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Conflicts Within Us

Paul Simmonds Author Interview

Paul Simmonds Author Interview

The Battle of Barkow tells the tale of dark vs light, good vs evil, in a world where magic is not all bad and religion is not all good. What was the inspiration for the setup to this novel and how did that develop as you wrote?

I wanted to give readers a story that not only takes them on a journey through the eyes of Bolan, Hogarth and Sterre and the choices they make but also a story that provokes thought about life, the things we believe in, don’t believe in and how we deal with those things. I think we all have conflicts within us, we do things that others have done before us simply because of that very reason. My message is that perhaps things are slightly different if we stop to think about them from a neutral position.

I of course also wanted a story that anyone can read and enjoy. You don’t have to ponder the meanings or questions hidden within the story, you can simply read it as a (hopefully) exciting and interesting journey of discovery for the main characters.

The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

If I had to pick a favourite character I would have to say it would be Bolan. A thoughtful and intelligent man yet one burdened with deep inner conflict. Unable to really grasp his purpose in life, he struggles with belief yet chooses a vocation that is based entirely on belief. His journey is one that answers some of his questions, brings him to a crossroads and forces him to confront those inner conflicts.

I noticed lots of subtle comparisons between good and evil in this story. What themes did you feel helped guide the stories development?

There is a theme of ‘good v evil’ running through the story. However are the good really all that good and are the bad really all that bad? Is there good and bad within us all? I will leave that up to the reader to decide.

I have a problem with a well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?

Yes, I do intend to take this story further. To explore the characters even more and to challenge their beliefs in a sequel. This is something I am working on as we speak. I also believe there is a good story to be told for a ‘prequel’ to The Battle of Barkow….the story of  how it all began.

Author Links: GoodReads | Authors Favorite

Book Summary:

A priest and a wannabe wizard embark on a journey to deliver books to nearby villages, meet new people and see how others live their lives. What they will discover on their journey however is far more than they could ever have anticipated. They will meet mysterious people, dangerous lurkers, battle hardened warriors and of course a beautiful woman or two!

The Battle of Barkow will take you on a breathless journey down winding roads, lush forests, across waters, through vast fields and towering mountains. All in the name of saving a city from a great evil.

Join Bolan and Hogarth as they take their horse and cart on a journey that will not only put them in harm’s way, but will challenge the very core of their existence.”

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False Gods

False Gods (The Sentinel, #2)

False Gods is a classic tale of angels and demons with a modern twist. Following his adoptive father’s untimely death, young Cormac is inducted as the Seventh Sentinel. Under archangel Michael’s celestial watch, Cormac acquires a team of quick witted, and often-times humorous, powerful beings. Sworn to protect mankind and his loyal sentinels from the ever-impending threat of demons and evil forces, he is thrust into the steep learning curve of what it means to serve his Lord. Cormac must now confront not only his worst nightmares, but the missing pieces of his past as well.

In the first few pages of False Gods, I felt much like what I imagine Cormac did in his first few days as the Seventh Sentinel; confused and unprepared. It felt as if I had been dropped into the halfway point of a dense novel. At first, it drove me crazy. I couldn’t keep characters straight, and between the jumble of formal language and modern day jargon it took me a while to surmise this was taking place in present day. Not to mention Cormac and his team are traipsing all over the globe to the point where I had to drag out a map. Albeit, I started to enjoy the confusion. As small pieces came into focus I quickly became fully invested in Cormac’s journey.

Cormac, young and freshly out of being sworn in as the Seventh Sentinel, quickly realizes that his life is now filled with danger at every turn. He acquires a team of powerful individuals, each with their own strengths. The reader watches as Cormac stumbles through his first few weeks of this new position under the watch of mighty angels. Like any hero’s journey, he is given a quest, one that will lead Cormac and his team all over the world in search of artifacts.  That is, unless demons get to them first.

This book was so poignant and filled with emotion that it left me wanting a bit more at times. False Gods is on the razor’s of emotional drama and a non-stop celestial action with faint notes of romance and intimacy.

The writing is skillfully crafted around Cormac and he comes to life right in front of you, his disposition immediately so infectious in a way that makes you wish you could be one of his paladins. The loyalty of his team and his emotional confrontation with his past grips you harder with each page. The quiet and intimate moments between characters, such as Noelle and Connor, or Cormac and Rachel, are visceral and evocative. Cormac’s team of gifted paladins are a bit hard to keep straight, the descriptions come to light very quickly in the beginning and are easily lost as the story becomes more involved. However, their personalities start to differ, and by the time the book comes to a close I found myself touched by each individual’s support for their Seventh Sentinel and clinging to Cormac’s unwavering determination.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B01B7FMFDG

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The Jinxed Pirate

The Jinxed Pirate (Graylands, #2)5 Stars

Adventures like these don’t come very often. Riddled with intrigue and building up a world The Jinxed Pirate by M. Walsh is a definite read. We have a delightful cast of characters from the mercenary to the tragic warrior princess with a splash of other-worldly beings as well. All of their lives and paths will come together in an excellent adventure where you might find yourself rooting for the bad-guy without realizing it. Each character is on a journey of sorts and where it leads them is anything short of ordinary. What happens when the warrior princess can’t save her people? What about the mercenary who doesn’t seem all that interested in what he’s doing? Our title character himself even seems to shift his shape depending on what his needs are. The carnal animal driven only by his desires. These all come together with fantastic story-telling and riveting action to create a beast of a tale.

The language in this book is intellectual without being dry; descriptive without being desperate. Walsh knows how to craft a tale and the way the narrative flows demonstrates an excellent grasp of a writer’s tools. Our prologue and epilogue are written in the first person, yet we don’t know much about who is showing us this world. The rest of the tale is told from the third person and that effortless transition really speaks to how well Walsh has command over the story. Some authors can let the tale run away from them and it ends up becoming nonsense. Walsh takes on a large task, and delivers.

While this book appears to be part of a series, it can stand alone just fine. It is rare to find an excellent book that is part of a larger tapestry that can be enjoyed on its own. The Jinxed Pirate achieves that sense of completion without discounting the possibility of the world being expanded either before or after the events we read about.

In the first few chapters we are introduced to our cast of characters. The descriptions that Walsh provides enhances the image in the mind of the reader. The reader is also not overwhelmed by excessive information. There is a delicate balance to be struck here and Walsh appears to be no slouch with his craft. The imagery and information flow effortlessly together.

If you’re looking for an excellent read with the potential to be wrapped up in a bigger world, The Jinxed Pirate by M. Walsh is a must-read. Too often writers attempt to create worlds that span multiple books but rely to heavily on the audience consuming every single volume in order. Enough backstory is explained in this edition that prior knowledge of the world is not required. This only proves to intrigue the reader and assist in capturing their attention and desire to know more. This is not a book to be underestimated. Readers will not go wrong adding this to their ever-growing pile of ‘must-reads’. This reviewer suggests that, perhaps, you place this one near the top.

Pages: 494 | ASIN: B06VWKX52Q

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Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon

Nickerbacher by [Barto, Terry John]
4 Stars

The story of Nickerbacher takes you on a journey of mystical beings and starry-eyed dreams. It’s an adventure with a dragon and a prince and princess. Nickerbacher is a dragon destined for a life of working as a protector of princesses- a job that was proudly held by his father and his father before that. However, Nickerbacher dreams of something more and wants to perform on The Late Knight Show where he can show off his comedic value. With the help of a leprechaun, a prince and other magical beings, can Nickerbacher change the hearts and minds of all La La Land?

Nickerbacher, written by Terry John Barto, is a fun-loving children’s novel based on the story of a dragon and his friends. Nickerbacher dreams of being something more than a dragon protector of princesses and sets his sights on becoming a comedian. There is an underlying message that children will love as it promotes following your dreams even if other people may not believe that you can achieve them.

Throughout the story, the fantasy characters participate in modern-day activities, like taking selfies with mystical beings or trying to fit their feet into the prints of famous celebrities. This provides a modern twist to a classically styled fairy tale that combine beautifully in this incredible city. My favorite character is Miss Phoenix, a receptionist who rises from the ashes to greet the unlikely trio. She is dedicated to her work but has a heart of gold which sings true to the end.

Pictures are included throughout the novel which brings to life the extraordinary fun loving characters. My favorite image is one that includes ghosts and goblins at the Fairywood Forever Cemetery, royal chariots at LAX and the Medieval Tar Pits. The images are a mix of castles with high rise style buildings that replicate a similar style of what I would imagine LA would look like if it had been sprinkled with a touch of fairy dust. I love how the imagery complements the text and helps with engaging the reader in expanding their imagination.

This story will help children to learn the importance of friendship and believing in yourself. Nickerbacher also touches on issues such as family, societal expectations and breaking through the barriers of life in a fun and engaging story line. Children will relate to parts of the story and see parts of themselves in each of the magical beings. I love the relationship between Princess Gwendolyn and Nickerbacher and how they break the stereotypes of the typical dragon and Princess friendship.

I would recommend Nickerbacher to any school-aged children who wants to be lost in the magic of La La Land. This book would be perfect as a bedtime story to be read aloud as Terry John’s Barto’s wonderful way with words will delight all children and adults alike.

Pages: 34 | ASIN: B00SKKX2AW

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Kiss Billie For Me

Kiss Billie for Me Xxx: A True Story5 Stars

Kiss Billie for Me, written by Jeanette Gray is a true story based on the trials and tribulations of William Edward Pedder “Billie”,  and a secret that he took to his grave. The story begins in 1929 where his mother, Betty Trainer is embarking on a journey of a lifetime. Headed to Australia, Betty soon finds herself quickly embracing a new life with a husband and new family. However, Betty’s new life full of sunshine is soon hit with a terrible storm as she begins to deal with an alcoholic husband and postnatal depression which ultimately leads to decisions that will affect generations to come.

Kiss Billie for Me is a novel that will touch the hearts and soul of every reader. Based on a true story, Kiss Billie for Me focuses on topics such as mental health, family and the importance of understanding the stigma surrounding postnatal depression. The reader will be able to easily imagine life back in 1929 right up until the present day as the storyteller describes scenes from rickety boats to dancing in bars.

Kiss Billie for Me begins in 1929 with a beautiful young woman. Betty Trainer. Betty embarks on an adventure to seek an exciting new life in Australia and after meeting a charming young man, she begins her own little family. However, the lack of family support and loneliness soon creates a recipe for tragedy as Betty develops postnatal depression after having her first son. The story is an emotional roller coaster but provokes conversations around postnatal depression and the reader will find themselves empathizing with people they least expect.

Even though this story is true, it still has surprise twists and turns that will leave the reader breathless and in shock. The unexpected events that occur will leave your mind reeling and you will have to continually remind yourself that this is a true story. I enjoyed the progression of the character “Billie” as you learn about his life and the people within his family circle. Tragedy seems to be a common denominator within this family however their ability to soldier on and find the beautiful side of life is commendable.

I appreciate Jeanette Gray’s ability to be respectful and honest in the recounts of her family’s history. Postnatal depression affects many women and Kiss Billie for Me shows the importance of providing the right type of care and assistance- as the dire consequences can affect generations to come. At times the themes were quite intense and emotive- especially knowing that this was a true story that someone had personally lived.

I can honestly say I feel like a better person for reading this story. It has made me appreciate my life and put in perspective how important relationships and support is within a family unit.  I highly commend Jeanette Gray for sharing her story. As I was reading this novel I began to consider my own family history and the impact of people’s decisions and because of this I would recommend this novel to absolutely everyone!

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B01N7TFFDF

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Never a Choice but Always a Gift

Never a Choice but Always a GiftMax Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal—not only his character—but what lies in his heart and soul.

Will Max find what he is searching for?
Will he ever find closure?
Will he find himself along this journey?
Or will he die without every knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?

3 Stars

Never a Choice but Always A Gift By Adam Que is a book about change. Que takes you on a journey of Max’s life. Max was born and raised in the Bronx and currently living life with no real thought of tomorrow. After receiving some surprisingly unsurprising news, his life is bound to change.

Trials and tribulations surround Max and his long time friend, Bibby. Love, sacrifice and pride are challenged throughout the story. Memories are always with us. Can these two forgive and forget, or will they live the remainder of their lives holding a grudge?

Que’s use of vocabulary helps the reader relate to the different characters and really help you feel the emotions. The reader is lead along an easy to follow narrative that is sure to stimulate emotional response. That being said, there are times where the vocabulary becomes redundant and phrases are repeated which disrupts an otherwise sentimental novel.

Max is a well developed character and the story is gripping, but I felt that his thoughts in the beginning of the novel were constantly interrupted by tangents, side stories and information dumps which caused the story to lose focus. But when Max meets his love interest Celeste the background information is given in a less dense format and the novel flows easily and keeps the readers attention.

This novel is one of the more unique one’s I’ve read in 2016. Story detail is revealed through the use of double narrative. Things that Max is not willing to tell the reader is revealed through Bibby’s perspective. The switch of perspectives results in a change of language and tone which truly captures the feel of a new narrator. Few books I have read with a similar method of perspective change have lacked that quality.

I recommend this book to people going through hardships. Hope and unconditional love are cornerstones in the characters relationship. Never a Choice but Always A Gift is about a journey, but not the kind where characters trek through exotic locales. It’s a journey through life, to find love.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01EYS4Z9U

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Zurga’s Fire

Zurga's Fire (The Orfeo Saga, #3)4 Stars

Travel back in time in this fantastical adventure with Zurga’s Fire, book three in the Orfeo Saga. Murray Lee Eiland Jr weaves his tale that takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean. Broken up into four books filled with short, easy to digest chapters we begin with Daryush, a young man who has been living as a consort for the Empress Zinaida. If you are just coming into this saga, you won’t be able to get a true grasp on what previous volumes have covered. What we learn from Daryush and Zinaida is that theirs is a young love and she has recently acquired her position of power. Due to their differences Daryush decides to leave Babylon in order to preserve his life. We then begin to follow him on his journey while meeting other important characters and breaking off to follow them. It all comes back around and end with Daryush.

Eiland is very good at keeping his chapters short and to the point. Instead of long, drawn out chapters that cover far too much information to digest well, this tale has the benefit of being broken into four books and a total of 70 chapters. While that may seem like a lot, the story doesn’t break 300 pages. There is even a historical note for those history buffs who are reading. This is a historical fantasy-adventure tale and Eiland does his best to keep information as true to history while taking certain artistic liberties. This makes the book easy to read without getting bogged down by technicalities. While the information regarding tribes, empires and villages is indeed massive, it is all presented in shortened, easy to read ways.

Daryush is not the titular character, although he feels like one. He weaves in and out of the story that the reader can get deluded into thinking it’s all about him. The book is called Zurga’s Fire for a reason and that is made quite apparent in the third book within this volume.

Aside from being a bit in the dark to previous accomplishments in the first two books, Zurga’s Fire stands well on its own. The story feels complete at the end and doesn’t leave too many unanswered questions. The writing is clean with little to no grammatical errors and the chapter formatting is nice on the eyes. The intrigue, romance and mystery that pepper the tale are all tasteful with nothing feeling forced or contrived. This is a spectacular feat to accomplish when you have so many characters with such intricate lives.

If you’re looking for a good read that won’t have you feeling overwhelmed then Zurga’s Fire by Murray Lee Eiland Jr is definitely something you should consider. Not too heavy on historical explanations and easy to read with short chapters, this third installment in the Orfeo Saga is pleasant and satisfying.

Pages: 244 | ASIN: B017YFKZSU

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Dreamers Like Me

Christopher Clark Author Interview

Christopher Clark Author Interview

Wyatt is an average kid with aspirations of serving in the Imperial Army when a strange dream leads him down a harrowing path that changes his life forever. What was the inspiration for the original and fascinating idea at the center of The Humming Blade?

The story is, in all honesty, the story I would’ve wanted to read in my youth. The Campbellian hero is relateable for a lot of reasons, and that blueprint is, in many ways, the blueprint for Wyatt’s journey. A dream or a prophesy are often found in those stories, and this is no different. Wyatt has to discover not only what it means to be a hero, but also what it means to truly have no say in the major life events that define the book.

I find the world you created in this novel brimming with possibilities. Where did the inspiration for the setting come from and how did it change as you were writing?

All of my ideas start out very small – a place, a specific thing, a person, etc. The Humming Blade was born of the idea of a world where the things everyday people see are built upon the bones of of something much older, greater, and harder to understand. It became necessary to make this setting familiar, because it had to feel easy to understand and subsequently easy to subvert. The idea that the familiar and the normal can be built upon the foundation of something completely alien is something that I love to think about our own world all the time. I think that dreamers like me will really find an easy home in this setting.

Wyatt is a well developed and intriguing character. What was the inspiration for his character traits and dialogue?

Wyatt is a little bit of every late-teens kid – smart, fast-learning, driven, and well-meaning. He’s bored of the only hand he feels is available to him and desperately wants to find a way out, which is certainly a feeling that I know a lot about. He’s something we’ve all been or all will be at some point in our lives. But he has a few bad traits of teenagers, too – he’s a bit mouthy, selfish, and stubborn. His motivation for most of this story is not to save the world or avert catastrophe; he just wants his mom back home where she belongs. He’s forced into making choices that he never wanted to make, and realizes that maybe the old and familiar life he lost wasn’t so bad after all.

I enjoyed the ending of the novel, although it left some things unanswered. What will book two cover and when will that be available?

The ending was definitely a deliberate choice on my part. Wyatt will begin the next book struggling with the ramifications of what happened, as well as a greater question: what place is there in the world for the “Chosen One” once he has fulfilled his destiny? What does he do now that he’s served his purpose? All throughout the first novel, the reader sees glimpses of things happening behind closed doors. Those scenes are like seeds – in book two, those seeds will grow and bear fruit. As far as when the book will be available, I hope to have it written soon. The first thirty-thousand or so words are already written, and the rest will come easily. I’m working on another project (some stories just have to be written!), but once that draft is complete and I’m off editing it, writing will resume on The Humming Blade’s sequel.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Humming BladeWyatt Arden thinks he leads a pretty normal life. He lives on a boring, everyday farm outside of a sleepy little town called Ven, doing boring chores for his mom when he’s not in school. He yearns for a chance to enlist in the Imperial Army and bring some excitement to his life, but he’s sure that will never happen. Wyatt soon learns that it only takes one strange dream for everything normal about his life to change. In that dream, he envisions a beautiful, powerful sword, a blade linked to deep magic and even deeper mysteries. The dream precedes an unexpected series of events that lead Wyatt into a harrowing, life-altering struggle for the lives of his friends, his family, and the world as he knows it. Wyatt must face vicious killers, dark schemers, and beings of such great power that their existence was erased from history. His only weapon? The Humming Blade.

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The Fool’s Truth

The Fool's Truth5 Stars

Murder and mystery with shimmers of romance are all the delectable things that Loretta H. Marion has to offer with her tantalizing tale The Fool’s Truth. We are introduced to our protagonist, Cordelia Richmond through a first-person perspective on this tale. She is calling an old friend: someone to whom she trusts her very life. She’s been locked in a dangerous situation and her maternal instincts are telling her to run. And run she does. Cordelia is fleeing an unsatisfactory marriage to a man of impressive power while trying to retain her sense of self. It is during her flight that our sweet Cordelia becomes wrapped up in a devastating mystery through what many would consider coincidence. Given the spiritual aspect of our protagonist one can only pause and recall: ‘there is no coincidence, there is only fate’. For all the colorful experiences Cordelia has accrued in her lifetime, nothing could quite prepare her for what was to come.

Fragmented into small chapters that focus on one character at a time, The Fool’s Truth is eloquently written and carefully plotted out. As is the case with many mysteries if the author doesn’t know where they want the story to go, you’ll end up with a hot mess. Marion leads her readers through many twists and false starts to bring them to the satisfying end of their journey. Even the first chapter of the book is almost a ruse; meant to cause the reader to picture and assume something entirely false. It’s important to note that Marion does wrap up all her threads by the end of the tale.

A drawback from being written so fragmentedly is that the chapters concerning Cordelia are written in the first person. This can throw the reader off if they are expecting a third-person view like the rest of the book. However, while this may be off-putting, it does not detract from the story itself. It does its job to cement Cordelia as the main character of this novel, though there would have been little doubt of that. For all the trouble our heroine finds herself in, this is still very much her story.

What a twisted journey it is. The characters are all intricately tied together with false identities, broken pasts and loveless marriages built on security, not affection. There are some surprising truths near the end of the book and the final part does an excellent job of wrapping everything together. In what must have been a labour of love The Fool’s Journey spans more than three hundred pages, yet every single one of them unfolds pieces of the puzzles that Marion scatters throughout the tale.

At times breath-taking and other times heart-pounding a true mystery lover will not want to let The Fool’s Truth pass them by. Even the romance aspects of the story are not overpowering and flow naturally, without taking away from the central core of the tale. The romance is a side dish to the main course of full-bodied mystery that Marion has to offer.

Pages: 377 | ASIN: B01LY8U5B1

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Beauty of the Fall

The Beauty of the Fall5 Stars

It is impressive, nay amazing, what the human soul can withstand. The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello chronicles one such journey. Our protagonist is Dan Underlight, a man approaching the end of his prime who is getting laid off from the company he helped found. Dan has always been involved with hi-technology and the story opens with his seemingly unjust dismissal from a company he has birthed and nurtured much like a child. As Dan leaves RadioRadio Software after being pushed out by his founding partner, Olivia, we are privy to the sensational emotional and physical journey he undergoes. We learn that a few years ago Dan lost his only child, ten-year-old Zack, and that he dropped into a deep depression. We learn that Dan is divorced and that there is nothing in his life that brings him joy as much as working for RadioRadio had. When we begin our story, we meet a battered man who has nothing left. Then he begins a journey, and takes us with him.

Marcello is a master with language. The story flows in such a natural way it is easy to get sucked into what you’re reading and lose track of time. There are no unnecessary words. In a tragically beautiful tale like this it is easy to drown your story in frivolous language. Marcello keeps the dialogue short and only uses it when absolutely necessary. We journey through this story from Dan’s perspective as it is told in the first person. Marcello weaves effortlessly between Dan’s thoughts and the words he and those he meets say. Poetry peppers the text due to the creative Willow who will become both a source of strength and sorrow for Dan. He is a man who is grieving: grieving the loss of his child and the loss of his reason for existence. We go with Dan through therapy, we journey with him on his pilgrimage and we arrive at his revival as he creates a company even better than the one he had before. It’s not all roses and sunshine for Dan, however, and we also continue with him through his intense sorrow and his drunken attempts at coping. Marcello’s portrayal of the human condition is fantastic and readers will not be disappointed.

 The story is broken down into parts and time flows effortlessly. In some novels time skips are awkward and unnecessary. Even the short six month time skips are effortless and useful. When we meet Dan, he is broken and wounded. He rebuilds, even better than before, but suffers two detrimental losses that may have readers concerned about his recovery. After all, he is only human and the soul can only withstand so much pain. Marcello doesn’t disappoint and the resolution of The Beauty of the Fall is realistic and will leave readers feeling confident in Dan’s choices for the rest of his life.

If you’re looking for a masterful tale that will have you laughing, crying and questioning how you view yourself in the universe, you will not be disappointed with Rich Marcello’s wonderful portrayal of the human condition in The Beauty of the Fall.

Pages: 283 | ASIN: B01MFCTYYW

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