Tag Archives: amazon

My Favourite Bits…Vokhtah [2]

Flying. We’ve all had the dreams, and most of us have travelled at some point in our lives, so we know what it’s like to be up in the air, flying through the cloud layer. Or looking down, and seeing cars the size of ants. But back when I was young and stupid, I had the glorious experience of flying in absolute silence, with nothing to hold me up but the air. I’m talking about gliding of course:

As you can see from the photo, gliders have no engine at all, and rely on those incredible wings to stay in the air. Getting up into the air usually requires a ‘tow’ from a plane that does have an engine. The two are connected by a long cable and the plane literally pulls the glider up into the air. Once they’re high enough, the cable disconnects and the glider is on its own.

The most amazing thing, however, is being in the air. I was only ever passenger material, but I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to be up there, cradled in the thermal, watching the world change around me.

A thermal is a column of warm air that rises until it cools [at the top]. Birds and glider pilots use thermals to gain height and spiral up inside the thermal. Once they’re high enough, they can glide for miles until they reach another thermal, or decide to land.

Part of the reason I gave the Vokh and iVokh wings was because I never forgot how wonderful it felt to glide. Not all iVokh are good at flying though. In the following short excerpt, the main character [the Messenger] is trying to catch up to the caravan [on the ground] that had left without it. An expert Flyer is sent up to help:

Up in the air, the Messenger was focused so hard on reaching the cluster of tiny dots on the distant hillside, it did not notice the Flyer approaching. It almost stalled when the small Trader suddenly dropped down on it from above.

“What doing here Messenger?” the Flyer shrilled into the wind as it cupped its wings to match the slower speed of the healer.
“Caravan…” the Messenger huffed.

The two iVokh flew side by side for a short while in silence as the Flyer tried to send a message to the Apprentice. The small Trader only had a very weak talent, and was not having much success until it suddenly felt the Apprentice bridge the gap between them. Huffing in relief, it quickly informed the Apprentice who was coming, and why.

“Thinking Messenger being very determined,” it added, “because not being very good flyer…”

There was a short silence before the Apprentice asked, “Can helping Messenger flying this far?

“Can helping Messenger flying easier,”the Flyer sent back. “But healer already looking exhausted.”
Doing whatever can,the Apprentice sent back.

Messenger!” the Flyer shrilled. Flying into wind being too hard. Following!

The Messenger was well aware that flying into a headwind was difficult; it had been battling the wind since leaving Two Rivers. Unfortunately, it simply did not know any other way of reaching the caravan.

“Not…turning back!” it wheezed as it continued pumping its tired wings into the wind.
“Ki!” the Flyer shrilled. “Taking to caravan!”

Despite the Flyer’s assurances, the Messenger continued straight ahead for a long moment before finally nodding in agreement. Even so, when the Flyer began banking to the left, away from the hills, the Messenger had to force itself to follow.

Its wings wobbled, threatening to lose their grip on the air as the wind began pushing it sideways. Panic was very close when it finally felt the sudden uplift of a thermal beneath its wings.

Delight erased fear as it rose effortlessly on the current of warm air. The Flyer had been right. It was much easier flying with the elements than against them.

I hope you enjoy this vicarious bit of flying. 🙂 Have any of you flown? Are any of you pilots? Gliders? Would love to hear your experiences.

Oh, and you can find direct links to the free download of Vokhtah here.

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…Nabatea

Due to the difficulty of finding excerpts that don’t give too much away, I’m only going to post one favourite bit from Nabatea, and this is it:

The control room of the Innerscape facility was hushed as all eyes watched the numbers counting down on the wrap-around wall monitors.

“Any second now,” the duty tech said softly.

Standing right behind the tech, Phil Jacobs could see for himself that Alex Tang, murdered two days before by Kenneth Wu, was finally breathing his last.

The AI and specialist medical teams had done their best, but the outcome had never really been in doubt. It had simply been a matter of time. Now, all the monitors focused on Alex Tang’s vital statistics told the same story – he had put up a heroic fight, but the battle was almost over.

Relief and sadness jostled for position in Phil’s mind as he stared at the heart monitor.

“Flatline,” the duty tech said, his voice almost drowned out by the bleep of the alarm.

The heart monitor was joined a moment later by the Brain Interface Monitor.

Patting the tech on the shoulder, Phil signalled for the alarms to be turned off. In the sudden silence, the voice of the AI seemed unnecessarily loud as it confirmed brain death at 1:46 pm, Sunday the 25th of December, 2101.

Merry Christmas, Phil thought as he affixed his biometric signature to the death certificate.

“Inform the police forensic team that death is confirmed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Glancing up at the wraparound screen, Phil watched as the yellow-clad technicians waiting in the Catacombs sprang into action. They, too, had been waiting for Alex Tang to die, and now that he was gone, they were free to take possession of his containment unit…with him still in it.

Once the unit was disconnected, the forensic team would put it inside one of their huge Hospice trucks and take it away for examination.

“I don’t get it,” the duty tech said as he watched the frenzied activity on the central monitor. “Why all the portable batteries? It’s not as if they need to keep him alive during transit. And why take his AI as well?”

“They probably don’t want to miss anything,” Phil replied, his tone bleak.

“But we already know how he died.”

“No one’s ever been murdered by the common cold before,” Phil replied, his eyes never leaving the monitor. “So this is all new territory. And they don’t trust our systems.”

In fact, the police had found a great deal not to trust, from Innerscape’s reliance on the AI to Phil’s own handling of security.

Dr Jacobs, can you explain why you didn’t revoke Dr Wu’s permissions when he left Innerscape?”

Just thinking of that interview made Phil’s ears burn hot. He had been forced to explain that, as Kenneth had not, technically, been fired, he could not, technically, have his permissions revoked. It had even, technically, been true as the AI did assign security permissions automatically, based on the employee’s position in the company.

What Phil had left unsaid was that those permissions could have been changed manually, using the CEO’s executive override, had anyone foreseen the need to do so. But no one had.

Least of all me, he thought as he forced his eyes away from the monitors. If he had, Alex Tang might still be alive. But then again, who could have guessed that Kenneth Wu would turn rogue?

For those who have never read any of Innerscape, each patient’s body is kept in a containment unit, about the size of a large coffin. Each containment unit has its own AI whose job it is to keep the body alive and functioning. Once the patient is in the containment unit, nothing is allowed to enter the sealed internal environment because even a breath of outside air could introduce a virus or bacteria. Nothing deadly. Just the common cold. Opening the door to the containment unit is a death sentence.

Why did I choose this short excerpt from the very start of book 3? Because every time I read it, I’m surprised that I wrote it.

Since publishing Vokhtah in 2013, I’ve become a lot more comfortable calling myself a writer, but there are times when I still feel like a bit of a fraud. Me? A writer? Yeah, right. But when I read this bit I feel as if yes, maybe I do deserve that title after all.

I really like the epilogue as well, but I can’t tell you about that, or about Kenneth’s grandmother, or the scent of lemon, or sensory deprivation, or a host of other things. All I can do is hope that you take a chance and read Nabatea for yourselves on February 16th when it begins its five days of free on Amazon.

cheers
Meeks


Laughter Lines by Sue Vincent

I just left a 5 star review for Laughter Lines: Life at the Tail End by Sue Vincent. And I still haven’t stopped smiling. The review should be up on amazon.com in a day or two, but this is what I said:

I have never been a poetry person, but there’s something about Sue Vincents poems that really strikes a chord. They’re earthy, and funny, and poignant, and paint word pictures of things we’re all familiar with. Who has not dunked a biscuit [cookie] in coffee only to have it break and fall in the cup? Such a small, every day thing, and yet Vincent makes it laugh-out-loud funny.

And then there are the poems about the author’s dog, Ani. Those ones are particularly hilarious because Ani is like every dog I have ever known and loved – affectionate, intelligent, voracious, and just a little bit cunning.

But not all of the poems are funny. Some, like the one about Valentine’s Day, speak to the meaning of love. It’s a gentle reminder that we give and receive love every day of the year, in small heartfelt ways that cost nothing and mean everything.

And that, to me, is the essence of Sue Vincent’s poetry. It’s gentle, self-deprecating and utterly human. I would recommend Laughter Lines: Life from the Tail End to everyone, even those, like me, who don’t like poetry!

What I forgot to mention in the review is how satisfying it is to read poems that rhyme! My Dad used to spout poetry [in Hungarian] when I was a kid, and every poem had a distinct rhythm to it that was both mesmerising and easy on the ear. I guess I like that kind of poetry more than I thought!

To get a taste of Vincents verses, click on the Look Inside pic below:

lol – and no, that isn’t Ani monstering someone. I think she’s actually singing…or something. 🙂

Seriously, this book is wonderful. It will make you laugh, it will lift you up, and it will touch your heart.

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…The Godsend [3]

To be quite blunt, I believe that digital innovation will be driven by three things: porn, gaming and medicine. Internet porn is already a huge industry, and so are MMO’s – massively multiplayer online games. Medicine will be the last of the triumvirate to arrive, but it will come because escaping from the real world has been a part of our DNA since early humans painted their hopes and dreams on the walls of caves.

I introduced gaming with Jaimie Watson, and the idea of gaming+porn with Leon in book 1 [Miira], but the focus remained on the purely digital world of Innerscape. In The Godsend, the gaming world of the Shogunate becomes the focus because that is where pure digital and real world escapism intersect for Miira and Jaimie.

The following is a scene that most gamers will recognize. In deference to non-gamers, I’ve kept it very short. lol

Feral Cat Whiskers And Other Junk

“I still don’t see why we have to kill all this low level junk,” Miira grumbled as she despatched her ninth wild dog. “I mean, did they even have wild dogs back then?”

“Yes, they did. Now stop complaining and hurry up,” Jaimie said. “I’m up to fifteen already.”

Miira glared at her partner but kept her mouth shut as she turned and shot an arrow at the next wild dog. Ten.

She and Jaimie had been killing low level vermin for hours, and she was bored to tears. Jaimie, however, was adamant, insisting that building their reputations with the villagers was more important than anything else.

When Miira asked why, Jaimie had simply said that a high reputation would stand them in good stead later, when they went up against bands of enemy players. Just exactly how this was supposed to work, though, he did not say.

fifteen

Given Jaimie’s knowledge of the game, Miira could not argue with his strategy, but that did not stop her from wishing she was elsewhere, doing something a bit more interesting.

Watching grass grow would be more interesting, she thought as she dispatched yet another wild dog.

“Twenty!” Jaimie announced with satisfaction. “You almost done?”

“Four more to go,” Miira said with a sigh. So far, the day’s total of useless quest items included 46 wild dog pelts, 90 rodent tails and 20 feral cat whiskers…

I’ve included this short scene amongst my Favourite Bits because ‘the grind’ – the time consuming, mindless repetition of pointless actions – has been a part of every single game* I have ever played, and I suspect it will be part of every game I play in the future. The grind also features in every LitRPG story I have ever read, so this scene is a nod to both.

For those who have never stumbled across the category of LitRPG on Amazon, it’s a subgenre of fiction based on the idea of a gamer, or a whole group of gamers, suddenly finding themselves ‘living’ in the game world. This always involves full sensory immersion – i.e. the game suddenly feels completely real – and the plot revolves around a) surviving in a game that can now kill you, and b) discovering how and why the game has become real. 

Some LitRPG is really awful because the grind is described in excruciating detail, as is the process of ranking up. At the other end of the scale, however, I’ve read LitRPG that made me want to live in that world. [see Forever Fantasy Online by Rachel Aaron or Ready Player One by Ernest Cline].

Innerscape is not LitRPG, but as a gamer, know what it feels like to become so immersed in a game that it starts to feel real…even in 2D. That feeling led me to ask ‘what would it take to make a digital world feel real?’ The answer became Innerscape.

And now, because this is supposed to be a marketing post, here’s the punchline:

The Godsend, book 2 of Innerscape, will be free on Amazon when the clock ticks around to February 2, 2021 in the US. For those of us in Australia, that’s at about 5pm today [Melbourne time]. The Godsend will remain free for five days, and then it will revert to the special promotion price of $1 until the last book comes off free on April 3, 2021. At that time all six books will revert to their pre-promotion pricing.

My aim with this long promotion is to force myself to do some marketing, give you some freebies, and help Miira and Vokhtah reach the magic 20 review mark [both are on 19 at the moment]. If you know anyone who enjoys scifi and wants some free books, please point them towards mine! Reviews are not necessary, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want some! Of course I do, but only if my stories have managed to help people escape the mundane for a little while.

Okay, that’s it. -breathes a sigh of relief-

Thanks for sticking with me,

cheers
Meeks

…*… If anyone is interested in the gaming side of things, you can find my gaming posts on the sidebar, under the category ‘Games for big kids’.

 


What the hell, Amazon? Update

Firstly, thank you to everyone who checked their Amazon accounts to see if my paperbacks were available. Your feedback has helped me narrow down some possible answers – i.e. that the problem has something to do with my use of Ingram Spark for countries not covered by the Amazon marketplaces. I’ve sent an email off to KDP support outlining what the problem is and what we’ve ‘found’. I’ll keep you posted about the outcome.

And while I was messing around with my KDP dashboard, I came across a new, beta version of the Reports. I rarely used them in the past because they were so…useless. I’m thrilled to say that the new, beta version is MUCH better.

As I was tootling around the beta version, I discovered that I’ve earned roughly $15 AUD from sales in Australia! That really surprised me. It also made me dance with joy because it was so unexpected. I do have online friends from Australia, but I just didn’t think they’d be buying.

Okay, okay, I never think anyone is buying. That is more of my upbringing at work, and it’s not helped by the fact that Amazon US will only pay me when, or if, my total sales reach $100. So far I’ve only had one payment that passed that threshold so it’s not all my fault.

I’ve often wondered what happens to that residue if you unpublish with Amazon. Or die. Or never reach $100. Are they allowed to keep those funds, however small, forever? Hopefully one day, Amazon will change its payment system so we can be paid via Paypal or something. Ah well.

Anyway, thank you for all your help, and an extra thank you to the Aussies who’ve taken a chance on my stories. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


What the hell, Amazon?!?

My thanks to Gradmama for alerting me to the fact that for some reason, NONE of my paperbacks are currently available on Amazon. Not. One.

The ebooks are fine, but it seems that Amazon has reset each paperback version to the ‘Order author copies’ step:

I now have to go through each of the print versions and effectively click the last ‘Save and Publish’ to get them ‘available’ again. To all intents and purposes they were either unpublished by Amazon, or never published at all?!?

I don’t sell many paperbacks. I never expected to sell many paperbacks, but I did expect them to remain available after going through all the effort of putting them up on KDP. What infuriates me even more is that Amazon/KDP didn’t inform me of this rather big change. Perhaps they don’t even know. I miss Createspace. 😦

Not happy, Amazon/KDP, not happy at all.
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…in Miira [3]

First and foremost, Miira is now free on Amazon for five days from January 19 to January 23, 2021! You should be able to find Miira on your local Amazon. For those in the US, the link to Amazon.com is below:

https://www.amazon.com/Miira-book-1-Innerscape-acflory-ebook/dp/B076GYZBKQ/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3BP2AQJ9TQLLQ&dchild=1&keywords=miira&qid=1611045851&sprefix=Miira%2Caps%2C445&sr=8-2

And in case you’re still wondering whether you should add yet another book to your bulging TBR list, here is my last ‘favourite bit’ from Miira. This scene is shorter than the previous one, but not by that much, so apologies again!

Before you read the excerpt, you will need a little bit of context about the ‘suit’. It isn’t a jacket, vest and pants! Gaming in 2101 involves the use of full body ‘suits’ that contain sensors which help create a biofeedback system for the wearer. For example, if the Gamer stubs his toe, he/she will feel the bump.

The Teslasuit, shown on the left, is almost available already, but by the start of the next century, the best quality suits will have so many sensors embedded in the material that the Gamer is fooled into thinking he/she is experiencing the real thing. The top of the range ‘suit’ is the RT69 by Real Touch.

Read on:

—*—*—*—

The rat-tat-tat of someone knocking on the door woke Lennie from a nap, and he started awake, heart pounding. Wha’ th’ fuck?

Nobody ever visited him at home. He made sure of that by keeping the address of his flea bitten kennel a close secret.

Rolling off the mattress, he grabbed the small table next to his bed and hauled himself upright as he tried to shake off the alcoholic fog that still clouded his thoughts. The only person who knew where he lived was the local pizza guy, but he had not ordered pizza. At least, he could not remember ordering pizza…

Gotta lay off the sauce a bit, he thought as he shambled towards the door, one hand scratching his crotch, the other rubbing the stubble on his chin.

When was the last time he’d shaved?

Lennie could not remember, but was not overly concerned. Life had been a very pleasant blur since the money came through, and he was not about to look a gift horse in the arse-

Bang, bang, bang.

“Okay, okay!” he cried. “I’m coming!”

Alcoholic fog notwithstanding, Lennie retained enough sense to check the view port before unlocking the door.

A woman wearing the bright red uniform of a courier stood outside, one hand raised to knock again. She would have been quite attractive had the red of her hair not clashed so badly with the red of her uniform.

She should dye it, Lennie thought as his eye dropped down to the woman’s other hand. It was holding the handle of a bright yellow trolley. On the trolley was a very big package with Real Touch written on it in electric purple lettering.

My suit! Lennie thought in delight as he quickly unlocked the deadbolt and the two padlocks securing his door. It was a cheap neighbourhood. It paid to be cautious.

“Lennie Huffnagel?” the woman asked.
“Yup, that’s me.”
“Authentication please.”

As Lennie bent to press his thumb into the tablet held out to him, a whiff of his own body odour made him wince. He would have to have a shower before he tried out the suit. Bugger.

“Where do you want it?” the woman asked.

“Um, just sort of in the middle,” Lennie said, suddenly very conscious of the piles of dirty dishes, and even dirtier clothing, that covered almost every available surface. “Hang on, I’ll clear a space.”

“It’s okay,” the woman said with a quick grin. “My brother’s room is just the same.”

Matching action to words, she set the trolley down in the middle of the room and began feeding the dirty dishes into the recycler.

Lennie gave her a quizzical look but did his part by throwing the dirty clothes into a pile by the wall. Soon, an empty rectangle of floor beckoned to be filled.

Spinning the trolley around with a quick flick of her wrists, the woman deposited the box in the middle of the newly cleared space and stood back to admire her handiwork.

“Got a cutter?” she asked.

“It’s okay,” Lennie said, suddenly a little uncomfortable. “I can manage.”

“Oh,” the woman said, her animated expression drooping into disappointment. “Sorry. It’s just…I’m a gamer too, ya know? I saw the label and I was kinda hoping I could get to see the RT69 for myself…”

“You play?” Lennie asked, unease forgotten. “Whadya play?”
“Mega Dome,” the woman said with a slight blush.
“Nice,” Lennie replied, working hard to keep a condescending smirk off his face.

Mega Dome was billed as a full contact martial arts game, but in reality it was just a fancy dating venue with a bit of slap slap thrown in to get people in the mood. He’d played it himself, before the agency picked him up and introduced him to real gaming. Still, the Ranga* knew enough to recognize a top of the range suit when she saw one.

Lennie gave the courier a quick but very professional appraisal as she stood in the middle of the room, clearly hoping to stay. She was not his type, far too fem with a small nose, small mouth and huge green eyes, but it would be fun to share the moment with someone who knew how awesome the suit really was.

“I’ll get the cutter,” he said.

The woman’s face lit up with pleasure, and Lennie suddenly felt quite warm towards her. If she played her cards right he might just give her a bit of slap slap himself.

My good deed for the day, he thought with a quiet chuckle as he ferreted around in the tiny food preparation area for the cutter.

When the woman finally left an hour later, Lennie lay on the mattress, his brand new suit fully connected and a look of terminal surprise on his face.

So why is this one of my favourite scenes? It’s because I’m fiercely protective of those I love, and I love Jaimie Watson, the only 18 year old Resident in Innerscape. Lennie Huffnagel betrayed Jaimie for money, so killing him off with his own ill gotten gains is poetic justice in my book. But I also love the colour red and characters with depth, so don’t expect the Woman in Red to be a simple anything. 🙂

A word of warning: I don’t write erotica or anything even approaching it, but I don’t pull any punches about ‘body functions’, so an earlier scene with Lennie may shock some people. Apologies in advance, but those scenes highlight the chasm that exists between the lives of the super rich, and those like Lennie who survive by exploiting them. Contrast is the key to everything.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing ‘Miira’ through my eyes. If you want to read the whole story, Miira, book 1 of Innerscape, is now free on Amazon until January 23, 2021.

-hugs-
Meeks


My Favourite bits…in Miira

Stephen King famously advised writers to murder their darlings, but thanks to Audrey Driscoll, another excellent writer, I’m about to do the exact opposite! I’m going to tell you which of my ‘darlings’ I like the most, and why. But I’m also opening these questions up to my writer friends. Which bits of your stories do you like the best? More importantly, why those bits instead of others?

I thought long and hard about those questions myself, and in the end, I kept coming back to two, very different scenes from Miira, book 1 of the Innerscape science fiction trilogy. The first one features the main character, Miira Tahn.

In the following short excerpt, Miira has just entered Innerscape [a virtual world for the old, sick and dying, or at least those wealthy enough to pay the price of admission]. As the final step in her ‘orientation’, Miira must attend a fashion show at which she will meet most of Innerscape’s current Residents. She’s been hurt by these kinds of people before, but she’s learned to beat them at their own game:

Thanks to Miira’s determination to find just the right ‘armour’, she and the girls were fashionably late by the time they finally arrived at the venue for the fashion show. All around them, beautiful people filled the spacious room, chatting over exquisite canapés and sipping the finest simulated champagne.

Yet even so, their arrival did not go unnoticed. Emily, and Jane wore lovely pastel frocks that enhanced their colouring, but both looked a little insipid next to Miira’s neon presence. She sailed through the crowd like a bright red exclamation mark, impossible to miss and even harder to ignore.

Smiling and nodding at the Residents she recognized, Miira led the way to their seats as if unaware of the ripples she was causing.

The front row seats they had been assigned would give them an unobstructed view of the gorgeous creations soon to grace the catwalk, but Miira knew the seats would also give the Residents an unobstructed view of her. She would be under the microscope, and heaven help her if they found any chinks in her armour.

She had always hated the scrutiny that was part and parcel of her role as the Lady, but over the years she had learned to give as good as she got. Now, as she waited for the show to begin, she welcomed the gorgeous people who approached with a half-smile and a knowing look.

The women did not like her, air-kisses notwithstanding, but each man looked her up and down with cool intent.

Miira returned their looks, her hooded eyes hinting at promises she had no intention of keeping.

Taken from Miira, book 1 of Innerscape

Miira is not me. But she may be the person I would like to have been during the six, miserable years I spent in an all-girl, Catholic convent school. I’d always gotten on better with boys than girls in primary school, so high school with only girls was… a shock. I learned that girls en masse are not always kind.

So the chip on Miira’s shoulder was probably inherited from me, but I like how she fought back. And I like the colour red.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about another one of my favourites, but this time the person wearing red will be the assassin. Make of that what you will. lol

Your turn!

Meeks

p.s. Don’t forget that Miira will be free on Amazon.com for five days starting on January 19, 2021!


Free book schedule

All my science fiction books have now been reduced to 99c, and they’re now on Kindle Unlimited as well. As promised, I’ve also set up the free book schedule on Amazon. Starting January 19, 2021, Miira will be free for five consecutive days. The other five books are scheduled to be free as per the following table:

As you can see, the last book ends its free run on April the 3rd. I had to mess around with the dates a bit to make sure it didn’t finish on April Fool’s Day! -cough-

The 99c price point is so no one who wants a book misses out. If possible, though, please grab the book[s] during the free promotion. And it goes without saying that I would love reviews, any kind of reviews, even critical ones.

And finally an apology. I’ll be talking about these books a lot in the weeks ahead. I’ll try not to bore you silly, but there’s only so many ways of saying ‘read my book’. Bear with me!

-hugs-
Meeks


And one more for The Egg!

The Vintage Egg is my one and only foray into short stories, and it just received a fabulous 5/5 star review:

acflory writes some great sci-fi, and though I’ve read her novels, this was my first experience with her short stories. Her imagination and polished writing skills never disappoint, and these six stories are original and entertaining. My favorite tale was broken into two parts—The Vintage Egg and Egg Run—which bookend the other offerings. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Christmas Roast. I read this collection in under an hour and highly recommend it. A great peek at acflory’s writing talent.

I’m happy-dancing my way to the kitchen now for some lunch. Have a great day or evening. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


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