Falling Back on What I Love

It’s the first day of 2023. It is a good day to post another blog. I’ve been silent for months. Last year, my goal was to write a blog post every month. I succeeded for a few months, and then I just stopped altogether. Looking back, the blogs stopped when I took a second job.

Also at that time, depression began to suck me down into the muck. Now some of that was related to a failing thyroid, but it was more than that. The last few years have taken a serious toll. The first few years I lived in Springfield, it felt like heaven. I loved the community and my close circle of friends. I loved the work we did. I loved the pace of my life and the ability to spend large swaths of time writing. I relied on savings to keep that pace slow, but I had faith that something would come my way before I ran out of money.

And then the pandemic hit. I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones who didn’t lose work. I became busier than ever, with more responsibilities and stress. However, while there was plenty of work, fun came to a screeching halt. There were no more girls nights. There were no more movies or meals out. No galas. No concerts. No shows.

There was no fun. There was only work and stress for years on end. And we all know that’s not a good combination. While other people were paid to stay home and used that time to publish their first novel, there was no room in my head for stories. Everything that gave me joy was gone. 

Then the financial blows came. The house continued to need significant repairs that I had hoped would wait a few years. And, of course, there was inflation. Suddenly the saving account that had allowed me some safety was gone, and debt began to pile up.

I saw no route out of this mess, at least not in the middle of a pandemic, living in a city with a lower median income than many other cities, in a state that already has a low median income. Even a second job wasn’t cutting it, leaving me weary and still sinking further into debt.

Eight years ago, I took a leap of faith, leaving Hollywood behind and moving to Missouri. Now, for the first time since moving here, I suddenly see the ground rushing at me. It is terrifying. 

I’ve developed a reputation at work as a fix-it person. If there’s a problem, call Lynette, and she’ll fix it. I’m seen as competent and resourceful, so the go-to person to fix anything. But lately I have begun to wonder, who’s my fix-it person? Who do I call that I can always count on to handle it when I have a problem? The answer that resounds with deafening silence is ‘no one.’ As a single person, no one sees me as their priority. There’s no one with a dog in the fight to work things out with. There’s no one saying, “I want to help her succeed.” So, if I’m going to get out of this mess, I’m the only person who will make it happen. 

After that epiphany, I began work on figuring out how to survive. I’m almost 60, and I’m running out of time. The window to the life I dreamed of is closing rapidly. I have very few liquid assets, there’s an impending recession, a mountain of repairs needed on the house, and I feel completely burned out. So how do I fix that?

I am choosing to fall back on what I love, which is words. I’m hoping to stop my rapid descent by catching an updraft and starting Updraft Proofreading and Copyediting. When I’m editing, it feels as if it’s what I’m meant to do. I love spending my days teasing apart someone’s writing and making it shine. If I can begin to earn a living from that work, I won’t even care about ever getting published. I will still be doing what I love and creating a lifestyle I love. Even better, it’s something I can do into old age.

So this is what I’ll be focusing on in the coming year. Anything I’ve ever wanted in this life, I’ve had to figure out how to get on my own, and I can do it again. I’m a farm kid who had a 25 year career in Hollywood without experience and connections. I will do it again. I have no other choice, just like I felt like I had no choice back then.

The future of this blog is in limbo. I will endeavor to write here, perhaps detailing my work as an editor. But I make no promises. When you work over 60 hours a week at three different jobs, finding time for blogging is hard. 

Until I get another website built, if you would like to inquire about my services and rates, leave me a comment with your contact information.

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Trimming the Sails

Happy New Year! The new year is always a time for reflection, and sitting at home, waiting for the results of a covid test to see if I had a cold or omicron, gave me even more time to reflect and think about where I’m going. So let me post about what I’ve reflected on. Perhaps you can find some parallels to your struggles.

Last year everyone was so happy to put 2020 behind them. I kept wondering why they thought 2021 would be different. It wasn’t. More masks. More misinformation creating more division. More financial struggles. 

My personal year was a mixed bag. I started out with the high of planning to self-publish my first novel. I hired an editor and went back to work on the manuscript. Just as I finished that, I was suddenly forced to look for housing in the worst market in decades. I got lucky and found a place not yet listed, but because of the rushed need for a place to live, I didn’t look into things as well as I should have, and am stuck with a house which I love, but has some real problems that will cost me a great deal of money down the road. Money I don’t really have. It was an emotional blow.

The pandemic began to take its toll. I wanted to reconnect socially – have some fun and rediscover the joy of living. But every time I considered a solution, because of my work with vulnerable people, covid seemed to stop me. The desire to write seemed to fade away for the first time in my life and I decided to let it go.

A slide into depression followed. I felt disconnected, distrustful, defeated, exhausted, and hopeless. Little slights were magnified. I lost all confidence in myself. It isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with depression (I am Scandinavian after all), and thankfully I’ve developed tools to recognize and deal with it. It took time and there were more lessons learned from this battle. Even after the depression faded, I found it almost impossible to write, though ideas kept forming… niggling… speaking quietly that my calling hadn’t left me.

On the first day of 2022, the test came back negative. Despite my sniffles, I am once again free to move about without worrying about the consequences for others. I am now poised for action and while I can’t say I make resolutions, my time of reflection made me realize I do want to trim the sails on my boat and capture the wind to move in a different direction. 

One priority is my health. I’m starting out with a reset for my liver and taste buds with a cleanse. (I hate the click bait title, but the cleanse is great.) I want to eventually get the pandemic stress weight off and go back to where I feel good in my body. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with the end goal. I want to think about today and what needs to be done today.

Another priority is my writing. Yesterday I pulled up my first book and looked at the editor’s notes. There was so much positive. I started to edit again and felt the embers flicker into a small flame. The love is still there. There are several ideas I’d like to flesh out a little more and perhaps get started on them as well. I’ve realized that self-publishing is the way to go. I want two things. I want to write. And I want my stories to be read. Self-publishing accomplishes that, without the stupidity of the publishing industry.

And my last priority for 2022 is social. I have to find a way to reconnect. One barrier to that is the very, very thick walls I’ve constructed after years and years of hurt. This last depression revealed how easy it is to reopen old wounds and those walls do nothing to prevent that. I need to figure out how to take the walls down and find a way to trust, and I believe forgiveness is the key to that so that I can form closer bonds. I’m hoping that omicron will bring the end of the pandemic and make it an endemic disease that isn’t nearly so serious for so many. I want to get out there and have fun with people. Find joy, fun, spontaneity. 

With the sails trimmed, I hope my boat sails through whatever 2022 throws at me.

That’s my year in review and what I’m looking forward to. What have you learned from 2021? What do you hope to do in 2022? Leave me a comment and share your experience. 

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Moving On

Writing is a journey, and there is so much to learn along the way. One of the things you must learn is when it’s time to move on. I knew the odds of publishing my very first novel were slim. It didn’t stop me from loving the book and trying my best. It has been through many revisions, and no one has shown much interest. I still believe in it, but know it needs help that I don’t have. So I had to take a hard look and decide it was time to move on. Doing that in the midst of the stress of a pandemic and social unrest made me feel a bit like this.

While querying, editing, and querying again, I also wrote two other books. One is another children’s book that I have yet to even begin editing. The other is my memoir, detailing the 25 years I spent in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the stay-at-home order to find more time to finish it and finally pare it down to find its form.

I thoroughly enjoyed going through my work orders, reading my journals, and falling deep into the memories of the time spent with Kevin Costner in South Dakota, or with Bob Hoskins on a soundstage at Television City, I relived the infamy of turning off Bill Clinton’s mic in the middle of a speech, and the sublime feeling of standing on the field of an NFC championship game with my eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to have the roar of the crowd be for me.

Professional Eavesdropper takes the reader behind the scenes in Hollywood and leads them on a journey from naïvely wanting to be a part of celebrity culture to the realities of the toxic environments that culture encourages. With help from beta readers and wonderfully honest critique partners, the memoir began to take its shape. It likely still needs a lot more work, but I think it’s a fairly entertaining read.

Tomorrow, after finishing the polish on my query letter and synopsis, I will send out a couple of queries, testing the waters. I am cautiously optimistic that I have something people beyond my friends and family will find interesting, and something that can begin a dialogue on what celebrity culture does to society.

Some day I hope to return to Fear Unleashed and find the missing pieces to it. Until then, I am moving on with renewed optimism and excitement where this memoir might lead. Wish me luck.

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Dipping a Toe in Social Media

For years I’ve avoided most social media, because, well, it is the devil.

The most engaged I’ve been with it is Facebook, and that is just for friends and family I know. Even that has its myriad of downsides, and the more engaged I am in the real world, the less I’m interested in Facebook.

I have a Twitter account, but for years I mainly followed breaking news, celebrities, and friends. It was also an excellent place to vent my anger or frustration at a variety of companies that failed in putting the customer first. I never cared about gaining followers, and in fact, was more comfortable having few people listening to what I said.

I have an Instagram account. Can’t tell you the last time I posted.

However, all that is changing. It has to. There is a wonderful podcast called Write or Die, and many of the guests talk about the supportive writing community they discovered online. Twitter seems to be the hangout for the literary set – agents, editors, writers, publishers, all hanging out around the #writingcommunity water cooler.

I started following a few writers and agents, attempting to jump into conversations here or there, but never really connecting. I continued as a Twitter wallflower.

Last year, I discovered a mentoring contest called PitchWars, just before it began. There was time to enter, but I missed out on the socializing that went on beforehand. This year I’m using PitchWars as an excuse to finally dip my toe in the social media pool.

Downside: It is a time sucker, and I hate that I’m spending more time in front of a screen.

Upsides: I am connecting with other authors pursuing publication, as well as published authors, editors, and agents. In the last month I’ve gained 30 followers, which I know isn’t many, but for me it’s a lot. Quality over quantity. Not only am I following authors and agents, a few are following me. I’ve met a new CP (critique partner). It’s starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

Writers have vibrant worlds and stories in their heads, but we alone can see them. Then we spend years alone, putting them on paper not knowing if anyone will join us and fall in love with them too. Writing is a very lonely and often disheartening endeavor. Social media can help. Struggling with writer’s block? Tweet your frustration and you’ll have a chorus of suggestions and encouragement. Confused about the query process? Ask the #writingcommunity and get advice from industry professionals. Search #MSWL to see which agents would love to see a book just like yours. Social media can bring you inside the #writingcommunity and out of the wannabe cold.

Even if it’s not your thing, make it your thing. At least try it.

You can follow me at @LynnieDN I’ll give you a follow back.

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Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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#authorstats

If your’e an aspiring author, search Twitter for #authorstats. This hashtag was started to give us encouragement. They asked published authors to list their stats… how long to get an agent. How long to sell their first book. How many revisions.

This is the first one I saw:

Author after author had a similar story. It took years to get an agent, and it took revision after revision after revision.

The hashtag succeeded. I feel encouraged. I’ve only been trying to get an agent for a little over a year. I haven’t even completed ten revisions. My lack of success at this early stage is entirely normal.

Whew!

My only concern now is managing to pay the bills until I land an agent, sell the book, and earn a little income from my hours and hours and hours of up-to-this-point free labor. Because I now have a firm belief that it is not if I sell, but when.

The latest round of major revisions is complete. My next task is to sit down and read it from cover to cover to make sure the new additions flow. Then it will be off to the editor for another quick go-over, and then it’s back to querying.

I’m excited for the next rejection that might give some feedback and lead me to another revision. Of course I’m even more excited for the possibility that they might request my manuscript. Or beyond that, that they might request their own set of revisions (meaning they’re interested enough to see if you can do the work.)

Of course, in quiet moments I doubt myself. I’m sure I’m a talentless hack who has deluded herself into thinking she has something to say. Criticisms and slights ping pong around my head. However, now there’s one thing I can counter with. I’m not an idiot. And even if the doubters are right, right now – I can learn. I can improve. I can revise. I can do this, just like those other authors did.

What goal are you trying to achieve that seems out of reach? Are you frustrated that others make it look so easy? Does that make you doubt yourself more? Rather than stewing about it, try asking them about their journey. Find out their stats. You may just find your doubts are unfounded, and you’re right on track for success.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Yippee! Another rejection!

After my recent rewrite, and having found Diana Urban’s blog post about querying, this time around things are going much better. If you are querying, check out the blog post for some great information. I won’t write about all her suggestions, but I’m going to share the two I wasn’t doing that are really making a difference for me.

From day one, the entire querying process has been daunting. You only have a few paragraphs in the query letter to get them to read a sample, which is what will hopefully lead them to ask for the manuscript. I’d done some reading online and gotten some advice from an editor, but each time I sent a letter out, it felt like an experiment. The problem was, if the experiment didn’t work, you couldn’t just try again with the same agent. Most were then off limits unless you did a major rewrite.

To solve this problem, new author Diana Urban urges querying authors to hire a professional, such as an editor or junior agent. From my understanding, junior agents assist agents. One way they assist is by screening queries. If you want your manuscript to make it to an agent, you first have to get past the junior agent. (And if I’m wrong about that, they at least likely know what agents want.) By hiring a Jr. agent to edit your query package, you can be sure it includes all the elements an agent would want to see. Ms. Urban recommended two people, and I chose K. Johnson Editorial. She provided great feedback that allowed me to improve my query letter, synopsis, and submission pages. It seems I’m already seeing results and will hire her again for my other synopses.

The other suggestion that has been so helpful is to use QueryTracker. Part of the pain of my previous querying attempt was the silence, and slow, erratic drip of rejections. Now I can see what other QueryTracker users have submitted to the agents. I can see which of those submissions has been rejected or had a full manuscript request. Because of that, I can see where my query is in the process and the rejections don’t come completely out of the blue. Are there still 10 manuscripts between mine and the ones rejected? I know I have a while to wait. Or, like recently, I could see that manuscripts before mine, and after mine had been rejected, leading me to believe it had made it past the junior agent, and was waiting to be reviewed by the agent. While it was still eventually rejected, that information from QueryTracker gave me so much hope.

And my most recent rejection gave me my best hope yet. Literary agencies receive hundreds of queries each week. We authors are dying to know why we were rejected, but they don’t have time to tell us. It’s frustrating, but totally understandable. This week’s rejection came with really useful feedback. If they didn’t see potential, they wouldn’t have bothered with feedback, and I now know if I can introduce my character in the way they’re looking for, I can sell this book. The story, query, and synopsis are where they should be. The first chapter is not.

I have a long weekend of work ahead of me, but I’m very excited to get to it. I believe the first full manuscript request is just around the corner. That doesn’t mean an agent, but it means another step forward, and right now, that’s all I need.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Square One

That’s is where I am again. All those rejections? Meaningless.

You see, I have done a major rewrite of the book, and now I get to send out queries to all those agents again.

When the idea for this book first came to me, the protagonist was a girl. As the story developed, it felt more natural to make it a boy, so early on, I switched. I think I had only written the first chapter before I made that change. Looking back, it was my age that made it natural to want a boy in the character because they liked science. My worldview and the time I grew up in, made my instinct incorrect for today’s world.

As I researched agents, I kept finding they wanted girls who fight with swords or girls who like science. I have a girl in the book who plays a major role, and if agents had had the patience to see my story through, would have discovered in many ways, the story was more about her arc. But unfortunately, she did fit the stereotypical girl’s role — a dreamer who didn’t like science.

So finally, after having these thoughts niggle at my brain for quite some time, they burst through while I was in the shower and took solid form. This often happens. Not sure why. But I suddenly knew I needed to reverse my two main characters. That led to an entire weekend of flipping genders, which means flipping pronouns that sneak in there everywhere. There was also the need to evaluate each scene to see if it still rang true. Surprisingly, there was very little that needed rewriting. And actually, it’s an interesting trick to short circuit my age-related biases — write a stronger boy character, then simply turn him into a girl. It will be tricky as I keep writing to keep that same strong, adventurous character consistent. I have no doubt I can do it.

I like how the rewritten story reads. I like some new possibilities for the story. It’s a very good rewrite. I’ve now got a girl who likes science and fights with swords. Plus a good story to tell. I’m feeling more hopeful.

Additionally, some reading has led me to new query letter knowledge. One author suggested hiring a junior agent to write your letter. They often offer this service to supplement their income. Since they are the ones who read query letters and make recommendations to the agents, they know what works and what doesn’t. Once I feel confident that the manuscript is ready, I will hire someone to write my letter and begin the query process again.

So here I am, back at square one with a fresh manuscript and a whole lot of hope. It’s not a terrible place to be.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Chinese Water Torture

It’s maddening. It truly is. The slow yet constant drip of rejections, coming at an unpredictable rate. I never know when I’m going to open my mailbox to find a letter from an agency I queried. I got one Sunday morning, when I wouldn’t have expected agents were responding to queries. Then I got one last night before bed. Sweet dreams.

Without even opening these emails, I immediately feel defeated somehow knowing it’s a rejection. Lately I try to pause and allow myself the sliver of hope that it might be a request for my manuscript. I remind myself that things can change any second. It only takes one yes. The results haven’t been any better.

Then I read a tweet from an author saying, “My lifelong dream to be a published author is finally coming true.” I clicked on her profile.

She’s 24. Her lifelong dream has maybe been ten years.

As someone who is susceptible to insecurity and a lack of confidence, the battle to keep going is requiring more energy than I expected. I’ve decided I need to do two things. First, I need to look at the first five pages, which is pretty much all they allow you to send them. When I wrote this chapter, it was in chronological order, and my editor snatched it from the middle of the book and made it my prologue. I’ve realized there are things discussed in that chapter that would be familiar to the reader by the time they got to the middle, but would have no meaning whatsoever to someone not yet immersed in this world. I need to look at this chapter with fresh eyes and see what can be improved. The difficulty with that is that my prologue is already at 5 pages, and if I expand on description, I will not be able to send the entire prologue as my sample.

After I’ve improved those first five pages, I need to read the entire manuscript. I’m beginning to doubt my story, my writing, my characters, and pretty much everything else. I know when I’ve read it before, I’ve gotten sucked in and kept turning the pages. I need to remind myself of that. It’s been long enough since I read it that it might even feel a little fresher. I need to regain my confidence that someone will recognize the value in the story I’m telling, and I just need to keep looking for them.

So many agents are looking for books with a quick hook, and I’ve read those books. They’re fun. But a year later, I couldn’t tell you the plot or characters of most of them. I might remember the stunning location where it was set or maybe a scene that was impactful but the rest fades away. They’re fast food fiction. Really enjoyable in the moment, but not really sustaining.

My story doesn’t have such a quick hook. I’d like to think it’s intriguing, but I take my time introducing characters and unwinding the story at a comfortable pace. As the book moves along, and the conflict builds, so does the pace. So is it going to grab you by the throat right away? Probably not. It’s why I’m so frustrated that the entire book is judged by the first few pages. Not only can you not judge a book by it’s cover, you can’t truly judge a book by it’s first few pages.

Now, I get it. Agents are buried under queries and manuscripts. One agency responded in their rejection letter that they get 500 queries a week. One agency – 500 queries in a week. How could anyone possibly keep up with that? There has to be a quick way to weed through and focus on the best choices, so they’ve decided the first five pages and a snappy query letter are the way to do it. I wonder how many quality novels have slipped through the cracks because of it.

There’s nothing to do about it, but keep searching for an agent that will give it a read. I’ve also found two publishers that will accept hardcopy manuscript submissions without an agent, so I intend to print one out and get that in the mail soon. And of course the final option will be to self-publish and let the public decide. The amount of marketing I’ll have to do is daunting, but hopefully I’ll have book two finished by then and in the editing process (if I can afford it) so can focus more on marketing.

Until then I will reread, perhaps rewrite, and try to keep my sanity and hope under the drip, drip, drip of rejections.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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