Saturday, March 30, 2013

Yoga for Writers - Pigeon Pose

This simple posture is excellent for releasing tension in the hips and relieving back pain. Try the level that best suits your flexibility.


 

Friday, March 29, 2013

What's Your Favorite Fantasy Flavor?

Last month’s posting, I speculated that the appeal of Fantasy literature resides in its orientation toward hope.  The nature of this hope is possibly vested in the fact that fantasy fiction externalizes the trials of the human spirit, and affirms the value of the individual.  Over the decades, various sub-genres have emerged.  Like ice-cream, there’s a flavor to suit every taste.  Below are some of the favorites.


Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings established the template for Epic Fantasy. Heroic in scope and simple in its conventions, Epic Fantasy takes place in a fully realized imaginary setting, complete with its own geography, history, languages, races, and powers.  The plot is linear, often involving a long and dangerous journey over great distances.  Action is either episodic (featuring a series of mini-adventures) or heroic (featuring large-scale battles between rival armies).  The cast often includes non-human characters (elves, dwarves, etc.), and the principle characters conform to archetypes (Prophetess, Hero, Trickster, Innocent Fool, etc.). 


Like epic fantasy, High Fantasy takes place in an entirely imaginary secondary world.  The features of this world, however, are conceived with close reference to a historical model.    (Katherine Kurtz’s Gwynnedd, for instance, is a fantasy analogue of 12th century Wales.)  This historical modeling lends substance and sophistication to the fantasy realm, affording scope for more complex action and character development.  At the same time, the presence of magic enables the writer to explore an attractive range of imaginative plot possibilities.


Historical Fantasy, by contrast, is rooted in the real world. The story is born at when somebody stumbles across a point in history and pauses to wonder, “What if… ?”  Adopting the period setting as his/her starting point, the writer then begins importing those fantasy elements (magic, inhuman creatures, shifts in perception, perspective, or state of being, etc.) which service the plot.  It’s more challenging to write than high fantasy insofar as you have to be ready to do your homework, but it’s a great way to go hunting for story ideas and I highly recommend the thrill of the chase.

A closely related sub-genre is Contemporary Urban Fantasy.  In works of this kind, the time is the present, and the place is a modern city.  Truly wonderful things can happen under when traditional elements of fantasy – monsters and magic – collide with the mundane world of department stores, bag ladies, and mid-town traffic…. Cityscapes also provide setting for Dark Fantasy:  that branch of fantasy that incorporates neo-gothic elements of horror. 


There are, of course, other sub-genres (for instance, Comic Fantasy as epitomised by Terry Pratchett), but this list will serve to conclude my review of the origin and development of the fantasy genre.  
Next month, we start delving into the art of writing fantasy.


Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Readers, Writers, and Pressing the Flesh

Writing tends to be a solitary profession. It's just you and your manuscript. But sometimes it's good to get out and mingle with people other than your characters. When I started writing, it was all about learning the craft. I hooked up with a critique group, joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America (even though I didn't think I was writing a romance—people recommended the organization because it covers all aspects of writing), and kept writing. And submitting. My critique group encouraged me to attend a local conference for writers, and although they practically had to drag me along, I found these gatherings of writers were wonderful places to exchange ideas and learn more about the craft. There was a kind of "relief" to see so many people in the same situation as I was. Kind of like when I attended my first "Mothers of Twins" meeting and found out I wasn't alone.

Fast-forward a few years, and I had a few published books to my name. Now, I was also giving workshops at these conferences, sharing what I knew about the craft. When I moved from Florida to Colorado, I had different "local" conferences to consider, and discovered reader-focused gatherings. I confess that when I went to my first Left Coast Crime, I expected it to be the equivalent of the Florida based SleuthFest I'd attended for years, and had to make a rapid shift in expectation.

What's the difference? At a writer's conference, such as RWA or any of its chapter conferences, or SleuthFest, which is mystery-based, it's about advancing a writing career. There are workshops or panels where published authors, editors, or agents share tips for moving forward in the industry. You don't have to be a published author to attend—these conferences are great places for networking with other authors and meeting the people in the industry. Normally, they'll have agents and editors in attendance who will listen to book pitches. They might have critique sessions. And they'll definitely have workshops that will teach you about writing and publishing.

At a reader's conference, such as Left Coast Crime, where I was last week, the focus is on connecting writers with readers. The panels will be aimed more at "tell us about your book" and if you're an unheard of author like myself, it's a great way to meet readers and let them know what you have to offer. At Left Coast Crime (which is aimed at readers of mystery), I attended panels on thrillers, setting, forensics, police procedures, humor, romance in mystery, and characters. There were, of course, many others that I couldn't attend, since I forgot to bring my cloning machine.

However, whereas in a writer's conference a workshop on setting would tell you how important it is, and would give you a "lesson" in how to develop setting in your book. At a reader's conference, the panel will be a discussion of where each author sets his or her books, and why they chose that setting. Same goes for characters, or genre, or anything else. The goal is to entice readers to pick up the books, and also to let them know you're a real, live, person.

And, frankly, it takes a different mind-set when you attend a conference like this as an author. You're wearing a marketing hat, not a writing hat. I'm not very good at that, but I did have a great time.


Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Author Visits that Impress and Inspire

Image: schoollibraryjournal.com

No two authors are exactly the same, so it makes sense to realize that no two author presentations are going to be the same either. However, there are certain hopes and expectations that the author visit will be good, that it will be relevant, and that above all, it will be inspiring, regardless of whether the visit is in-person in the classroom, or virtual via a web module like Skype.

As a teacher, I have the benefit of being able to understand both sides of an author visit. In today's economic environment where schools have tighter budgets and fewer teaching days, providing an author visit that meets and exceeds expectations is more crucial than ever before, especially if you'd like to garner additional visits. It's not enough to simply think that carrying the title of "I’m an author," and waving your books is all you'll need to bring your audience to their knees in rapt attention. In today's multi-media, multi-tasking world, unless you are a professional storyteller, the reality is that being just yourself by yourself probably won't be enough.

So how do you deliver a presentation that is good, relevant, and inspiring? Here are a few ideas that authors (and teachers) can use to help bring about a visit that will shine:

1) Identify your target audience. i.e., what grades would you like to visit? What age do you write for? What group size would you like to speak to? You'll want to specify this in your contact materials.

2) Identify the genre that your books fall into, and identify some of the other books/authors that will you be talking about in your presentation (aside from your own). Some schools are leery of bringing in authors who view school visits simply as a means to sell books. Your visit should go beyond this goal and include an obvious agenda of wanting to inspire young readers and writers as a whole, coupled with the realization that not every student will be a fan of your genre and writing style (and that's okay).

3) Identify the core curriculum that your presentation supports. For example, my book, Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again (which is a fractured fairy/folktale) fits in with the 3rd grade language arts program that strives to cover fables, folktales, and story structure. Therefore, part of my presentation includes having the students identify the elements that make my book a fractured folktale. A Google search of Core Curriculum for your state will bring you to web sites where this information is available. An example is shown here (Scroll down to page 11 in the pdf to see where the curriculum gets into specifics).

4) Provide a suggested schedule that is streamlined, specific, and succinct. For example, if the heart of your presentation is 20 minutes, follow it with 10 minutes allotted for questions and/or a writing exercise.

5) Keep the duration of your program age-appropriate. For example, it's difficult for some kindergartners to keep their attention glued to the reading of even one story; so these types of visits will be shorter and more engaged. Actually, engagement for any age-group is a must, but for kindergartners, allow no more than 5 minutes to read your story, followed by 3 minutes for questions, and then 10 minutes, if class time allows for coloring a related picture or putting together a story puzzle. Judy Torres, author of Duck, Duck, Moose, follows the reading of her story with a sing-along, where she teaches the students a simple repeating song that centers on her book and its characters.

6) Incorporate multimedia. This could include an accompanying power point presentation or book trailer, even if it's not your own, to highlight a discussion on plot elements or theme, for example. Again, utilization of a tool such as multimedia should be used for educational purposes, not simply as a sales pitch.

7) Above all, don't forget to find connections with the students you are visiting. Use student volunteers to help show specific concepts, such as demonstrating or acting out certain characteristics that the students would then need to put into words in an interesting way. Ask them what they like to read and write. Ask them who their favorite characters are and why. Plant the seeds for discussion and do a little digging, if you have to, with your own questions. Showing an interest in the students around you, rather than showcasing only your own work, is the greatest gift you can bring into a classroom setting. The best outcome will be that your inspiration will set the students moving forward with giant moon-steps as they pursue, develop, and share their own stories.


Shaunda Kennedy Wenger
is a teacher and award-winning author of ten books, including The Ghost in Me; Reality Bites, Tales of a Half-Vampire; Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again; and The Book Lover’s Cookbook, Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages That Feature Them. She was the visiting author at the Annual USU Young Writers and Artists’ Festival in 2012 and schedules visits to schools when her time allows. She blogs regularly at www.shaundawenger.blogspot.com.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Making a Thriller

We continue with our story seed featuring Dick, love interest Sally, bossy Jane, jealous Ted, and the meteor streaking toward earth.

If we select the Thriller and Suspense skeleton, the overall story problem becomes the catastrophic danger that must be averted: the meteor.

Dick’s rivalry with Ted, pressure from Jane, and relationship with Sally create interpersonal and antagonistic obstacles to solving the overall story problem of the meteor.

The meteor itself is not an effective antagonist. A member of the cast, perhaps Ted or Jane, serves  as the person standing in the way of Dick’s successful resolution.

If we choose the Conspiracy Thriller, Dick fears there is a powerful group behind the meteor strike. Dick navigates the maze of conflicting information until he ends the threat to his world. Meanwhile, Ted and Jane make this difficult while Sally either helps or hinders.

If we choose the Crime Thriller, there is an element of mystery that Dick must solve. There is a criminal at the heart of meteor threat that Dick must expose. One of the cast members is the bad guy/girl. The rest just make his life complicated as he attempts to figure out who.

If we choose the Disaster Thriller, the impending meteor strike is real enough and the clock is ticking until it either strikes, misses, or is somehow headed off. This story emphasizes the very real potential for this type of disaster and how humankind can go about preparing for it. Sally’s neediness complicates Dick’s efforts while either Ted or Jane interferes and almost costs them their lives.

If we choose the Erotic Thriller, Dick has done something to attract crazy Sally. Her efforts distract him from solving the impending meteor strike problem. Ted and Jane help or hinder.

If we choose the Legal Thriller, Dick is the investigator or attorney attempting to prove his case against the negligible (or psychotic) Ted or Jane who allowed horrible things to happen. Sally can have a counter theory that makes Dick doubt he is on the right track.

If we choose the Medical Thriller, Dick and the rest of the cast face horrible medical consequences from a meteor that struck, perhaps an outbreak of radiation sickness or a strange virus. Ted or Jane may have unleashed a bioweapon, using the meteor strike as a decoy. Perhaps Sally’s crazy theory is proven after all.

If we choose the Political Thriller, Dick must save the country from corrupt government plotting or a threatened meteor strike by a rogue nation who has the capacity to change the trajectory of a meteor’s orbit so that it strikes a specific target. Ted or Jane represents the rogue country. Sally begs Dick to let someone else save the world and run away with her.

Stay tuned to the BRP for the exciting conclusion as we explore more Thriller and Suspense options.


Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Save the Cat Beat Sheet Cheat Spreadsheet

This post first ran on Friday, March 22, 2013. I've been making use of Elizabeth Davis's spreadsheet for nine months now and have found it extremely useful and effective. If you haven't explored this tool yet, give it a go as you edit your NaNo novel.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is one of the quintessential writing craft books used not only by screenwriters, for whom it was written, but by fiction writers of all flavours and varieties. Snyder's system of working a screenplay into specific story beats has been a particularly useful tool for screenwriters. Elizabeth Davis has kindly done the necessary calculations to convert the screenplay beat sheet into a beat sheet for novels, available as an Excel spreadsheet (don't be put off by that - it is the easiest spreadsheet you'll ever use: you type in one number and hit Enter). You can download a copy of Elizabeth's Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels here.

Jami Gold has written an excellent post on her blog explaining how she uses this beat sheet. She says: 
"Analyzing where the beats of a story fall gives us an overview of the structure of a story and makes sure turning points and scenes are showing up in the right place. We fill in the word count for our story project, and it figures out what page number each beat should fall on.  It does the math to make sure Acts I, II, and III, along with the Black Moment and everything else, are all taking up the appropriate percentages of pages."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reaching Out

Booklovers Bench, where readers are winners

Nowadays, being a writer means spending so much time on the periphery of writing that it's hard to remember the only way to sell books is to write books. We're expected to maintain an Internet presence, interact with readers, and keep our names in front of people. And, I'll confess, often it's fun to spend a little time tweeting, or seeing what our friends are doing on Facebook. Unless you're disciplined and set a timer, it's easy to look up at the clock and see you've frittered away an hour. Or three. Word With Friends is not even "pseudo" writing time.

One approach many writers have taken is to band together to help expand their reach. And it is about reach, not sales. If your goal is solely to sell books, you're likely to be frustrated. Unless you're a Big Name Author whose next release is highly anticipated, makes the best-seller list before it's even released, and have a publisher that markets you and your book, odds are, very few people have heard of you, especially if you're an indie author with no brick and mortar presence.

I'm now a member of a small group called Booklover's Bench, and we're reaching out to readers. At the moment, there are five of us in the group, and now that we're getting the hang of things, we plan to add a few more.

By working with and for each other, we're reaching more people with less effort than if we each had to do everything ourselves. We can share what works, what doesn't, and each of us has an area of "expertise" that we can bring to the group, which also saves time and money.

In addition, we promote for each other. Readers get tired of the "buy my book" approach to everything (and it's a total turnoff in the social media). However, if it becomes, "buy HIS book," or "buy HER book" it's not self-promoting. And, of course, we've all read each other's books, so we can stand behind what we're saying.

When you have a team helping out by sharing your Facebook posts, they become visible to all their followers as well.  So, while my 'reach' via Facebook (unless I pay extra) might be 1200 people, when I add in the followers of the other four people on the team, I'm now reaching a lot more. And we try to include "non-promo" stuff as well. It's about engaging people, not whomping them over the head with promotion.

In my newsletter, I offer special contests to subscribers, usually with something of "mine" as the prize. Now, with a team behind me, I can include prizes from them as well. It becomes less about "me, me, me" and more about, "Here are some nifty things I think you might like." And up goes our reach.

On the financial side, any expenses incurred are split five ways. That's a help right there. We have a website, and we hold monthly contests. So far, we've given away a Nook Simple Touch and a $50 gift card, as well as downloads of our books.

Have you had any experience working the marketing side of things with a group? Successes or failures you'd like to share?

(Oh, and of course, I'd love it if you'd pop over to Booklover's Bench and "like" our pages. We'll be having another contest in April, so bookmark the page and check back.)



Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Makes One A Writer


Anybody can write a book, no?


Sure, anybody can type enough words to fill up a standard-sized bound set of pages.  

But as anyone who has stuck it out can second, the initial inspiration is just the place from which you start. 

The psychological aspects of writing are such that most people who continue on in the process are probably garden-variety crazy.  I mean, here’s a job description for you. Wanted, worker who will:

1). Set grandiose goals, with some insane notion of actually realizing them

2). Work all hours, especially those in the dark of night when some idiosyncratic character quirk wakes one from a peaceful and much-needed sleep, demanding to be immediately jotted down or risk the horror of being forgotten

3). Remains willing to work in complete obscurity for long periods (months into years) before anyone sees the first word

4). Can tolerate an even much-longer time frame before said product is introduced to the public

5). Answers all the gleeful questions of “Oh!  You’re writing a book!” from well-meaning friends and relatives with a simple, “Yes.”  

6). Can tolerate the litany of down-the-nose looks from that same group when said book isn’t a bestseller, or hasn’t even seen print, years later

7). Responds to repeatedly being humbled to the knees by rejection with perseverance (okay, so this is a bit idealistic. Insert infinite hours  of self-doubt and whining before perseverance, but only to oneself and closest friend:)

8). Realizes that those in the business end of the profession (agents, editors, the sales department, reviewers) consider said workers to be a dime a dozen, and that the former and they alone are the sole reason that books sell at all

9). Can endure # 8 without at some point on the meandering journey throwing overripe rutabagas at the above (considered, while humorous to competitors and often colleagues, to be exceedingly bad form)

10). Works well with rejection/criticism ratio to pats on the back of 100:1.  Okay, if one is lucky!

11). Can completely distance oneself from the idea of writing and making a living being said in the same sentence

The list could continue into the next millennium, but we get the picture! 

But the reason real writers put in the seemingly hours of learning and doing and fighting the market is a different thing entirely from striving for fame (although that too has its appeal), or fortune (okay, so one does learn quickly that there is no glamor in poverty). The answer comes from the same place that some folks run racehorses rather than raising Hereford cows. It’s all about being compelled to strive for a flash of beauty; a brush with greatness. To grasp for a thing that if just for a second is bigger and grander than you; to want a blanket of roses more than beef on the table.  It’s about dreams that won’t die. 

It’s why we do what we do in spite of all odds, braving those looks and swallowing rejection. And, it’s why somewhere as we speak, in some lonely little room, someone out there is producing greatness. 


With this latest release, award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone has five traditionally published books to her credit (fiction and nonfiction) and many published short stories. A freelance editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers. You can see more about her, and what authors say about working with her, at: MaloneEditorial.com

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What's Common Isn't Always Good

Hello again, lovies! Having paid exorbitant fees for produce this weekend, I’ve been inspired to try comparing apples to oranges. Figuratively speaking, that is.

I once had the ghastly misfortune to work with a newspaper editor who insisted on mixing up words like affect and effect, or whoever and whomever in various stories. He claimed that it was perfectly fine, because “people talk like that.” I speculated (silently) that he was descended from cave slugs.

Common usage doesn’t always mean proper usage. Leggings and crinolines might be all the rage in 8o’s music videos, but don’t even think about sporting such attire at a formal gathering. The CMOS offers a lengthy list of words and phrases that can send even the most prolific writers thumbing through a dictionary. Shall we try a little quiz? Like a bad hat, take the answers straight from the top of your head.

  1. Given a choice between abjure and adjure, which word would you choose to denote renunciation under oath?
  2. Between all right and alright, which does the CMOS consider all wrong?
  3. Clinch or clench? One is physical; the other is generally used figuratively.
  4. Can something be edible without being eatable?
  5. Both innate and inherent can describe characteristics, but which word is best used to describe traits of living things?

Oo, I’m excited; I’m sure you all did smashingly well. Ready?

If you chose abjure as the answer to question one, give yourself a quick knuckle-buff. To abjure is to renounce or deny under oath, while to adjure is to require or urge a particular action.

In the case of question two, the CMOS suggests avoiding the use of alright. All righty, then.

Clinch your victory by answering all five questions correctly, and you can shake your clenched fists in the air.

If you’re confused by the difference between edible and eatable, I’ll give you some help. My father believes that mushrooms are edible, but he finds them thoroughly uneatable. The former means that something is fit for human consumption, while the latter indicates that the eater might actually enjoy the food in question.

Question five has a built-in clue. The “nate” portion of innate tells us that innate characteristics are those we’re born with, while inherent is more likely to be used for inanimate objects. Her innate loveliness shone through the inherent gaudiness of her dress.

And there you are; a quick peek at some of the literary trouble spots. There are scads more, so be sure to study. Until next time, dearies. Your Style Maven needs a nap. While it may be practicable to attempt city driving while bleary-eyed, it’s hardly practical. Have a lovely week, and remember, a well-turned phrase is always in style!

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew 
After months of filling out reams of paperwork, the Style Maven is in hiding in a large metropolitan area. Following a well-deserved mental health break, she plans to update her signature blurb and Procraftinator column, both of which are in desperate need of rejuvenation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tricking the Block

Here’s a tip I got from Natalie Goldberg about what to do when you stare at the blank screen or paper and can’t think of anything to write. Write for five minutes, or two pages, or whatever metric appeals to you, and start every sentence with “I want to write about …” and let your hand fill in the rest. She recommends you do this exercise in longhand, so that’s what I do.

Trust me, your mind hates sentences with subjects and no predicates. It will fill something in, and then you too will know.

Here’s what I wrote the last time this happened to me:

I want to write about big meaningful stuff that shouts “Wisdom! Wisdom! Get Your Red Hot Wisdom Here!” I want to write about how we’re all swamped by our own loneliness and how joy and fear co-exist, living together in a too-small overstuffed apartment in my head. I want to write about how life calls for courage, we have no choice but to be courageous or die. I want to write about my cat using the couch as a scratching post even though she knows she’s not supposed to, is that courage to be herself in spite of my orders, or rebellion in the face of my orders, or simply because scratching one’s claws feels good and at this moment nothing else matters? I want to write about how sometimes I wake up with a song playing in my head, and how I wish I knew what this meant, or if it means anything at all. I want to write about the morning I woke up with Holy Holy Holy in my head, complete with crashing organ chords and an entire church choir – a song I haven’t heard for decades but somehow all the words were still there, holyholyholy lord god almighty early in the morning my song will rise to thee, and which lurked in the back of my mind the rest of the day. I want to write about how the very next morning I woke up hearing Zip a Dee Doo Dah sung by chirping Disney-esque bluebirds – what about that? I want to write about the juxtaposition of Holy Holy Holy with Zip a Dee Doo Dah and what that says about my mental state – or maybe I don’t because I’m not sure I want to know.  

And after this outpouring, it is much easier to sit down and write something sensible. Believe me, this trick works.



Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How Your Blog Network Will Help Your Kickstarter Succeed

Interested in raising money for your next self-publishing or under-funded traditional publishing project? You should definitely look into using the new sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow you to raise money from potential readers. However, contrary to popular belief, you can't just throw a page up on a crowdfunding platform and watch the funds roll in. There are several reasons that having an established network of bloggers will help your project succeed.

They’ll Let You Guest Post

If you’re going to do a crowdfunding project, you have to get ready to write. A lot! Sure, as an author you know what it’s like to chain yourself to the keyboard, but you’ll most likely have to put your own literary endeavors aside as you promote yourself with guest posts across the blogosphere. Before you launch your project, you’ll want to make sure that you have a collection of unique ideas that you can write up for the bloggers on your list. New takes on the art of writing are always a good bet, as are discussions about your own practices, insights into industries related to your work, glimpses into your story and the lives of your characters, and other related topics.

They'll Write About You

Guest posts are great, but the number of posts you can write will, at some point, be limited by the amount of time you have to dedicate to the cause. If you can tell a compelling enough story that your blogging friends actually offer to do write-ups about you, you’ll exponentially increase the amount of exposure you can get.

They'll Share Your Stuff

Bloggers are almost always adept at using social networks to their benefit. For one reason or another, receiving a write up or penning a guest post might not be in the cards in some cases. However, if you ask nicely, bloggers in your network will be more than happy to give your project some social love. A few mentions and links can make a make a huge difference in the spread of your project’s exposure.

They'll Help You Find Helpers

The most successful projects on Kickstarter aren’t solo ventures. The more people you can add to your team, the better you’re likely to do. Chances are good that you’re not an expert in every possible field related to your project – shooting a promo video, creating awesome cover art, editing your work, promoting, formatting, etc. Bloggers are good at making connections, and they’ll likely have a host of recommendations to share with you.

They'll Fund You

The truth about crowdfunding is that a majority of your backers will likely be in your network. Often, people will stay on the sidelines and watch which way the project goes, but the people who are close to you will jump in without needing extra reason. Everyone has different reasons for getting involved with a crowdfunded project, from wanting to see new art take shape to wanting to repay you for favors you might have done in the past, so accept backers with gratitude, but don’t get upset if certain individuals choose not to give.

So, there you have it. Yet another reason to build your blog network before you launch your book with a crowdfunding project.

Emma Larkins, a freelance writer, recently embraced the bright lights of NYC. She’s running a Kickstarter to publish her first science fiction novel, Mechalarum, and using her learning to help Knodes develop products in the crowdfunding space. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Putting Yourself into Your Book

Everyone knows that if you write fiction, then you write fiction. You don't put yourself into your book. And, yet, most of us do just that. We put ourselves into our books.

Think of the lawyers who write legal thrillers. They put bits and pieces of themselves in their book. They write from their experience and knowledge. What they know goes into the story. They may even base their protagonist on themselves or on friends or acquaintances.

I'm an ex-mermaid who wrote a book, Angel Sometimes, with a protagonist who is a mermaid. The character, Angel, is very different from me. But the things she does as a mermaid -- ballet moves under water, picnicking underwater -- those things are from me. In effect, I taught her how to do those things. I taught her how to eat and drink underwater, how to do synchronize ballet. On the other hand, there are a lot of differences between us. I swam at a resort, Aquarena Springs. Angel swims at a bar/restaurant. I was in an open environment. She's in a closed one. If something went wrong when I was in a show, I had three escape routes. If something goes wrong in the tank, Angel has only one way out. My show area was huge. Angel's is much smaller.

The list could go on, but you get the idea.

While you don't want to put yourself into your book, you undoubtedly will put your knowledge, research, and experiences into your book. It may be only bits and pieces. Or it may be bigger chunks. It only works, though, if it fits in with the story and it fits your character in the book. Swimming as a mermaid fit Angel because she was in the 6th grade when she was abandoned to the streets. It doesn’t take a degree to swim as a mermaid. The base requirement is that you can't be afraid of water.

How do you feel you've put yourself into a book?

Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, and the Coordinator of Story Circle Network's Editorial Services and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its fourteenth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, Angel Sometimes, and two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe. Her next book, Dismembering the Past, is due out in Spring 2013.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Time Out For a Little Fun

Mid-month seems like a good time to stop and have some fun here at The Blood-Red Pencil. First for today are some recent comic strips that made me laugh, or made me think, or both.

From One Big Happy: Nick and Rose, Ruthie's grandparents, are sitting on the couch watching TV. Nick asks, "What channel is this?"

"A & E, Arts and Entertainment."

Nick adjusts his glasses as if he can't believe what he is seeing. "For the past hour we've been watching a deranged woman living in a cluttered, rat-infested house."

Then he turns to Rose and asks, "So, is this art or entertainment?"

Of course she has no answer.

This one from Zits was cute: Jeremy is at school and at 10a.m. he has a history test. "Easy," he thinks.

At 1p.m. he has a calculus quiz which he considers "No sweat."

His 2:45 English test is a "Piece of cake."

At 4p.m. he meets his girlfriend, Sara, who has a "How well do you know your girlfriend quiz" for him to take.

"I'm toast."
Think he enjoyed the jokes?
 Now some observations on the writing life

"With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs." James Thurber

"The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." Mark Twain 

"To be able to write a play a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool." Robert E. Sherwood 

"A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction."  William Faulkner 

"I write to escape ... to escape poverty." Edgar Rice Burroughs 

"If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing." Kingsley Amis  

Did any of these quotes resonate with you? I did like the last one, although I don't like to annoy as much as I like to challenge.

Maryann Miller is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her latest release is Stalking Season, the second book in the Seasons Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. Sometimes she plays on stage, but she does avoid computer games as much as possible.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Two Simple Ways to Give Your Stories Sparkle

Horror! The last typewriter factory in Britain has just closed its doors. This month, without a clatter of protest, the west has succumbed to Microsoft Word.

Courtesy of MorgueFile

How can this fateful event help us to write better stories? Please allow me a moment to digress...

With the demise of IBM Selectrics and their manual predecessors, we must finally say goodbye to those days when our every ms was as finely worked as a medieval palimpsest. Do you remember that era? Our pages were weighted down by correction fluid, stained by coffee and smudged by erasers. (Grey ones for top sheets, pink ones for carbon copies.)

Fast forward to the present day. The typewriter is dead. So what? Its demise is not just a trivial footnote in history.

It marks a radical change in the way you and I think.

Up to the 20th century, writers had a tangible and direct relationship with their work. Everything came out of the tip of a pen. Writing was a sensual experience. Typesetters went blind trying to decipher the crabbed marginalia of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the like. Authors wrote for the voice and often read their work aloud, to an audience private or public.

Until recent times, voice was paramount. A novelist ‘spoke’ to his or her reader.

Courtesy of MorgueFile
 Then typewriters arrived, in the early 20th century, and set up a barrier between authors and their words. Stories became written with the eye. And for it. This lead to the textual extravaganzas of Finnegan’s Wake, Nova Express and On The Road - freak shows of the printed word. All were initially typewritten. They would have been difficult, if not impossible, to compose by pen and ink alone.

A century later, word processors further alienated authors from the Voice. All is now done by the eye. Cut and paste. Fonts, enhancements, layouts... The product is even more emphatically a visual one.

That’s why so many commercial novels today clank like the Woodman in The Wizard of Oz. They were written for the eye. And with it. The result is two-dimensional. To date, ebooks just perpetuate that visual experience.

What Kindle has gained, literature has lost.

Yet there’s a simple trick that authors can use to add grace to any story. (No doubt, many of us do this already but I’m sure a lot of first-timers don’t.)

Read your work aloud - to yourself.

Is it ugly in the wrong places? Does it stammer, halt or splutter? Smooth the cadence or drop in some transitional phrases.

Act out every role in your passages of dialogue. Use appropriate voices, hand and facial gestures. At once, you’ll hear snippets of speech that sound unnatural. And you’ll discover places that cry out for body language or reflective pauses.

How does it sound?

Make the sound too tick-tock smooth, of course, and the passage will be as soporific as Spenser’s Faerie Queene. But now you know how it sounds you can go back and vary the pace and texture.

How will you know it’s working? Watch your reader’s eyelids...

Clever Idea #1: dictate your draft into a voice recognition program. As you speak, give yourself permission to re-adjust the words so they sound right. The printed transcript will then include your revisions. Its cadence will be true to the spoken voice.

Clever Idea #2: Save the final text as a pdf and have Adobe Reader read it to you aloud. (Adobe Reader can do that, did you know?) If the robot voice stumbles over a word, perhaps the reader will too. It’s something to check.

Within a decade, doubtless we’ll have thought processors. We’ll just compose our story in our minds and think it to the reader (or the thinker). Technology will do the rest. And what a mess it will make of the job!

I predict a big growth market, circa 2020, in blood-red pencils.


 Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, judges the Writers’ Village story competition and is a tutor in creative writing at a UK university. He has been a successful commercial author for 42 years. A wealth of further ideas for writing fiction that sells can be found in his free 14-part story course at: Writers-Village.org/Academy-intro





Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing in 140: Get Out Of Your Story's Way

“Let the story tell itself.” – Author Tim O’Brien

Want to write a great story? Get out of its way.

Your story isn’t about you. Characters might share facets of your personality. Issues you care about might be woven throughout the story. However, the story is about your characters and their conflicts, obstacles, drama, decisions.

Give your story center stage. Show, don’t tell: avoid adding comments and clarifications and over-explaining setting and characters’ thoughts and actions. Develop unique metaphors and similes that tie into your story: the setting, characters. Let the story unfold as it needs for the characters present – not how you want it to unfold. Readers don’t want coincidences; they want consequences authentic to the story being told.

Focus on the story, and it will be told – not your version of it.


-----
Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.



Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both academically and creatively while also interviewing women writers on her popular blog, ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. In 2012, her second mystery, Into the Web and her short story "I Wanna Get Off Here" (in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe) were published. Her next release, Saying No to the Big O, will be published in late-March. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University ... and trying to find the time to WRITE.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Countdown to a Book 6: From Writer to Author

During the twelve years I’ve been preparing to publish my fiction, I have not spent every waking hour mooning over what publication may hold in my future. Instead, around the theme of writing, I created a rich, fulfilling life that has fed me in so many ways.

Too many ways, it would seem, to fit my current circumstance. I have arrived at the threshold of my dream; all is about to unfold.

photo credit: DavidTurnbull via photopin cc

And I can’t find the time to write.

Oops.

Now that I finally have a book deal, I haven’t been able to maintain focus on my work-in-progress for more than a day or two at a time for months now. Editing jobs I've promised in two weeks are stretching to three+. I’m not keeping up. I live in fear of letting someone—especially myself—down.

Here were the components of my life pre-book deal. All are still in full swing, in demand, and not ready to release their grip on my life:
  • writing
  • developmental editing for clients
  • leading my Craftwriting workshop series
  • hosting two four-day writing retreats for women in June and Sept.
  • completing board work for Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, conference work for The Write Stuff, loop moderator for the new Women’s Fiction Writers Association
  • conducting a book club (I’ll let this represent the all-important notion of continuing to read)
  • participating in various church activities that help remind me that not everyone in the world is writing a novel
  • engaging with social media
  • caregiving for mother with dementia who lives one hour away
  • maintaining self (cleaning, groceries, appointments)
  • working out daily to keep butt from spreading
  • minimally acting as grandmother (my husband is downstairs playing with two cuties right now)
  • giving/attending talks, readings, and other writing events
  • blogging

So what? I’m busy. I love it! To heck with the old-fashioned notions of reclusiveness and focus—such is the life of the modern writer as she builds skills and platform. Many writers keep even more plates spinning, and make it look easy!

But over the past month, transitioning from “writer” to “author” as the countdown to my release continues, I added in the following—you know, in my spare time:
  • developing platform: update and increase social media contacts
  • obtaining mailing list info for targeted readership for Sourcebooks publicist
  • making list of potential blurbers for Sourcebooks; contacting those with whom I have a connection
  • writing the Reading Guide questions and Conversation with the Author for back of book/publisher website
  • pouncing on unexpected opportunities to make connections that can support my book

Reality: since I have no spare time, these have continually hijacked my writing—even while knowing that the best way to sell your first book is to write a great follow-up book. It’s a real problem! And it’s not just because I prefer well-defined tasks on firm deadline as opposed to the nebulous “The End” I am reaching for with my WIP. These activities are new, sparkly trinkets—I must try them on immediately! Look at me now, this is so fun! Just what I wanted!

Until I realized I was no longer writing. Which occurred to me last week here at the BRP, when I read multiply-published Maryann Miller say of her “Seasons” series, “I am working on the third book. It is still early in the process, so I really need to buckle down and concentrate on finishing,” I’m thinking, Maryann: Show me how!

Turns out that for an author, writing isn't optional. I will have to give up some of my "writing life" to be an "author." The multi-tasking is already nuts, but by all accounts, it only gets worse as release day approaches.

So change is a-coming, because something’s gotta give.

What have you given up for your writing? All time management advice welcome—go!

Just catching up? Here are links to the other posts in this series:
Countdown to a Book 1: Joining Hands
Countdown to a Book 2: Pitching
Countdown to a Book 3: Getting My Agent
Countdown to a Book 4: Developmental Editing
Countdown to a Book 5: All About Image



Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dressing Up Your Romance

We continue with our story about Dick, love-interest Sally, bossy Jane, jealous Ted, and the meteor streaking toward Earth. If we select the Romance skeleton, the focus is on Dick meeting, possessing, or losing the object of his affection: Sally.

The meteor, Jane, and Ted present obstacles to this goal.

Let’s look at different ways to dress up your plot skeleton.

You can add the Contemporary Romance jacket. This is defined by the time period. The obstacles to their love occur post World War II to modern day. It is often combined with, or related to, the term women’s fiction. Ted wants Sally, or Jane wants Sally. Jealousy and rivalry keep Dick from achieving his goal. The impending meteor strike adds an element of anxiety. At the final turning point, Dick saves the day and wins Sally's heart forever. Sally and/or Jane saves the day if you want to add a feminist touch.

If you add the Historical Romance mantle, it means that the obstacles to love occurred prior to World War II and may feature elements of mystery or damsel in distress. In this instance, Sally is directly threatened by Jane or Ted while the impending meteor strike provides atmosphere and heightens emotion. We learn a bit about the history of astronomy along the way, but not too much.

If you choose the Romantic Suspense trench coat, the meteor strike is a Thriller and Suspense subplot. The setting could be contemporary or historical. The couple’s relationship is tested by the race to save the planet. Will they live to love or will the meteor obliterate them? Ted is foiled. Jane is mollified. Dick and Sally live happily ever after.

If you select the Paranormal Romance cloak, one or all of your characters could be vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, or witches. The focus is on the romance and the paranormal elements as the characters attempt to thwart the meteor strike. The different species may have different agendas. In the end, Dick and Sally wind up together, the normal world is saved, and they are happy about it. Except for perhaps Ted, or Jane, or Ted and Jane.

If you prefer the Science Fiction Romance jumpsuit, the setting becomes the future, perhaps on a remote lunar outpost. A rocket may circumvent the tragedy, taking out the antagonistic Ted along with the meteor, leaving Dick and Sally to love uninterrupted in their space capsule as Jane waves forlornly from the control room.

If you adopt the Romantic Fantasy cape, your story features dragons, wizards, or fairies working to repel the meteor heading for them, preferably with magic. Perhaps the near miss with the meteor was foretold in a prophecy naming Dick The Chosen One, which tests his relationship to Sally. Dick and Sally hold onto their love in the face of fantastic odds.

If you assume the Time Travel uniform, some or all of the cast must travel through time to solve the meteor strike problem. Perhaps Dick travels to the past, leaving poor Sally in the present. Will their relationship survive the distance? If Dick changes something in the past, will Sally still be in the present anxiously awaiting his return? Or will he return to find her happily (or unhappily) paired with Ted? Perhaps Jane sees her chance with Dick now that Sally is out of the way. In the end, Dick and Sally are reunited and it feels so good.

If you don the Erotic Romance robe, you’ll need to add steamy sex scenes in specific chapters. The impending meteor and Ted and Jane's interference fuel the fire.  As long as they fog up the windows while fighting for their lives, you're good to go. In the end, the meteor misses and Dick and Sally wind up in bed, thankful to have dodged the celestial bullet. Ted and Jane may end up in bed together as well, even though they pretend to hate each other.

Whatever costume you choose, your romance should satisfy the reader by answering the question: “Will they or won’t they?”

The answer should be, “Yes.”

If your reader is titillated and satiated by the story’s end, they will love you for it.

Next time, we'll take the story for a Thriller ride and explore how the different sub-genres affect the trajectory.



Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

10 Signs You're *Not* in The Zone



Every writer dreams of being in The Zone - that magical place where words and ideas flow. There's a reason it's a dream because for many of us (myself most definitely included), our visits there are too few and far too fleeting. Here are ten signs that you too, my sister (or brother), are most assuredly not in The Zone:

10. Just one more game of Solitaire (or Free cell or Angry Birds or...). Just one. Oops, where did that hour go?

9. Notice you've used the word 'pretty' twice. Not in the same paragraph; the same sentence.

8. (If you write mysteries) your sleuth is about to have his/her big 'aha' moment. This is when you realize there is no logical way they could have leaped to the solution.

7. Realize your fingers are cramping because they've been frozen over the keyboard for such a long time.

6. It's been so long since you've looked at your WIP that when you actually open up the document you have to spend considerable time re-reading it because you have no idea what's going on.

5. Congratulations; you've just forgotten your main character's name.

4. You've only got half an hour to write and you're determined to make it count. Okay, just one more game of solitaire and you're going to start.

3. Your pet just came into the room, yawned, and left. He knows.

2. You've been popping about the Internet completing vital research. How is it possible that your computer's screen is showing travel packages to Tahiti?

1. You've achieved a new high score in Solitaire (or Free cell or Angry Birds or...). It's time well-spent.


Elspeth Antonelli
is an author and playwright. Her murder mystery games "A Fatal Fairy Tale" and "Deadly Ever After" are among the top-selling mystery games on the web. Her newest games, "Curiouser and Curiouser" and "Murder: Hollywood Style" have just been published .  All thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by host-party.com. She has also contributed articles to the European writers' magazine Elias. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What's In a Name - Blog Name Characteristics

Continuing on with the theme of What's in a Name, today let's explore Blog Names.

To attract readers, a blog name might contain some or all of these characteristics:

1. Be catchy 
2. Be easy to remember
3. Convey at least a hint of the blog's purpose
4. Be part of the url 

Let's examine three of my blogs to see how they stack up: Sweet Not SpicyMake Mine Mystery and Spunky Senior Authors and Talents. I'll also indicate how I handled the placing of the names.

(The Sweet Not Spicy blog header contains the name of the blog as part of the header.)

Catchiness is somewhat subjective, but I personally like alliteration. I've used it in Sweet Not Spicy and Make Mine Mystery as one way to make the names seem catchy. Since the names are short, they should be easy enough to remember. 

(You can't tell here, but the Make Mine Mystery blog name is in Blogger's white font interposed over the header picture, and not part of the picture itself.)

By glancing at the blog names, my target audience of authors and readers familiar with genre lingo might surmise the first blog is about sweet romance or fiction, and the second is about mysteries. The url condition is also met, since the blog names are defined in the urls: http://sweetnotspicy.blogspot.com and http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com

Now let's check out the other blog.  
(At Spunky Senior Authors and Talents, I use pictures of recent bloggers and put the blog name beneath in the description area.)

Spunky Senior Authors and Talents started out as being just plain Spunky Seniors, which seemed catchy and easy to remember. However, it failed in one important aspect. Since many, but not all of the bloggers happen to be authors, I wanted observers to immediately understand the blog could be about authors, or might be about anyone with a particular talent. That talent could be dealing with health issues, or might be about sky jumping, or some other occupation or hobby. 

I sacrificed the short name for the good of the blog. To better convey content, I lengthened the name to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents.The url http://spunkyseniors.blogspot.com was already in place, so I kept it. That seemed more practical than using a longer one, and I'm satisfied with my decision.  

What about you? Does your blog name contain any characteristics I mentioned? Or, maybe you know of one that does.



Experience the diversity & versatility of Morgan Mandel. For romantic comedy: Her Handyman & Girl of My Dreams. Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.  Romantic suspense: Killer Career. Mystery: Two Wrongs. Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com Chick Lit Faves 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Grammar ABCs: T is for Tense

No, I don’t mean that tight feeling in your shoulders when you’ve been sitting at the computer too long!

In writing, TENSE shows the time of a verb’s action. The following are the simple tenses we commonly use:

• Action occurring now is PRESENT TENSE. She understands the problem.
• Action that occurred before now is PAST TENSE. She understood the problem.
• Action likely to occur in after now is FUTURE TENSE. She will understand the problem.

Then, we get into somewhat more complicated versions. By adding a “to be” verb, we create a PERFECT TENSE. (That doesn’t mean it’s perfect to use all the time though.)

• PRESENT PERFECT refers to completed actions whose effects are still relevant. I am walking that trail today.
• PAST PERFECT: I had walked that trail last week. 
• FUTURE PERFECT: I will have walked that trail many times before I grow old. 

The tricky part is knowing which tense to use when, and when to limit the “perfects.” As authors, when we begin a story, we have to decide whether to use present or past tense. Most books and short stories are written in simple past tense. We are accustomed to that and it flows naturally. However, some authors like to write in present tense. We most often see that in private eye kinds of novels or in short stories.

You have to ask yourself: Does my story feel more comfortable in present or in past? I’ve found that it is difficult to stay in present tense when writing, just because the past is so natural, we seem to automatically write that way. You may find that you will have to go back and carefully correct most of your verb tenses or have someone read it for you to find the difference. Using present tense gives you a more urgent, in-the-moment feeling and can be a good technique to use, depending on your genre. The important thing is to be consistent throughout the story.

Using past perfect is a good way to bring in a transition to a flashback or backstory. That day she had gone to town as usual. But then, after the first reference, go back to simple past tense while you’re in that backstory, simply to avoid using a lot of those “to be” verbs. Then, when you are finishing this section, you can throw in another “had” to remind the reader they’re in the past just before you bring them back to the present (or simple past again, but written as in present time). Confused yet?

I always recommend to my editing clients to avoid using a lot of verbs accompanied by another “to be” verb: was walking, was watching, etc. This is a more passive form of writing, and you can often strengthen your sentences by either using the simple past: walked, watched, etc. or by using a stronger verb to “show” the character’s mood or demeanor: He strode, She stomped, etc.

What tense do you write in and why?


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

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