to you a Brussels sprouts (or “broosel sproots,” as the boyfriend and I like to call them) recipe that I simply cannot stop eating. They’re fairly easy to make and make a good companion to plenty of other items. My favorite pairing for them so far has been Gardien Fishless Filets with lemon and my own tartar sauce recipe, which I may also share one of these Mondays.

These spicy roasted Brussels sprouts were last seen in the company of a yet-to-be-perfected attempt at pot pies. They disappeared very shortly afterwards.

Spicy Roasted “Broosel Sproots”

-about 1 lb Brussels sprouts (I always get the microwavable bag of sprouts from Trader Joe’s because it’s convenient and the perfect amount)
-1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
-1/2 cup white wine vinegar
-1/4 cup agave nectar
-2 tablespoons Sriracha
-A pinch of parsley (I usually use dried)
-A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
-Salt and Pepper to taste

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Trim and slice sprouts in half, place into a large bowl with lots of room for mixing
-In another bowl, whisk together EVOO, vinegar, Sriracha, agave, and parsley. If you want an extra spicy kick, mix in the red pepper flakes, too, but they’re definitely spicy enough without them.
-Pour sauce mixture over sprouts, mix together until coated (I prefer to use my hands for this step, really get in there and get them covered!)
-Spread sprouts on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, nice and even, salt and pepper to taste.
-Bake until crispy and caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes. I like to flip them over halfway through, as well.
-Remove from oven, serve, and enjoy!

Let me know if you give it a try and how you like them! Until next time, happy eating!

A Review needs Reviews!

Today celebrates the one-month anniversary of the publication of the World Unknown Review Vol. I, and things have been going really great….except for one little thing. The book has had a solid showing in sales (solid for what I’m used to, anyway!), but things are looking a little nonexistent on the review side of things. So, to mark it having been out in the world for a month, I’m going to take the chance to extend an offer for anyone who would like a copy of the book in exchange for an Amazon review.

In this book, you’ll find eleven short stories from a lot of really fantastic authors and one novella from yours truly. Length-wise, it runs about 200 pages. Hopefully, it’s a pretty brisk and enjoyable read. There’s also a little bit of something for everyone: action and adventure, some memoir, some romance, even a few things I’ve read a few times and still don’t feel I have completely worked out. What I’m looking most for in a review is honesty, as well as a chance to highlight the stories that you enjoyed particularly well (if any! Though I doubt that would be the case…I was really hoping that at least one story would delight ever reader possible).

Are you interested? Just send me an email at, and we’ll make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent to you. I’ll also be more than happy to field requests to review the first book in my zombie series, The Slayer Saga: Heartless, or my collection of short stories, Bowlful of Bunnies!

Thanks, everyone! Happy reading!

Come on, man! Focus!

For someone who has been extolling the wonders of treating writing like a real job and crowing about finally getting things done on that front this year, I sure have been quiet on the business front of things. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty out-of-sorts, but a downfall recently involving some unexpected parking tickets (and well deserved; I was an idiot who wasn’t paying attention to my tail end blocking someone’s driveway in the snow) made me sort of wake up to the fact that I need to get my act together. I need to regain my focus and get back on the path with clarity and purpose.

To regain that focus and restart my momentum, I’m thinking I might pursue something I’ve always dreaded: a posting schedule. I realize that my aversion to being held down by any sort of regimen on my blog was childish; after all, in a professional business, things are scheduled constantly to keep things running smoothly and progressing. My writing shouldn’t be any different, and by planning ahead on specific themes, I know I can meet the challenge of producing at least three posts a week.

So here’s what you can expect from this blog going forward:

Meatless Mondays: While I don’t necessarily want to be known as a food blogger (I’m a writer, dammit!), I have been toying around with the idea of doing a little recipe sharing here and there. Now, for nearly two years now, I’ve been vegan, and I absolutely love it. So every day is Meatless Monday to me, but, since Meatless Monday has been gaining popularity as A Thing, I decided maybe to take advantage of it and post one of my vegan recipes every Monday and talk a little about veganism because, really, it’s become a huge part of my life, and if I can infuse a little veganism into the world with a post here and there, that’s awesome.

Review Wednesdays: Because I love sharing my thoughts about other works and it’s a great way to promote other authors, I want to get at least one review out a week. This means having to finish a book every week, too, which will help me out with my 100 Books goal.

Promotion Friday: Promotion is incredibly important in the indie world, and I definitely want to help do my part to spread the word about awesome stuff. So, every Friday, I would love to have a post where everyone can come and promote whatever they’d like. Books they’ve published, books their friends have published, useful blog posts, exciting contests, special deals, writerly merch, anything at all. I think it would be great to have a place for people to come and shamelessly shill and hopefully discover some new stuff, too.

Clearly, this all starts next Monday, where you can look forward to an absolutely amazing Brussels sprouts recipe I can’t get enough of lately. Hope you like spicy, because it’s definitely got some kick.

Also, while you’re here(and it is Friday), go check out Chuck Wendig’s post about how all publishing options are pretty much awesome and the key thing to remember is that we have those options, and that’s why being a writer in these days completely rocks. This is something that we need to be appreciating every damn day, and Chuck Wendig is always excellent at vocalizing it in a wonderful way.

Until next time, happy writing!

Those Ever-Persistent, Existent Character Tropes…

Last night, when I should have been getting some sleep, I stumbled upon this thread in /r/fantasywriters about Character Tropes, and which ones we like and which ones we didn’t. It’s not a new conversation, not by any means, but it’s definitely an interesting one, one that makes me go through a list in my head and tick off things I doing or not doing, with the constant reminder that you can’t please everyone. I also thought it might be a good topic to bring to the blog and open up for discussion.

Now, this doesn’t have to be limited to just fantasy writing, of course, though my biggest concerns about Character Tropes always lead me to Aryneth rather than my other fiction. I don’t know why that is. But I do want to know: What are the character tropes/developments that drive you up the wall? What do you want to see more of?

I know, for me, they hit it pretty quickly in the thread: I like to see a lot of moral ambiguity in villains, though I agree with one commenter who pointed out that the moral grey has become such a big thing that everyone seems to tread the line and no one really comes off as good any more, because everyone’s bad with a little good. It also drives me nuts when there’s a romance thrown in just for the sake of there being a romance, or when female characters have to be paired up. Obviously, this is different if we’re talking about a romance genre, but I just read a book where there was the most awkward romantic subplot between the two main characters (who were cousins, by the way), and it was just so unnecessary and weird. Personally, I’ve noticed that, if I’m doing a series, there’s very little romance in the first book of the series, because I don’t want it to be about that. I want it to be about the characters and the conflict first and foremost, and once they’ve developed their relationships, then we can see where it might be going in a second or third book. Not always. I have a few series where romance enters the picture pretty quickly, but there’s hardly any romance in The Slayer Saga: Soulless (though some is developing in Heartless, ironically), and there’s practically none in Serpent in a Cage. We get to that more in books two and three.

Characters whose gender don’t really play into things much is something I’d love to see more in fantasy, though I think it’s a little trickier in other genres, except maybe science fiction. I also love it when there’s a romance between characters, but it isn’t a big deal. I’m thinking Angua and Carrot from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series or some of Lois McMaster Bujold’s work: it’s there, it’s endearing and you get invested in it, but it’s not the main point of everything they do.

And, if you get a chance, hop on over to my Featured Story page, where you’ll find Miriam Sagan‘s short story “Red Coat,” which was featured in the recently published World Unknown Review Volume I! I’m hoping to feature a new story from the review every month or so, so keep an eye out for more, or, just skip the wait and pick up the book today.

/shameless plugging

Now it’s your turn, though. What are your favorite character tropes and developments? What do you absolutely despise? I’d love to get some thoughts on this, and who doesn’t love a good writerly venting?

Goals Galore!

It’s finally starting to feel like winter here in the Chicago area; we’re getting those inevitably bitter cold winds and I have a great view outside my window of the prettiest snow falling over the Berwyn bungalows. Cats are curled up and sleeping on the backs of chairs (or, if you’re Genghis, inside someone’s jacket that was left on the floor or face-first in a Meijer shopping bag…), Christmas tree is still up, and we’re getting a start on January with the usual consideration of New Years Resolutions. Although mine are really New Years Goals. Everyone’s got them, except for the small stubborn few, and I guess I’m no exception. 2015 is going to be a good year, though. 2014 was fantastic, and now that I’ve worked out a few kinks, I only see improvement up ahead. And here are the big ones I plan on knocking out this year:

1. Stop Obsessing Over Money. Now this one, my biggest one, is a little weird, since most people make resolutions to manage their money better. But life has finally shifted into place, and I’m in a position where I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck, I actually have a decent little emergency fund built up, and I even have money to pour into my business as a writer. Not at lot, but a little, and I always have money left over at the end of the month. So it’s time to stop beating myself up when I want to dish a little for a new book. Or when I buy the nicer, better things for food. Or actually buy some new clothes since I haven’t really gotten anything new for a whole year. When you’ve lived so much of your life living hand-to-mouth (and the past four years have been intense in saving and knocking out debt and building up a fund for publishing and what not), it’s hard to shake that guilt you feel when you spend an extra $20 on groceries. That’s what I find so astonishing about it. I’m not going out and blowing my cash on extravagant purchases here. But my brain is so hardwired to obsess about needing that extra $20 later in an emergency that I’ve got to really break the programming. So this year, it’s going to be all about paying attention to the budget, but not obsessing over it and enjoying some of the wiggle room I’ve worked my tail off to achieve.

2. Publish The Slayer Saga: Heartless. I plan to vigorously stick to my schedule of releasing the next Slayer Saga book on August 15, 2015. In a few months, I’ll be ready to contact my cover artist and fish out for beta readers, so be ready for that! I’m plugging away at it, eager to get that feeling of having a second book in a series out…and then working on the concluding chapter! Already looking ahead to 2016.

3. Publish World Unknown Review: Volume II. Every year, I want to publish at least two books. One of those books will always be the World Unknown Review, an anthology of my favorite short stories that get sent to me by October 31st of that year. I’ve just released Volume I to some pretty great success so far, and I hope that even more authors take advantage of the opportunity and I get even more fantastic submissions for Volume II. Of course, that’s not until the end of the year, but I’m already excited about it.

4. Turning World Unknown Press into an actual business entity. Herein is the scariest goal for me this year, but I really want to look into developing World Unknown Press into an actual company, with all the proper business and legal bells and whistles put into place. All that stuff kind of intimidates me, but my dad has offered to help be an investor if needed, as well as assist me in navigating through all the jargon and hoops of this enterprise. He’s had our family farm as an LLC for a while now, as well as served on a lot of different boards for different companies, so he knows his stuff. It’s both thrilling to be thinking that, by the end of 2015, I’ll officially be a small business owner, but intimidating as HELL. So one step at a time, and I’m sure I’ll be in a way different spot in December than I am now.

And that’s mostly it. With these four things ahead of me, I can tell this is going to be a great year, improving on all the progress I made in 2014. Have you set any goals for yourself this year, too? What are you looking forward to most in 2015?

Happy writing!

100 Books Project: 2014 Report.

Every year, I make it a goal to read 100 books. Some years, I get pretty close (77 is my best); some years (like this year), I don’t even make it to 20. I’ve yet to actually hit 100, but I always feel that it’s a good goal to strive towards, and every year, I always think, “This is the one!” I know last year was a little crazy with a lot of big life changes, so hopefully, this year presents itself with a little more stability, which means a bit more reading time, and maybe, just maybe, this is the year.

But that won’t be known until 2016. Instead, let’s have a look at what I did manage to read this year. Italics indicate a book I’ve read before this year, while bold text indicated that books I particularly enjoyed and highly recommend others to pick up, too. There is no particular order to the books listed below:

01. “Breed” by Chase Novak
02. “Star Wars: The Han Solo Trilogy Volume One: The Paradise Snare” by A.C. Crispin
03. “The Sharing Knife: Volume Three: Passage” by Lois McMaster Bujold
04. “Seeds of Time” by Kay Kenyon
05. “The Alchemist’s Daughter” by Katharine McMahon
06. “Sorcery & Cecelia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot” by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
07. “The Midwife’s Apprentice” by Karen Cushman*
08. “The Jewel of the Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure” by Angela Misri
09. “Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p’in Anthology” translated and annotated by Yang Ye
10. “The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila” by herself
11. “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson
12. “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford
13. “The Books of Lies” by James Moloney
14. “What the Buddha Taught” by Walpola Rahula
15. “Music from the Dead” by Bebe Faas Rice*
16. “The Further Chronicles of Conan” by Robert Jordan*
17. “The Way: Volumes of the Vemreaux Book One” by Mary Twomey
18. “Mommy, May I?” by A.K. Alexander

* Technically, I didn’t finish these books in 2014, but there were fewer than 30 pages in each by January 1st, so I say they still count!

The real stand-out book was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; I’m looking forward to reading more of her this year. The book I was the most disappointed with was Breed by Chase Novak, which I had been excited about at the beginning of the year, but it was such a steaming pile of awful. Such a let down! I find it interesting that I’ve been working on a lot of horror this year, and it turns out that the best and worst books are in the same genre.

Have you read any of the books on my list, too? What did you think of them? Have any recommendations to help me fill this shelf back up again? The first ones on the list for January are Fiend by Peter Stenson, The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Tell-Tale Corpse by Harold Schechter, The Fear Street Saga by R.L. Stine, Skylights by Luther M. Siler, and Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Hon Halliday.

Happy reading!


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