The Beautiful Truth with Susan Wingate


Here, where I sit this morning, the white noise of the den’s wall heater competes to block out a songbird’s melancholy call, one that starts out hopeful on a high note but then falls in three lonely steps. Or maybe something about me, about my mood only thinks the singing sounds sad.

You can never trust a narrator. Subjectivity always takes precedence over fact with fiction writers.

And! A crafty narrator will tell you one thing all the while leading you in the direction they want to lead, only to pull the rug out from under you when they switch it up, giving you the real kernel and reason for their writing.

I love that. Don’t you?

Storytelling can be such a joy. An idea can come out in stream of consciousness thinking albeit through some pretty constrained ideas developed in your outline. Or your ideas can flow easily with much thought and preparation given to each sentence. Either way, the path on which the reader steps their first foot should be one full of turns and surprises, hills and dips with the road awash with branches and boulders so that it would be impossible to know what might be ahead.

And beauty! There must exist some sense of reality:

That thin waxy shard of paper, the one skipping down the road on a blast of hot wind from the wheel of a honking yellow cab passing by, the one looking a lot like the color of a little girl’s ponytail ribbon and surely smelling like bubble gum, if one were ever brave enough to pick it up off the hot crumbled tarry street and press it to their nose… surely that waxy-looking scrap of paper would smell of that childhood chewy delight.

And attitude! The narrator, that usual liar we’ll find at the keyboard, must own some sense of attitude. How does the narrator feel on this particular day? Did she just realize her new beau will be marrying someone else in the next few months and she must coordinate the wedding plans? As is the premise in The Wedding Planner. If that’s the case, how does she feel? Is she angry? Yes! Spitefully so at first. Is she hurt? Yes, a little later when she realizes that the one guy in the world she is attracted to is in love with someone else. Does she feel defeated? You bet she does, to the point that she’s going to marry some other guy that she has absolutely zero attraction to but knows is a pretty nice fellow.

In each phase of her changing moods, our character will see things differently. In her angry mood, her dialogue AND narrative will be borne of sarcasm and annoyance. In her hurt mood, her dialogue and narrative will be borne of longing and loss. And, finally, in her defeated mood, she will seem apathetic and numb. But, in each of these phases the reader must get a sense of what she’s feeling through her actions and words.

We want to see her puff out her chest in defiance when she’s angry.

We want to see her crying when she’s sad.

And, we want to see her shoulders slump when she’s given up.

In any of these situations, the writers responsibility lies in how well we can paint the picture. How well we can see the scene for ourselves–smell that bubble gum, taste it, hear the cars, touch the wax of the paper, see the wind tossing the paper about–will be the beauty the readers will see and remember for years to come.

Now, excuse me while I push my body out of this infernal sofa, limp over to the thermostat and turn off the heater–the one making all that blasted noise, blocking out my somber bird’s mate as it calls back to him. So, that I can hear the beauty outside and perhaps, write about it.

My links are:, My Facebook page is:!/

Award-winning bestselling author, SUSAN WINGATE, is co-host of the very popular talk radio show, DIALOGUE: BETWEEN THE LINES. Susan has written nine novels, two short story collections, a few plays, one screenplay and tons of poems. SACRIFICE AT SEA, her latest novel is slated for publication in the fall of 2011. Susan teaches six writing workshops that she offers around the country. Her sometimes dark and always R-rated amateur sleuth series entitled The Bobby’s Diner Series has received fabulous reviews and has won three finalist awards in national and international book competitions. Susan’s pseudonyms include, Myah Lin (literary fiction) and JJ Adams (noir mystery).


Melissa, thank you so much for taking the time to visit Manic Readers!

Ivy, thank you for hosting this interview. I appreciate your time and truly enjoy reaching out to and chatting with readers.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure could you please tell us a bit about MEGAN’S WAY and CHASING AMANDA?

Thank you for asking. Megan’s Way was named Finalist in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and is currently being adapted for film. Filming is set to begin this summer. Megan’s Way is a very personal story to me, because the idea of the story stemmed from a real event in my life. Megan’s Way begs the question; What would you give up for the people you love?

One woman’s journey, her daughter’s will to survive, and a circle of friends shrouded in secrets.

Chasing Amanda is my newest release, mystery/women’s fiction crossover. It’s every mother’s worst nightmare, dealing with child abduction. The story is driven by the main character’s past. Molly Tanner observed a little girl’s abduction, without realizing what she’d seen. The child is later found murdered. Molly escapes the memories of the busy city and moves to the small town of Boyds, Maryland. Nine years later, a seven-year-old girl is abducted from her community, and Molly must face her past, and is driven to search for the child, risking her life, and her marriage.

One child murdered, another missing. One woman’s search uncovers another side to this small town, where the residents, and the land itself, hold potentially lethal secrets.

While most authors stick to writing along the same line your books are diverse. Is there a particular reason for this?

I write the stories that come to me. As lame as that sounds, it’s really the truth. When I think of what my next book will be, I don’t think in terms of genres or what’s expected of me. I simply have ideas for interesting, emotional stories, and I follow their path.

Congratulations on MEGAN’S WAY being made into a movie. Brief snippet of your reaction when you found out, please.

I think I screamed as soon as I hung up the phone, possibly before hanging up. I jumped for joy. I cried. I laughed. I think I ran around the house in circles, to be honest, yelling, “Oh my god! Oh my god!” shaking my hands, and unable to tell my family because I was in shock. My body shook and became very cold, covered in goosebumps. I’m being serious.

Too funny..

Are you keeping control, a la Rowling, or do you have very little, if any, say in the film?

I’m keeping the rights and control, but I will probably defer to my director, Wendy Crouse, who is fantastic. I feel very strongly that the integrity of the book remain in tact. Luckily, Wendy’s vision, and my vision, are in complete alignment.

That has to make it easier..

What exactly is the ‘Women’s Nest”?

The Women’s Nest is a social and support community for women that I founded in 2007. I wanted a place where all women, regardless of where they lived, what they believed in, or any other factor that makes each of us unique, would fit in and feel welcome. It’s a community where women can escape the chaos of everyday life, establish friendships, and share advice. We are lucky enough to have a physician and financial expert who donate their time, as well as a health/nutrition expert.

Sounds like a fun place….

You’re also a painter? Do you have a preferred style?

I haven’t painted for a few years, but I like to paint for children. I’ve donated six murals to the Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. I enjoy making people smile, and art was one way I was able to do that.

What do you find similar/different about writing and painting. They’re both creative outlets, but do you find that each one satisfies a unique artistic urge?

That’s a really interesting question. Yes, actually, writing satisfies all of the “friends” I have meandering around in my brain vying for attention, while art is more like…bringing my thoughts to life in a different realm. When I paint, I create images that are typically more fanciful, without backgrounds or goals, simply happy thoughts in color.

Can you give any hints on your current book in progress?

I love my current work-in-progress! Thank you for asking. Come Back To Me is an international love story/tragedy. Below is a rough summary:

Tess Johnson has it all, handsome photographer husband, Beau, a thriving business, and a newly discovered pregnancy. When Beau accepts an overseas photography assignment, Tess decides to wait to reveal her secret—only she’s never given the chance. Beau’s helicopter crashes in the desert.

As Tess struggles to put her life back together, a new client appears, offering more than just a new project, and to make matters even more complicated, she can no longer hide her pregnancy.

Meanwhile, two Iraqi women who are fleeing Honor Killings find Beau alive, his body ravaged, in the middle of the desert. Suha, a doctor, and Samira, a widow and mother of three young children, nurse him back to health in a makeshift tent. Beau bonds with the women and children, and together, with the help of an underground organization, they continue their dangerous escape.

What happens next is a test of loyalties, strength, and love.

That sounds really good…I’ll have to keep a watch for it.

Is there anything that’s a “must have” to get those creative juices flowing?

A bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream with a brownie, whipped cream, and chocolate sprinkles would be ideal. In lieu of that I need music, sunlight, and time. Lots and lots of time. I write from 9am – 2pm Monday-Friday (most weeks). I leave my computer only under duress. I don’t write from June 15-September 1. That time is dedicated to my children and rejuvenating my mind.

Do you have a favorite book and movie?

Yes, my favorite movies are Mama Mia and Dirty Dancing. I’m sure I should come up with a more influential movies, but I like happy things, and both of those movies make me smile.

As for books, I have many favorites. Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, by Lisa See was beautifully written. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Seibold touched on paranormal aspects that are right up my alley. Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Varghese was beautifully scripted. A Thousands Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini drew me in from page one and had me hooked until the end.

Current read?

Unfortunately, between writing my next manuscript and marketing my new release (Chasing Amanda), the film for Megan’s Way, and maintaining The Women’s Nest—and family—I have very little time to read. I usually make it through my Women’s Nest book club selection each month and not much else.

I just finished reading The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and I’m starting Think Twice.

Thanks so much for chatting with Manic Readers today. I’ve enjoyed it.

Melissa’s MEGAN’S WAY has won the following awards since our interview. Congrats Melissa! CHASING AMANDA has been nominated for an award also.

Megan’s Way
2011 Beach Book Award Winner (Spirituality)
2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist (Spirituality)
Nominated Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Award 2011 (Winners TBD summer 2011)
Chasing Amanda
Nominated Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Award 2011 (Winners TBD summer 2011)

FYI y’all, Melissa is giving away a KINDLE….follow the link below for all the details!

Ivy, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with your readers. I am always happy to discuss books and writing, or to answer questions from your readers.

Anytime Melissa.

Jeanne Matthews introduces Dinah Pelerin

Jeanne thanks so much for taking the time to visit with Manic Readers.

I’m delighted to have the opportunity.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, could you please give us a bit on BONES OF CONTENTION and BET YOUR BONES?

BONES OF CONTENTION is a twist on the classic manor house mystery.  It takes place in a remote lodge in the Northern Territory of Australia and introduces the character of Dinah Pelerin, a wannabe anthropologist with a yen for travel, a passion for mythology, and a large family of conniving South Georgia eccentrics.  The patriarch has summoned the clan Down Under where he intends to rewrite his will and die by assisted suicide.  Dinah hopes that he will finally tell her the truth about the mysterious death of her father when she was a child.  But when she arrives, she’s confronted by a more urgent mystery.  A man has been murdered on a nearby island, impaled on the back of a sea turtle, and the police think her family had something to do with it.  As deception piles on top of deception, Dinah gets a crash course in Aboriginal art and mythology, the nefarious song lines of her ancestors, the Australian lingo called “Strine,” and the unorthodox methods of an Aussie policeman who refers to himself as the “chief walloper” in the Territory.

In BET YOUR BONES Dinah travels to Hawaii for the wedding of her best friend from Georgia.  This is the second time Dinah has played maid of honor for this bride and, after what happened the last time, she can’t help but feel nervous.  The bride has bet her heart that she’s found the right man at last, but Dinah’s not so sure.  Her husband-to-be is nearly twice her age and his first wife dived off a cliff to her death in suspicious circumstances that no one will talk about.  In addition, the groom has infuriated a group of Native Hawaiians who claim that the sacred bones of an ancestral king are buried on a piece of property he plans to sell.  Their leader, an unreconstructed worshipper of the fire goddess Pele, hates him for that and for more personal reasons she refuses to disclose. The groom’s son warns that the marriage would be a big mistake and his daughter reveals that her father was once accused of rape.  Meanwhile, the bride’s ex-husband is sending her threatening letters and Pele is shaking the Big Island with a series of earthquakes.  When somebody shoves a member of the wedding party into a flow of molten lava and both the bride and the groom become suspects, Dinah has to unmask the killer if her friend is ever to find happiness.  The fact that Dinah is, herself, part Native American gives her a sympathetic connection to the Native Hawaiians, as it did to the Aborigines in the previous book, and enables her to find out secrets the police cannot.

What’s a typical working day like for you?  Do you have a routine or just go with it when it strikes?

I write every day, but with no set hours.  I tend to be most productive early in the morning and late at night.  The middle part of the day fills up with chores and distractions.

Is there anything special you need to coax your muse?

When someone asked Tennessee Williams that question, he shot back, “My muse shows up when I tell him to.”  If Tennessee was telling the truth, which he sometimes did, then I envy him.  My muse is a lazy slacker who would fritter away the day playing online Scrabble or corresponding with distant cousins and far-away friends if given the chance.  She has to be stoked on caffeine, reminded sternly of the deadline, and lashed regularly.

There’s online Scrabble?  I have a hard time getting anyone to play Scrabble or Swoggle with me…

Who’s in control, you or the characters?  Has Dinah or anyone else ever taken off on a tangent you didn’t plan and changed the course of the story?

Dinah is an impetuous character.  She hates waiting for people to arrive with explanations or information.  She’s apt to jump to conclusions and strike out in a fever with no clear plan.  When she does go off the reservation and ends up in an unforeseen situation, it complicates the plot – sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not-so-good way.  My editor advises me to control my “inner Gothic,” by which I think she means my tendency to give Dinah and her Southern cohorts too free a rein.  But I don’t like having the characters or the story nailed down so tightly that they can’t surprise me.

That’s funny. I kinda like it when they get carried away…

There’s a wealth of local lore and flavor in the Dinah books, that’s part of the appeal for me.  What leads you to the locale and is there an average research time involved?

I spent about three weeks in Australia, long enough to fall in love with the place and want to learn more.  The research I did on Australian history and Aboriginal mythology for BONES OF CONTENTION took about two years.  I spent roughly the same amount of time researching Hawaiian history and mythology.  My fascination with Hawaii began in my flaming youth when I lived on Oahu for a few months and, in furtherance of my education, enrolled in a hula class at the University of Hawaii.  It came as something of a shock to realize that the dance was a form of religious worship, sacred to Pele.  Because Hawaii is part of the U.S., we tend to think that we know it.  Many of us vacation in the islands and the people who cater to us as tourists are always friendly and charming.  It’s easy to forget that Hawaii is a conquered country whose native customs and religion were extinguished by an American invasion.  First came the Christian missionaries from New England, followed soon after by American capitalists and land barons.  With the backing of the U.S. military, a group of American businessmen and sugar planters overthrew the Hawaiian queen in 1893 and against the will of the Native Hawaiians, the U.S. Government annexed the islands in 1898.  To this day, Hawaii remains a hotbed of conflicts over the land so cherished by its native people.  As Dinah soon discovers, molten lava isn’t the only fire smoldering under the surface of Paradise.

Do we have another Dinah adventure after BET YOUR BONES I can look forward to?  Are you able to give us any tidbits?

Dinah has enjoyed enough sunshine and warmth.  Her next adventure will take her to the northernmost reaches of Norway, within spitting distance of the North Pole where the temperature doesn’t climb far above zero in January and the sun never shines.  I’m off to Norway to do some research in August.  I don’t have the grit to visit during Polar Night, as Dinah will, and I hope I don’t have the bad luck to encounter a murder, as she will when she visits the so-called Doomsday Seed Vault in Svalbard.

That sounds intriguing.  I haven’t read much using that location.  I’m looking forward!

Do you ever miss Georgia?  I know I do…

Georgia’s always on my mind.  I go back as often as I can.  As I shiver through a cold and drizzly spring here in the Pacific Northwest, my friends and relatives back in Atlanta are telling me about the dogwoods and the wisteria in bloom.

I get the same thing…I love wisteria and china berries…gardenias…

Did you have a favorite book as a child?  Now?

I remember enjoying Rudyard Kipling’s JUNGLE BOOKS, especially the story of Mowgli.  I suppose it doesn’t reflect very well on my experience of childhood that I would identify with a boy raised by wolves.  On the other hand, it may explain a lot.

As for now, I won’t say it’s an all-time favorite, but I very much enjoyed THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X by Keigo Higashino.

Are you currently reading anything?

I’m reading Sarah Vowell’s UNFAMILIAR FISHES, which is a non-fiction history of the Hawaiian Islands.  Sarah and I agree on pretty much everything except she thinks that King Kamehameha the Great participated in the murder of Captain James Cook and the ritual eating of some of his choicer parts.  I say no.  I say the king was out of town at the time.  I’m sure that if he were around today and able to defend himself, he could produce any number of credible witnesses to corroborate his alibi.

Jeanne, I’ve really enjoyed your visit and I’m looking forward to the next Dinah book!  She’s one of my favorites.

For those of you who may not have read them the Dinah books are wonderful reads.  Classic mystery feel with a spunky intelligent heroine loaded with Southern.

Thanks for inviting me, Ivy.  It’s been fun thinking about your questions.

Visit Jeanne…

The Graveyard Queen Series with Amanda Stevens

Being born and raised in the South is pretty much a guarantee of growing up with superstitions, folklore, and predicting the weather by what animals are doing, among other things.  The Ozarks are particularly rich in that area.  I recall a special that focused on the belief in the fae being very strong in that region, they still believe(d) in “THE WILD HUNT” that the fae are suppose to go on yearly.

Can you share some favorite “beliefs”?

I grew up near the White River and there has always been the belief in a river monster, some prehistoric-looking creature that the locals dubbed Whitey.  The Arkansas legislature even passed a provision that decreed a certain part of the river the monster’s natural habitat.

Water witching was a fairly accepted practice where I grew up, and there was always some talk of country folk who could cure warts and such through incantations.

But what always got me were the ghost stories.  You rarely met a soul that didn’t have one.  My best friend had tales that could raise your hair.  I still remember them and I still feel a chill sometimes when I’m alone.  (And, yes, I’ve used some of them in The Graveyard Queen).

Are your characters real to you?  Do they talk to you, refuse to do things you’d like thereby changing the direction of the story, or are you always in total control?

I’m constantly listening to dialogue in my head, but so far I’ve managed to keep the pretend voices in line. 😉

Is there anything special you need to get those creative juices flowing?

Long, leisurely walks through the neighborhood.  I call them ‘think walks’.  Sometimes it helps just to change locations.  I use a laptop so I often move from room to room.

Have you ever scared yourself?

Constantly!!!   I write a lot at night and my office looks out on our very dark backyard.  I imagine all sorts of creatures slipping through the woods to creep up on me.

Do you think you’ve found what you were looking for with THE RESTORER and Ameilia Gray, the Graveyard Queen?

I really do feel as though I’ve hit my stride.  My natural writing style is dark and descriptive and I think the lush prose works for the dreamy, gothic atmosphere I’m trying to create in the cemeteries and with the ghosts.  At least, I hope so.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure can you give us a brief synopsis of THE RESTORER?

Amelia Gray is a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts.  Greedy, grasping, ravenous entities that prey on human emotions and devour their life force.  In order to protect herself from the parasitic nature of the dead, Amelia has always held fast to her father’s rules. But a haunted police detective has entered her world and now everything is changing…including the rules that have always kept her safe.

Set against the dark, dreamy, withering backdrop of an abandoned cemetery, THE RESTORER is the first installment in The Graveyard Queen Series.  These southern gothic tales offer peeks into the lush dreamscape of haunted cemeteries, deranged killers and doomed lovers.

The same for the next in the series please.  I have to confess I’m on tenterhooks waiting to see what you have in store for Amelia and Devlin.

Their journey is a long one, full of many twists and turns.  I advise patience.  😉

Hang…I know it’s a virtue but it’s one I really have a hard time with.  I’m not all that patient.

I found the symbolism in graveyard art fascinating.  I never knew that.  Could you share a few of them today?

I always like to talk about the rose, one of the most common graveyard symbols but it can tell you so much about the deceased.  For instance, whether the rose is a bud, flower or somewhere in between indicates the age of the deceased.  A full bloom and a bud are sometimes used to represent a dual burial of mother and child.  A severed stem signifies a sudden death or a life cut short.

Taphophilia, I had no clue there was such an animal.  Does that include the rubbings some people do of gravestones or is that something else entirely?

I think taphophilia refers more to the passion one has towards graveyards and tombstones rather than to any particular act or practice.  Also, most avid taphophiles would advise against rubbings as they can damage fragile stones.  A little something I ran across in my research.

Do you have any plans to revisit any characters from previous books, namely THE WHISPERING ROOM, THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS, and THE DOLLMAKER?

I haven’t read any of those but they sound sooo good and I’ve added them to my tbr list.

Oh, thank you!  No plans at the moment, but I’ve always wanted to revisit the characters in THE DOLLMAKER.  No characters have ever been more real to me  than Dave and Claire.  And Matthew.  He remains my favorite villain.

That really piques my interest…I’ll have to get THE DOLLMAKER sooner rather than later.

Do you have a favorite book?  Are you currently reading anything?

I don’t really have a favorite book, but I’m currently reading lots and lots of Charlaine Harris.  I love all her stories, but I’m particularly fond of her Harper Connolly series.

I’m partial to Sookie myself & I’ve been there from the get go.

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit Manic Readers today Amanda.  I’ve really enjoyed it and am anxiously awaiting the next Amelia Gray.

Thank you for having me!!!

Visit Amanda’s site here



Any reader ( 18 or over please) who posts a comment to the “Blessed or Cursed” blogs will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Child of the Fallen Angels.  Make sure to join us each week for all five “Blessed or Cursed” blogs.  Readers are allowed one entry per blog, so readers may enter up to five times! The winner will be announced June 10, 2011 by Manic Readers!


Are the spirits that remain in New Orleans a blessing or a curse?  It is possible some ghosts may be trapped souls who lack some kind of closure.  Even in death, these souls might be chasing someone… or in some cases something – only a love so great can cause a soul so much torture and despair.  However, some of these ghosts not only rest in peace but share their love for a city so amazing that they continue to bless everyone who crosses their path.

Whether a blessing comes from a gris gris bag, fortune teller, or a life well lived, New Orleans has its share of spirits who are not only happy but add to the flavor that makes New Orleans so great.  On the other hand, New Orleans may very well be home to spirits who died tragically, whether in war, or a life unfinished, and may unleash a curse or two.  Regardless, New Orleans is a place worth visiting.  The blessings, however, must outweigh any curses for the simple fact that New Orleans still stands strong.

Author Bio:  In her latest release, Child of the Fallen Angels, Diana struggles to find her place in life.  After discovering a new world of witchcraft through a former lover, she tries to take control of the life she feels she worked so hard to build.  Diana finds her spells working, but not quite as she planned.  The energy blesses her with what she wants, but not without balancing those great blessings with great sacrifices.  She ends up using every bit of her strength to withstand adversaries which she herself has inadvertently nourished.

Want to know more?  Visit

Bless Victoria with your likes!

Sue Charnley ~ What makes a great book and contest

With the June 1, 2011 release of my erotic romance, The Widow's Revenge,
I've spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a great book or even a
good book.  
Much of the source for a great read lies in the technical aspects of authoring, 
things like character, plot, conflict, description, pacing, style and voice.  
However, a reader's emotional involvement in the story is equally if not more 
important than technically expert writing.
Some would say that a great book must have both.  Put differently a great
book cannot provide emotional involvement without technically expert
writing.  I won't argue that.  I will state that I've seen plenty of
technically expert writing that does not satisfy, does not provide an
emotionally involving great read.  The reason for such failures is that
while technically well-crafted the reader's emotional needs are not
carefully considered.  One of those needs is for a sense of anticipation
that builds throughout the story.  Another of those needs is for catastrophe
or disaster.  That fictional moment when all seems black and the characters 
the reader has been rooting for seem doomed to fail.  Neither anticipation
or disaster would have purpose without what professionals call denouement
or what I call afterglow.
In terms of story telling denouement and afterglow are not precisely 
equivalent terms. gives the following definitions:
"de.noue.ment-noun 3. the outcome or resolution of a doubtful series of 
occurrences; af.ter.glow-noun 3. the pleasant remembrance of a past
experience, glory, etc.: She basked in the afterglow of her stage triumph."
I could argue that "the pleasant remembrance." is a result of a series of 
occurrences-although not necessarily doubtful ones-but I would be
picking at unnecessary nits.  The resolution of a series of events is a 
state, the afterglow is a feeling or emotion.  As a reader and an author
that afterglow is what I'm hoping for when I start any story and what I get
if the story is good.  The afterglow lasts a very long time if the story is
Leave a comment telling me about the story that gave you the best 
afterglow, you can even tell me why if you want.  Everyone who comments
will be added to my mailing list and entered in a drawing for swag.
Notice will be sent to the recipient on or before June 15, 2011.

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