Sunday, January 31, 2016

Magnetic Poetry


This is what happens when the dirty magnetic poetry kit (as you can see) remains on your fridge for too long.
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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Flash Fiction: The Pixelated Man

Flickr via altemark

He could feel the Great Designer changing his base code again--to [blue]. Why was it always blue? With the [mark][mark/] of blue, he knew that sorrow would creep upon him, lingering, filling his insides with unabated hollowness, until he wouldn't be able to rise from bed most days. He'd have to call in sick, maybe, if his boss didn't demand a doctor's note, something saying, "his coloring is off, and his base pairs are aquamarine, and his [helix] is decaying as it so often does with [mark] blue [mark/]."

Maybe the Great Designer could deign to send him on vacation, for a change of scenery, something more than this gray, foggy land of skyscrapers; something more than the skyboat taxis flitting about with their acrid exhaust, or the barreling, inexorable trains and the bored commuters on it.

Or maybe have him lose some weight, for an image source change.

"Stop blaming the Source, Href," his wife chastised. This morning, her lipstick was one millimeter just outside the lines of her oxbow lips, and with the bright pink lipstick tube, she frowned, adjusted the numbers [center], and reapplied. There. That was in order.

Varia reached up to adjust his tie, muttering code beneath her breath to help her put him to rights. His jacket altered slightly to better fit his frame, but still the [blue] in him only saw it as her worry that they would be seen in a less than fit state, and not as he'd convinced himself when he was a normal color, proof of her [love].

Maybe the Great Designer hadn't decided to give Varia anything resembling [love], and in his [blue] state it was all he saw--her flaws. The bustling way she made her world tidy, the way she denied disorder. Despite himself--or because of himself--he reached out to draw her to him, and he crushed her to his chest with a desperate might that made her squeak in surprise.

Href was crushing her dress, he knew.

But instead of drawing away, irritated that he had so crushed the bright flowery fabric, she held him tighter. At her touch, part of him could feel the [blue] changing slightly.

He hoped not to [gray].

"The only Great Designer," she said quietly into his tie, "is yourself. The [blue]...I'll help you, Href, any way I can. There are others that deal with [blue]," and she said it without the shame that others did, "and though I'll never understand it completely, you can tell me."

How could he have though her without [love]?

"Let's run away, Varia," he said, even knowing as he did so that she would bat aside the idea. They had plans. Jobs. Stability. People, friends, family to whom they owed their time. "You know, we've always wanted to travel to Neon City."

Href could feel her sigh against him.

"I'm serious." He held her at arm's length, looking into her asterisk-shaped pupils, so wonderfully beautiful, the same as when he'd seen her for the first time, the (flower 9 pattern). "Let's go now, forget the party, forget everything. Call in tomorrow. Let's just...run, Varia. [Live][life][fun][joy!]"

"Maybe..." she started, lowering her eyes. "Maybe...this weekend."

And he could feel the [blue] shifting, not by some other, giant hand, but by his own code. The [blue] became [blue/], which melded, formed, became--

[gray]

He pixilated slightly with the shift, but Varia didn't notice.

Through the numbness of [gray], he forced himself to smile, to still his body from twitching in pixels again.

"Of course," he said, voice a dead drone. "Later. We'll find all of that later."

His form dissolved into a million rod-shaped pixels.

[GRAY]

612 words
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Oh, 2016!

Welcome to 2016, kiddos. I'm glad you made it! Sometimes years seem like they're touch and go.

2015 was kick-ass and it took a discussion with one of my friends to realize just how well 2015 had treated me. Apparently, I'm a Debbie Downer or a where-is-the-liquid-in-the-glass type of person, because I only saw the negative. So here's what was great about it:

·      I got legit published for the first time! Not only that, but my piece in Triangulation: Lost Voices was given a "highly recommended" rating on the SF review site, Tangent Online. Man, a complete stranger read and recommended my work. You have no idea how much squee that gave me.
·      I received three other acceptances for my work.
·      Health problems I've had forever (seriously since puberty) were figured out by my new doctor. With the help of modern medicine, I'm now healthier, in less pain, and have more energy than I've ever had.
·      I visited New Orleans on vacation, and it's now one of my favorite cities. All of the jazz, blues, food, buskers, steamboats, Bloody Marys that'll make you sin, the mighty Mississippi, and Louis Armstrong's trumpet! And yes, even the dodgy areas, the hordes of homeless beneath the highway bridges, and the hurricane wrecked areas that are even now being rebuilt. Which reminds me I should write a post on it.

So far 2016 is great. I mean, other than losing David Bowie and Alan Rickman within days of one another. By Grabthar's Hammer, seriously world?

·      A new Star Wars movie. And it was awesome. And didn't suck with suckiness of suckitude that was 1-3. Seriously. 2016 will be outstanding for that if for nothing else.
·      Did I mention Star Wars? I did?
·      For the first time ever, I submitted one of my novels to a seriously too-legit-to-quit (one day I'll stop with the 90's references) publishing house.
·      The always cool cat Connie Cockrell interviewed me on her website. You can read it here.

Things I'm planning for 2016:

·      Create a website. This one is something that's at the top o' my list. And yeah, I know I said this last year...
·      Move on to my next novel project, Crossroads. No, there's no Brittney Spears in it. Sorry to disappoint you. Maybe I'll write something called Glitter, but then there won't be Mariah Carey in it either.
·      Keep writing new shorts and send them out.

·      Do more spray painting. Do more visual art stuff in general.
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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Flash Fiction: Listen to the Queen's Song


The cries of the crowd rose like a roar of different throats crowing the same thing, the same desperate love, the same swelling feeling in the breast; then the kick drum began, a throbbing, low note stinging in the chest, thrusting through her sinuses; the crowd's roar increased, the mouths moved with adoration in this shared moment, uniting into a chorus that she was certain she could inhale, could dine upon so thick was it.

Xanthe closed her eyes to the lights on stage as the drunken woman next to her jostled her with pointed elbows, and strained her other senses as the bass began its profusion of thudding notes. The woman stepped on her foot with pointed heels, but Xanthe braced to endure it as the man behind her, tall and looming, pushed her forward with the might of the ten people behind her. She dug in her heels against the onslaught, because she wouldn't miss the sight.

There on stage, wearing her tattered jeans, her ancient leather jacket patched together with shiny duct tape, her boots so careworn that mud still clung to it, appeared the singer.

Singer. Capital S.

Xanthe knew that even if the crowd didn't.
           
Familiar strong lines of cheek and jaw lifted toward the too bright glow of lights flickering across the stage, a face once lovingly recreated in ebony by the master artisan of the court, a bust fit for a queen, but a queen of roaming. A queen of dust and roadsides. Now she was here, glorying in the ten thousand screaming fans in a way Xanthe had never seen before. Xanthe had followed her and her cohorts when the queen began years ago in the usual roadside bars, until the smell of stale beer and lonely desperation clung to her pores.

That's where the queen had always roamed. The cities. In alleyways. Crooning in opium dens. Sometimes she was a priestess and sang with the fervor of the god or goddess, but the queen quickly flew from that disguise, because there was no god or goddess but the Song.

Up on stage, the queen lifted her broad, rough hands and shook her head back, her tightly woven dreadlocks long over her shoulders, her ebon skin shining like a statue. The crowd roared louder at the gesture as if understanding that their love was required at her whim.

It always had been, Xanthe mused.
           
Xanthe didn't know the lyrics, not like those around her who formed them upon their lips like prayer. But the queen raised the microphone and Sang.
           
Not the voice of too bright and too young and too pretty little things, those babes that now graced the airwaves with their stamped-for-approval voices. It was rough cut, a shattered diamond; it was a shriek and a croon in one; it was a fusion of lost highways, lost lives, of time passing, of loneliness and all of those eternal sunsets and--

The air seemed to thicken; the drunken woman next to her rolled her eyes back in her head in ecstasy. The man behind her seemed to sag into her, until she had to push back, the flecks of his sweat pouring over her.

Xanthe knew their joy. She felt it every time she heard the queen Sing. In Abyssinia, in Roma until it seemed the Voice would shatter the stone streets near the Circus Maximus, among the r┼Źnin whose faces were always drawn with their shame, standing near the sentinel Lion's Gate in Mycenae while the guards listened on, on the paddlewheeled steamships making their way down the Mississippi, and in a thousand dusty American bars.

Never had Xanthe dared to approach the queen.

Her hands fell on the edge of the stage, and using her foot on the drunken girl, she launched herself up; the lights blinded her for a moment, but she staggered forward.

Voice gone for a moment, the queen looked at her with a bright, beautiful grin.

Xanthe staggered toward her, and the queen laughed, gesturing her forward to the roar of the crowd. Her tongue felt dry, and she could feel the ridges on the roof of her mouth like sandpaper. But she managed, "I hear you! I've heard you for so long!"

She wasn't even certain what language she had called in.

The queen embraced her tightly, and Xanthe could smell the sheen of sweat, the dusty clean scent of roadways at the first rain; she could feel the low vibrations traveling from the queen's chest at her amused laughter.

The queen's breath tickled her ear. "My traveler, my follower. I've seen you. My Listener, how I've waited for you, as I always do. I Sing for all of them, but I Sing best for you."  

The queen's lips were smooth as tumbled stone as she left a peck upon Xanthe's cheek.

Xanthe backed away from the spotlight, and the queen gestured away the guards rushing forward.

Lifting her arms, the queen crowed, "This is for my number one fan! My eternal Listener."
           
Then devoid of the hum of guitars, or the ear-piercing feedback, or amplification, or her cohorts, the queen Sang.
           
And her Voice transported Xanthe to everywhere she had been.

872 words
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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Flash Fiction: The Dream of Flight


Valin hunkered down in the cave corridor, waiting for the Inventrix to leave her latest and most powerful creation. With her familiar granite features set in a frown, the Inventrix moved like time nipped at her heels. Because it did. For all of them. Especially if there was another enemy attack on the way. But the head of the Cog Clan strode away, wearing her flying leathers snug against her lithe body, her farviewing goggles perched atop her graying head.

The clockwork of the security door was more intricate than he thought, especially for a second level techwork like himself. But he broke the pattern. The cogs clicked in their eerily silent housings when the massive door swung open on smooth hinges, folding back on themselves like a parchment letter creased four times.

If Valin would never become a Navigator, he still yearned to touch one of the bomber-dragons.

He moved into the vast vault of his leader's genius and saw spying microfyers, intricate farviewers, and separatory funnels filled with the acrid stench of one ingredient created for pseudo-metal. But he saw two glowing lights rising above his head by the height of four men--no, by several meters.

And a cheery baritone voice intruded on his study, "Hello!"

Surprised, Valin jumped to the nearest wall sconce to increase the gaslight.

The light increased...and the luminescence glinted off of a massive creature of brass pseudo-metal.

While other flying bomber-dragons were about the size of three full grown men, this one was--so much more. Not only massive in scale, but remarkable in make. Its eyelids blinked with a faint sigh, its pseudo-metallic skin crinkling as its great quicksilver eyes narrowed on him in curious speculation. Its great feet weren't mere holding clamps for chemical pot-bombs filled with acid, but rather were long and lithe as a man's hands, though possessed of sabre-like claws. And its wings twitched upon its back, not like the ornithopter dragons--the ones Valin so desperately wished to pilot--but like a true winged animal.

The dragon blinked and hunched its serpentine neck down to his level, its skin possessing neither greaves nor grooves, only smooth metal-flesh as elastic as a man's. 

"Hello," came the voice again from within its muscular seeming chest.

Valin was so fascinated he forgot the gnawing fear eating at his insides. The muzzle was precariously close, and warm air vented from its nostrils nearly the size of his own head. The chest moved in and out--another breath. A cooling system!

"Are you to be my Navigator? Mother says I need one, but that I'm not ready to fly just yet." The dragon's nose vented more breath upon him. "She says I'm not ready for many things."

The creature sounded petulant as a child. Never mind that this machine was speaking. None of the Inventrix's other creations could do more than spit out tiny preset parchment messages. And the sound of the voice, it couldn't be recorded on wax cylinders for the movement and heat of the beast would disrupt--

"Perhaps you are young like me," the dragon chirruped pleasantly. "I didn't know how to speak at first either. But I can teach you. Mother taught me."

"Mother?" Could it mean the Inventrix?

The creature seemed almost to smile, its mouth stretching back in a manner unnatural for any real animal. The teeth within the maw was a land of pointed daggers...

"You do speak! Come, I've found you, and you must be my Navigator." Its wings unfurled, the metallic sinews contorting. Cooling wire veins could be seen pulsing within the membranous skin of the wings, almost opaque. "Now I can fly at last. To your position, Navigator--um, sir."

"Valin," he supplied, at a loss.

The dragon pushed its soft nose into his chest like a young wolfling pup wishing to be petted, and Valin's hand unconsciously stroked at the muzzle, soft as velvet, cool as the touch of the cave's wall.

As he stood dumbfounded, a mournful sound came from the creature. Its optics--those quicksilver eyes and the obsidian chips of its pupil--seemed to mist over. "Do you not want to be my Navigator?"

“I-I...all I've ever wanted is to be a Navigator. To fly. To soar among the clouds. But you must not need a Navigator...you're sentient."

"That's what Mother called me," beamed the creature proudly. "I was created to learn things out on my own. Adapt, like she says. She said I can choose whether or not to fight, and that if I do, I'll be fierce because I'll know what it means to love. She said my Navigator would be smart and brave enough to break in here to see me. She designed it that way. Now come fly with me, Valin! Oh, please! I've waited so long!"

As Valin touched the muzzle again, the beast nudged harder, making him stumble. When he peered around, he saw two large doors at the end of this massive vault--a doorway to topside? Feeling an elation he'd never known in the caverns of other techworkers, he found the locking mechanism and quickly discerned how to open it. The doors hinged outward and the cool breeze ruffled his hair.

The dragon pranced on his feet and its wings unfurled to their utmost length, its neck straining forward and its eyes closed to half-mast in pleasure.

In the light of the moons, he could see the dragon's fitted harness. With a firm grip he began to climb aboard the dragon's back, and settled himself into something that was different from a battle-fitted seat. There were no levers, but rather a set of buttons that seemed to imply directions in three-hundred-and-sixty--a communication device, not a controlling panel.

Up. They could rise into the clouds. When he pressed the ascension button, the dragon bugled in excitement and launched itself out into the morning air.

With a whoop, Valin and his new companion were airborne.

995 words
This story was based on an actual dream I had of a man stealing his ruling inventor's flying battle dragon. Even my subconscious lives in a sci-fi/fantasy world.
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Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Art of Sharing

"It isn't art if you aren't sharing it."

I had a semi-recent conversation with a fellow writer friend about art, life, the universe, and everything (including why we should vacation in Svalbard and get hired as polar bear spotters). And when we were discussing promotion, being traditionally vs. indie published, and all of the things in between, she kept telling me: "You have to share. You can't keep it to yourself."

For some reason, these words hit me hard. I've been collecting gigabytes of stories, novels, and notes for years. And until a couple of years ago, I'd never shared them with anyone. Not with friends, not with critique partners, not with people bound to me by the ties of blood whose only response I feared would be umm, that's nice. I was madly scribbling away at the keyboard, bleeding my brain, and heart, and soul (if I so possess one in whatever form you prescribe to) onto the page. Trying desperately to find my voice, to write from the deepest parts of me, consigning myself never to share it with the world because I'm not good enough this sucks everyone will hate it I'm not ready it's too dark too scary too weird too experimental not experimental enough too literary not literary enough too unclassifiable too genre too shallow too serious no one will publish me is this like [famous author's work]?

I'm currently reading with relish Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help



In it she has a name for these thoughts. "The Fraud Police." Because "when you're an artist nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magical wand of legitimacy." In fact, "you're an artist when you say you are. And you're a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected."

That's what I wanted to do. But I couldn't do that if I kept it to myself. So, while I still dream of being traditionally published in all of the professional SF magazines, and I'm working hard at mining my inner self for the real, the deep, the sacrificial, some part of me wanted to share. To split wide the doors to something I'd worked on. I started posting bits on my blog and connected to Facebook and finally let people see some of my work shown the light for the first time.

And it was the most freeing thing I've ever done artistically. It was like staring at a cliff with warm, sweet, calm oceans below and I'd finally grown the cajones to leap. I didn't expect responses. Part of me didn't want responses. Didn't want the rejection it would bring. I didn't want the umm, it's, uh, good? responses from those who thought they owed me something.

The internet didn't give me tons of responses.

But people did in person.

I was surprised to find such support. And it didn't go to my head. It wasn't the I'm awesome and great and I shit out gold onto the page. It was more about connecting with people without knowing I had connected with people. It was about sharing some part of myself, my art, and revealing that there were people reading and listening.

Amanda Palmer says that the artist, in whatever medium, does three things: "Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. Then sharing the connections with those around you."  

I'd been doing a decade of collecting, of viewing my experiences, of mentally observing the world with an eye for recounting it on the page. So too was the connecting. Of taking that ride on the Tube an connecting it to my inner fear of the proximity of strangers in enclosed spaces. But I hadn't done the third. I'd been stuck on the third. I'd been zealously throwing reams and reams of paper into a box with all of the hard copies of my stories, there to stay in such a lightless abyssal plain. (Many of them are still there).

Lately, I've been attempting to throw those stories to editors in the hope that someone somewhere might want to give me money in exchange for my work. And I know that many of them won't. And that's okay. I realize it's a business. I also realize that I can't connect with everyone. And that's okay too.

But I also realize I should share more.    


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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Triangulation: Lost Voices is Available!


My first ever published short story "Loss of a Second" is now available in Triangulation: Lost Voices.

"Loss of a Second" When everyone in the world has two personalities in one body, what is it like to deal with the sudden loss of that other voice in your own head?

Experience twenty-one separate visions of what a lost voice sounds like, from a silenced voice inside your head to the screaming of a long-dead alien species careening through space. Within these pages, you'll find superheroes and ghosts, living statues and vengeful wildlife, polar bears and sailing ships.

You can purchase a fine copy of this anthology:


Or now--for a limited time!--the publishers are giving away a free paperback copy of Triangulation: Lost Voices over on Goodreads! Enter to win!

¡More exclamation points!

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hobbies that Influence Your Writing

A Baroque guitar piece arranged for the ukulele

So, like last last last month I missed the topic of "what hobbies do you have that help your writing?"

That answer is fairly simple for me. And yet, complicated.

Music.

Hands down. Listening to it, singing it, playing music, coming up with tunes that just blurt out of my brain. Half the time I don't even realize that I'm humming, much less what I'm humming. I semi-beat box when I'm bored. I tap my pencil to polyrhythms (usually three against four), and it happened often enough in high school that my Spanish teacher yelled that I was cursing in Morse Code. And sometimes even when there are people around (not just in the shower) I'll jazzy scat for minutes on end, or wind up quietly humming arpeggios.

For no reason at all other than this is a constant never ending stream in my brain.

Kind of like story ideas. And plot bunnies.

Little me grew up listening to a wide variety of music. I can even remember the first time as a child that I truly understood that songs were made of different parts--the clarity of that moment when I heard by itself the bass line, the drum line, the way they worked in tandem. That I knew more than just the lyrics, that I could hum the guitar solo, and be-bop the bass in the back of my throat. It was like a lightning bolt of realization for the complexities of something I took for granted.

This happened when I was around seven. Yes, I remember it that vividly.

And writing is the same. Complex. Working together in vast parts. It has it's own bass line of setting, the solo of character, and the steady drumbeat of plot.

Many of the things I've learned about the creative process has come from the creative flow of playing in a band, from the discipline of practice, from the repetitive motions and the rote memorization. And the sheer frustration and anger at not getting it quite right. Writing for me recreated hitting that stride where things just flow in the "zone." Falling into a beat pattern becomes a sort of meditative high. Writing is the same for me. It became the improvisation of my creative landscape.

I firmly blame my time playing jazz with the reason that I'm such a writing 'pantser.' Writers often claim there are two types of writers: 'ploters' who plan out a lot of details before hand, and 'pantsers' who run down the street not wearing pants screaming "I'm a writer!" Okay, no. 'Pantsers' just fly into the story, not knowing where they're going. And I've always felt it's a bit like soloing--you've practiced your rudiments for so long that it's second nature, so improvising comes from the heart and not the brain.

Then I mostly gave up playing music.

Since I now kinda' suck at playing the drums (though one of my teachers once told me I will remember how to play a basic 4/4 rock beat until my dying breath), I've picked up an intentionally not-so serious instrument. I wrote before how playing the ukulele changed how I view writing short stories.

Some of my best stories have come from asking friends to give me a random song. The three acceptances I've received for my work were all written to music: one of them to Gary Jules' melancholy version of "Mad World," another to a folk mix of Iron and Wine, Nick Drake, and Sufjan Stevens, and the last while listening to YouTube videos of violinist Joshua Bell, violin virtuosos playing the sheer insanity that is Paganini's Caprices, and a bunch of different sopranos singing the 'Mad Scene' from Lucia di Lammermoor.


Playing music influences my writing because music was my first jump into the world of creative endeavors. 
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Fencing with Live Steel: An Experience by Peter Morrow

A while back I asked, encouraged, and outright cajoled my friend, Peter Morrow, to write about his fencing experiences. I hope you learn something from his experiences with Historical Fencing, and encourage you to ask him questions!

Take it away Mr. Morrow.
  
Historical Fencing: Not Just for Porthos, Athos, and Aramis

About seven years ago, I took a chance on a new experience: Historical Fencing. 


Historical Fencing is the martial arts granddaddy of the modern sport of Olympic Fencing. It generally deals with the period of swordplay between the 1300s and the early 1800s and teaches forms of Rapier, Saber, and Small Sword combat. It differs from both Classical and Olympic Fencing, which focuses on more modern forms of Epee, Olympic Saber, and Foil.

Historical Fencing also differs from its more modern children in that you aren't confined to a fourteen meter strip with your other hand behind your back. You may move in a circular fashion, and have access to your other hand, to either be used in defense or to hold another weapon or small shield.

My first day of my first class, my instructor told us a story about the history of fencing. Life in the Renaissance for many people was horrible. With sanitation standards being nonexistent, and life expectancy being short, honor was all that mattered to most people. Criminal courts were almost unheard of, and the idea of civil courts hadn't been thought up yet.

Disputes and matters of honor were settled by the blade.

It paid to know how to fight.
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Goals for 2015

Goaaaaaaaaaaal!

Hopefully, 2015 will be a very good year.

I've received two acceptances for my short fiction, and I'll be published for the first time later this year in anthologies.

One of my shorts is slated to appear in Volume XIII of Spark: A Creative Anthology.

I haven't received the contract for the second mag yet, so I'm keeping quiet until it's signed.

Like last year I have lofty writing goals:

·        Keep sending out more short fiction.  I think I'll try to binge write a few shorts in March. I also need to edit some shorts that are hanging out on the hard drive. They're not doing me any good there.
·        Work on my 2-Year-Novel Course novel, The Crossroads Troubadour. I'm going to take my sweet time with this one.
·        Organize the re-writes for my 2012 NaNo, Blood and Brass. I approached the big re-write haphazardly so I need to learn to organize like a non-crazy person.
·        Create a legit website. Whoo-boy. This will involve me thinking about how to market based on the style of my writing. Hmmm...

Other non-writing goals:

·        Take the dog for more walks.
·        Finish setting up and restoring my vintage banjo-ukulele (which is like 80+ years old). My, my but it's a purdy 'lil thing.
·        Take a goddamn vacation from the Day Job.
·        Test cook more new recipes during the week.

So, my puppies, what are some of your goals for 2015?
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