Ignore-ance is Bliss

I’ve never liked the saying, “ignorance is bliss.” I’ve always quested after the truth, so ignorance seems like a paltry way of living, though many people seem to cultivate the state. On some matters, of course, ignorance definitely is bliss. If you don’t know who or what ISIS is (I will have to plead ignorance on this; it seems to have slipped into the news when I was successfully not paying attention), then of course you will be more blissful than those who dwell on whatever it is ISIS is doing. Or in the case of Ebola — being ignorant of the matter might keep you focused on your goal of taking a trip to Africa, which is infinitely more pleasant to contemplate than the possibility of bringing home an unwanted and very deadly souvenir.

napBut what if the “ignorance” that equates to bliss is something entirely different from lack of knowledge or information? What if it actually refers to ignore-ance?

And believe me, ignore-ance truly is bliss.

I’m ignoring my father’s eventual decline, just concentrating on what I can or need to do today.

I am ignoring my uncertain future (when my father goes, my current place of residence will go too, leaving me temporarily homeless and without any clear idea of what to do, how to do it, or where to do it).

I am ignoring the sadness of my disconnection from a dear friend because nothing I’ve done or said seems to be bridging the gap.

I am ignoring the book I started writing in July because with everything else going on in my life, I don’t have the proper focus and so that poor lone written chapter sits at the top right hand corner of my blog. Luckily I am ignoring that, too, or else it would taunt me.

I am ignoring my deceased life mate/soul mate. He can take care of himself wherever he is or isn’t, and I am tired of being sad.

It is so much nicer simply dealing with the problems of the moment — or rather, lack of problems. Most of my problems live either in the future or in the past and if I ignore those, then today, right this moment, everything is blissful. I’m still feeling a glow from the dance classes I took this morning. I’m enjoying the perfect weather — calm, clear, relatively cool. And I’m writing this blog in silence ignoring the fact that as soon as my father wakes from his nap, the television will be blaring.

Ah, ignore-ance. Ah, bliss.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fair Use, Copyright, and Images

I have a friend who freely uses images she finds on the internet to pretty up her blog posts, and at the bottom of each post, she always adds the caveat, “No copyright infringement intended.” That cracks me up because of course she intended to infringe upon the copyright — she blatantly and purposely used the image without permission. That is an infringement. Saying that no infringement was intended does not negate the perhaps illegal use of the image. Even giving credit or providing a link to the original photo doesn’t make the infringement legal.

Yesterday I spoke of “Fair Use” and copyright as pertains to song lyrics and told you how many words of a song written after 1923 you can legally use in your work. (None. That’s right, none. You can use the title, paraphrase the words, write your own songs, or purchase the rights to use the lyrics. Those are your only options. You cannot use a single word of the lyrics without permission.)

Fair use also applies to images, not just written works. Fair use laws allow using bits of copyrighted materials without having to obtain permission, though what constitutes “fair use” is murky and subject to interpretation by the courts. (And oh, just so you know, all original works are protected from the moment of creation, so if the work was never filed with the copyright office, if the work lacks a copyright symbol, the work is still protected.)

According to the US Copyright Office, there are four factors to determine what is fair use:

copyright1       The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2       The nature of the copyrighted work

3       The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4       The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

You can use of some images, such as images public domain images created before 1923 (unless they have subsequently been copyrighted). And you can generally use images in product reviews. Using a product image, such as a book cover, an image of a vehicle, or cold cereal, is necessary for a helpful review. Since the image is not the product and the owner’s rights are only minimally infringed upon, your use of the image falls under fair use.

Some people who post images on the internet do allow you to use their images with only attribution as payment (and they will state as much on the site where the images are posted, generally under a Creative Commons License). Also, many royalty free photos are available from various sites, such as Free Stock Photos, but you need to read the small print carefully to find what each photo requires of you before you use it.

If you use an image of an original photograph or work of art, even if you attribute it to the author and even if you link back to the original, you are in violation of copyright laws unless you have the artist’s permission to use the image. If you don’t have permission, you can be sued. And yes, bloggers have been sued over the use of images. One blogger I know used a photo she found on the internet, thinking it was okay to do so because it is general practice among internet users to adorn one’s blog with such images. When the owner’s lawyer contacted her about the matter, she removed the photo and thought that would be the end of it. But she was wrong. They sued her — and won. She is still paying them off. (And she still owes hefty attorney’s fees.) She was lucky. Others have had their sites removed from the internet in addition to all the other legal hassles.

So, if you do not know for certain if you can legally use an image (and the only way to know for sure is if the image is posted with such information), then don’t. It’s not worth the risk.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How Much of a Song Can You Quote for Your Book?

In a recent discussion about copyright in my online writer’s group, the writers were speculating about how much of a song’s lyrics they could legally use in their books.

Many of the writers suggested using just a few lines but being sure to give credit, some quoted “fair use” rulings, others said . . . well, it doesn’t matter what they said. The question of how much of a song you can use is not an opinion, but a matter of law. (Even after the correct response was given, the writers continued to speculate, so I finally put an end to the speculation by deleting the discussion.)

Fair use laws allow using bits of copyrighted materials without having to obtain permission, though what constitutes “fair use” is murky and subject to interpretation by the courts. According to the US Copyright Office, there are four factor to determine what is fair use:

music1       The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2       The nature of the copyrighted work

3       The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4       The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

My quoting this report could be (and I hope it is) a valid and fair use of the material since I am using it for purposes of illustration in a scholarly article.

Which means you can use song lyrics, right? Wrong. Song lyrics are exempt from fair use because of the shortness of the work. Using a paragraph of War and Peace is miniscule compared to the entirety of the work so fair use applies. Using a few words of a song is like quoting dozens chapters from War and Peace — the portion is too great and therefore fair use does not apply. So what does this mean? If the song is not in the public domain (and no song written after 1923 is in the public domain), you cannot use any part of the song except the title unless you get permission.

It’s tempting to use song lyrics because lyrics are a shortcut to creating mood or to developing a character, but if you don’t want to go through the sometimes lengthy wait for a response to your request (and perhaps be subjected to hefty royalty payments) then you either use the title of the song or paraphrase the lyrics in some way. You can, of course, write your own song lyrics (you are a writer, right?), or if you must quote lyrics, you can use songs in the public domain. (Most songs before 1923 are in the public domain, but check first to make sure someone didn’t copyright the lyrics of a song you might want to use.)

So, short and succinct. How many words of a song published after 1923 can you legally quote in your written work without getting permission? None. Zero. Zilch.

End of discussion.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Writing Outside The Box And The Box Springs

I just watched the most fascinating sex scene ever to be filmed. There was no nudity, no touching, no erotic talk, nothing that resembles any sex act we have ever seen or experienced (unless, of course, I’m even more naïve than I imagine), and yet the scene is sensuous and compelling, the characters are intensely and totally involved with each other, connecting on a level most of us can only hope for. And we are left with no doubt that we have seen two people making love in a mutually fulfilling way.

knifeThe movie? The Girl on the Bridge, a 1999 French movie shot in black and white and shown to US audiences with subtitles. He is a not-so-lucky knife thrower who lurks around bridges to find his assistants, woman who don’t care whether they live or die. She is a depressed young woman who has never done a single thing right in her life, not even drowning herself.

One day on a bridge, they find each other, and their luck changes.

And so does ours, because oh, my — such a poetic way to spend hot afternoon. (Hot because of the summery weather. What did you think I meant?)

I’m not sure the knife scene holds up as erotic if you haven’t seen the buildup during the earlier part of the movie, but if you’re interested, you can see the scene here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKqQl3D4AzI

It’s a good reminder that we writers need to be able to write outside the box and the box springs.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Is It True that Grief Has Limits Whereas Apprehension Has None?

“Grief has limits, where as apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened, but we fear all that possibly may happen.” — Pliny the Younger, Roman judge and man of letters 61-113 A.D.

A friend left the above quote on my Facebook profile, and it has made me wonder if Pliny the Younger is right. (Also made me wonder if there is a Pliny the Elder, so I looked it up. Yes, there is, and he is Younger’s uncle. Both men were witnesses to the eruption to Vesuvius, though Elder did not survive the eruption. I knew that. Just forgot it.)

roadI wonder how much Younger grieved his uncle, or anyone, because grief doesn’t seem to have limits. It is true that even profound grief wanes, but the nature of such grief is that when something brings the deceased love one to mind years afterward, reminding us of our loss, our grief can be as raw as it was at the beginning.

Fear, on the other hand, does have limits. As Teach, one of the characters in Daughter Am I, says:

“Mob bosses ran their businesses like fiefdoms—they demanded total loyalty, but felt no need to treat their underlings fairly. They thought they could rule by fear, but when fear is around every corner, people lose their fear of the fear. They sometimes even lose their fear of the ones administering the fear.

“All the bodyguards and all those layers of insulation the bosses surrounded themselves with weren’t just to protect themselves from the law and from their rivals, but also from their own disgruntled employees.”

People have criticized my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire for my having the characters let go of their fear of both the red death and the quarantine, but the truth is, fear — and apprehension — get so exhausting, it loses its tension like overstretched elastic, and it just lets go of us. We human creatures also have a prodigious capacity to adjust to most circumstances, even fearful ones. Besides, there’s not much of a story if the characters simply hide from their fate. Some have to go meet their fear head on.

I haven’t had to deal with anything truly fearsome in my life, like an epidemic or torture or having hot lava rain down on me, but I am apprehensive at times when I think about having to leave my present situation taking care of my aged father. I don’t know where I am going to go, how I will live, or even where I will live. Still, whatever scenarios my apprehensive mind conjures, none of them can compare in any way to the pain of losing my life mate soul mate.

I am currently grieving the loss of a long time friend, a loss that has come not through death but misunderstanding and heartbreak, and that grief too is worse than any apprehension I might have, especially since I haven’t been able to sort through all that happened in order to make sense of the loss.

It’s possible I simply don’t have a strong enough imagination for apprehension to be greater than grief. Or maybe it’s that I’m learning to take life as it comes. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that no matter what fearsome circumstances I will face, there I will be. A survivor.

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Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How to Become a Bestselling (Romance) Author

I don’t know how to become a bestselling non-genre writer, which is what I am — a non-genre writer. (Recently a reviewer took exception to my non-genre status, giving A Spark of Heavenly Fire only two stars because she expected the novel to be romantic/suspense, an action/adventure or a good mystery. She admitted the book contained all of these elements but not enough to tag the story as such. I wanted to leave a “duh” response, but I’ve been around long enough to know that arguing with a reviewer is never a good idea.) But I do know a bit about how to beome a bestselling romance writer since I’ve studied so much of their techniques in my quest to become a bestseller myself.

First, write good story, create or have a cover designer create a compelling cover that says “buy me,” and give your book a thorough edit or get someone to do it for you. A good editing is paramount. With so many romance novels on the market, you need to be a bit better than average to stand out. (Unless, of course, you are the first person to write erotic vampire bondage books or any such novelty, then of course, you can write however you wish.)

Second, finish book two and three in the series, and give them a good editing, also. Then give away the first book in the series to as many people as possible using a Smashwords coupon. Give the book away on blogs, on FB, as a mass mailing, maybe even on Smashwords itself for a short time. Sign up for a giveaway on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and wherever else you can. But this only works after the three books are published because otherwise it doesn’t gain you much of a marketing advantage. If all the books are published and readers like the first book in a series, they will buy the others. There are too many books published now for readers to want to wait for additional books in a series, which is why more than one book in a series needs to be published if you really want the marketing push to count. If the book is professional, one of a published series, is romance and especially regency romance, and has a touch of eroticism (more than a touch is even better), that’s all you have to do. Amazon’s algorithms will do the rest. Theoretically, at least.

Although social networking is often touted as the best way of promoting books, it is slow and doesn’t really help a lot in making you a bestselling author, but it can increase awareness of your books once you become known. Also, a bit of social networking can help you find other romance writers who might promote your books if you promote theirs (such reciprocal promotions have catapulted many romance authors and thriller writers into stardom). You might even find fans who will be delighted to help spread the word about your book for a bit of swag. It’s good to have a blog or be part of a multi-author blog so your readers can keep up with you, though you don’t have to blog regularly, just once a week on a personal blog or once a month on a multi-author blog since for the most part blogging doesn’t sell books.  A Facebook presence or a Twitter account is also nice, but none of these will make you a bestselling author by themselves. Oh, sure, there are people who have made a killing using Facebook, but they are generally those who sell books about how to make a killing on Facebook. And some people play the link (spam) game, posting their book links to thousands of groups on Facebook, but since most of the people in those groups are also playing the link game, the results are variable.

In today’s book world, as much as I hate to admit it, Amazon is the key.

If you don’t have a romance series or if you do have such a series and wish to give your book an extra push, do KDP select but list the book for $.99 on free days. You don’t get as many downloads as you would if the book were free, but the book stats are figured with the regular books not the free books, and so it has a longer lasting effect.

In addition, try giveaway sites like http://readcheaply.com/, 99 cent sites like http://www.pixelofink.com/sskb/ and paid sites like http://digitalbooktoday.com/join-our-team/

This is such good advice, I wish I were interested in writing romance series!

As for A Spark of Heavenly Fire: if you’re interested in seeing if the above mentioned reviewer is correct, until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Excerpt from “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

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Excerpt:

After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin’s body in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

ASHFborderI got a call last night from a woman who had recently read my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. She didn’t know whether to be excited or appalled at how closely some of the news commentaries about Ebola resemble my story. (Excited because it seemed as if the book had come to life. Appalled because it seemed as if the horrifying events in the novel were coming to pass.)

Quarantines. Possibilities of artificially enhanced viruses. Troops sent to fight the virus and/or troops sent to contain the infected areas. So much drama and controversy! Not only are these the subjects of today’s headlines, they all form the story of A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Viruses created — or enhanced — in laboratories are nothing new. Well, let’s say the theory of such atrocious diseases are nothing new. I couldn’t swear to the truth of it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Sill, some people believe the 1914 flu originated with biological warfare experimentation gone out of control. Aids has always been accompanied by theories of bioengineering.

In fact, noting that outbreaks of the plague during the Middle Ages were accompanied by strange phenomena such as torpedo-shaped craft emitting noxious mists and men dressed all in black walking through the streets with long instruments that made a swishing sound like a scythe, some researchers have concluded that the Black Death was a purposely created disease. Supposedly, the power elite wanted to cut back the rapidly increasing population and dumb down the human race, or at least stop the furious pace of technology. The alchemists, a greater percentage of the population than anyone imagined, were learning about nuclear fusion and fission. The Arabs were learning about rocketry and jet propulsion. Architecture, as manifested in European cathedrals, was unsurpassed. Along with many other technological inventions, a simple binary machine—a computer—had been created. What would the world have been like without the Black Death?

Forget the Black Death. What would the world be like today without Ebola?

Even worse, what will it be like with it?

If you’re interested in my depiction of a world struggling to deal with a pandemic, I hope you will check out A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since I based them on executive orders Clinton signed into law.

Art imitating life imitating art.

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Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Wildness of the Heart

We are hungry for new stories that can offer us a way to live more fully in place like a tight, strong rope that will hold our weight while we figure out our next move. We are searching for new terrain… within our own souls that will allow us to find a generosity of spirit, a wildness of the heart that is brave and bold. —Terry Tempest Williams

Not only is the quote a good description of what I am looking for in myself — generosity of spirit and a wildness of the heart that is brave and bold — it is a lovely description of why we love/need stories. Or at least it should be. I do not fully trust authors who say they write only to entertain. There needs to be something else in a story besides merely entertainment or a way of passing the time, something that feeds the soul, something that helps us find the wildness of our hearts. We live in a civilized world, leading civilized lives,  eating civilized foods, and all that civilized-ness starves us. We need lives, food,  places that nourish us. We need stories that feed our wildness and offer hope of something more.

Maybe someday I will be able to write such a story. It’s certainly a goal worth striving for.

book

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Promises to the Dying

How long must we keep our promises to the dying? Obviously, when we ourselves are dying, those promises will be broken, so does it matter if we break them before we get to that point?

Part of me thinks the promises mean nothing, because after all, the promisees are gone and with it any obligation to them, especially when they bequeathed us such sorrow, but another part of me thinks a promise is meant to be kept.

It’s not a major thing that I’m concerned about. Just a very large coffeetable book. He wasn’t one to make spontaneous purchases, and he seldom spent money on himself for non-essentials, but he saw an ad for this particular book on an inflight magazine and, all out of character, he ordered it. This book was one of the few things he asked me to keep. (Another thing he asked me to keep was a perpetual calendar he’d had since he was a boy, and the rest of the things were items I made that he rescued after I’d thrown them away.) Although it’s not a book I’d ever look at, I have been keeping it, not just because of my promise, but because it reminded me of a different side of him. But now . . . it’s just a very heavy book.

I’m going to have to put my stuff in storage when I leave here, and as big as the book is, it truly is just one thing among many. Still, I have been getting rid of my unnecessities because I don’t want to pay to store a lot of useless things or things I might never need and I almost tossed the book in the bag with the rest of the items I’m getting rid of. But my promise stayed my hand.

So, do promises to the dying have an expiration date? Obviously, if we promise something impossible to pacify them, such as (perhaps) never falling in love again, that promise has no validity. But what about other promises?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

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