The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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A Quick Update, and All the Praise Hands Emojis for Sunshine!

Today is a busy one. We seized the nice weather to get outside and make a dent in the leaves that are piled everywhere, and I’ve got some paid writing lined up for this week, so I’ll have to keep this short. But first, can I just take a moment to lift up praise hands for 50+ degree weather in the first week of January? Today is beautiful, and just two days ago we had snow (which was a different kind of beautiful, but not so great for my seasonal affective disorder). It felt great to get outside and get some sunshine and work up a sweat.

I just got an alert that we’re under a winter storm watch, so maybe we’ll get more snow tonight. Sure glad I was able to soak up some sun today.

So how about a quick progress report? I’ve been squeezing in sprints where I can and it’s already adding up. I’m already several pages into what I think is going to be my last big chapter/scene of Revelation Part Two. Scanning the outline yesterday, it looks like once I’m past this, the rest is just a series of shorter scenes leading up to the end. I’m not putting a timeline on finishing, and I don’t want to mention being optimistic about tying up this draft by a certain date in case the powers that be decide to go out of their way to quash my optimism, but… it’s getting there. It’s close enough to the end that all my other (non-blogging, non-freelance) projects are on hold until it’s done.

Speaking of freelance writing, I’d best get to it. How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? Do you love snow, or is sunshine your lifeline during these dark, cold months?

Slowing My Roll

And I’m back!

I feel like a lot of things have happened since I announced my blog hiatus back in April, and yet also not much has happened at all. I didn’t get any of the things done that I said I was taking a hiatus to focus on. But a lot has taken place, nevertheless.

It turns out that deciding to take a break from blogging was just the beginning of what turned out to be a long, unplanned sabbatical from all but my most necessary work. At first I began to feel creatively blocked — more like creatively spent, used up and depleted — and realized I needed a break from writing and editing altogether, and also from everything involved in marketing and promotion. Then, as if to confirm just how badly I needed a rest, my chronic health issues (PCOS, hypothyroidism and all the fun stuff interlinked with those) took a bad turn and I found myself struggling with fatigue and brain fog, along with headaches, body aches and digestive issues. Fun, fun times.

So I gave myself permission not to worry about writing, publishing, marketing, or any of the projects I had in the works, or any other type of work that didn’t directly earn income or relate to maintaining our home (and I let as much of that go as I could, too). I basically quit everything I could quit in order to focus on healing and getting better.

 

A lot of that freed up time was spent learning about my conditions. It’s maddening how little traditional Western medicine doctors actually know or care to know about both PCOS and Hashimoto’s/hypothyroidism. With both illnesses, the typical response is to simply prescribe a pill (birth control in first case, Synthroid in the second) and call it a day.

There’s no investigation of root cause. No discussion of the way these conditions impact the endocrine system, digestive system, reproductive system and overall health. With PCOS you also get told to lose weight, but there’s no education about how to do that, or that what you eat has the potential to either heal you or make you sicker, and that what you should eat and how much you should move changes depending on whether your root cause is insulin resistance, inflammation, or something else. And in my case, there was never one single mention that my lack of thyroid function might be due to autoimmunity, which can also be helped via nutrition, despite the fact that this is the cause of 90 percent of cases of hypothyroidism, and the other causes are really freaking rare in this country. I never even heard the word Hashimoto’s until I started doing my own research on PCOS and discovered that they’re linked.

I’m ranting now. But this stuff makes me angry. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

At any rate, the more I learned, and the more I heard stories from other women who’ve had similar experiences of being woefully uneducated, unhelped and brushed off by their doctors, the more appalled and angry I became, and the more I realized I needed to basically be my own doctor, thanks to insurance not covering functional medicine practitioners and naturopaths, i.e. the people who actually study up on these conditions and inform their patients and tailor treatment to individuals.

This post went somewhere I didn’t intend, but seriously: GAH!

Anyway. Thankfully, I was led to some posts and podcasts that described my exact issues and helped me pinpoint the problem. Of course, without blood tests, which I still need and plan to do once we find a local GP, I’m only making educated guesses, but I made changes based on those guesses, and I started feeling better. Specifically, I discovered that I met the criteria for adrenal fatigue and low cortisol, and that I needed to adjust my workouts, cut back on caffeine and make getting enough sleep a top priority. I also learned that women with PCOS tend to leak electrolytes and minerals and need to add them back throughout the day, which I started doing simply by adding a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to my water throughout the day. Those changes, particularly that last one, were total game changers. I started feeling better almost immediately.

Of course, I also got serious about my nutrition. I think a big part of what led to my flareup was eating too much sugary, gluteny junk during April, which included both my birthday and Easter. I had also eased up on my dairy restrictions and was eating more cheese than was good for me. So about six or seven weeks ago I eliminated gluten, all A1 dairy (I still eat small amounts of goat cheese, which doesn’t give me any trouble) and added sugar from my diet. But then a couple weeks in we had a cheat night and I ate some flautas and drank some beer, and immediately my chronic inflammation went through the roof. But I got back on the wagon the next day, and tomorrow will mark 30 days without any of that inflammatory junk in my diet, and I am feeling worlds better as a result.

My intention is to go another 30 days, which will run out just in time to celebrate with a slice of cake on my husband’s birthday. I generally subscribe to the 80/20 rule — eating strictly healthy 80 percent of the time, but leaving that small margin to mindfully enjoy my favorite foods with no guilt or worry. I think right now, as I heal, I need to be strict and stick to my protocol 100 percent, but when I’m in that healthy place, my body can handle the occasional treat. And I know if I head into fall and the Halloween season and then the holidays aiming to stick to 100 percent I’m going to be grumpy and resentful and set myself up to fail.

All of my health adventures aside, that’s not even the point of this post, which is that in the midst of all of that, something else was happening inwardly. As I let go of so much to focus on health and self-care and doing things that are good for my mind and soul as well as my body, including spending a lot of time with my loved ones, I began to realize how little the things I let go of or set aside truly matter. For a while now, I’ve been kind of watching with curiosity and wonder as my values and priorities have been shifting, and things that seemed oh so important only three months ago are now barely on my radar.

I’m in a space right now where I’m not sure how my writing fits into that. I still identify as a writer. I’m still working on book revisions and edits, when I can make the time. I still have stories I want to tell. I still write online content for a living, even. But being an author — having my books widely read and adored, growing a fan base, being prolific, all that stuff — not only do I simply no longer care about any of that, but I’ve realized that it has actually sucked all of the joy out of writing. And right now I’m just sort of holding space for that realization and what it means for my career and all my plans. One thing I’m fairly certain of is that if letting go of my author identity and treating my writing as a hobby instead of a job will help me find joy in writing again, I’m really okay with that.

This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my planned book projects, only that I’m not going to hustle to get them done on a certain timeline, or produce a certain number of books a year, or try to make my books a dependable source of income.

Still, ironically, these last few weeks I’ve been feeling nudged to start blogging again. Not to fire up my author blog, but to start putting my story out there, to start using my words to minister again. I did that for awhile in a separate space, but that petered out because trying to run multiple blogs became exhausting. Years ago, when I first started dipping my toes into the author space, I was given advice to keep my personal blog, all my writing about my health and my faith and my life, separate. I took that advice to heart and I think it was a huge mistake. All these years, it’s made me feel a little schizoid, maintaining these separate identities, trying to compartmentalize parts of myself that are inextricably linked, and it’s also doubled my work. But I think the worst thing is that I felt like I couldn’t trust my audience to handle all of me, and I needed to hide parts of myself away and only reveal them in this safe space tucked away over here on this other blog.

Well, I’m not doing that anymore. As of today, this space is no longer my “author blog,” whatever that means. It’s just my blog, and it’s going to get a lot more honest and real. It’s taken me a lot of wrestling these last few weeks trying to decide whether to start my other blog back up, or start an entirely new blog to focus on these things I’m so passionate about these days, but when it occurred to me that I could just combine it all right here, under my own name, no separation, no hiding, that felt so right. And yet I continued to procrastinate because I kept blowing this first post up into something a lot bigger, harder and more complicated than it actually needed to be. But I finally realized that I needed to knock that off and just start. Just write something.

So here you go. This is my new start. I hope you’ll stick around for what’s to come, to see what this — and what I — will grow up to become.

Bits & bobs, and a NaNoWriMo update

zNaNoWriMo Participant 2014We’re into week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m currently at 14,191 words (that’s words written in November. The total manuscript word count currently stands at 20,714 — about a third of the way through the first draft. I think). I should be at 16,670 by the end of the day, which probably won’t happen. But if I can put in another 2K before I call it a day, I’ll be close enough for comfort. Which means I’d better keep this post short so I can get to writing.

As for what’s happening within the novel, the plot hung a sharp left the other day and now I have to solve a decades-old murder in addition to getting my two protagonists to make with the smoochies.

What else am I up to? Yesterday, I finally put away the Halloween decorations, but left up the fall decorations and added a crocheted horn of plenty that I still need to take a picture of. Today I changed out the dirt in Matilda the Box Turtle’s tank and took her out to get some sun on what may well be the last warm day of the year. And of course there’s the freelancing. Fiverr’s keeping me busy with editing and book formatting gigs, and I just wrote this post on romance novel and wine pairings for Libib.

The forecast is showing wintry weather this weekend. As unpredictable as that crud tends to be in these parts, the rest of this week is going to mostly be dedicated to prepping, to make sure we won’t starve or freeze if we get stuck here and the power goes out. Of course, the more prepared we are, the less of a big deal winter storms tend to be, so if the sky simply sneezes out a few flurries over Tulsa this weekend, you’ll have us to thank. 😉

Right, then. Time to write. How’s your NaNo novel coming? Or any big projects you’re tackling this month, as the case may be?

It’s Halloween week and Nano prep week and there is so much to do.

This is a post to loosen the gears and prime the writing pump. I haven’t written anything since Thursday, unless you count blogging about the book giveaway contest (still going on, by the way, so be sure to enter!).

I did pretty well growing my word count on Ghost of a Chance last week, almost getting back up to where I was before throwing out most of what I’d written. But then Friday was busy and full of errands, which lead into a busy Saturday of cleaning house before my mom and aunt came for dinner, and by Sunday I was ready to veg and not much else.

This is shaping up to be a busy and short week, too. My freelancing load is light this week (…thankfully? Although this is certainly a trend that I hope is short-lived), but we’ve got a lot of errands to run, including taking our Chihuahua, Pete, back to the vet tomorrow to check his thyroid and liver enzyme levels. I also want to get as much housework and yard work squared away as possible before Nanowrimo begins on Saturday. So I probably won’t get a ton of writing done this week. My main goal is to do enough to keep it fresh in my mind so I can hit the ground running on Saturday. I’m actually feeling pretty good right now about the possibility of finishing the first draft of Ghost by the end of November.

And then there’s Halloween on Friday, which is an all-day celebration at our house, hence the short work week. Which as far as I’m concerned makes up for not getting to take Labor Day off like everybody else. We still need to pick out our pumpkins, stock up on seasonal ale (I think Matt’s planning some brand of pumpkin ale we haven’t yet tried, along with some Newcastle Werewolf Blood Red), decorate the front porch, and make sure we haven’t eaten so much of our candy stash that we still have enough for trick-or-treaters.

Oy. I’m already exhausted just from listing all of that. I guess I’d best get to it, then. What are your Halloween plans this year, dear readers? And if you’re doing Nanowrimo, what are you doing this week to get ready?

Book sale aftermath and killing a significant number of darlings for the greater good.

So the big October sale is over and everything is back to regular price. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but it still gave me a boost in sales, and I gave away a respectable number of books that will hopefully translate to some loyal readers down the road.

One thing I learned is that putting everything on sale to coincide with my book launch was not a good idea. It drew attention away from the new book, which is the opposite of what you want to happen during a book launch week. So… won’t be doing that again.

As for my new WIP, Ghost of a Chance, this morning I trashed all but the first two scenes. The scenes I deleted were meandering all over the place, so I’m going to chalk that up as a discovery draft and example of why I’m not a good pantser. Now I’ve got a partial outline and a better idea of where I’m going and what needs to happen to get there.

If this were NaNoWriMo, I’d have just made some notes about what needed to happen and kept going from there as if I’d already written it that way, and waited until I finished the draft to go back and redo the beginning. But since I’m not (yet) racing to meet a crazy word quota by a certain deadline, going back and writing the correct scenes seemed more likely make the rest of the story flow better.

I will be attempting Nano this year, albeit I’ll be cheating by working on this WIP. I’m going to do my ever-lovin’ best to finish the first draft by the end of November, but a lot depends on my freelancing schedule and workload, so it’s hard to say how that will go. I wanted to try something new in an effort to carve more time out of my schedule for working on the draft. My plan was to keep the little laptop I write on by my bed, and read over what I wrote that day before I turn out my light, and then make myself wake up and start writing in bed when my husband gets up in the morning. But then this morning, which was supposed to be day one of this new endeavor, he woke up WAY too dang early, and I fell back to sleep before I could even remember that I was supposed to write. Then when he came in and woke me up it was time for us to do our morning Bible study together. So… maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow morning.

Nanowrimo participant 2014

If you’re planning to do Nano this year, Kristen Lamb’s blog has several excellent posts on how to do well in that challenge. This post in particular is a must-read for anyone taking on creative endeavors in general.

And now I’m going to join my husband in an off-schedule weeknight cheat night, because the weekend was too short and we have way to much pumpkin and Halloween-related goodies and entertainment options that need to be consumed, and we were both really craving some pumpkin ale (as I write this I’m sipping on a positively delightful Red Hook pumpkin porter). I’m sure I’m going to regret this tomorrow.

Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? Are you playing by the rules or are you going to be a rebel? Let’s talk about your Nano plans in the comments!

Oh! And if you’d like to read occasional excerpts from the WIP, I’ll be posting them on Ello. Be sure to friend me if you’re there already. If not, I’ve got two invitations and nobody to give them to, so holler in the comments if you’d like one.

PCOS diet update, Halloween craft explosion, TV ramblings & other blather

After a full week on the new PCOS-friendly diet (no gluten, no dairy, mostly low-glycemic carbs), I can report that all week long I was more energetic and more clear-headed. I was also less moody (which, considering it was a PMS week, is really saying a lot), and by the end of the week I was sleeping better. I haven’t yet noticed any lessening of my external PCOS symptoms, but I figure that will probably take considerably more time than just a week. But if I can just keep all this energy and eliminate the brain fog for good, then that will make it all worth it.

I didn’t stick to it as diligently over the weekend. On Saturday Matt made bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers with cream cheese filling (a little overpoweringly spicy, but SO delicious), and then on Sunday he made brats, which I suppose I could have enjoyed sans hot dog buns, but I chose not to. And then since I was already in for a penny, I had ice cream. Oh, and that morning I had pumpkin spice bread for breakfast. Mmm. But I’m back on track today, and finding that the weekend indulgences didn’t derail me from feeling good like I worried they would.

I finally got out all of the Halloween decorations over the weekend, and got crafty and made a few additional items. You can see how all that turned out:

Halloween decorations 2014

For closeups, take a gander at my Instagram feed.

While I got my crochet on, I also caught up on all my shows, including Once Upon a Time, which was better than I expected. I appreciate that they’re basically telling a sequel to Frozen with those characters and not re-hashing the movie (which I still haven’t seen), and also that they haven’t completely derailed Regina’s pseudo-redemption arc. Although that show can’t do a decent redemption arc to save its life, so my expectation bar is set pretty low.

As for Castle, they’re just being mean, although I do like that they’re trying something new with (what I’m assuming will be) a season-long mystery to solve (and now watch them have it all tied up by the end of the second ep. Which I won’t see till next weekend, so don’t spoil me if you watch it tonight).

I didn’t get any writing done over the weekend, but I did meet my word count this morning, bringing the total on the untitled Restless Spirits sequel to 3,885.

I’ve (so far) got a fairly light week ahead of me as far as my freelance workload goes, so that should work out to give me the time I need to do the final edits on Midnight Snacks and get it ready for next week’s launch (you can pre-order it now for your Kindle, if you’re so inclined). I’m also hoping to get an official website up for my editing and self-publishing services.

So that’s how my week (and weekend) went. What about you? Did you watch anything that made you want to scream, or squee? Has Halloween exploded all over your house? How did you spend your weekend? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Progress All Around

The cat room is really starting to resemble a craft room again. I’ve only got one more corner to deal with, but I’ve been saving the worst for last, so that will probably take a day or two to conquer. Once that’s done, I should be able to set my sewing machine up in a permanent spot where my desk used to be (if I can find something sturdy enough to set it on, since Matt has co-opted our card table for the office), thus eliminating one of my (several) excuses for never sewing.

But then it will be time to tackle the walk-in closet, where I committed the error of trying to keep both the litter boxes and various craft supplies and other odds and ends. And despite having a perfectly good litter box right there, they still had to pee on a lot of what’s in there. I know I’ve got a basket of old tee-shirts in there that I was planning to do crafty things with at some point, so I’ll need to decide whether it’s worth it to try and salvage them. Really, most of what’s in that closet is old and broken things I’d planned to recycle into craft projects, so it won’t be the end of the world if I just toss it all so I can be done with it.

***

I’m already almost done with the first editing pass for the horror collection. I just need to type up my changes, then it will be ready for beta readers.

Also, working in the cat room without anything to listen to has indeed been conducive to developing the new novel. I now have several scenes mapped out, along with some snatches of dialogue written down, plus I now know the major beats of the story and how each act needs to end. This whole coming up with ideas while cleaning thing might end up being very good for my house.

On discipline — or the lack thereof.

Lately, I have been suffering from a lack of discipline in my life. And I do mean suffering. As if my sporadic attempts at growing my WIP’s word count weren’t bad enough, I also keep failing to do basic good-for-my-health things like establishing an exercise routine or eating enough vegetables or getting to bed at a reasonable hour. All of this failure is leaving me feeling run-down and foggy-brained and blah, and it’s certainly not making me want to write during my allotted writing times, so of course you can see how it’s a whole vicious cycle.

Just as I keep starting out the week with good writing intentions and some actual productivity, I also start every week with excellent health intentions and manage to make myself work out and eat salads and avoid sugar or too much caffeine. But then I blow it on the not staying up too late part, after which I’m too tired to exercise and I need extra caffeine and I start craving starches and sugar.

Ostensibly, when I stopped going to bed super-early with my husband and started keeping later hours, it was to give myself more time to write and work on writing- & publishing-adjacent  tasks, and also to read before I turned in. Originally, I set myself a strict 11:30 bedtime, and it was all working out pretty great. But then my night-owl proclivities started getting the better of me, and I started going to bed later and later.

Part of the problem is that I started catching up on my “just me” shows — the ones Matt has no interest in watching with me — after he turns in, instead of trying to cram them all in on the weekend. At least this shouldn’t be a problem much longer, what with the TV season winding down. Half the shows I watch are having their season finales next week, and the other half will wrap up the following week. Then maybe I’ll be able to get some work done in the evenings and get myself to bed on time. Unless I cave into temptation to start marathoning some new shows. Or some old ones. I’ve already got my eye on a summer re-watch of both Buffy and Farscape.

At any rate, today I worked out AND ate my vegetables AND added just short of 500 words to Radium Town. Except about half of that was recreating the part of yesterday’s word count that somehow got eaten by Scrivener. I’d post a snapshot, but Scrivener still keeps acting wonky and freezing things up, and besides, I’m still on the dinner party that doesn’t end, so I’ll wait until I have something more novel to post than Agent Blake’s sparkling dinner conversation.

Now I’m going to see if I can watch my shows (Warehouse 13 and Agents of SHIELD) and get myself to bed at a decent hour for a change.

A List O’ Updates

Bullet list style!

  • The job hunt is still on. I’m hoping to have some good news by the end of this week. But I’ve been hoping that every week for a while now, so….
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  • The flash fiction I submitted to the local publisher has been accepted… except that I haven’t been given a contract or anything yet, so I’m going to call the acceptance tentative until something more official happens.
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  • Eucha Falls is still under submission to the horror anthology. The latest update is that so far they’ve rejected about 40% of submissions and passed about 6% on to the head editor for consideration. Supposedly they started sending out rejections and notifications last week. I’m choosing to interpret the fact that I haven’t gotten anything yet as a hopeful sign.
  •  

  • This week I started another short story to submit for another anthology. The anthology is about cyborgs. My story is about a steampunk cyborg pixie. I’m not sure if that’s quite what they have in mind, but I’m going for it anyway. My short stories usually end up either super-short flash fics or novelettes that are too long for anyone to want to publish. I think this time I’m going to manage to strike a happy medium.
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  • I think I’ll continue to focus on short stories and flash fiction until I’m ready to get back to noveling, which will probably happen in November with NaNoWriMo. When that happens I’ll most likely be writing the sequel to Dominion of the Damned. I feel bad about keeping Radium Town on the back burner, but really, I think the smartest business decision I can make as an indie is to finish the series I started and focus on generating a fan base before I branch out. For now I can look to short stories for spreading my writer wings to other sub-genres.
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  • I went for a walk today, which is worth mentioning because, other than yard work, it’s the most exercise I’ve gotten in probably two months. I’ve been feeling sick and sore all over from all the physical inactivity. One walk isn’t enough to fix me, but it’s a start.

Free Story: Food Scarcity

Sorry for the blog silence. Lately my life has been split pretty evenly between doing the job hunt mambo and writing content for Demand Studios and spending what little free time I do have just trying to rest and recharge my batteries so I can do it all over again. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. Or unpaid writing of any sort, really.

So since the flash fiction project is on hold I decided to go ahead and share one of the two I’ve actually managed to finish (the other one is still under submission with a local e-zine). It’s only 500 words long, so grab a cuppa and settle in for a quick read. The title isn’t final, but for now I’m calling it…

 

FOOD SCARCITY

 

The lights still came on at night in the city. The girl wondered how long they would keep doing that, without anyone around to turn them on. The screens and news tickers in Times Square had been broadcasting the same warnings to stay inside and lock your doors for two weeks now. She didn’t think there was anyone left in the city still capable of heeding the warnings.

But she kept looking, just in case.

She stuck to the shadows and avoided streets where she could hear the tell-tale moans. She wasn’t afraid of those things. They weren’t that hard to kill, one on one. But swarms were a different story, and she couldn’t afford to get injured. Too many depended on her to lead them. To feed them.

So she hunted, even though it seemed more useless with each passing night.

A scream pierced the silence, filling the girl with hope. Only the living screamed like that. She scanned the street, the shops and restaurants. The living tended to show up where there might be food.

But the unliving tended to show up where there was screaming, so she had to hurry. The woman screamed again, and the girl raced toward the sound. There, up ahead. The Starbucks on Eighth Street. The windows were broken. A woman backed out of the door, clutching a broken and bloody two-by-four like a club. A shopping bag hung over her shoulder.

The girl came up from behind. Peering over the woman’s shoulder, she saw a man lying on the floor, swarmed by the unliving. They were devouring him. The woman sobbed. For now, they were too distracted to hear her.

The girl spun her around. She screamed and raised her weapon, but didn’t swing. “Are you bit?”

Dazedly, the woman shook her head. “My husband.” She looked back at the man on the floor… what was left of him. “David…”

“We can’t help him. Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Away from them.” Inside, the ones who couldn’t get their fill were starting to take notice of them. “Now.” She grabbed the woman’s hand, and pulled. The swarm filed out through the door behind them. They ran together down the street, turning here and there, tracing a path through a maze the girl knew well. The woman kept sobbing as they went. “Be quiet!” the girl commanded.

They ran down an alley, to a dead end. They turned around. The woman screamed again as the swarm followed them, blocking the entrance. There was nowhere to go.

The others emerged from the shadows. Her children. Together, they fought the oncoming horde. It was easy, together. When they were finished, covered in gore and surrounded by squirming pieces of the unliving, they turned to the woman as one.

She looked confused, and terrified. “M… my name is Sheila.” She held out the grocery bag with a trembling hand. “I have food.”

“We know,” said the girl, her fangs descending. “And we’re so hungry.”

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