Friday, October 29, 2010

Who watched Oprah yesterday?

Cuz if you did, it was awesome. Normally, I'm not an Oprah girl (Ellen is more my style). While I love Oprah personally, her shows are usually such downers sometimes. But not yesterday. Yesterday, Oprah reunited the original cast of the The Sound of Music movie. Talk about great TV moments! I remember seeing this movie in the theaters and feeling so overwhelmed. I made my mother buy the record (remember those) and I memorized every word of every song.

Among my favorites moments:

Seeing Julie Andrews looking so awesome.

Having Charmain Carr (Leisl) admit that while filming she had a crush on her "dad" Christopher Plummer. He apparently also taught her how to drink during filming (she was actually 21, not 16 not going on 17).

Seeing the film clip of the real Maria Von Trapp and Julie Andrews singing Edelweiss together.

Discovering that the 35 year old Christopher Plummer was, to put it bluntly, kind of a dog (I'll be honest, I've always found him kind of sexy, even at 80!)

Seeing the audition film clips of the "kids" and hearing their stories.

Seeing Julie Andrews, well, look so awesome (did I already say that?)
Oh, and seeing the real live Von Trapp great-grandchildren on stage singing Edelweiss. Brought a tear to my eye.

Bravo, Oprah!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

High School Drama

I really love that our high school chose the classic Thornton Wilder play "Our Town" for their fall production this year. Megan (my youngest) is playing Mrs. Webb, which I think is a terrific role for her since she's never played an older character before. Plus, Mrs. Webb is kind of, you know, clueless, in that mom way, so I think she presents a really good challenge to get her just sympathetic enough that the audience can identify with her.

The really great thing too about this play, is that just about every adult I've talked to gets this "aw" look on their face when I mention it. Who didn't read this back in high school? Back in the day, at Melbourne Central Catholic High School, we read Our Town in English class and played out the parts. I remember even at 17, feeling nostalgic and a bit sad at the end. When Young Actors Theatre did the play a few years ago, of course, I boo hoo'd like a baby. I expect to cry some tonight too.

If you're in the Tallahassee area, don't miss it (because Mrs. Webb is really going to be fantastic, plus she's been practicing her 'New England' accent!) Lawton Chiles High School, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 pm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The game is on!

I have a new favorite TV show. Besides The Good Wife, that is. And it's the BBC's production of the modern Sherlock Holmes. And while I have nothing against the movie starring Robert Downey, Jr, that came out recently, this new Sherlock is heads above it. It's funny, fast paced, and even kept Mike Geraci up way past his bedtime (which is saying something for a TV show).

The premise is pretty much like the books, except it's set in 21st century London. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch (you couldn't make up a name that good) Sherlock Holmes is as arrogant and brilliant as ever. And Dr. Watson? The fact that he's being played by Martin Freeman, one of the best and probably most underrated British actors is a huge plus. You might remember Martin from the British version of The Office or maybe from the film Love, Actually (he played the porn star). I'll probably get lots of boos on this one, but I'm one of the few people who feels kind of blah about Love, Actually. I loved some of the stories, but others left me pretty cold. The porn star love story and the rocker/manager story were my favorites by far. Although I did love seeing the Hugh Grant dance scene.

Okay, so Sherlock Holmes. PBS. Sunday nights. Masterpiece Mystery Theatre. Narrated by Alan Cumming (another absolutely fabulous actor, who coincidentally, also happens to star in The Good Wife).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In which Lauren makes a book pyramid

Lauren Baratz-Logstead (fellow Girlsfriend Book Club member and TKA sister) has made a book pyramid (kind of like the food pyramid that the ADA puts out, but with less calories). It's not only humorous, but dead on. Go read it here at the BiblioBuffet.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My first review!

It is a fact universally acknowledged that truth is stranger than fiction. Remember that. Because we'll get back to it later.

But first, I received my first review for The Boyfriend of the Month Club. It's from Publisher's Weekly, and it's good!

Grace O'Bryan has not had good luck with men, so she and three book club friends decide to form a boyfriend club to review the bachelors of Daytona Beach, Fla. Soon Grace finds herself in the difficult position of managing two men: Brandon Farrell, a wealthy businessman, and Dr. Joe Rosenblum, a bighearted dentist. Could one of them be her Mr. Darcy? Though some of the ridiculous situations strain credibility (as when Grace chips her tooth while unwrapping a tampon), her dedication to her warm Cuban-Irish family and their struggling tourist shop is earnest and charming. Geraci (Bunco Babes Tell All) fills the fluffy but enjoyable story with literary references, and her leading lady is endearingly flawed. Romance readers will revel in the Austen-perfect happy ending and the warm friendship among members of the club. (Dec.)

Yay! The biggest worry when you're writing women's fictions, hen lit, chick lit (whatever you want to call it) is that people won't get your heroine. I'm glad this reviewer got Grace.

So back to the truth is stranger than fiction thing. You know the other old saying, "if I wrote it, no one would believe it?" Yeah, well, that cracks me up. Because the truth is, I actually did chip my tooth while unwrapping a tampon.

I have loved OB tampons ever since Mel turned me on to them awhile back. What I don't love is the shrink wrapped plastic cover. It should come with a warning. In the event, you cannot get the plastic to dislodge, do NOT use your teeth to break it open. That's all I'm gonna say on that. Other than, whoever came up with the tagline above is some kind of marketing genius.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Miss Bramble and the Leviathan

My good buddy, Kristen Painter has a new book out today. Which means I have some fun new reading to do (Got this delivered this morning on my Kindle!) I'm excited because Kristen can write a darn good story. And I'm doubly excited because I've never read steampunk before. If you've never heard of steampunk, let me tell you what it is.

Steampunk (according to Wikipedia) Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.

Okay, so maybe that's more than you wanted to know about steampunk. Here's what you need to know about the book:

The last thing she planned to steal was his heart

The Company. Military institution, protector of Praeton and the nation of Grand Isle. Dirty rotten thief.

When Pandora Bramble steps aboard the Company’s premiere airship Daedalus it’s not for the exclusive VIP tour. It’s to secure proof that the Company stole the regulator valve her father designed—even if it means tearing the engine apart. Foiled by the unexpected appearance of a handsome crew member, she despairs of ever getting another chance—until he kisses her.

Captain Theolonius Hatch, sentenced to engine room duty for refusing to take part in the Company’s fleet week activities, never dreamed a woman like Pandora existed. Her brains match her beauty, a combination that adds up to more trouble than he ever expected.

As Pandora allows Theolonius to sweep her into a whirlwind courtship, her wildest dreams come true. As do her greatest fears, leaving her to decide what matters most. Loyalty…or love.
The clock is ticking.

Warning: This book contains airships, mechanical owls, women who are good with tools, men in and out of uniform, steam generated by engines and people, and some hot carriage scenes.

I just love this warning label!

To purchase or get more information, you can go directly to Samhain or go to Amazon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Middle age

It's Monday morning and time to start a new diet. Really. Honestly. It sucks getting older. My knees (or rather my LEFT knee) is starting to feel the pangs of middle age. When you avoid going to the bathroom during the football game because the thought of going up and down all those stadium stairs one more time makes you cringe, then you know you're in trouble. Plus, I do hate making everyone in the row stand up or scooch over to let me through, so I'd rather just hold it in. I have just one more thing to say about stadium stairs and football games. How do you wear four inch wedgie heels to a football game and not fall or break your neck? It's a mystery, that's for sure. Kudos to the chick three rows above me that managed to pull it off. Oh, and go Noles!

On another note, I received an email with the subject line, "Are your hormones out of whack?" I didn't even bother to open it up. Just deleted it right there and then with one swift hit of the key. Take that whoever you are with the audacity to ask such a question!

And on the upside, I found the website of this woman (I was going to say chick, but I suppose she's really a hen) who at age 50, quit her successful job in designer women's fashions and decided to make cookies.

No really.

She went to culinary school, graduated top of her class, then opened a cookie shop in NY. Her business is called One Tough Cookie (don't you love it?) and she's doing really well. This is the logo of her blog, Thinkin' Outside The Cookie.

I know with my vow to lose weight, help my knee out, blah, blah, blah, I should avoid this cookie woman at all costs. However, ONE cookie never hurt anyone. Right?

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm going to miss The Situation

There. I've said it out loud. I'm not ashamed (not much anyway) to admit that I'm actually going to miss Karina and The Situation. He was this week's latest Dancing with the Stars Casualty and personally, I think he was robbed. So yeah, his tango kind of sucked. But the lifts were awesome and I think the judges were way too hard on him.

So, you ask, who do I think should have gotten the boot? Well, while Crazy Eyes Florence Henderson (Dear God, please don't ever let me get so vain that I resort to plastic surgery that makes me look like I've developed some sort of hyperthyroid disease) would have been my answer last week, she and Corky did a rumba this week that was actually kind of funny/sexy. In a weird way. So I'd have to go with Kurt Warner, who honestly, is a huge snooze fest. I predict Kurt will go home next week. For a good looking guy his sex appeal is in the negative numbers.

My personal favs are of course, Jennifer Grey, aka Baby. And that adorable Kyle Massey. I would LOVE to see him and Lacey in the finals.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The color purple

When I was a kid whenever anyone asked me what my favorite color was, I always responded, "red." Red is an awesome color. It's a primary color. It's bright. It's powerful. It makes a statement. It also looks really good on brunettes.

Later, as an adult in my thirties, whenever people asked me what my favorite color was, I'd respond, "green." Green is serene. It's the color of nature. Green means growth and fertility. Um... yes, these were my childbearing years. The years I nourished my little sprouts. The years I barely hung on to my sanity by a thread. Green totally made sense to me back then.

But lately, green has been boring. Don't get me wrong. I still love red and I still love green, but those colors don't talk to me anymore.

"Well, us talk and talk about God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). . . ."

I wish I'd written that, but of course, it's Alice Walker.

And lately, I'm totally getting the color purple. (I "got" the book years ago- fantastic), but the color itself, I wasn't so sure about until recently. And I blame Mike Geraci for that.

Purple is majestic. It's bold. It's not expected. It's flashy. And if you're Mike Geraci, it's confusing as all out. Honestly, the poor man is either color blind or he missed kindergarten the day they explained the color wheel.

Shortly after we got married, Mike Geraci and I were getting ready to go out somewhere. He was in the shower and shouted out, "Hey! Can you get me my purple shoes?"

I froze. I married a man who wears purple shoes?

"Mike Geraci, you don't own purple shoes. Unless you're hiding them from me, I would have seen them by now."

"Sure I do. They're in the closet." He then proceeded to show me his "purple" shoes.
Yep. There they are. I soon discovered that whenever Mike Geraci can't pinpoint the name of a color, if there's any red to it at all, it becomes purple. The dining room in our house (painted a jeweled maroon tone) was purple. It's like the etc, etc, etc... of colors for him. Except now that it's become my official favorite color, I'm out to educate him on what purple really is. Because I don't want to end up with a maroon sweater for Christmas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pioneer Woman I am not

I have one word in the war against dog vomit. K2r. Or is that even a word? Okay, maybe it is just 2 letters and a number, but whatever. The stuff works. I came home yesterday afternoon to find a lovely present (aka dog vomit) from Truffles, our Daschund, deposited smack dab on the sisal rug in our living room. Truffles loves me so much she thought it wasn't enough to leave the present in one spot so she spread the love around. Literally.

At the time, I was in a rush. I had promised to make stuffed shells to bring over to a friend's house so I had no time to deal with dog vomit. So I asked myself, what would Pioneer Woman do? Well, she would probably take a picture and then proceed to clean it in expert fashion, describing it detail by detail, ending with a picture of a clean, pristine rug. Unfortunately, I am no Pioneer Woman. So I grabbed some paper towels and (carefully) placed them over the various presents and with my a blind eye to the situation going on in my living room, I made some of the best damn stuffed shells ever. Honestly, this recipe is fantastic. And yes, it is Pioneer Woman's.

So I visited my friend, and ran to my nearby Ace Hardware Store with 10 minutes left to spare before they closed. I LOVE Ace Hardware. The people there are always so friendly.

Maria: "Do you have some of that of R2D2 stuff? You know, the stuff that gets the stains out of stuff you can't wash?"

Ace Hardware Man: "Of course. Back aisle. Would you like me to show you?"

Maria: "Thanks! I got it!"

I then proceed to buy 2 cans of the stuff. Because you never know. And I swear, I'm not making this up, because you know, truth is stranger than fiction. But as I sat down to write this, Fat Boy (aka Lucky Geraci, aka Big Stray Cat we found 6 years ago that never left) came up to me and rubbed himself against my legs. Then proceeded to leave me another present (aka Big Fat Hairball). Ay Caramba!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Page 99

Recently, I stumbled across a website called the Page99test. The idea behind it is that if you open a novel to page 99 (versus like page 1), you'll get a good idea if you want to read the book. I think it's an interesting hypothesis and I plan to start using it when I go a-browsing at bookstores.

It also got me thinking of my own page 99s. So I went to said page on my upcoming novel to see what was what. Kind of interesting. So without any set up other than the blurb on the back of my book, I decided to post page 99 of The Boyfriend of the Month Club. It's a short page because it's actually the beginning of a chapter.

So if you went to the bookstore and picked up my book and flipped it to the back, this is what you'd read:

At thirty, Grace O’Bryan has dated every loser that Daytona Beach has to offer. After the ultimate date-from-hell, Grace decides to take matters into her own hands and turns her dwindling book club into a Boyfriend of the Month Club, where women can come together to discuss the eligible men in their community. Where are the real live twenty-first century versions of literary heroes such as Heathcliff and Mr. Darcy?

Could it be successful and handsome Brandon Farrell, who is willing to overlook his disastrous first date with Grace and offers financial help for her parents’ failing Florida gift shop? Or maybe sexy dentist Joe Rosenblum, who’s great with a smile but not so great at commitment? Unfortunately, just like books, men cannot always be judged by their covers…

Page 99 of The Boyfriend of the Month Club

Grace turned to find Rosie Dimples aka Dr. Joe leaning against his shopping cart. He wore above-the-knee nylon basketball shorts and a T-shirt. Maybe he’d just come from the gym. Grace squelched the urge to reach out and smooth an errant lock of hair off his forehead.

“There’s no chocolate in pistachio ice cream,” she said.

“What is it with women and chocolate?”

It’s the universal substitute for sex, dummy.

She wondered what Dr. Joe would say to that. He’d probably volunteer to fill in for the ice cream.

“It’s one of our daily food groups,” she said instead.

He smiled. “How’s the tooth holding up, Grace?”

So he remembered her name. Had he read her patient satisfaction survey? Melanie claimed he personally read each one. Tomorrow it would be a week since she’d been to his office. Surely he’d read it by now. Which reminded her, she really did need to investigate where Tanya had gone to work so she could find a new dentist. She’d planned to do it right away, but with all the roof drama going on at the store, she’d forgotten. Technically, she supposed, she was still Dr. Joe’s patient.

“The tooth is holding up great. Thanks for asking, Dr. Joe.”

Friday, October 08, 2010

What I learned at Ninc

Yesterday I attended the opening day workshop at Ninc's (Novelist's Inc) conference which was held in beautiful St. Pete Beach. I'm not a member of Ninc (although I'm definitely going to join) but they opened up the first day to non-members and I'm so glad they did. I had a great day, learned a lot, and even got to see a few friends.

The day consisted of 4 panels with the theme: Brainstorming the Future of Publishing.

This is what I learned:

1. Publishers aren't going to market your book. They don't have the time or money to truly promote all their authors. So unless you're Nora Roberts, you better be out there doing something to help yourself.

2. Print advertising does not work. The only thing that really helps promote a book is WORD OF MOUTH. Social marketing (blogs, twittering, facebook) is a way to get word of mouth out there.

3. Traditional publishing, as we know it, is in turmoil. Digital Publishing is huge and will take over the world. Bottom Line: You want your book to be available in ALL forms- print, ebook, audio, etc, so that it can reach the largest audience it can.

4. As an author, you want the LARGEST print run you can get. A 50% sell through is considered a success.

5. Amazon has plans to take over the world and cannot be stopped. Google and Apple have similar plans as well.

6. Piracy is bad.

7. Piracy is good. The more people who read your books, the better. Overall, what you lose in sales, you'll make up for in more sales.

8. Contracts, copyrights, and digital rights are very confusing. Especially when you're daydreaming of the Starbucks kiosk in the center of the hotel...

9. The best way to ensure your book is a success is to write the best book you can.

10. Even the best books fail to be a success for a variety of reasons. Bottom line: Market your book!

11. Baby Boomers are the largest consumers of digital readers and the target audience for ebooks. This will change as digital readers become cheaper. Soon, everyone will be reading books on our phones (if we can still see, that is).

12. Kristen Painter looks nothing like Heather Graham from behind.

13. Al Zuckerman (head of Writers House) needs his own TV show. I'd call it Real Agents of New York.

14. Leigh Duncan and Kristen Painter are the best lunch pals. Ever.

15. It is not nice to be driving on 275 heading from St. Pete to Tampa during rush hour traffic, especially when the Rays have just finished a game.

I finished the day by having dinner with my daughter (Loinfruit) and her lovely friend, Tara. Then the girls took me to their favorite bar, where the bouncer tried to card me (I think he wanted a tip). After breakfast, I plan to head back to Tally, but first a stop at the U of F to visit middle child.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pink Glove Dance!

Okay, this is just awesome! As most of you already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and hospitals across the country have been putting together their Pink Glove Dances. This is MY hospital, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare shown above. I think they did a bang up job! The first group dancing are some of my peeps from labor and delivery!

I'll be hitting the road later this afternoon to Tampa/St. Pete to visit the loinfruit (oldest daughter) and attend Brainstorming on the Beach. I'll just be there for the first day of the conference in which the main topic will be the future of publishing. I'll let you know what they say!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Why Twitter makes me Twitch

The first time I heard about Twitter was a few years ago, when my sister, Carmen (the one who doesn't read my blog or do ANY social networking) gave me an article on how Twittering could help authors market their books.

My response was something like, "Please, Lechuga, I have no time for this!" TRANSLATION: "Please, Lettuce, I have no time for this!" And if you're wondering why I call my sister Lettuce then just read my upcoming novel The Boyfriend of the Month Club and all will be made clear.

But, as with any trend that catches on so quickly it will make your laptop spin, soon, everyone I knew was Twittering, so being the impetuous fool that I am, I hopped abroad the Twitter Train. But I still really had no clue how to effectively Twitter or what I was supposed to do.

So while I was at the Romantic Times Convention in Orlando (2009) I went to an author workshop on Twittering. The workshop was run by some guy who is a famous Twitterer (can't remember his name) and a book reviewer whose site I find amusing and sometimes clever. I was expecting a killer workshop. Ten minutes in, I (and the other 4 people in the room) began to understand why these 2 are such good Twitterers (is that a word?). Lack of eye contact and effective oral communication skills would be one reason. It was probably the strangest workshop I'd ever attended, unless the point of the workshop was that face-to-face communication was a thing of the past (which I refuse to believe.) So I left, confused and thinking Twitter probably wasn't for me, since I'm not a slave to my cell phone and that seemed to be the best way to Twitter.

Then I found Twitter Deck. Yay! I could Twitter while I was on the computer. Except the temptation to run to Twitter Deck and read... well, most times, nothing really important, was too tempting. So even though I was essentially a Twitter voyeur (someone who reads Twitters but does not necessarily engage in the act itself) I had to take Twitter Deck off my computer. When you're writing on a deadline, it's just too distracting.

And then I read Jane Green's blog post on Addictions. Well, heck, if Jane Green doesn't want to Twitter, then why should I? After all, according to the Penguin, USA, book catalogue, fans of Sophie Kinsella and Jane Green will adore me. At least they should adore me. That, however, is still out for debate. And whilst you might say, "Maria, you are no Jane Green!" and I would agree (LOVE LOVE LOVE both Sophie and Jane's books) I couldn't help but take her words to heart.

And in that moment or two after reading it and digesting it a bit, I came to the liberating realization that Thank God, we are not all alike and that what's good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. And while I believe I'm terribly witty and charming in real life (and in my books), I don't think I'm especially suited for the Twitter medium. And I know I don't have the patience it takes to build a Twitter audience that would have any sort of impact on my book sales. So while I continue to be a Twitter voyeur and an occasional Twitterer, it's okay that this is one social medium I won't be losing any sleep over.

Note: In an act of supreme semi-hypocrisy, I have just Tweeted this post.

Monday, October 04, 2010


People always ask me how I think up my stories. My sister Carmen (who I dedicated The Boyfriend of the Month Club to) finished reading it yesterday and proclaimed it a masterpiece. Okay, maybe not a masterpiece exactly, but she loved it. Said she laughed a lot and found it very romantic and satisfying. I was thrilled to hear it, because she's the type of person who always says what she means. Being her sister is not a free pass to a good review.

So back to my topic. In the course of the conversation she asked me how I came up with different plot twists, character actions, etc, etc...
I really didn't have a good answer for her except to say that "The story always seems to write itself." Which sounds like a bunch of boohooey, except that it's true.

Lately, I've been very interested in the creative process and how things come about. After some analysis of what works for me and what doesn't, I've come to the conclusion that I've heard many writers say and that's that the story is already inside you. It's just waiting to come out and if you let your creative juices flow, then it will happen. In the famous words of the Beatles, "Let it Be."

And when you let it be, it seems, inspiration comes from the heavens and gently taps you on the shoulder. The film Bull Durham inspired a great deal of my first book Bunco Babes Tell All. Memories of my childhood and growing up in Florida, inspired the backdrop of The Boyfriend of the Month Club.

And while I was taking a break yesterday from writing, I opened up some Yeats to read (poetry is the most awesome inspiration) and was suddenly given an important clue to one of my character's motivation. So there you go. And off I went. I love it when this happens!

Where do you find your inspiration?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Donate to Hayley's Angels and help fight Leukemia

Many of you know that besides writing fun and romantic novels, I have another job as well. I've been a labor and delivery nurse for 25 years now. It's a job I love almost as much (and some days more) than my writing job. Labor and Delivery is one of the happiest, most fulfilling areas of a hospital for a nurse to work in. But some days my job sucks. For some couples there is no happy-ever-after in L&D. Those days are rough.

Another thing some of you might know is that I'm a fluent Spanish speaker so at times I help out around the hospital by translating for our Spanish speaking patients. This is usually not a happy time either. Most times I go to the ER and give someone bad news. The other night I got called to Pediatrics. A young boy had just been diagnosed with leukemia and I had to tell his parents. It was especially hard because I wanted to tell them that everything would be okay. But as a health care professional, you can't give out false hope. I don't know if it will be okay. And that's hard.

Last year, the daughter of a mutual friend was diagnosed with this terrible disease. She was just 4 years old. The agony I saw on those parents' faces the other night must have been the same look that Michelle and Lance Hart had when they were told their precious angel, Haley, was sick. The Hart family has been through a lot in the last year. Lots of trips to the University of Florida Shands Teaching Hospital for chemo. Lots of hotel stays. Lots of nights spent up worrying. I'm happy to say that Hayley just celebrated her fifth birthday and her prognosis is very good. She is the bubbliest, sweetest, most precocious red headed little girl you can ever hope to meet.

This November, I'm going to be participating in the Light the Night Walk, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's evening walk and fundraising event. It is the nation's night to pay tribute and bring hope to thousands of people battling blood cancers and to commemorate loved ones lost. Team Hayley's Angels needs your help. We're very close to achieving our goal to raise $3000. Would you please consider making a donation? Anything will help. You can click on the link right here.

Thank you!

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