Friday, September 22, 2023

18 months and counting!

πŸŽ‰πŸ₯³πŸŽ‰ It's party time again! πŸŽ‰πŸ₯³πŸŽ‰

I am in the mood for celebrating because Tweetables has just had it's 18 month anniversary - woohoo!

It seems too great an opportunity to miss, so I contacted some of the authors who appeared during my first year, just to see what they've been up to. 

I'm delighted (and not surprised!) to learn they've all been busy, from bringing out new books to winning awards - such a super-talented bunch! The lucky victims 🀣 are listed below, along with when they originally appeared, and also the date I'm publishing our new interview:

1st October - Liz, who appeared in March 2022 (the first person ever to appear!)

3rd October - Amanda, who appeared in April 2022 (my first non-fiction book)

5th October - Toula, in June 2022

7th October - Maximilian, in August 2022

9th October - Jess, in October 2022

11th October - Simon, in November 2022

So remember to watch out and join in the fun! 

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful writers who have taken part over the past 18 months and I'll revisit more in March, when Tweetables turns 2 - wow!

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Friday, September 15, 2023

Author interview with Leonora Ross


This week I’m interviewing the lovely Leonora Ross, who writes contemporary women’s fiction and literary fiction. She first published in 2021 and has two indie books currently, with a third on the way. So let’s meet her:
‘I was born and raised in Africa, but I’ve lived in Canada and the US for over 20 years. When I came to Canada, I had to decide if I wanted to continue with a career in law and all the jazz involved in re-qualifying, but I decided to pursue a childhood passion instead. So, I attended a private art school for three years and became an artist, and I’ve never looked back on that decision, although I will always be drawn to the complexities and intrigue of the legal system.
I’m a huge tree-hugger and love wandering in the wild. Nature rocks my world.
The writing bug bit me a few years ago. I never thought it would evolve to where I’m at now. It’s been absolutely thrilling.’
And here’s more, this time a tweetable version (tweet here):
‘I like to explore themes of family, love (although not always conventional), philosophy, and social and environmental issues. My books are for readers who like expansive and culturally diverse plots and settings.’
This sounds intriguing, but what inspired her to become a writer?
‘In truth, when I started having ideas for ‘Tess Has a Broken Heart’, and Other Comedies Full of Errors’, I was homesick. I missed my sisters and my girlfriends back home. I was asking myself typical mid-life questions and wanted to share my thoughts with my girls. And I’ve always liked stories with strong women characters. 
Many things were also drastically changing for women after the #MeToo movement, which was great. I wanted to write about the ageing woman — that fragile age where you’re too old to be young and too young to be old — and her sense of belonging in modern society, even with these liberties available to her. In Tess, my characters are all women who’ve never been married or are divorced. Women who fell into this category were traditionally stereotyped. But I wanted to keep it light and tongue-in-cheek for the most part. In fact, it’s pretty offbeat and quirky. 
Above all, I wanted to write about the amazing sisterhood between women. And that’s how it started.’
Aww, homesick is awful but what a great way to channel her emotions! What age does she consider mid-life?
‘For some women, it’s sooner, and for others, a little later, but it’s safe to say somewhere in your 40s, there’s a mental shift that takes place (men experience it too). The tendency is to question a lot more, be less inclined to accept BS and mellow down on things not worth stressing about. Her midlife years can be an incredible and liberating time for a woman or leave her feeling debilitated - depending on what she chooses to let in or let go.’
Oh, I hear you Leonora (yes, been there, done it!). So, does she have a daily writing routine?
‘I’m an early riser. I must have coffee before I’m of any use. 
I catch up on social media but don’t spend too much time there. I’ve been working on my third novel for the past ten months. During the writing of a book, a typical day would be (notwithstanding all those pesky little interruptions called life, in between): I write for a couple of hours, take a break to exercise, have lunch, and then write until it’s time to shower and prepare dinner. I write again after dinner, often until 10, sometimes 11 p.m., most days. There are times I work less and other times, I work more.’
Gosh, what long days! Apart from the hours, what has she found the hardest part of writing professionally?
‘When ideas start bouncing around in my mind, I become restless. I write down any tiny thing that pops up. But when I’ve made tons of notes, the most challenging part is to start that first sentence. 
You have to motivate yourself to stick to your plot — that often happens for me around the middle of the book. And then, when it’s all there, you have to send it out to the world and convince yourself there must be at least 100 people on the planet who’d like your story. Surely there must be 50, right? Worst case scenario, there’s always family and friends to dump it on.
Writing and publishing involves a lot of pep talks with your doubtful self.’
That sounds a lot of pressure - is she good at building her own confidence? And can she share any tips for others? 
‘Oh boy. The short answer is yes. But it depends on a lot of factors. Some days, everything feels off-centre, and no amount of pep talk seems to work. It’s usually not a good time for writing or editing. I do think it’s important to remind yourself to stick with what you are busy doing, to keep going and avoid distractions. 
Finding ways of alleviating stress, writer’s block or just plain insecurity, like going outside and allowing your mind to focus on something bigger than your little internal world, can be a great pain - and timesaver. People have different circumstances, and there isn’t just one way that works for everybody.’
Very true! What does Leonora enjoy the most about writing?
‘I love how a word strings into sentences once your mind gets going. It is beautiful how powerful the imagination is. When you’ve chosen your characters, they start living and breathing with you until the book’s finished. It’s a surreal feeling, in a way.’ 
I don’t think I’m alone in admiring the way writers create characters from their own creativity – such a fantastic skillset! But it begs the question, what’s the most difficult thing about writing characters who are very different from you personally?
‘To be authentic is key. My latest protagonist is a man in his late 30s, so it was challenging placing myself in his shoes. Thinking up the conflict is easy — family especially provide ample inspiration — but I’m a problem solver, so I tend to want to fix things. I don’t like disharmony, but my editor often reminds me to stretch out the tension and let it linger a while. It’s a tug of war.’
Excellent advice, and what a fab sounding editor! Poorly edited books are one of my pet peeves, so what does she consider to be the best money she’s ever spent as a writer?
‘Professional editing and cover design services. Indie authors, especially, shouldn’t skimp on that. It is too important.’
Very true – covers definitely sell books. So, for people who haven’t read her work, which book should they read first, and why?
‘The Suncatchers was my second novel. It’s incredible to see how much you improve from the first to the second and so on. And I can see the improvement in my writing. The story is set in Amsterdam and explores my protagonist’s journey from age 21 to her late 30s.
How we view the world around us changes significantly with every decade we enter. Love and how we express and receive it change, but we discover that some things don’t change; they are our anchors in life.’
Can she give us an extract?
‘Ruben, Luka’s father:
“Perhaps if we also live our lives, aware, new constellations will open up for us in our minds, and we will be able to embrace far beyond our eyes’ ability to see. Perhaps we will appreciate more.”
Oohh, what a great taster! And how about her next book?
‘At the moment, I’m getting my latest novel ready for publication and setting up my marketing campaign.
I have a new book idea floating around, and I’ll start grabbing and pinning down those thoughts soon when the traffic in my head feels less congested.’
Exciting times then! Does she read reviews of her books and how does she handle them?
‘Yes, of course. It was a shock to read that first unflattering review — ha! Likewise it’s great to read one where the reviewer clearly connected with the characters and story. But every writer goes through this. Nobody’s exempt from the torturous bliss of reviews, and the reason is, readers are human beings with different tastes, just like yourself. 
I’m learning a lot about how to better put my books out to my target audience. Not everyone will like my books. It’s just a fact. So, I try to get it out to those who will. It can be quite the conundrum.’
Aw, that’s an interesting point. With so many books being published every year, hitting the right audience sounds key so is she optimising searches or looking at other author strategies like targeting advertising?
‘It’s a combination. With certain genres, it’s a fraction easier to narrow down your audience (like YA), but it becomes a bit more complicated with others. Being specific is essential. AI can help with that, but only when you know what your audience looks like.
Part of the process is what you reveal about yourself and your writing style, which you can enhance through advertising and interviews, and that’s a good way of attracting your readers to you. Yet, if it were simple to find that sweet spot, it wouldn’t be something most authors have a hard time with. And we do.’
And it’s interesting that we, as readers, have the power to help our favourite authors too – don’t forget to spread the word if you find a book you love! All writers, particularly those not published traditionally (where budgets for marketing are usually larger) really need our support to get their book noticed. If you’re not sure how to complete a book review, please read my featured post (press here) – it’s easier than you think!
Back to Leonora – does she have any writing-career highs or lows?
‘Every time I finish writing a novel, I say, “Wow! I can’t believe I’ve just done this.”
Writing about things that are important to me and then being able to share that — it’s priceless.
I’ve self-published two novels, and I’m proud of that, but it is costly and stressful to undertake the whole publishing journey yourself. I’ve learned some things the hard way, but every lesson makes you wiser and more equipped.’
I love this answer! If she didn’t write, what would she do instead?
‘Well, I’m also an artist. Lucky for me. I’d spend peaceful hours in front of my canvas and bring vivid images to life. It’s something I genuinely love doing.
Everything is about creative expression.’
And if she could go back in time and talk to her younger writing self, what would she say?
‘Don’t worry too much about what other people are doing. There is a lot of good-intended advice, but not everything applies to your situation. Take only what you need, stay open to learning, work on improving your character and skills, and trust your instincts.’
I think that’s great advice for life in general! Does she feel there are any traps that aspiring writers might fall into?
‘To want immediate success. It’s a wonderful thought: to be a New York Times bestselling author. But there aren’t many authors whose first novels become bestsellers. There are numerous reasons: exposure, trends, skill level, marketing resources, etc. Being realistic and focusing on honing your story will keep distractions out.’
Leonora is a huge supporter of other authors – her Instagram ‘Author Spotlights’ are brilliant, but I wondered what made her decide to help others, rather than just promoting her own work?
‘Self-promotion can feel blah after a while (even though we need to keep doing it). I enjoyed doing the author spotlight but had to put a halt on it to finish my novel - it was just too intense to stay focused on both. 
Another great way of supporting fellow authors is reading their books and leaving a review for them. I see plenty of authors who do, and I love that. Authors can leave well-crafted reviews, too, which not only help generate sales but also boost their fellow authors’ morale.’
Very true! I ended our interview by asking what she’d like to say to you directly:
To authors: your fellow authors can be a great support network because they understand exactly how tough it is. Remember, your story is your unique voice. Celebrate your achievement—it’s hard work writing a book—but don’t compare yourself with someone else. It’s demoralising and it will seriously hamper your creativity. Appreciate the work of someone you resonate with and learn from the greats. And just enjoy your craft.
To readers: read books even when they are not best sellers. Most books aren’t. Don’t be guided solely by trends and what’s listed as the best or most popular on sites. Many of those books landed there because of extensive advertising campaigns and social media influencers. There are many wonderful authors who don’t have those kinds of resources or luck to be discovered by someone who can boost their book. You may find some of the best books you’ll ever read, by simply exploring what you like. And please, don’t forget to write reviews. Spread the love.’
What fabulous advice! If you’d like to find out more about Leonora, please follow her links below:
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Friday, September 8, 2023

Sneaky peek at interview with Leonora Ross

My next author interview is with the lovely Leonora Ross
who writes contemporary women’s fiction and literary fiction. 

We have a great chat about her work and she gives her tips on how to handle those days when the writing doesn't flow, pep talks, and her love of writing about the sisterhood of women.

Our interview goes live on the 15th September but if you'd like to know more about her, please visit her links below:

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Friday, September 1, 2023

Author interview with Don Mayhew

This week I’m interviewing the lovely Don Mayhew, who published his first book in 2021, a wonderful book with dog protagonists (and who doesn’t love pets being in charge!), so let’s meet him.

‘I’m a former journalist from California who's written about sports, movies, music, television shows, books, toys, fatherhood, education, 9/11, deaf culture, fireworks, and life in the San Joaquin Valley. I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss, the Boston Red Sox, and Bruce Springsteen.

‘Roscoe & Muldoon: The Mayor Is Mad’ is my first novel for middle-grade readers.’

And here’s a tweetable version (tweet here):

‘Do your tween animal lovers enjoy reading mysteries with large doses of pals and puns on the side? Then Don Mayhew has the perfect book for them:

Before we go further, are the ages of U.S. middle-grade kids the same age as the U.K.?

‘U.S. grades 4-7 are kids who are 9 to 12 years old. I could see the book appealing to a few 14-year-olds, depending on reading comprehension level and how much they like animals.’

Thanks for that! What inspired him to become a writer?

‘I have to give it up for my mom, who encouraged me to read as a child. It started with Dr. Seuss and similar authors. Then she pointed out that the daily newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, had comics. I started devouring those on a daily basis, then discovered the paper had a sports section. Wooooo! I grew up reading Jim Murray, the old Times sports columnist, who was famous for his hyperbole, colourful metaphors, and sarcasm. Though I loved playing sports and was tall, I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t have the athleticism to take me far in that direction. So the next-best thing had to be sports writing. I earned a journalism degree and followed that path until early adulthood, when my interest pivoted to pop culture. I was fortunate to be a journalist when that was a viable way to make a decent living. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case these days.’

Having been a journalist, does that mean he brings a daily writing discipline to his book writing ?

‘Not really, but when I’m getting some serious writing done, I always have music on in the background. Sometimes I pay close attention to the first song or two, but after that, the words start to flow as the tunes do. The goal is to get into that creative state where ideas and words just pour from your fingertips. They do that some days better than others.’

I like the sound of that, I’ll have to give it a go too! What does he enjoy the most about writing?

‘As a journalist, I liked the exchange of ideas and interviewing people about the things they held dear, whether it was their hobbies or careers or family-oriented topics.

Writing “Roscoe & Muldoon,” what I enjoyed most was problem solving. How do I get characters from point A to point B in a way that serves their personality traits, the plot, and the sandbox I’ve created for them? What kinds of conflicts make sense and how will I resolve them? Do I need to demonstrate in some way why characters behave the way they do or believe in what they do? It was fun to treat it as sort of a puzzle.’

I must admit, having dog protagonists does sound challenging to me. How difficult was it to craft a story around the limitations of a non-human character?

‘There’s a scene in the second chapter of the book where Roscoe, Muldoon, and their puppy friend Jackson are trying to recover a sweater from up in a tree. They fail, of course, but the sweater does offer them a clue about what’s going on in their small town. I tried to play that moment for laughs. (I laughed anyway.)

I found it fun trying to figure out how to make the story work within the limitations of the characters’ physical traits. (No opposable thumbs! Argh!!!) There’s a bit of carrying or tugging things in their teeth and the animals working cooperatively to get things done. I tried to create a world that looks like our own, but from the animals’ perspective.

There are a few humans in the story, but they play secondary roles, and I purposely never wrote dialogue for them. I’m a huge fan of the comic “Calvin and Hobbes,” and I find it fascinating how the creator, Bill Watterson, was able to build a fantasy world where Hobbes and Calvin speak to one another – within the real world where Hobbes is a stuffed tiger. I didn’t get that tricky for the book: It’s all the animals’ point of view. 

For me, the key to the story were the character traits. Once I had those established in my head, plot logistics were just a matter of problem solving.’

It does sound like fun! Photos of of the dogs are scattered throughout this post so please meet (in order), 1. Roscoe 2. Muldoon and 3. Jack

What has been the hardest part of getting published?

‘As an independent author with limited financial resources, it’s difficult to get attention for a book when it’s not trendy in any way. “Roscoe & Muldoon” is a treat for middle-graders who love animals and like to think about how others should be treated with respect and dignity. But we live in a time when a lot of stories in the genre focus on sci-fi and fantasy elements, with relatable protagonists who have some secret power and realize they must save their worlds from destruction. The stakes must be really high and obvious.

I don’t blame agents and publishers for seeking out whatever is popular at the moment they’re in business, after all, and it’s easier to sell a book when it’s following a path of lesser resistance. I just wish there was more room for a wider range of story types.’

That’s so true. Many indie authors try to combat this by throwing money at the problem, so what’s been the best money he’s spent professionally?

‘It would have to be the money I paid to BookBaby to publish and print “Roscoe & Muldoon: The Mayor Is Mad.” I got good advice and help preparing the manuscript for publication, the ISBN information, and guidance on how to prepare promotion before the book became available.

Obviously, it would be easier if I hadn’t had to self-publish, but BookBaby was a solid way to get my book out there. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a legitimately good experience.’

It’s great to hear he’s had a good experience (other indie authors I’ve featured haven’t been so fortunate). Can he give a synopsis of the story?

‘Two doggie detectives set out to solve a rash of burglaries happening around their small town. Getting to the bottom of the thefts is complicated by reports of a sudden flea infestation (an epidemic blamed on Siamese cats) and the disappearance of their young friend, a Maltipoo puppy named Jackson.’

Aww, this sounds adorable! Here’s a tweetable version for you (tweet here):

‘Is your animal-loving #middlegrade reader looking for something to enjoy as summer winds down? “Roscoe and Muldoon: The Mayor is Mad” is the delightful first book in a new canine detective series.’ - Chewie Book Blog

What inspired him to write this particular story?

‘The book was an outgrowth of a conversation with a friend whose son’s dog is named Roscoe. My mom’s dog is named Muldoon. Roscoe & Muldoon sounded like a law firm to me, but my friend suggested that they could be dog detectives who get help from their young puppy friend Jackson (her dog). After letting that ruminate in my brain a couple weeks, the basic idea for the story took shape.’

I find it fascinating how a germ of an idea becomes a full book. What did he find the hardest scene to write and why?

‘Most of the book alternates chapters between Jackson (who gets lost and finds a new friend, a tabby named Penny) and Roscoe & Muldoon, who are trying to solve the mystery of missing dog toys around town while trying to find their young friend.

The story’s climax in Chapter 14 was a little tricky, because it’s where the parallel stories come back together. There’s a lot of action, many moving parts, and I wanted to capture the emotion of the dogs’ reunion while maintaining the characters’ personalities and peccadilloes. The challenges made it enjoyable to write.’

He does seem to enjoy a challenge! Can he give us an extract?

‘Jackson stuck his nose in the air, as high as it would go, and sniffed. The soft breeze mixed everything up. He couldn’t make sense of the smells, and it seemed as if they were coming from everywhere at once. Jackson stood still and listened carefully, but the night had nothing to tell him.’

It’s so charming but I still can’t get my head about how anyone writes as an animal - how difficult did Don find it?

‘It helped that the three main characters in “Roscoe & Muldoon” were based on actual dogs that I had spent time around or heard stories about. From there, I considered friendship dynamics, stole accents and voices from people I’d met, and layered them over the characters.

One thing I really enjoyed doing was writing Q&A interviews with Roscoe and Muldoon that were published on several blogs. It was an entertaining way to extend the characters’ viewpoints into the real world and emphasize the story’s themes in a relevant way.’

This made my ears prick up (sorry, I couldn’t resist that 🐢🀣) and when Don offered me the chance to have a go, of course I said yes - who wouldn’t? It’s a first for me, so here goes:

How did you guys get started doing doggie detective work?

Roscoe: We were best buddies for a long time and needed something to keep busy. Sometimes humans don’t get it: A dog’s life can be dull. We sit around while they’re off to work, picking up the kids from soccer practice, running to the dentist or the grocery store. Now that I think about it, though, when my humans get home from the grocer, it’s usually treat time. I guess that’s why I act so excited to see them.

Muldoon: Our first case kind of fell into our laps. A pup went missing for almost a week. The parents were so worried. We asked around, then caught a break when the pup was found hiding under a wrecked car in our town’s junk yard. A Cane Corso who patrols the yard actually found him.

Roscoe: The book tells about a series of mysterious burglaries that we had to solve around our small town, all while most of the cats and dogs around town were fighting like, well, cats and dogs.

Muldoon: Don’t forget about the fleas.

Roscoe: Yeah, right. There’s also a flea infestation that threatened to become an epidemic. Makes me itch just to think about it.

Muldoon: And our close puppy friend Jackson went missing in the middle of all this chaos, so we had to somehow look for him in between finding clues about the burglaries.

Gosh, that sounds pretty exciting. What other adventures would you like to go on?

Roscoe: Any adventure that takes me someplace warm and sunny is great by me: the park, the lake, the forest on a summer’s day. But you’d be surprised at how busy we are just investigating and solving mysteries around our small town. We usually don’t have to go far for that kind of stuff.

Muldoon: Me, I could use a little less adventure in my life, to be honest.

Roscoe: Ah, jeez. Of course that’s your answer. This guy thinks lying beneath the table while his humans play cards is too much excitement.

Muldoon: You just wait until you’re older, buddy, and your hips start barking at you every time you move. Adventure is in the eye of the beholder.

🀣 I’m laughing most unprofessionally as I ask my third question: If you were granted the perfect day, what would you like to do, where would you like to go, and what would you like to eat?

Muldoon: Give me a cool patch of grass, a shady spot, kibble out of my own bowl, my cushy bed, and I’m one happy Newfoundland. What could be more perfect?

Roscoe (pretends to be snoring): Oh, sorry did you say something, Doon? Look, I’m all for regular naps out on the back patio. But sometimes a dog’s gotta roam. Running around is good for you. Boredom’s not. I would argue that you can’t really beat a sunny day near the ocean, with a nice, warm breeze. As far as food goes, I like pretty much anything besides cheese. Gives me the tummy rumbles. Now rotisserie chicken on the beach with the sun setting a deep orange that’s the bomb. I’ll snack on that any day.

Both options sound idyllic to me too boys! So, what can you tell us about your next book?

Muldoon: You never know what the future holds. But a lot of our cases seem to involve animals gone missing, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it were something along those lines. If it happens in our town, we want to know about it and help.

Roscoe: I wouldn’t mind leaving town once in a while to solve a case. You know, get out, see a little of the world for a few days. I love where we live, but it can be a little on the sleepy side.

Do your humans go with you? Or do they let you go run around on your own to do your business?

Roscoe: She said, “Do your business,” heh heh.

Muldoon: Yeah, that kind of has a different meaning for most dogs. Let’s just say humans shouldn’t leave the house with their dogs without a little plastic bag, if you catch my drift.

Roscoe: But if you’re talking about detective work, no, they don’t let us out. We have to keep it on the down low, and be logistically creative, so they don’t interfere with what we need to get done. We know our humans love us, so we don’t want to worry them. But a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do. Let’s just keep that between the three of us.

Okay, so I’m officially in love with these two 😍 I asked Don whether the dogs enjoyed doing their PR.

‘Roscoe didn’t mind getting out and talking about the book. He’s got a little ham in him. But Muldoon, who’s older and less spry, definitely would rather find some cool lawn to lie on. He needed to be coaxed into the promo tour, but he’s a good sport and a wise soul. I thought their friendship really shone through in their banter for the blogs. The interviews were intentionally designed to match the tone of the book.’

I love this humour and if you do too, you can read more of these delightful dog interviews at:

OK, now back to questions for Don: Your characters seem so beautifully drawn and combining that with comedy seems perfect for your target audience – do you embed moral themes into the story, too?

‘I didn’t know what the story would become when I started it, but in retrospect, the book is my love letter to democracy. I wrote the manuscript during the last half of 2020, when there was a lot going on in the world: the pandemic, racial tension, virulent political division.

As a former journalist, I find freedom of speech and equality paramount. As a citizen, I believe bullying those who disagree with us is repugnant. As a father (of grown children), I recognize that friendship and family are the foundations of a life worth living. I didn’t want to preach these things, but they’re interwoven into the story.’

Well said! I understand you’re planning their next adventure. Will you choose moral themes first, or will plot be the starting point?

‘I think the themes will be more intentional the second time around. Outside of climate change, a potential extinction event, I believe income inequality is the biggest problem facing society. I want the next story to address poverty in a way that solicits empathy in the reader while still remaining entertaining, appropriate for middle-grade readers, and true to the animals’ natures and their world. It’s going to be tricky for sure.’

Wow, another challenge – you really don’t go for the easy option, do you? Have you received any feedback from your audience yet?

‘My book has only been reviewed by one blogger and, thankfully, it was very positive. I’m a big believer in the First Amendment and the marketplace of ideas. An unfavourable review wouldn’t be the end of the world. If the criticism is constructive, I might even learn a thing or two from the reviewer.’

What a brilliant attitude! I can’t wait to see what new adventures Roscoe and Muldoon’s undertake.

If you’d like to learn more about Don and his doggie detectives, please click on the links below:

Amazon UK:
Amazon US:

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