Amazon KDP: The Planet of the Snake People

 

Planet of the snake people_LalienCilliers_BookCoverSo, since there’s been no movement of this short dream parable eBook, I removed it from Smashwords and moved it to Amazon KDP Select. I priced it at 99c (USD) and chose some Christian and insipirational categories for it.

Will let you know how it goes.

If you’d like to support me (disclaimer – it’s a Christian book, just thought I’d make that clear!), you can buy a copy here: The Planet of the Snake People.

If you like it, please rate and review – it makes a huge difference to the visibility of the book on Amazon.

Thanks!

“On Not Writing” by Bill Hayes

"Silence" by Johann Heinrich Füssli
“Silence” by Johann Heinrich Füssli

Have you ever found yourself in the deep end of “not writing”?

Have a look at this great blog post by Bill Hayes in The New York Times:    “On Not Writing”

Apps and stuff

These are apps I enjoy working with  and that I have found helpful. Feel free to give more suggestions in the comments below!

Mindmeister

mindmeister2 Found this on Google Chrome. It is amazingly easy for mindmapping. Endless extension possibilities on a freemium model.Functions on all platforms

You start from a central node, and then add attaching nodes by clicking “Insert” on your keyboard. Dead easy. You can then rearrange them afterwards by dragging them over other nodes, or delete by clicking – you know it – delete on the keyboard.

Easy peasy. Loving it. Many additional features on the premium versions, but some great functionality on the free version already. Click this link to get you there:   http://www.mindmeister.com/?r=98348

Simplemind

simpleminds2This app can be downloaded for a tablet or smartphone by clicking on this link: http://www.simpleapps.eu/simplemind/android

Or it can be used on a PC (also on Mac) by clicking on this link: http://www.simpleapps.eu/simplemind/desktop/windows

Love its simplicity and colour coding possibilities. The PC version is not free, but you get a download trial of thirty days to give you a chance to play with it.

CardBoard Novels

CardBoard_novelsCardBoard Novels is an add-on for CardBoard, a free app on the Android store. I love these little colour-codable index cards that you can type up (front and back) and move around the board as you please.

The add-on includes a four-act structure, character archetypes, character details , the hero’s journey and scene ideas and breakups.

I have only just started playing with this one, but like what I have seen thus far.  You can get the app by clicking on this link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.woinowski.cardboard.addon.novel&hl=en

What My Parents Could Not Teach Me About Writing

Although writing is still writing and storytellers will be with us forever, there are some things that have changed. Things my parents could probably not have imagined.

1.  The World Is Your Oyster

We are so used to chatting to friends on Facebook and Twitter that we don’t even stop to think how wonderfully insane it is to chat to total stranger on the other side of the world. Someone you have never met, and most probably, never will. Someone you cannot call a friend. Yet you know their tastes, hopes, dreams and food preferences better than that of some family members.

So what? Well, some of your new friends read. And some of them might read exactly what you like writing. And if they don’t, they might have friends who do. Or friends of friends. Or … well, you get the idea.

In the past you had to write for a viable audience. You could not write about your passion for toys from the Second World War, because your publisher said that there is just no market for that. Well, actually that was a lie. There were the fifteen guys with you in the World War Two Toys Club (WWTTC, for the inner circle) and they all were desperate for your research. But obviously that would not enough to help you, or your publisher, make a living. So, maybe your publisher wasn’t quite lying.

But now? Now those fifteen guys found in each town all connect in a wonderful little town called The Internet. It might be a Facebook Page. Or a Twitter List. Or a Board on Pinterest. Fact of the matter is … it is at least a few thousand people now … or a few million.

And they are still interested in your research. In that book you are now writing.

2.  Be Published Or Be Your Own Publisher

We have all been to a Book Fair, and attended a talk by a publisher on “How to get published”. Remember? That is usually when you realise exactly how it works in publishing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /Free Digital Photos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /Free Digital Photos.net

You see, up to that time, you thought that the best books are published. And you worked very hard to become one of those “best books” in whatever genre you love. And still, you received rejection after rejection.

And you felt worthless and terrible.

You even thought of quitting.

Until that day at the Book Fair. The day when you finally realised what this is all about. Because that publisher said, in so many words, that they publish what will sell. And they have limited resources to do so.

You finally understood that publishing is not about craft and beauty and quality. Sure – those things should be part and parcel of any good book. But publishing is actually a corporate business looking to make money. And to do that they do market research. And th

ey use that market research to decide which books to publish.

Don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely nothing against publishers (good ones, that is!). Love them to bits and support them wildly.

But they are there to achieve very specific, pre-structured goals.

And if your book doesn’t fall within those requirements, then you are rejected.

That is the truth.

Or was.

These days you have options. You can actually choose whether you want to publish through a publisher or self-publish. In fact, often excellent self-published books ar

e later on published by ‘traditional’ publishers. Yes … because they sold well as self-published books, of course!

Do keep in mind that ‘traditionally’ published books go through (usually) stringent

quality control processes. If you want to self-publish you have to set those processes in place yourself. And that can cost money. But then … it allows you to write that book for those crazy guys in World War II clubs.

3.  Writing Comes In All Shapes And Sizes

As you grow as a writer, you will know ‘who you are’ in terms of writing. But don’t let that limit you. Writing comes in all kinds of genres and in all kinds of ways.

You could write fiction. Or non-fiction. Or both.

You could epic fantasy series.

Or copy for companies.

There’s so much you can do if you are able to wield words effectively.

Don’t let the known limit you – try out different genres, different media.

Write a screenplay if you want!

Or copy for greeting cards.

Write the great [add country’s name] Novel.

Or an amazing book for toddlers.

Share your sense of humour or show your dark side.

Writing has come into its own and you should ride this wave all the way to the beach!

Baking Words

I was watching an old sci-fi series (must confess I am nervous to say which one, as it would place me on a side of the divide – either loved by rabid fans or scoffed by intellectual superiors) and spent half the time mildly amused at the way future technology was imagined.

Especially the voice-activated “computer” used for everything from lifts to journal entries.

I love the action of my fingers on a keyboard, and seeing the words come out bit by bit. So I am not sure that I would ever be truly fond of voice-only, keyboardless computers. And yes, I do know that it’s coming/that it’s here already.

But still.

The letter by letter appearance of words on the white screen in front of me has always created a kind of a soothing rhythm, hypnotic at times. I love it to bits. It is the best part of writing.

(Possibly because it happens to coincide with the first draft of anything?)

But speaking my thoughts into a microphone? I don’t know. I think it might be too fast, too undigested an action for my taste.

Apple Cinamon Bread BY Janet Hudson ON Flickr
Photo by Janet Hudson, Flickr

Writing has always felt a bit like baking a home-made bread, the way I used to do it with my mom. I loved watching her big, firm-flabby arms wobble as she grabbed the dough, and kneaded it, grabbed it again, folding it inward and wrestling it into rising submission.

And then placing the raw dough into bread pans that she had oiled with butter beforehand and wrapping them in layers of cloth and blanket to place them into the sun, allowing them to rise mysteriously in the hot, dark den she had built for these breads-to-be.

After the unwrapping there was a final battle of wills with the now-bubbly dough before placing it into the hot oven, and finally … the thick wad of butter on the steaming hot slice of bread.

Yum.

And, I think, exactly in line with the process needed to create a proper piece of writing.

Great Writing Quotes (Video)

Entertaining Mythical Characters

Image how different fairy tales would be had Cinderella been middle-aged. A fit, trim, well-preserved middle-aged L1008912lady, in shape because her nasty stepsisters ate all the fatty food and she was left nibbling some leafy green veggies and the odd piece of broccoli. A rocking body because of years of cleaning house and washing windows.

But middle-aged.

Would Prince C. still try to fit the shoe over that unwashed, knobbly foot? Or would he depart for softer flesh, dewy eyes and “yeah, like … ” girls?

One thing I know for sure: she would have been wearing sensible shoes, not glass stilettos.

* * *

I flirted with the muse for many years. “One day I will write and then I will astonish the whole world.”

I did astonish – myself.

Because the muse has gone off to support two other people in my life who actually wrote stuff. A lot of it. Often.

Bitch.

But I have baked a whole batch of cookies and have placed the milk right next to the laptop and I am warming up the seat in anticipation of her inspiring song.

Oh wait. That’s Father Christmas.

Wrong drink.

Wonder what she would like?

I think my muse would not be a tea-and-biscotti lady.

And no ways is she is Sex-on-the-beach-or-lawn-or-whatever cocktail kind of chick.

She isn’t a whiskey-straight-up dame either.

Possibly a freshly-squeezed-watermelon woman.

… time will tell.

(Image: “Shoes” by Michael Cory, flickr)

What My Parents Taught Me About Writing

I remember waking up one morning early to a strange sound in the study. I went in there to check, and found my mom sobbing over her typewriter.

Literally sobbing.Ma verwerk

Because she had to just finished drowning her beloved main character.

Both my parents were published authors and very involved in mentoring young writers, so I learned a great deal about the discipline and the rigors of writing from them.

Oh, and if some of these sound familiar, it is simply because the road to writing has always been pretty much the same – whether it is tar or gravel or grass or cobblestones, the path still leads from here to there, from the start of the book to reader reading the last word. Nothing much has changed.

1.   ABC: Writing is Hard Work.

ABC = Apply Bottom to Chair. Yes. You have heard this before.

It’s still true, though.

If you don’t sit down to some serious writing (or do it standing up), nothing will ever magically happen.

Writing. Is. Hard. Work.

2.   Kill Your Darlings: Edit!

William Faulkner said that you have to kill your darlings.

Because if you don’t kill your darlings, they will kill your book.

For those of you who are horrified at the suggestion of murder, please note: a “darling” in a book could be a favourite minor character who doesn’t contribute to your main plot but wonders off on his or her own little garden path.

Or it could be a flowery phrase, or a word you use over and over and over … get the picture?

Or it could be a whole subplot that makes your book overweight and dowdy instead of streamlined and sexy.

How do you kill your darlings? Well, editors are the best assassins you can find. But before you hire them, do some assassination (aka editing) yourself.

3.   Your Sweetheart’s Blue Eyes: Make Notes!

Somewhere you need to create a table and note down details regarding your characters and the setting and anything else that you could forget one hundred pages into the book. Do not change the colour of someone’s eyes simply because you didn’t make a note of it. Excel makes it really easy to create a character list, but there are handy apps out there that you might want to use as well.

4.   Night Owls or Larks? Know Yourself

My mom woke up at four in the morning to start writing. My dad wrote until midnight.  Oh what a marriage that must have been!

Seriously though: you need to write when you are fresh and wide awake and able. You cannot write with a hundred people asking you for tea or food or socks. But you also cannot write in the mornings if you are not a morning person.

5.   Be a Great Spy. Know Your Market.

Maybe you are writing for yourself. That’s cool. Then you don’t have to get to know your market. Well, actually, you already know your market pretty well then …

But otherwise: get to know your market or get to know someone who knows your market. Publishers, editors and agents all know their fields well. But it doesn’t help a lot if you don’t do your own market research and you also don’t listen to them. Either spy yourself or trust your spies.

Watch Some Videos … It’s Weekend!

Solid_color_You_Tube_logo

Have a look at some videos on my YouTube channel.   I will add to it from time to time, so feel free to subscribe, or just pop around every so often.

Don’t you just love living in the digital age where we have all this great information and amazing interviews at our fingertips!

Have fun!

Go with the Flow or Plan Ahead – How Do You Write?

vulpen

Writers’ conferences are interesting animals. Picture the anxious, eager young writer wielding a notebook/voice recording device. Every word spoken by the sage is truth and golden and pure. Every joke is funny. Every poignant example brings a tear.

And if the sage says: plan, then plan we will, by Shakespeare’s quill!

But SHOULD you? And should YOU?

 

How Detailed the Plan?

Planning depends on:

  • Who you are.
  • What you are writing.

 

Who Are YOU?

In terms of planning, writers can generally be divided into three groups:

  • Those who plan everything to the comma and the caps;
  • Those who plan vaguely and meander along; and
  • Those who swear that planning steals the creative soul.

Let’s see how planning can be managed by the two extremes: the over-planner and the free spirit.

 

Are You an Over-Planner?

If you are an over-planner, then NOT planning would scare the living daylights and the shining moonlight out of you and leave you adrift as a tiger on a boat.

So. If you are a natural planner: do go ahead and plan. (You will do it, regardless of permissions or prohibitions.)

But –

do place a limit on the planning.

Because planners tend to get lost in the very act of planning. Any (rehabilitating) planner will know that the very deed of sitting down and creating schedules, calendars, lists and tasks, makes rainbows and sunshine and happy faces appear.

Tell yourself something cruel, such as: “I will plan the following week’s work on a Friday afternoon for two hours. And that’s it. I will do no further planning. I will not amend the present planning. I will not do anything but think about the writing until such time as I sit down and do the actual writing. I will do the writing, not the planning, until the Friday afternoon planning time slot.” Then you can wear your happy clothes and make a special tea and plan to your heart’s content for two solid hours.

 

Are You a Free Spirit?

As a free spirit, you firmly believe that nothing good comes from planning. But maybe you should give it a try. Do some rough planning. Do some crazy planning. Do some scary planning. But do it, regardless of your convictions, and see if it makes a difference.

If you are writing a novel, go ahead and splurge your story down on paper as if you are trying to convince an agent at a party that you have something worth reading. Don’t think too much, just write as fast as your brain can move and your fingers can keep up.

If you are writing non-fiction, write down all the headings and subheadings. Think of this as giving someone a peep into the table of contents of your completed book. Don’t think too much, just write as fast as your brain can move and your fingers can keep up.

Good.

Now put some spaces in there, create some paragraphs and highlight some important plot twists or main headings.

There.

You have just planned.

 

WHAT Are You Writing?

As a young writer you would have read “how-to-write”-articles and “why-I-am-such-a-great-writer”-interviews. And maybe you would have reached the conclusion that there really is no secret. Sometimes lots of planning works, sometimes it doesn’t. For some people it works, for others not.

 

Should You Plan a Work of Fiction?

Usually planning helps create structure and plot. Characters tend to grow as you nurture them, but you still need to make a note somewhere that the guy’s eyes are blue and not green. Because you might forget it seventeen chapters later and make a silly mistake. Consistency is always a strength.

If you create a basic outline of your plot, then it makes it easier to see where the strengths and weaknesses lie. You can then say: “On this day everything changed” anywhere in this storyline and add a great twist.

Or you can see, quite early on, that you have a great deal of action or deep inner struggles, but you actually have no plot at all. That is an important thing to realise at the start of the book, rather than 50 000 words into the book.

You might want to make your characters more rounded. If the hero is shining too much, add a bit of dirt. If the minor character seems to take over – maybe the hero isn’t the hero at all? Or you might have to “kill your darlings” and put a minor character back into the background.

 

Should You Plan Non-Fiction?

Writing non-fiction without creating some sort of guideline makes for scary writing. Non-fiction, especially online writing, is all about the structure: the headings, the paragraphs, the white spaces, the bullets.

If you write monologues, then maybe you could use some structure? The easiest way is first create the outline and then flesh it out with examples and more detailed content.

You will often find that planning a bit, or a lot, makes for better time management. Once you start writing, you know what you want to say, and the only thing left is the saying of it.

Maybe you have the kind of brain that already thinks in paragraphs and headings. If so, go ahead and write without a structure. But make sure you check and change after you have done that.

 

Remember:

The first draft often is like a sexual encounter: all passion and energy and dripping with sweat.

But thereafter the baby needs time and energy and food in order to grow.  What does this mean? Simple: if you don’t edit, then nothing will be borne.

Are You Writing After Hours?

horlosie

John Grisham, PD James, Stephen King … welcome to the famous, infamous and unknown writers who are, or were, writing after hours. You might just be starting off as a writer, or you might be a spot in the distance already, but writing after hours invariably brings its own challenges.

 

Value Your Relationships

Ask after-hours writers what they would really value, and it would probably be more hours in a day. Why, oh why do humans need to sleep? You are welcome to ask the question, but not to shorten your sleeping time … it just doesn’t work.

If you have a family, you have to honour that and make sure that you don’t steal family time to work on your dream. It’s just not fair. Family comes first. But family should also support you in your dream, especially when a deadline looms.

What about the singles? Being single doesn’t mean you don’t have relationships. You have friends, family, maybe a possible loved one. Again, don’t follow your dream and cut yourself off from people. The whole point of writing is being human and experiencing all the complicated relationships that go with being part of a group.

The great African concept of “Ubuntu” captures it well: “A person is a person through people.” As a writer there is no way that you can isolate yourself from people. In fact, if you are solo, you need to make sure that you mingle, because writing is a solo performance, but the content you are creating comes from the crowd.

 

Don’t Cheat Your Boss

It is very tempting to “steal a bit of time” at work to “work on your writing”. More so if you have an office job, but if you work away from a computer, you can still steal time to think about your plot or your next blog.

Don’t do it.

Even if you don’t feel a great love for your boss, cheating him or her has a way of coming back and biting you in the buttocks. Life is funny that way.

That’s not to say that you have to spend your teatimes gossiping about last night’s soapies with colleagues. No – those few minutes can happily be spent on writing, or thinking about writing. And don’t tell me you won’t be able to plot out a next chapter during your lunch hour.

But, just like school, when the bell goes, and you are back in “class” – pay attention.

 

Use Odd Times for Odd Jobs

Think about the time you spend traveling to and from work. Maybe you could catch a bus or a train and rather use the time thinking up a great storyline? Because you cannot do it driving in rush hour traffic, except if you are part of a lift club or have a chauffeur (if so … how can you afford him?).

What about the delightful time you spend waiting in line at the doctor or the bank or your child’s school?

Odd moments such as these are great for taking out the notebook (which writers always have available) and creating an outline, or writing down ideas, or snatches of conversation, or planning an eBook. Whatever takes your fancy. Don’t waste these golden minutes and then steal them from your family or your job.

 

You Really Need a Plan

It is a well-known fact that the world consists of planners and doers … well, well-known in most popular magazines, maybe. Because it is not important if you are not a “planner”. If you want to write after hours and not cause chaos at work or at home, you had better start learning the basic skill of planning your time.

When do you like to write? Are you a lark or a night owl? If you have a family, you might have less of a choice. The evenings are theirs, not yours. This is really important if you have children, but no less so if you have a spouse.

So, even if you are not a “morning person”, you might have little choice but waking up early, drinking a triple espresso, and getting to work before the house wakes up.

Or, you could do this once everyone has gone to bed … but that might not be too great for your love life.

Or you could schedule blocks of time: Monday and Wednesdays are my writing times.

Or: every second weekend I get to spend the whole Saturday writing, and the whole Sunday with my loved ones.

Whatever works for you. But make it a routine, so that everyone knows what to expect. And have trade-offs: If I have to go out to a spouse’s function on one of my “writing evenings”, I get to move it on to the next day.

 

Make Some Hard Choices

If you are serious about “this writing thing”, then it is something your friends and family should know and respect. And if they don’t respect it, well, at least they should know about it.

When you make decisions to write, rather than have fun with them, they should understand why this is so important to you. But you can, on occasion, choose to have fun with them and sacrifice your writing. As long as everyone knows that you are giving up something important to spend time with them and that this is a special occasion, not a regular occurrence.

If you really want to make it as a writer, you will learn pretty soon that boozing the previous evening generally doesn’t make you hyper-excited about writing the next morning. Fitzgerald and Hemingway are great examples to follow in terms of their writing, but not their lifestyles so much.

 

Use a Chunk to Organise

Use one of your chunks of time to organise everything for the following days. When the next chunk of time comes up, you can simply sit down and start writing.

Call it what you will: research time, mindmapping, outlining – but schedule time to do only that, so that you don’t have to do bits and pieces while you could have been simply writing.

See your writing time as something special and make it easier for yourself to start once you sit down to write. Don’t waste time getting things or organising something or making coffee or even waiting for the computer to start up.

For instance, if you like to have a cup of coffee steaming as you crack your knuckles before touchdown on the keyboard, then by all means, set out the coffee things the night before.

Of, if your computer isn’t on all the time, switch it on, make the coffee and come back with the screen ready and the cursor winking happily at you.

Little things.

Because you have little time, the lost minutes spent organising things and setting out things and switching on things and “getting ready” adds up to that horrible point where you are on a roll and you have to stop because everyone is up and about and the porridge is getting cold, dear.

 

Be There

When you write, don’t feel guilty because you are not spending time with your family or friends. When you spend time with your family or friends, don’t feel irritated because you could be writing.

When you are working at your day job, don’t think of writing. When you are writing, don’t think of your day job.

Just plan ahead and enjoy the moment as long as it lasts.

And remember: you are in good company:

 

Silly Prompts and Serious Ideas – Wacky Ways to Warm Up Your Writing Muscle!

sampioen 2

Maybe you want to start a project. Maybe you are working on one, but it seems uninspired. Maybe the white page/screen has become more foe than friend.

Whether you are looking for fresh ideas, or just need a way to get unstuck, the following could help you get going (again):

 

Use Keywords

The idea behind Google Adwords is to help advertisers see which keywords are hot or not. Little did they know that it is a great tool for potential writers as well. Have a look here http://tinyurl.com/27uvznm to see how it works.

Using Google Adwords is a great place to start if you are into writing non-fiction. Simply type in your keyword(s) and do the search. Remember to keep the option “broad” rather than specific if you want to use this as a tool for ideas.

Your search returns will have the word(s) you asked for, but also link the word  to other keywords or show it as part of a phrase – the way that real people looked for something to do with this topic on Google Search. You will also see how often these were searched globally and in the area you choose.

Great ideas for blogs! You can download and save the searches as Excel files. Remember to rename each file by adding the original keyword(s) so that you can easily sort these into groups that might make up different chapters of your new eBook!

 

Use an Online Writing Prompt

Writing prompts are to a writer what warm-up exercises are to an athlete. Some days your writing muscle just seems to be a bit stiff and you stare at the page/screen feeling old and empty. Or you could be stuck with a story and not know how to continue. Use the writing prompt to get the writer’s muscle nice and warm and ready for a sprint, or a marathon.

And do remember to keep what you wrote – later it might actually grow into its own work of fiction, a blog or a book.  You will be able to find many online writing prompts, but here are three websites to get you started:

Creative Writing Prompts (http://creativewritingprompts.com/) has a creative approach: a list of numbers. As you move your cursor over each of the numbers (there are 346), you will get a pop-window with a writing prompt. From the divine to ridiculous – lots of fun!

 Writer’s Digest has a free download called “The Writing Prompt Boot Camp” that you can download here http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-prompts and that will give you a writing prompt for 16 days in a row.

Creative Writing Solutions (http://www.creative-writing-solutions.com/creative-writing-prompts.html) also has some great writing prompts, but some of them, especially the ones dealing with plot development, could actually be more than just mental finger exercises – you might just get a book out of them.

 

Use Online Images

Writers create mental images as they write and readers do the same. So why not use images to get you started?

Find a great image and imagine it as a snapshot taken at some point in someone’s life.  What happened before the time? What was happening at that precise moment when the snapshot was taken? Who are the other characters? Why are they involved? What will happen afterwards? Just keep asking questions and you’ll soon have a strong plot and some interesting characters.

Obviously you can use real photographs, or page through magazines or coffee table books. But online images are simple to find and there are multitudes.

Google Images makes it really easy. Simply do a keyword search using Google’s Images search function. (Look for the word “Images” on the top bar of your browser.). If you searched for the words “lonely man”, you would find all of these: http://tinyurl.com/d8nmzlm. Surely one or two of these would be interesting enough to get you writing?

Pinterest is as great a tool. Look at what the same search for “lonely man” returned on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=lonely+man  Again … lots and lots of writing ideas here!

 

Linking Words

For this one you need to draw a table with three columns. Make about ten or so rows. In the left column now start filling in random adjectives. Anything will do – don’t think, just write. In the middle column you do the same, using random nouns. Anything – human, non-human, animal, plant – again, don’t think, just write. And in the last column you add some prepositional phrases, such as “over the hill”, “during lunch”, “at noon”, etc.

Now choose any word from the first column, add any word from the second column and end with any phrase from the third column. Write this down. Do the next one. Do NOT go down the column – choose the words randomly each time. You will end up with a list of weird and wonderful writing prompts such as “green icebergs on Saturday” and “happy dress beyond the horizon”.

Okay … now choose one and start writing. Most of these will be truly silly, but your job here is not to be your own judge and jury – it is simply to get started, to get the creative juices going.

And to prove to yourself that you ARE a writer and you can write about anything! You never know where these wacky prompts could lead you … I mean: “A cat in a hat” or “Green eggs and ham”?

As soon as you feel all happy and creative and positive, leave this silly exercise and pour all of that creativity into your “real” writing.

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