Just to prove I've been hard at work, here's a sneak peek from For the Wildings (spoilers redacted):
Lainie woke up on a cold stone floor in a dark room. Moonlight streamed in through a single small window high up on the wall; more dim light shone from somewhere behind her. Memories came to her mind, the battle with Lord Astentias, and then a violent blast that had sent her flying –
She sat up, groaning at the aches and pains that flared into life all over her body, and looked around the room. The window wasn’t barred, but it was too high and too narrow for anyone to be able to climb through. Three of the walls of the small cell were solid, made of hard-baked mud brick; the fourth had a door of iron bars set into it. On the other side of the door, a barrel-chested man with the copper badge of a deputy pinned to his vest sat at a desk, feet propped up on the desktop, snoring softly. A half-empty whiskey bottle stood on the floor by his chair. Lainie and Silas’s gunbelts were piled on the desk. Lainie pushed her face against the bars to get a better look to either side of her cell; she was on the left end of a row of four cells. “Silas?” she whispered loudly.
His hand appeared from between the bars of the cell at the other end. “Over here, darlin’,” he answered, likewise keeping his voice low. “You okay over there?”
“I’m fine. I’m kind of sore.” In truth, she felt like she had fallen off her horse. Everything felt bumped and bruised and scraped, but at least nothing seemed to be broken. “How are we going to get out of here?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll have us out of here right quick. Let’s be ready to restrain the good deputy there if he wakes up.”
“I don’t think he’ll wake up; it looks like he’s got a good dose of whiskey in him.” At that moment, the man at the desk let out a loud, gasping snore. Lainie froze; the deputy mumbled to himself, then fell quiet again.
Lainie let out a long breath; still, she kept a wary eye on the deputy, a thread of power at the ready to bind him if he woke up. A soft chunking sound came from the other end of the room, then the barred door of Silas’s cell swung open. Noiselessly, he walked over to Lainie’s cell and set the forefinger of his left hand against the lock. The ring on his finger pulsed with faint light, blue streaked with amber. With a murmured word and a slight gesture of his finger, the tumblers in the lock turned and the lock came open.
“That was too easy,” Lainie whispered as she stepped out of the cell.
Silas nodded. “There was a charm on the locks that probably alerted someone when I opened them. We better hurry.”
They went quietly to the desk and buckled on their gunbelts, then left the jailhouse, managing to not wake the deputy. Outside, they stood in the shadows of the covered walkway, pressed back against the wall of the building, looking to see if the way was clear. “How come you never showed me how to do that unlocking spell?” Lainie asked quietly.
“I wouldn’t want to corrupt your morals, Miss Lainie,” Silas said with a wink.
“It’s far too late to be worrying about that, Mr. Vendine.” Lainie looked around at the dark, deserted street. The night was cold and quiet; the moonlight shone on the snow frosting the roofs of the unburned buildings and piled along the edges of the street. “I wonder where that boy got to.”
“I didn’t see him in the jail,” Silas said.
Lainie’s heart froze. “I hope they didn’t hang him after they locked us up.”
“Mister?” a voice said from nearby. “Ma’am?”
Lainie just about jumped out of her skin. She and Silas spun towards the voice, hands instinctively going to their guns. A skinny figure stood at the opening of the narrow gap between the sheriff’s office and the neighboring building – Jimmo, the boy who’d nearly been hanged. Lainie willed her heart to stop pounding like a herd on the stampede. “Thank the gods, they didn’t hang you,” she whispered.
The lack of blog posts means I've been working hard lately. Here's an update:
In January, I wrote 27,123 words and so far this month I've written 10,303 for a total of 37,426, which has me on track to write over 290,000 words this year. My goal for the year is 250,000, so I'm way ahead of where I need to be for that. I committed to writing 1000 words of new fiction a day, and with the exception of a day off here and there to think of more stuff to write, I've been sticking to that.
Among those words are a bunch of short stories, which I'll be taking the best of and putting into collections for release. Subscribers to my email alerts will have the opportunity to get them for free, so if you haven't signed up yet, make sure you do!
I also wrote a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories, a warm and fuzzy holiday piece set between books 3 and 4, and one that comes after the end of book 6. That one will be a freebie for people who finish book 6; I just need to figure out how to set that up.
Speaking of book 6, I'm nearly done with this editing pass on For the Wildings. After this will be a few clean-up passes and the proofreading. I'm thinking it will be out late in March (it's a long book, a good bit longer than the others in the series, so it just takes longer to edit). To make sure you don't miss out on the release and the limited-time special price, sign up for my email alerts.
I guess I'm pushing the email signups. That's the best way to make sure you find out when I have a new book out (and to get in on the new release price that I run for only a few days) and also to find out about other special deals and promotions. And don't worry, I won't spam you or share your info.
Also, I just released a box set of Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song. The regular price is $8.99, which is the equivalent of a dollar off each book, or 25% off the total regular price. So if you haven't read these, you can get the set of three for a discount off the regular price of buying the books separately. Or you can wait for price drops and promotions, which will happen but I don't know when or how often. It's available at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | OmniLit | DriveThruFiction (bundle of separate books)
And just this week, I started the draft of the first book in the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings! Don't get too excited yet, it's going to be a while before this is ready to come out, but it is happening. I'm still not solid on the outline of the whole series, but yesterday I was asking myself, "What are the absolute worst things that can happen in this series?" and had a brilliant idea :D I love it when a new project suddenly starts to take shape like that.
So, lots of editing, on For the Wildings and the short stories from my 1000 word a day commitment, and some fun new writing.
Hey, I'm the featured author in my Goodreads group this week, so I decided to give myself the spotlight treatment and interview myself!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Let's see, what's to tell that isn't already in my bio? I've lived in Arizona since I was a baby, but twice while I was growing up (when I was 8 and then again when I was 16), my family spent a year in Germany while my Dad, a physics professor, was a visiting professor there. It was an amazing opportunity to live in a different country and travel, and I have vivid memories of places and experiences that I still use a lot in my writing.
Also, I have a Master's degree in Music History, with an emphasis on choral/vocal music of the Renaissance. No, I don't sing, and I've never used that degree. Still, getting it was a lot of fun, and that's another experience that also spills over into my writing. Sarya's Song is the most obvious example, directly influenced by my training in musical analysis and transcription of older notations and by the polyphonic choral music of the early Renaissance.
2. When did you start writing, and why?
I've always loved to read fantasy and romance, but I could never find books that combined the two in a way I found satisfying. Twenty-six years ago, after I finished my Master's, as I was making the transition to life as a stay-at-home mom with my first child, I wanted a new intellectual challenge, so I decided to try writing the kind of novels I wanted to read.
3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write high fantasy (my definition: set in a different world, with a heroic storyline and magic as an integral part of the story) with strong romance elements. In my books, the romance and the fantasy are equally important to the story - if one or the other was missing, you wouldn't have a story. I write what I love to read - I love fantasy and magic, and I also love a good love story (and that happy ever after ending is a must!).
4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Right now I'm working on revisions on For the Wildings, the sixth and final book of the Daughter of the Wildings series. After this, I'll be returning to my world of Estelend with a couple of novels.
5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Daughter of the Wildings is set in a fantasy world inspired by the Old West. Settlers have come to the Wildings, the unsettled frontier, to escape from oppression by mages in the civilized land of Granadaia. It has cowboys and shootouts and cattle drives and saloons, but it also has wizards and magic. I thought the combination of the two elements, high fantasy and westerns, would be pretty cool, and it's been a lot of fun to write.
6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Silas Vendine, the wizard/bounty hunter hero of Daughter of the Wildings, is a fun character to write. On a character alignment chart, he'd be Chaotic Good. He has a very strong sense of honor and right and wrong that has little to do with the law of the land. If it comes to a choice between what's legal and what's right, he'll choose what's right every time and shoot his way out of the trouble he gets into as a result.
Lainie Banfrey Vendine, heroine of the series, also has strong ideas about what's right and the way things should be, but isn't always fussed by the realities of the situation. She's learned the hard way that you can't always make things be the way you think they should be just by wanting them badly enough, but that doesn't mean she's given up on her ideals. She grew up the only girl on a ranch, doing men's work and wearing men's clothes, but she's very feminine, in a practical, non-fussy kind of way. She can herd cattle and mend fences and shoot as well as any man, but she also finds value in caring for her home (when she has one) and family, and she loves pretty things.
7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
In For the Wildings, for the first time in the series we get into the point of view of a couple of different characters besides Silas and Lainie. One is a character who's appeared before in the series; the other is a member of a group whose point of view might be interesting to readers.
I especially like this sentence from one of those scenes: "Now see here, Coltor!" the mayor protested. "You can't go starting a shootout in my office!"
So that was fun :-)
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to these nice people who have helped promote me this week:
Aoife Marie Sheridan
Go check them out!
So the cold I thought was getting better when I wrote the post on Saturday got worse again yesterday, now today maybe it's a little better again... *sigh* But at least I'm able to sit up and write instead of being sick in bed, so here's a look ahead at my plans and goals for 2016:
For the Wildings, the conclusion of the Daughter of the Wildings series, is first up. It's still going through major revisions, with some editing stages still ahead, but is progressing steadily. I still don't want to give a release date, but will likely be in a couple of months. Now that things are settling down after the holidays and I'm not quite as sick as I was, I should start to be able to spend a little more time on it.
After that, I'll be returning to my Estelend word, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and "A Cure For Nel". This world is built around the idea of physical features in the landscape (caves, springs, trees, water spouts, etc) that are Sources of magical power, and certain people are born with the ability to take in and use that power. The Source-Fixer (crappy working title) and Heir of Tanaris are both complete in first draft and will be my next two published novels, coming out this year (I hope; they both need a lot of work).
Along with getting these three novels ready for publication, I've committed to writing 1000 words of new prose every day, whether short stories, novels, or writing exercises that might turn into a story. Blog and forum posts do NOT count! My writing goal for the year is 250,000 words (allowing for Sundays off and other days when new writing just isn't going to happen, like Christmas and travel days). I almost made it 300,000 words, but while I'm still developing the habit, I don't want to overshoot myself. I may raise my goal to 300k later this year. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to write 1000 words, so it takes some portion of my 3-4 good working hours a day but not too much.
So, with writing 1000 words a day, that's a lot of new stuff. A lot of it is going to be short stories. My plans for those vary - put them in collections for sale, post some of them here, use some of them for freebies for my email subscribers. This is an exciting new direction for me, having more work to release and to be able to give away. And it should help fill in the intervals between novel releases.
In the background, I'm also planning a follow-up series for Daughter of the Wildings. If you've read City of Mages, you might have noticed a whole new source of conflict mentioned in the book, which isn't related to the main conflict of the Daughter of the Wildings series but which I want to explore more fully in another series. Of course, Silas and Lainie will still be the main characters :-) I've got the basic plot idea for the first book and I'm working on the overall story arc for the whole series, but can't give any kind of timetable yet for when to expect it. Hopefully, if the prep work comes together, I can start putting my 1000 words a day towards that project later this year. As with DoW, my plan is to write the whole thing all the way through, so the whole thing is finished and readers won't be left dangling for years wondering when (or if) the next book will ever be written. Should worse come to worst, if nothing else, I (or my heirs) can post any of it that remains unpublished online.
I've also got ideas for a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories :-D and there are a lot of possibilities left open in the books to fill in with more stories.
And I'm still mulling over the sequel to Urdaisunia. The DoW follow-up gets priority, but it's there in the background, humming along in the back of my mind.
And one of these days I'll also get to revising my Very First Novel Ever and its sequel.
So I've got no shortage of stuff to work on; the main issue is prioritizing and managing my limited energy as best I can.
On the reading front, I've set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books for this year. (I realized that some of my 62 books last year are my own books that I added, but since I read each of them 5-6-7 times before publishing them, I suppose that counts :-P) One of my specific goals is to finish reading (or make significant progress on) the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. I love these books; Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire just didn't do it for me but Malazan is amazing. And - bonus - the series is complete at 10 books. I've just started reading book 6, The Bonehunters; since these are massive books and very deep and heavy, it's probably optimistic to expect to read 5 of them in a year. But I'm going to try. I'm also planning to get started on the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson (another of my favorite authors). And Larry Correia is a new favorite, whose books I'll be reading more of this year. But mostly, as the last few years, most of my reading will be indie authors. I'll keep doing reading roundup posts to share my recommendations.
As for my health, I've taken the concept of "one little word" (where you pick a single word to use as your theme for the year) and selected "nourish" as my word. This year I'll be taking baby steps to nourish myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most likely, I'm never going to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I can do things to help my body make the most of the health and energy it does have and increase them a little. And since a major factor in crashes and relapses is stress, finding ways to relieve/reduce stress and keep myself in better balance will reduce my crashes and increase my good, usable time and energy. Any success I have in this will hopefully manifest itself in greater writing productivity.
That's my plans and goals for the new year; wishing you health, happiness, and progress on your own goals and dreams in 2016!
And now, back to work.
Well, so the second half of December just blew right by me. We went out of town the weekend before Christmas, for an early Christmas with our son and his family in their new house, then I came home with the worst cold I've had in years and was basically on survival mode through Christmas and the end of the year. Finally getting better, though the gunk is going to be hanging around for a while.
The result is that it's been more than two weeks since my last post and I haven't been around much on TweetFace either, so this is to assure anyone who's interested that yes, I'm still around and still working on the books. The revision of For the Wildings is progressing, slower than it might have been because I've committed to also writing new stuff every day, but it's coming along. Still can't say when it'll be released; it's up over 70,000 words now, by far the longest book of the series, and I've got several phases of editing left to go. I want to make it as good as I can, and I think (hope!) it'll be worth the wait.
Before going on with my goals and plans for this year, I wanted to take stock of what I accomplished last year. I published 4 novels (books 2-5 of Daughter of the Wildings), wrote 1 (Heir of Tanaris), and also wrote a couple of short stories. Late in October, I recommitted to writing new words every day, and ended the year with a total word count of 85,772. Heir of Tanaris was most of that, clocking in at 80, 272, the longest novel I've written in quite some time (longer than any of the Daughter of the Wildings books). One of the stories I wrote (Rescue From Suburbia) is here for you to read; the other, I'm saving to be published in a collection. For the seventh year in a row, I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, finishing November with 52,844 words written on Heir of Tanaris.
As far as reading, on Goodreads I set a goal to read 25 books and ended up reading 62! Ok, some of them were stories and short novels/novellas, but others were very long. I've got one more mega Reading Roundup post to do for last year's reading; lots of good books to recommend!
So that's the look back at 2015; time to go write now. Next up: what's coming in 2016! Some cool stuff and new directions.
Time for a look at where I've been and where I'm going. For NaNoWriMo in November, I wrote nearly 54,000 words of Heir of Tanaris (the book formerly knows as The Healing Tree; I love it when I finally think of a decent title!). It still isn't finished; I'm guessing the first draft is going to end up around 80,000 words, by far the longest novel I've written in a while. The characters and plot continue to grow and change on me; the synopsis I've posted is already obsolete. I like to plan and outline my books and develop my characters ahead of time, but once I'm immersed in the story and my subconscious takes over, things can go in very different directions. I'm plugging along with finished the draft at a thousand words a day (usually more; that's my minimum). I'm hoping to finish it by the end of December, but with Christmas bearing down quickly, that might not happen.
I'm also working on major revisions to For the Wildings, the 6th and final book of Daughter of the Wildings. It's much longer than the other books in the series and between work on Heir and Christmas stuff, the revision isn't going real fast, but I am making daily progress on it. Still no good idea of when it'll be released.
And those two things are taking pretty much all of my brain power these days. I'm still reading a lot with the little that's left, so I'll do another reading roundup soon.
The plan for 2016: continue writing 1000 words a day on novels, short stories, writing exercises that may or may not turn into stories, whatever. I went a long time without writing anything new, and got rusty on it. Also, after the release of For the Wildings in the first part of the year, the next books on the list for release will be The Source-Fixer (still looking for a decent title for that one) and Heir of Tanaris, and also the Tales from Azara collection. I'll probably post a few of those here for free. Beyond that, my very first novel ever and its sequel are waiting for evaluation and revision, and I'm working out ideas for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings and also for a sequel to Urdaisunia.
That should keep me out of trouble for a while.
Wow, we're into the middle of November, and I realized I haven't been updating much. So here's what's going on: I'm planning the next big revision of For the Wildings, book 6 of Daughter of the Wildings. I do this revision to fix major issues that have come up since the first big revision, either things pointed out by the test readers or things that have changed over the course of the series, or just mistakes I missed the last time around. After this comes a few rounds of fixing up, fine-tuning, and editing before the book is ready to go. Still can't say when For the Wildings will be ready for release; sometime in February, as a rough guess. It's longer than the other books, and with the holidays coming up I won't be able to put as many hours in.
I've also been reading a lot, and sometime soon I'll be putting up a monster Reading Roundup post. Tons of great books to recommend!
Finally, being November, it's National Novel Writing Month. I've done it and "won" it (I actually prefer to think of it as completing the challenge, since everyone who validates 50,000 words written in November is a winner) every year since 2009, and this year looks like it'll be no exception. I'm writing The Healing Tree (working title), an old unfinished novel set in the same world as Chosen of Azara, that I decided to take another run at since the characters wouldn't leave me alone and I love the idea of it. I used this awesome outling guide, Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker (pants - writing term, for writing without an outline or "by the seat of your pants") to plan it all the way through, and so far it's going pretty well. As of today, I'm at 28,165 words, out of a target of 50,000. The actual novel is probably going to be much longer.
The main problem I've run into with it is that Davreos, the male main character, is a very complicated character. I made some adjustments to him from how he was in the original version, but he keeps wanting to revert back to that instead of going with my changes. If I've learned one thing in 26 years of writing, it's that the characters are almost always right, so I've finally decided to just go with it.
Anyway, to give you a little taste of this new project (which will eventually be released for sale), here's the first scene. It's unedited, straight from my brain to my fingers, but I think it came out ok:
The wizard's screams died away in Davreos's ears. How could he still have the strength to scream so loudly? Davreos wondered. Or to even still be alive. Most of the enemies of the Empire or other subjects brought to Maikarsk's cavern for interrogation were dead by this point in their questioning. But somehow, that old man, nothing more than skin and bones and thin, ropy muscles even when he had first been brought to Maikarsk, had managed to survive this long and remain conscious enough to scream.
"Stubborn," the Inquisitress said, only a faint note of frustration and displeasure coloring her impassive voice. Davreos glanced at her, waiting for her next instructions. Her black robe, covering her from head to toe, hid all signs of femininity, all signs of individual identity, but her height, slenderness, and voice were unmistakeable. The Inquisitress's veiled face remained turned and bowed slightly towards the wizard where he was strapped to the table a little longer. Though her face was always veiled while she was acting in her duties, Davreos knew what she looked like behind the veil, and he could imagine the dark, tilted eyes narrowed in disapproval, the full lips frowning. "Useless," she said. "Finish him."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said.
"And," the Inquistress went on, "be sure to remove his Source-token before you dispose of his body. It might be useful."
"Yes, my lady," Davreos said again.
The Inquisitress left the cavern. Davreos turned back to the wizard and prepared to lower the blade that would give the killing blow. Suddenly, the wizard's hand, which should have been bound with unbreakable chains to the table, seized the opening of Davreos's ragged tunic and pulled him down so that their faces nearly touched. Fear clenched Davreos's belly; how had the wizard's hand gotten loose? Had the bonds been insufficient? The Inquisitress would punish him if the wizard somehow got loose and escaped...
"I pity you," the wizard breathed against his face, his voice a nearly soundless tatter after all his screaming. "You could be so much more, so much better than this..."
Davreos froze. His heart nearly stopped. How did the wizard know of his most secret thoughts? Desires and ambitions that would see him tortured and killed this same way if the High Priest or the Inquisitress or, worst of all, Maikarsk itself became aware of them. He was a slave; that was his ordained role in life, and to hope for anything more was utterly impossible and forbidden.
"Silence," he said to the wizard, and pulled himself out of the old man's grip.
The wizard seized him again, this time grabbing his arm. He placed Davreos's hand on the small carved wooden pendant that hung from a chain around his neck, and folded Davreos's fingers around it. "Take this," he whispered.
Davreos had been ordered to take the Source-token anyway, which would contain power from whatever Source the wizard drew his power from, to sustain his magic while he was away from that Source. He pulled on it, intending to snap the chain, but instead, at his touch on the wooden pendant, power shocked up into him through his arm, warm and bright, with a golden-green glow that was more a feeling than a color. It filled him, the warmth and light almost unbearable in comparison to the power of Maikarsk he bore within him. It filled him until he thought he would burst; his jaw ached as his teeth gritted against the agony of it, biting back his own cries. He didn't dare make a sound; if he was weak against the subjects, he would be deemed useless and sent back to the worst jobs at the temple of Maikarsk. Finally the power seemed to gather itself and bury itself deep within him until it was no more than a faint glimmer.
He opened his eyes, which he had squeezed shut against the pain, and unclenched his hand from around the Source-token. Nothing but dust filled his hand. A cold bolt of horror pierced his chest; the Inquisitress had commanded him to take the token. But she was gone; perhaps he could tell her that the wizard had destroyed it himself.
Time to finish the job. He placed his hand on the blade again, then looked at the wizard. The old man's cloudy eyes stared sightlessly upward into the shadowy heights of the cavern, and his gnarled hand had fallen to lie limply at his side. He was dead, almost as though he had given up his life of his own volition. Davreos looked at the broken chain that had held the wizard's hand bound to the table. The wizard had had enough strength to break that chain and to hold on to his life until he chose to give it up. Why had he allowed himself to be taken prisoner at all, if he was that strong? Why had he surrendered his life instead of escaping? What had he hoped to accomplish with the useless sacrifice?
Stupid, he thought. The man had allowed himself to be defeated. Stupid and weak. Anyone that weak was worthy only of death.
To celebrate NaNoWriMo, the one-year anniversary of the launch of Daughter of the Wildings and my birthday, Beneath the Canyons will be only 99 cents all month, Nov. 1-30!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
iTunes | Kobo | OmniLit
Smashwords | DriveThruFiction
I'm happy to announce that City of Mages, book 5 of Daughter of the Wildings, is now available at the following stores:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
iTunes | Kobo | OmniLit
Smashwords | DriveThruFiction
In theory, it's also live on Google Play now, but I'm not getting it to show up. Over the next week I'll get the paperback edition formatted, then that will be available a couple of weeks later, after I receive the proof copy in the mail and approve it.
City of Mages is the next-to-last book in the series. The last book, For the Wildings, is by far the longest book in the series, so it's going to take a little longer to get it ready to go, especially with the holidays coming up the next couple of months. I'm still thinking about what comes after that; I realized that the second project space in my brain has been occupied by a fanfiction I wrote for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, that I'm still editing. I'm almost done with that, so I'm going to finish it up and get ready to start posting it so I can move on to something else. The Healing Tree (dumb working title) really wants to get written, and I've got a bunch of other projects waiting to be planned or revised. A follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings is definitely on the list :-)
The first half of September has completely blown right by, and I never did the monthly wrap-up/look ahead. In this case it's pretty simple; To The Gap, book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings, was released on August 1, and revisions/edits on book 5, City of Mages, are well underway. I'm into the fine-tuning stages now, and it's going pretty well (it helps that life has pretty much settled down for now, and I hope I didn't just jinx myself by saying that). I'm pretty confident the book will be ready for release the first half of October. Hopefully on the earlier side of that time frame, but I don't like to over-promise.
There are a lot of other projects I want to get to sometime, but right now, being so deeply immersed in Daughter of the Wildings, I don't have a lot of mental energy left over for anything else. so any serious work on anything else will probably have to wait till after book 6 is out, which will also give me time to decide which projects on the long list of them to work on next!
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