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Thursday, April 28, 2016

ABOUT FACE—A COVER STORY by Andrea Downing #CowboyRomance #RB4U

You, dear reader, most definitely recognize the name and are conjuring up the flowing hair, the square jaw, and the open shirt displaying a musculature only rivaled by Arnie’s. But Fabio hit his stride in the ‘80s and ‘90s, years of Dynasty and Dallas, big hair and big shoulders, and, apparently, big men.  Now pushing sixty, Fabio has long been in retirement, but his wannabes roll on, it seems. Jimmy Thomas, now thirty-five and weighing in at 220, claims he has graced more than eight thousand romance covers. Somewhat in the Fabio mold, his bared broad shoulders and come-hither eyes have been a huge success. But is this what women really want?  Maybe we want the eyes concentrating on only us, the longing that’s been made evident there, but is that really the body we long for in our beds?
For me, it’s a definite ‘no.’ The thought of some well-oiled muscular body in my bed is not at all enticing.  For openers, doesn’t all that breadth of thigh and chest make the part of the anatomy that really matters look incredibly small?  Lost even?  And do I want someone with longer hair than mine, hanging in my face as he lies above me, wisps finding their way into my mouth?  I think not. No, I don’t want flab and I don’t want someone thinner than my good self, but neither do I want to find myself in bed with Robo-man, some cartoon character or washboard/six pack combo who I’m afraid might smother me should the idea strike—and whose brain is, in ratio, smaller than his abs. I ask you, what is the attraction?
To research this post, I checked in at  Top 10 Hottest Cover Models?  Well, there was one I was actually attracted to:  Hollis Chambers.  Looks like my kinda guy:  buff, handsome, athletic, but not overly muscled.  I’d have him in a Stetson—and my bed—any day of the week. The same could be said of man of the moment, Jason Baca, who graces the cover of Come Love a Cowboy. Fit. Nice looking.  Not overly large. So is my aversion to the Mr. World, Atlas kind of guy an unusual repugnance—am I alone, or have I got cohorts in this apparent peculiarity?  Do women want Fabio back in the picture or was that a passing fashion just as Jean Harlow and Mae West gave way to Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe and they, in turn, have given way to the anorexic coat-hangers of today. For the answer, I turned to my fellow authors in the anthology, Come Love a Cowboy. And there seems to be something strange going on here. 
Best-selling author Keta Diablo seems to agree with me; she tells me she’s “never gravitated toward body-builders or muscular men. Seems I've always been attracted to lean men of average height or somewhat taller. They can have muscle, but not the ones you see with huge biceps and massive chests.” Best-selling author of  ‘The Snowbird Series,’ Hebby Roman, says the same:  “My body type for a guy is muscular but not muscle-bound.” And Patti Sherry-Crews is of like mind:  “I don't go for the big muscular guy, and whenever I see a character described as having "thick thighs" it's a turn-off for me, but I believe I am in the minority on this since I see it so often as a turn-on. So, yeah, in choosing a cover I might go with bulky-muscled guy since that seems to be what the reader wants.”  Is it what the reader wants? Award-winning author Julie A. D’Arcy seems to think so, although, again, that sort of man is not her type. She says, “I married an average height, rugged looking, muscly shouldered, football player with a good sense of humor.…I am not that wrapped in seeing half naked muscle bound guys on covers, but they seen to appeal to a lot of women that buy romance novels.” Kathleen Ball, author of numerous best-selling western romance novels, also sees this dichotomy—“In real life I love a fit well groomed man. On my covers I love 6 pack abs. A big smile and a cowboy hat…" 
     Other authors seem to prefer—no surprise here!—the same man they married, or would date.  Best-selling and award-winning author Caroline Clemmons says, “I like clean shaven, clothed even if the shirt is partially unbuttoned, dark hair, blue eyes, nice shoulders. That is the type that also appeals to me individually (my husband).”  But perhaps it was Margo Bond-Collins who had her finger on the pulse.  Margo told me, “I adore the hard-bodied men on the cover of many romance novels--at least in an abstract, appreciating-the-aesthetics kind of way. I think they're lovely to look at. And hot bodies and hard muscles are great in fiction. In my own life, I don't care what people look like. I am attracted to kindness, to generosity, to intelligence, to wit, and to strength of character. I find that the people I love become beautiful to me, regardless of whether they fit into any culturally approved standard of beauty.” 
So perhaps the answer is that we, as authors, are selling fantasy and the fantasy is that the muscles, broad shoulders and Greek god looks personify the strengths we seek in a partner. We wouldn’t necessarily seek out a man who looked like that, but those attributes are symbols, on a book cover, of the inner strengths, care, protectiveness, love and attention that we do want in our men. 


Eight stand-alone Contemporary Western Romance novellas from Bestselling and Award Winning Authors.

From firefighters, bronco busters, and wealthy ranchers to bad boys, we have them all for you!  If you've ever wanted to fall in love with a sexy, alpha cowboy of's your chance.

A savings of more than 75% if the books were purchased separately.

Luke’s Fate by Kathleen Ball
Meg O’Brien hoped never to lay eyes on the one man who broke her heart. To her dismay, Luke Kelly arrives at her ranch a much different and broken man. Can Meg ever forgive his callous treatment of her and help Luke become the man he used to be?

Grant Me The Moon by Caroline Clemmons
All Tory Fraser intended was to show her high school history club students a local archeology dig. How could she know the excursion would involve a murder?

Three for The Win by Keta Diablo
Hollis should have known better than to fall for a bone-melting man like Stede. He’s gone now and Eli is left to pick up the broken pieces of her life.

Border Affair by Hebby Roman
When his partners’ daughter is kidnapped in México, a self-made millionaire must confront his feelings about their affair and the future of their relationship.

Leaving Necessity by Margo Bond Collins
Mac has one week to convince his ex-girlfriend Clara not to sell his oil company. In this high-pressure reunion, can they strike love again?

The Shape of Destiny by Julie A. D’Arcy
A young male shape shifter. A beautiful female ranch owner. Can love be born in a web of deceit?

Bad Boy, Big Heart by Andrea Downing
She’s a New Yorker escaping her parents.  He’s a Wyoming cowboy supporting his dad. One summer, two young people—three months to find love.

Desert Heat
by Patti Sherry-Crews
A single mother struggling to keep her guest ranch puts her own desires on hold. When a handsome and persistent fireman sets his sights on her, she must decide how much she’s willing to give.

Universal Link:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Research Trip by Janice Seagraves

I had been writing so many stories about a desert or desert worlds that I thought it was time to refresh my memory. I hadn't been to the desert since I was in the sixth grade.

So hubby and I packed our bags and headed out to the Mohave desert.

We stayed in Palmdale, in a good central location, and took day trips out to see the desert. I also took tons of photos. Here are a few.

We saw a lot of Joshua trees.
 At the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, we saw a warbling Desert Wren
 Lots of Spotted Lizards. This one is taking a nap on the Joshua tree blooms. 
The funny thing was I didn't know Joshua trees bloomed.
 Lots of bunnies
 And did I mention lizards?
 We also went to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, but no poppies.
On the way back, we stumbled across a antique store that reminded me and my husband of the old Sanford and Son show. We spend a delightful hour exploring there.
And we spend one day at the Santa Monica Pier which is a two hour drive from Palmdale. The direction we had said it was an hour and a half drive but it lied. The traffic in L.A. is terrible.
A nice Russian girl took our photo at the Marisol restaurant, located at the very end of the Santa Monica pier, and she made us this card. 
We had a great time. 
Wish you were here.
Blurb: Megan and Seth are finally rescued off their little island, but things are far from idyllic as they’re treated to one nasty surprise after another, which puts all plans of a wonderful future in jeopardy.
Will they ever get back together again or see the life they envisioned?

“Megz, I thought you were going home?” Seth chided as she took the seat across from him at the old beat up wooden table.
“I have a flight in two hours. Time enough to see you before I leave.” She blinked back tears.
This is so unfair. This can’t be the last time I see him.
Megan folded her hands on the table. “We already checked out of the hotel, but I brought your luggage. The commissioner gave me the okay, so now you have a change of clothes for when you go in front of the judge. I also bought you a few necessities. Since soap and such are not provided, I was told it’s customary for family members to buy those items for the inmates.” She sat a white plastic bag on the table. “These have already been cleared for your use.”
He eyed the bag. “Did your boys pay for it?”
This is the last thing I can do for him, and he doesn’t want it? “Don’t you argue with me, Seth Dawson. You need these.” She fisted her hands. “I also put some money into an account here at the jail for anything else you might need.”
“Ta fer that, love. I’ll pay your sons back somehow.” Seth took one of her hands and uncurled her fingers. “I did want to see you one last time. I didn’t reckon with us parting this way. You to yer rotten bloke, and me here on charges.” He smiled. “Cuddling up on one of your siblings’ sofas sounded nice.”
“Crowded maybe, but we would’ve been together.”
“I heard you made a statement.”
“I did.” She sighed and looked down. I’m not sure what good it’ll do, Seth.
“Thanks for trying, love,” Seth murmured. “I don’t reckon on it being much since you didn’t know Bill before he died.”
“The commissioner said most of my statement is hearsay.” She shrugged. “The only thing I could really tell them was: Bill was dead when we found him and looked the same as the other drowning victims. Also, you never said a bad word about him and showed genuine grief at seeing his body.”
“Not much to go by.” Seth rubbed his thumb across her knuckles.
The slight touch sent a tingle through her, and she wanted to throw herself across the table at him. “The commissioner said he was going to contact the harbormaster where the Dinki-Di had been birthed to see if you two had gotten into any fights.”
“We didn’t.” Seth shook his head. “We got along.”
“Maybe he’ll make a statement too.”
“Gawd, I hope so,” Seth said. “I don’t have enough character references, being from out of town.”
“No, just me.” She tried to smile.
“And old Bill who’s gone.” He lifted her hand to kiss her fingers.
“Times up,” said a guard.
Megan stood and stared at Seth wanting to remember him. Not like this in the black and white jail clothes, but the way he was on the island, happily rumpled in his threadbare outfits.

Buy Link: Amazon USA
Buy Link: Amazon UK

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Meet RB4U's Newest Member

Hey there! I’m RB4U’s newest member, Michele Zurlo. I’ve followed the blog for years, and I’m geeked to be part f the RB4U family. I’ll be here every month on the 26th to share my thoughts and opinions about issues related to being a romance novelist. This month, I thought I’d introduce myself because if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “I know you from somewhere. You kind of look like my aunt.” Chances are I’m not your aunt, so here are a few things about me that may set me apart.

1.   Daytime: I’m a middle school English teacher (or, as my wife says, crazy) and a mom to very active twin teens. Around the edges of all that, I’m a writer. My goal for 2016 was to become more involved in the writing world. To that end, I’ve taken part in the Dominant Persuasions anthology, signed up to appear at my first conference (Midwestern Book Lovers Unite) in October, and I became an author member of RB4U. I’d say I achieved my goal, and it’s only April.

2.   Personality: You can tell from “Daytime” that I’m methodical and goal-oriented. I’m also an introvert, and I used to be a rule-follower. Turning 40 cured me of that need. People call me quirky when they’re trying to be nice. Like many writers, I’m a bit OCD, but I’m flexible. For example: The blinds in my classroom need to be hanging at the exact same height, but I don’t care what level that is. Also, I’m all about grrl power. I insist that my heroines be intelligent, and then I get frustrated when they don’t behave the way I expect. In my current WIP, my heroine insisted on having two heroes as her love interest instead of the one I had originally chosen. But I guess I’m the person who often wants a choice that’s not on the list too.

3.   Writing: I love to write. When I was young, I used to do it all the time, but somewhere around the time I was forced to adult, I stopped. I started again when my kids were little (for sanity breaks) and I haven’t stopped. I found success in the BDSM genre, and lately I’ve encountered a positive reception for my Doms of the FBI series. Re/Leased (DFBI 5--with the heroine who insists on two heroes) comes out this summer, and I have plans to launch a spinoff series tentatively called SAFE Security, in early 2017.

That’s me, Michele Zurlo. Here’s a little kiss from Re/Bound (DFBI 1) to send you off:

She paused at a door three-quarters of the way down the hall. Her gaze fell to the floor. After the awkwardness had passed, the rest of the night had gone well. He had kept the conversation on innocuous topics and had learned a lot about her relationship with Victor Snyder. The prick had her thoroughly and completely snowed. She considered him a friend and a benefactor.

He hooked his finger under her chin and encouraged her to meet his gaze. When she complied, he rewarded her with a smile. Without a doubt, she was one responsive submissive. Yataines had trained her well.

He cupped the side of her face and traced his thumb over her eyebrow. Adjusting the position of his hand, he repeated the caress along her lower lip. She trembled a bit, but she clearly awaited his command. His earlier intention had been an impulsive act of  affection. It had taken all his willpower to keep his cock from saluting her submissiveness.

“I had a nice time tonight, Darcy. Thank you for making this trip worthwhile.”

Her eyes widened a bit, and he knew she wanted to ask if he’d decided against seeing her again now that he’d found out about some of her baggage.

He replayed his caress of her lip. Suddenly he needed to taste her lips more than anything in the world. “Can I kiss you?”
She began to nod, but she caught herself in time. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Yes, I’d like that.”

Malcolm had never once taken the trust of a submissive lightly. Part of him wanted to play the gentleman and leave her alone. A larger part of him needed to know the flavor and texture of her kiss. He recognized the blurring of the line between his cover identity and his real self, and he couldn’t keep from crossing it.

He feathered his lips over hers, a reverent caress that teased a small sigh from her. That tiny sound proved to be his undoing. He traced the seam of her lips with his tongue, and she  opened for him. He cradled her head with one hand to hold her close, and he snaked the other around her waist to press her body closer.

She moaned and leaned into him as he directed with the pressure of his hand on her back. He tasted her lips and teeth. He sampled the roof of her mouth and tangled his tongue with hers. A piece of his heart he’d never before used came to life. It beat a furious staccato rhythm he felt echoed in her chest. Blood rushed to his cock. He thrust a knee between her legs and ground against her.

She mewled, and her fingers dug into his shoulders. Inflamed with her flavor, he moved his lips to sample her neck. She moaned and threw her head back.

The sharp crack of it hitting the door brought Malcolm back to his senses. He had shoved her against the door, and he had ravaged her with everything in his arsenal. He released her abruptly, keeping one hand close in case she needed more than the door to hold her up.

She gazed up at him, her eyes heavy-lidded with desire and blurred by shock. She took a deep, ragged breath and pushed away from the door.

Malcolm ran a shaky hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. You consented to a kiss, not a public mauling.”
A little laugh escaped before she could bite her lip to keep it inside. “Now I’m wondering what will happen if I consent to a public mauling.”

The visions she evoked meant he would need an icy shower before going to sleep. Wisely he changed the topic. “I’d like to see you again. Can we have breakfast together? I could swing by around eight, and we could walk down together.”
Malcolm didn’t know whether he asked her for the mission or because the pounding heart
in his chest wanted to shrivel up and die at the thought of not seeing her.

She nodded. “I’d like that.”

Links of Importance:
Dominant Persuasions:
Midwestern Book Lovers Unite:
Twitter: @MZurloAuthor

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Escape Into Romance & Danger

Did you ever have one of those days? Or a lot of those days? Days when you thought your head would explode at the monotony of your life? You rise at the same time each day, go through the same morning ritual, then it’s onto your job. Maybe you’re a corporate drone and cubicle dweller as I was. Mind-numbing. Boring.

Many a morning as I drove to work, I’d fantasize about something extraordinary happening to relieve the boredom. I don’t mean any earth-shattering event, or anyone’s getting hurt. Just something different. Like I’d come upon a bank robbery in progress and be taken hostage by one of the robbers. Oh, wait, I could get hurt. I didn’t want to escape my cubicle-dwelling world that badly. Maybe the robber is really a sexy undercover FBI agent. That led to other kinds of fantasies I won’t go into. But you get my drift.

Escape, romance, danger. Don’t we all need a little of that in our lives? My life isn’t altogether boring, and of course, I’ll take mundane over dangerous. But isn’t it fun to escape once in a while?

That’s where reading comes in. It gives me the escape I crave. As a child, I devoured everything I could find to read – cereal boxes, billboards, clothes tags. It didn’t matter. If it had words on it, I was hooked. Reading opened a whole new world to me and allowed my imagination to soar.

Within the pages of a book, we can be the FBI heroine fighting a deep secret from her past while trying to bring the bad guys to justice. Or we can be the ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances, caught up in international intrigue and murder. Or we can go back in history and be a young, unmarried daughter of a duke who wants freedom from the constraints of the rigid mores of her class.

And then there are time travels. I love them. Don’t you? I love fantasizing about going back to a time before modern conveniences and learning to deal with a more primitive way of living. I’d probably fall apart if I time-traveled, but the heroes and heroines in the time-travel romances I read always cope with their new environment. And they find love along the way. Pure escapism.
Paranormal books and movies offer another hot escape. There are the Twilight movies and books, Harry Potter, the vampire shows on TV, and the very popular zombie apocalypse shows. Some pop culture experts say the uncertainty in the modern world makes people gravitate toward the supernatural. Maybe they’re right. Or maybe the paranormal taps into that dark part of us that civilization can’t completely suppress. I enjoy reading paranormal romances. I love witch stories and shifter stories and fallen angel stories. Vampire stories—not so much. I’m afraid of vamps and believe they exist.

Regardless of what sub-genre I read, a good love story is central. I crave happy endings as much as I hanker for escapism. If, in addition to the romance, the book also has twists and turns, a mystery, maybe a murder or two, and a ghost, werewolf, or witch, that’s even better.

Do you sigh when reading a hot romance and imagine yourself in the arms of that handsome rake of a duke, that sexy tortured werewolf, that pirate who wants to plunder your charms? Then you know what I mean.

Do you ever fantasize about escaping your routine world? And when you do, do you pick up a book and allow it to fly you to exotic places? I hope you do.

If I feel like going to Regency England today, I’ll read that book about the duke’s restless daughter. Tomorrow I might want to sigh over a sexy werewolf. And after that, I may just meet that hunky FBI agent who’s working undercover and takes me hostage.

What about you? What are you reading?

To help you escape into danger and other worlds, two of my books are on sale now for only 99 cents, for a very limited time.

Murder, Mi Amore, multi-award winning romantic suspense.

 Italy. Danger. Desire.

Murder, jewel thieves and terrorists intrude on an American woman's Roman holiday; can she trust the sexy, mysterious Italian man who comes to her aid? 

Lexie Cortese is in Rome to forget. The last thing she expects is to meet a sexy Interpol agent who suspects her of being part of a terrorist plot involving a stolen diamond. Suddenly thrust into a world of murders, muggings, and kidnappings, Lexie doesn’t know what to think—or who to believe. 

Dominic Brioni’s assignment is simple. Befriend the American and bring her to justice. Only Lexie seems the most unlikely terrorist Dominic has ever met. Sweet, determined, and direct, she faces life with courage and fire, a fire that sparks his protective instincts and a longing for something more—something he allowed himself to hope for only once before. 

But that woman betrayed him, and his boss isn’t about to let him forget it. With his career on the line and Lexie in danger, will Dominic learn to trust his heart before they both get killed? 

Cursed Mates, dark shifter romance.

Scorching. Suspense. Sexy.

"What if you were honor bound to kill the man you love?" 

Nick Radford is a reluctant werewolf who’s been fighting the Beast within for nearly 500 years. He’s never killed a human, but the Beast is gaining strength and Nick may not be able to ward off his inner demon much longer.
Kyla Yaeger is an elite were-hunter with a scarred past. Her life’s mission is to slay the werewolves that slaughtered her parents. Her quest has brought her to Maine, where she’s been summoned to destroy the werewolf terrorizing the quaint little village of Heavensent. The last thing she needs is to get distracted by her mysterious—not to mention hunky—new neighbor, Nick Radford.

By the time Kyla learns Nick is her target, she’s already fallen for him, making her task of killing him that much harder. She is torn between her love for him and her duty to kill her sworn enemy. Nick fights his forbidden love for Kyla, knowing she is duty-bound to kill him. Kyla and Nick must join forces to fight an even bigger threat—one that will destroy all humanity. Only by their combined powers, can they destroy the evil and bring an end to a centuries old curse.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guest Blog by Renee Vincent: Cowboy Wisdom & a Pre-Order for FALLING FOR FORESTER (Cole & Crys)

Writing cowboy romance requires a certain amount of research. Authors must portray their characters in a true fashion when it comes to dialect, accent, mannerisms, and behavior, else the reader won’t believe what they’re reading. For instance, rugged cowboys would never be caught using stiffly formal and proper speech out on the range, and they’d certainly never be seen having “tea time” with their fellow herders.

However that’s not to say cowboys aren’t gentlemen. In fact, as romance readers weexpect our western heroes to mind their manners, to be respectful, and, above all, remain honorable. We want hunky cowboys who open doors for women, remove their hats when entering an establishment or home, and speak with a certain down-home charm that makes a woman feel special.

While we love our cowboy heroes who know how to woo us with their words, sometimes (in an effort to represent the very essence of the west) these spur-sportin’, horse-ridin’, hard-workin’ men in boots say the darnedest things.

In researching for my own cowboy series (the Mavericks of Meeteetse) I’ve come across some dandy sayings that paint a vivid picture, and embody the true spirit of the wild west. I hope you enjoy!

Sayings I’ve Said Before (since I’m a horse rider & farm girl myself):
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Don’t squat with your spurs on.
  • A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.
  • When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin’.
  • The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
Cowboy Sayings Worth Sharing:
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back.
  • The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse.
  • I took to the life of a cowboy like a horse takes to oats.
  • When you’re throwin’ your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
  • Don’t dig for water under the outhouse.
  • Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.
  • If you get thrown from a horse, you have to get up and get back on, unless you landed on a cactus; then you have to roll around and scream in pain.
  • There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode; Never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed.
“Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.” —John Wayne

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Pre-order FALLING FOR FORESTER (Cole & Crys)
I'm super excited to announce that book 2, volume 3 of my Mavericks of Meeteetse Series, FALLING FOR FORESTER, is available now for pre-order with a release date of May 24th!

I know many of you have been looking forward to Cole & Crys's story, and I'm sure some may have even been a little disappointed that it didn't release in March like I'd hoped. I want to apologize wholeheartedly for that. As an author, I never want to disappoint my readers.

That said, I'm also a writer who cares more about quality work, and I'd rather put out a late-to-release 5-star romance novel than a crappy one just for the sake of meeting a deadline.

I want to thank you all for being so patient. I love my readers, and I'm most grateful for your continued support and understanding as I write the last two books in this series. I can't wait to hear what you think, so please let me know!

FALLING FOR FORESTER: (Mavericks of Meeteetse Book 2: Cole & Crys)
Best friend and fellow cowboy cattle rancher Cole Forester likes things the way they are—quiet, no-frills, and uncomplicated. He’s a glorified bachelor with only a dog as his companion, totally content to live a solitary life next to the McKinley ranch. That is until a cute little barrel racer shows up looking for a job as a ranch hand.

Tomboy Crys Willingham hangs up her rodeo hat and heads to where her friend Ava Wallace lives, hoping to score a job that doesn’t involve the risk of broken bones every time she mounts up. Once she lays eyes on Cole, it’s her vulnerable heart that’s in danger of breaking.

Pre-order now at: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
(Trade paperback coming soon)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Other books in the series:
LONGING FOR LANGSTON: Prequel Novella (Brody & Liv)
MADE FOR McKINLEY: Book 1 (Jonas & Ava)
FALLING FOR FORESTER: Book 2 (Cole & Crys)

*All the books in this series can be read as stand alones*
Click HERE to read more about the Mavericks of Meeteetse Series or on each individual book.

Available now!
The Prequel
(Brody & Liv)
Available now!
Book 1
(Jonas & Ava)

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