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August 11, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 11: Purple

I gave you a glimpse of my green bathroom last month for my favorite color. Today, you get my PURPLE bathroom. This was my first semi-large remodeling I did after I bought my house. I did the bead board myself. Not picture is the vanity/sink I replaced.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

As Good as the 1st: Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness
Hardcover, 584 pages
Published July 2012 by Viking Adult
ISBN13: 9780670023486
Read August 2012
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon
 
I finished the first book A Discovery of Witches (see my review) just days before Shadow of Night came out. Though it took me a while to get to it, I think A Discovery of Witches was my most look forward to reads in my TBR pile. And it didn't disappoint. What I was disappointed about was that my library didn't immediately have Shadow of Night available. I had to wait a month to get my hand on it. I loved it just as much as the first book.

In Shadow of Night, we are transported back to 1590 by Diana's time-walking magic. It wasn't exactly what historian Diana was expecting, but she seemed to adapt better than Matthew. Can you imagine what it would be like to relive a life you already lived? Matthew struggled with being the 1590 Matthew - his ideals and what he thought was acceptable in the 16th century is not how the 21st century Matthew feels anymore. 

Shadow of Night read a bit slower for me, but as a commenter on Monday pointed out it was a denser read. That is definitely true. I felt like I was trudging (in a good way) through the thick threads that Diana and Matthew traveled through. When I read A Discovery of Witches, I thought it was more for fans of  Twilight, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it focused more on the lore of vampires and other creatures. When I finished Shadow of Night, I immediately thought "This is for Harry Potter fans who are now all grown up". We delve more into the magical world that Diana is woefully undereducated about.

Another aspect that made me thing of Harry Potter was the need to re-read it. I have read all the Harry Potter books multiple times. There is so much story in Shadow of Night that you can't absorb it all in the first reading. I was so anxious to get to the end (much like I was for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), that I don't think a grasped all that was taking place. I can't wait until the paperback edition comes out so I can get my own copy (I like my series to match and courtesy of Viking, my copy of A Discovery of Witches is paperback).

The days will start getting shorter soon and Shadow of Night would be an excellent choice to curl up with in the evenings. Get it here: Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

Your turn: I think A Discovery of Witches/Shadow of Night would make a great book club/party book. Wine is pretty prominent in the story, so maybe Wine Tasting with All Souls' Trilogy. Would you go to a book club/party? What would make good discussion questions?
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August 10, 2012

FlashFiveFriday: Success

The Indie Exchange has started a new weekly meme called Flash Five Friday. You are given 5 minutes to write a blog post on the theme for that week. You can then link your post to the meme on The Indie Exchange website, while there visit 5 other blogs to see what others had to say. This should be quick and painless...so here goes.



Success
When asked to talk about success, many people find it hard to pinpoint a success in their life to talk about. We haven't cured cancer, traveled to the moon, or perhaps written the great American novel, so we think I have nothing to talk about. Truth be, success comes in all shapes and sizes and occur each and every day. Here are a few of the successes I experienced this week.

I not only wash and dryer four loads of laundry last weekend, but I also folded and put away those 4 loads of laundry. SUCCESS - I had clean undies in the drawer each morning and didn't have to trudge downstairs to pull them out of the dryer.

My niece made a public confession of faith and was baptized on Sunday. I've taken her to church with me since she was 15 months old. Huge SUCCESS.

I drove home in the worst storm I've ever been in - like driving through a car wash there was so much rain, the lightening was blinding and frequent, the road was flooding to the point I thought I had my break on there was so much drag. SUCCESS - I made it home safely.

I interviewed one of my favorite authors for The Indie Exchange Book Bloggers show. SUCCESS - we made it through the show without me embarrassing myself too much.

That is just a few of the successes I've had this week and if I had more time I'm sure I could think of more. But time is up. I shall now go enjoy the slice of chocolate silk pie I got at lunch. SUCCESS!



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Photo Challenge Day 10: Ring

I have a pretty simple key RING. My library card, my house key from my previous house (my parents' home), the key to my house, and my car key. I like using the carbinger because I can clip it to my bag or belt loop so I don't lose them.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Friday Fun with J. C. Andrijeski

Yay! It's Friday and I have another author who has stepped up to the creativity plate to provide a little fun to start the weekend. Today, author J. C. Andrijeski joins us to talk about books that made it big, but left you scratching your head as to why, as well as, a few books she thinks should have made it big, but didn't. J. C.  has published novels, novellas, serials, graphic novels and short stories, as well as nonfiction essays and articles, including the Allie’s War series and The Slave Girl Chronicles. Her short fiction runs from humorous to apocalyptic, and her nonfiction articles cover subjects from graffiti art, meditation, psychology, journalism, politics and history. JC currently lives and writes full time at the foot of the Himalayas in India, a location she drew on a fair bit in writing the Allie's War books. Please visit JC's blog at http://jcandrijeski.blogspot.com


Why is that book so popular?
 
So after reading something like the thirtieth blog post today about the 50 Shades trilogy debating whether or not it "deserves" the attention it's getting, I found myself thinking about the oft-repeated myth that the best books written usually go unacknowledged, whereas the bad books get a lot of underserved praise. I don't know about most people on here, but I think I've been hearing some form of this "popular = bad" myth since I was a kid, whether it was relating to books, movies, music, painting/drawing or whatever else.

Just for the heck of it, I tried to think of a book that, in my mind, didn't "deserve" its popularity, including those I may not have, personally, liked. I haven't read the 50 Shades trilogy yet, so I can't comment on that one, but I have to say, the other books that popped into my mind didn't strike me as particularly undeserving.

Some of those books, I didn't like particularly. For example, The DaVinci Code, which had a writing style that irritated me and which I found pretty boring. But a lot of this had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with my taste...further, the big, controversial story around it wasn't really a new theory for me, since I read some of the nonfiction research it had been based on prior to reading the book. I'd also liked Katharine Neville's version better, personally, which I believe was called The Magic Circle. But I have to say, my personal tastes aside, I can't with any honesty say that The DaVinci Code didn't deserve all of the attention it got. It obviously hit a pretty big chord in people, and it was a little less complex than the Katharine Neville version, so more people got caught up in the story and followed along with the discovery process.

Not a big fan of John Grisham, either, although a few of the movies they've made out of his books were okay. Still, I really get why so many people do like him, and I don't really feel he falls into the "undeserving" camp either, in that the whole conspiracy theory, anti-lawyer thing somehow strikes me as kind of tailor-made for a large chunk of the American psyche and reading public.

Loved Harry Potter. Liked Twilight...and definitely got why it was such a big deal, in terms of the archetype of the story itself and the appeal to women in particular. I love Stephen King even if I haven't loved every single one of his books, and Neal Stephenson and Cormac McCarthy and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.

I guess my point is, in the span of my life so far, where I've often heard these "only the bad writers get rich" complaints, I couldn't think of a single book I've read that fit that category, at least not in a way that I felt confident wasn't a matter of personal taste. But hey, my tastes in reading might be off the norm...I've never read any James Patterson for example, and maybe only one Nora Roberts, so I know there are huge, massive genres out there that I have no clue about.

Your Turn: So what about you? What books can you think of that either go unnoticed and SHOULD have become the next big thing, or DID become the next big thing and really shouldn't have?

I thought I would offer the best answer in the comments an ebook copy of any one book in either my Allie's War series or The Slave Girl Chronicles (winner's choice). Of course, I'll have to judge it, and it'll be subjective, so apologies for that in advance, but I'm really looking forward to what people have to say...!



Learn about all of J. C. Andrijeski's books at Goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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August 9, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 9:Messy

The downstairs spare bedroom, which was suppose to be my craft room, has become more of a junk room as of late. I'm in the process of re-organizing so everything is a bit MESSY right now.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Tips on Thursday: Google & SEO

Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator)
Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator) (Photo credit: Aray Chen)
I saw this great article in the Book Marketing Expert newsletter last week and thought it was important to share with you. We all want to know how to get more traffic to our site whether we are a book blogger or an author and the information in this article is useful in understanding how Google "sees" you.

How to Get More (Qualified) Buyers to Your Website 

With all the changes going on with Google's algorithm, it's really crucial to understand what does and does not help your website. By the same token, you also need to know what will get you traffic and what will get you blacklisted by this mega search engine. 


By now, you've probably heard about the Penguin and Panda updates, but there have been more, though less talked about than these two. Basically Google is trying to keep search clean, which is great. Not so long ago you could "trick" the system (and many did) to get higher ranking in Google. So if you searched the term "vacuum" what you'd see could have been a mix of organic and black hat marketing tactics. It's the black hat that Google continues to go after. That said, some of us may be pushing promotional efforts that aren't the best, and we don't find out until our sites get hit. By then it's too late. 

In an ideal world, your site should be able to weather any algorithm change that Google throws at you. If you aren't sure if your site is vulnerable to these changes, keep reading. Why should this matter to you? Because if you're hit in the Google sweep, it could drop your site in search and, thereby, affect your traffic, SEO, and business.

So let's take a look first at what not to do, and how you can build a stronger presence online.

What not to do. First we need to figure out what you shouldn't be doing. Some of this will be obvious and some of it might be surprising.
 
Keyword stuffing: We all know that keyword stuffing is never a good idea. Keyword stuffing is a way of pushing a set or string of keywords in your website copy (generally on your homepage) over and over again so Google picks up on it and sends you consumers who are searching on those keywords. This might be the most lethal thing you can do right now, so make sure that your website (all pages, not just your homepage) is a solid blend of keywords and helpful information. If it's not, get it redone ASAP.
 
Link farms: A few weeks ago, I had a client ask me if she should buy into a service that would get her 5,000 new links for $500. I told her no. Why? Because getting too many links in a short period of time has always been a huge red flag for Google. Be careful if someone is promising you a lot of links over a short period of time; by "short" I mean overnight, or in a week or two. Even then, 5,000 links is still too much, in my view and the links (even if you should get them, which is questionable) won't be from sites that are related to your own so even if Google misses you on the sudden link increase, they will get you on the sites that aren't appropriate to your market.
 
Too many ads: Ads can be a great way to gain additional revenue, but too many ads could alert Google to a lack of content. How many is too many? Well, I think this falls into the: "If you're even asking this question, you likely have a problem" category. Generally, two or three ads on a page is fine - but if you have more ads than content, you're creating a problem for yourself and your website.
 
Article marketing: While there are a lot of folks still doing this, I feel very hesitant to recommend it which is partially why we pulled it from our list of marketing ideas over a year ago. Article sites were hit very hard during Panda and this has not gotten better. If you do article marketing, tread very carefully.

Keep in mind that the above list is subject to change, so checking in periodically with sites like SEOmoz.org can really help you keep track of new Google updates.
 
How to Get Great Results. Now let's look at how to get great results and how to "algorithm proof" your website:
 
Fresh content: Blogging is still a great way to drive traffic and social engagement to your website. Having a blog is great, adding content to it weekly (at a minimum) is better. Some SEO experts say that you really need to be updating your blog twice weekly in order for it to even make a dent.
 
Links to big sites: It's always helpful when you have the occasional link in your blog post to external and high ranking sites.

Google+: While it seems like Google+ is "just another social network" it's not, and while I know it's a hassle to have one more place to update, try doing a search on a particular keyword and I think you'll be surprised by how many Google+ results show up. Google+ is fantastic for SEO and while you don't have to spend a ton of time with it, you should be active on this site. Here are a few quick tips to get you going:

* We have both a personal page (mine) and our business page. We use both and both seem to show up high in searches.
* Make sure your page is optimized. Complete the Google+ verification process, add your About Me section, use your keywords when describing your business or what you do.
* Post regularly, videos are a great thing to post - Google+ seems to love videos and, of course, they own YouTube so videos have that built-in bonus. Additionally, pictures and quality content are always great to post on there.
* Add photos to your page and use the Google Scrapbook feature so that your page is visually appealing and mirrors your brand identity.
 
Diversity is key: Remember that it's never one thing that will drive traffic, but several things done over time. Your goal is to find those things that work well and do more of them. Don't put all of your SEO eggs into one basket. Make sure that you are doing 3-5 things to drive traffic. Why? Because if that one thing dries up (and given how many changes are happening online, it likely will) you need to keep the wheels of traffic turning with other options.

Not all traffic is created equal: Not all traffic will get you to conversion. You want to turn people into customers, that's your bottom line and surprisingly, you don't need a lot of traffic to do that. You need the right kind of traffic and a website that encourages them to take action.

Everything changes: You can't just put up a website and expect it to do the same great things for you all the time. Social metrics change, how people surf changes so you need to stay up to date on the changes that are happening. Staying in touch with key newsletters and/or websites is important to keeping track of what's happening out there.
 
Know your traffic stats and analytics: In order to get better, consistent traffic you need to know your analytics and you should be checking in with your site stats at least monthly, if not once a week. Good analytics (like Google analytics) will show you some pretty specific traffic numbers including what social sites are driving the most traffic. Something to focus on are bounce rates. We get a lot of traffic from Facebook (a lot) but the bounce rates from Facebook are fairly high. We also promote the business on LinkedIn and don't get as much traffic (maybe half of what Facebook sends us) but the bounce rate from LinkedIn is much lower and people are spending more time on the site. What this tells us is that while Facebook remains a good target, the visitors coming from LinkedIn might be more focused and perhaps more serious about doing business with us. Knowing these numbers will really help you to define where your best traffic is coming from so you can spend more time focusing there.

Getting traffic and seeing your business increase online is always a solid goal, but knowing what's working and where to best spend your time is even more important. Having a solid footing online isn't difficult, but it does take some time, effort, and a little bit of research. Staying alert to the changes and being aware of your traffic numbers will help you grow your client base, year after year. Recommended sites and newsletters:

http://searchenginewatch.com
http://www.seomoz.org/

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
 
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August 8, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 8: Glasses

These are the GLASSES I should be wearing while reading and working on the computer. Tidbit about me: growing up I always wanted to wear glasses. It wasn't until college that I needed them.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Week 7: The Next Big Thing

Coral at Alchemy of Scrawl roped...er, asked me to participate in this Work In Progress Blog Hop. So here goes...

What is the working title of your book?

Book Bloggers' Handbook

Where did idea for your book come from?

Shortly after I started blogging, I participated in Armchair BEA. One of the topics was sharing tips and tricks. I started to share whatever I learned and at the beginning the year started a weekly Tips on Thursday series. Soon, I got involved with a group of book bloggers and they encouraged me to turn the series into a book.

What genre does your book fall under?

It is non-fiction/self-help.

Which actors would you choose to play the characters in your book?

There are no characters in my book.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  

Tips and tricks to help you make your book blog everything you want it to be.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will query a few presses that accept unrepresented manuscripts, but if that goes no where I will self-publish.

How long did it take to write your first draft of your manuscript?

I'm still in the process of writing my first draft. It's a slow process given everything else I have on my plate right now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I haven't seen many books that are specifically for book bloggers, particularly if you have been blogging for more than 6 month. I've looked at Creative Blogging: Your First Steps to Successful Blogging. Another blogger told me about The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

Who or what inspired you to writer this book?

I was inspired by the community I found among book bloggers to start my Tips on Thursday series. But without the encouragement of a few ninja bloggers I would never consider turning it into a book.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

My weekly tips posts are just a glimpse of what will be included in my book. If you've been blogging 6 months or more you will find useful information on creating new content and expanding your audience.

Next up... 

K. B. Hoyle
Aine Greaney
William j. Barry
Vickie Johnstone
Lisa Bilbrey

Rules:
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
It’s that simple.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?



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August 7, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 7: 8 O'Clock

On weekdays at 8 O'CLOCK, I'm sitting down at my desk with breakfast and checking email. Bagel with peanut butter  is typically on the menu.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

Compelling Story: Devil in Disguise

Devil in Disguise by Heather Huffman
ebook
Published June 2012 by Booktrope
Read July 2012
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

Heather Huffman has once again written a compelling story that was at turns both heart-wrenching and light-hearted. I don't know how she was able to find the perfect balance between light and dark. Heather's writing gets better with each story, though I don't think it is that's possible when reading her work.

In Devil in Disguise, we once again meet up with Rachel and Conrad who we last saw in Jailbird (see my review). Rachel is back in the city being the media darling she naturally is. Conrad continues to work at the casino in New Jersey even though he is no longer with Rachel. Their paths are destined to cross again as are a few other characters from Heather's other books. Neena and Charlie from Jailbird are definitely present and accounted for. Suddenly a Spy's Victoria and Rick are also deeply involved in this storyline. And give the subject matter and approximately, we even get a glimpse of Harmony and Vance from Throwaway (see my review). Heather again takes on human trafficking and the sex trade, this time with every parents' worst nightmare. Rachel's teenage sister is lured from her home by a guy she met in a chat room only to find herself at the brutal hands of human traffickers. Rachel enlists the help of everyone she can think of, but does she know how well connected some of her friends are?

Heather could have made a serious dark tale extremely dark and twisted, but instead of the shock and awe method, she weaves a tale that is equal parts dark and light. Just as you think you are getting to a point where you can't hold back the tears, Heather pulls back with a touch of humor. I know when I read one of Heather Huffman's books, I'm going to shed a tear or two. I also know that there will be light moments that show a character's strength or the power of love. In Devil in Deguise, I not only smiled at the sweet moments but found myself chuckling quite a few times.

If you are looking for realistic drama, that isn't all doom and gloom, but instead follows life's ups and downs then definitely pick up one of Heather Huffman's books. While I have read Jailbird and Throwaway, I have not read Suddenly a Spy. I don't think you necessarily need to read the other books in order to enjoy Devil in Disguise as Heather does a great job of sprinkling the backstory of the characters throughout the story.

Your turn: How do you like your realistic dramatic fiction? Doom and gloom, the nitty-gritty, dark and twisted, or a balance of dark and light?

I will be chatting with Heather Huffman on The Indie Exchange's Book Bloggers radio show on Friday night (8 pm EST). It is a live show and you are welcome to call in to chat with us.


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August 6, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 6: Writing

This is the only type of WRITING that got done today (and it didn't happen until after 9 pm).

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

This week in books...





News:

I got exciting news from one of my favorite authors. The cover reveal for the second book in the Confessions series by J. B. Lynn is happening TODAY at KillerChicks.org

Fellow bloggers Suzie of Bunny's Review and Coral of Alchemy of Scrawl have put together a fundraiser for House Rabbit Society called Books for Bunnies. By making a donation to HRS you can enter to win an amazing book. Tons of authors have donated books for the cause. Learn all about it BooksforBunnies.com

Remember to check out my monthly column at The Indie Exchange.

I'm also hosting this week's The Indie Echange's Book Bloggers radio show. Our special guest will be Heather Huffman. I hope you will tune it (you can call in with to talk with me and Heather as well.)

I'm working with middle grades author Karen Pokras Toz on her upcoming virtual tour for Millicent Marie in Not My Name. The tour is in October and we would love to have you on board. Sign up here. 10-11-12...Go!


Finished:

Reporter Rachel Cooper is America’s Sweetheart – but that won’t help her when human traffickers kidnap her sister. Can an old flame help her protect the ones she loves? Does she even want him to? From Goodreads.com
Find Devil in Disguise at Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon.




Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season. From Goodreads.com
Find Shadow of Night at Goodreads. IndieBound, Amazon

Reading:

Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver's Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures. From Goodreads.com
Find Doodling at Goodreads, Amazon

 In Attached, Levine and Heller reveal how an understanding of adult attachment-the most advanced relationship science in existence today-can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment posits that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:


Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner's ability to love them back Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving. In this book Levine and Heller guide readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love. From Goodreads.com
Find Attached. at Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

Listening:


In 1895 Hardy's final novel, the great tale of Jude The Obscure, sent shockwaves of indignation rolling across Victorian England. Hardy had dared to write frankly about sexuality and to indict the institutions of marriage, education, and religion. But he had, in fact, created a deeply moral work. The stonemason Jude Fawley is a dreamer; his is a tragedy of unfulfilled aims. With his tantalizing cousin Sue Bridehead, the last and most extraordinary of Hardy's heroines, Jude takes on the world and discovers, tragically, its brutal indifference. The most powerful expression of Hardy's philosophy, and a profound exploration of man's essential loneliness, Jude The Obscure is a great and beautiful book. 'His style touches sublimity.' T.S. Eliot From Goodreads.com
 Find Jude the Obscure at Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

This Week:

Tuesday: Review of Devil in Diguise by Heather Huffman
Wednesday: WIP Blog Hop
Tips on Thursday: SEO & Google Search
Friday Fun with J. C. Andrijeski
Saturday: Review of Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness


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August 5, 2012

Photo Challenge Day 5: Logo

It's not a very good picture, but I didn't know if it would be the only LOGO I would see it today.

Photo a Day Challenge is hosted by Fat Mum Slim

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