Name: V. S. Holmes
Location: New England
V.S. Holmes is the author of SMOKE AND RAIN, the first in an epic fantasy series. Her favorite genres include fantasy, science (of both the non-fiction and fiction varieties), and most anything else she finds in her hands. While not writing, she works as a contract archaeologist. She lives with her artist/illustrator husband in a Tiny House (yes, like the HGTV show) and owns far too many books for such a small abode.
What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life? There are two sides to the ‘hero’ coin. Often, the first side is during the making of the hero — a person has a difficult choice and chooses others over themselves, or perhaps they have no choice at all, but give it their all despite the circumstances. Those close to her or him see the struggle and the pain, and they are the first ones to call the person ‘hero.’
The second side of the coin is afterward. The hero has become something other than a person — he or she is an idea. The flaws are gone, and so, too, is the struggle, and what actually made the person a hero in the first place.
The gritty, first side are the heroes we see in our own lives, those that make an impact on our worlds. They are what books are made of.
If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books? I don’t have a single hero in my books — I have a few main characters, all of whom have their own abilities and flaws. Each one is a hero in his or her own right, though often in very different ways. Grandiose heroes are not something people can relate to. Time changes stories so much, that the few living-legends in my Reforged series, for instance, are unrecognizable in person. I stick to the real, human (even if they aren’t, in fact, human) characters. If they happen to do something that starts friend’s whispering “hero,” then so be it.
Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this? This is an issue in all genres, but it is very prominent in science-fiction and fantasy. When I was first breaking into the reading world on my own, I noticed a dearth of well-written books that had female protagonists, or even female characters that were more than simply filler. While I think we’ve come a long way from that reality, we face a new problem — female characters are slotted as “strong” and the character arc goes no further. Furthermore, it perpetuates the idea that the only way a character can be strong is by having masculine tendencies. This cripples writers, characters, and worst-of-all, readers. For more on this, I urge you to check out the article, “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” by Sophia McDougall for newstatesman.com.
How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? One of the main criticisms a lot of fiction faces — specifically science-fiction — is the suspension of disbelief. The genres of both fantasy and science-fiction are all about breaking rules and creating worlds that are apart from our own, so why is it an issue if it seems far-fetched? What is more important than plausible, is being plausible-in-the-created-world. Each invented world a writer creates relies on a set of rules — who wields magic, who travels at light-speed — and the story MUST function within those rules or it doesn’t work. Like all rules, of course, there are loopholes, but if your character wields magic and no other human does, there better be a damn good reason behind it.
Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold? I love discussing how our past forms our future. I work as an archaeologist for my “day job,” and I face this question every day. I wrote an article for the New Hampshire Archaeological Society last year talking about why I dig. The reason I write is much the same. Humans have always been exploring, whether it was searching over the next rise, the next ocean, the next galaxy. This exploration may begin as a search for food or for others, but ultimately it is a search for self. Our myths — cross-culturally — are about that search. They are familiar ways to frame the questions we want to ask. Our character may wonder what to do in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, so she looks back on what brought her here. Perhaps her parents were scientists, perhaps her Master’s thesis focused on Ragnarok. Where she comes from will not inform whether she fights, but how and with what.
A thoughtful review for Tales of Erana.
The rating discrepancy drives me nuts but I can see why GR don’t change. It would be a LOT of work and what then happens to the old ratings, and those of people who don’t shop at AZN? Who knows.
Tell Us About Yourself
Name (s): Mirandra Var, Shamania of Varris, daughter of Kherak Var, and daughter of the storm.
Age: 30 winters.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. Female troll, blonde hair, grey eyes, slate grey skin, horns.
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? I must behave with honour, I must be wise and courteous, and the good of the tribe outweighs my own. Trolls value kin and alliances highly and these relationships must be maintained. I should not turn away from those who need help, guests are welcome and shall be accommodated.
I should question all, expect little and give much. A Shaman’s door is never closed to her people, for who knows when guidance might be needed. Knowledge is power.
Honour is most prized by the Trollkind. A troll without honour is not a troll. I am Shamania, it is my duty to maintain the hour of the tribe. It is better to die in the service of others, or a worthy cause than to live as a coward. That is what my brother says, and I agree.
Would you kill for those you love? Yes, if it is the correct thing to do. It would depend on why and whom, however. I have fought with monsters to protect those for whom I care. I would kill for my tribe at need.
Would you die for those you love? Oh yes. If my death would save them I would go to the Goddess without regret.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? Strengths – I have more magic than I received from my mother alone. I am unique amongst my tribe, for I carry a little of the elemental magics. I have been taught well.
Weaknesses – I am young among my people and have little experience.
Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why? My brother Talfor, he has always been there for me and now his wife, the elf M’alia for she is courageous and clever. M’alia sees things from another point of view. She makes Talfor happy and that makes me happy. My mother, although she is now with the Goddess Ethnii’a, Kherak was a remarkable woman, although sometimes hard she was fair and wise.
My father and his wife. I did not know my father until recently, he was not part of our lives. It is common amongst the Trollkind for women, especially Shaman, to raise children without a man around. We are matrilineal and Archos knew not of my existence but as my mother was in her last years she agreed he would be a good ally for the War Which Will Come, and so now we are learning about one another. The Lady Dii’Athella, the Lady of the Light, is a good friend, she visits when she can. My mother cared deeply for her.
Thain. I will leave you to discover who Thain might be…after all a woman needs some secrets.
Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions? I have a horse, Tempest. He was a gift from my father, Mir’Rillith, known as Lord Archos of Tremellic to the elves and humans. We trolls rarely have horses, for they do not fare well in the mountains. Tempest is lively and bold. He is a trollish horse now, and he knows it.
Do you have a family? Tell us about them. My mother, Kherak, my brother Talfor and his wife, my father Archos – Mir’Rillith and his wife, the Lady Dii’Athella. We are trolls, and elves and men, and we are strengthened as a result. Soon I must find a consort, for I must bear a daughter so that when the time is ready she may rule when I have joined the Goddess.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I have blonde hair – blonde is very rare among our kind and it is seen as a blessing.
Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. My home is Varris, in the Jagged Peak Mountains. It is on a small plateau, and very beautiful. We are safe from the Order of Witch-Hunters there, but they are known to take trolls, for they hate all whose blood flows with magic. The world of Erana is a dangerous place, for my kind, for elves and any who are magical. Yet there is beauty in it, for the land remembers when the magic flowed, and the stories tell of a time when we were free. We must preserve these tales and the hope which goes with them.
Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour. The Witch-Hunters pretend they do not believe in the gods but call their names often enough. There are many gods, and minor gods of Erana. Our tribe reveres Ethnii’a Goddess of the Sky, above the other gods, for she sends the rain, her sons the moon and sun warm us and light our way and her daughter Sendrillia guards the sacred waterfall which marks the way to the Temple of the Sky. Sendrillia was cursed by wicked magic and turned from woman into a flower. If one honours the goddess’ daughter correctly, with petals from the flower which grows high in the mountains, the waterfall may be crossed on the Path of Rock behind the curtain of water. If one does not honour her, one will get very wet and cannot cross.
We are blessed for one of Ethnii’a’s servants – the Avi Tam, an air elemental, visits the Temple. She was entrapped by a wicked creature and freed and now she blesses us. One must honour the gods, for one never knows when one may need their assistance. The elves share many of our gods, often with different names but the humans tend to be faithless, unless they are mages of course. Mages know that which is true, not the lies of the Order of Witch-Hunters.
Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? We travel to Khar’atuk, my place of Proving. I must endure and survive my ordeal to be deemed fit to leave. Khar’atuk is far from our lands, in the lands of our kin. The Emerald Valley is people by humans, who are not friendly to us. Khar’atuk is an old ruin, a labyrinth from the past times and filled with danger.
Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? *Laughs. You need ask that question? Of course there is magic, although the Witch-Hunters seek it out to destroy wherever they can. Magic persists. I am Shamania, my mother and grandmother, and her mother, and hers were Shaman, my father is a sorcerer, and my brother a shape-changer. Does that answer your question, human?
What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.) The trolls are matrilineal. I suppose you would call us city states, as a Shaman will rule a town or towns. There is no ruler of all the trolls. I am sure, where you to ask the Order of Witch-Hunters they would claim they rule this land, trolls included. They merely think this is so. I am unfamiliar with their command structure, I try to avoid their notice. Witch-Hunters rarely dare to attack trolls, but it is known.
Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another? We have Trollkind, Elfkind and Mankind. But there are truly the magical races – the elementals, the fae, the dragons and keres.
The humans fear the elves – for they are blamed for the Plague, many humans fear the trolls – we are seen as barbarians, where in truth it is the humans who would fit that description. Most people, be they elves, men or trolls do not know of the elementals, the dragons, the fae and the keres. My father tells me the fae should not exist – their Realm is closed to us. They have wicked magic – the raising of the dead, they feed on fear and shame, on lust and anger. Certainly they are rare, which is fortunate. I have never seen a great dragon – but my grandfather did.
Elementals – they exist. One at least walks among us….
And here’s a Thunderclap Event for Stolen Tower. http://thndr.it/1GxUUlp
Book(s) in which this character appears plus links
The Shining Citadel (briefly)
The Stolen Tower – the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book III
What stalks the land cannot be, but is.
Where magic is outlawed a troll Shaman calls from her deathbed to her heiress, Mirandra Var, daughter of the storm. Mirandra vows to find her missing kin, sort friend from foe, and claim the dangerous secrets guarded by unthinkable creatures. If she succeeds, she will become the leader of her tribe. If she fails there will be no tribe to lead.
Author name: A. L. Butcher
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.
History, Greeks, Ancient History.
A fun read with bite size chunks of Ancient Greek history until the Romans arrived. Ancient Greek culture and language still influence us today – the Greeks birthed democracy (although in a different hue than hours), many of our words stem from Greek terms, then of course there are the Olympic Games.
The author covers many aspects of culture, language, history and myth – in a manner which is easy to follow and gives enough of a taster to get the reader interested in the subject. He’s done his research too – with references to ancient sources and writers/thinkers and archeologists.
Recommended for anyone with an interest in the era/area – easy to read and not overwhelming. Not exactly a deep and meaningful – as with such a broad selection of subjects covered it could not be – but a good insight.
History, local history.
I live in Bristol, so this was a great little book about the…less glorious side of the city’s history. Slavery, bribery, corruption, incompetence, greed, rioting and murder – it’s all there. The author begins by saying although these aspects are rather shameful we should not ignore them, they are part of the city’s past – and helped it to become what it is.
The book is pretty short, and easy to read, with interesting examples and research. Overall enjoyable enough, with elements of dark humour, witty writing and fascinating history.
Welcome to Luke F. D. Marsden
Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in Scotland, but grew up mostly in Bristol, in the South West of England. I now live and work in the old Roman Spa town of Bath in Somerset, site of the UK’s only thermal springs.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I published my first novel – Wondering, the Way is Made – in November 2014. It is a story of friendship in a crumbling world. It takes place in Latin America in the very near future, against a backdrop of serious climate change and societal upheaval. A band of good friends are brought together by fate in Argentina, and they journey across the South American continent in a camper van looking for a quiet place to ride out the adverse events that are occurring globally.
I first got the idea for the book when I was in Kerala, India in the summer of 2011. There was a deadly heatwave at that time in the US and it was the summer of riots in the UK. From a distance I watched and, with a small step of the imagination, envisioned what it would be like if things degenerated to the point where it was no longer worth returning home.
I eventually came to write the book three years later, whilst in South America. The situations, background events and anecdotes in it almost all have precedent in very recent history, even though some of them may seem far-fetched. The locations are places that I visited along my own way through the continent. One of the aims of the novel is to make the reader aware that sometimes the far-fetched can be far closer to reality than they realise.
I am currently working on a second book, which will be a collection of allegorical short stories exploring themes around the conscious and subconscious mind.
Where do you find inspiration? I get inspired by travel. It’s a cliché, but the real world (or, should I say, the universe) is stranger and more exotic than fiction. You just have to go out and find stories and ideas – the whole universe is full of them. The beauty of fiction is that, as a writer, you can then adapt, adorn and embellish those stories and ideas without limits until you have captured whatever it is that you were seeking.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I am surprised that I find this question so hard to answer. I have become very attached to the characters from Wondering… They are all misfits, but my favourite, if I had to choose, would probably be Joe. The group of friends tolerate his philosophical musings and outspoken monologues, as they are humorous and keep them amused. He regards his high-sounding ideas as important contributions to the group, and in a way they are, but not in any tangible sense. I like this about all of the characters – they all bring something unique and invaluable to the group, and the collective somehow combines to add up to something greater than the sum of the individuals.
Are your characters based on real people? My characters are usually composites of people I know and have met, with a measure of artistic licence thrown in. I like to create them this way as it lends authenticity.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? I like to read, and write, books that have a message – it is something that is important to me. I wrote Wondering, the Way is Made as an attempt to capture something of the essence of the frivolity and self-indulgence of our time, and found that peering into the near future was a good way of doing this. The heroes and heroines represent a generation in microcosm. They are nice people, sympathetic, but upon reflection perhaps not quite as sympathetic as they appear. They lament the demise of society and the planet, quite rightly, but there is nothing in their actions that absolves them from the very things they criticize others for. They are products of a ‘Me’ society, they are, at times, wasteful, irresponsible, largely unmoved by the poverty they see as they travel through Latin America, and overprivileged in some cases. However, the fact remains that they are also gentle, thoughtful, honest, very likeable and humorous, which makes it easy to overlook their flaws and shortcomings. The book carries the message that, collectively, humans can be quite selfish, even if individually they are nice people.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? Wondering, the Way is Made is currently available in e-book format on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Flipkart. I intend to launch it as a paperback later this year.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I hired a professional to copy edit my novel Wondering, the Way is Made. It was a sound move – the prose had a subtly, but significantly, more polished feel to it once the changes identified by the copy editor had been applied. As for content, I like to retain complete editorial control, which is part of the reason I chose to self-publish. However, several close friends did kindly proof-read the book before publication, and their feedback contributed to the overall shape of the work.
Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes. I have recently branched out from my erstwhile reading habits (mostly early 20th century books and philosophical novels) and I have been seeking out works by self-published authors, particularly writers who could be regarded as my immediate contemporaries. It’s rewarding to discover a great independent author for yourself, and enlightening to find out who else is out there writing right at this moment. A lot of superb talent exists outside of the mainstream publishing machine. I have recently read books by Harry Whitewolf and Leo X. Robertson, both of which I have enjoyed. The great advantage of the independent writer is that they are not beholden to any publishing house, editor, or anything, other than themselves, so they have the ability to write works for their artistic merit alone.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? I generally don’t read a book’s reviews before I read the book itself, although I’ll look at the average star rating as a sanity check. Most important, though, is the synopsis. If it grabs me, I’ll read the first few pages and a random excerpt from the middle. Then, if I’m still undecided, I might read a few reviews – a good, a moderate, and a bad review chosen at random. Book synopses of the kind that list a load of five star reviews in them send me running – it makes me suspect that the synopsis wouldn’t stand up on its own, or that an average book is hiding behind some good reviews. When I DO like to read the reviews is after I’ve finished the book. I’ll write my own review first, so as not to be influenced by any others, then compare it with the others after posting. Reviewing is an art form in itself, and I find this method helps to improve it.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? I love movies, but I think are mentally quite passive compared to books. While they are great input into the imagination, the flow of information is mostly one-way, as so much is served up to the viewer as the finished article. It’s all over after two or three hours of concentration. The same goes for video games (although I can hear howls of disagreement from some quarters!). A book requires time, and engagement of the imagination and intellect. Reading is a two-way process, a dialogue between the words on the page and the mind of the reader. It is a significant personal investment to read a book – I think that’s why it’s difficult to sell them. You are not just asking a reader for a some of their money, you are also asking them for one or two weeks’ worth of their spare time. They have to be pretty certain that it will be time well spent. This is why, therefore, I think it is such an honour when somebody does take that step, and elects to read your book.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
- When someone picks up your book to read it, they are making a personal investment of their precious time in the words that *you* have written, over and above everything that everyone else has ever written. That is an incredible honour. Never forget this.
- Write the books that you want to write, not the books that you think others want you to write.
- Write a little less than you want to each day, so that you start with renewed inspiration the next. This is paraphrased from Ernest Hemingway, but I have found it to be good advice, so I am passing it on.
What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst? Best guerrilla marketing tip – Leave your book business cards between the pages of books you think your readers will pick up in bookshops.
Worst marketing tip – Leave your book business card in pubs and coffee shops. I’ve found it to be ineffective. Perhaps I’ve yet to find the right places.
Best networking tip – Get on Goodreads. It’s a great community of book-lovers.
Worst networking tip – Treating real-world networking events as though they’re work rather than pleasure, and therefore avoiding them. I’m guilty of this.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I recently finished reading Kabloona, by Gontran de Poncins. It’s a phenomenal account of life with the Inuit of King William Land in the Canadian High Arctic, a barren expanse of ten thousand square miles with a population of 25 people. That the Inuit succeed in the circumstances he describes is miraculous, and he writes well of the enormous pride they feel in their way of life, and the extreme care and attention to detail with which they must live in order to survive. When the physical surroundings are described they are hard to imagine, such is their other-worldliness: perpetual night, hunting seal by moonlight, haunting ice-scapes, weeks spent travelling by dog sled through vast emptiness, eating what is caught along the way, hastily erecting igloos in blizzards that it seems that nobody could survive… these are all part of normality. He is horrified at their customs at first, but their honesty, generosity and selfless acceptance of him eventually win him over and help him to rid himself of his initial egoism. This way of life is now vanished, so the stories that he recounts, as well as being astonishing, are the only way we’ll ever experience it.
Good interview with Andy Weston.
Name Andrew Weston
Where are you from?
Birmingham, in the UK
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc
I’m sixth generation military. Although I carried on the tradition of my father’s family by joining the Royal Navy, I specialized and qualified for the Royal Marines. After almost 9 years service, I became a police officer until my medical retirement in 2009.
Over the intervening years, I married and became father to two great kids – who are now young adults – was an active sportsperson for various rugby, swimming and athletic teams, opened a number of martial art clubs specializing in Ju Jitsu, Aikido, and Taiho Jutsu, and basically, kept myself as active as possible.
On the intellectual side, I graduated in a number of disciplines; astronomy and criminal law included, and was an active member of MENSA. In my spare time, I…
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Tell Us About Yourself
Name (s): People call me Ephany, just Ephany.
Age: *shrugs. I do not know. It is not important.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Wouldn’t you like to know….?
I am a female half-elf, I work for the House of Thieves, and answer to the Thiefmaster, who in turn answers to the Oncoming Storm and the Shadowdancer. Have a problem with that? Hard luck to you. We are everywhere, we watch from the rooftops and the alleys. We are the Shadows.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. That depends what I am doing…
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? *Laughs loudly.
I do. It is not the same as yours, I dare say.
Would you kill for those you love? *Laughs even louder.
What do you think? I have. I do. I will.
Would you die for those you love? Yes.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths – I have been taught swordplay and shadowplay by the best there is. I do what is necessary to further the aims of the House of Thieves.
Weaknesses – why should I tell of something that can be used against me? That is just foolish.
Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why? The Thiefmaster, of course. There is a young man I care for too – Gregori. At least for now. My life is dangerous and it is difficult and risky to get too attached to others. We die, we disappear and so love is at best snatched where it can be. There is affection, let’s put it that way. If I wish for a lover I take one. Why should I not – men do..
Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions? I do like animals, but aside from my pony I have no pets. I move around a good deal and often have to hide. The pony belongs to the thieves, really. Animals do not judge, they have no prejudice. They are not wicked, that is the territory of people.
I do not like people who mistreat animals, they are slightly higher up the ladder of scum than the Order of Witch-Hunters, but not by much.
Do you have a family? Tell us about them.
My mother was a courtesan, my father is a thief and an assassin. I have skills from both parents. I may have siblings – I do not know. The House of Thieves is my family.
Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I was raised in a whorehouse, one of the higher class ones, but a whorehouse nonetheless. I know how to pleasure a man, and for that matter a woman, and sometimes this is a better form of persuasion than a knife. It is certainly a more enjoyable one, and usually longer lasting. Do not get me wrong. It is my body and I use it as and when I wish, with whom I wish. My mother taught me diplomacy in the bedroom, my father taught me the… persuasion of the shadows. The skill set from my father is a little more direct.
Do you have any phobias? Phobias are a weakness. Why should I be afraid of the dark, when the darkness is my friend? I have no illusions and thus no fear. I am the shadows, I am the nightmare, I am the fear.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I once emasculated a man who liked to rape elves. He did not enjoy eating his own balls nearly as much as I enjoyed feeding them to him.
Tell Us About Your World
The world of Erana is dark, deadly and dangerous. We are ruled by martial law which is both corrupt and pervasive. Elves and half elves are not free. We have no rights, no protection under law, we are property. We are nothing. That at least is what the Order of Witch-Hunters propound. It is, of course, bullshit. One day they will find this out.
Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? I go where the Thiefmaster commands. However recently I have escorted Lady Mirandra of the trolls to the Emerald Valley. Trolls know little of traps and ruins.
Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? Erana is a world of magic, but magic is forbidden. Magic persists, it cannot be imprisoned, despite the best efforts of the Order. The Society of Hidden Secrets is proof of that. I am proof of that as an adept. I have magic in my blood which….enhances my abilities. The Order are fools, but they are powerful fools, with the law, such as it is, on their side.
Most humans fear magic, they do not understand it and they are too ignorant to learn. The Witch-Hunters keep it so.
Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some. *Shrugs. I have fought with monsters which do should not exist but do. I do not know exactly what they were, except bad news.
That is a very strange word – supernatural A being beyond the laws of nature? Nature has many laws and many creations, that we are too ignorant to understand them is not nature’s fault – it is ours. Nothing is beyond nature – it is merely beyond our comprehension. If you are asking whether my world has magical beings then yes, of course. Does not yours?
Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? The bow. Many have fallen to it. I think it is the ultimate weapon of war.
Book(s) in which this character appears plus links:
The Stolen Tower
The Shining Citadel (briefly).
Author name: A.L. Butcher
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.
Author Bio: A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’.
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