Friday Feature – Author Ann Parker

 

AnnParker headshot

Bringing the Past to Life through History-Mystery

 

I’ll begin with a big THANK YOU to Kat for offering me a chance to participate in her Friday Feature so I can introduce you to my Silver Rush historical mystery series.

 

My books take place primarily—but not entirely!—in 1880 Leadville, Colorado. Leadville is a real town up at the 10,000 foot mark in the Rocky Mountains. Why, you may ask, did I settle on setting an historical mystery series in Leadville? Well, as my Uncle Walt, a Colorado native, once enthused to me, “Leadville was the site of one of the biggest silver rushes in the world! People came from all over, thinking they’d get rich overnight…”

 

Since I have lived in California all my life, I well understood frenetic craziness that ensues when folks get hooked into the “get rich quick” frame of mind (think: dot-com boom, real-estate bubble, etc.).

 

Uncle Walt continued, “…They didn’t realize that you couldn’t just pick silver ‘nuggets’ up off the ground, and that’s when all the trouble started.”

 

Trouble indeed!

 

My uncle’s enthusiasm for Leadville was infectious, so I began to research Leadville and her history, and to fashion my characters. I decided to make my protagonist Inez Stannert, named after my paternal grandmother, who was raised in Leadville but never breathed a word about it to me, despite her love of telling stories of her life in Denver (yet another mystery!). My fictional Inez Stannert runs the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville along with her husband’s business partner, Abe Jackson, a free man of color.

 

When the first book in the series, Silver Lies, opens, the reader quickly learns that Inez’s husband, gambler and all-around-charmer Mark Stannert, has been missing for close to nine months. What has happened to him? Did he perish by falling down one of the many mining shafts? Did he just “up and leave?” Is he alive or dead? Well, such questions were not easily answered in 1880 (no Social Security numbers for tracking people down, for instance). So, Inez and Abe carry on as best they can.

 

A woman running a saloon in the wide-open boomtown of Leadville is unusual, but not unheard of: in the 1880 census, 228 men claimed the occupation of saloon keeper or bartender, compared to 3 women. So, who is Inez? She is a woman in a man’s world. She runs a high-stakes poker game, holds her whiskey with the best, plays piano beautifully enough to “make the angels weep.” She also carries a Remington pocket revolver, because who knows when trouble will strike in this tumultuous town, where the law is overwhelmed by the lawless?

 

I conveniently set the Silver Queen Saloon on the corner of the business and red-light districts.  Between that and the general “silver-induced frenzy” the silver boom brought to this region, I had no trouble at all fashioning stories that weave real-life events into my fiction. For instance, in Silver Lies, folks are “dying to get rich.” In the second book, Iron Ties, I explore the (real-life) railroad wars that finally brought the iron horse to Leadville, as well as the plight of the town and railroad’s Civil War vets, many still suffering from the aftermath of the conflict 15 years after the war’s end. The third, Leaden Skies, features the arrival of former president and Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant to town on a five-day visit. I refer to this one as my “dirty politics” book. (The more things change, the more they stay the same. Such seems to be the course of human history.)

 

Of course, there are mysterious deaths, confidence games, tomfoolery of various kinds, and everyone has their secrets—even Inez, who I like to describe as a woman with a shadowy past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. The series also provides a bit of romance… but I won’t say much about that in fear of spoilers.

 

As I said above, my series takes place mostly—but not entirely!—in Colorado. The sixth and newest book in my series, A Dying Note, finds Inez in 1881 San Francisco, California. Now manager of a music store, she is trying to forge a new life for herself in the “Paris of the West” and put her unsavory years in Leadville behind her. However, as the Kirkus Review of this book notes, “Leaving behind a life of secrets proves no easy task.” Inez carefully constructed life threatens to tumble about her ears when the badly beaten body of a young musician washes up to shore. Inez becomes entangle in the mystery of his death when the musician turns out to have ties to Leadville, ties that threaten to explore Inez’s notorious past.  Publishers Weekly praises the “fascinating period details, flamboyant characters, and surprising plot twists,” of A Dying Note, adding, “Parker leaves the reader longing to see what Inez will get up to next.”

 

As to what new mysteries and challenges Inez may face in the seventh book, all I will say is: stay tuned!

 

Ann Parker lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a science writer by day and a crime fiction author by night. Her Silver Rush historical series, featuring protagonist Inez Stannert and published by Poisoned Pen Press, has won numerous awards, including the Colorado Book Award, the Colorado Gold Award, the Willa Literary Award, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award.

 

Find out more about Ann and her series at http://annparker.net/

On Wednesdays she blogs at http://silverrushmysteries.blogspot.com/

She spends way too much time on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/annparker.writer

And pins interesting historical bits from her research on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/annparkerauthor/

A to Z Challenge: Reflection

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

When I first discovered this challenge, it was only a day or two before sign-up closed. I ended up making a snap decision to participate, hoping to build up my blog. It would be easy, right? After all, it was just a simple post every day except Sunday throughout the month of April. I could probably wing it. Maybe.

So signing up, I now had to chose a theme. Easy enough. This blog is all about writing, so I would make my theme Everything I Love about Writing. There! I was going to breeze through this. Then I stumbled over my first obstacle. I actually had to come up with subjects the fit this theme using every letter. Do you know how hard it is to find X and Z words? Neither did I.

My good intentions of getting all the posts written ahead quickly fell through and I was writing a blog post every day. That actually turned out to be fun as I could approach it from a fresh perspective. Also, as I mentioned several times during the month, I am a pantser, not a plotter. I had a master list of the subjects I had picked, but every new post was a delightful surprise.

For example, my theme was Everything I Love about Writing.  However, I realized that that was too one-sided of an approach to what I consider my writing journey. After all, how can you recognized good if you never see bad? So I expanded it to all aspects of my journey. Something that surprised me was my G post, G is for Grammar. I didn’t like that post, I don’t like grammar, it was the antithesis to my theme. It was one of the most popular posts from the entire challenge. Every post revealed something new to me, challenged me to change and grow.

A particularly fun part of the A to Z challenge was getting to blog hop to other bloggers. I only visited about ten consistently, but I was delighted to get to know them through their blog posts and A to Z journey.

So how can I sum up the A to Z challenge? I still don’t know what happened to April. I scrambled to keep up with the posting and comments. There were days when I felt like I fell far short and others that I felt like I’d won a gold medal. I got to met new bloggers and made some amazing friends over the course of this challenge. As my dad says, ‘Would I do it again?’ The answer is yes. I’m looking forward to next year.

My thanks to everyone who stopped by during this challenge, you’re the best!

 

Friday Feature – Stephanie Risner

Stephanie.jpg
Juggling the Muses
“I just love your covens and your OTS stories. When is the next one coming out?” The attractive blonde mother of two hands me the latest copy of one of my series novels and smiles down at me.
Two months from now,” I say, opening the book to the page I usually sign. I stop, pause, and double check the name on the front cover.
The woman, an avid fan of my work, raises a brow and gives me a quizzical look.
“Just making sure I sign the right name,” I tell her. We both laugh.
This is my life as a writer with multiple pen names. I have to double check before I sign, triple check to make sure I’ve put the right books in the right newsletter, and be careful I’m posting the right marketing material to the right Facebook fan page.
There’s a reason I have four pen names. No, that’s not a typo. I said four.  See, when I first started my writing career, I wrote non-fiction books and articles and had a column in a national trade magazine. S. Connolly was my original nom de plume. The initial S because in college I learned quickly that female writers were taken more seriously if their gender was removed from the equation, which could be done by using the initial of the first name, and then the surname. I did submit some of my early short fiction for publication under this pen name, but aside from a few semi-pro magazines, I never sold much.
By the time I’d sold my first novel, I’d already established S. Connolly as a non-fiction author. She had a track record and people expected computer, business, and accounting articles from her, as well as books about witchcraft and demonology.  They weren’t expecting family-friendly epic fantasy. When I sold my first fantasy novel I decided to once again go with initials (first and middle this time) and my married surname – S. J. Reisner. My family-friendly pen name was born.
Four years later I started writing an urban fantasy/supernatural mystery novel. It was bloody and contained language. The characters were shady, crass, and not family-friendly. The books were at least Rated R. I didn’t want my fans with milder sensibilities to be turned off by the potty-mouthed curmudgeons, occultists, and criminals of my grittier fiction. Audrey Brice (Audrey after a great aunt) sounded like a solid urban fantasy/supernatural/paranormal/thriller/horror pen name. That’s how I ended up with pen name three.
While writing said gritty supernatural series, I ended up writing a rather provocative scene in one of the novels that my critique group outright rejected. One of my critique partners said,  “It’s too graphic for urban fantasy-mystery. Have you ever considered writing erotica? You’re actually pretty good at it.”
On a whim, I wrote a few erotic romance novellas and a novel, just to get it out of my system. Also on a whim, I tossed them up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble just because – but under a secret pen name because I didn’t want family and friends to know I was writing trashy novels. It turned out my critique partner was right. I was pretty good at writing erotica. So when I started selling tens of thousands of copies, I had to come clean and claim Anne O’Connell. After all, I’m a firm believer you need to own what you write.  Anne, from my middle name JoAnn, and O’Connell being a play on my surname Connolly.
So, that’s how I ended up with the four pen names. About now, most people wonder how I manage all of them.
Aside from the aforementioned habits, I gave up on multiple websites and blogs long ago. Most authors barely have time to maintain one site, let alone four. These days all my domains point to one website.  That website also contains one blog. I password protect the rated X stuff.  I have one Twitter, one Instagram, and one of all the other social media venues an author should have.
The hardest part seems to be keeping regular release schedules for each persona. I do well with three of them, but S. J. Reisner is the one I slack on. My imagination tends toward the grittier fiction with Audrey Brice’s supernatural horror/thrillers at the top of my priority list.
The upside of having four pen names is that I can write whatever I want to write and it will fall into one of the pen names. I’m never bored because I always have four projects to choose from. I can usually get into any event with at least one of the pen names. My readers appreciate my use of pen names because it helps them find what they’re looking for. Many of the readers from one pen name will check out the other three, and will often end up reading across several or all of my pen names.
Yes, having four pen names is a lot of work and takes a lot of juggling, but if I had to do it all over again – I wouldn’t change a thing.
——————–
When she’s not juggling four pen names, Stephanie Reisner spends her free time with her husband and three cats, and a garden full of weird plants.  www. the-quadrant.com
Published As: S. Connolly, Audrey Brice, S. J. Reisner, Anne O’Connell
Recent Novel Releases:
Falling From Grace (Anne O’Connell) (erotic romance, Midnight Fantasy Press)  April 15, 2018
Eagle’s Talon Gray (S. J. Reisner) (sword and sorcery fantasy, Darkerwood Publishing) ISBN:978-1938839085
Thirteen Covens: Bloodlines (Part One) (Audrey Brice) (supernatural thriller, Darkerwood Publishing) ISBN: 978-1938839092
Get freebies and exclusive content – subscribe to my Newsletter(s)
Visit my website for more information, www.the-quadrant.com  [ Four Pen Names, Four Elements ]

Z is for Zest

Zest

 

No, not that kind of zest. I’m talking about the other types of zest.

 

Definition of zest

*An enjoyably exciting quality

*Keen enjoyment

Source: Merrian-Webster Dictionary

 

Over the past month, I’ve had lots of fun sharing with you Everything that I Love about Writing. I’ve covered a myriad of topics, some I never anticipated and others that turned out totally different than I set out to write. I got to read some phenomenal blogs and make some new blogging friends. But we have reached the end of the A to Z Challenge. So where do I go from here?

Well, right now I’m busy trying to make sure that everything is ready for my May 15th release of the next book in my series: In Search of Healing. It’s the second book in a six part series and I’m excited about its upcoming release. For my blog, I still plan on my Feature Fridays, plus I hope to start a serial story sometime in May.

But most of all, I plan to continue writing with zest. For many years, I hid my writing away as unimportant and not good enough. But my writing brings me joy and I hope that I’ve been able to share a small measure of that joy with you over the past month. So thank you for supporting my A to Z journey and I encourage you to live every day with zest and joy.

Here’s to a great 2018!

Y is for Yowl

We are now on our second to last post and I realize that I have been terribly remiss. While I have had a fabulous time talking about Everything I Love about Writing, I have left out an important part of my writing. My critics, cough, I mean, my cats. Whenever I sit down to write, they wake up and decide that it’s time to mess with me. Also, as anyone with cats know, you can learn great nonverbal body language from them which can be useful in writing. Did you know that cats do not meow to other cats, only to humans? I’ve watched my cats carefully after learning this and its the truth 🙂

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my writing assistants.

First up is Beni Tetu

 

She is the oldest of our kitties, coming in at four years old. One night in July four years ago, one of our dogs started her fear barking. We live in the country, so we were naturally concerned. Was it a coyote? A rattlesnake? Something else? We run out to look and to our surprise it was a tiny kitten that had her spooked. We live out in the country, so we had no idea where she had come from. After much discussion, she ended up being named Beni which means Blessed, and Tetu which means stubborn. She is our most independent kitty and comes and goes as she will.

 

Next come the boys, Indiana Jones and Valentino

 

Although they weren’t the prettiest kittens, they have grown into handsome Toms. At three years old, they are our biggest cats, weighing in at around 18 lbs. The black one is Indiana Jones, he was named that because he is an adventurer. The striped one is called Valentino because he’s a lover, not a fighter. Both have turned out to be incredibly sweet toms. Surprisingly enough, they are quick on their feet and are great hunters.

 

Next come the Ginger Girls, Lea and Munca

 

The girls just turned two last month. My brother’s cat got pregnant and because he has four little ones we took in the kittens to foster. 3 out of 5 went to other homes, but I simply became too attached to these two to give them up. Lea was originally a Leo until we found out that he was a she. Like how Calico cats are predominantly female, most orange tigers are male, with the ratio coming out to about 80/20. However we ended up with two females. Munca on the hand loved to climb across the top of her cage on the inside like she was doing monkey bars. We named her Monkey, but it is usually shortened to Munca. As seen in the above pictures, Munca loves to sleep in bowls while her sister Lea prefers the softer option of fleece. However, they love to snuggle together and get into trouble together 🙂

 

Rounding out this age group is Zazzles.

 

Around the same age as the gingers and a suspected half brother, Zazzles has a special story. My brother was driving home one night and found a kitten in the middle of the road injured. He brought him home and gave him a bath (and didn’t die for his impudence). His tail was broken but he was in good spirits and had a sweet disposition. My brother was unable to keep him as he was in a pet free rental, so he brought him out to the acreage. His tail healed up and other than a slight crook, you can’t even tell that it was broken. He is the most vocal of all of our felines and loves to love on all of us. I don’t know if you have ever watched the Big Bang Theory, but that is where we got his name from. “His name is Zazzles because he’s the Zazziest” – Sheldon Cooper

 

Finally, we have Duckie

 

Another rescue, Duckie is only 6 months old. We got her in October. Something happened to her mother and as it was around Halloween, some kids were talking about hurting her because she was a black cat. She was just a bitty thing when we first got her, only a few weeks old. She had obviously been crying for her mother and her throat was distressed, so when she meowed, she sounded like a duck. Although her throat has healed up, the name stuck. Although the smallest and youngest of the pride, she has no fear and loves to mess with all of her siblings. As you can tell from the picture above, she’s a sassy one. She is currently very unhappy with us as she was recently fixed and is being kept indoors until she is completely healed. However, give it a week or so and she’ll be right back to terrorizing the world, both inside and out 🙂

 

Also, I can’t write this post without a special mention.

Sassy 1

This is Sassafras T. also known as Sassy II a.k.a. Sassy. We sadly had to say goodbye to him this winter. He was my writing companion for 17 years and is sorely missed. However, he had quite the eventful life, full of fun and adventures, raised lots of puppies and kittens.

 

So tell me about your special writing companions 🙂

X is for Xanadu

Xanadu definition

An idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

quote-in-xanadu-did-kubla-khan-a-stately-pleasure-dome-decree-where-alph-the-sacred-river-ran-samuel-taylor-coleridge-220658

As shown above, Xanadu was originally mentioned in the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Coleridge. You can find the whole poem here: Kubla Khan I really advise going and reading it, the mental imagery is gorgeous

Now can you imagine coming up with a word like Xanadu? Here is a great link about how words are formed: Word Formation The correct term for what Coleridge did was that he coined Xanadu.

Now my family has a few words that we’ve made up, mainly remnants from when we were kids. I’ve never included them in with my writing though as you need to understand the story behind to really get them.

So what is a word that you or your family has coined? I’m looking forward to seeing the answers 😊

W is for Worldbuilding

In case you can’t tell from some of my other posts, world building is one of my favorite aspects of writing. It’s time for me to confess another flaw of mine. When it comes to writing, I hate researching. Let me explain a little bit. I absolutely love researching, I have an endless curiosity and always like to look up random things. For example, did you know that there is a dark soy sauce and a light soy sauce? I know, that totally blew my mind. So why did I say that I hate researching? Well, it’s more the history that I dislike researching. I love history, after all, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. However, my characters are too mule headed to play with real history. They don’t like the restrictions that come with real history. And I struggle with writing alternate history. Some people do an amazing job of it, but my imagination just doesn’t work that way. When I try to do that, my stories end up, odd, to say the least.

 

history

 

So I make a world where I can create histories that work for my characters. Where I am in charge of all the elements and anything can happen. That doesn’t mean that my worlds don’t have rules, it just means that I have more leeway with what is going on. For example, in most of my stories I tend to not have in a modern age with modern weaponry. I prefer having my characters having to get up close to handle problems, not just snipe them from a mile away. I guess you could say that most of them are set in almost a King Arthur time frame, the times of knights and chivalry.

I did take a side step in creating my world for The Seeker Files though. It is set in modern times, in a city that is a lot like NYC in my imagination, although a bit smaller. The characters have guns, cell phones, all the modern conveniences. But there is a difference between this world and the real world. In the world that the Seeker Files is set in, Humans and Supernaturals live side by side. This creates a whole different dynamic than that of the real world. Because there is magic, I have been able to include traditional weapons like swords and bows in addition to modern weapons like guns and tasers. Magic can also be used offensively and defensively, although it has many, many uses besides that.

So how deep do I go in my worldbuilding? It really depends. I tend to leave commonsense things alone, everyone still eats, drinks, sleeps, etc. Gravity that we consider normal is still part of it and there is day and night, the sky is blue and water is wet. 24 hours days, 7 days a week, 12 months, 365 days in a year. Most of the things that we don’t even consciously think about, I leave alone. My biggest thing is creating new history and events. Also, spending time playing in the world. When I’m writing and I come across something that I hadn’t anticipated, I take a stroll. I throw on some music, close my eyes, and simply stroll through the world in my imagination, looking for the answers to my question. It is usually pretty straightforward and I get the answer quickly, but sometimes I have to dig through the layers to find it.

For example, I recently had to figure out how to share magic between my characters. Well, magic doesn’t really exist in our world, so I can’t really use that as a reference. While some people can make magical objects, most of the magic in my world is intangible outside of the user. How then can I get it from character A to character B. After playing around with several different ideas, it suddenly came to me. It’s like giving a blood transfusion. Different blood types or in this case magic types can only receive or donate magic to certain other magic types. It’s an idea that people can understand and one that allows me to have a measure of control over magical exchanges. These are the sort of challenges and puzzles that I live for.

 

Red-Blood-Cell-Compatibility-Table-1

 

So how do you world build?

V is for Villains

My theme for this A to Z Challenge is Everything I Love about Writing. Well, here’s a little secret for you, I don’t really like villains. I write and read to get away from the real world and all of its sorrow. There are even movies that I refuse to watch because they end sadly, Steel Magnolias and Love is a Many Splendored Thing to name just a couple. However, without a villain, something for good to strive against, many books and movies would not exist. After all, can you imagine Lord of the Rings without Sauron? Makes the whole series kinda moot, doesn’t it?

In the series I’m currently writing, The Seeker Files, it is a fantasy/mystery series. Most mysteries need a bad guy, not all, but most. A little bit of a sneak peak, but there will be a villain through the entire six books series. So, in my mind, what do I think about when writing about villains?

 

Here are the top 3 things:

 

  1. No villain is one hundred percent evil

Lilo explaining

Even though it would be easier if the villain was just pure evil, that is not the case. No one is ever entirely good or entirely bad. Both of these things will cause people to put aside a book or turn off a movie because they can’t relate. After all, how can one relate to pure light or pure darkness? Our world is filled with different degrees of grayness, that is what makes us human. Villains are still human to some degree, so to make them pure evil is doing your story a disservice.

 

  1. Every villain has a backstory

 

Villains don’t just appear out of nowhere. They have parents and childhoods. They might have had pets and friends. They have foods that they prefer to eat and clothes that they like to wear. They have all the quirks that every person living has. Some people are born sociopaths, that is true, but they can still feel emotion even if it’s just a burning desire to take things for themselves. Their backstory might even contain what made them turn into villains. Maybe they had abusive parents or a drug habit. Maybe they are adrenaline junkies that need to keep getting more extreme to feel that rush. Who knows? But next time you’re reading, take a moment to think about what might’ve caused them to be the villains that they are.

 

  1. Villains are the heroes of their own stories

A villain is not a villain to themselves. They may know that they are opposed to the ‘good guys’, but they do not believe that they are in the wrong. For example, think of Ursula in A Little Mermaid. She believes that she is helping the merfolk even as she is taking advantage of them. The villain might have even started out as a good guy, only to get twisted over to evil as he does his journey. Anakin from Star Wars is a prime example of that. His worry for Padme, a noble thing, got so twisted around that he ended up becoming Darth Vader.

 

 

I know that there have probably been several posts about villains during this A to Z Challenge, but here is my take on them. Let me know what you think 😊

Friday Feature – Blogger Lexx Vorpahl

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Before I begin my introduction, I definitely want to thank Kat for reaching out and asking me to participate in her Friday Feature. Thank you for the opportunity to do so…

So where to begin, Hello there everyone, Lexx here. I am an aspiring author who is currently working on two novels simultaneously while blogging about all things related to writing. My writing journey is an interesting one and I have always enjoyed it for many reasons. On writing:

I like being able to communicate through writing for several reasons:  I like the challenge and the peace it brings to me personally, when I sit down to write I try to articulate my words well (the challenge) I read them aloud to see how they flow together, I get time to ponder a bit before having to spit out uselessness( I am not one for small talk or small thoughts).

I definitely enjoy being able to go over my thoughts and refine them for later use and blogging has been a medium I hadn’t considered for that purpose until now. So, I am liking the process of learning and growing as I continue to blog as often as possible with my chosen subject always present. I also don’t mind sharing with others and blogging is one way I get to share and connect with other people (without having to leave my house, I consider this a plus). I like being able to find like-minded individuals and connecting through our similar interests and thought processes through the blogosphere.

Anyway, more on my writing journey but outside of blogging. To be honest, I am just now beginning to kick things off after years of self-doubt and always listening to other peoples’ words on the subject matter. I beg you now if you love writing, never stop, for a moment. Now is writing easy? Yes and no…Is it easy to become an author? Certainly not, but if it is a goal of yours and something you can’t get out of your mind, don’t stop because of outside influences. Add it to the many goals you want to achieve in life.

This totally applies to other things not just writing, so if you don’t write don’t worry my words still apply. Believe in yourself and find where your passion lies. I don’t think anyone should have to give up something they love to do and sometimes we are told just that! What terrible advice if you ask me, and that sort of advice is best left on the side of the road while you continue driving to your destination. Right now, I am doing just that and so far, I like the scenery.

A bit more about me:

I am a stay at home mom and wife, I homeschool, I’m a Beachbody coach too. I’m also a student and can’t wait to begin a new degree course in August. I love gardening, crochet, and woodworking to name a few things. My husband and I love DIY! We do a lot of different projects together. Life is good. Obviously writing is a passion, and blogging is something I enjoy too. I plan to finish my novels, edit and then publish.  In the meantime, I blog at https://lexxvorpahl.wordpress.com/ you can also catch me over at https://vorpahlismco.wordpress.com/ If you like DIY, cooking, crafty things and more.

you can also find me on Instagram @LexxWrites  https://www.instagram.com/lexxwrites/  or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LexxWrites/

Again, a big thank you to Kat and hey TGIF! Have a great weekend everyone.

Lexx Vorpahl

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