Honest reviews

Damonza_Lucifers_Odyssey_1BI love honest reviews. The good and the bad. Reading both are guilty pleasures of mine, but I’m going to call out a recent one because I think it does a great job of highlighting one of my absolute biggest disappointments about Lucifer’s Odyssey. Here’s the last paragraph:

Honest Opinion: After reading “Lucifer’s Odyssey”, I probably would not have bought “The Goblin Rebellion”. The writing style is simple and direct, and leaves the story feeling like a skeleton. That would have been a mistake. “The Goblin Rebellion” is worth reading, but one cannot begin to comprehend the storyline without the events in “Lucifer’s Odyssey”.

Lucifer’s Odyssey was my first novel, and I paid for an extensive edit of the novel from someone who had worked with David Dalglish and other authors I trusted. Since it was my first novel, I didn’t trust myself or my impression of the book, and I wanted to learn more about editing and really listen to this editor. I knew the story was controversial, and I really wanted to do it justice. The editor ended up recommending that I focus on show not tell and completely rewrite the book and try to make the characters not ramble on about what was going on in their heads or “preaching” about the meaning of what was going on. I was worried, but I was also completely invested. I agreed to rewrite, and for the most part, he really did help the book be more fun. I think the action of the book especially went to another level.

However, Lucifer’s Odyssey was always a meta fiction. There were plot lines and underlying themes that really shouldn’t have been left to “show not tell”, and it was, I think, unfair to readers. There was a complex multiverse underneath and a lot of characters. This was not the kind of book that should have been almost purely show and not tell.

I’ve gone back and made small changes to try to help fix what was done during editing–to let people know that if they can stick with the first book and see their way into The Goblin Rebellion and Shadows of Our Fathers, then I think they’ll really enjoy where the story ends up and the style of writing is more my own and not my original editor’s. As the 2nd and 3rd book were being written and I was processing feedback from readers and friends, I grew more of a backbone and stuck to my guns on the internal dialogue of characters and reiterating major trains of thought. I think it’s for the best. Shadows of My Fathers is my favorite book that I’ve written. I feel like it is more of the style that I hope to write in, with more thoughts from characters and a more natural story flow. The problem is that it is the THIRD book in a series, and the first book is more stressful to read than I think it should be because of our editing decisions.

Oh well, work still continues on the new series. High Fantasy. Elves, orcs, humans, kings and queens, intrigue, plots, necromancers and paladins. I’m not going to promise the series will be “normal”. When you see the eventual book blurb, you’ll see my penchant for enjoying bad guy characters who do good things.


Other things that are going on: giveaways

So, another day, another free giveaway on instafreebie. I know, I know. You may have to send yourself an epub from that site to your kindle account, and that’s inconvenient, but for many, that may be an acceptable amount of work. I sure hope so, because these authors have undoubtedly put a lot of work into writing their novels. Like I mentioned in the last post, I’ll be on the lookout for other sites to be a part of. What’s nice about instafreebie is that it’s inexpensive and helps authors build newsletters and ways to promote their books.

Anyway, last day of this giveaway. There’s a lot of books that seem to lean more into the romance category, but there are also some interesting military sci-fi, space sci-fi, and other genres that I like. Let me know if you find something fun and interesting in here!

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Website Link, in case the above image doesn’t work.


Anyway, to those of you who review books honestly, good and bad, thank you. You do a great service for readers, and we authors really do appreciate it!

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The End of the Marshall Plan

General_George_C._Marshall,_official_military_photo,_1946

General George C. Marshall, Author of the European Recovery Plan after World War II

I don’t usually do political commentary. I know it can roil even the staunchest of readers against an author, but after seeing today’s headlines and tweets from our Commander in Chief, I was so taken aback, that I had to say something. Which honestly, is a bit surprising if you know me. There’s been so many assaults on what I hold dear about America that maybe I just didn’t know where to begin.

This has been a trying 6 months for scientists. The assault on climate science has been really difficult to watch. It’s also been trying as someone who has family members on Medicare and Medicaid to watch the current plans to repeal such expansion. I have family members who will likely die due to lack of care by the time this is all said and done. These family members are all Republicans, btw. But there’s a part of me that understands the Republican mindset. Smaller government. Fiscal responsibility. Finding ways to have maximum impact with minimal spending. I get that. It’s part of each of our everyday financing, and it makes sense for our households.

But it doesn’t work for long term planning. When you are budgeting for a country’s future, especially a country that is interested in maintaining its position as a superpower, infrastructure and education are everything. Next comes healthcare, imo, but let’s stay off that subject for a moment and focus on the two things that I think everyone can agree on. Roads help commerce. Shipping aids an economy. Education creates opportunities for not just cultural expansion but more importantly research that can open up new economic opportunities. All of these are usually internally focused.

But infrastructure, education and healthcare are also important for your allies. Allies are strategic, not just in warfare, but also in economics and future prosperity. There are many strategies for how you might use allies, even how you might keep allies down to improve your own situation (e.g., keeping an ally as a buffer against a major enemy). However, there are major advantages to a plan that produces a prosperous stable ally who can contribute economically, scholastically, and politically to your overall vision.

Destroyed_Warsaw,_capital_of_Poland,_January_1945

The Marshall Plan was necessary to help us rebuild Europe in order to foster U.S. economic and military interests after World War II.

For decades, ever since the end of World War II, we have had such a synergistic relationship with Western Europe. If you are a history buff, you probably understand how amazing that outcome is, considering where all of Europe was at the end of World War II. The war had touched every country in Europe. The extermination of whole populations, especially in Eastern Europe. Infrastructure in Germany absolute ravaged. We bombed the absolute hell out of that country. Anything standing was seen as a challenge. Any resistance was squashed with clusters of bombs.

A lesser country would have left the smoldering ruin that was there and used Germany as a buffer ally. Sort of like China treated northern tribes against Mongolian hordes for centuries. But that’s not what the United States did. Instead, we instituted what became known as the Marshall Plan (also called the European Recovery Program). The U.S. invested 13B dollars in 1948 (approximately 130B dollars in today’s money) into restoring Europe. We wanted strong allies, not weak buffer allies. We wanted democratic players in Europe. We wanted Germany and other countries to participate in capitalism, to enhance our own infrastructure and prosperity through the bolstering of an old enemy into a new, strong ally. Trade barriers were lowered. Goods flowed between both continents. New businesses emerged.

This wasn’t an easy decision. It was an extremely hard decision. How hard is it to be magnanimous to a defeated enemy? Think about it. Millions of fathers and sons had been killed. Loss was everywhere. Revenge is a natural emotion, but Marshall had different plans. On June 5, 1947, he delivered a speech at Harvard that outlined exactly what Germany and Europe needed and why it was America, not Russia or Eastern Europe or China or anyone else, that needed to be there.

The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down.¬†… Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the USA. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

Prosperity was everywhere for decades, and the results were astounding. We took an entire continent operating at 83% of agricultural capacity, 88% of industrial capacity, and 59% of export capacity of its 1938 numbers and we supercharged the recovery. The famines of the post war were eliminated by 1950. By 1952, agricultural and industrial capacity increased by 35%, despite France’s requirement that German industrial productivity be reduced by 50% and maximum steel production set to 25% of its pre-war levels to prevent any future German invasion. The fact that Germany was even able to compete in a car market when restrictions championed by France forced it to operate at 10% of the automotive levels of pre-war Germany was remarkable. It spoke to the ingenuity and industriousness of the German people and the intellectual currency of the U.S. in supporting them. All of Western Europe blossomed.

France received 2.29B. Germany 1.45B. England 3.30B. Italy 1.20B. 2 enemies and 2 allies became our staunchest allies, and the beacon of democracy and capitalism shown brightly for decades, despite the Cold War. Our economy, aided by strong markets for import and export goods, blossoms more than ever before. We have more than just dead buffer allies between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We have an amazing environment to develop as a superpower. Our allies go to war in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. whenever we ask them to. They pay it forward in a big way, even if they don’t agree with some of the demagoguery that happens in the cult of personalities that we have in the U.S.

Flash forward to Tuesday, May 29th, 2017. Trump has just lambasted the NATO alliance, demanding that the NATO countries finally pay their fair share. He literally labels them “bad” to their faces, both publicly and privately. On Tuesday, he tweets an official rebuke of Germany.

We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change. –Trump

So, what is Germany’s contribution to NATO?

While it is true that the U.S. contributes 72% of the overall defense expenditures represented in the NATO portfolio, this is mainly because so much of our annual budget is tied up into defense spending. The direct money funded to NATO operation is broken down as 22% from the U.S. and 15% from Germany. This includes “15 percent of the civil and military budgets and NATO’s security investment program for 2016 and 2017. France and the UK, the third and fourth-largest contributors, trail behind Washington and Berlin, providing 10.6 and 9.8 percent of the cost-sharing budgets and programs, respectively.”.

What other assistance is Germany currently providing the U.S.’s policy focuses? Berlin is maintaining a force of 980 in Afghanistan for the war efforts there. They have aided the U.S. with significant forces in Afghanistan for over a decade with virtually no benefit to themselves. 550 soldiers to the continued peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Germany had more than 6,500 soldiers involved in the Kosovo missions during the active war there. 450 soldiers deployed to Lithuania as part of the ongoing aggression in the Ukraine.

So where does the President’s current declaration come from?

In 2006, the NATO countries made a pledge to try to push member defense spending from current levels to 2% of their GDP. In 2014, they finalized this pledge into a more formal pledge to hit the target by 2024. Of those countries, four of them (Poland, the UK, Turkey, and Estonia) are operating at that level (7 years early). Germany is at 1.2%. The U.S. spends 3.6% of its GDP on defense.

There seems to be a major disconnect between what the President thinks NATO does and what it actually does. NATO is essentially a manifestation of a reciprocal alliance that was made possible by the Marshall Plan. Our President appears to misunderstand that relationship and the benefit our economy and military objectives have seen from NATO countries. As evidenced by his Tweet on March 10, 2017, in which he said:

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes…vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

Despite these obvious strong-arm tactics, our allies have remained strong, taken the brow-beatings, and pushed onward. But two days ago, the entire tenor of European deference and reverence for the U.S. changed. After Trump’s first international visit, in which he literally pushed world leaders aside so he could be front-and-center and harangued European leaders on trade deficits, and publicly humiliated multiple countries, Germany’s Angela Merkel finally broke the happy facade and admitted: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days”.

As a longtime history buff who has been reading WWII books since I was a young teenager and has watched hundreds of WWII documentaries at this point, this entire chain of events is disturbing. Many of my family members have been stationed in Germany (one of the contributions of Germany to NATO is providing access to bases throughout Germany for intelligence, stationing, and exercises). A few years ago, I visited Germany and saw the bombed out churches that still stand in Berlin as reminders of how far the people have come (and how effective the Marshall Plan and infrastructure spending in allies is).

Isolationism, nationalism and strong words are what caused the problems that led to both WWI and WWII. I thought everyone else learned those lessons in World History in grade school, but we seem to have come full circle. If we reject our allies, they start looking for someone else, and the 13B (130B) initial investment of the Marshall Plan and the trillions of dollars spent since then in trade, education, infrastructure, etc. with Europe are lost. And what exactly are we asking for here?

Germany to spend 1% more of its GDP immediately instead of by 2024 on its OWN defense? This is not a contribution to NATO. It’s already paying for 15% of NATO’s expenses, as a good ally should. More trade? Germany currently imports $80B goods from the U.S., 2nd most in Europe behind only the U.K. It currently exports over $140B to the U.S. But the U.S. is also no longer manufacturing most goods. We aren’t exporting as much as we used to because we are now outsourcing most of our manufacturing and industry and focusing instead on other industries. Germany, on the other hand, has always been an industrial country that has focused on manufacturing and exports.

Does our President think that we are suddenly, as a country, going to export 60B more goods to Germany? Where would that come from? Why would they buy that? The low tarrifs of NATO and NAFTA work both ways. We are already making our goods inexpensive at our market prices for Germany to import (and 80B is a lot of money). This trade deficit also counts Germany automotive plan production in the U.S. as an import, despite the fact that the product is made in the U.S., because the company is headquartered overseas and overall profits flow there. And this is where the main deficit exists, in automative sales. 1/3 of the German exports to the U.S. are the 1.3M cars that Americans buy from German companies every year.

So, what is the idea here? Stop Americans from buying German cars by making them into new enemies due to Americans wanting to buy more German goods? How American is that? Is that how capitalism works?

This Presidential election was amazing to watch. So is the aftermath, and at this point, I can’t help but think of the ongoing crisis as such. The optimistic person in me says to not worry: that our allies will recommit to us once Trump changes his tone or a new President is elected who understands the benefits of the Marshall Plan and our ongoing mutual relationship in trade deals and NATO. But there’s another part of me that worries that the End of the Marshall Plan romance with Europe is coming to a close, and that America will be the worse for it. I love living here. I’m a proud citizen of the U.S., but I’m very worried about the direction we’re going right now. If it’s not an assault on our liberties and division of our people, it’s an assault and division of our allies. And it’s coming from the top down, which is even more disturbing.

The optimist inside of me is still winning out. I still hope for the best. I don’t even know how I would plan for the worst here. We currently have a group of supercarriers stationed off a nuclear state (North Korea) right now, and a single nuclear warhead on our continent would wipe out 3M+ from the fallout alone, especially if it hits almost anywhere in California. Same situation on the East Coast. It feels like we’re moving perilously close to the end of the stabilization we’ve seen since the end of WWII and especially the end of the Cold War. Where do we go from here?

I’m an author who loves to immerse myself in fantasy worlds. So, in a way, I understand the chilling effect of fantasizing about a world where Europe and the U.S. are no longer strong allies and where NATO is dissolved. But that doesn’t mean I want to live in that world. Let’s leave that to alternative histories. You know? Fictions! Pretty please!

Going to the Nebulas!

I have been invited to attend the Nebula Awards Mass Autograph Signing event here in Pittsburgh, and I plan to bring copies of my newly released Sixth Edition and Second Edition paperbacks for Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion, respectively. If you’re in Pittsburgh, and you’ve got an hour or two to burn, please stop by and see me and some really fantastic Science Fiction and Fantasy authors. You can find more information here:

http://nebulas.sfwa.org/nebula-conference/2017-mass-autographing-event/

Shadows of Our Fathers Update 2

I have received a copy of the novel back from Derek at Homunculus Editing Services, and I am working on the 2nd level of story and line edits to the draft. The content should be ready by the first quarter, but I’m still needing to locate a cover artist to help me finish the series.

There are two options, really.

  1. Hire a new cover artist who can match the style that Christopher Steininger did for the first two novel covers in Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion. This has been a rough job trying to find someone who can do this. I’ve had estimates between 500-1200 dollars, but the styles have clashed a bit with the first two books. How important is consistency in the series covers for readers?
  2. Go with someone like Damonza to redesign the entire series covers for 1500-1800 dollars. This is a huge investment on top of all the other costs of this final novel (story and line editing a 110k+ word novel is a big expenditure), but if it is the best option, I really don’t have much choice.

Anyway, regardless of which path I take, the novel is almost ready. Beta readers are appreciated, so let me know if you would like to take a look at the 2nd draft when I’m done. Your feedback would be welcome! Also, if you have any opinions on cover artists or redoing the whole series covers, let me know!

Shadows of Our Fathers Update

I’m going through the 2nd draft process for Shadows of Our Fathers, and I’m currently on Chapter 20 of 24 in my deep readthrough. If you’re not familiar with Shadows of Our Fathers, it is the 3rd book that completes the Primal Patterns’ initial trilogy (I’ve been calling the first trilogy “Lucifer’s Fall” for a while now, as it catalogues Jehovah’s and Lucifer’s battles across the heavens). The book is due to my editor on November 10th, and I have every intention of making that deadline. So, if you’ve been waiting for Shadows of Our Fathers, then that is good news.

However, there’s still a lot to do–even more so than was left to be done with the first two books. My cover artist is non-responsive to requests for a cover, so the look and feel of the series is going to have to change. And while I’m at it, I might as well redo the back covers and lay out the purpose of the series a little better there.

The latter might take a while. I am currently looking at potentially soliciting services from Damonza for book covers and formatting and potentially looking into a marketing service. You guys have suggestions? Feel free to leave comments.

Some Game of Thrones Wrap Up

This post is mostly just my opportunity to post this hilarious summarization by Samuel L. Jackson of the Game of Thrones plot up to this point. However, it may be a good opportunity to recap a bit about what predictions I made were correct and which were not.

Previous predictions:

End of Season 6 and Season 7, a GoT prediction

Who else is dying in Season 6, a GoT prediction

  1. The siege of Riverrun played out how I expected. Like I said, Blackfish would seem dead but probably escapes for later confrontations
  2. Rickon died, almost exactly as I had predicted in the Battle of Winterfell. I mean I almost completely nailed this one (no pun intended). I was both right and wrong about Ramsay. I anticipated they would imprison him rather than immediately killing him. I had messed up thinking they would leave him alive into next season before killing him then. His quick, painful death this season instead is one of the best ways they could have wrapped this up. Hats off to the creators on the way this was done with the dogs. Very nice.
  3. The King’s Landing plot was almost spot on how I predicted it. The Mountain kills people, but I thought he would just kill Septa Unella, but what we believe he does to her is worse. Some have claimed he is painfully torturing her, but Cersei’s call of “Shame, shame” says something more. He’s almost certainly assaulting her in that room. The burning of Margaery and everyone else is pretty much what I expected, and Margaery’s fatal playing of the cards here rather than letting her family rescue her with their legion is a reasonable way to tie this up, even if how we got to this point (as I mentioned in multiple posts) made no sense with the way the population had previously regarded Margaery. Whatever. Water under the bridge.
  4. Davos and Melissandre had the exact confrontation I predicted except I did not predict her expulsion from the North. That was a surprise. Slightly out of character for Davos since he let so many other people die by fire at the stake with only minimal mumbling to Stannis, but the scene played out fine and made sense. I can buy that the young princess was the final straw that made him snap.
  5. As I’ve said all along, Azor Ahai == Jon Snow. He’s the son of Rhaegar and not Ned, as I’ve been saying for years. I still expect him to team up with Daenerys, and he’s going to be a dragon rider. It’s probably going to be Jon, Daenerys as dragon riders. I still stick with my prediction of Tyrion being the third dragon rider, and my prediction on his parentage, I’m also sticking to for now.
  6. Siege at Mereen was finished immediately with the dragons, just as I predicted.
  7. Ultimately, the King’s Landing plot is not done yet. My prediction for this was that Cersei would try to ultimately burn the city down as Robert’s predecessor had tried to do. I still think Tyrion will throttle her to death, but it may actually be Jaime. Either is possible, and it’s really up to Martin and the showrunners on how they want this to go down. Both will have reasons to kill her, and both are little brothers, so each fits. My bet is still Tyrion. Jaime would come full circle with both Kingslayer and Queenslayer titles. I mean, that would definitely be the most poetic/impactful.

A recap of my predictions for Season 7 (mostly seen in End of Season 6 and Season 7, a GoT prediction) and some new ones (e.g. Arya)

  1. People with Valyrian swords are going to become superstars and the heroes of legend. Anyone who can kill a whitewalker will be launched from obscurity. Normal armies and commanders are going to have to take a backseat. Cersei’s position will obviously be weakened since Jaime gave his sword to Brienne, and Joffrey/Tommen’s sword is lost somewhere.
  2. Jon and Daeny team up after Daeny marches toward King’s Landing and the end of the King’s Landing Lannister plot ties up
  3. Tyrion kills Cersei as she is in the process of burning down King’s Landing, but Jaime may be the more appropriate choice since he will be near her and he’s had to do this type of killing before (would make a really strong, sad scene if they choose to do this with Jaime). If Cersei killed Jaime, though, Tyrion would have all the motivation he needs to throttle her to death, as the Cersei prophecy fortold. Jaime’s previously murdering of a Monarch was with a sword, whereas Tyrion killed his love by strangling her with her own necklace. It just seems to fit more with Tyrion to me. I think Jaime loves Cersei too much to kill her, but she’s crazy enough to kill him. She’s shunned his love before when he was too long in returning, if you remember.
  4. The Wall is quickly overwhelmed by the Whitewalkers. Specifically, I think if Bran crosses the wall with that mark on his arm, all of the magic in the Wall is going to shatter just as the Night King did to the Three-Eyed Raven’s sanctuary. The Night’s Watch will be slaughtered, and unfortunately, you’re going to see some of the few remaining heroes you liked that were left at the Wall (e.g. Eddison Tollett, the acting Lord Commander) turn into undead.
  5. Arya’s kill list will become complete by the end of Season 7. The list started with over a dozen names. Of these, Joffrey, Walder Frey, Myrant Trant, Tywin Lannister, Polliver, and Rorge are dead. The remaining names are Cersei, The Hound, The Mountain, Ilyn Payne, The Red Woman,¬†Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr. Cersei is going to be killed by either Tyrion or Jaime, so she’s not going to be the one to do that. The Hound, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr are all together and are likely to be joined by Melissandre at their camp as she rides South (and Beric and Thoros initially got on this list by selling Gendry to Melissandre). She’s probably going to kill all three in one go. What about The Hound? She took pity on him before and did not kill him. It’s the reason he’s still alive. I think she’s going to let him go again, but if she were to kill him, that would be fitting too, since he’s still on the list. BUT, I want there to be a confrontation between the Hound and the Mountain, and I want the Hound to kill the Mountain with a bottle of Wildfire. They’ll probably kill each other and die together smoldering in the fire. I think that would be the absolute best way to end that story.

Anyway, those are my predictions for now. I’ll hopefully post something else non-GoT-related soon. I need to get back to redrafting the first two chapters of Shadows of Our Fathers. I haven’t had time for it in months.

GoT Battle of the Bastards Recap

SPOILERS AHOY!

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So, looking through my posts about predictions for episode 9, I was almost completely on point except for predicting that they would keep Ramsay imprisoned into Season 7. That was obviously wrong. Let’s go through all the stuff that I had gotten right about the episode.

  1. Ramsay killed Rickon Stark with a bow, as he was waiting for Jon Snow to attack. (first prediction, second prediction)
  2. Ramsay tried to torture Sansa from behind his bars (boy did that backfire!) (prediction)
  3. Davos found something about Shireen and he is most certainly going to confront Melissandre about what she did (prediction)
  4. The siege of Mereen was over in a heartbeat after the dragons and dothraki showed up (prediction).

There is no current prediction that is significantly off track. You can see the predictions I have for Episode 10 of Season 6 (Who else is dying in Season 6, a GoT prediction and End of Season 6 and Season 7, a GoT prediction). The latter is especially detailed as it goes pretty indepth into how I see Season 7 unfolding.

One of the more exciting things is how the Iron Islands plotline is moving along. I like this better than the books so far. It looks like Daenerys has already made up her mind about whose claim she will be backing, and the confrontation with Euron is going to make great television.

Despite my misgivings about the Dorne plotline being mangled and the King’s Landing pacing / rationale not been fleshed out enough for it to make sense, it’s obvious the showrunners love the show and material, and after Episode 9, I’m not complaining anymore. If they never show Dorne again, great. I would be really surprised if my predictions for King’s Landing (Margaery and Tommen dead, Cersei’s revenge, etc.) do not come true. Everything seems to be falling in place as I expected. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not (considering this is a show that you aren’t supposed to be able to predict).

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