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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Interview of Author Karen McCullough

Today it's my pleasure to present an interview of romance author Karen McCullough.

Latest Book: The Detective’s Dilemma
Buy Link: Amazon

BIO:
Karen McCullough’s wide-ranging imagination makes her incapable of sticking to one genre for her storytelling. As a result, she’s the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas, which span the mystery, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense genres. A former computer programmer who made a career change into being an editor with an international trade publishing company for many years, she now runs her own web design business to support her writing habit. Awards she’s won include an Eppie Award for fantasy; three other Eppie finals; Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


Q: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
A: I’d like to be able to write on a schedule, but given the demands of the day job and family, that mostly doesn’t happen. I’m also the kind of writer who needs a block of time to sink into the story, so most of my writing is done either late at night or on weekends.

Q: What is the most important thing you do for your career now, as compared to when you first started writing?
A: These days it’s all about the promo, and to be honest, it’s not my favorite part of the job. When I published my first novel in 1990, the publisher handled most of the marketing. Not that there was much. They put your book in their catalogs, sent the book out to a few magazines that did reviews and maybe bought an ad or two. That was it. Now, I spend as much time doing promo stuff as I do writing.

Q: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
A: I’d like to say quite a bit, especially the female characters, but I think that may be more wishful thinking than reality. I’ve heard a fellow mystery author describe her detective heroine as a “younger, braver and thinner version of myself.” I think that’s true of my heroines as well. On the other hand a writer can only use the materials she has, and it’s true that the person we each know best is ourselves, so some of that is bound to come out in each character we write.

Q: Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?
A: I don’t eat at my desk, but I drink coffee – quite a lot of coffee, actually. I don’t listen to music while writing. I love music, but I find it too distracting to have it playing while I’m writing. I can’t ignore it if it’s there.

Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: This is going to sound odd, but I don’t choose names for my characters. They tell me their names.

Q: Covers. Ever get one you wish you could change?
A: Heavens, yes! My first four books were published by Avalon Books in hardcover, and I never liked any of the covers I got from them very much. One of them – Stormtide – is absolutely awful. You can see those early covers on my website here: http://www.kmccullough.com/backlist.php. It’s probably not politically correct to admit this, but I’m not really thrilled with cover of The Detective’s Dilemma. My cop hero would never, ever, go around with his shirt hanging of like that. But I have to assume that the Kensington/Lyrical marketing dept. knows what they’re doing.

Q: Give one advice tip to an aspiring author.
A: Grow a thick skin. You’re going to need it. There’s a lot of rejection in this business, at every level, and if you start taking it personally, it will drive you insane or drive you into doing something else with your life.

Q: Have you ever used an incident from your real life into one of your books?
A: Lots of them, though not so much in The Detective’s Dilemma. However, my recent cozy mystery, A Gift for Murder, (published in HC by Five Star, MMP by Harlequin, and now available as an ebook) was inspired by all the trade shows I attended when I was working as an editor at several trade publications. A Gift for Murder is set at a fictional exhibition hall in Washington, D.C., and the heroine is the assistant to the director of the center. That’s her official title anyway. A lot of her job involves being the point person for problems with exhibitors or attendees. Some of the incidents are similar to things I either witnessed personally at various trade shows or heard about from other people at them.

Q: Any part of a book that drives you crazy as you write: beginning, middle, or end?
A: At around the ¾ point of every book I write, I get the feeling that it’s complete trash, totally boring, badly written, and not worth finishing. After writing 20+ books, I’ve started to recognize it when it happens, and now I know that I just have to push on through it and keep going, even though it feels like slogging through molasses for a while.

Q: How many stories are swirling around in your head? Do you keep a mental list, a computer file, or a spiral notebook filled with the ideas?
A: Lots and lots of ideas. More than I’ll ever be able to write and most aren’t really ready to become a story. Stories seem to happen when two or three ideas collide and the resulting explosion produces a character or two and a plot idea. I jot notes all over the place, including cocktail napkins. But I do actually have a spiral notebook where I make notes as interesting things occur to me.

Fun Stuff:
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: Christmas – I’d love it even if it didn’t happen to be my birthday as well. It’s when all the family comes together and we celebrate!

Q: What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
A: First, I’m a strong introvert, but I’m not particularly shy. Second, as an undergraduate at Duke University, I was part of a group that occupied the main quad of the university for a week in a protest that was called, “The Silent Vigil.” It rained the last two days and I ended up with the flu.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A doctor.

Q: Favorite food.
A: Chocolate.

Q: Favorite happy memory.
A: Any number of family vacations, both as a child and later as an adult with my own kids. Interesting note: I grew up in a suburb of New York City, and didn’t see a cow or sheep up close until I was twelve years old and my family went to a farm for a vacation.

Q: Favorite drink.
A: Coffee or wine.

Q: Hot summer days or chilly winter nights?
A: Hot summer days.

Q: What is the top thing on your bucket list?
A: I’d really like to take a river cruise through central Europe.

Q: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: Bilocation. There are so many things I want to do and places I want to go that I need at least two of me to get it all in.

Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!
Website: http://www.kmccullough.com/
Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kgmccullough/
Kensington Author page: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/31633

BLURB:
Although Sarah Anne Martin admits to pulling the trigger, she swears someone forced her to kill her lover. Homicide detective Jay Christianson is skeptical, but enough ambiguous evidence exists to make her story plausible. If he gives her enough freedom, she’ll either incriminate herself or draw out the real killers. But, having been burned before, Jay doesn’t trust his own protective instincts…and his growing attraction to Sarah only complicates matters.

With desire burning between them, their relationship could ultimately be doomed since Sarah will be arrested for murder if they can’t find the real killer.

EXCERPT:
The crash of something hitting the floor jerked her awake.

Sarah lay for a moment, listening, wondering what might have fallen, but not yet alarmed enough to drag herself out of bed and investigate.

An even louder thunk shook the house. She jolted upright in bed. Something had hit the floor again--something heavy. She reached for the bedside clock and pressed the button to illuminate the face. One-thirty. Vince might still be up. Maybe he’d bumped into something. She hoped it was nothing worse. She kept telling him to follow the doctor’s orders and lose weight. At fifty-three, he already had heart problems.

The thought of him lying on the floor after a heart attack or stroke goaded her up and out of bed.

She snagged her robe off the chair and rushed out of her bedroom. A light shone at the opposite end of the hall that ran nearly the entire length of the house. In the past year, Vince had been having more trouble sleeping and often stayed in his study, working or watching television into the early hours of the morning.

The door to the room stood open, but she didn’t see him at first when she rushed in. Papers lay scattered across the floor, drawers hung open from the desk, and one sat on its side on the floor as well.

“Vince?”

“Over here. I--” His voice wavered and broke.

She spotted him on the far side of the room from the door. He was on his feet and two men flanked him. Hoods concealed their features, and they both wore dark, nondescript clothes. Each held a gun, one pointed at Vince’s head, the other turned in her direction.

Sarah froze. Her breath stuck in her throat, and her stomach clenched into a tight knot. “What--? What’s going on? Vince?”

His normally florid complexion had a gray cast, and his shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry, my dear. These gentlemen have--”

“Shut up,” one of the two ordered.

She didn’t realize there was a third man in the room until he stood beside her. Sarah backed away, but he grabbed her arm and held her in place. He squeezed the arm so tightly it hurt when she tried to wrench it away.

“Shut up.” He lifted her arm from her side to chest height and pushed his gun into her right palm. Strong, square, latex-gloved hands flanked hers, holding her fingers around the gun’s butt, pointing it toward Vince.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

HEROES OR HEROINES?



Inquiring minds want to know: for you authors—do you have an easier time writing your heroes or your heroines? For you readers—do you relate better to the heroes or the heroines in the romance books you read?

It’s been said that readers should want to be friends with the heroine and fall in love with the hero. I’ve got the falling in love with the hero part nailed down.

Writing the hero is much easier for me than writing the heroine. I fall in love with each of my heroes as I’m writing his story. I love getting into my guys’ heads. My men are always tortured in some way, yet they are vulnerable, and despite everything they’ve been through, they are willing to open their hearts to take a chance on love. And they aren’t afraid to fight for the women they love. Readers fall in love with my heroes too.

My heroines not so much.

I struggle to write heroines. I like them to be vulnerable also, and independent and strong. Women who can stand on their own and take care of themselves. But, according to a few reviewers/readers, my early heroines were a little too stubborn. One reader who reviewed my first published book disliked my heroine through most of the story because this reader felt the heroine took too long to appreciate the great guy who was head over heels for her. I’ve had some readers defend my heroes against perceived slights from the heroines.

My heroines have been hurt in the past and steel themselves against getting hurt again. Because of that they are a little wary of losing their hearts. And, yes, maybe a little stand-offish, at least at first, for some of them. On the other hand, I’ve written heroines who have been too mushy and googly-eyed toward the hero, according to my critique group. They have me make her resist the hero more. See what I mean about struggling to write the women?

I suspect my problem writing heroines is that each one has a little bit of me in her. I’m stubborn (to a fault my husband would say), and I don’t like anyone telling me what to do. Although these can be good traits for my heroines, I’ve had to learn to dig deeper into their minds to show their inner struggles so readers can understand them better, and to make them the kinds of women readers would have for friends.

Readers tend to like the heroines in my later books. But not as much as they love my heroes.

As a reader, I asked myself the same question as above. Who do I relate to better? Hero or heroine? Many times it depends on the book and the roles the characters play. But looking back, I like most heroes a tad better than the heroines in the books I read. Why? Is it just a woman thing, and we all fall in love with the heroes?

Here are a few of my heroes and why I love them.

Logan Tanner from Logan’s Redemption (Redemption Book 1). Logan was raised on the mean streets of Philadelphia. As a teen, he was forced to flee. Now he’s back, but his past still haunts him. He puts his life on the line to protect the woman he loves, the woman he’s always loved.

Franco Callahan from Franco’s Fortune (Redemption Book 2). Franco went from a spoiled child of privilege to a wealthy playboy. But Franco’s player façade hides deep wounds. It takes a spitfire of a woman, ex-military, to break down the wall around Franco’s heart.

Luke Corrado from Luke’s Temptation (Redemption Book 3). A hotshot FBI Agent who doesn’t always follow the rules, Luke carries his guilt like a loaded Glock. Because of him, a woman he’d loved was murdered. Now, on special assignment, he has a chance to redeem himself by saving the life of another woman, a woman who tempts him to love again.

Nick Radford, from Cursed Mates, former Duke of Radford, now a powerful werewolf. Nick is a tortured soul who’s lived for over 500 years. To save the world and the woman he loves, he’ll sacrifice his own life.







 Logan's Redemption (Redemption Book 1) is free for a limited time at Amazon, iBooks, BN, Kobo, and Smashwords.


All three books in The Redemption Series are in a boxed set for your reading convenience.



Friday, January 23, 2015

Guest Blog: Tamara Hughes: Historical Romance vs. Supernatural Romance: Are They Really So Different?

At first thought, these romance subgenres seem like two ends of the spectrum. How could readers of one have anything in common with readers of the other? And yet, I love reading and writing both, and for very similar reasons.

In both historical and supernatural romance, the author builds a world different from the here and now. Yes, many science fiction/fantasy romances are set in modern day environments, but to really get the feel of the supernatural elements, ground rules must be established so that the reader knows how those elements relate to the ordinary. Likewise, historical romances immerse readers in settings long past. Because of this, authors need to explain the differences between today and the world the characters live in.

Along with setting, the story has to establish character. In historicals, characters dress and act according to cultural norms of that time period. In that same way, supernatural characters should be distinct from people in the today’s world. If they have an ability, how do they feel about it? Do they need to hide it from people? And if so, why? There will be situations in which the character will have different “etiquette” and values because of the supernatural elements in the story.

Once these new worlds and characters are established, the author needs to incorporate real life. To make the story believable, historicals must be realistic, maybe by including actual people, places, or events. Supernaturals are much the same. The easiest method to help readers to suspend disbelief when it comes to the mystical elements is to ground the story and characters in reality.

As a reader, I love that both these genres delve into the unknown (or the long forgotten). They allow me to explore fascinating worlds and characters beyond the norm. What do you think? Do you agree? Historical vs. Supernatural. Are they really that different of a reading experience?

BLURB:
Charity Goswick thinks she is escaping an arranged marriage to a brute when she slips onto a ship unnoticed. Little does she realize that this is no honorable vessel of the King's Navy – it is a pirate ship. It's just a matter of time before she is discovered by a handsome rake of a pirate, who locks her in his cabin. And while she should be scared, her captor sparks the most unladylike feelings within her...

James Lamont is on the ship for one reason, and one reason only: to track down his brother. However, his spirited little stowaway certainly affords plenty of distraction with her many (failed) attempts to escape. And each time, the unspoken—and unbidden—passion between them grows stronger. But as violence and danger mount on the high seas, Charity will have to put all of her trust in the most untrustworthy of men... the arrogant pirate who just might steal her heart.

BIO:
A small town girl with a big imagination, Tamara Hughes had no idea what to do with her life. After graduating from college, she moved to a big city, started a family and a job, and still struggled to find that creative outlet she craved. An avid reader of romance, she gave writing a try and became hooked on the power of exploring characters, envisioning adventures, and creating worlds. She enjoys stories with interesting twists and heroines who have the grit to surmount any obstacle, all without losing the ability to laugh. To learn more, stop by her website: http://www.tamarahughes.com/. You can also find her on:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tamarahughesauth
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TamHughes

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Vikings?


I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer for me has always been “Why not?” As readers of romance, we like our heroes to be bold, sexy, sometimes brazen, and always chivalrous. What better group of heroic men can give you all that and more than the brave warriors of the North?

I suppose my fixation for Vikings is akin to asking an herbivore why he prefers the taste of grass to a big juicy steak. Okay, I suspect my interest in these men does not go quite as far as an innate behavior, but considering I’ve had this passion since taking World History in high school, it’s seems as close to an inherent condition as I can imagine.

As most everyone has learned, Vikings were a formidable race of men, practiced in the skill of raiding and evading. We were educated to believe that they were greedy pillagers, marked by lack of compassion and extreme brutality in their pursuit for gold and riches. No one was safe from their torment, especially the unarmed monks of the European world.

But as I sat and listened to my teachers describe this particular Scandinavian race of adventure-seeking seamen, I couldn’t help feeling that something was amiss. Could an entire class of people be that barbaric? Did every person—man, woman, and child—set their sights on wreaking havoc over their distant, and some not so distant, European neighbors?

The thought of that concept actually made me laugh. While we know that Hitler and his strong band of Nazis utterly bewildered and outraged the world with their fanatical purpose to end the Jewish community, we also know that not all Germans sided with this tyrannical quest for world domination. On the flip side, I also thought it utterly ridiculous to lump the men from the North into that same category of extremists.

In my pursuit to set the record straight, I struck out to research this race on my own. In reading many research books on the subject, I came to find that most were written by men, laden with facts, dates, and events. To be truthful, it was a huge bore.

Until…I found a book entitled Everyday Life In The Viking Age by Jacqueline Simpson. To my surprise, it was authored by a female and written in such a way that held me riveted. She went beyond factual statistics and delved into the core of the Vikings’ life. She spoke of their unparalleled unity of family and brotherhood, independence and honor. It was the first nonfiction book I’d ever read cover to cover.

In great detail, she explained how most were simple craftsmen and merchants looking to make an honest living with trade, or farmers aiming to settle upon lush lands following the depletion of Norway’s natural resources—while still upholding the role of a warrior if the duty arose. For me, there was something to be said about the fearless men who bravely picked up their families and left their homelands to journey on an open sea in the hopes of making a new life for themselves.

I also found that along with courage, these men made and kept oaths of loyalty, both with their gods and their brothers in arms. It was not likely that oaths were broken, as doing so would have called to question one’s honor, and during this time, a man’s character was either his glory or his shame.

These men were also family men; a people who stood closely together, sometimes living together in the same longhouses and raising each others’ young as their own. While they held a high regard for kinship, they also harbored an untamable desire for exploration. Their vitality for adventure, as well as their unsurpassed nautical intelligence, helped them to perfect the most versatile sea vessel of their time.

In truth, this was the spirit of the Northmen and the reason why I enjoy writing them into my historical romances. I’ve always said I would love to have been born in the 10th century so I could set my own eyes on a few tall, fair-haired, muscled warriors and witness their passionate exploits on the bows of their impressive dragon ships. Hey a girl can dream, right?

I hope I entertained you, if not enlightened you, about why the Vikings are a logical choice for the burly Alpha male heroes we want in our romance novels.

If you love Vikings and crave Alpha males, then try my Norse warriors on for size!

Emerald Isle Trilogy
Ræliksen, Mac Liam, and The Fall of Rain
Amazon Bestseller for Viking Romance!

Available now at:

One man risks his life to save her.
Another risks his heart to love her.
Who will be the victor?

Three of Renee Vincent’s bestselling and critically acclaimed historical Viking romance novels are now available in one spellbinding bundle.

Full of fast-paced adventure, unforeseen plot twists, and courageous, to-die-for heroes like you’ve never read before, this extraordinary boxed set is sure to satisfy every readers’ craving for the ultimate in historical Viking romance.

~ ~ ~ ~



The Temperate Warrior

Available now at:

He was her champion. She was his weakness.
Together, they loved with wild abandon.

Gustaf Ræliksen lives by the blade of his sword. After avenging his father’s murder and reuniting with his family, he wants nothing more than to settle down and have sons of his own. Only one woman will do—a fiery redhead he saved from the spoils of war.

No longer forced to warm the beds of the men who've taken everything from her, Æsa has nothing to offer the noble warrior but her heart.

When someone with a deep score to settle seeks revenge upon her, Gustaf's world is torn asunder. He has but one vow—saving the woman he loves from the ignorant fool who dared to best the temperate warrior.


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest Blog: Jeanine McAdam: Cowboys and Five Facts About Bull Riding

1) Bull riding is called the ‘most dangerous eight seconds in sports’. A bull rider must remain on the bull for eight seconds to be judged for the ride. During that time the bull bucks, spins and turns trying to dismount the rider.

2) It’s not if a bull rider is going to get hurt but when. An International Federation of Sports Medicine study found that riding a bull is more dangerous than boxing, hockey or football. It is estimated that every 15 rides end in injury.

3) Bulls are scored and ranked just like the cowboys and they are considered athletes like the riders too. So they are cared for very well and there are rules governing bull welfare. For example, a bull can only travel for ten hours at a time and is given an equal amount of time for rest. A championship bull can be worth as much as $500,000.

4) Bull riders are not required to wear helmets. Fifty percent do, however some feel the sport is only pure unless they are wearing a big rimmed cowboy hat. Head injuries are a serious problem in bull riding.

6) The riders don’t get paid unless they ride. And if they do ride but are bucked off, they don’t get paid. If they get hurt, they don’t get paid. The best riders make about five million dollars their entire career while lower ranked riders can make as little as five thousand. Bull riders are free lancers, no benefits, retirement or health insurance in bull riding.

Hope you enjoyed these facts about bull riding. My ‘Skirts and Spurs’ trilogy is about a family of bull riders and includes THE BULL RIDER AND THE BARE BOYCOTTER, THE BULL RIDER AND THE BABY (Goodreads ranking of 4.5) & THE BULL RIDER WEARS PINK. Find my books at http://www.jeaninemcadam.com/bookshelf

BLURB:
Animal right activist Rachel Fox is a woman with a mission. The plan is to step into bull rider Logan Cooper’s ring wearing nothing but a poster calling the rodeo a ‘blood sport’. While rescuing this passionate protester from a nineteen hundred pound charging bull Logan decides he likes what he sees. Only problem, he’s got to direct Rachel’s love away from the livestock and onto him. With the press hot on their heels, because who isn’t interested in a story about a bull rider and a naked protester, Logan brings the dark haired, curvy figured Brooklynite to his Montana ranch.

Except, now that he’s got Rachel in his bed he’s nervous his annoying, problematic brothers and surly preteen nephew will scare her off. But when Rachel meets Logan’s deeply flawed family she realizes the bulls aren’t the only ones who need saving, the Cooper brothers need her help too. The only problem is Rachel has a secret, after believing she was infertile, it turns out that this sexy bull rider may have changed her childless fate forever.

BIO:
Jeanine McAdam is a writer of twenty-five romantic short stories, a few spicy anthologies and three cowboy books. Telling stories about imperfect people finding perfect love is her thing. Even though she lives in New York City she’s fascinated with the American west. She’s currently writing about bull riders and the spunky urban women who adore them in her Skirts and Spurs Trilogy. When she’s not writing she spends time with her teenage sons, ultra marathon running husband and two rescue Labrador retrievers named Desdemona (Desi) and Aaron.

www.jeaninemcadam.com
www.facebook.com/jeaninemcadambooks
www.twitter.com/jeaninemcadam

Monday, January 19, 2015

IS IT REAL OR IS IT?

I have to admit I struggled a bit when I decided to write my next SEAL Brotherhood book, SEAL's Promise, with a home grown terrorist cell in it. This was before some of the more recent events that have catapulted SEALs into the forefront of the news. I had the book written, and then when word began to come out last Fall about terrorist sleeper cells in this country and others around the world--cells that might prey on our military men and women or their families, I hesitated.

I remember the day the Twin Towers came down in New York City. I would learn later that the Valedictorian of my California high school class was on the top floor, speaking at a charity luncheon fundraiser for women. My son was a film student at NYU, and he had left me a message approximately one hour before the attacks, telling me how rainy and stormy it had been the night before, but they'd had a successful party anyway, "Today it is a beautiful, blue, cloudless New York Day." Those words stuck in my throat as I watched the planes hit the towers over and over again all day. I was terrified until I found out he was safe.

Another member of my graduating class would die in a terrorist bombing in Algeria at the U.N. office there. His wife had set up a school for girls, risking her life to do so. He told me at our reunion that he carried, "A little bit of California with me," back to Algeria, his home. He had brought his entire family to the reunion in order to meet the students of the high school he attended as a foreign exchange student.

As the awful choking soot and smoke began to settle on 9-11, I knew in my heart that something new had begun. We were entering a time when non-military men and women in this country, innocents, would become casualties of this insane fanaticism sweeping across much of the world. When I visited the site, it was difficult when I realized that the tree branches hanging above my head with some kind of brown moss and metal crumpled fruit was the evidence of pantyhose and metal mini blinds from the offices that perished. Instead of just targeting the fighting man and woman, the civilian population was now going to be attacked. This was a new experience for us in the United States.

But as I got my edits back and and uploaded the book, I understood that stories are usually based on events that happen in real life, even though the romance and the characters are make believe. And so my story is set against the backdrop of the unfortunate reality that military men, women and their families might become targets. The love story occurs while the terror is unfolding.

I'm so happy that American Sniper is out and that it is a tremendous hit. It does tell the story about our brave Navy SEALs, the heroes I love to write about, and their precious families. The character of the men who will not quit was underscored in such a powerfully moving way for me.

Every new tragedy or event inspires me to continue to tell the stories of these guys, and why we should honor them, perhaps listen to their advice and warnings. The world is changing, whether we want it to be so or not. Thank goodness we have these guys, and all the other brave military men and women, who have our backs, and have that unrelenting calling to keep us all safe.

As I've said many times before, the way we can honor and pay them back is to enjoy what we have every day, to live our lives to the fullest, to enjoy every minute of our taste of freedom. Life is fragile, but it is also so very sweet.


Sharon Hamilton
Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.





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