Invisible Disabilities


The first draft featured protagonist Becca as a famous author who got six figure advances, whose book was being made into a movie, who employed several assistants to help her with fan mail. The second draft saw Becca as a famous author who got six figure advances but no mention of movie deals or assistants. The third draft found Becca as an author with a cult following; she still made a living from it but no more talk of hefty advances or net worth. The fourth draft presented Becca as a teacher who wrote books on the side, making money but not enough to live on.

In the final version Becca hasn’t even gotten published yet.

Many things changed in the years that I wrote and rewrote HEAD OVER FEET IN LOVE—Becca and her friends went from flip phones to Smart phones, DSL to wi-fi, having a million dollars in the bank to scraping by as a teacher. But through it all Becca lived with bipolar disorder and anxiety. Just like me.


I didn’t even know about invisible disabilities when I went to college in 1990; I just knew that people described me as “emotional” and it was made very clear that this was one of the worst things one could be. Classmates accused me of “wigging out” at things and “not being able to handle things.” I lost out on things and I didn’t know why.

It wasn’t until I graduated from law school and started practicing law that I realized something was wrong. I couldn’t sit for long periods of time doing the work that was required of me. My emotions ran up and down and over and under. I figured I was just having a quarter life crisis until a doctor asked me if I had ever been tested for mental illness. The diagnoses and subsequent medication saved my life. That is why I wrote this book.

Here are some things that both my character Becca and I want people to know about invisible disabilities (PWID).

  • People like to throw around mental health diagnoses like it’s Spring Training and pitchers and catchers just reported.

I don’t think most people who do this have mean hearts; they just don’t think about what they are saying. When people say, “I’m so bipolar” or “I swear I have ADHD”, that minimizes people who have those diagnoses. Some people have moments of euphoria followed by sadness—that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as my first-grade teacher used to say. But there is a difference between having a great morning and a crappy afternoon and having diagnosed bipolar or another mood disorder. It would be like having a coughing fit and saying, “I’m so COPD!” You wouldn’t say that, would you?

  • Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe it

There are probably people in the world who fake being a PWID. I won’t begin to pretend understand why, but I’m sure it happens. Likewise, there are possibly people who fake having diabetes, asthma, or other physical impairments for reasons I don’t even want to contemplate. The difference is that people can see you having an asthma attack, watch you adjust your insulin pump, observe the accommodation you are using. You can’t see inside my head to notice the serotonin leaves going, “yeah, no, not today.”


This makes it difficult to take a sick day from work. It also causes people to question your authenticity or to say things like a former special education supervisor of mine said, “You just don’t want to come to work, do you?” (She also said that “crazy*” people shouldn’t work with children, but we will save that for another essay.)

If someone tells you that they are having anxiety or depression problems, believe them. It’s actually easier to believe someone than to waste mental energy trying to ascribe nefarious intent to them. Think of it as having a cold in your brain. When you have a cold, you feel sluggish, tired, like not moving from your bed. The same thing happens when my depression hits full force, only you can’t see me dripping mucus or hear me hacking my head off. Trust me though, my brain is doing those things in its own unique brain way.

So, what SHOULD you say to your friend, family member, employee, boss, coworker, Facebook pal? Here are some ideas:

*            Let me know what you need

*            I’m thinking about you

*            I’m here when you need me—take your time

Unsolicited medical advice, while interesting, is not what we need to hear. Please, don’t tell me that I am a shill for Big Pharma for taking medication and/or that a walk in the woods will cure what ails me. As we will read below, I stopped taking medication and almost died from suicide.

And PWID? You aren’t off the hook, my friends. You must to advocate for yourself. I don’t enjoy telling new supervisors about my invisible disability and begging off a social engagement is unpleasant, but I can’t expect people to understand me if I don’t speak up for myself.

*Since I brought up the “crazy” thing, I would like to remind you that words like these are not helpful. Becca’s ex-boyfriend calls her names that after Becca runs away following a traumatic event. Don’t worry—she dumps him. Twice.

  • You are not the total of your invisible disability!

I’ve read many books with characters I could best describe as Depressed Girl and OCD Boy. Maybe I’m just too sensitive, or jaded, or both but I like to see characters fleshed out with other things going on in their lives.

One of the reasons I wanted this book to be published is so that readers could read about Becca going to the beach, seeing a movie, literally landing on the front step of her true love. She has gone to law school, graduate school, is employed, and has two best friend and loving parents.

  • We are going to slip up, so please be supportive.

In 2005 I decided I was cured! The Effexor worked its magic and I could live my life without taking those little white pills every night. I looked up how to wean myself off (the internet is an enchanted place, my friends) and stopped taking them. About two months later my then-husband wrestled a knife away from me to stop me from self-harm.

I didn’t accept my disability that time or the time after but finally in 2007 I realized that I would be taking some sort of little pill every night for the rest of my life. And that’s okay.

I say it so flippantly now, don’t I? Oh that’s okay, peeps! You’ll get there! I hope you do but it’s a long road, particularly when you grew up in the 70s/80s when PWID were undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or just thought to be in a phase they’d grow out of.

Becca slips up, too. She falls in love and feels great. She is happy and decides maybe just to take one fewer pill. Then she misses a few days. Her brain experiences a euphoria she has never felt before so why bother taking them at all?

Having a support system has proven invaluable for me and that is where friends and family (like Becca’s and like mine) really come through. I have a loving husband (didn’t land on his doorstep like Becca though), best friends, the best community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I still slip up, but I have hands reaching out to catch me fall.

  • You can still live a full life—have a great time, fall in love, tell your story.   No more needs to be said about that really. We can do it and we should be able to read about characters in books that are just like us.
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Flowers for that added love and color from Tom

For the writers out there you know the saying that “good writing is all about rewriting.” I’m currently on my tenth draft of my next book. This one’s a big revision – more than fine tuning the romantic bits and bobs. I signed up for the  Westport’s Advanced Fiction Writing Group. This is a great crit group led by the great editor, Adele Annesi. The critiques are mega helpful. And this week, only from October 1-4, I’m taking an online course with Kristan Higgins, Setting as Character. Fantastic.

But writers also know that in between the rewrites you need to regenerate your imagination and your body. I like to play my guitar—I’m working on building those old calluses again. And my piano too, even if it’s only to tickle the ivories for a few minutes.Walk everyday with Tom (my hubby) and Ed, our ninety-three year old inspiration, and ballroom dance with my instructor, Henry, sometimes with Tom, that’s the best, really gets my heart pumping.

Oh, was I talking about writing?

My work-in-progress or WIP, The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin has taken about two years (and counting). One day at a time, one scene at a time. I am also constantly reading one of my hundreds, but who’s counting, craft books, like all those Thesaurus books and Emotional Beats by Nicholas C. Rossis. Which sometimes sends me down a different path in my writing. I will let you know when my Gilded Age Mistresses: The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin is ready for you.

I will be delerious when the end is near.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in spring 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

A work of art



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Marisa Makes Memories

The most photographed castle in the world!eilean-donan-visit2

Travel took me to Scotland last week to realize a lifelong dream. One that delivered me to a small tidal island at the point where three loch’s meet in the Western Highlands.

As I approached the bridge, I stepped back in time to 1486 when the castle was inhabited by clan Mackenzie and the main character in my current manuscript seeks refuge. Although a few tourists lingered in the late day sun, it wasn’t difficult to keep them out of my peripheral vision as I viewed the landscape from her eyes. Keeping my dream of immersion in my book’s setting from drifting out with the tide.

Walking towards the iconic Eilean Donan Castle, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how this “most beautiful castle in Scotland” had long provided the setting for many films. James Bond drove his Aston Martin across the footbridge in The World is Not Enough, when the castle served as the secret headquarters of M16.  day1_3_650The The castle also played starring roles in Highlander, Entrapment, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And a little know fact, Eilean Donan also provided inspiration for the Disney Pixar animated film, Brave.

When a friend reached out to me a few months ago to meet for dinner as she said, “to catch up,” what started out to be a casual conversation about a bucket trip turned into IMG_5813reality last month by placing me on the parapet of the “most photographed castle in the world,” looking out at the confluence of Loch Duich, Loch Long ,and Loch Alsh in Kyle of Lochalsh.

How lucky I am to have a friend, who along with both our husbands, agreed to travel to Scotland with me while I visited as many castles as my budget, travel agent, and hired driver would allow. Especially the iconic Eilean Donan, a 13th century castle that has the benefit of having been rebuilt in the 1920’s to replicate its former glory.

My third story in the Ladies of Lore series is still in the first draft stage and even a working title has yet to emerge, but there’s nothing like being on locale for a work in progress to inspire a writer more.

Until the third installment is ready, enjoy either of these two books by Marisa Dillon:

TLOG_FINAL Extra (1) Resized Smaller           200x300 GRS COVER

Stay connected:

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Finding Your Writing Inspiration

Hello Readers! I’ve been busy throughout the summer, focusing on my day job of wedding styling. You’d think immersing myself in such a creative job would fill me with inspiration for writing a new book. How? By meeting new people every day, seeing people at their best and worst, not to mention romantic settings. Yet writing about a wedding planner this time around wasn’t in my mind. It would soon turn out that not much else would be either!

During a few moments of downtime, I found myself staring at the wall, literally. With a vivid imagination and observational skills always turning at top speed, this empty desert of imagination befuddled me entirely. Who would the heroine be? What would the central plot be? The setting and title? The emptiness felt like eyeing a level expanse of sand on the horizon. Or maybe driving through the prairies. Flat landscape, empty brain, bare screen.

As life does, it delivered a corner (more like a hairpin curve) and inspiration landed in my lap like a wayward vulture spotting dinner. I’d soon learn (again) that life isn’t always as pretty as a postcard. This summer, my job required outdoor labour, all day, every day, under immensely smoky skies which rained ash onto everyone and everything. Working near pine covered hills spitting shards of fire onto golf courses and wineries, I remained observant and guzzled water much as an animal dying of thirst in the desert would. Yet the particles of ash filtered into my airway and settled in my lungs. Coughing fits ensued for weeks. I shrugged it off. Until I couldn’t breathe. The pressure tightened around my ribcage and sharp pains banging inside my lungs brought me to my knees.

How did this scenario provide me with inspiration? In the most unexpected way! (No, I wasn’t rescued by a hunky fireman but the doctor was pretty damn cute).

After finally dragging myself to the hospital (to learn I had bronchitis complicated by asthma), I spent a few hours getting friendly with an inhaler, and x-rays while waiting for doctors and . . . observing. A while back, I posted a blog about finding inspiration in public or unexpected places (cemetery, shopping mall, etc.) and here I found myself surrounded by people from all walks of life with lots of stories to tell in a very public setting. And I listened. Intently. And I shared stories in return. During these conversations, three separate women landed in the ER with stories so bizarre and tragic my own condition seemed irrelevant. And there came the inspiration. I’d found what I’d been searching for. Strong heroines with thrilling (if dangerous) lives. I’m still toying with titles and constructing an overall plot but the details for my next book will come. The foundation is there!

It seems that when we are focused and want something fiercely, it doesn’t always happen. And you surely know the old saying ‘when you least expect it, you’ll find what you’ve been looking for all along’.

To those of you concerned about your next book (what it’ll be about, and who it’ll be about), fear not. Just keep living and life will present you with all the inspiration you need.

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The Write Word with Wareeze

The Hook

Hello again friends and welcome to the Soul Mate Publishing blog once again. For new readers to the blog, I’d like to introduce myself. My pen name is Wareeze Woodson and I write historical romance with a twist of suspense. I’d rate the heat factor as semi-sweet. I have five historical romance fiction books up at Amazon.

Today, The Write Word will deal with the subject of the hook once more. What is a hook? The so valuable hook is a lure, an enticement, an interest, and an invitation to continue to read a little further down the page, hopefully turning page after page. Besides the blurb on the back of the cover creating interest, the first paragraph or so must intrigue the reader enough to continue. Turning to the next page is the goal.

I opened a book recently and the first sentence grabbed me. ‘The body was still warm.’ That piece of information intrigued me. I love a mystery added to the romance. Needless to say, I continued reading to the very satisfying conclusion.

As I review my latest novel Bittersweep, I wonder if the hook is enough to generate interest. I’ll let you decide.

After fifteen years, can I find my mother’s box? I was only five. Will her box still be there, hidden, or will it be destroyed?

It is written in third person point of view. This was the thought in her mind. A short excerpt follows.

Tormenting glimpses from fifteen years ago flashed inside her head. The sounds of crackling, consuming fire and the acrid smell of smoke rising above the trees from where her home once stood roared through her mind. The noise of rattling wheels beneath the wagon carrying her away from Bittersweep ripped through her memories dragging her back into the past. Her stomach knotted and she fought down the need to heave up the few bites of apple she’d eaten on the train. She swallowed forcing herself to relax.


Another novel A Lady’s Vanishing Choices is represented by another hook. Judge each one and comment on the best one if you please.

Bethany Ann Littleton pulled on the reins, bringing the gig to a halt, and gazed about at the peaceful scene. Silence, blessed silence, blanketed the forest, but the serenity surrounding her did little to stem the tide of angry tears slipping down her cheeks unchecked. Uncle Arthur would have her hide if he returned and discovered her absence, especially after taking the gig without permission.

An excerpt from A Lady’s Vanishing Choices below:

Holding her breath, Bethany inched forward ever so quietly and crouched behind a screen of bushes. Alarm curled down her spine, but the urge to discover the source of the sound pushed her forward. Peeking through the foliage, she viewed a small clearing with a mound of freshly turned dirt piled in the center. A man flung another scoop full onto the heap and continued to dig. What could possibly be his purpose? The odor of moist soil reached Bethany, reminding her of her situation, alone and deep in the woods. She recalled the old adage about curiosity and the cat. She caught her breath. The cat died. Nevertheless, she couldn’t drag herself away.

The stranger stopped digging, lifted his head and surveyed the area with a sweeping gaze. Listening intently, he checked beneath the surrounding trees. After several seconds, he dropped his shovel and headed to the edge of the glade. He passed so close to her position, he could have easily detected her presence with a quick look.

Ceasing to move or even blink, Bethany held her breath, fearing the sound might alert him to her presence. She couldn’t force her gaze from the man. Every detail imprinted on her memory, sharp and indelible. The tip of something yellow protruded from the pocket of his hunting vest. He wore a fine lawn shirt, expensive, normally owned by the gentry and nobility. A dark cap, pulled over his hair, obscured his eyes and upper face.


Another first paragraph with a hook, this one from Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman.

Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Each rotation of the hired coach’s wheels whispered the word. Laurel cradled her sleeping two-year-old son, the new Lord Laningham, as a heady sense of satisfaction curved her lips. She didn’t even mind the slight musty odor pervading the vehicle, although she leaned over and raised the window cover for a breath of fresh air. With a sigh she settled back against the seat. At least for a while, Rhonda’s constant complaints would no longer ring in her ears and for that she was devoutly thankful.

An excerpt:

Out of nowhere, a rider flashed by the coach window and her startled gaze locked with his brief glance. Although she’d caught only a glimpse of the stranger, in that instant his intense, deep-brown eyes mocked her and unease shivered down her spine. She stared after him for a second before instinctively gathering her child closer. Laurel planted a kiss on his blonde curls, drawing reassurance from the nearness of his warm little body. As long as she had Jamie nothing else mattered. Her son must remain safe.

Everything happened at once. The coach lunged to the right and scraped against the bushes beside the road, sending a shower of droplets splashing inside the window. Her book and Jamie’s wooden horse thumped to the floor. The racket of brakes screeching shrilled in her ears as the vehicle rattled and lurched out of control.

“Jamie,” she cried.

The horses’ screams echoed through her head and the sudden jerk of the coach as the team broke away from the trace chains added to her fear. When the doomed coach started to roll onto its side, she braced her feet against the opposite bench and clutched her son tightly against her chest. Tumbling against the seat, she scraped her elbows and banged her head. The sensation of falling forever tensed every muscle in her body before the force of the impact threatened to tear Jamie from her arms. She landed between the banquettes against the door, her howling child clutched in her arms. The carriage lantern, suspended from a hook on the wall, swayed overhead scraping metal against metal and briefly caught her attention.

Final Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman #b copy

One more to go from An Enduring Love:

He crew of the Dragon’s Stirr lowered the gangplank readying the vessel for Latvian passengers to board. The creak of heavy ropes tying the ship to the dock rasped Rebecca’s nerves, reminding her that soon Rhys would l back to England without her. Devastated by the thought of such a loss and at such a time, she swallowed hard. How can I bear to let him leave me behind?

An excerpt:

Exhausted, Rhys sprawled in a chair and rested his head on the back. His forehead throbbed and he rubbed his temples to lessen the pain. “Gray Boy went down and I had to walk all the way to Belton Hall.” He heard Mabree gasp, but he continued without a pause, “when I arrived everything was in alt. I’ll admit my spirits sank when Rebecca told me Johnny had been taken.” He drew an agonizing breath. “Weister had been there. The cur took my son. I’m positive. But he left hours before I arrived. I must find him.” He allowed hope to ring in his voice.


Thank you for taking the time to share your time with me. For more information about any of my books and events, please visit my website:


Wareeze Woodson

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The History Of Love and Darkness

I started writing Of Love and Darkness in 2009. Back then it was titled Cursed and Chosen, because the hero was a cursed Rakshasa (evil shifters), and the heroine was a Chala, the only type of “good” shifter who could reproduce, thus ensuring they did not go extinct. I hadn’t been a fan of the title from day one, but it took me until about six months before publication to find one I liked better (read: I asked my friends for ideas). Luckily, SMP was accommodating to my last minute change, since they hadn’t yet created the cover at that point.

I’ve been a fan of shifter books pretty much since I started reading romance, which was much younger than I probably should have. Just to age myself, my all-time fave shifter books are Pamela Palmer’s Feral Warriors series, Katie MacAlister’s dragons, and the Warriors of Poseidon series by Alyssa Day. Yes, yes, I have read shifter books from the past decade, I swear! Those are the ones that got me hooked, though; the ones that started me on this path of writing them myself.

When Of Love and Darkness was just an idea shifting around in my head (see what I did there?), I was trying to figure out how to write a shifter book that would stand out from the rest. Because let’s face it: there are a whole lot of shapeshifter books out there these days. How could I make mine different?

I attended an RWA class during which the instructor informed us that pretty much every trope had been done, over and over again. That was okay, because the reason certain tropes remain popular is because that’s what readers want to read. The key to writing popular tropes (such as shifters) is to put something unique in your book. You don’t have to spend your time and energy searching for an entirely unique storyline, you really just need to ensure one aspect of your book is different from everything else out there.

And therefore William was born. William is Sydney’s (our heroine) Fate in Of Love and Darkness. In this series, a Fate’s job is to protect the Chala from the Rakshasa until they have found a mate. I decided William would be that character, the one who would stand out, who would be different from everything else out there (I hope).

This is Gavin’s (our hero, who’s really an anti-hero) first impression of the Fate, from Of Love and Darkness:

Gavin whipped the car into the driveway of the basic brick ranch home she shared with William, and skidded to a stop inches from the closed garage door. Ignoring her completely, he unfolded his tall frame from the driver’s seat, strode up the steps of the front porch, and headed toward the door.

Sydney climbed out of the car and hurried after him. “Wait,” she said, recalling that he actually did not know her stepbrother. “I should probably warn you—”


The words were out a scant second too late.

The front door opened and a hulking figure loomed behind the glass storm door. Gavin’s steps faltered as his gaze swept over the closely cropped blond hair, smooth-shaven face, narrowed brown eyes, and rigid set of the thick jaw. His gaze travelled south, to take in the muumuu decorated with cabbage-sized flowers visible under a hot-pink satin robe. Thick, tree trunk-like, shaven legs could be seen under the hem of the muumuu, and feet that were at least a size thirteen were shoved into clearly custom-made hot-pink high-heeled slippers with a fluffy, pink ball of puff on top.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Gavin said as he turned to face Sydney, with an accusatory look in his eye. “This is your Fate?”

This is my stepbrother,” she retorted as she shoved past him, jerked open the storm door and allowed herself to be pulled into a hug by the huge man on the other side.


Thus introduces the opportunity for snarky humor and sarcasm, from both men, as Williams struggles to accept that his Chala, who is like a sister to him, might possibly fall for some alpha male with an over-abundance of testosterone, who, by the way, is not the man she’s supposed to fall for. And Gavin, for his part, can’t figure out how a guy who wears dresses can possibly protect the woman he’s determined should be his mate.

The best part (I think): the obtuse advice William manages to give to Gavin throughout the book, advice that may well save them all, even though William claims he can’t stand the man.

Yeah, it’s definitely a worthy read, and it leads into a three-book series. Yes, William plays a role in all three books. Oh, and each of the other two books has an anti-hero for a hero, too. I think there may be a trend in my writing…

The three-book Twisted Fate series is available on Amazon (in KU if you’re a subscriber!)

Thanks for reading!

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Inspiration and Motivation From My Bookshelves

In 1977, I purchased my first self-help book, Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer. Since that time, I have devoured hundreds (possibly thousands) of self-help books. Some I’ve purchased…others I’ve borrowed…some I’ve reviewed…many I’ve given away.

Here are ten Go-To books that still grace my bookshelves:

Rising Strong by Dr. Brené Brown

“If we’re brave enough, often enough, we will fall.” Dr. Brené Brown shares her own struggles and gives practical advice on how we can reframe our own stories, get back up again, and create daring new endings. Read my review here.

Quiet by Susan Cain

A self-proclaimed introvert, Susan Cain shares her own story and that of successful introverts who have learned to survive and thrive in highly-charged workplaces. Read my review here.

Take It From Here by Dr. Sonya Friedman

An excellent guide for women struggling with change. Dr. Friedman shares nine critical steps that help with setting standards and boundaries, embracing mistakes, and moving from “what might have been” to “what can be.”

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

“The word incurable, which is so frightening to so many people, means to me that this particular condition cannot be cured by any outer means and that we must go within to find the cure.” I discovered this book during the first month of my cancer journey. Fourteen years later, I still refer to Louise Hay’s timeless message of hope and healing.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers

When I picked up this book in the late 1980s, I was in my mid-thirties and struggling with several decisions. I have reread this book many times, especially during critical junctures in my life. It’s an excellent resource for those of us with risk-averse tendencies.

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

Whenever I’m dealing with unexpected challenges, I turn to this beautifully crafted memoir filled with moving anecdotes and humorous insights. Ms. Lesser address the question: How do we emerge from suffering and challenge with real, encompassing wisdom and love?

Picking Up the Pieces by Sherri Magee and Kathy Scalzo

After my treatments ended, I experienced a low-grade depression. I am grateful to the friend who recommended this book that addresses the challenges of the recovery journey.

Playing Big by Tara Mohr

Ms. Mohr provides practical tools to help women quiet self-doubt, identify their callings, “unhook” from praise and criticism, and take bold action. My favorite chapter – Leaping, a special action that gets the adrenaline flowing and stretches us out of our comfort zone.

Making Life Easy by Dr. Christiane Northrup

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Northrup’s previous books–Goddesses Never Age and The Wisdom of Menopause–I decided to pick up this latest release that focuses on the importance of a healthy emotional life and a robust spiritual life. A delightful read!

The Cow in the Parking Lot by Leonard Scheff and Susan Edmiston

Whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed with circumstances beyond my control, I reread this interactive book based on a Zen parable.

What is your Go-To self-help book?

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

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