An Interview with Author Zachry Wheeler, Part 2

Science fiction novelist Zachry Wheeler is a web applications developer and self-professed nerd who also writes nonfiction articles for and You’ll find him on his website and at SFF conferences throughout the Southwestern United States (see his website’s Events page). Transient, published in 2016, is his debut novel.

transient200You tell potential readers that Transient takes “the widely abused trope of a young adult vampire romance … and shove[s] it face-first through the meat grinder of post-apocalyptic science fiction … Consider it the anti-Twilight.” What sparked the initial story idea for the book?
I have always enjoyed vampires as classic monsters, but it irritates me when lore is treated as a subplot or afterthought. At best, it’s explained away as mysticism. At worst, it’s laughably cheesy (cough cough, sparkly chest). One day I asked myself, what if vampires were real? As in scientifically feasible. Before long, I had a pseudo research paper full of medical science and logistics. The story sprung from there.

The main character is Jonas who “lives underground, works at night, and drinks his daily blood rations, just like any normal eternal.” Why did you choose to set Jonas’ story in Seattle?
I chose downtown Seattle as the primary setting for two reasons. One, I was living there when I wrote the first draft, so I could give it proper treatment. Two, Seattle at night gives off a delightful noir vibe that was ideal for the story (especially after a light rain). The grayness of the cityscape perfectly complemented the grayness of the characters.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
I would say the creation of a believable sociopolitical environment. It’s easy to take the current political climate and dump it into a story. It becomes believable because it’s familiar. However, that becomes tricky when the fundamental rules of life change. I needed to answer an intriguing question: if immortals controlled the world, how would they organize themselves? I knew right away that a capitalistic democracy wouldn’t work (if you don’t die, sustainability becomes a real problem). After a great deal of historical research and analysis, I settled on a totalitarian version of global socialism.

You credit beer, and the thousand articles you wrote for, for teaching you how to write (see Part 1 of the interview). Tell us more about how Transient came together.
I rewrote Transient stem to stern at least five times. I put it through more rounds of editing than I care to admit. But, every second was worth it. I view the effort as writing tuition. If craft beer taught me the basics, then fixing Transient was my final exam. Publishing it was the culmination of a long and arduous journey. I’m immensely proud of it.

Do you have other creative outlets besides writing?
I always have what I like to call my “creative delusion.” Right now it’s science fiction novels, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. At one point it was music. I fronted several rock bands and spent a decade in the music industry. I wrote and released four albums, two of which enjoyed national radio attention and spotlights on MTV. I also work as an extra at Albuquerque Studios, mostly to get out of the house. What started off as an amusing hobby has turned into active side work. I even scored a recurring role on Better Call Saul. Click here for a sticky post about my ongoing shenanigans as an extra. Also, here are the band websites for anyone interested: and

You have years of experience as a web applications developer. How has this experience benefitted your fiction writing? Is there anything you’ve had to overcome because of your logical brain?
I’m an introvert (as I assume most writers are). Web applications development requires a great deal of mental stamina, a high tolerance for solitary environments, and the motivation to work from home. Needless to say, the transition to writing was pretty easy. The biggest challenge for my logical brain is to not see sentences as code. I stare at code all day and it has to be meticulously organized to read well and understand. When writing fiction, I will sometimes use a subpar word just to make the formatting look more pleasing. It’s a hardwired habit that gets in the way from time to time.

What’s on your to-read pile?
This may be a stunning admission, but I’m still trying to catch up on the classics of science fiction. I haven’t finished Asimov’s Foundation series (beyond the trilogy). I still have yet to read any Philip K. Dick, and Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke) has been lingering on my Kindle for months. Those are at the top of the pile.

If the stars aligned, what past or present television or movie series would you love to write for (or be involved with in any capacity)?
Firefly. Everything about that show hits my happy spots. I love the writing, the setting, the ensemble, the humor, the pacing, the structure, everything. It was utter perfection and it still grates on my psyche that it was cancelled after one season.

maxandthemultiverse150What writing project are you working on now?
My young adult science fiction novel Max and the Multiverse (2017) was just released, and I’m working on the sequel.

(A bit of trivia: While working as an extra on the movie Soldado, the sequel to Sicario starring Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, Zack was filmed in a scene reading Max and the Multiverse. He doesn’t know if it made the final cut, but it’s pretty awesome either way.)

To learn more about Zack and his writing, go to Part 1 of this interview.

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Posted in Author Interviews

Seek, Study, Practice to Tell Your Stories


As we continue to strive, we seek those stories that we simply have to tell; and we study, so that we have the knowledge we need to tell them. Then we practice, so that we can tell them the best way we know how. ~ Cynthia Granville

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Dear Holiday Heroes: Thank You

1-1231002924wqjwHeroes come in many forms. Teachers shoulder a huge responsibility to impact the younger generation in a positive way. Nurses work too many hours to provide care for the sick and injured. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and other rescue workers face danger every day in service to our local communities. And the members of our military, many far from home, fight for peace in the community of the world.

To all of you I say, “Thank you!” You do not get paid enough for your sacrifice. Your hard work often goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Those who work holidays deserve extra praise, double helpings of brownies and whipped cream at all office parties, and triple karma points.

As grateful as I am for all of you who do so much to help others – in jobs I don’t have the courage, stamina, or expertise for – today there is one person I wish I could thank face-to-face. I don’t know your name or how to reach you, but I hope you get this message someday:

To you, sir, with the veteran’s license plate who answered this mother’s prayer to help her daughter stranded by a flat tire on a slick, wintry (and deserted) road in rural New Mexico – thank you.

Before you could kneel in the snow to wrestle with the spare tire, you had to remove your artificial leg. You didn’t have to stop and help. You could have kept driving, stayed warm and dry, but you’re a hero. You might not consider yourself one, but you are to me.

Your actions reaffirmed that God answers prayer and proved that once a hero, always a hero. For my daughter (a nurse and a veteran), you are proof that good people are still out there willing to put others first regardless of inconvenience. Because you stopped, she made it home in time to work a holiday shift at the hospital.

My daughter and I will never forget your kindness.

For all you heroes – thank you. May you be blessed with an abundance of peace and joy, protection and provision, not only during the holiday season, but always.

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Posted in Just Because

Procrastinate to Fuel Your Writing, Tip #1: Chocolate Wars

chocolate_fractal_300Some insist procrastination is a dirty word. But I say, “One writer’s procrastination is another writer’s research.”

Have you ever left your keyboard in search of a snack, and found yourself staring at the inside of the fridge (for the umpteenth time that day) and not finding anything worth eating? Of course you have. You’re human.

The next time you’re disappointed by the dull innards of your refrigerator, don’t go back to your work-in-progress. You know you want a break from deciding what color eyes each of your characters should have or from making a definitive guide on how to kill a boar with a straw. Your new research might begin something like this:

Skipping to the fridge, hungry for a quick snack. Squee, chocolate sauce! Drat, no ice cream. Score – everything needed to make chocolate chip cookies! But ingredients for brownies, too. Which to make…

Turn this predicament into an exercise in character development, scene generation, or world building. What would your main character rather snack on? Does a beefy cop enjoy brownies? A warrior princess prefer cookies?

Go ahead, bake a pan of brownies. While waiting, mix cookie dough. Take a sample. When brownies are done, taste test a corner and a center piece (one for you and one for your character). Bake cookies. Sample again. Consider a drizzle of chocolate sauce and/or running to the store for ice cream. Would cop like vanilla or chocolate? This is a win-win for everyone.

If chocolate isn’t to your liking…er…your character’s liking, try these alternatives:
– apple pie vs. cherry pie
– any pie vs. any cake
– cookie vs. cookie
– same for candy, milkshakes, etc.

So many characters, so many choices. Savory alternatives could include comparing bread, wine, beer, cheese (and now I’m officially hungry).

Allow this to be a pleasant, but useful, distraction. Food preferences can reveal a protagonist’s character and upbringing, become a recurring prop throughout the story (e.g. Agent Gibbs’ coffee on NCIS), or be included in a scene such as:
– a food fight
– a requisite tavern visit
– a prelude to a romantic encounter
– a family/holiday dinner
– a meet-and-greet with new alien neighbors

So take a break and make procrastination research work for you and your story. And then get back to writing.

Do you prefer cookies or brownies? How often do you visit the fridge hoping the food elf has left something yummy since the last time you checked?

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Posted in Procrastination, Writing Advice

Reading and Creating


As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

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Saying “Yes” to Saying “No”

ID-10075071_2Today is my last day as webmaster for SouthWest Writers (SWW). Tomorrow I’ll begin a semi-sabbatical for the remainder of the year. Not a rest from everything, just from taking on new responsibilities. A sabbatical, I suppose, from saying “yes.”

I’ve been a member of SWW for ten years now, having served on their board of directors for four years—at various times as secretary, webmaster, blogmaster, newsletter editor, brownie baker, and general volunteer. It’s an odd thing to be part of a writing organization and not to write, at least not in any committed, consistent kind of way. I’m not blaming SWW. It’s clearly my fault for failing to knuckle down and take my writing seriously.

But I’ve come to realize I’ve said “yes” to requests to volunteer, not just out of a desire to help but as a way to avoid finishing my writing projects (including five novel drafts and two partials). For the past few years I’ve told myself, “I can’t write today. I’m too busy with such-and-such,” or, “I’ll write tomorrow. So-and-so needs me today.” These seemed like good excuses at the time, and writing does take gobs of focus and energy…

I suppressed the gentle call to write until it screamed at me, more and more often. My characters wanted their stories finished, and only I could do it.

Letting go of my volunteer responsibilities has not been easy, but it was necessary. Several positives came out of these last few years: I helped a great organization I truly care about, I made awesome friends, and I learned how important writing is to me.

So…tomorrow I finish the query letter and synopsis for my fantasy novel, and then hold my breath as I email them to an agent who requested them a few weeks ago. (I wrote the first chapter in May of 2005 and completed the draft in 2015. Wow, where did those 10 years go?)

For the remaining seven months of 2016, I’ll work to make that novel shine and to finalize a dozen short stories for submission to speculative fiction magazines. If there’s still time left in the year, I’ll pick one of my four other novel drafts to start editing. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to jump in and put as much energy into writing as I did into volunteering.

How about you? Have you let something get in the way of your dreams? We’re almost at the halfway point of the year—where are you on meeting your goals?

Image “Clean Idea”courtesy of thaikrit at

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Posted in Musings

Book Review: Apocalypta Z by Maer Wilson

Apocalypta Z by Maer Wilson
A Book Review by Carol Holland March

Apocalypta ZThis is one of the few zombie books I have read recently since generally I am turned off by the blood and gore and the lurid descriptions of flesh eating. This book is different. It is told in multiple points of view, mainly from Maddie, a no longer young librarian who encounters zombies at a rest stop in a desert as she drives home with her two dogs.

The other point of view that is most memorable is a poodle who is by far the most adorable animal you could hope to be stranded with in an apocalypse. As the novel opens, the little poodle is left behind so Maddie can escape the zombies, and the adventures of the tiny dog as she trudges down the highway, chased by two zombie dogs, set the plot in motion.

Maddie is a likeable character. Her dogs are her family, and she is sharp and self-sufficient. After she rescues her dog, she also rescues an abandoned child. She and her friend Nick devise a plan to use the local hotel to shelter the few remaining residents of town who did not become zombies. As they carry out their plan, we learn who they are and how they become leaders of this community of survivors.

I was surprised at the explanation given for the zombie apocalypse, which came late in the book, and I love being surprised. This is more an adventure/mystery story than horror, so if you’re up for an adventure story with some endearing characters that will not give you nightmares, give this one a try. It’s worth a read.

Carol Holland March writes fantasy, magical realism, and science fiction because she loves the intersection of dreams, reality, and time. She lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a house she shares with two demanding dogs who bring her ideas for stories in exchange for long bike rides through the river bosque and the occasional treat. In addition to writing stories of love and longing, she teaches creativity at the University of New Mexico using writing as a tool for insight. Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies and are collected in The Way Home, Star Crossed, and The Man Who Watched the Stars. Her first novel, The Dreamwalkers of Larreta, will soon be available from Ellysian Press. Visit for information about the worlds that spin out of her head.

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Why Writers Write: Kathy Kitts

by Kathy Kitts

WhyDoWritersWrite5c3In Poets & Writers Magazine, they have a column titled “Why We Write.” I enjoy reading what the guest authors have to say and how they interpret the questions. Today, I would like to respond.

I believe we write for two reasons: to provide ourselves what the world will not or cannot, or to share a lesson we have learned with others. Because of this, a story often ends up attempting to serve both the needs of the author and the message. Unfortunately, it is rare that a story can excel with two masters, and a particular piece may devolve into a schizophrenic mess. I see this frequently in critique sessions.

One of my critique buddies is Native American. She recently wrote a fictionalized version of a sacred story. In the circle, it was unanimous that the piece needed some structural work. She dismissed the criticism by stating that this structure was how the story went and we would just have to deal with it. Everyone in the group scowled, and I quoted Ben Bova, “Sorry, but the reader is always right.”

Indeed, if that were the case, then the story was not fiction but explicitly nonfiction. I asked her purpose. Did she want to document the sacred stories of her people or to share the greater life-lesson? She wanted to share the lesson. Then as a writer, she had no choice but to do what would be best for the piece even if that meant changing the story itself. If the goal is to teach, then the author must consider the target audience. If they can’t understand the medium (e.g., the structure in this case), then the message is lost and the story is a failure. Sometimes, an author must lie to tell the truth. Is that not the essence of fiction?

In my opinion, the reason she wrote the story is actually quite personal, and I do not know or understand it. And if the real purpose of the story is personal, then it is perfectly fine as it is. Writing is a lot cheaper than therapy. However, if an author decides that sharing with an audience is more important, then the message must come first and the story crafted to reflect that. Even if it requires we “kill our darlings.”

This motivational push and pull is especially difficult in deciding whether to write a memoir or an autobiography. Autobiography is classified as nonfiction and there can be no fuzziness of memory. If you quote a date, your reader better be able to look it up and verify it. In memoir, which is shelved in my library under fiction, the author has more latitude and can change the order of events to make the story build or be more cohesive.

What if you don’t know whether a specific piece is more about you or more about your message? I suggest there’s a hint in how you like your superheroes. Are you a Superman fan or do you prefer Batman? Should your superhero be perfect? Bullets bounce off and you get to save the day without breaking a sweat? Or does the dark knight’s flawed humanness draw you in? If you are a Superman type, then perhaps this piece needs to be more about what you need. If you prefer Batman, then send up that bat signal and share it with the world. Either way…

Happy Writing!

KathyKitts175Dr. Kathy Kitts, a retired geology professor, served as a science team member on the NASA Genesis Discovery Mission. Before that, she directed a planetarium for nine years. She has dozens of non-fiction publications spanning professional papers to textbooks to general interest articles. However, she no longer writes about “what is” but rather “what if.” Her speculative short fiction has appeared in James Gunn’s Ad Astra (writing as K. Eisert), Mad Scientist Journal, and The Storyteller’s Anthology. Born and raised in the Southwest, she is currently living in the high desert of New Mexico.

This article was originally published in the December 2013 issue of SouthWest Sage and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

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Posted in The Writing Life

SFWA Short Story Qualifying Markets for Speculative Fiction: 2016

This article is a major update of one of my most popular posts, “14 SFWA Short Story Qualifying Markets for Speculative Fiction.” Several markets have been added, others removed from the original list due to closures, and pertinent submission information is up-to-date as of February 29, 2016.

SFWA SS Word Cloud300Achieving active membership status in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is a continuing goal of mine. To be a member requires a certain number of speculative fiction sales to eligible markets for short stories, novels, scripts, etc. But I don’t have to be an SFWA member to benefit from the organization’s expertise. Their site maintains an Information Center full of articles ranging from manuscript preparation to publishing technologies, and Writer Beware is an indispensable resource for warnings regarding scams in the publishing industry (including which agents and publishers not to query). You can follow the Writer Beware blog here.

As much as I appreciate SFWA, their list of eligible short story markets is updated infrequently and has no links to the appropriate websites—so I’ve created my own list with submission information.

The following are the markets I submit to first in hopes of satisfying SFWA membership requirements. Those listed are still accepting unagented submissions as of February 29, 2016. At the end of the post you’ll find a link to a pdf spreadsheet for future reference.

1. AEAE is looking exclusively for science fiction, though their interpretation of the genre can be quite inclusive. They welcome submissions from both established and emerging authors – they are a Canadian market that publishes a limited number of international stories.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
500-3,000 7¢/word 90 days No
Other: Accepts simultaneous submissions (read guidelines). Submit one story at a time. No excerpts, screenplays, or poetry.

2. analogo_bwAnalog publishes science fiction stories in which some aspect of future science or technology is so integral to the plot that, if that aspect were removed, the story would collapse. The science can be physical, sociological, psychological, but the stories must be strong and realistic, with believable people (who needn’t be human) doing believable things – no matter how fantastic the background might be.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
2,000-80,000 (see Other) 8-10¢/word up to 7,500 words
8-8.5¢/word over 7,500
2-3 months No
Other: No simultaneous submissions. Accepts online and manual submissions. Preferred lengths: short stories, 2,000-7,000 words; novelettes/novellas, 10,000-20,000 words; serials, 40,000-80,000 words.

3. new-banner092512Apex Magazine is a monthly online prose and poetry magazine of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three. They seek works full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 7,500 6¢/word 30 days No
Other: No simultaneous submissions or multiple submissions. Accepts poetry.

4. as_logo_blAsimov’s is looking for character-oriented science fiction stories in which the characters, rather than the science, provide the main focus for the reader’s interest. Borderline fantasy is fine, but no Sword & Sorcery. No explicit sex or violence.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
1,000-20,000 8-10¢/word up to 7,500 words
8¢ each word over 7,500
5 weeks No
Other: No simultaneous submissions or multiple submissions. Accepts online and manual submissions. Accepts poetry.

5. Beneath Ceaseless SkiesBeneath Ceaseless Skies is an award-winning online magazine publishing “literary adventure fantasy” with a secondary-world setting – different from our own primary world – and a traditional/classic fantasy feel, written with a literary focus on the characters. No urban fantasy.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 10,000 6¢/word 2-4 weeks No
Other: Accepts simultaneous submissions (read guidelines). No multiple submissions or novel excerpts.

6. ClarkesworldClarkesworld Magazine is a Hugo award-winning monthly science fiction/fantasy magazine. Science fiction need not be hard SF. Fantasy can be folkloric, medieval, contemporary, surreal, etc. Horror can be supernatural or psychological, as long as it’s frightening.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
10¢/word for first 5,000 words
8¢ each word over 5,000
2 days No
Other: No simultaneous submissions.

7. Cosmos200Cosmos is looking for original science fiction based on scientific premises, principles or possibilities, with characterization and a story arc.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
2,000-4,000 $300, print
$100, online
Unknown No
Avoid profanity, explicit sex, and gratuitous violence.

8. DailyScienceFiction_200Daily Science Fiction accepts speculative fiction submissions: science fiction, fantasy, slipstream, etc. They will consider stories with dark elements but no pure horror.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
100-1,500 8¢/word < 4 weeks No
Other: Accepts flash series (3+ standalone stories built around a common theme). No simultaneous or multiple submissions. No erotica.

9. escapepod2Escape Pod seeks science fiction stories, centered on science, technology, future projections, alternate history, and how any or all of these things intersect with people. Fairly flexible on what counts as science. No fantasy, magical realism, or more than a tinge of horror.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
2,000-6,000 6¢/word Unknown Yes
Other: Reprints: $100 flat rate. No flash fiction, poetry, serialized fiction, or novel excerpts.

10. fsi-new-logo1_200Fantastic Stories of the Imagination accepts stories that cover the entire science fiction and fantasy spectrum, from magic realism to hard SF. Let your imagination run wild, push the limits of genre, or send them something traditional.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 3,000 15¢/word 2-8 weeks Yes
Other: Reprints: any length, 1¢/word ($25-$100). No simultaneous submissions. Accepts up to two submissions at a time.

11. FlashFictionOnline200Flash Fiction Online seeks complete stories with a resolved plot and strong, interesting characters (not a story synopsis or scene from a novel). They lean toward science fiction and fantasy, but also like literary fiction; great flash stories aren’t always easily classified.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
500-1,000 $60 flat rate 2-10 weeks Yes
Other: Reprints: 2¢/word. No poetry, erotica, porn, graphic sex, or violence. No simultaneous submissions. Accepts multiple submissions.

12. logo302bIGMS (Intergalactic Medicine Show) is looking for science fiction and fantasy stories of any length. Science fiction: hard sf, sf adventure, alternate history, near-future, far-future, psi, alien, etc. Fantasy: heroic fantasy (based on any culture’s mythology), fairy tales, contemporary fantasy, and horror in the sense of supernatural suspense (not gory bloodfests).

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
Any Length 6¢/word 90 days+ No*
Other: No multiple submissions. Might accept some reprints (see guidelines)*. This is a PG-13 magazine and website – no explicit/detailed sex that would earn a movie rating over PG-13 or language that earns an R rating.

13. fsflogo5_200The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is looking for stories that appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers. The SF element may be slight, but it should be present. They prefer character-oriented stories.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 25,000 7-12¢/word < 8 weeks Unknown
Other: No simultaneous or multiple submissions.

14. nightmare_28_january_2015_bannerNightmare is seeking all types of original horror and dark fantasy stories. No subject is considered off-limits, and they encourage writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope. Open for submissions June 1-15, 2016.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
(< 5,000 pref.)
6¢/word 2-14 days Yes
Other: Reprints: 1¢/word. No simultaneous submissions, multiple submissions, fan fiction, or poetry.

15. sh_headStrange Horizons is a weekly online magazine seeking speculative fiction, broadly defined, previously unpublished in English.

Word Range Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 10,000
(< 5,000 pref.)
8¢/word < 40 days No
Other: No simultaneous submissions, multiple submissions, resubmissions, serialized novels/excerpts, erotica, horror, or poetry.

Here’s a handy spreadsheet incorporating the information from this post. Go HERE for the pdf version with clickable links. I’ll keep an updated list on my Writing Resources page.
15 SFWA Short Story Markets 022916
Good Luck!

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Posted in Call for Submissions

Creativity: Crushing and Glorious


Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

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Posted in Quotes
All who wander are not lost. ~ JRR Tolkien

CampNaNoWriMo Winners Badges Apr_Jul 2015
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