Thursday, September 30, 2021

Woodstock by Eden Monroe


Almost Broken takes place in Woodstock.

No, not that Woodstock. This story is set in one of the other thirty-four Woodstocks found in seven countries around the world. Actually, the name Woodstock is so popular, some countries have more than one. Canada, the UK and Jamaica all have two Woodstocks; Australia has four; South Africa and New Zealand each have one, but the Woodstock winner is the United States with twenty-two, including the namesake for arguably the most famous rock festival in history. Actually, the 1969 Woodstock festival was staged on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, some sixty miles away from the town of Woodstock. 

In any event, the small town that serves as the setting for Almost Broken is Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada, located in beautiful Carleton County, not far from the US border at Houlton, Maine. And also, because you’re never very far from a river in New Brunswick, including in Woodstock, the St. John and Meduxnekeag rivers play a pivotal role in this romantic suspense about struggle and triumph.

The history of this Woodstock location has its own colourful cast of forefathers, when in 1783, the area was settled by disbanded veterans of DeLancey’s Brigade following the American Revolutionary War. The first incorporated town in New Brunswick in 1856, Woodstock has plenty of local charm. But aside from it being a nice place to live and visit, it’s special to me because it’s where my best friend lives, and it never fails to remind me of countless good times spent there. Of course there’s a Main Street marching proudly through it, serving not only as a gentle reminder of a storied downtown of days past, but also a vibrant example that the town’s lifeblood still flows deep, rich and strong as it continues to reinvent itself with an abundance of modern amenities.


The Carleton County Courthouse stands sentinel on Main Street on a warm August day, an imposing presence in this former Shiretown. I think of Blaise Callaghan of Almost Broken as the gavel sounds its damning echo, and his life takes a dramatic and unexpected turn, exposing the terrible underbelly of things heretofore unimaginable. That judge’s decision left Blaise grappling with a painful new reality, while he struggles to hold onto important remnants of his past.

“He closed his eyes as a natural longing washed over him. He could definitely feel a connection with this woman. ‘I can’t, but thank you,’ he said, his voice barely above a whisper, very much aware of his six p.m. to six a.m. curfew and the fact that his parole officer had warned him that he’d never know when he’d come to his house to check up on him. Otherwise he’d be temped to soothe his soul in the arms of this beautiful woman.

‘All right then,’ she said quietly. ‘I understand.’

“She started to get out then turned back. ‘I’m going to go now,’ she said leaning imperceptibly closer, and his lips found hers. It was a great kiss, fired by mutual desire, and it deepened quickly before they broke it off, breathless, both needing more, but knowing it would never happen.

“She reached up and smoothed the hair back off his forehead in an affectionate gesture as she gazed into his eyes. ‘Good-bye, Blaise Callaghan. Stay strong and take care of yourself. I wish for you all good things.’

“He watched as she got into her car and drove away. She was a desirable woman, there was no mistaking that, but if it had been possible to get together, it would have only been for one night. No one could compare to Sophie. No one.”

The sun beats down with often relentless intensity on this idyllic little town, the flags fluttering in a gentle afternoon breeze on Main Street. Meanwhile, Blaise still finds himself in the middle of a nightmare as shadows begin to lengthen around him….

“Thirst tortured him, his throat having turned to dust hours ago. He could see the river through the trees; hear the waves lapping and that only added to his torment. Could he crawl there and get a drink?  He moaned, or was it a call for help? Certainly, the crows that frequented the trees around him could do nothing, except mock him unmercifully.”


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Take the Taconic

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Driving solo is not something I grew up doing. My teen path did not take me down automobile alley, like so many other American kids. I learned to drive only after I'd become a mom. I was a fairly timid driver for many years, but that wore off quickly after dementia began to hunt my own mother down, necessitating frequent 400+ mile round trips to southern Ohio. I drove the PA Turnpike to I-70, close to Dayton, before turning south and driving through farmland. 

Going through the little burg of Enon, just south of I-70, in need of psychic help before I arrived to face whatever age-related catastrophe awaited, I'd momentarily abandon my goal and  divert to the tiny residential loop of '50's houses that encircle the sacred space of a lone Adena Mound. The place still has some Mojo left, though, and a few moments of contemplating it always gave me strength. 

Those earlier anxious journeys were how I learned to drive alone. As everyone knows, you've got to keep your wits about you on an interstate. Out there are all kinds of people, in vastly different mental conditions, hurtling along at the speed limit or better--mostly way better--and you have to watch your back, as well as pay attention to the road ahead. To paraphrase the old maps and their dragons: "Here there be Potholes & Folks with Anger Issues."

I went to see an old friend in Western Massachusetts recently. We usually drive a route that we've been using since we left the Northampton area. This involves driving east from Harrisburg, up I-81 into coal/fracking country, with heavy truck traffic--no tolls on this road--toiling up mountains and then braking down into the narrow upstate valleys lined with old mining and rail towns, everyone trying to get something going again in those semi-moribund cities and jamming the Eisenhower-era roads to the hilt. A sharp turn south and you hitch yourself to I-84 East, which bangs and bumps it's way into New York State, crossing first the Delaware and then the Hudson at speeds that were, 100 years ago, unimaginable. 

                                                            The early 60's bridge at Newburgh

Instead of enduring the increasing congestion and insanity of I-84 as it roars into Connecticut, this time I took an alternate route north, an old FDR era road, The Taconic Parkway. This is narrow, twisting, and, in places, raggedly patched, parkway was engineered for 45-55 mph, and is crisscrossed by (often) blind side roads. In the late '30's, the Taconic was a wonder, however, allowing people from southern NY/NJ to easily drive north into Northern NY vacation-land, to escape the heat and crowding of a big City. The "Parkway" designation meant there are no trucks, an added benefit. Lots of us oldies remember standing, gripping the back of the front seat, peering over the driver's shoulder while our car and a line of others dragged along on a single lane road through hilly country, behind loaded trucks which didn't have the engineering to allow them to hold their pace when climbing.

                                                                     Figure this out...

 The Taconic was a progressive model of a public work created for the benefit of a rising urban middle class.  The road was originally carefully landscaped, but time and funding have by-passed it, and now  woodlands encroach from every side, making those green alleys a dangerous choice during twilight when the deer are moving, or after dark or in bad weather. Night driving there, I've read, can be fatal, especially when the inebriated or the just-plain-confused enter the Parkway and do unexpected things like driving South on a north bound lane. I can't imagine much worse than popping uphill while taking a fun curve on your motorcycle or in your small European car and being surprised by van headlights accelerating toward you.

Despite all these scary what-if, my Taconic drive was a relief. It felt to slow down, mind the speed limit in light traffic while having time to notice the September blue of the sky and see little flocks of  compact clouds racing west.  After a long hot summer, a Northern High had come to bless my journey. The weather was clear, breezy and cool. Each mile I drove North, I felt better, and this feeling buoyed me through the post-stop-to pee+ lunch-break stupor which my metabolism decrees will follow. 

Besides, I was getting closer to be with my friend, closer to the end of the journey, toward a warm welcome and a flood of cheerful reunion talk. It was a  pilgrimage, too, in a way, back to a once beloved landscape where my children were born and where 20 year-old young married adventures were had, there on the purple skirts of the Berkshires. 

The Taconic ends abruptly, linking me via plentiful signage to I-90. Not many miles east, I was on the Mass Pike, heading toward Boston.  After the long stretches of the morning, I soon found myself hopping off into what used to be a scattering of woodlots and farmland. Sadly, this has become, in the last two decades, strip malls, warehouses, gas stations and housing clusters.  There was stop-and-go traffic on the roads we once used to bicycle. At last, entering a network of roads, now paved, once improved gravel, I wound over steep short hills and into narrow creek-side valleys, houses now everywhere across those once-upon-a-time cornfields, hunting cabins and forests of maple, oak, and pine. 

The house is 50 years older now and the bright golden logs are muted. There is still woodland between my friend and her neighbors. When she and her husband built their log cabin--mostly just the two of them, with pauses for her to nurse their new baby--there were farms and forests and a dirt road. Like some once wooded parts of Pennsylvania, however , this area is pockmarked with houses, and  developments are popping up connected by actual paved roads upon any acreage that is left. 

Steps down to the garden, covered with sweet-smelling lemon thyme. Everything you see done by hand.

My friend is there still, getting older like all of us. She is a little younger than me, but she's had a physically hard life. For years she was a cook for years in a busy sea-food restaurant, working long hours in heat amid the constant roar of industrial fans. Now she's deaf, and medical conditions hamper her movements and threaten her balance. The last time I visited, three years ago pre-Covid, I would also take time to visit my friend Kathy in Connecticut. Losing her earlier this year demonstrated to me that while I can still  manage to travel to see friends, I had better do so. 

I met her in the late '60's, when I was twenty-one and already had a "spring off." My husband and I were present at her wedding, when she was 19 and her husband, like mine, was twenty-one. He was my husband's best friend from High School and I remember well the sight of the new couple's knees shaking as they stood in front of the preacher.  Now we are all moving toward 80 at a rapid pace. 
"When I'm 64" is far behind us, although we remember singing along with that one, imagining that we would live brave new lives and never grow old. One thing hasn't changed about my friend--she still has a magnificent head of hair that falls all the way to the back of her knees--even though it's not easy for her now arthritic fingers to braid it. She is wiser than ever, though, and a bright soul and a sense of humor still shine through her eyes. 

My friend and I have a lot to catch up on, and so we talk a blue streak. She has, like the rejoicing family in the Bible, "killed the fatted calf" for me and I am honored by her kindness and generosity. We will feast on mushrooms and good steak one night and the next day go out in the middle of the afternoon for lobsters straight from Maine, the first I've had since visiting here three years ago. We hit the intriguing used book stores in nearby college town Northampton. On on the way there, I admire all the dispensaries Massachusetts residents may enjoy, anchoring many of those new strip malls. We buy fresh off the trees local apples, a crunchy Macoun/Honeycrisp hybrid and drink local cider. We took a drive upriver to visit Historic Deerfield Village on the National Register of historic places, where my friend gamely climbed steep staircases to see where the humble servants and boarders slept, in rooms with no heat.   

When we said "good-bye" at the end of our time together, we both hoped this wouldn't be the last time visit, sharing stories and memories, though, we both know all too well by now that change is the only constant. 

~~Juliet Waldron

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Red & White, at war in the world, and in her blood 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Eccentric (Quirky) Writing Habits? Yes, I Have a list. By Connie Vines #BWLAuthors Blog, #MFRWAUthor, #WritingTips

Most authors, of course, have personal eccentric writing practices. Fueled, no doubt by his or her personal muse. 

Agatha Christie munched on apples in the bathtub while pondering murder plots, 

Flannery O’Connor crunched vanilla wafers.

Vladimir Nabokov fueled his “prefatory glow” with molasses.

Then there was the color-coding of the musesAlexandre Dumas, for decades, he penned all of his fiction on a particular shade of blue paper, his poetry on yellow, and his articles on pink; on one occasion, while traveling in Europe, he ran out of his precious blue paper and was forced to write on a cream-colored pad, which he was convinced made his fiction suffer.

 Charles Dickens was partial to blue ink, but not for superstitious reasons — because it dried faster than other colors, it allowed him to pen his fiction and letters without the drudgery of blotting.

Virginia Woolf used different-colored inks in her pens — greens, blues, and purples. Purple was her favorite, reserved for letters (including her love letters to Vita Sackville-West, diary entries, and manuscript drafts. 

Lewis Carroll also preferred purple ink, but for much more pragmatic reasons: During his years teaching mathematics at Oxford, teachers were expected to use purple ink to correct students’ work — a habit that carried over to Carroll’s fiction.

So how do my little eccentric (or never before mentioned) writing practices measure up?  Is my personal muse quirky, dull, or out of control?

Since my quirks are normal for me, I had to think about this for a bit.

• I always drink coffee that is part of my current ‘setting’.  When my setting is New Orleans I mail-order my coffee from my favorite spot. If I'm writing a story where the season is more than a backdrop, like my current novel, I drink flavored coffee.  At the moment, it is Pumpkin Spice (Starbucks limited blend). 🎃

Café du Monde.  I have my cup and saucer, and a portable mug when I am writing outdoors.   I have a blue coffee pot and matching tin cup when I am writing westerns (yes, the coffee is VERY strong and black).  And of course, a Starbuck cup, Disneyland/ Club 33 mug, or Snoopy (Peanuts) mug when my novels take place in SoCal.

• My music and my menu planning also is linked to my settings.  All within the range of normal.  Though I have more than my fair share of coffee mugs and cups.

• I listen to diction videos on YouTube so that I am not relying on my memory for the sound of a Cajun accent, Texan’s drawl, etc.

• I visit areas on Google Earth and Zillow.  Even if I have lived or vacationed there, I may have forgotten an interesting ‘something’ I can insert into dialogue, or find a way to describe a scene.

• I talk to myself.  Oh, not simple little sentences.  I’m talking about a two-way conversation: “Do you think that might work?”  “No.  Would you do that?” 

 “How about. . .”  This is about the time my husband walks by to find out who’s on the phone, or if I’m asking him a question.  The dog even pokes her head in from the doorway to see what’s going on.  I’m guessing this is not in the  ‘normal range.

• When I write, my workspace is in perfect order.  I have colored folders/pens/notebooks that match and are exclusive to the story I’m working on at the moment.

• I never enroll in an online class when I’m writing—it’s guaranteed writers’ block.  I never talk about my WIP . Why? If I talk about it I think I've added that 'tidbit' to my story.  Then I find myself reading through my draft over and over wondering where the scene went!

• If I'm writing a contemporary story, I only read historicals or fantasy novels. I never read in the same genre I'm writing

💖Whatever story I’m am currently working on is always my favorite.

• I survive on 3 hours of sleep when I am deep in a story.  I know I drink coffee, but I seem to run the story in my mind when I sleep too.

• I also pick up the quirks of my heroines.  I have several friends who are in theater and said it’s a bit like ‘method acting’. 

Fortunately, I’m back to my state of normal a couple of weeks after typing THE END.

I believe all of these little quirks are part of a writer’s voice.  It is what we, as readers, look for in a story.  

Hopefully, it is what my readers, enjoy about the novels, short stories, and novellas that I write too.

To include a bit of personal history: Anton Lada was my granduncle.  (My personal blog, Dishin' It Out, features him in my "Random Thoughts, Scattered About" Monday.

Arkansas Blues by Anton Lada & Spencer Williams for your listening pleasure 🎵🎹🎤

Happy Reading!


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Rodeo Romance Series and Sassy and Fun Fantasy Series
by Connie Vines

Monday, September 27, 2021

Not that kind of angel - by Vijaya Schartz

I dream of angels all the time… sometimes I am one. Do not cry blasphemy. I’m not that kind of angel. That’s probably why I have recurring angel themes in my novels. (Archangel twin books – Azura chronicles – Byzantium Space Station – Blue Phantom series scheduled for release in 2022).

Visit my page on the BWL website HERE

Angels or aliens? It is safe to say that angels, being not of this earth, are by definition extraterrestrials, which makes them aliens, not from our world, but from somewhere else. Just clarifying vocabulary here.

“I’m not that kind of angel” is a famous quote from the movie Michael with John Travolta. In the movie, he portrays the Archangel Michael, fallen from grace. The same is true for the hero of my Archangel books, where Michael is a very reluctant archangel with many problems to overcome. Drinker… single father… girlfriend problems… he doesn’t know he’s an angel, and refuses to acknowledge the call when he is needed to fight evil.

Creating a fictional universe with angels was a challenge… but I love challenges. First, what do we know about angels? They do not have free will. They are legion. They are the instrument of the almighty. They are powerful. Some are described with wings, flying through the air. They have beautiful voices, and beautiful names. They can perform miracles…

According to ancient books, a very long time ago, a group of them questioned authority, revolted, and were banished… and have wreaked havoc ever since. The good angels are forever fighting the bad ones in a constant struggle of good vs. evil.

The angels in my book fit the same criteria. But the story of their origin is unique to my universe… the Azura universe.

Some of them carry flaming swords, like the Archangel Michael.

On a deeper level, the good angels represent what we wish to be, vs. what we really are (flawed). So it’s reassuring when angels are not perfect… like the ones in my books. It gives us hope that we’ll someday overcome our flaws to ascend toward the light.

In the meantime, you can enjoy reading my novels. I enjoyed writing them for you. Happy reading.

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
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Sunday, September 26, 2021

So what to write next—Tricia McGill


Find all my books here on my BWL Author page

People ask me where do my ideas come from, and where do you begin—simple answer to the second part of course, is at the beginning. As for the ideas, well, all over the place, often from dreams or a small incident that happens. As I write across Romance sub-genres, I usually do not have trouble deciding what book to start on next. The choice has proved rather more difficult than usual. Blame it on Covid, the current upside down state of our world, or just my own current state of lassitude.

Anyhow, it is now time to buckle up (or is that down) and get on with working instead of procrastinating. As my preferences are Time-Travel and Historical, it took me precisely five minutes of careful research on the internet before settling on another Historical Romance. Next step was to decide where to set this book and in what period to set it. This also came easy for me as quite a few of my contemporary romances are set in my favourite state of Victoria, and some of my historicals set in my home city of Melbourne. I happen to love research and so it is no hardship for me to delve into a certain period or place as setting. It took me another few minutes to decide on the background story. Now I will just go away and chat with my Muse who will introduce me to my main characters, this being for me the most important part of the entire process.

Okay, I am back from my lunch and only partially closer to knowing my protagonists. I usually know my characters quite well before I start and they nag me until I get their story going. I have the period more or less set around the 1850s. Melbourne was declared a city in 1847, but I want to go outside the city and head north.

Aha, the Victorian Gold Rush started around the 1850s and then there was what became known here as The Eureka Stockade, which in fact was a battle that lasted all of 20 minutes on 3rd December 1854. That sounds to be a good place to start any story. In the event that you know absolutely nothing about this event—on 30th November that year, miners from the Victorian town of Ballarat, so disgruntled by the way the colonial government administered the goldfields, swore allegiance to the Southern Cross flag at a place called Bakery Hill. They built a stockade at the Eureka Diggings. Government troops attacked the stockade, and in the ensuing battle at least 22 miners died plus six soldiers.

Peter Lalor
This rebellion was the idea of one Peter Lalor who asked men to take the oath to be faithful to The Southern Cross and to stand true to each other in the fight to defend their rights and liberties. Sound familiar? The rebellion proved to be a key event in the development of Australia’s representational structures and attitudes towards democracy.

What if my hero turned out to be the son (or near relative) of one of the miners who died? How would he behave in the aftermath of the rebellion? In fact, he could have been a mere lad when the battle took place. The heroine perhaps is the daughter of one of the owners (a widow) of a lodging house that had been built to house the miners as they flocked into the area. Could the couple have become known to each other when they were teenagers?

So, there you see, in the space of an hour or so I already have the characters in my head, know more or less where they lived and about what time my story will begin. Next task is to name them and learn the characteristics that set them apart from those around them. 

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Saturday, September 25, 2021

A (very!) Brief History of Mining in Cornwall by A.M.Westerling

 Cornwall is known for its wild, craggy shorelines, its history of smuggling, as the location of Daphne du Maruier’s Jamaica Inn and of course Cornish pasties. It’s also known for its landscape which is rich in metallic mineral deposits, particularly tin and copper. In Catherine’s Passion, Book 3 of The Ladies of Harrington House, the hero is in the process of reviving an old tin mine that had flooded. Therefore this blog post will focus on tin mining although copper mining also played a great role in Cornwall’s history.

Mining activity in Cornwall dates back to the Bronze age, where tin was taken out of river valleys or by open cast mining. It was obviously a valuable commodity for there is evidence of trade between Cornwall and northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. It was also of great value to Britain as Cornwall (and Devon) were the only local sources of tin.

By medieval times, Cornish tinners were renowned. Because of the valuable resource they provided, they were subject to special taxes, with unique privileges granted by Royal Charter. Cornish stannaries, or the areas where tin was mined, had their own laws and own parliament.  These stannaries were organized to manage the collection of tin coinage, which was the duty payable on the tin mined in that particular area. In my story, the tin ore will be sent to Truro, one of Cornwall’s ‘stannary’ towns. Locally mined tin (and copper) was brought there twice a year for assaying and stamping before shipment. Tinners had special rights, even to the extent of ignoring some of the laws of the land.

As the surface resources faded, tinners dug deeper to follow the lodes. The tin lodes were found in near vertical sheets in the rock. Hard rock mining and draining water from shafts produced skills and machinery that eventually were exported around the world. For example, Cornishman Richard Trevithick invented the Cornish high pressure steam engine, using them to pump water from the mines, lift ore to the surface and crush ore. Once numbering around 3000, Cornish beam engine houses are truly iconic landmarks. (This book about Richard Trevithick and his inventions is available on Amazon.)

Around 25 percent of the Cornish population worked in mines, from the mineral lords and investors to working families. Even the women were involved as bal maidens (bal is Cornish for mine) working “at grass” (above ground), crushing ore into fragments by hammer on anvil with only big hats called gooks to protect them from bad weather and rock debris. The men worked underground in hot dusty tunnels, running the constant risks of drowning, rock falls, and explosions.

The courage and skills of Cornish hard rock miners provided many a miner with a good living abroad, from the California Gold Rush to Australia, South Africa and beyond. A local who made this journey became known in Cornwall as a Cousin Jack. One theory that these men were called Cousin Jack is because they were always asking for a job for their cousin “Jack” back home. Another theory is that it’s because miners always used to greet each other by cousin and Jack was the most popular name in Cornwall at that time.

It's always an interesting challenge as a writer to include historical detail into works of fiction. I find any research I do always gives me story ideas! Read about Julian Fitzgerald and his tin mine in Catherine's Passion, coming soon from BWL Publishing. 😀



You can find all my books on the BWL Publishing website HERE.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Dragon Boating by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey



Dragon boating

Dragon boating is a very popular water sport and there are festivals held all over the world. Many of those have special breast cancer survivor races. Every four years there is an international breast cancer survivor-only festival put on by the International Breast Cancer Paddling Committee.

I belong to a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, B.C. I have been to international festivals in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Caloundra, Queensland, Australia, Sarasota, Florida, USA and Florence, Italy. About one hundred teams gather from around the world at each of these events and it is amazing to see the thousands of women dressed in pink.

Each team has twenty paddlers in the boat, plus one drummer and one steersperson. The drummer, who sits at the front with a drum and baton, pounds the drum to keep us paddling in rhythm while the steersperson in the back keeps us on course. Both of them watch our paddling technique. The boat is narrow at both ends and bulges in the middle, making it a tight fit for the paddlers at the front and back. There are two paddlers per seat and the person beside you is your partner.

As paddlers we have one hand on the handle of the paddle and the other on the shaft near the blade. We raise the paddle and lean out over the side of the boat so that the paddle is vertical and both hands are over the water. We bend forward which puts the blade of the paddle beside the hip of the person in front of us. This is our reach. We jab the blade into the water and pull it back until it is near our own thigh then lift it out. That is our stroke. All the twenty paddlers have to do this in unison, called timing, in order for the boat to go forward. The faster we stroke the faster the boat goes.


The following is a list of orders that can be given to dragon boat paddlers by their steersperson or drummer. I have heard them all either during practice or in a race. However, taken out of context some may be considered a little off colour.

Do you mind stroking for us?

Do you have any wax for my shaft? 

We'll do a wet start.

Give me two more inches.

Lower your hand on the shaft.

Pull out sooner, you're getting me wet.

It's really tight back here.

You're holding the shaft too tight, relax your grip.

Dig it deep and feel the glide.

Open up and show your partner your chest.

Don't bob your head.

We are a bit front heavy.

Give it to me.

Don't pull out too soon.

Give it all you got.

Close your eyes and feel the rhythm.

Pull it out at the same time as the person in front of you.

I have a blister on my butt.

Lift your butt cheek when you reach, it helps you thrust more.

You're pulling out too soon and it's splashing me.

Deeper, harder, stronger, faster.

Dig, dig.

Keep it long.

Long and strong.

Harder, harder.

Faster, faster.

Power finish now.

You have this, you have this.

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