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October 2012

Bad Girl For A Day: Maggie Montgomery’s Marvelous Morpheme Monograph

I love words. Most authors do, but I think I might be a soupçon nuttier than most. So what’s new?

Montessori taught me to read at age three, opening unto me a world of extraordinary and delicious possibility (and, incidentally, making me the scourge of Sister Mary Emma’s first grade class). My pre-K teachers also attempted to nurture my theoretically innate artistic abilities. I took to those things with a distinctly lesser degree of proficiency. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, I cannot draw and I cannot paint, even given an outline and pre-printed numbers with corresponding capsules of color. I cannot compile collages. And if you ever have a chance to be on my Pictionary team, run screaming as though from Old Scratch himself unless you are either mind-numbingly drunk and thereby easily amused or hoping to get in a few preliminary licks toward your Purgatory sentence.

But words I adore. As a result, my editors must frequently remind me that readers don’t like to pause mid-conflict to fumble for the dictionary. About once per book, I get fixated on a particular word and throw a hissy fit about what I consider to be its utterly unwarranted ejection (which, for me, translates to drafting a multi-paragraph annotated justification with emphasis on the decline of the American educational system and numerous admittedly hyperbolic references to the responsibilities of romance writers to dispel the pervasive misconception of commercial fiction as intellectual tripe).

As long as the object of my obsession isn’t in the middle of a sex scene, my editors usually roll their eyes and let me keep it. You might can imagine why.

Once upon a time I read an article by a highly-regarded author (or maybe scholar) whose name I forget and am too lazy to look up. Anyhoo, he contended that gonorrhea, despite the visceral ickiness of its definition, was the most beautiful word in the English language. I don’t know about all that, but I take his meaning. If you look at it from a purely visual perspective—pay attention strictly to the way the letters arrange themselves on the page—it really is quite a lovely word. Other words, most of them easier on the gag reflex, have that same inherent prettiness.

Consider palindromes with their reassuring sense of symmetry: noon, kayak, Anna, Otto. (Yes, I’m intentionally ignoring “boob,” a word that both looks and sounds ridiculous, though there’s a time and place for that too.)

Other words just appear appealing on the page, especially in script–words like ailurophile, imbroglio, ratatouille, or gossamer.

Repetitive words have their own distinctive charm. They usually sound and look precisely as their meaning indicates they should: murmur, cocoa, tintinnabulation.

Then there are the simply euphonious, such inglenook and propinquity and, appropriately enough, sonorous. And those that feel delightfully crisp or bold or juicy on the tongue: pizzazz, twinkle, orb, squeamish.

In terms of all around awesomeness, my personal favorites include:











I’m also partial to alliteration. Hence my current pen name, Maggie Montgomery, and the title of my not-yet-written comedic mystery: The Perplexing Puzzle of the Perforated Pinup Princess.

And I like quips, plays on words, and double entendres. Which is how I named my second book, Screw Me Once. (As in shame on you, but also, you know, screw. ‘cause… well you get it.)

And I positively adore rhymes. Which brings us (rather conveniently as I’m running out of word count) to the title of my new release, available TODAY:

Tex-Mex Sex Hex

I know, right? Absolutely genius! But I can’t take credit. It was thunk up by a 16-year-old and the story involves hexing by taco seasoning, abundant humor, facing one’s past, and super spicy sex.

Wanna read it? Leave a comment about your favorite word(s) below. Someone will get a free e-copy! Thanks for stopping by and gobs of gratitude to the Bad Girlz for gracing me and the other ladies of Laptops & Lingerie with a spot in their ferocious forum of fabulousness this month!

Oh and, by the way, the hissy fit word in Tex-Mex Sex Hex is “piquant.” Just in case you wondered. J

You can find out more about Maggie, her books, and get your copy of Tex-Mex Sex Hex in the links below:


When is Enough, Enough?

I’m not sure about the rest of America but I will be so glad when this election is over. It’s not that I don’t love my

country and want to do my part by voting, I just want people to leave me alone about it. Every night for weeks now someone has called my house trying to influence me to vote one way or another. Every television program is flooded with commercials telling us, “Don’t vote for him, he is untrustworthy.” When I walked to the pole today to cast my vote, (Yay NC for early voting) I still had people trying to influence my decision. If I hadn’t made up my mind at that point, I shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Enough is enough!       

Let’s talk about telemarketers. Have you heard this one? “There is nothing wrong with your account, but it’s very important that you contact us right away.” I have told these people over and over to leave me alone and I warn them I’m on the do-not-call-list (doesn’t help at all).  Still they call at least three times a week. I was so frustrated with one company, I demanded to be taken off their calling list right away. While the man was typing in my information, (I assumed he needed the information to take me off the list) he started asking me personal questions . . . creepy, personal questions until I hung up and reported him to my State Attorney General’s office. Enough is enough!

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if my manuscript feels the same way. After I write my original story, I set it aside for a week or so and then go back and start my first edits. When I go back and read the pages I’d edited the day before, I edit again. Before I send it to my critique partner, I edit some more. As I was working on suggested edits from my critique partner the other day, I realized my story needed something. I knew exactly what the manuscript needed to fix the problem but I would have to start on page one and re-edit the entire thing. I truly feel the changes could make the story better but I can’t help but wonder if my manuscript is screaming, “Enough is enough! “

I want my story to be the best it can be and rewriting won’t be easy. It will take a lot of work and a long time. While I’m rewriting do I leave the editors and agents who requested material waiting for their submissions? I thought my story was ready when I pitched it a month ago but now I’m not so sure.

So what do I do? Let me tell you, this dilemma has left me in an evil mood. I guess I know what I can dress up as for Halloween this year.  Give me a pointy hat and a broom and I’m set.

So I ask you fellow writers, when do you know . . . enough is enough?

Remember to dream big!





Writer Snaps to You!

I was talking to a friend the other day on the phone. She was out of sorts over a review of her book. She’s had great reviews, but there’s always that one. You know the one. It’s written in poor English and tears down even the best of books. Amid the discussion of how not everyone is going to love you, and not everyone needs to love you for you to have great sales, it hit me. She has a book review! The fact that someone out there read her book and wrote even negative words about it is amazing! How many years did she toil to get to the point of having reviews? She should savor that one bad review because it means she has a book out for people to read.

When I hung up the phone with my friend, I started thinking about the other things we should be celebrating instead of bemoaning…

This writer gig is a hard business. We’re constantly beat down by rejections. We beat ourselves up in an attempt to be better writers. And, we beat on each other to make our circle of friends achieve their writer goals. That’s a lot of beating! So, we need to remember to celebrate our successes as well. It’s easy to say, “Oh my little milestone is nothing. It doesn’t matter.” But, it’s huge! No matter how small the accomplishment, we have to take the time to happy dance over our successes.

If you’re getting rejections, that means you’re putting yourself out there and chasing your dream. Many people don’t have the courage to do that. Celebrate it!

If you’re knee deep in edits, that means you finished your manuscript and have something to edit. Celebrate it!

If you’re at that point in your story where you hate your characters and wonder how you’ve ever written anything worth reading. Well, in my experience, this just means you’re sitting at 50k on your word count and you need to finish your book. *grins* But that also means you’ve written 50k as well as other manuscripts. Celebrate it!

My point is this: No matter how small the accomplishment, in this business you have to do a little dance over every success. What writer milestone did you achieve in the past week or two? It doesn’t matter how small; I’d love to hear about it. I think we’ve all earned some writer snaps. (Yes, that was a Legally Blonde reference and no, I’m not above breaking out the snap cup.)


xx – E. Michels


Bad Girl For A Day: C.E. Hart – “Barbie Birthed A Writer”


I’m a nostalgic person. I enjoy looking back to days gone by and sometimes even pretend I’m my own therapist. Yeah, I know that sounds strange, but I’m an odd human being, so it works for me. I study the life-changing events I endured, the stupid things I did and wish I didn’t, the tender moments that touched my heart, and the people I counted on for a soft place to fall.


Memories light the corners of my mind

Misty watercolor memories of the way we were

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind

Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were


These memories oftentimes inspire my writing. Though the stories and characters I create are fictional, I draw on past experiences, emotions and relationships. I write-what-I-know and this (hopefully) allows me to construct evocative, believable stories.

Every summer, when I was little, my sister and I lived to play with Barbie dolls. (Mom called it our obsession.) We actually set our alarm clocks before going to bed, to make certain Barbie, Ken, Francie (my favorite, because she had real eyelashes!) and Midge made it to work on time. Skipper usually slept in until the twins, Todd and Tutti, woke up.


Can it be that it was all so simple then

Or has time rewritten every line

If we had the chance to do it all again

Tell me—would we? Could we?


Not only did I obsess over dolls, but I wrote extensive scripts for them too. What they’d say, where they’d go and what they’d do once they got there. Filling note pads with dialogue, scenes and plot twists consumed so much of the day there was little time left to actually play. Planning their day on paper was more than half the fun! Who knew Barbie and her friends were capable of birthing the author within me?


Creating stories as an adult is much the same as when I was a child—I just use imaginary characters to perform in them instead of plastic ones with removable heads.


Thank you, fabulous Bad Girlz! I’m thrilled to be your Bad Girl of the day! And because I’m oh-so-bad, and giving you only one song to continuously bang around in your heads isn’t enough, I’ll close out with another…


Because I’m Bad, I’m Bad—Come On

You Know I’m Bad, I’m Bad—You Know It

You Know I’m Bad, I’m Bad—Come On, You Know

And The Whole World Has To Answer Right Now

Just To Tell You Once Again

WHO’S BAD . . .


(Cheryl) C.E. Hart



Capture Your Muse (Or If That Doesn’t Work, Hit It With A Shovel And Drag It Back To Your Lair)

There are a few moments that make all the hard work and discouragement of being a writer worthwhile. One of them, for me, is that instant when, out of nowhere, for some reason, I close my eyes and my entire story opens in front of me, unfurling piece by piece in technicolor. Everything is suddenly clear, and I think, “YES. This is what I was waiting for.”

And then there are other moments. The ones when I stare and I stare and I stare at the blinking cursor and I have…nothing. No inspiration. No clue. No muse.

Sadly, those barren moments tend to outnumber the fertile ones about ten to one. But then again, if they didn’t, being a writer would be easy, right? News alert: it’s not. And if you just sit there waiting for inspiration to strike, there’s a decent chance you’re going to be sitting there for a long, long while.

No, sometimes inspiration doesn’t come to you. Sometimes, you have to go find it. You have a to hit it over the head with a shovel, tie it up, and drag it back to your lair.

How do we do that, though?

For me, it’s all about finding something that helps pull my mind into my story, something that makes it immediate. Something that encapsulates it.

That captive muse could be anything. Music, an image, a scene from a movie on YouTube. Just something that reminds you of where you need and want to go.

When I was writing Unacceptable Risk, it was hard, driving songs with lots of grit and static – songs like Destroy the Evidence by Cassiotone for the Painfully Alone and Hearing Damage by Thom Yorke. One of my current works in progress is all about falling in love in the last gasp of summer, and I always have Nightswimming by REM playing when I fire up my doc. Another piece I’m writing right now has probably the a hunkiest hero I’ve ever written, and I keep this gif of Chris Evans without his shirt on open in a browser window for, ahem, added doses of inspiration.

The moral of the story is that you need these little things, these signals to your brain that it’s go-time. These shovels.

What are you working on / pummeling over the head with a garden implement right now? And what little piece of ephemera do you turn to when you need to get your mind in the mood?


Writer’s Block: Please Help a Bad Girl Out!

No matter what you write, there is one thing every one of us must do before we can venture into the world of publication – FINISH THE DAMN MANUSCRIPT!  Without that, all the fancy queries and pitches in the world won’t get us anywhere.  I know…it’s completely obvious.  But as simple a concept as this is, it’s not always simple to achieve.  We have families that need to eat, kids that need help on their homework, jobs that we must go to each day unless we want our homes to go into foreclosure.

But I don’t want to talk about that today.  I think it’s pretty clear that everyone’s time is precious and everyone has their own set of hurdles to hop over.  Today I want to talk about what happens after you’ve figured all that out.  When you’ve managed to set your boundaries and found a way to hold your writing time sacred. When finally, after months of rearranging and adjusting, you’ve found a schedule that works for you and all that’s left to do is write.

This is where I’m at.  So why am I not celebrating?

I sat down last week to finish off the final edits on my third manuscript.  I mean, I can literally see the finish line.  I know what needs to be done.  I’ve rearranged some things in my schedule and put a plan together on how to do it in the time I need to do it in.  I have the support of my husband and my friends behind me, cheering me on the whole way.  Should be a piece of cake, right?

And then there it is.  The blinking line.  The one you continue to stare at because you haven’t made your daily word count quota.  It’s laughing in your face, daring you to type something, anything, before it blinks again.  It’s counting down the seconds of your precious writing time like sand through an hourglass until finally it’s all gone, and so is another paragraph, another page, another chapter.

Oh, do I hate that little f*cking line.

I’ve found myself in a bit of an unusual position the past week.  This isn’t me.  I’ve never had trouble writing, I’ve had trouble finding enough time to write all the ideas I had in my head.  What the hell is going on, and more importantly, how do I fix it?  It’s frustrated me to no end, which isn’t helping the situation any either.

And still…the sand keeps dripping.

So when I sat down to write my blog post for this week (which, by the way, I didn’t have a freaking idea of what to write about), I thought…hey, maybe someone out there can help me!  Instead of me sharing my knowledge or motivation with you, I was hoping you all could share yours with me.  I know I’m not alone.  I know everyone’s been there at some point.  Maybe someone else out there is in the same place that I am and could use some help too!

So this is my plea, folks!  I’m all ears!  What works for you?  How do I kick this writer’s block in the ass??  At this point I’m willing to try anything!


Jenna P.





NaNoWriMo: Yes or No?

So, who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year? What’s NaNoWriMo, you ask? It’s National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place in November. You sign on as a participant, and after of 30 days of frantic wordsmithing, you’ll have written an entire novel. That’s the idea, anyway.

The folks at NaNoWriMo consider a novel to equal 50,000 words. If you’re writing genres like category romance and some types of science fiction/fantasy, this is approximately your target length. For lots of commercial/literary fiction, you’re a bit more than halfway there in terms of word count. But, whatever you’re writing, if you finish your 50,000 words by November 30th, you’ve won. What do you win? A web badge proclaiming you a winner, bragging rights, and a damn fine sense of accomplishment.

Why do it? There are a few great reasons to do it. One is one of those “just because you can” type things. There’s also accountability, thanks to the handy-dandy word count box you can update as you go along. When you join NaNo, you also get accountability and moral support. There are forums dedicated to every genre imaginable, and you can even join up with fellow writers locally, if the in-person thing is more your speed. And, it probably goes without saying that the best reason for participating is the awesome word count you’ll have at the end of the month.

The value of doing this is NOT the novel you’ll have at the end of the month. Trust me on this. You’ll have 50,000 words of something, but honey, it ain’t a novel ready for submission. And yes, this all sounds obvious in the extreme, but I’ve read on multiple agent blogs how much they dread the first week of December because people actually do this. Those 50,000 words you put down may be 49,000 of back story and 1,000 of story-story, but it’s getting you closer to the good stuff, and helping you know your characters and discover plot lines you may not have envisioned. Those 50,000 words also show that you can be disciplined, work on a deadline, and hold yourself accountable—essential characteristics of any professional author. Even if you don’t quite reach your goal, I bet you’ll write more during NaNoWriMo than you would have otherwise. If your inner writer needs a kick in the ass, NaNo’s a pretty big boot.

If you’re going to do it, you’ll need a general idea of what you’re doing and where you’re going. A basic plot framework and character sketches are good to develop ahead of time so you can hit the ground running once November 1st rolls around. And I do mean running. To make the goal, you need to write 1668 words each and every day in November—even on Thanksgiving, even when you’re staying at the in-laws sleeping on a cold, leaky air mattress, breathing in thirty years’ worth of stale cigarette smoke before getting up around last call to go join the Black Friday freak show. Yep, even then. If not, you’ll have like six thousand words to write when you finally get back, wheezing and bleary-eyed, to your own home and your own bed. Yeah, so maybe November doesn’t work for you? The organizers also run similar writing challenges in the summer months.

What about me? I did it in 2010, and it was a great experience, even though I didn’t make the goal (I topped out at 35K if you must know). I haven’t signed up yet, but I’m sorely tempted to try again. I do realize reaching 50,000 words is, well, a reach considering my work-slash-baby wrangling commitments, but I think my inertia-laden muse needs a big ole NaNoWriMo ass-kicking right about now. So, with a big, nervous gulp, I’m tossing my hat into the ring.

Who’s with me?


Pitch Room Propriety

We’ve covered all the conference How To’s and To Do’s – now it’s time to laugh and learn, because even I can’t make this junk up.

You know the Pitch Prep Area, right? The room, hall, or lounge where dozens of writers gather just before pitching their novel(s) to the editor and/or agent of their dreams?  Yeah, that area. It’s an important area. Any writer who’s been in it will tell you it’s like the green room before you go on stage. The following is a list of things NOT to do in the pitch prep area. Unfortunately, I didn’t make these up. Like the “Do not use hair dryer in the shower” warning tag on your ConAir, someone had to actually do these things to make it on this list. That whole adage about life being stranger than fiction? Never more true…

  1. Do Not not show up for your appointment without any notification. We all have to listen to “Susie Q. Barstool? Bueller?  Bueller?” being called out over and over before someone snags your missed appointment at the last minute and rushes to the woefully vacant chair in a panic.  Let the pitch coordinator know ahead of schedule that you won’t be attending your appointment and she or he will fill your slot well ahead of Go time.
  2. Unless a pitchee is your good friend from church and you both discussed prayer time prior to meeting in the pitch room, Do Not go up to an acquaintance or total stranger and proceed to pray for them right before they pitch. I’m talking Laying on of Hands and all. You don’t know them, their religious affiliation if any, or how much you are freaking them out.  Just don’t do it. Silent prayer is awesome.  So is meditation.
  3. Do Not ask a total stranger about her pitch, moments before she’s about to go in, and then deconstruct it for her, tell her everything that is wrong with it, and what she really ought to say.  Number one: You are not her buddy or crit partner – you’re a stranger. Number two: She’s about to go in right now!
  4. Do Not jabber too loudly. I’m guilty of this so it’s going on the list. Lots of people chatter to stay cool. That’s okay; let’s just use our indoor voice (myself included). Luckily I have my girlz to do the hand pat if my volume dial goes up too far.
  5. Do Not go up to a pitchee, right before she’s about to pitch, and ask about her sick/deceased/recently injured family member, friend, pet, co-worker, or acquaintance. In fact, don’t mention death, disease, or dismemberment at all! Pitchee is trying to focus and rock that pitch. All of the former topics are highly emotional and distressing. Avoid them. If you don’t, people won’t like you. I promise!

And that’s it. *steps off soapbox* Does anybody have one to add? We’d love to hear it. We can laugh, but we also learn in the off chance we’ve committed a pitch prep room faux pas.

I wish everyone the best of luck pitching and dozens of contracts in the future; just don’t be that writer. =)



Bad Girl For A Day: Virginia James – “Am I Normal?”

Thank you to the lovely ladies of Bad Girlz Write! I’m super excited to be an honorary Bad Girl for a day.
I had the pleasure of meeting three of the Bad Girlz at the 2012 Moonlight & Magnolia conference and
let me say, I’m psyched in a goofy-grin-semi-but-not-creepy-stalker-kinda-way to be here! You guys are
a blast and I kinda feel bada$$ saying ‘I’m a Bad Girl’ today!

Let’s play one of my favorite games. Am I normal? But we’ll play the writer’s version.

I day dream about my characters in scenes and plot lines that will never see print. Am I normal?

Of course! To be honest, it’s probably why it takes me so long to pound out that first draft. In my YA’s, I
inevitably make them older and put them in a ton of scenarios that just can’t make it into YA. Nothing
weird or X-rated, just randomness. Did Marleigh go to Prom? Will Sam be a lawyer or antique dealer
and have a fancy TV show. What if they got married? Wait, they’re in totally different books, can’t do
that…oh oh oh! I have an amazing story line for another book!( A writer’s secret revealed) Good books
don’t just fall out of our heads onto paper. It takes time—and lots of daydreaming.

I saw my character at the mall. Am I normal?

Very normal indeed! Though, the poor teenage girl probably thought I was a weirdo because I couldn’t
stop sneaking a peak at her at the food court and wondering if the cookie maker guy would make a
better boyfriend or fallen angel.

I was shopping the aisles of Target when a fellow writer’s Antagonist was shopping the snacks aisle.
Darkness and Evil on aisle 3! I literally stopped mid-stride (attempted to hold in my gasp) then spun
around to look at soda’s before he noticed my near melt down that the dark humanity ending evil was
about to get me. Crazy? Meh, sort of but also the mark of a great writer.

I shop for my characters. Am I normal?

Again, yes! Not only do I shop for my own, I see stuff my writer friend’s characters would like as well.
Ginny’s character would love that scarf. Mag’s guy would totally wear those jeans. C.E.’s chick could
totally rock those pumps! Even our fictional ladies love to shop!

Whose voice is that in my head? Am I normal?

Chances are, if you’re a writer, then it’s perfectly normal! That is my favorite moment in writing. It’s that
moment you’re doing the most mundane task and the argument suddenly burst into a knock-down-
drag-out-fight (and you reach for a pen instead of Googling “psychiatrist”.) If I could insert an over the
top sigh right here, I would. It does get annoying when your Muse refuses to keep them quiet when you
should be listening to your boss, checking homework for the kids, or feeding the dog Cool Ranch Dorito’s
because you were distracted by the intense scene in your head.

I’m a writer. Am I normal?

Of course not! Normal is boring (unless it pertains to medical work or money). Embrace what others
call crazy. To quote the adorable and loveable Leo the Lop: “The rabbits though and thought. “If we’re
normal and Leo is normal, then normal is whatever you are!”

Thanks again BGW for the opportunity to be Bad for a day! Hope to see you guys over at Laptops &
Lingerie soon!



The Pumpkin Polarization

About a month ago (almost exactly a month in fact) I was sitting in Panera with a friend, sharing our lamentations over bottomless cups of coffee and desserts that were certainly NOT gluten-free. She could understand my woes with such clarity and perfection, being a writer herself. Being a writer and one of my closest friends also helped as I would hate to thrust my venting and ranting on just anyone. If you’re reading this blog, well, you’ve volunteered for the torture. *g*

Writers are constantly having to create new material. Not only is this a necessity for a vibrant, thriving career, but it’s a damn requirement for living. Eat, breathe, sleep, write. Eating and sleeping are negotiable. But in the creation process, 1% of the time, we fill like badass artists, throwing letters into words like fucking glorious paint onto canvases which will change the lives of whoever sees it.

Yeah… 1%…. the remaining 99%, every word jotted down or typed looks like absolute shit. I mean, really, the rankest old man’s jockstrap wrapped around a dirty diaper and left out in the sun to ferment.

Even when we send our writing out for critiques and take strides to guard ourselves from harsh words said about our “babies,” it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Beta readers, contests, and random blind markups with a stranger’s red ink. Still, it’s not good enough! Our writing needs to be stronger, tighter, faster, meaner, stronger… Ahem.

No matter how much we do “what we’re supposed to do” to make our writing perfect, it’s never going to look that way in our eyes. We’re always going to find new flaws.

So, what does this have to do with pumpkins?

Maybe it was the plethora of pumpkin lattes percolating  or the pumpkin muffin sitting on my plate, but right there in Panera, I came up with an analogy for this whole problem. And yes, it’s pumpkins.

This time of year, we’re buying pumpkins for all sorts of tasty and creative reasons. To carve jack-o-lanterns and make delicious treats like pies and muffins. Both, to the best of my knowledge, involve scooping out all that pumpkin goop inside.

That pumpkin goop? That’s how we see our writing.

No matter what awesome end results for the pumpkin and that icky stuff, we’re still going to see the handfuls of gooey, gross, disgusting pumpkin goop. Everyone else is going to eat the pie and enjoy the terrifying holiday decorations. They’re even going to tell us (except for the weirdos who just hate pumpkin) how delicious or amazing our creations have turned out after all of our hard work. It doesn’t matter! We’re still going to see pumpkin goop.


Well not so much, because that would be messy, but what I’m trying to say is that writers shouldn’t stress or feel guilty. They can’t see the pumpkin pie for the pumpkin goop. Big whoop! We get to enjoy others savoring the pies and oh-ing and aw-ing over our lanterns. And that? That’s a great feeling. One of the best!

And, in all that goop, we find the seeds and they become the big idea for our next book.


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