To Swag or Not To Swag

Swag #6

Hello everyone.

Conference season is approaching so I figured this would be a great time to talk about SWAG. So many questions surround this one topic.

How much money should we spend on swag?

Will swag get your book noticed?

Is paper swag effective?

Here are my thoughts and opinions as an author and reader.

For me, bookmarks are still the best. They are cheap and can get your book noticed. U-Print has the best pricing and has great quality. As a writer, I carry those suckers around with me everywhere and hand them out to everyone. I gave a stack to the lady who does my hair, the laundry mat, the library, and all my friends to give out.

As a reader, I have a stack from other authors that I use as a wish list. I go through this pile when I want to purchase a new book. Since there are no Barnes & Nobles close to me, this is a great way to shop.

Other cost effective swag ideas.

I’ve seen booklets with the first 2 or 3 chapters printed out which is great but can be expensive.

Business cards with your book cover and info on the back is also a great economic way to get your info out there.

Postcards are awesome. I’ve even had a few authors mail me postcards right before their new books came out. It was nice getting something other than bills in the mail. You have to have your newsletter set up to gather your reader’s addresses. Which reminds me…I need to fix my sign-up sheet:)

I made little chocolates with my book cover on them. It was easy. I just printed out my cover on paper and cut them to fit around Hershey Miniatures. They were cute and who doesn’t like chocolate?Swag #2.png

What swag will get your book noticed?

You have to be very creative here. Think out of the box.

In my story, I have a genie pop out of a tampon box and curse my heroine. So I bought trial size boxes of tampons for about 40 cents each. I placed a box of tampons, a chocolate, and a bookmark in a bag and tied it with a pretty ribbon. I spent about 60 cents total on each of them. I made 200 to put in the goody bags for a reader conference. Everyone got a kick out of them and I will be forever known as the author who gave out tampons. People were talking about them and they read my bookmark to see how the heck tampons were related to my story.Swag #1

Your ideas don’t have to be as drastic, but it helps to be unique.

Here is a picture of some of my favorite swag. I love the sticky notes. I use them all the time when I read a book to mark awesome passages or great dialogue. This pen is super cool because it has a stylist on the end. The chip clip is heavy duty and has a magnet on the back. I use this coaster every day when I sit at my computer. These are on the expensive side of swag but I use them constantly. I’ve bought books from the authors because of this.Swag #4.png

Expensive swag should be used for your readers as a thank you. You can hand these out at book signings when they purchase your books. Some other expensive swag ideas are wine glasses, reusable bags, or even a fan with LEDS.

What is your favorite swag? Which do you find most effective? Please comment below.

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3 Tips to Locate “Telling” Writing by C.D. Hersh

people talking

courtesy of Wikimedia commons

We’ve all heard the admonition “Show, don’t tell.” When we show we are producing better writing that will capture our readers. Showing, instead of telling, lets editors and agents see you are not an amateur.

In spite of hearing the phrase over and over, many writers don’t know how to recognize “telling” writing. Writing that tells analyzes, generalizes, editorializes and summarizes instead of making the writing interactive and sensory for the reader. Naturally, there will be some generalizations and summarization in your writing, but you need to make sure these elements are in the minority, not the majority of your book. You need to show what’s happening so the reader can create in her own mind the picture you, the writer, want to share.

To locate telling writing look for:

  • Passive sentences. Often passive sentences, especially those with the word was in them, are a tip-off you might be telling instead of showing. The sentence Sally was angry, is telling. Sally’s lips drew down into a thin, taut line, her jaw working side to side, shows me Sally’s anger. I can deduce from the picture that is painted how Sally feels because I know that look.
  • Passages that have very little sensory information. You can tell me the woman smelled good, was sexy, and she knew it, or you can show it by saying John turned to watch her as she strolled between the restaurant tables, her hips swaying like a belly dancer in slow motion. As she neared, she tossed her hair behind her shoulder, casting the scent of violets and vanilla in waves toward him. The fragrance made him salivate. Her perfectly manicured nails trailed along his shoulder as she passed by. He shuddered under her touch, and she smiled as he looked up at her. Here I know what the woman smells like, how she walks, how John reacts to her and how she reacts to him. Much stronger than just saying she was sexy.
  • “LY” adverbs. ‘LY” adverbs rob sentences of conciseness and force, making your writing weak. Which sounds stronger? The man yelled loudly or The man roared, the sound drowning out the radio. The dog’s tail wagged happily or The dog’s tail wagged in time to his barks as he bounded around the room. The taxi drove very slowly down the street, or The taxi crept down the street like a window-shopping snail.

Get the picture? By adding active verbs, sensory information and using fewer “LY” adverbs, you are showing the reader a snapshot of what’s happening, not telling him what’s happening.

Here are a few telling phrases that use the verb was.

  • The old man was a skinny lunatic
  • Sister Mary was a fanatical nun.
  • The paper was old.
  • John was the image of a disgruntled employee.
  • Mary was a frazzled mother.

Choose one, or two if you’re ambitious, and see if you can come up with a better picture. Post it so everyone can see what you created.



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My name is Patricia Charles and I WRITE ROMANCE!

Yes, I know that all caps mean I am screaming, and yes, I am screaming. Not because I am angry, but because I want to show that I am not ashamed. No, I’m not. It is my choice.

There is still a stigma of writing romance. Even if I were being published by one of the big traditional publishers, there would still be the atmosphere of not being a good enough writer for mainstream fiction.

Last week in a mystery-reading group, we were discussing a novel where a teen-ager plotted and committed murder. Part of that conversation included music, television, games, the Internet filled with violence and. where teens could find anything they wanted.

As I was leaving, I thought of my two novels: one a contemporary romance and the other romantic suspense. I felt less ashamed of the romantic suspense, which I often call a mystery.  Why? Because many of the people I know read mysteries. But not romances. Again,why? I haven’t a clue, but that’s the way of things.

I have a romantic suspense in progress for my series in the Crescent City, and I’m actually contemplating toning down the murders and violence. In my opinion, there is just too much murder and violence in every aspect of media and especially in real life. Now there are television programs about murders, fires and emergency calls in New Orleans. Okay. I watch it. I even tape it, but that doesn’t mean I have to write it, right?

So I have decided to try to take the high road, but still write an excellent book. There is an old song that says something like, “All the world needs is love” and that’s what I hope I will spread through my words. More love. And I will not be ashamed to say, “I write romance.”

Here’s an excerpt from my contemporary romance Unconditional Surrender.  It is set at a Civil War Reenactment. I hope you enjoy.  Spread the love.

Steeling herself, Kirsten faced the man she would love forever.

In the time since she last saw him, he’d changed very little. He still exemplified everything a cavalry officer would have been in the 1860’s…

A shock of dark hair tumbled from under his slouch hat and curled over his navy blue frock coat. His beard, scruffy as if he just woke from the night and hadn’t shaved yet, wasn’t streaked with gray from age and worry. His eyes were the color of the sky against his suntanned face. Broad shoulders under his wool coat tapered to his waist then to long, sinewy legs clad in knee high boots.

As he neared, she recalled his tousled hair when he woke at her side and how his original declaration of love caused her to sob so hard she couldn’t answer. Most of all, she remembered the look in his eyes as they glowed with desire.

Yet today was different, not just because they already had loved each other or because he proposed and she accepted. Her heart still trembled as it had every time she looked at him, but today was different mainly because of a young boy, perhaps two years old, sat before him on the saddle. The child was a close duplicate of Creed from his black hair covered with a Yankee kepi to the boots on his tiny feet. He looked up at Creed with a smile and adoration.

Her heart tore apart. She strained to breathe. Was that his son? It had to be. They looked so much alike. Is this what our son would have looked like? She knew he had to be happy. He had everything, didn’t he?

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Learning Opportunities

“I don’t watch television.”

I heard that recently from a writing colleague. While I understand it, and even admire it, I can’t share that view. For me, well-crafted television presents an excellent example of writing skills.

Right now, my can’t miss TV centers on three shows: The Big Bang Theory, Hell on Wheels, and Supernatural. As a writer, I love these shows because I think they’re excellent examples of character development and commitment to story lines.

Character Development

Each series, for me, is a great example of character arc, conflict development, and the proper use of secondary characters.

On the Big Bang Theory, it would have been really easy just to focus on the girl next door trope, or the joke that Sheldon is difficult to get along with. And the show would’ve ended when Leonard got Penny or when Sheldon got too annoying. But we’ve seen all the characters change and grow throughout the seasons, adding great new characters and incredible, sometimes touching, story lines.

Hell on Wheels started as a revenge trope and, while it was great, it wouldn’t have lasted past the manhunt. Giving Cullen Bohannon something to care about – the railroad – has enriched his character arc. He’s gained and lost friends, a second family, and his freedom. He’s gone from an outlaw to the hardest working railroad tycoon in history.

Supernatural has tortured, hounded, and killed its main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, for eleven seasons. It could have been a show about the monsters, but the creators made it a show about family – both the family you choose and the family you don’t. Each “secondary” character has a huge impact on the Winchesters and adds to the overall conflict.

Commitment to Story Lines

None of these shows have bought into the quick resolution of their main plots.

It took years for Penny to marry Leonard, not to mention Amy and Sheldon, and poor Raj can finally talk to women without being drunk. Howard and Bernadette were the quickest developing relationship on the show, and it still took several seasons. But all of the relationships are believable.

BBT meme

The Swede is still chasing Cullen Bohannon across The Great Plains on his own twisted mission of justice and revenge. The railroad is still a primary character, and used well. And Cullen’s “accidental” family wasn’t treated as an accident at all. Nothing is easily resolved.

The king of commitment, though, has to be Supernatural. The Winchesters have been looking for God since 2010 (at least). Six years later, they’re about to get their answer. And, thanks to excellent writing, I don’t feel like it’s the end of the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next season. (Although I am really, really worried about what’s going to happen to Cas.)

These series, for me, are great examples of good writing. While I don’t consciously model them, my own writing lets me look at them as more than just a way to waste two and a half hours a week.


What about you, what are your can’t miss shows?

Have a great weekend!

Mia KayMia

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Binge Reading

IMG_0997 MouseTea 2014My idea of taking a camper trip or vacation is to get away from phones, TV, and computers. Unfortunately, being an author, that luxury is no longer an option for me. Of course, I go no-mail on all list servers that I can, however, the messages from other sources have to be dealt with, including the spam and junk emails so I don’t have a full email box when I get home.

My husband and I just got back from Ye Spring Camper Outing. It’s more or less the “shake-down” getaway to check what works and doesn’t work after the camper’s winter storage.  This type of trip ensures a happier camping experience for the rest of the season.

Of course, I take my Samsung tablet, my Kindle, the cell phone, and the laptop with me. Having so many electronics that require recharging, my husband installed an outlet strip for them and, luckily,they all stack in one cupboard. I also appreciate that once out of sight they are out of mind.

Sadly, being an author, much of my time is taken up by marketing or writing or editing stories, as well as giving workshops for writers and doing conferences. There never seems to be time to just read for enjoyment until the camper trips. Which leads to binge reading. On last fall’s camper trip, I binged and read thirteen books, mostly fiction but a couple were nonfiction. I have eclectic taste in reading (if it appeals to me, I read it.)

On this five-day camper outing, I read nine books (ebooks as well as paperbacks). This batch of books included paranormal, mystery, historical romances, regency romances, time-travel romance, and sci-fi (no romance, just a good space opera). Best of the batch? The sci-fi. It had me curious and guessing the outcome. Best of the romances, a Christmas Regency novella. Why are these two the best? Because the stories are still remembered, their plots echoing. That’s because of their outstandingly interesting characters, in an interesting setting, facing an interesting problem.

Until the next camper outing, I’ll be perusing the book stacks (and ebook lists) for more good reads.

So, when you go on vacation, do you read books?QR code CEM




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My son the turtle

Today is World Turtle Day so we should shellabrate! 2016 5 23 world_turtle_day_tshirt

Seriously, it is World Turtle Day and turtles hold a very special place in my heart for two reason.

The first being my grandmother. She wasn’t a great fan of turtles, per se, but when things weren’t going as fast as I’d want them to or the world seemed to be “against me” when I tried “everything” to make something happen, she’d always tell me, “Slow and Steady wins the race.”

At the time, my response usually consisted of a large eye-roll followed by “Grandmother, you don’t understand…” blah, blah, blah. Yet now, seventeen years after she left us far too soon, I realize everyday how absolutely wise she was. How much she really did know and how we should be turtles from time to time.

The second is because my very sweet son, Alex, moves at his own pace. We often call him a turtle or tortuga (Spanish for turtle) and he likes turtles.

Laid-back is an oversimplification of Alex’s personality. He’s a watcher, an observer, and processor. He’s curious and inquisitive. He can follow directions on his Lego sets and put together a HUGE jet in a few hours. Along those traits, he’s all boy–he plays outside until he’s dripping with sweat, he rides his bike, he climbs trees, he plays basketball, he shoots Nerf guns, he douses his sisters with the water hose, and he laughs a lot.

He’s so much like my husband, it’s nuts, especially since Alex isn’t biologically related to us.

We were blessed to be matched with Alex and his sister, Sophie, in May 2012. In fact, they entered our lives the day after I got my first book contract with Soulmate (thanks Debby!). It was a big week for us, but there he was, our little turtle, walking in our front door, taking it all in.

2016 5 23 Alex and the Turtle

Alex and a rescue turtle–South Padre Island

Like any child being moved from an environment, no matter how chaotic, to a unknown home, he approached us with caution and concern.

Behind couldn’t even begin to describe his educational level. At the age of four, he didn’t know any shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet, or any nursery rhymes. He couldn’t tell me what he liked or didn’t like to eat, but he could point to it.

His vocabulary was so stilted, we thought he only understood Spanish. We spoke to him in Spanish and he looked even more confused.

He had no idea what 99% of the items were in the produce section, but he could tell me where the chip, soda, and cookie aisles were. He pointed as we drove down the street at every fast food restaurant and told me what they served. He identified the city buses and cabs and explained that police cars were bad.

What had we gotten ourselves into? This child was a good two years or more behind his peers, would we ever catch him up? The task seemed daunting, but it didn’t take us long to realize this little guy simply needed a bit of coaxing to come out of his shell.

One week into his permanent stay with us, I playfully asked him what something was. As usual, he recoiled, pulled back into his little safe place until he realized I wasn’t upset that he didn’t know. I wanted to teach it to him and then our little turtle stretched his neck out and started taking the world in through new eyes.

This wasn’t an overnight thing. He didn’t know us, but slowly and surely, he opened up, came to trust us as we fed, clothed, loved, and showed him more Disney Movies than we care to admit. We took him to the grocery store, the zoo, the park, Target, Petsmart, the Children’s Museum. Every place was a new experience, a constant, “Mom, what’s this? What’s this?” kinds of moments. It was exhausting and at times frustrating, but always exhilarating when he’d smile at us with that triumphant look when he’d told us something he’d seen and used all his new words to describe his day.

We quickly found out he loved to build things. Because our older children loved trains, we still had our Thomas the Train wooden train tracks and one day, Alex designed this HUGE display. He had turns and curves and bridges and dead-ends. He spent a couple of hours working on it while I played with his younger sister and the older two children were at school. That evening, I asked him to come to dinner and he reluctantly agreed, but “I want dad to see it.” I explained Dad would be home in a bit and he could see it then, but it was dinnertime.

Our sweet boy walked to the table, shoulders sagged and said, “Daddy isn’t coming home.”

Well, might as well have stabbed me with a knife in my heart because I realized he thought I’d lied to him to get him to do what I wanted. That so many people in his life hadn’t followed through. I promised him when Dad got home, they could go right upstairs and finish the train tracks. 2016 5 23 World Turtle Dayturtle 4

Sadly, he pulled back into his shell and poked at his dinner, but when the garage door opened, his head popped up and he grinned from ear to ear. The door opened and he jumped from his chair, yelling, “Dad, dad, come see what I built today” and off the boys went to play with the trains.

We just passed our four year anniversary of their arrival and our turtle, our slowly but surely kid is making all A’s and B’s in school. Through determination,  consistency, his own love for knowledge, and the incredible guidance of his teachers, he’s come so far in a very short period of time. He’s not perfect and he might struggle with school for another year or two, but coming from his stilted beginnings, his drive his remarkable.

Just like all of us as writers. Sometimes we start as the hare, fast and frantic we write and get the words on paper. We’re driven and charged to tell our stories, but then we have to be the turtle, the tortoise to edit. To really make the pages shine and this process can be agonizingly slow and frustrating.

We want our editors to see our work, but worry about what the responses may be. We pull back into our shells when writer’s block hit or we get a sucky review, but inch by inch, we move forward and keep trying to improve.

But if we do it right, we can all get there. Little by little. Step by Step and guarantee that slow and steady really does win the race.

Happy Turtle Day my Soulies!

You can find Patricia W. Fischer at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.


2016 5 23 world-turtle-day-2014

Posted in 2013 Christmas Anthology, Author, Checking In With Patricia!, Facebook, Friends, Inspiration, Motivation, Perserverance, Publishing, Readers, Romance, Soul Mate Publishing, Stories, Twitter, Writing, Writing career | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Impossibility of Doing It All

Lately, I wake with a series of panic attacks. None of that compression in my chest, or inability to fill my lungs with air, has anything to do with writing. No, it’s the mounting self-inflicted pressure of having to complete a blog post, catch up on e-mail, check out my Twitter accounts, and, of course, there’s Facebook. I’m fairly certain, when I decided to become a writer and allow my creative juices to churn out bestsellers, this wasn’t what I had in mind. But, then again, I haven’t quite reached that bestseller status yet, so perhaps this is my comeuppance.

Often, I’m amazed at what other authors accomplish. Churning out books in 8 weeks’ time, writing a blog (sometimes 2 or 3) every week, belonging to 50 groups on Facebook and posting regularly (in some cases every hour) about their books, their drop in sale price, their blog appearances, their upcoming book-signings.  You name it, like flies on sherbet, their postings are everywhere:  Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, LinkedIn, ReadersInTheKnow, Kindle this, Kindle that, Tweet, Tweet, Tweeting, the list goes on-and-on. Is it possible that they have a team of elves, secret slaves tied up in the basement, maybe a high school cheerleading squad, or a full-time personal assistant with staff at their beck-and-call? Where do they find the time to do all of this, and still write their next book?

What I find the most annoying is all the advice writers shell out about writing. I’m not ungrateful, everyone wants to know the secret to success and is anxious for those precious tips, but, what is the most important tip they can give you, or the one that should be the most important? It’s to write, stupid! Yes, W-R-I-T-E!  All of the rest of it doesn’t mean a darn thing if at the end of the day you haven’t written 300 or 1,000 words in your manuscript. For me, that requires plotting time to boot. I have to visualize that next chapter. Hell, I have to smell it, taste it, touch it, wrap my arms around it, do everything with it, but have sex with it, and, actually, I do that too, since my novels are very sexy. And, because I’m a bit of an obsessive/compulsive (I didn’t know this until I started writing), I have to reread everything I write countless times and self-edit as I go. I can’t just let go and give birth to 50 pages. 10 yes, 20 once in a great while, but most likely I’ve gone over those 10 or 20 pages’ innumerable times perfecting them, cutting this, changing that, only to consider throwing the whole damn thing out and starting again. You know the idiomatic expression, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. What that means, is it’s important to be “careful not to completely reject an idea, practice or concept on the grounds that part of the argument is faulty or even bad. Instead, it must be reviewed in its entirely, and if needed, to revise it—but to still retain what is good and helpful”.  It’s a fine line, and a battle I’m constantly fighting. “To be or not to be?” In the case of my writing, to keep or not to keep, that is the question?

What is strange, and I didn’t know, is that my process of writing is uncannily similar to Ernest Hemingway’s. I am not comparing myself, it has probably more to do with a psychological flaw than anything else. I certainly don’t plan on killing myself anytime too soon. But, unbeknownst to me, until I wrote this post and went searching for Papa’s advice, his process of writing, reading and editing as you create your novel, are exactly the habits I employ, and why I now consider myself to be compulsive.

brand_fyi_bsfc_116472_sfm_000_2997_15_20140905_001_hd_768x432-16x9So without further ado, I give you a snippet of his advice to writers. Says Papa: “The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along. Every day go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing and when it gets too long, read at least two or three chapters before you start to write and at least once a week go back to the start. That way you make it one piece. And when you go over it, cut out everything you can. The main thing is to know what to leave out. The way you tell whether you’re going good is by what you can throw away. If you can throw away stuff that would make a high point of interest in somebody else’s story, you know you’re going good.”

And my favorite part of Papa’s advice is the following: “Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”

Wait, speaking of compulsive, I’m starting to itch just thinking about those emails filling up my inbox as I write this post. Now I know why Hemmingway drank. Oh, I forgot, he didn’t do any of this virtual stuff, he just wrote. Perhaps, the best advice as we attack this difficult job of writing is to just take a deep breath, because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to do it all. There are not enough hours in a day, or in a night for that matter.

Speaking of night, as of late, when the Facebooker’s and the Tweeter’s curl up in their nests the virtual highway becomes a road less travelled, I find myself contentedly propped up by pillows, in bed, with my laptop balanced on my lap, coffee in my hand, and all sound and distraction suppressed, contained, and relegated behind a closed door. In this cave of silence, I write and rewrite, listening to my inner voice, or voices (psycho that I am), and channeling the advice of one of my favorite author’s Ernest Hemingway.

Coming 2016 – One More Time is Not Enough (The Only One) #3


Twitter:  @BelleAmi5




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