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Why Research Changes My Stories {Writer Wednesday}

I just started writing the second book in the upcoming Wyoming Cowboys series. I had a strong grasp on the general plot before typing the opening line, but there were many things I didn’t know (and still don’t!) about the story.

As I brainstormed possible scenes and reasons for them to happen, I kept Google open and researched questions as they came up. I always do this when starting a draft. Each article I find gives me insight into the issue and it usually changes my story.

 

The reason? I’m not an expert on anything. I have limited knowledge of many of the themes and situations I tackle in my books. One thing I love when I’m spiraling into research is when I realize I was wrong about something, but the article/book gives me an even better idea. For instance, the plot in my work-in-progress has a church youth mentoring program. My initial thoughts on how this would play into the story weren’t feasible due to the age of the little girl involved, but it allowed me to have the characters agree to a private arrangement, which serves the story better.

This type of thing happens all the time when I’m writing. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoy researching. You’ve probably read the advice to push yourself to come up with unique ideas by coming up with a list and using one of the final ideas you write. I’ve tried this method, but I don’t always find it to be logical. I want the story to be believable! Research helps me push the limits to find believable situations.

Whether you’re a writer or not, how do you feel about research? I love it!

Have a terrific day!

{printable} Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

{printable} Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

2017 has been a year of changes for me. Most of the changes have been little, but hey, small steps equal steady progress. One of the things I’m doing is tracking my progress in two areas. I created a year-at-a-glance spreadsheet that can be used for any goal. I’m tracking my exercise habits and how many hours of “important work” I accomplish each day.

Below is a snapshot of it. Notice there are spaces for each day of the week as well as notes. For my health spreadsheet, I use my own code. FY stands for Foundation Yoga. BC stands for Boot Camp. GS stands for Green Smoothie. 2W stands for two miles I walked. Obviously, the number changes with the miles. This allows me to see my consistency over the course of an entire year. It’s been motivating!

 

Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

For my Important Work spreadsheet, I printed the exact same form, but each day I simply jot a number in the slot. The number represents the amount of hours I spent doing things on my Important Work list. (You can see my list below.)

By important work, I mean tasks that directly contribute to my income, which is based on writing and selling books. I got this concept from Cal Newport’s excellent book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I don’t track my “deep work” hours because some of the things I consider important do not fit the Deep Work philosophy.

Your list will look different than mine. We all have our own concept of the most valuable tasks in regards to our work. The things I don’t include on my Important Work list are necessary parts of my job, but I place less value on the because they don’t directly contribute to my income based on writing and selling books.

Things I track as Important Work:

  • Doing research for a book
  • Plotting a novel
  • Outlining a nonfiction book
  • Creating a synopsis
  • Writing the actual book
  • Revising a manuscript
  • Any editorial tasks required
  • If Indie publishing, any cover research, formatting, uploading
  • Setting up promotion for a new release

What I don’t track as  Important Work:

  • Reading and responding to emails
  • Being active on social media sites
  • Administrative tasks (income/expense report, etc…)
  • Volunteering to judge contests, help writers, etc…
  • Writing blog posts

Again, the things I don’t track are necessary to my job, but I don’t log the hours I spend doing them.

If you’re interested in tracking any aspect of your life, feel free to print your own Weekly Progress Sheets. Just click on the link below! I’m also including this pdf file on my For Writers page if you’d like to print more out in the future.

Click for the printable PDF Weekly Progress Spreadsheet.

I find this especially helpful for reluctant writers. If you find yourself going days on end without writing, try this. It’s evidence of how much or how little time you actually spend working on a manuscript.

If you’d like to track your Important Work hours, spend a little time determining what equals important work to you. Enjoy!

Does charting your progress motivate you? Have you ever tried a year-at-a-glance weekly spreadsheet?

Have a terrific day!

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Creative Sessions = Dedicated time to problem solve, plot, explore ideas.

In the past two weeks I’ve read two nonfiction books that made a big impact on me. The first was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and the second was Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Although very different books, they shared a common theme–focus. The Wright brothers devoted much of their free time to solving the dilemma of human flight. Their passion helped them focus, and they spent hours, weeks, months and years experimenting and problem solving. In Deep Work, Cal Newport puts forth a compelling argument why anyone who wants to excel in their field needs to be deliberate about what they’re spending their time on. In other words, excellence requires focus.

 

Scheduling Creative Sessions

 

Writing, like inventing, involves a LOT of creativity. And creativity is a form of problem-solving. Fictional characters don’t always behave, and plots get off track. And then there’s the issue of what to write next.

I have many ideas I’d love to explore, so many books I want to write. Time always feels like the deciding factor. But over the past couple of years, I’ve broken free from my belief that producing a higher volume of quality books requires putting in massive overtime hours.

Last year I was tired of constantly setting aside a pet project to work on my contracted books. It hit me that if I didn’t schedule time for it, I would never finish the project, let alone publish it. I had to figure out how to work on it while fulfilling my contracts. I sensed that I could accomplish far more than I thought possible, but I didn’t know how. So, I read several time management books, prayed, talked to trusted writer friends, and finally decided to go for it.

Through trial and error, my beliefs shifted. I reworked my daily schedule, limited the frequency of social media breaks, silenced my phone and pushed myself to meet daily and weekly goals. I also added more time to studying the Bible and praying each morning which had a direct impact on my day by giving me the boost necessary to believe I could meet my goals.

In 2016, I plotted several books, wrote two category length books, a novella and a nonfiction book, promoted two novels, and organized my writing business. This was far more than I’d produced the previous year, and yes, sometimes this meant working overtime, but overall, I fit these projects into normal working hours. How? By deciding in advance what I would work on each day, devoting 30-60 minutes to my nonfiction book (the one that kept getting neglected), and limiting distractions.

The great thing about revising my schedule? My writing continues to grow. I’m confident about the books I’m writing because I’m making the time to thoroughly plot, write, revise and polish them. If my only goal was to publish more books, I’d be tempted to use shortcuts and skimp on the quality. My goal has always been to write the best book I’m capable of and that means no skimping.

One thing I’m adding this year: scheduling regular creative sessions just to think and jot notes. These time blocks will be used to plot, work through a current book problem, explore ideas for new books, and creatively solve any business issues. Setting aside 2-3 hours a week, or even 30 minutes a day, to just “sit and think” seemed absurd until I realized my brain does so much heavy-hitting for me beneath the surface of my consciousness. Scheduling regular creative sessions is another tool to get more work done in a limited time frame. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you ever sense you could accomplish more in the limited time you have? What strategies do you currently use to make the most of your hours?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

The Inside Scoop with Nicole Deese #WW

The Inside Scoop With Nicole Deese #WW

Today Nicole Deese is graciously answering questions about her writing life. Nicole writes sweet romance novels, and I had the pleasure of meeting her at the ACFW conference this summer. Her new release, The Promise of Rayne, just released! Don’t worry–I have all the links and info below.

Let’s get to it!

 

 

THE INSIDE SCOOP WITH NICOLE DEESE #WW

 

1. How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a love for story and a HUGE love for the written word. About five years ago, after a super intense reading binge, I literally closed my latest read (which was the fantastic Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi), set it on the arm of the sofa and said to my husband, “I want to do this. I’m going to do this.” And just shy of a year later I independently published my debut novel, All For Anna. I’m extremely blessed to do what I love.

2. What is unique about your process?

One of the unique parts of my process is the feedback I rely on from my writing partners. Upon finishing a chapter in my first draft, I send it off to my two faithful pals for an overall content check, and then again for a more thorough critique on the second (or third) draft. I can hardly remember when I used to write “alone”… and honestly, I’d never go back. I love living in community.

3. What inspired your book?

About a year ago I was meditating on the love your enemies passage in Luke 6. And while I sat pondering one morning, overlooking our property in north Idaho, the beginnings of The Promise of Rayne started to spark. Just a few weeks later those little sparks ignited into a raging fire of conflict, characters, and a story that seemed to grab ahold of my heart until I’d written those last two words: The End.

4. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

If you make your readers worry… they’ll keep turning pages.

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I’m getting all goosebumpy over here, Nicole! I love that you told your husband you were doing it, and you did. I remember the day I realized I could “try” to write a novel. So exciting! I agree with you on the writing community–how does anyone do it alone? I rely on my writing friends for moral support and writing support. We need each other. And by the way…the advice  you shared is really good advice! Thank you so much for being my guest!

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THE PROMISE OF RAYNE

The Promise of Rayne

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.
Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

Purchase THE PROMISE OF RAYNE HERE!

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Nicole Deese

 

Nicole Deese is a full-time lover of humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled fiction. She is the author of seven published novels including the Love in Lenox novels, A Cliché Christmas and A Season to Love, and her newest standalone release, The Promise of Rayne. When she’s not writing sweet romances, she can usually be found reading near a window while sipping a LaCroix. She lives in small-town Idaho with her handsome hubby and two sons.

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What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

  1. FREE Christmas novella!! Chapters one and two of A Cradle for Christmas are now live on Harlequin.com! Click HERE, and select “Love Inspired” to read them!
  2. There’s still time to enter my November giveaway full of Christmas goodies! Go to my HOME page (linked) and scroll down for the entry options.
  3. I’m giving away two copies of Yuletide Redemption on Goodreads. The entry form is in the sidebar of my blog!

Have a terrific day!

 

Glass City Author Event, Television Interview and Pizza!

This week has been really cool. I got new author pictures taken, my friend Constance Phillips and I were interviewed on a local television program, I’m gearing up for a HUGE book event this weekend AND I’m ordering pizza tonight! I know, I’m pinching myself, too! Pizza is my favorite! Haha!

Back to the other good stuff…

Jill Kemerer TV

I took this right before the television interview!

 

As soon as my fabulous photographer sends me the new author pictures, I’ll share them with you. The television interview was yesterday on WTOL 11 Your Day. Constance Phillips and I chatted with Amanda Fay about our books, our local romance writers group (www.MVRAI.com), and the book event. You can catch it by clicking on the link below!

“Local Writers Take Part in Glass City Author Event”

On to the book event…the HUGE book event…this Saturday!!

The Glass City Author Event is held at the Seagate Center in downtown Toledo, Ohio, from 9am-5pm on October 8, 2016.

There will be over 100 authors signing books! Tickets are required to enter. Here’s the link to buy them, EventBrite, and you can buy tickets at the door, but they are MUCH more expensive. If you’re planning on attending, Constance Phillips and I have adjoining tables (113 and 114) near the entrance, and we’d love to meet you, so stop by!

And then there’s the pizza. Mm…I can’t wait.

What are your weekend plans? Do they involve pizza?

Have a great weekend!!

Articles I Loved This Week – Writer Wednesday

In between my DIY mani-pedi failure and attempting to make decorations for a book event this weekend, I read quite a few blogs this week. We won’t discuss the mani-pedi thing, and I’ll post pictures of the decor and event next week. But in the meantime, I’m sharing links to those fab blogs!

 

Lately I’ve been stretched REAL thin, so Nicole Locke’s post, “Tuesday Talk Time: Time Out, Time In,” was a breath of fresh air. I love her point that when we’re overworked we tend to take a time out, but too much of this and our families suffer. We can find ways to connect with our loved ones AND relax.

For anyone afraid of taking a leap with your career (entering that first contest, finding a critique partner, querying an agent, pitching to an editor, trying a new genre, etc…), this post by Alison Stone on Seekerville, was fabulous! “Things I Learned When I Took a Leap of Faith.”

I always enjoy Laurie Tomlinson’s blog, and she’s sharing her October plans in “October Update.” Check out her super-cute word count tracking method for an upcoming novella!

What’s getting you excited this week? Share with me!

Have a terrific day!!

2016 ACFW Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle!

Laurie Tomlinson is hosting a pre-conference mix-and-mingle for the upcoming ACFW conference! Naturally, I’m 100% in for mixing and mingling. It’s been a few years since I was able to attend the ACFW conference, so I’m extra excited to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

Laurie created a list of questions for anyone going to ACFW to get to know each other better. I’m including them and my answers below. You’re welcome to join the mix-and-mingle, too! Simply go to Laurie’s blog (the link is at the bottom of this post), and follow her instructions.

By the way, Laurie is an extremely savvy author who recently sold her debut novel to Harlequin Heartwarming! Congratulations, Laurie! She offers a variety of services for writers, and she’s a contributor to The Writer’s Alley. Here’s a little more about her:

Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who enjoys stories of grace in the beautiful mess. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and regular contributor to TheWritersAlleyBlog.com. Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary, has won two Genesis Awards, and was runner-up in the 2015 RWA Lone Star Contest.

 

IMG_6139-768x644

 

Mix-and-Mingle time!

Name: Jill Kemerer

Location: Toledo, Ohio

What you write/tagline/trademark: Christian contemporary romance with love, humor and faith.

Place in the book world: Multi-published author with Harlequin Love Inspired. Yuletide Redemption releases December 2016.

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Hug-a-licious!

Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? Cappuccino, yum!

The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, University of Michigan football (Go blue!), Day Planners, brainstorming plots, and recipes from The Pioneer Woman.

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, our son–a freshman in high school, our daughter–a freshman in college, and our mini-dachshund, Sophie.

Conference goals we can pray for? I get migraines very easily, so I’m praying for a migraine-free conference. I’m also praying for God to use me wherever He sees fit.

Anything we can celebrate with you? Sticking with my health plan? Haha! I’m honored to be on Rebecca Regnier’s Full Plate, a local television program, next week. July 20 at 10:00am! You can check out her website, here: http://www.13abc.com/thisishome/fullplate

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Stop by my page on  Facebook HERE and sign up for my newsletter HERE!

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Be sure to head over to Laurie’s blog (linked) to “meet” the other participants! 

http://www.laurietomlinson.com/2016-conference-mixer/

Here’s how to play:

– Copy/paste the questions and fill out your own answers in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that specific post (not your homepage) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

– Make sure to link back to this post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

– Click through the links below to get to know other conference attendees before Nashville!

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What can we celebrate with YOU?

Enjoy your weekend!

Taking Care of YOU – Writer Wednesday

How do you take care of yourself as a writer? This is often referred to as writer self care. Have you heard that term? I have off and on over the years. Whenever I hear it, it brings to mind the following:

  • Move around during the day to avoid the aches and pains of a sedentary job.
  • Eat healthy. Except when the WIP isn’t behaving. Then eat a lot of junk food. Or if you’re on deadline, then you should guzzle caffeine.
  • Set boundaries. Don’t let anything interfere with your writing time.

Her Small-Town Romance

There’s more to writer self care than that, of course. I’m sure we could come up with 101 things that would fit in the box. Today I want to share one way I take care of the writer me. It will sound indulgent. That’s okay. It IS indulgent, and that’s why it’s such a great thing!

Celebrate your success!

I make each release day special. No, I don’t throw a party or expect balloons and champagne. In fact, I tend to celebrate by myself, doing something I consider fun. I always buy myself flowers on release day. Always! And I check at least one local store to see if my book arrived.

Yesterday, my third book, Her Small-Town Romance, started arriving in stores (the ebook will be available April 1, 2016). I took a few hours in the afternoon to do some thrift shopping, bought a pretty bouquet of daisies and watched birds for a bit at a local park. None of this cost much, but it filled my writer soul up in a way I can’t describe.

You see, it’s my way of telling myself what I do matters. My words matter. The hours I spend plotting, writing, revising, editing and promoting all matter.

After my debut released, I promised myself I would do something special just for me every single time I had a new book release. And I have. I hope you celebrate your successes too. You don’t have to wait until release day. It took me years to get published. One time I celebrated a particularly demoralizing rejection by buying pretty glass earrings. I wear them often, a reminder that I didn’t give up.

There is still time to enter my giveaways! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options for my gift package giveaway! And I’m giving away five copies of Her Small-Town Romance on Goodreads. The entry form is in the sidebar of this blog.

How do you celebrate your successes? What can you do to validate that what you do matters?

Have a terrific day!

The Inside Scoop with Belle Calhoune and a Giveaway!

Today Belle Calhoune is  graciously answering questions about her writing life and giving away a paperback copy of her new book, Alaskan Reunion! Belle writes for Harlequin Love Inspired, and Alaskan Reunion is available in stores and online. Don’t worry, I have all the links and book info below!

Let’s get to it.

The Inside Scoop with Belle Calhoune

 

Belle Calhoune

 

1. How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I grew up in Massachusetts across the street from a Public Library, so from the time I was very little, books were deeply embedded in my heart. For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a writer. I knew deep down in my soul that it was my destiny. It’s funny but it seems as if I always knew. I honestly can’t remember a time that I didn’t dream about it. When you constantly have stories running through your head, there aren’t many paths you can follow other than writing. As a kid I was really inspired by books such as Where the Wild Things Are, Ramona the Pest, Phyllis Whitney books, and of course, once I was a teen, Harlequin romances.

 

2. What is unique about your process?

Hmm. I’m not sure if it’s unique but I’m a big brainstormer. I love to take colored pens and markers and create a huge storyboard. Since I’m working
on a series for Love Inspired called “Alaskan Grooms” it’s really fun for me to chart the characters and their back story and relationships. I’m also an author who loves creating names for my characters. So I have a baby book that I delve into from time to time that lists wonderful, creative names. I also go to my author Facebook page and get help from time to time from my readers. They’re the best! They’ve helped me out a time or two. I also love to read aloud my words. It really helps me by hearing how they sound out loud. At times I can really get into it. If something doesn’t sound right, I go back in and fix it.

 

3. What inspired your book?

To be honest, I don’t really like secret baby stories. It always seems so wrong to have a parent miss out on those precious weeks and months of their child’s life. Because of this, I decided to write a secret baby story to challenge myself. As a writer I think it’s fun to challenge ourselves to do the very thing that scares us or takes us to a point of almost being uncomfortable. That’s where true growth as a writer comes from. Once I decided to write that trope, I wanted to create a story about hurt people who made decisions based on that hurt. And I love the theme of forgiveness. It always seems to pop up in my books. I think there is such power and grace in granting forgiveness. I always try and remind myself of that in my personal life.

 

4. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Finish the book! So many people want to write a book and they end up working really hard but not making the goal of finishing it. An unfinished book cannot be sold to a publisher, especially when you’re just starting out and an editor-publisher needs a completed work in order to make a contract offer. Trust me, they want to see that authors can finish. As hard as the task may be, writers need to finish their novel. It helps create credibility in the industry, and as authors it gives us a sense of accomplishment to know that we completed the project.

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Alaskan Reunion

A Baby Between Them

After her father’s betrayal turned her hometown against her, Paige Reynolds fled Love, Alaska. Now she’s returned to mend the damage her dad’s actions caused. But repairing her broken heart is a different story. She must face Cameron Prescott, the man she left behind—and reveal he’s the father of her infant daughter. As Cameron falls in love with his baby girl, he can’t bury the growing feelings for her mother. In a time of turmoil, they turned on one another. But older and wiser, can Cameron and Paige learn that forgiveness may lead to their happily-ever-after?

 

Click Here to Purchase Alaskan Reunion!

 

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About Belle ~

Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels. Belle is the author of six Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a 7th, Christmas-themed book coming out in 2016. She has Indie published the popular Inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. Her new Indie Series, the Secrets of Savannah is a spin-off of her debut series. A best-selling Amazon author and winner of the Angeline Bishop award for Multicultural Romance, Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily ever afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her family, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.
Facebook: Author Belle Calhoune

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Belle is giving away one paperback copy of Alaskan Reunion! Easy entry options are below.

Contest giveaway open to US Residents 18 years and older. Winner will be chosen via GiveawayTools.com on February 28, 2016 at 9pm. Winner will be notified via email. See entry form for complete rules.

 

 

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Did you borrow books from the library as a child? I did all the time!

Have a terrific Day!

It Takes Three Days to Lose Momentum: Writer Wednesday

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

 

You’re writing a draft, loving the characters, debating about what should happen next, and you’re feeling really good about your progress. It’s almost the weekend, and you won’t be able to write due to a jam-packed schedule. No problem. The writing is going so well! You’ll be back at it on Monday with the same enthusiasm.

 

But Monday rolls around, and you have the sniffles, there are fifty emails in your inbox, you have no food and need to run to the store for basics. Before you know it, the day is over and you didn’t add a single word to your work-in-progress.

 

Tuesday morning arrives. Anxiety swirls in your gut. You’ll have to write extra today to make up for the words you missed yesterday. If you could just force yourself to open the file…

 

Facebook lures you in. And you can’t remember where your story left off, so maybe you should check your favorite blogs first. By the time you open the file, it’s late. You’re not motivated. And you  have no idea why you even decided to be a writer in the first place.

 

Momentum is lost. Just. Like. That.

 

Three days. Three days is all it takes for me to completely forget what I’m writing, why I’m writing it, and if I will ever write again. Three days turns into four which becomes a week, and, well, you know…

 

I’ve made myself a rule. Every Monday, I set my writing goals for the week, and I don’t let myself take more than two scheduled writing days off in a row.  Momentum is everything during a first draft.

 

Okay, but what happens if you’re on day seventeen of a wordless stretch? Dive in. Get into that file. Pour Junior Mints into your mouth if you must, but get some words on the page! Once you have a paragraph written, the rest of the book doesn’t feel as overwhelming.

 

The cure for lack of momentum is to build it up again, and you can only do that by writing.

 

Do you ever lose momentum with your writing? How do you get back on track?

Have a terrific day!!

 

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