Friday, May 24, 2019

#QueryFriday


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 5/26 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dear O'Abby - Can I send more pages than requested with my query?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm querying, and most agents seem to want either five or ten pages with the query, if they want pages at all.  My chapters are pretty short - only around 1500 words each, and all end with a hook leading into the next chapter.  1500 words is around six pages....

So my question is, if an agent asks for five pages, is it okay if I send the whole first chapter, even if it is over the five pages?  Or the first two chapters if they ask for ten? I feel like leaving the chapters a few hundred words shy of the end of each chapter doesn't showcase my work in the best light because  the hooks at the end of each chapter are almost always the best parts.

What would you suggest?

Yours,

One Page Too Long

Dear One Page Too Long,

Most agents ask that you past these pages into the body of an email along with your query, so they're not actually going to know exactly how many pages you've sent unless they count the words.  If you send the entire novel, or two or three times as much as they've asked for, they'll notice, but if it's only a couple of hundred extra words, they probably won't. And I don't believe any agent is pedantic enough (or has enough time) to count your words and reject you because you sent a page or two more than what was requested.

The purpose of sending pages is to show the agent what your writing voice is, your style, and that you can actually string sentences together in a coherent fashion.  Rather than focusing on the length of your sample, make sure it's the best possible example of your work.  Check for typos, grammar errors or spelling mistakes.  Make sure you've tightened the language so every word has a purpose and reason to be there.  Ensure the opening of your book is compelling enough to make readers want to read on.

You want the agent to be frustrated when they reach the end of your sample, wanting to read on enough that they will reach out and ask for the rest of your book to be delivered to their in-box immediately so they can keep reading.

If your pages don't do that, it doesn't matter if you send five, ten or twenty.

XX O'Abby

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Danielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Izzy in El Mareo by Danielle Ledezma


1- Can you share a tip on making new friends?

Focus on asking them questions and helping them feel accepted and comfortable with you as a new person versus focusing on whether or not they like you.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Great ideas and phrases and points come to you at any given time so have paper/pen or recording device nearby at all times! But you also must intentionally build time into your day to write. Even if you don't put anything new down, form the habit for your brain in a space that allows that creativity to flow. A room in the house or favorite patio at a coffee shop; whatever it takes make yourself go there and think, then let the words flow.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

The passion was more about getting the story out of my head and onto paper versus a desire to write. I've been a reader for much of my life, and felt that I had a book inside me, and it wasn't until I lived in Mexico and later found solace, almost therapy, in writing a story inspired by that time in my life that the book was finally born.

4- What's the best thing about where you live now?

It's home! I grew up in San Antonio and spent over 15 years away from it. Now that I'm back I feel at peace and confident and myself. There is so much growth and amazing change I get to enjoy at this stage in my life such as Historic Pearl and La Cantera and Boerne and all the areas that are developing all over the city!

5- What is your favorite summer activity?

The best summer activity is swimming at the river or lake! My husband and I love to try and visit new lakes and rivers each summer with the pups in tow whenever possible. Some of our faves include Boerne Lake near our house, Guadalupe State Park and Medina Lake! We're on a mission to get out to Marfa to see the observatory and check out Balmorhea State Park!

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book somewhere fun?

Danielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome
From Cancun:

7- What is your favorite saying or quote?

Love your neighbor as yourself; because to love your neighbor you must truly love yourself.

I also love Marianne Williamson's "Our Deepest Fear" poem!!! My favorite lines are "...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

These days running a company I'm motivated to read a lot of leadership books and women empowerment books like "Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis or "Dare to Lead" by Brene Brown. I also have Michelle Obama's book on my nightstand!! When it comes to fiction I'm inspired to read when it's a story that captures me. Like "Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine" which is just a great story of a funny girl. I like real life type of stories that can take hold of your heart and effect you in ways you didn't imagine. Like "In Her Shoes" by Jennifer Weiner (before it was a movie) and "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name:Jennifer Crusie
Title: "Bet Me"
Love because: It feels like an authentic story about a woman learning to love herself just as she is; and she isn't the cute skinny party girl that needs to learn she's actually beautiful. She's a normal woman of a normal size and dealing with how that doesn't match up with whatever vision society has placed on what beauty should be. And through love, she learns to love herself. All of herself. Super empowering and uplifting!!!


10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
A coworker/friend of mine named Aly who loves the character's flaws and mistakes and her general uneasiness about life. She says she really relates to her not because she experienced in her own life, but that she could imagine the feelings and it was exciting for her to read and picture herself in those same scenarios. It challenged her to think about how she might react or behave. And she wants to know what Izzy does next! She's asked so many times about a sequal or follow up blog. My other biggest fan in general is my husband. He was the person who helped me learn to create space in my life to write, encouraged me to keep going, helped me when I was stuck and even helped create the title! He's so excited to see my dream come to life and has been and always will be my greatest supporter and best friend. It took a while to find him (into my mid-30s) but he was totally worth the wait!!!


11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope this book will draw out readers' own feelings of discomfort and pain and heartbreak, along with their own shame, so they can walk through it and leave it behind coming out stronger on the other side. My hope is this gives the reader a space with which to wrestle with what they think are poor choices, mistakes or regrets and, while walking alongside Izzy, learn how they can overcome whatever labels or stigmas they've assigned to themselves. By the time they finish, I hope they feel peace and contentment.

12- What is your favorite animal and why?

Dogs!!! I have two of them, grew up with them and absolutely love their personalities and energy. A dog is loyal and protective and is the happiest thing on the planet when you walk in the door whether it was only 5 minutes or 5 days.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

From the beginning the intent for this book was to find a way to help readers learn to love themselves no matter what decision or mistakes or "poor choices" they've made in their lives. I am a firm believer that you cannot truly love another until you learn to love yourself. That is why God said to love your neighbor as yourself. If you don't love yourself, have grace for yourself, forgive yourself or take an interest in yourself, how can you possibly do that for others? I mean truly without any ulterior motives (like trying to get them to like you)? I mean truly be able to listen to someone who clearly opposes you view, your voting preferences, your orientations, or thoughts on subjects like abortion or gun control, and actually listen to them as another human being if you spend the entire time dehumanizing them? or finding fault and nit picking? Is that what you do to yourself in your head all day long? In short, I hope this book gives readers the space to allow themselves grace and forgiveness so they can overcome and find true contentment and love within their own hearts and minds.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Michael's confidence - he is so comfortable in his own skin he allows others around him to feel the same about themselves

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Michael is a homosexual who is actually a critically significant character for the book because he represents someone who is comfortable in their own skin without apology, and it allows the others around him to feel the same about themselves. He isn't pushy about his beliefs or lifestyle, but also doesn't stop to apologize for it either. The entire book is filled with characters from different countries, cultures and viewpoints. We have Europeans including Germans (Gretchen), Mexicans (like Ximena and Luci and Felipe) and Venezuelans (Alejandra) to name a few. Izzy confronts these varied viewpoints, cultural norms and wrestles with them from her American perspective. It casts a fluorescent light on the differences between the characters through their social interactions and forces the reader to experience someone form another country through the reading.

16- Your Amazon book blurb states your debut is an "AMAZON BESTSELLER IN SINGLE WOMEN FICTION." When did you hit that mark and how did it feel?

Danielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome
this is the screen shot from my page but I didn't look at the actual Amazon page for where on the list i was. BUT it was crazy!! I kept reading it like "is that right?" Once I got past the shock and excitement, I hoped that it was something meaningful for the women who had purchased it which got me the designation. I started hoping they liked it and felt like they got something from it. I hoped it mattered.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I wanted a professional finish, and most importantly, professional editing and help with plot lines, so I knew self-publishing wasn't the route for me. A first-time author can have a hell of a time trying to get the attention of a large publishing house through the traditional method, and looses control of the final product. Finding River Grove was incredible because I could collaborate, learn and grow from their support, and retain all the rights to the work for future use. They are an amazing team that truly helped a first-time writer through the sometimes daunting process!

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Reviews help tremendously to exposure and to someone's decision to support/buy that author's work. Just like Yelp and restaurant reviews might help you decide where to go out Saturday night, the reviews on Amazon or Barnes&http://Noble.com or other sites you can leave reviews will help other readers to get a feel for the book and decide if that's what they're looking for. Please leave me a review!!

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Tell me about a time you were courageous and brave, and how vulnerable you had to first allow yourself to be in order to get there

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

As a full time working wife and mom of 2 fur babies, I'm also running a fitness franchise called DivaDance and continue to write in between! Speaking, writing and empowering others are my greatest passions, right behind loving my amazing husband and my family.
Danielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation AwesomeDanielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Karaoke ~ Danielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome Karaoke in Puerto Vallarta -- this party really did happen
surfing ~ Danielle Ledezma's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome Surfing in Punta de Mita -- this part also really happened!


Izzy in El Mareo by Danielle Ledezma

Monday, May 13, 2019

May 2019 Pass or Pages Entry Form


We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Adult Historical Fiction. Any entry not falling under that umbrella will be deleted. The entry window closes on Friday, May 17 at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The form will not allow you to show italics or other formatting, but if your entry is chosen you'll have time to let us know of any formatting you need fixed.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Dear O'Abby: How Long Can I Take Over An R & R?

Dear O'Abby,

I just received a revise and resubmit from an agent.  I've been querying this book for what feels like forever, and was just about to trunk it because no one seemed interested.  But now I have this agent wanting me to make some pretty substantial changes that I think may take me quite a while to execute.

She hasn't given me any timeframe in which to get back to her, so now I'm wondering if I need to drop everything and focus on this revision so I can it back to her ASAP.  Or is that not the expectation?  How long can I take over this?

Yours,

Timely

Dear Timely,

First off, congratulations on the R & R!  That's a fantastic step.  It means the agent has connected with your story, sees its potential and now wants to know if you can revise and make it shine.  Hopefully she has also given you a few helpful notes to guide you as you do the revision.  I also hope those notes align to the vision you have for the story.  I've seen R & Rs that writers have really struggled to get through because what the agent wanted the book to be didn't align with the author's vision of it.

So, if you are happy with the notes and prepared to do the work, you need to take as long as you need to in order to make the book the best it can be.  An agent isn't going to be impressed if you address only the specific things she mentioned in her message to you and send it back in two weeks.

She wants you to really take on board what she is saying and apply those things to the entire book.  And you've mentioned that the changes she's suggested are substantial.  Maybe changing a POV or amalgamating two side characters into one.  Maybe one of the storylines is underserved and needs to be pushed up in the narrative.  I don't know what the changes are, but it's important you do them well.

These things all take time, not just to write, but to think through.  You want to get this right, so you need to take time over it.  But you also don't want so much time to go by that the agent forgets she even requested you send it back.  So my advice is, take as long as you need to make the book as good as you can.  But don't waste time either.  If they're a good agent and really believe you can make the story shine, they are not going to mind waiting six months or so for something polished.  I've even heard of authors being signed after holding on to an R & R for a year.

But in reality, an R & R is a test.  You're being asked to show how well you can revise because this is important once you get into the editorial phase of publishing.  You want to be thorough, but you need to be able to turn things around to meet deadlines.

So really consider the notes she's sent.  Thank her for the feedback and let her know she can expect a new draft in X weeks/months.  Think realistically about how long you think it will take, how much time you have available to work on it, and then add two or three weeks to that number so you have a buffer in case life throws you a curve ball.

Now get to work!  You have a revision to do.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

May Pass or Pages Agent Panel



Meet the agents who are going to critique your Adult Historical Fiction entries!




Katelyn Uplinger

After several years of editorial work and positions at multiple literary agencies including Folio Literary Management and Inklings Literary, Katelyn joined D4EO Literary as an agent in 2018. Katelyn enjoys books with unforgettable stories and characters. She searches for books that can transport her to another time or place or teach her something new.  Katelyn loves when a book can grip her emotions enough to make her laugh or cry. While she enjoy happy endings, she doesn’t shy away from dark stories or tragic romances.




Ann Leslie.JPG

Ann Leslie Tuttle

Ann Leslie Tuttle joined DG&B in 2017 after working for 20 years at Harlequin Books where she worked on an extensive and varied list of bestselling and award-winning titles in romance and women’s fiction. She received her B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from the University of Virginia. Helping to grow the careers of established and debut writers has always been Ann Leslie’s passion. Ann Leslie is especially seeking women’s fiction (e.g. relationships, family sagas, historical fiction and psychological thrillers) romance (e.g. romantic comedies, medical romance and contemporaries) and Southern Gothics on the adult fiction side as well as Middle Grade fiction and narrative nonfiction. Ann Leslie lives in New York City with her husband and young daughter, who is just discovering the magic of books and writing.


Category/Genre: Adult Historical Fiction



Details for May 2019 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, May 13 at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Friday, May 17 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS

You can also read more about the rules here.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of May 27, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Bo Kearns Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Ashes in a Coconut by Bo Kearns


1- What's the best part of living in wine country?

Being surrounded by vineyards that evolve throughout the seasons. Similar to New England, leaves change in autumn. The hills turn into a palette of vibrant yellows, deep amber and shades of gold. Winter exposes barren gnarly vines. Spring brings bud break and the proliferation of new growth. Tucked within the foliage are purple clusters of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and green Chardonnay grapes. Its nature at it’s best.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Forget all those ‘to be’ verbs. Drop the proliferation of ‘was.’ Go active. Scream, skip, scramble, sit, stand, smile. Bring the reader into the scene!

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Growing up I attended parochial schools and military academies. I had little exposure to literature. My daughter benefited from a broader education. In her English class she read The Catcher in the Rye. I hadn’t read that classic coming of age story. Holden Caulfield’s quirky honest character drew me in. Never had a book captured me so completely. When I finished I wanted to write like JD Salinger. I wanted to do what he did. I enrolled in a community college creative writing course. The wonderful teacher inspired me. So I kept at it.

4- What is something most people don't know about orangutans?

Humans and orangutans share 97% of their DNA. In 2017, a third species of orangutan, dubbed the Tanapuli was discovered in the rainforest of Sumatra. There are believed to be only 800 in existence. The Tanapuli is the rarest ape on earth.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@Bo_Kearns, and give a shout-out to @csummie and @reynagentin

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book out in nature?

Bo Kearns Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~Ashes in a Coconut~ Book #mustread


7- What's the best thing about keeping bees?🐝

I got into beekeeping for the honey. Now that’s secondary. Bees are in decline worldwide and no one knows why. The insects are responsible for a third of our food. Without bees there would be no melons or juicy mangoes, no crisp apples, no potatoes, no pumpkin pie. And forget that morning coffee and Valentine’s Day box of chocolates. Pantries would be sparse. So in beekeeping, I’m doing my small bit to help bees, and the planet.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

Reading is an important part of writing. I’m always on the prowl for a new book, as in new to me. Often I’ll return to the classics. I have a long ‘to be read’ list. I peruse the NYT Book Review and make a note of reviews that resonate. And when I hear other authors I respect talk about a book, I pay attention.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name:Delia Owens @DeliaOwen
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Love because: Years ago I visited Africa and read Mark & Delia Owens non-fiction The Cry of the Kalahari as preparation for the trip. The story portrayed the challenges of their life in the desert, their love of animals and nature. I recently saw Delia’s debut novel at the bookstore. It’s set in the backwaters of South Carolina. I’m drawn to books with unusual settings. Delia’s detailed descriptions bring the region to life. In Crawdads the protagonist lives alone. There’s not a lot of opportunity for dialogue. The protagonist seeks comfort in nature. Owens does a superb job of portraying that special relationship.


10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

Few other than my editors have read the final version of my novel. When Ashes in a Coconut is released May 15th, I hope the story and the characters will have many fans.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I’m hoping Ashes will evoke an understanding and appreciation of differences. I hope the reader will feel compassion. The story’s not all serious. There are light moments and opportunities to smile. There is a scene I think will resonate with readers. Laura is an expat in a country where she’s not allowed to work. She struggles searching for something meaningful to do. At the local market she spots a baby orangutan for sale, its mother killed by loggers. Her heart goes out to the poor creature and she finds her new passion—saving the endangered primates and their rainforest habitat.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

#stephenking

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

Ashes in a Coconut is a story about the challenge of relationships, and how a culture can affect decisions regarding right and wrong. It’s about betrayal and ultimately redemption. I’m hoping readers relate to the characters and how they deal with these tough issues. Perhaps this might provide the courage and fortitude to cope with difficult situations in their own lives. And there’s an underlying theme about the environment. I’m hoping readers pick up on that, too.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Gunadi is the bank’s controller. He wears thick glasses and has a twitch in his right eye. Whenever he gets nervous, the twitch becomes more apparent.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Nissam is a cook in the household. He’s gay. When he goes missing, Laura frets. He returns badly beaten. The police raided a party, Nissam ran, stumbled and was subjected to the blows of fists and batons. Laura nurses his wounds. Through his eyes, she experiences the good and the not so good of her adopted country.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Dru’s Book Musings drusbookmusing.com/

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

Querying agents is a frustrating yet necessary part of the process. Rejections gave me pause, yet made me more determined. Along the way my writing got better; and so did the manuscript. Without the name recognition of a Kardashian, I realized agents weren’t going to take me on. I didn’t seriously consider self-publishing. I think that works best for memoir, tough for fiction. And I wanted validation. So I turned to a small press. I’m glad I did.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

The process of writing a review presents an opportunity for readers to reflect. What did the story mean to me? It expands the community of readers and provides for an exchange of ideas. Reviews keep writers honest. Good reviews encourage; meaningful critiques help the writer get better. And reviews sell books.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

The interview covers a range of topics. Rather than focus on one, I look forward to hearing from readers as to which question or topic piqued their interest.

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Blurb for Ashes in a Coconut:



In 1983, Laura Harrison, fashion designer, sets aside her career and follows her banker husband Jack to Indonesia to save her marriage. Once there she experiences feelings of unease and haunting premonitions. When her premonitions become reality, events spin out of control.

Excerpt:

Bo Kearns Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome


In the blistering noonday sun, Laura Harrison stood outside the Denpasar International Airport and fingered the beads on her necklace. Her damp silk blouse clung to her body. In the humidity her red hair curled so that she resembled an adult Little Orphan Annie. She fanned her face wishing she’d worn a wide-brimmed straw hat. And yet she shouldn’t have minded the discomfort; she was in Bali. Still, she fretted. The island paradise was only a stopover en route to Jakarta. There she would be beginning a new life in a place she’d never been, leaving everything behind to save her marriage.
Her husband, tall and broad-shouldered, stood beside her. He wore a tropical shirt and exuded confidence.
“Jack, can you hail a cab—preferably one with air conditioning.”
“Good luck with that,” he said.
Before he could raise his hand, a taxi with the car windows rolled down, pulled up to the curb. Laura grimaced as they climbed in. With their bags in the trunk, they made their way through narrow streets; discreet shrines graced with small floral offerings dotted the roadside. In the distance, young green rice paddies terraced the mountain. After a half hour they arrived at the Seminyak Kebun Resort where a vast manicured lawn and swaying palm trees welcomed them.
“How beautiful!” Laura said. Her spirits rose. “The perfect place for a second honeymoon.”
Jack smiled and took her hand.
The couple walked into the large open-air lobby. At the registration desk Laura noticed blossoms in a small woven palm-leaf tray. She picked one up and inhaled the fragrance.
“It’s an offering to keep away evil spirits,” the clerk said.
“Oh,” Laura exclaimed. She set the flower down and moved away.
Laura and Jack followed the bellboy to a thatched-roof bungalow that fronted onto a tranquil beach. Inside a four-poster bed covered with mosquito netting dominated the room. Paintings of colorful birds hung on the walls.
Laura walked around admiring, touching. The bathroom, open to the sky, was outside in a small garden. White and purple orchids proliferated, and a showerhead shaped like a dolphin extended from the rock wall. Then Laura noticed movement off to the side. A hammock swung though the air was perfectly still. She got goose bumps watching it. Hugging her arms across her chest, she rushed inside.

Bo Kearns Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Bio:



Bo Kearns, journalist and writer of fiction, is the author of Ashes in a Coconut, a novel set in Indonesia where he lived for three years. He is a feature writer with NorthBay biz magazine and the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper. Several of his short stories have won awards and been published. He is a certified UC Naturalist, beekeeper, avid hiker and supporter of conservation causes. He lives in the wine country of Sonoma with his wife and rescue dog, Jake.


Ashes in a Coconut by Bo Kearns

Monday, May 6, 2019

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Reflections

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary Reflections badge


J: I'm the only one to have done the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge as part of the OA team before. But we worked together to pick our theme and divide up the alphabet and commenting duties between all of us. We picked up the slack for each other. There were great brainstorms. I think it was the best effort yet! I'm really proud of this team and so glad we took on the challenge.

Karis: Working on my posts for the #AtoZChallenge this year is, I think, what showed me I was stretched too thin. Which is ironic, considering one of my posts is literally about "striking the right balance" and not being stretched thing. I learned that even when I drop the ball, the team here at Operation Awesome is there to pick it up and be incredibly supportive. They're some of the best.

Nathaniel: If you do this next year as part of a team, *don't sign up to write three articles in a row.* Learn from my past mistakes. But in all seriousness, I learned a lot from the posts that my teammates wrote and it was fun to talk with everyone after the articles went live. The interviews were interesting and great to participate in too--it was cool to learn about the people I work with.

Kate: I really enjoyed visiting all the other blogs to see what other people were writing about.  There were some really fascinating topics, some great long-running fiction series and some great advice being given.  I feel like I learned a lot from being a part of it all.  I also loved working with the OA team to figure out what we each would write about and how the posts would fit together.

Amren: A to Z helped me realize that I want to pursue further education in writing. I'm not sure what or how yet, but it's now firmly on my radar. I really appreciate all of the help I got from the OA team to write my posts. I'm glad I had other writers to bounce ideas off and talk about posts beforehand. Oh, and I learned that erotic fiction blogs are a thing. I don't know why this was news to me.

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

Saturday, May 4, 2019

New Member Wanted! #writingcommunity #authors

Our dear team member, Karis, is moving on in June to pursue other opportunities. We'll miss her dearly, but wish her all the best.

This means we have a hole to fill!

Operation Awesome supports everyone in the writing and publishing journey, no matter what stage they're at. If you're ready and willing to help others, now is the time. Give back to the writing community. Join us!

Please fill out the form here:

https://forms.gle/dMfhzHbYEFWR4G6TA



Please spread the word.

Operation Awesome May 2019 ~ New Member Wanted! #writingcommunity #authors

Friday, May 3, 2019

#QueryFriday


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 5/5 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Help! I Have Writer's Block

Dear O'Abby,

I've been working on a novel for a while now (not my first) and I've reached a point that I just don't seem to get past.  I'm an outliner, so the part of the story makes sense in my outline, but I just can't seem to write it.  I've never really believed in writer's block, but I feel like I do now.

Do you have any ideas what I could do to get over this?

Thanks,

Blocked

Dear Blocked,

I believe very strongly that writer's block is your brain's way of telling you you're going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing. So I tend to pay attention.  The team at the back of my brain is often way ahead of the guys up front.

In this case, where you've outlined the plot points but the writing still isn't coming, I think this is even more likely to be true.  Something in there is telling you this is the wrong direction for the story to take, or that the characters wouldn't be true to themselves if they did that particular thing or things.

My advice would be to step away from this story for a while and write something else.  I find I often figure out how to fix problems with one MS by moving on to work on another or by writing a short story that's totally unrelated.

But if you're on a deadline, you can just skip this part of the book and move ahead to a point in the story where you don't feel stuck.  Maybe through writing the rest of the book, you'll figure out what needs to happen in that particular sticky spot.

Good luck!

X O'Abby


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lillian Clark's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark


1- Should higher education be free, or affordable, to everyone, in your opinion?

I absolutely believe higher education should be affordable (if not free) for everyone who seeks it. The cost of college, especially in America, is a monumental issue. With exorbitant expenses keeping students out and others graduating with astronomical amounts of student loan debt, it's an issue that spans multiple generations now. I'm also a big believer in supporting people who know college isn't the right fit for them and encouraging people to learn trades. We know that investing in education is the same as investing in our future, and something needs to change.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

READ! That's my go to #writetip. Read everything, for what not to do and what to do. Read inside your age rage/genre and without. Read.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I grew up in a family that loves books and are always reading, so being a reader was pretty ingrained. But I didn't start writing seriously until I was 20, when an idea popped into my head that I couldn't ignore. I dug into the and never looked back!

4- Stapler! How did the movie Office Space influence your book?

Yes! Stapler! Haha. I love that. Office Space definitely influenced me. I love that movie, especially how they do this serious (illegal) thing inside of a comedy. Nari's plan to skim funds is directly inspired by it (which she mentions when she tells the group about her plan), and there's even a red stapler Easter egg in the book at one point.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

I'm @lillianjclark on twitter, and I couldn't have made it through debuting without my fellow 2019 debut friends @erinhahn_author, @JL_Dugan, and @KellyCoon106. Truly, I have met so many amazing people through this process and could list 10 more fabulous people, but these three women have kept me sane. Check out their books You'd Be Mine (out now), Hot Dog Girl (4/30), and Gravemaidens (10/29)!

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book somewhere fun and young? (Or with a Zamboni because it's just not every day we encounter someone who has driven one...)

Lillian Clark's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ B&N bookstore on release day
Oh my gosh I wish I had a picture of Immoral Code with a Zamboni!! That'd be awesome, haha. (Challenge accepted.) Until then, here's a pic of me visiting it in a Barnes & Noble on release day!

7- What do you think is the biggest difference in writing for teens and YA today versus thirty years ago?

This is a GREAT question. I'm not an expert on what would've been considered YA 30 years ago, but I think it's changed a lot. For one, the market is enormous now, which has a range of effects on what's written and how it's sold, including the ongoing discussions about who should read YA (whoever wants to!) and who it's written for (TEENS). But apart from that, and while it's inevitably imperfect, I think YA does so much to push boundaries in literature. YA is filled with massively talented voices, increasingly telling stories that need to be told. It's also entertaining and engaging and so wildly creative. All (hopefully) while respecting the experiences, interests, and needs of its intended audience, teens.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

Hmm. My mood? Haha. I love to read eclectically, across age ranges and genres, fiction and nonfiction, and I love learning new things, so I tend to pick up whatever strikes my fancy in the moment! My tbr pile is eternally daunting, so I pick up whatever interest me most in the moment. Right now I'm finishing up INTERNMENT by Samira Ahmed (which is terrifying and brilliant), then I'm hoping to read THE TENTH GIRL by Sara Faring next, and I am beyond excited.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: @thatlauraruby
Title: BONE GAP
Love because: This book is flat-out brilliant. It's weird and beautiful and so incredibly creative. It's one of those books that I never seem to have a copy of because every time I get one, I give it away. And Ruby's writing is the kind that challenges me to be a better writer. I adore it.

Author name: @pronounced_ing
Title: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE
Love because: This is the kind of book that makes me think "How did she do that??" the whole time I'm reading. Celeste Ng is a master. Her craft is awe inspiring.

Author name: @adriennebooks
Title: SKY IN THE DEEP
Love because: One of my recent absolute favorites, the moment I finished SKY IN THE DEEP, I turned back to the beginning and started reading it again, which is something I almost never do. I cannot wait to read her next book.

Truly, I could go on forever, but these three come immediately to mind.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My mom, haha. This will probably always be true. But, I also received my first fan mail the other day, and WOW. If I could bottle up that feeling and keep it on my shelf, I would. It was magnificent. The reader mentioned especially loving the gray areas in IMMORAL CODE, how what's "right" and "wrong" get pretty blurry and no one is a clear villain. The message absolutely made my day, week, month.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

Great question. I've thought about this a lot actually. And while I hope readers laugh and that their hearts race a little, I mostly hope that they leave my book feeling happy. I think the last scene does this. Other than that, I hope readers think about those gray areas from the last question. There's a scene in the middle where tensions come to a head, and I'd love if readers consider what they'd do faced with a similar moral circumstance.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I am perpetually amazed by bookstagrammers. The photos are so creative and beautiful! I especially love CG Drew's paperfury account because they're always so colorful.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

Honestly, I hope my book helps readers by giving them a little joy. When I started writing Immoral Code, I'd come off of failing to sell a heavy dystopian manuscript, and I wanted to switch things up and write something fast-paced and fun. So, while I hope readers think about bigger moral questions and issues like the cost of college and income inequality, what I ultimately want is for readers to leave my book feeling good. These characters love and support each other unconditionally, and I hope some of that rubs off.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Reese's hair!! She dyes it a number of times in the book, often colors to reflect how she's feels about her life and the heist itself.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Nari is Japanese American (her mother is white and her father is 6th generation Japanese), Santiago is second generation Mexican American, Reese is white and acearo, and Bellamy and Keagan are both white. It's really important to me as a writer to try and reflect the reality that we live in a diverse world. I feel like I'm constantly learning about other perspectives and experiences, continually reminding myself that my point of view is only one small window. Books are such a brilliant way to experience others' points of view, and as a reader I love the opportunity to "walk in someone else's shoes."

16- Who is your favorite Meme?

I am in LOVE with the new Daenerys condescending smile meme from Game of Thrones. I worked in customer service for a lot of years, and I feel like I've made that exact face too many times to count, haha.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I've always wanted to publish traditionally. For me, it's having a team of people behind me. Writing can be pretty solitary, but publishing with a traditional house means you have an agent and editor and copyeditors and so on all there with you. I love the collaborative aspect of that.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Reviews are so important! One, because what reader doesn't like to talk about books? And reviews are a great space for readers to share what they loved (or didn't) about a book. Also, reviews are SO helpful for authors. Sites like Amazon use review-based algorithms that impact where that book "sits" on their digital shelves, so the more reviews the better.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Ooo! Good one! I'd love readers to talk about how they feel about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. This is the core moral quandary of the book, and I think it's a great one to discuss! Is doing something objectively wrong excusable if you're doing it for the "right" reasons?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Lillian Clark's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Thank you so much for having me! And I hope anyone who's loves multi-POVs, ride or die friend groups, and their heists steeped in moral quandaries, will check out Immoral Code! You can read an excerpt, add to Goodreads, or order from wherever books are sold, right here:

https://www.getunderlined.com/books/568056/immoral-code-by-lillian-clark/

And make sure to follow me @lillianjclark on twitter and @lillianclarkauthor on Instagram for updates on what's next!


Immoral Code by Lillian Clark

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

#AtoZChallenge Zhush it Up! and May 2019 #PassOrPages Details



#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter


Zhush it Up!

Well, friends, we did it - we made it to the end of April! We here at Operation Awesome hope you’ve learned something from our posts this month, something that’ll help you zhush your writing, your outlook, your mental health, whatever it may be. 

Okay for real it's a real word. 

Sometimes also spelled zhoosh, what we’re talking about here is incrementally making things better with little adjustments. It’s a hard word to pin down, but I’m pretty sure I first heard it on Queer Eye. It's these types of adjustments that we focused on with our A to Z theme of the Writing Journey. So, to recap, here's a categorized list of our posts from this month:


Zhush is an ongoing process, and we hope you'll be able to find some ways to zhush up your writing. If you feel you're ready to take that to the next level, you're in luck, because the next round of Pass or Pages is coming up! Enter the contest here on our blog for a chance to get a critique on your query letter and first 250 words from agents who will either pass on your work or request pages. Either way, you'll get valuable feedback to help you continue that zhush!




So, without further ado, the genre for May 2019 Pass or Pages is...

Adult Historical Fiction

Here are the important dates for this round:

May 7th: Agent panel announcement
May 13th-17th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
May 27th-31st: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Best of luck, and thank you for following along with us this April!

Interested in joining the Operation Awesome team? Click here!


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Monday, April 29, 2019

#AtoZchallenge Young Adult




The first thing to remember when talking about Young Adult in relation to books is that YA is not a genre, but an age-group. YA books are available across genres – fantasy, literary, mystery, sci-fi, contemporary – just the same as adult books.

What makes a book YA is the age of its protagonists and its appeal to readers of the same or similar age. While there are some arguments about exactly what age this is, personally I would say anywhere from around 14 –19 would sit comfortably within YA. Which is not to say that any book with a protagonist of this age is a YA book....

Confusing, huh?

YA books tend to have a coming-of-age theme, regardless of genre. Protagonists often experience first love, first sexual experience or come to terms with something about themselves they discover in the course of the book.

Historically, the YA category only really came into existence in the 1960s. At that time, YA tended to focus on contemporary stories dealing with the kind of social issues and problems young people were facing. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is widely considered the first YA book despite Salinger not intending it to be for young adults. Its popularity among the 12 –18 age-group urged other writers to explore writing for this age-group and a new category was born.

Over the years the category has grown and changed, and continues to do so. Which is important because the world we live in is constantly changing and the problems and concerns young people are facing today are complex and different to the ones they were facing in years gone by. Perhaps this finger on the pulse of modern society is the reason why so many adults are reading books aimed at teens.

But what really makes a book YA is its ‘voice’. YA books are often written in the first person to allow the reader to really get into the head of the protagonist, see the world through their eyes and feel what they are feeling. And those feelings are teen feelings, the perspective on the world one that a teenager would recognize.

I am a YA writer myself, and I always find myself falling back into that teen perspective, even when what I start out working on is supposed to be for adults. I believe strongly that the teen years are the most important, the time you become the person you will be for the rest of your life. It’s the period in which you try on personalities, develop tastes and discover the beliefs that will guide you through your adult years. It’s the time you develop significant relationships outside your own family.

It’s a confusing and messy time and any little event can invoke a massive emotional response.

As an author, this is dynamic material to work with. Teens are such a contradictory mixture of child and adult and there can be a huge range of maturity levels, even within a single group of friends, and those are compelling voices for an author to play with. And these days, with YA publishers willing to publish books on increasingly difficult subjects, it’s an opportunity to really make a difference, to share stories that teenagers can relate to and see themselves in.


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Saturday, April 27, 2019

#AtoZchallenge Xesturgy






Yes, I know the dictionary defines xesturgy as polishing, as with stones, but in this case we’re looking at polishing your writing. Think of each word in your story as a stone, diamonds maybe, or rubies or opals, and imagine polishing each one until it shines.

Polishing is the last step for your manuscript before it’s ready to go out into the world. It’s also a very important step.

By the time you get to polishing, you should have already done the hard work, fixing plot holes, finding continuity errors, character inconsistencies and fixing any tense or grammar issues. Now it’s time to tighten things up to make them sing.

When I’m polishing, I like to look for overused words and replace or remove them where possible. Common culprits are words like ‘just’, ‘think’, ‘really’, ‘very’, ‘quite’, ‘that’, ‘as’, and ‘then’, but everyone has their own crutch words. Do your characters nod or shrug far more often than regular people? Change it up. Give them other actions.

Removing unnecessary adverbs will also strengthen your prose. If your characters are talking loudly or moving slowly, why not find stronger verbs to describe these things, like shouting or meandering? Also look for things that are obvious within the context. A character doesn’t need to sit down on the floor, just sit on the floor - the down is implied.

If you have a lot of dialogue in your text, check your dialogue tags. Said is the best tag because it tends to be virtually invisible to readers while words like ‘declared’ or ‘trumpeted’ draw attention to themselves. But even ‘said’ becomes noticeable when it’s overused, so if you have a lot of dialogue, try to get rid of some tags by using action to indicate who is speaking.

Eg. “My mother’s coming this weekend.” Jade rolled her eyes.

Dale returned the gesture. “I feel your pain.”

The other thing to check when polishing is your punctuation. Do you overuse certain things like exclamation marks, ellipses or semi-colons? Do you sprinkle commas liberally, but miss their proper placement every time? Reading aloud will help you find misplaced commas and other wonky punctuation because the rhythm will be off.

Reading aloud will also help you figure out if all your sentences tend to be of similar length and construction. To keep writing dynamic, you need sentences of differing lengths and styles. If you find you have a whole lot of really long ones, try chopping them up and making several shorter ones. This is especially useful in action scenes where shorter, punchier sentences create the feeling of action.

By the time you have done all these things, your manuscript should be shining like a diamond necklace.

What are your favourite tips for the xesturgy stage of your project?

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Friday, April 26, 2019

#AtoZChallenge World Building




World Building

Hello friends! Our A-Z topic for today is world building. Rather than write another how-to guide (because let’s be honest, the internet is full of them…and I don’t want to write another how-to guide) I’m going to talk about the world building in one of my favorite fantasy series, the SEVEN REALMS series by Cinda Williams Chima.

The Demon King cover   The Exiled Queen cover   The Gray Wolf Throne cover   The Crimson Crown cover

SEVEN REALMS is a YA fantasy series of four books that take place in the Seven Realms (surprise), primarily the Queendom of the Fells. I often use this series as a reference for CPs who write fantasy because I think the world building is full, meaningful, and well-woven into the narrative. Also they’re awesome and I almost brought them to Europe with me but hardcover is heavy.

Classes

There are very clear differences between the lives the main characters experience. Raisa is a member of the royal family, and Han is a former gang member trying to straighten up. The river that runs through the city is highly polluted, a source of tension for Han and something Raisa doesn’t really need to worry about. Han struggles to get medicine for his family when they get sick, but Raisa has the best healers in the realm at her beck and call. Raisa is aloof to the issues her people face on a daily basis, things Han has to deal with or die. When she attempts to fix some of these issues, she’s met with real pushback from people who’d rather see the status quo stay the same.

Even with the obvious disparity between Raisa and Han, there are public works and efforts made to assist those in the lower parts of society. Basic education – reading, writing, history, etc. – is free and open to all. More focused studies can be undertaken at academies, although those require payment of tuition and may not be available to everyone. Ultimately these things act as beacons of hope for the characters at the lowest levels of society, which is something a ruler needs to prevent total breakdown of society. It sounds cynical, but it’s true – and it plays a major role in the plot. Keep in mind that, in a fantasy world, there are hundreds or thousands of civilians and only a dozen members of the royal family, conditions that are ripe for rebellion of the situation calls for it.

Factions

When I was fourteen, I went to a writing seminar Chima held and she gave me the best writing advice I've ever received: Every character should have a goal. This is clear in the way the various factions in SEVEN REALMS interact. Wizards, clans, military, royals, gang members, students, people who straddle the line between groups - there are so many factions, and they're all at odds. Balancing a great deal of goals is a difficult task. Sometimes, you can find a temporary common ground and forge an uneasy truce between warring groups. Those are the best opportunities for back-stabbery (muahaha). Make a clear outline or list of what each character wants, and what their faction wants. When those things are at odds, it creates excellent internal conflict.

Magic

The magic system in SEVEN REALMS is, in my opinion, exceptional. Magic is inborn, passed down through magical lines of heritage. All wizards have a magical “aura,” a sort of glow that can be seen and identified by other wizards, but not by non-wizards. This aura is the magic being exuded by the wizard; if the wizard does not store the magic in an amulet, it can overwhelm them. Amulets store a limited amount of magic and gradually fade in power over time, requiring the wizards to return to the clans for their amulets to be recharged.

Spells require study to master. The difficulty of a spell – whether it’s the distance at which it’s cast or the amount of work it does – determines how much magic it requires. A wizard who completely drains their amulet and the magic in their person can find themselves incredibly weakened, possibly to the point of being unable to stand. In addition to wizards’ magic, there’s also “green magic,” which is centered around the earth and living things. It’s not as powerful, but it can still accomplish many things. These limitations make the magic seem real.

Having a magic system with well-defined limitations sets the stage for conflict, whether it’s between characters or between characters and the magic system itself. There will always be those who want to test the limits of magic, like Voldemort or Morgoth, which can introduce a great source of tension and mystery. Defining your magic system also makes sure that your characters don’t become gods who can magic themselves out of any sticky situation, bring someone back from the dead, or change time. Without limits, magic becomes a game where anything goes.

Weather

I’m including this because it’s something I often forget about in my writing. In SEVEN REALMS, the characters have to contend with harsh weather like the snow and bitter cold of mountain passes, or rain that echoes so loudly on the roof you can’t hear yourself think. The first book even starts with a mountain fire. Not every day has to be that dramatic, but consider how much weather affects your daily life – it’s probably more than you’d think. How many times have you brought an umbrella, only to not need it? Weather and climate should carry the same weight for your characters.

Trust

The later books get into a mess of political dealings. Han and Raisa struggle to balance allegiances, debt, assassination attempts, and a lot more. I mention this because so often, I see characters who have stabbed one another in the back and then a few pages later turn around and become best friends again. Characters in these books take time to rebuild those relationships. They need proof of loyalty before trust can be given again, which for some characters takes the span of an entire book. Keep this in mind when characters break one another's trust. You can't just pick up the broken pieces and put the glass back together again.

Things are just…real

Same-sex relationships aren’t unusual. One of the characters is a teenage single mom. Characters deal with the difficulties of being biracial. There are characters with physical disabilities. I’m not saying all of these characters are represented perfectly – I certainly can’t speak for all of them – but the fact that they’re there speaks to the diversity of the world and the realness of the people, and ultimately that speaks to me.

Thank you for reading my fangirl thesis, I'll be here all week.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

#AtoZchallenge Vacation from Your Writing



#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter V


Vacation from Your Writing

Is it a good idea or a bad one to take a vacation from your writing? Some experts say that you should write every day. Even if it's just one line! That's not exactly what I'm talking about here.

Sometimes you're working on a manuscript. It seems done. Maybe. Maybe that scene in chapter five needs to be redone. Maybe that one character should be a different gender. Why do none of the characters have green hair? Is there enough diversity? That scar on the cheek, is it a cliché? 

That's when I suggest a vacation. Just back it up using two different methods and step away.

Go write a poem. Edit another project. Work on your social media following. Just go do something else for a month. Leave yourself post-it notes or .txt files if you must. But don't open that manuscript.

Once the 30 days have passed, then reread everything. Better yet, have someone read it to you. (Or use a text-to-speech like wordcounter.net.) You can take notes during the reading, but don't edit yet. Wait one more day. Get one more sleep cycle in. Let your brain process. Then make a copy of the manuscript and change the font to something drastically different. It is proven that you'll edit better with a different font.

Image Meme change font text for editing #writetip

Thanks to Addi Jones for finding this meme for me again.


Then resume working on it. It's the same with making big pieces of meat. Heat, rest, carve, then eat. You have to let them set before you cut into them. It's ruined otherwise. (For the vegetarians: it's as important as athletes taking a rest day between training sessions.)

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