My Adventures at Thrillerfest 2017

A few weeks ago, I attended Thrillerfest 2017 – the premiere conference for thriller enthusiasts, which brings together famous authors and new ones along with industry professionals, agents, and fans. The conference, which took place from July 11-15 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, is divided into three distinct parts (four if you count some of the preceding activities): Craftfest, Pitchfest (formerly known as AgentFest), and Thrillerfest.

Craftfest is comprised of writing seminars designed to teach the art of thriller writing.  In addition to the writing seminars included in the overall conference fee, one could, for an extra fee, attend the Master Craftfest, which is comprised of eight writing classes taught this year by  Steve BerryLee ChildGayle LyndsGrant BlackwoodMeg Gardiner, and Andrew Gross. I did not sign up for the Master Craftfest.

Pitchfest is like speed dating with agents.  Each person who signs up gets a few minutes with agents to pitch their manuscript or book proposal.  Hundreds of writers are lined up and sent into a room to pitch 50 or so agents and a few editors.  Those who plan to participate in Pitchfest would do well to prepare in advance.  It’s a good idea to research the agents and editors online, find out which ones are looking for your type of book and make a beeline for them first when you get to Pitchfest.

Thrillerfest is composed of additional craft and career seminars, as well as book signings and other events. The main event for Thrillerfest 2017 was the ITW 12th Annual Thriller Awards Banquet, which was held on Saturday, July 15, 2017.  At the banquest, the 2017 ThrillerMaster award was presented to bestselling thriller author Lee Child (the creator of the Jack Reacher series by the 2016 ThrillerMaster Heather Graham.  The 2017 Silver Bullet Award was presented to bestselling author Lisa Gardner by the reknown thriller author John Lescroart. The most coveted award – the 2017 Thriller Legend Award was presented to Tom Doherty by Jon Land.

I’d been to Craftfest and Pitchfest before, but this was the first time I attended Thrillerfest. I took the whole week off from work so that I could participate in most of the events.

I signed up to volunteer at the conference again this year. I like doing that. It makes me feel like I’m a part of the event. It also helps me make new friends and gives me the inside scoop on the goings on. Plus, it helps me get up close and personal with some of the famous authors.  For example, last year, volunteering at the conference gave me the opportunity to meet one of my favorite thriller authors – Jon Land – and to attend dinner with him and a group of authors at a nearby restaurant.  This year though, my assignment was to be the timekeeper who informed the speakers when they had ten minutes left before the end of the seminar.  They gave me a ten minute, a five minute, and a “wrap it up” sign to hold up at the appropriate times.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very popular with the speakers this year. 🙂  Just kidding.  They said that I was very discreet. That faint praise made me wonder how the other timekeepers behaved.

On Monday, July 10, 2017, I visited FBI Headquarters in NY to attend seminars on forensics and such.  The FBI allows a small contingent of writers from the conference to attend in the hopes that we portray the agency more accurately.  To get a full account of my visit to FBI headquarters, see my previous blog post here.

Since Craftfest wasn’t scheduled to begin until Wednesday, July 12th, I got some much needed sleep on Tuesday and got some writing done. I also used that day to scout out sources of vegan food and to stock my room with fruit, almond milk, cold salads, etc. so that I could make smoothies during my stay. To learn more about my vegan culinary adventures while in New York City, check out my health blog here.

On Wednesday, Craftfest began in earnest. I attended scores of craft seminars – some as a timekeeper and others because I had an interest in the topics discussed.  On the second day of Craftfest, I had an epiphany.  In fact, I came to several realizations, the first of which was that, having written and published four books under two different pen names, I already knew a lot about what was taught in the craft seminars about pacing, plotting, prose, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, I still learned a few nuggets of wisdom that made the conference fee worthwhile, but I already have the basics down.  It took actually writing those books, getting them edited by a professional editor, and publishing them to drive that knowledge home for me.

Thinking about how far I’ve come as a writer makes me cringe when I think about the type of work I used to submit to agents at Pitchfest in past years hoping to get signed up.  Back then, I didn’t realize that I was formatting my dialogue incorrectly.  That work also had a lot of rookie mistakes like opening a novel with a dream sequence, for example. It made me realize that I have a much better chance now at finding agents and editors to sign me up than I did before.  I may decide to participate in Pitchfest next year and see what happens.

Thrillerfest began with a reception on Thursday, July 13, 2017 and ended with the banquet on Saturday, July 15, 2017.   Thrillerfest’s seminars were more focused on the thriller genre, the thriller market, and issues facing the thriller author.  I listened with rapt attention since my next project (after finishing Caged Dreams and my holiday novella) is to start a spinoff thriller series featuring Tara and Tyrone – the brother and sister CIA agents from The Liberian Agenda.

All in all, I had a great time.  I learned a lot, mixed and mingled with thriller authors, ate some fantastic vegan fare, and caught up with my Dad and some of my siblings while in New York.  I also met my new baby niece for the first time.  She’s five months and adorable. I would post a picture of her, but my sister won’t let me.

Peace,

LJ

Thrillerfest 2017 Day 1 – The FBI Chronicles

Hi there:

This week, I’m in New York City attending Thrillerfest 2017.  As usual, the conference is taking place at the Grand Central Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan.

This is the third or so time that I’ve attended Thrillerfest, but it’s the first time I attended the FBI seminar.  The program is held every year by the FBI in conjunction with Thrillerfest to educate thriller writers  in the hopes that the agency is portrayed in a more realistic light in books, film and television.

The seminar took place at the FBI’s New York Headquarters. Security for the program was expectedly tight and included background checks on attendees and escorts the entire time we were there.  Although the program was scheduled to begin at 9:30a.m., we were instructed to arrive between 8:30a.m. and 9:00a.m. so that we could clear security.

The program was held in a large classroom featuring a podium and a large screen.  At least 100 writers were in attendance.  Several forensic scientists and a public liaison made presentations and provided us with valuable information on everything from the resources made available to writers and the public so that we could get the facts right in our work, to FBI procedures and some of the science pertaining to DNA testing, fingerprint analysis, and firearms testing.  We also learned how the science and the procedures changed over the years.

The program was interesting and informative.  My biggest takeaways included the sheer number of television shows, movies and books, fictional and nonfictional, that feature or otherwise involve the FBI, and the considerable amount of information and assistance the agency allocates to help insure that protrayals of the agency and its agents are realistic.

Some of us were hoping to also get information from the agents’ perspectives (as opposed to the forensic scientists’ perspectives) on everything from hostage negotiations to training and personnel rules, but no agents were in attendance at the seminar.

All in all, I’m glad that I got to attend the FBI seminar as the third book in my Brooks Sisters Dreams Series will feature Tyler Fox (an FBI agent and Charles’ best friend in “Just Dreams”) and Mariah Brooks (Kathy and Ivy’s butt-kicking middle sister) as the hero and heroine.

Stay tuned for more on my adventures at Thrillerfest.

Peace,

LJ

Dreams Deferred Audiobook is Out!

Hi there:

I’m pleased to announce that the second book in my Brooks Sisters Dreams series – “Dreams Deferred” is now available in audiobook format.   You can get the Dreams Deferred audiobook on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

Dreams Deferred Audiobook

The book description:

Liking the bad boys can get you killed.  Has Ivy made that mistake again?

Ivy Brooks was always attracted to the bad boys until one day, she met the worst of them all and landed in prison as a result.  Now, three years later, more mature and the mother of a beautiful little boy, she’s determined to make a better life for herself and her son. She’s also determined to make better choices when it comes to men and she’s not sure her former cellmate’s drop dead gorgeous brother Luke – a former bad boy who professes to have turned over a new leaf – is the right choice.

Just when she believes she’s made a fresh start, her son’s father, Zeke, finds out about him and sues for full custody.  She kept her mouth shut when the police found jewelry from the heist committed by Zeke in her apartment.  But now, to save her son from a life of misery, Ivy has no choice but to testify against Zeke.  Luke is determined to protect Ivy and her son at any cost.  Will she stay alive long enough to testify? And can she trust Luke to stand by her side without being drawn back into a life of violence?

What some of the five star reviewers say about the book:

“I really loved this book! I couldn’t put it down! I recommend to everyone who enjoys a good love story!”

“Loved it. Action packed. The characters were more than believable. A real case scenario that happens in everyday life. Would love to see a movie version. Waiting excitedly for the next book!”

“Love, pain, action this book keeps you reading until the end. You feel part of what’s happening like your watching it live get yours today you won’t regret it.”

“I loved this book . I couldn’t put it down once I started it had me turning the pages well into the night.”

Since the Dreams Deferred audiobook was just released last week, it hadn’t yet received reviews on Audible, but I can tell you that voice actress Suzie Althens did an outstanding job with the story.  Why don’t you hop on over to Audible and pick up your copy today?

Let me know how you like it and don’t forget to leave a review.

Peace

LJ

The Liberian Agenda BookBub Promotion Mothers Day 2017

The Liberian Agenda

Hi there:

I have great news! BookBub is going to feature my book – “The Liberian Agenda” – for a promotion on Mothers Day, May 14, 2017.

The fact that “The Liberian Agenda” will be promoted by BookBub on Mother’s Day is ironic and a little bittersweet to me for a number of reasons. First, I lost my mother a few years ago. I didn’t finish or publish “The Liberian Agenda” until July, 2016, so she never got to read the story or see it published.

An avid reader, my mother always encouraged my writing, but, before her death, I treated writing as more of a sideline. It was her death that made me realize that life is short and the time to follow your dreams is now or never. So, in June, 2014, I left the large AmLaw top 100 law firm at which I had worked for twenty two years and started my own self-publishing company and mediation firm. Since then, I’ve published five books and three audiobooks (some under other pen names).

My mom, who always worried about me losing my soul and my creative spirit to the BigLaw grind, would have been happy to see me finally branch out on my own and follow my dreams. It saddens me a little that I waited until she was gone to take that leap. But I’d like to think she’s cheering me on from the other side.

Second, despite the action-packed storyline and steamy scenes, “The Liberian Agenda” is all about motherhood and, more specifically, the lengths to which a mother would go to protect her child:

“Sonia Johnson, native New Yorker, attorney, and daughter of a U.S. Senator, never expected to find herself a virtual prisoner in Liberia, but her husband – the country’s new president by way of coup d’etat – won’t let her take their son back to the States. The only way for her to protect him from her husband’s enemies is to spy on her new family for the C.I.A. If she gets caught, her son will grow up without a mother – if he grows up at all.”

The Liberian Agenda is available for free on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo from Mothers Day, May 14, 2017, through Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Click here to get your copy and don’t forget to leave a review.

Peace,

LJ

Indie Writer Tip: Get the Book Cover Source File

Get Book Cover Source File
Hi there:

I learned a really important lesson last week: When you have a book cover designed, get all permutations of the book cover designed at once (i.e. the e-book, paperback, audiobook and box sets covers) and get the source file.

When I published my first book “Just Dreams” and my second book “Dreams Deferred,” I was completely new to the world of self-publishing. I didn’t know as much then as I do now, so I had my boyfriend design my book covers. We collaborated on the designs and had great fun creating them. Unfortunately, those book covers weren’t as appealing to my readers and weren’t typical to the romance genre so they didn’t help sell many books.

Based on the Self Publishing Podcast’s recommendations (and their hilarious ad reads), I hired a book cover designer from a company called 99 Designs last year and changed the book cover on “Just Dreams.” I also beefed up the book description on Amazon and worked on getting more reviews. That attracted the attention of Bookbub who selected “Just Dreams” for a book promotion last year. That, in turn, led to more sales of the book.

In an effort to save a few bucks, I got a new book cover for “Dreams Deferred” on Fiverr.com. The cover designer did a good job. I was happy with the work, but I made two fatal mistakes: (1) I didn’t buy the e-book cover source file, and, (2) I didn’t ask her to design the paperback and audiobook covers for the book.

Why, you might ask, is this such a big deal? Well, let me tell you. I’m having “Dreams Deferred” made into an audiobook. I hired a voice actress through ACX (an Amazon related company that matches voice actors with publishers and helps authors produce audiobooks) to record the audiobook. She finished recording the audiobook last week and sent me the files for final approval.

ACX wants you to upload the audiobook cover art before finally approving the recording files. I thought I already had an audiobook cover for “Dreams Deferred,” but quickly realized that I did not.

I tried to get a cover designer on Fiverr that I had used before to create an audiobook cover from the .jpg file I had for the “Dreams Deferred” e-book cover. She told me she needed the source file to keep the scaling and other spatial parameters correct. I found the original cover designer and asked her for the source file. She told me that it was lost forever when her former laptop died. Apparently, she doesn’t believe in backing her work up.

I didn’t know what to do. I was in a quandary. The voice actress was waiting on me to approve the recording (although she was extremely nice and patient about it). ACX was waiting on me to upload the cover art. I had a few choices. I could have someone design a completely new cover which I would then have to put on the e-book, the paperback and the audiobook for consistency (this was the more expensive option) or I could find the stock photo of the couple on the cover of “Dreams Deferred” and have someone design a similar cover for the audiobook. I ended up going with the latter choice.

I’ve published a few new books since “Dreams Deferred” (some under a different pen name) and fell into the practice of having the e-book, paperback and audiobook covers created at the same time by the same cover designer. Had I done that with “Dreams Deferred” from the start or if I would have at least bought the source file for the book cover, i would have saved myself a lot of grief and aggravation last week. Lesson learned.

All’s well that ends well. The audiobook cover is done, the cover art has been uploaded to ACX, the recording files have been approved (Suzie Althens – the voice actress – did an amazing job), and the book will be out in two weeks.

What I Learned from Self Publishing School

What I Learned from Self Publishing School

 

On Sunday, February 19, 2017, I was interviewed by Chandler Bolt –  bestselling author and creator of the Self Publishing School during his “Ask Me Anything” seminar. I was selected as one of six successful authors to have gone through the Self Publishing School program.  I was very flattered and excited to have been selected. My success pales in comparison to Chandler’s but is definitely attributable to the things that I learned in Self Publishing School.

At the time that I enrolled in the course, I had already self-published two novels; however, my books weren’t selling very well and I knew I had a lot to learn about marketing. I wondered whether or not the Self Publishing School program would be a good fit for me or if it would be too basic since it covered the entire writing and self-publishing process from coming up with a good book idea through outlining, writing, publishing, launching, and marketing the book. What I discovered is that the program has something for everyone no matter what their level of expertise.

Going through Self Publishing School helped me learn how to more effectively market the books I had already published. It taught me how to revamp and relaunch those books to give them a better chance for success. In fact, revamping and relaunching my romantic suspense novel “Just Dreams,” led to BookBub selecting the book for promotion. BookBub is extremely selective and only accepts about 5% of the books submitted to it for promotion. Any published author will tell you that getting a BookBub promotion is a very big deal.

Self Publishing School also taught me how to launch new books more effectively. In fact, my suspense novel, “The Liberian Agenda” launched so well that it reached the top of the free bestseller charts on Amazon in three different categories: World Fiction, Political Fiction and Espionage Fiction.  It even outranked books published by USA today and New York Times bestselling authors in those genres.

Self Publishing School also helped me choose a topic for, outline and begin to write a nonfiction book I’m working on. That was extremely valuable to me since I’d never written a nonfiction book before. Writing a nonfiction book is very different from writing a fiction novel – they’re structured, conceived and written in entirely different ways.

So, whether you’re a novice writer, a self-published author hoping to get better at marketing or to switch genres, or a traditionally published author who wants to start self-publishing your back list, Self-Publishing School would be right for you.

Chandler is offering a free video training series on how to write and publish a book in 90 days. You can access the free training here.*  Whether or not you actually enroll in Self Publishing School, you’ll learn a few things from the free training. If you do decide to enroll in the free training, let me know what you think.

Peace

*This is an affiliate link.  If you click on it and later enroll in Self Publishing School, I will get a commission; however, you should know that I only promote programs and products that I really believe in.

Dreams Deferred Video

Hi there:

Lately, I’ve been trying to up my game by learning how to use Facebook advertising to market my books and grow my e-mail list.  I signed up for Mark Dawson’s Facebook advertising course and then headed over to Animoto.com to use my newfound knowledge to put together the Dreams Deferred video.

Unfortunately, the course didn’t have a segment in it on how to put together video ads. I’m a bit technologically challenged, so I had to wing it. What do you think? Does it give you the urge to buy Ivy’s story “Dreams Deferred” – the second book in my Brooks Sisters Dreams Series?

I only put the Dreams Deferred video ad up yesterday so I haven’t had the opportunity to measure the results; however, I have to say that Mark Dawson’s Facebook ads course was amazing.  I’ve learned so much and, thanks to the course, my e-mail list has grown by over a thousand new readers in the past week.

It’s been very exciting and a lot of fun to find and interact with new readers – some of whom have already sent me very encouraging words about my work.  Before I took Mark Dawson’s course, I struggled with the issue of how to find readers who would be interested in my work since my books don’t tend to fit neatly within a single category.  I’m still struggling with how to reach some segments of my reader base, but at least now I have a clue as to how to go about looking for them.

I’d love to hear from you.  Drop me a line to let me know what you think about the Dreams Deferred video and, if you haven’t already, pick up a copy of “Dreams Deferred.”  Just don’t start the book at night if you want to sleep.  🙂

Peace

Interview of Tasher

Hi there:

In this installment of the author interview series, I have with me Tasher, an entrepreneur and the author of “Divorced and Scared No More! Bk 1: Emotional Support for the Newly Divorced,” “Divorced and Scared No More!: Practical Advice for the Newly Divorced,” and “Divorced and Scared No More!: Dating after Divorce From Lemons to Zesty Lemon Sorbet.”

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I was born in Flint, Michigan to Mary and Houston Asher. I have an older brother named C. Robert Asher.  We lived on a farm in Linden, Michigan until I was in middle school, at which time my family moved to the suburbs of Flint so my parents could be closer to the factories they worked in.  Mom worked for Chevrolet at the Metal Fab plant and Dad worked in Buick City on the North end.

I understand that you suffer from Dyslexia.  How have you dealt with it?

I suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia until my high school teacher, Ms. Burdick, recognized the symptoms and sent me for diagnosis. Ms. Burdick had a big impact on forming my view of the reading disorder. She taught me how to use various strategies and techniques along with technical aids to help with the management of dyslexia. Within a short time, she taught me how it really was a gift that I just needed to learn to control.  After learning to control my gift, my grades quickly improved and I graduated Ainsworth High School with a scholarship.  I attended Northwood University in Midland, Michigan and graduated in four years with three degrees. Upon graduation, I was hired by General Motors Corporation in their Memphis Zone. So I really don’t look at dyslexia as a challenge – rather as my gift.

What got you interested in writing?

I have dyslexia and writing is something everyone told me I couldn’t do  – especially my ex.  So, after my divorce, and with the encouragement of friends, family and my divorce attorney, I decided it was time to try.

What inspired you to write the Divorce and Scared No More series and start the website?

I married my ex-husband on January 14, 1984, in Columbus, Mississippi.  We had 3 children together.  He was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and we relocated from Columbus, Mississippi to San Antonio, Texas.  That’s when I decided to quit my job as a district manager for General Motors Parts Division and became a stay at home mother. We got divorced on our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary – January 14, 2010.  After moving to Houston, I launched the website and became a frequent contributor to various online magazines. Along with co-author Tony Haynes, I published a 3 book series called “Divorced and Scared No More.” My main objective in writing this series was to help others deal with divorce. I consulted therapist and clinical author Justin Nutt, LSCSW, LAC as a technical advisor for the series.

How did you come up with the title?

The name of the series is a continuation of my website.  I named the website as a way to help people understand that there’s no reason to be scared after a divorce.  I wanted to help them understand that now is the time to make your life yours and do what you want – the time to create a life where you are in control. If you need help, look to your higher power to forge a new life you will enjoy.

How did you come up with the logo for your books and your website?

The logo design is a broken set of pilot’s wings.  My ex-husband was a pilot. When they get their first set of wings in the U.S. Air Force, they break them in half and give one half to someone they love.  They throw the other half away. The point being that those wings will never come together again.  Just like our marriage after the divorce.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My daughter and two grandchildren live in the Houston area near me.  I love to  watch the wee ones’ activities in my spare time.  My family is my world and I enjoy spending as much time with them as I can.

What tips or words of encouragement do you have for other writers?

No matter what your challenge is while writing, stick with your passion.  Do not listen to others who say you can’t.  If they say you cant, think to yourself: “Wanna bet?”  You can do anything you want to do, just be prepared to work a little harder or to find tools that can help you.

You are an inspiration. Thank’s for joining me tonight.

That’s all folks. Pick up your copy of Divorce and Scared No More today.

Peace

Kimberly Kaye Interviews L.J. Taylor

Hi there:

Kimberly Kaye at WFKX 96kix FM radio in Jacksonville, Tennessee interviewed me as their “Author of the Week.”   She was a great interviewer with tons of energy and great personality.  I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to appear on her show.

We talked about the first two books in my Brooks Sisters Dreams Series – “Just Dreams” and “Dreams Deferred.”  We also talked about my new book – “The Monrovian Affair” – which just came out on pre-order on Amazon.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t sound like a maniac although I did  talk a little too fast. I tend to do that when I’m nervous. You can hear the interview for yourself below.

Audio of Kimberly Kaye’s Interview of L.J. Taylor

As for me, I’m going to get back to working on publicity, etc. for the release date of “The Monrovian Affair.”  You would not believe all that goes into publishing a book.  I’m also working on finishing the third installment in the Brooks Sisters Dreams Series – “Caged Dreams.”

I’ve been flirting with the idea of writing a holiday novella featuring the Brooks family.   What do you think?  Send me an e-mail and let me know.

Peace.

Interview of Troy Gathers

Hi there:

In this installment of the author interview series, I have with me Troy Gathers – an entrepreneur and PhD student who has successfully marketed and sold his products globally. As a youth, Gathers attended eight different grade schools and dealt with the obstacles of constantly moving and being the new kid on the block. Over the course of his teen years, he encountered every type of friend and peer pressure imaginable.  As time progressed, Troy became unaffected by the distractions and focused solely on education and making the grades to excel. Currently, Gathers travels to churches, schools and prisons providing words of encouragement to those who may share in a similar situation.

Take Me With You Cover

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

First, I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak to your subscribers and those that support your platform. My name is Troy Gathers and I am from the great City of Charleston in South Carolina. My background is in Psychology and I have been writing since grade school. I decided to release my first book titled “Take Me With You,” because I believe the time is now. Initially I wanted to release a book while in my undergraduate studies but I started a business around that time and my focus was on building my foundation in business. Fast forward to today, I have gained more knowledge and insight to share with my readers and I believe the words are more potent today than they would have been back then.

Which writers inspire you?

I am inspired by many authors but my favorites are John Maxwell, Dr. Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, Les Brown, and Dr. Myles Monroe. These authors are elite in my opinion and will change your entire perception of the world if you’re ready to be encouraged. Don’t just take my word for it, check them out.

What is your favorite quote/motivational phrase?

My favorite quote is by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”  The first time I saw this quote it was on the memorial wall on the campus of South Carolina State University and it really made me think. The Big picture in life is greatness not anything artificial.

Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas come from my life experiences. I’ve been very blessed to travel thoroughly and I have met tons of really great people. Throughout my travels I’ve tapped into many different ideologies and mentalities. Once you’re exposed to greatness, it’s very hard to turn away. God has positioned me perfectly in this lifetime and I’m appreciative.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Yes. I’m an advocate on staying positive and blocking out negative influences. I just want the people reading this – especially the youth – to understand that whatever is standing in your way is simply a distraction. No one can hold you back but you. Don’t let the naysayers get you off your A game. Stay sharp and stay authentic.

Where can we buy Take Me With You?

Take Me With You is currently available on Amazon.com and Kindle for purchase. We are currently working out an agreement with Barnes and Noble. By the time this is released it will be available on all major online retailers:

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

The best place to keep up with my literary works is on the Facebook page for Take Me With You. Visit  and be sure to like the page and engage. It’s me. I’ll answer as soon as I can.

Many thanks to Troy Gathers for agreeing to be interviewed and providing his inspirational message.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Peace.

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