IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
How to Write Your Best Book – (The Self Publishing Show, episode 246)
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.
Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood.
Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.
As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance.
From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land – Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.
Part one of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!
Although the books in the trilogy are not stand-alone, they do not end in cliffhangers.
Authors Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer combine to produce a stunning work of art in Robin Hood’s Dawn, Book one in the Robin Hood Trilogy. The first sense I had in reading this book was like being in the setting with the characters. I truly believe that those who can write quality historical fiction are some of the best writers out there.
My second realization was the originality and richness of historical detail. This really puts you on the ground alongside the characters.
Third, the scenes in the book are quite stunning and captivating in their depiction and prose. My favorite scene is where Lady Marion and Robin are reunited at a certain point professing their love to one another. I don’t want to give away too many details here if you haven’t read it yet. But, it was literally dripping with rich prose that flowed back and forth between them. I can tell the authors really enjoyed writing that one.
Looking forward to the next book!
Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows. How is your story different?
We have taken a fresh approach to the Robin Hood story, and we’re excited to share our vision with fans of the legendary hero.
We have creatively reimagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which includes exploring the complexity of his family dynamics – an aloof, proud father loyal to King Henry II, and a kind-hearted, generous mother devoted to ministering to the poor with her gift for healing. One theme is that the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations, and this is part of the legacy that Robin receives from his father.
We wanted to cast him as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official instead of a bandit redistributing wealth. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have simply retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff. However, he feels a responsibility to the people – he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being – so he takes a stand to defend the people from the actions of the sheriff. And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.
Robin also feels great admiration for the newly crowned King Richard the Lionhearted. His loyalty to the king will create a number of conflicts and unexpected consequences in the story.
Lastly, we wanted to set our Robin Hood story in a fascinating time period: the 12th century. In our humble opinion, the 12th century has much to offer fans of sweeping tales of political, social, and spiritual upheaval.
We have carefully constructed our story within the framework of real history. We hope that this realism and devotion to actual history will add to the enjoyment of the story and encourage people to learn more about this time.
You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been reimagined. Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?
There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend. We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without necessarily adhering to the same storylines that have been previously written. It is our hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.
For example, we feel that Marian is a character who deserves more attention. All too often she is a background character with little to do. With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in book 2.
Our Marian is more than a love interest for Robin. Over the course of Robin Hood’s Dawn, Marian transforms from a sheltered, somewhat pampered, girl into a brave woman who continuously strives to overcome both her fears and the obstacles that she faces. We also wanted her to be feminine and remain believable as a woman of the 12th century. Of course, keep in mind that the most prominent woman of the 12th century was the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, an inspiration to any woman living in a male-dominated society.
Fans of the Robin Hood legend will find many familiar characters: Maid Marian, Little John, Allan-a- dale, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s son, Guy of Gisborne, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Readers will also meet real historical figures such as King Stephen, King Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted, King Philippe II of France, Prince John “Lackland”, and many others, including Ranulphus Besace. Who was he? Well, he was a real person who was King Richard’s personal physician!
This book is advertised as the first in a trilogy. Will the first two books end in cliff- hangers? Will any of the books be stand-alone?
Although the final mysteries and conflicts will not be resolved until book 3, we have structured the trilogy so that books 1 and 2 do not end in cliffhangers.
The readers will not be left wondering whether the main characters will live or die, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the first two books. Some story threads will be resolved, and some of the mysteries surrounding the main characters will be revealed in each of the first two books.
We think readers will be excited and eager for the next installment without suffering undue frustration at the endings of books 1 and 2.
The books will not be stand-alone.
How did each of you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?
I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters. I speak several languages, and I found that I enjoyed not only writing stories but also writing them in different languages. My favorite legendary hero is Robin Hood, and my favorite historical figure is Anne Boleyn.
My first novel is an English-language re-imagining of the story of Anne Boleyn.
In 2015, I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet and we decided to co author a Robin Hood Trilogy.
It is amazing that Coleen and I have managed to successfully work together on our project despite the fact that we have never met each other in real life. We talk on the phone and frequently exchange skype messages as well as emails. We have been working together long- distance despite living in very different time zones.
I began writing about three years ago. I had previously done editing work for other authors, but I had never thought about writing my own stories until one day when I was suddenly inspired to start writing, and I’ve been writing nearly non-stop ever since.
I wanted to write a book that would honor the legend of Robin Hood as a man who stood against the tyranny of a powerful government official; a man who fought for justice and fairness because he recognized the intrinsic value rooted in the humanity of all people.
So, you’ve never actually met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages. How can you co-author a book? Is it because you have similar writing styles?
Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!
We have found that we have a lot in common – especially our love of writing and of history. We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this.
That’s very true. Oliva and I have very different “voices” and writing styles. You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.
I tend to write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes. I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural sounding dialogue.
My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism. I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.
In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect. Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and- dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn.
The best writing advice I ever received was to plot from the point of view of the antagonist and write from the perspective of the protagonist. Simple, right? But it was an a-ha moment for me.
A bit of background. Like most writers, I have a couple of practice manuscripts currently occupying space in the bottom of a drawer. They both garnered decent feedback from agents, but the novels were episodic—most of the second act chapters could have been rearranged without affecting the story. I wasn’t building on prior events. Why? Because I didn’t know what my antagonist was doing behind the scenes.
I think most writers put a great deal of thought into the character development of their heroes, but they tend to give their antagonist short shrift. But think about it—the antagonist is the character that drives the story. It is his or her actions that the protagonist must address.
For most of my adult life, I was a police officer. Part of the job description involved investigating crimes. Most incidents began when someone called 9-1- 1. Upon arrival, I’d try to piece together what happened by observing the scene, obtaining witness statements, and collecting physical evidence. Armed with this information, I’d search databases, develop additional contacts, run down new leads.
I was a first responder—just like my protagonist.
Imagine how easy police work would be if an officer knew before being dispatched to the scene exactly how the criminal had planned the crime, what motivated the person to do such a nefarious deed, and what steps he’d taken to avoid detection.
As a writer, you can do that!
To combat my story-structure issues, I enrolled in a plotting course for mystery and thriller writers. During the course, the instructor assigned two exercises that I’ve since incorporated into the planning stage of every story I write.
The first exercise explains the antagonist’s motivation for doing what he did. I write it in first person and it essentially creates the backstory of the character. The first line of this exercise for Adrift, my debut novel reads:
Ishmael Styx is a man who knows what he wants, and he wants to be dead. All he has to do is figure out how to make it temporary.
I then wrote 1200 words explaining what had happened in his life to bring him to this
The second exercise explains how the antagonist pulled off his crime. Adrift had a complicated crime (more than one, actually, but that developed later in the story).
Drawing on my background, I hatched the plan. Knowing how the crime occurred gave me the insight I needed to identify the clues my protagonist had to notice, what other things could be misinterpreted, and how to follow the breadcrumb trail left by the antagonist. The exercise revealed some surprising options that prompted me to go deeper into my storytelling.
The structure of a mystery novel is such that the antagonist runs the show in the first act. His crime is the inciting incident that ensures the protagonist’s involvement. Roughly the first half of the story involves the hero reacting to the actions of the protagonist. After the midpoint, their roles change. Now your protagonist is hot on the trail, developing those leads, realizing her mistakes. Sure, she’ll have setbacks, but as she gets closer to solving the crime, the two characters are also nearing their final confrontation. Both exercises will help you determine how your cornered antagonist will lash out, try to escape, or outwit your sleuth.
Mapping out the crime allowed me to structure my storyline so that it built on the information learned in previous chapters. Actions had consequences. My writing was no longer episodic.
The first time I’d put this writing advice into action was during the writing of Adrift. The novel won both the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for mystery. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I knew how to foil the crime because I had plotted it first.
An FBI National Academy graduate, Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades, retiring as a division commander. Now a full time writer, she won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for her debut mystery, ADRIFT.
Micki also writes short stories and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines and textbooks. She resides in Southern Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research”
A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.
Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An Unsub—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.
The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.
Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.
Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?
A Damn good thriller!
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and definitely the best crime fiction. Absolutely amazing. A must read. Caitlin Hendrix, a narcotics detective joins an investigation to catch one of the nations worst serial killers that her father failed to catch. In fact, her father Mack Hendrix now a retired cop, tries to persuade to stop investigating since it ruined his life nearly driving him insane.
I loved what Meg Gardiner has done with detective Caitlin Hendrix. She’s not necessarily an expert, but joins the homicide division due to her father’s connection to the case. Determined, focused, bold, not to mention brillant; she works with law enforcement to catch the UNSUB.
Meg Gardiner does a spectacular job creating the twisted M.O. of the serial killer, UNSUB. He was such a formidable opponent it made for a JUICY conflict. Meg crafts his motivations perfectly.
The suspense is so thick you can cut it with a steak knife. So if you like edge-of-your-seat thrillers, THIS IS IT. Look no further.
In the crowded arena of crime fictiob UNSUB is quite unique. Don’t miss it!!
Inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, an exhilarating thriller in which FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer
In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.
Caitlin and the FBI’s serial crime unit discover the first victim’s body in the woods. She’s laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest’s darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style–posed like Snow White awaiting her prince’s kiss.
To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology–that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy–dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin’s profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people’s trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.
Meg Gardiner is the author of thirteen thrillers. UNSUB, her latest novel, features homicide detective Caitlin Hendrix. Don Winslow says, “Like The Silence of the Lambs, this novel scared the hell out of me. I dare you to try putting it down.” The novel has been bought for development as a TV series by CBS.
Meg was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s also a three time Jeopardy! champion. Meg lives in Austin, Texas.
She’s the author of the Evan Delaney series and the Jo Beckett novels. China Lake won the 2009 Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original. The Dirty Secrets Club won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008.
After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
What’s it like living in Iceland?
It’s great living in Iceland! Except for the weather of course. It´s a rather big volcanic and geographically new Island with very few people on it. The whole Icelandic nation is only 330 thousand people. But we host over a million tourists each year so it is lively and fun. Every town in Iceland is close to nature so outdoorsy people love it there. I don’t consider myself outdoorsy but I still enjoy the occasional walk out in nature. We have a rather strong welfare system in line with the other Nordic countries and a mixed economy so people have a good living standard and are generally healthy with a long life expectancy. That’s why it seems odd that Nordic writers write so much crime fiction as the Nordic countries have a very low crime rate and Iceland especially so.
Can you share some pictures with us?
Is your creative process as an author and playwright different?
Yes and no. For me it always starts out with the characters. A character starts living in my head and then I have to imagine a setting for her or him and their drive and there I have the plot. This is the initial process whether I am writing a play or novel. But then when the writing process really starts the novel is easier to write because it gives more freedom, but the play has to reveal everything through the dialogue. With a novel you’re on your own right to the end, but when writing a play the final goal is production where you’ll work with a theatre group to help with polishing.
What was your response when your play Big Babies won play of the year?
I was very happy of course! It was great and I was grateful for the recognition. In hindsight a big red-carpet moment like this seems unreal but I have such warm memories of the theatre company that produced the play that they will live inside my heart forever. A written stageplay is one thing but it’s the theatre artists that make it alive.
Why did you choose Noir to tell your story?
The Noir genre has a strong element of storytelling so that is why it is so good for me, because I see myself as a storyteller. I believe that with crime-fiction or Noir the reader has very specific expectations and the success of a story depends largely on how the writer fulfills those expectations. The reader expects to be entertained, to experience tension or a thrill and to be told a story.
How did you get into crime writing?
In part it was a coincidence. I have always loved writing and liked crime-fiction, but then one day I saw an ad from an Icelandic publisher for a competition called: “the New Dan Brown”. So that was it. My fate was sealed. Since I have written five published novels and my writing career has really taken off.
Who is Sonia?
Sonia is a young attractive mother that experiences a collapse of her whole world when her husband walks in on her in bed with another woman. The divorce that follows and the custody battle, all taking place in the same dramatic months as the Icelandic financial crash result in her being in a desperate situation. In her desperation she resorts to smuggling drugs and thereby she has entered a world of drugs and crime that she wouldn’t have expected herself to be in just a few months before.
Does your story bear a theme for struggling single mothers?
Well, I don’t know. The theme I started out with was an exploration of what people do when they feel cornered. When ordinary people find them selves in extraordinary situations they can do things they would never have imagined themselves doing. Sonia, the single mother in the story is one of those people and she does everything she can to regain custody of her son.
What is Sonia a victim of?
First and foremost she is a victim of herself. Snare is the first of the Reykjavík Noir Trilogy and in the coming two books she will come to terms with her own part in creating her fate. But the drug business is international, and even in a small country like Iceland it has quite an impact. The people who have ensnared Sonia are not the nicest types. With all the violence, threats and coercion Sonia feels like a victim. At first.
What role does the financial crisis play in the series?
It’s the backdrop to the whole story. I’m interested in those moments in history when there’s huge changes to society. For Iceland the financial crash had devastating consequences. Many people lost their homes and all their savings and had to start anew. There was a lot of anger and desperation; and in Snare we see characters that are struggling with the consequences of this, although it’s in a very different way for each one of them.
What’s next for you after the Reykjavik trilogy?
I am currently starting on writing a new series that leans more into the political thriller. I hope it will do as good as the Reykjavík Noir Trilogy.
Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of the 38 novels, including seven titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense) and Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller). Caitlin Strong returns this October in Strong Light of Day, to be followed by Darkness Rising, his sci-fi collaboration with Heather Graham coming from Forge in June of 2016. Jon is a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.
Tell us about the decision to write a thriller with a female lead.
Well, confession time here, starting this series was as much a marketing decision as a creative one. I owe the whole concept to the head of mass market sales for Tor/Forge Publishing going back about a decade. At a meeting where we were discussing trends in publishing, he raised the point that thrillers were the most popular genre and 70% of books were bought by women. Yet nobody at the table could name a single female thriller hero. Mystery, yes. But a female Jack Reacher? Uh-uh. So then and there I piped in with “What about a female Texas Ranger?” And in that moment Caitlin was born.
What do you appreciate about the Texas Rangers?
So many things! First and foremost, they are the most famous and legendary lawmen in American history. The only frontier body out of the Old West to still be around today—and not just around, they’re still operating pretty much as they always have. They’re still gunfighters by reputation, even if they never have draw their weapon. They still command the same respect they always have and have built wondrously on the folklore of their forebears. All those great stories of the likes of Bill McDonald, Jack Hayes, Frank Hamer, Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaulles, and so many more. You see so many male thriller heroes who are ex Special Forces, Navy SEALs, or something like that. Since women can’t service in active duty for special ops, making Caitlin Strong a Texas Ranger was the next best thing.
Did you do any travel related research?
You can never do enough. I get to Texas twice a year and base scenes on where I visit. So you’ll see a lot of Midland in STRONG LIGHT OF DAY, a lot of Houston in STRONG COLD DEAD, and a ton of Austin in STRONG TO THE BONE which comes out December 5. I’m a whiz when it comes to Google searches and, another confession, I write about a ton of places in Texas that I’ve never been to.
What’s your process with research? Is there a method to the madness?
That’s a great question because it comes down to process. The method to my madness is not really having a method. I don’t outline and am very spontaneous in my writing, figuring if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader can’t possibly know. So I don’t necessarily know what research I need to do before I start a book. I’ll actually do the bulk of it in the midst of the writing. If I need to know something as specific as the kind of tree you might find a body under in Laramie. Or what that tree smells like. Or what diner Caitlin might in when she visits this town or that. Attention to detail is crucial but the real trick is knowing how much not to say so the reader is left with the impression that I’ve been there, mostly because I don’t give them enough to figure out that I haven’t.
How do you view Caitlin Strong among all the characters you’ve created over the years?
Easily the best and most fun I’ve ever written. I have so much faith in all of them, meaning I let them do the heavy lifting when it comes to figuring out the plot—or, better stated, my characters are also my collaborators. The reason I can take the risk of being so spontaneous, of literally not knowing exactly where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, is because I trust my character can sketch out the roadmap for me. They write their own dialogue, they make their own decisions, they make their own mistakes. Some of the best scenes I’ve written in this series, I can’t even tell you where they came from.
What are the stakes and do they affect Caitlin personally?
As far as STRONG TO THE BONE goes, it’s the most personal of any book in the series because we learn for the first time that Caitlin was raped 18 years before when she was in college. The man was never caught. He just disappeared. And now he’s back, his DNA showing up in another victim of sexual assault. So Caitlin, all grown up and a Texas Ranger now, has a chance to slay her greatest dragon. Which brings us to the question of whether she really wants to, because she’s afraid catching him will strip her of the edge that defines who she is. As you can see, there are often aren’t easy answers in this series!
Is it difficult writing a female lead?
Not really, because she’s so real to me, as are all of my characters. I’ve written serial killers and terrorists, when I’m not either of those. I’ve written Israelis, Palestinians, teenagers, along with blind, deaf and people suffering from other disabilities. And I’m none of those things either. Well, breaking news, you can add to that list the fat that I’m not a woman. Storytelling springs not from the conscious mind but from the imagination, where anything is possible. The key to being a great storyteller is to able to recapture the magic of role playing that children do. I think that’s why so many love books as a adults: because it makes them feel like kids again, the way I feel when I’m writing.
How have readers responded to her thus far?
Beyond anything I ever could have imagined. She doesn’t have the sales of the Jack Reacher books, but I honestly believe she compares very favorably to Lee Child’s iconic hero. The thing about those books, and the ones featuring Caitlin, is they’re both essentially modern day Westerns. The storytelling, at its heart, is very basic: Somebody good willing to do anything it takes to stop somebody bad from doing something really wrong. That’s the crucial element of this series and any great thriller, as well as why readers have responded to Caitlin as positively as they have: she isn’t just about solving crimes, she’s about preventing something much worse from happening. That’s what makes a true hero.
I am the way and the reality and the life...John 14:6
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