Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! More fantasy during the sci-fi month, yay! Epic fantasy no less! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Sarah Ashwood!

Where do you live and write from?

I’m a genuine Okie from Muskogee (Muskogee, Oklahoma), in the USA.

Why do you write?

Writing allows me to tell the stories in my head and give life to the characters who live there.

When did you start writing?

I wrote a few short stories off and on throughout my childhood, but it wasn’t until I was about 18 and discovered the epic fantasy genre that I found my passion. My Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy was born from this.

What genre(s) do you write?

As already mentioned, I write epic fantasy, but its subcategories would be portal fantasy and fairytale fantasy. There are elements of both in my fantasy novels. I also write historical fiction.

What does your writing routine consist of?

I am a stay at home mom of three young boys. There is no writing routine for me. It’s write whenever and wherever I get the chance! However, I always, always drink coffee when I write, so I guess you could say that’s a routine.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

My gift of description has been complimented by readers and fellow writers. I’m not sure how I developed that particular quality. I simply try to describe what I see in my head without it being too wordy, since there is such a thing as being too descriptive.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

Inspiration comes from all over. The world around me, music, other people, my own life…
I would say the MC in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, Hannah, is the closest I’ve ever come to putting myself in my writing. She reeks of my sense of humor. She’s also a caring person, but rather quick tempered. She definitely gets that from me.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I always start with a brief outline, but it usually gets trashed as I write. I tend to be an extreme pantser. You should see the jumble of notes I jot down to try and keep everything straight while the novel grows! As for the other question, I tend to set a daily goal of about 1,200 to 2,000 words a day, and I usually accomplish my daily goal. You can get through a novel fairly quickly at that rate, I find.

Tell us about your latest book
Aerisian Refrain is the first book in a brand new fantasy series called Beyond the Sunset Lands. It’s a follow up series to my current fantasy trilogy, the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, and has many of the same characters. However, Aerisian Refrain can be read as a standalone.
Aerisian Refrain tells the story of a world-famous performer, Annie Richards, who is haunted by troubling nightmares to the point that she’s given up her career and is on her way to her childhood home to convalesce, when creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane. Annie wakens in a parallel world, Aerisia, a world inhabited by fairies, giants, immortal warriors, dragons, and pirates. Not only must Annie stay alive, but she has to track down the truth behind why she’s there and who she is meant to be.
Currently, Aerisian Refrain is on a special pre-order sale of just $0.99! Find Aerisian Refrain on Amazon and Goodreads.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy was published by a small publishing company, but I’m publishing my Beyond the Sunset Lands series (a planned four book series) myself. I loved having a publisher for handling a lot of the leg work (and expense!) of getting my first books off the ground, but as an Indie I also love the control I have over every aspect of the process.
Currently, I also have three books with an agent. Been traditionally published by a major publisher has always been a dream of mine. I long for the day when I can walk into a bookstore and pull my book off the shelf! However, even if that happens, I will likely still remain a hybrid, and go Indie on certain series.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

Yes! Watch for a fun Young Adult Fantasy/Fairytale called Knight’s Rebirth, coming in time for Christmas 2018! It’s the story of a famous knight, Sir Buckhunter Dornley, who is content to live alone until he meets the charming and outrageous Princess Mercy. When he discovers Mercy lives under a deadly curse, how far will he go to break it?

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

My ultimate goal as a writer is simply to tell my favorites of the stories I create, and share them with the world. When I get reviews or messages from readers telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my work, that inspires me to keep going!

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Write. Just write. You can polish it later, but you can’t polish what isn’t written.


Author Bio:

Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University.
She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.

Sarah’s works include the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and the fantasy novella Amana.

To keep up to date with Sarah’s work and new releases, sign up for her newsletter. You can also visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.



Random Friday

Since it’s the summer, it’s hot outside and I’m half-hibernating as usual, I’ll use these random Fridays to introduce you to the authors of the sci-fi anthologies. I might get to August, or not… Anyhow, I shall start with my Jedi Twin, Fulvio Gatti, the guy who wrote 30 stories in 30 days as a challenge and kept me busy all of May.

But among those 30 stories there was the one I chose for the Sci-Fi Stories – Starships anthology! The rest mostly is being submitted to traditional markets, so I’m glad he let me add his story to this indie project. I’m sure you’ll hear about him again in the near future! 🙂

Here he answers six very quick questions.

1. What is it about starships that draws you to them?

They are the best way to sail into infinite adventures in space!

2. What is your story in the anthology about?

It tells the story of a bunch of funny space travelers I hope we’ll meet again in the future.

3. What inspired your story?

I just let my imagination create some characters that would be funny to follow around in their adventures. This is the result, I hope you’ll enjoy.

4. Do you always write about starships? If not, what do you write about?

I’m interested in any kind of fantasy, suspense and speculative fiction that let us travel through time and space while focusing on compelling characters. We fight along with them through new places, surprising discoveries and mystery solving.

5. What should readers know about you?

I want to write funny, compelling and imaginative stories like the ones I’ve grown up with, from Star Wars to Ninja Turtles.

6. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I hope my stories will speak for themselves!

Fulvio Gatti is an Italian journalist, writer and mostly a geek, so much so that his latest nonfiction book published in Italy is about how geek culture is taking over the world. He has written graphic novels, nonfiction books and short stories. In the northwestern part of Italy where he lives he is an event organizer, translator, radio speaker and even deputy mayor of his town. He has now started the conquest of English-speaking markets, so reader beware!

Sunday Surprise

Words of wisdom, writers on writing, call it what you want! Here’s a break from Sci-fi July with lovely advice from wonderful authors.

I pretty much considered myself a failure by everything I had been raised. A successful person would be working a “real” job, raising a family, saving for retirement. A successful person didn’t work as little as possible to give myself more time to type made-up-stuff on a typewriter.

The concept of being a fiction writer was so alien to how I was brought up that I didn’t even realize until I was almost thirty that real humans wrote all the novels I read.  Yet I loved the challenge of telling stories.

And I think I loved more than anything that making up stories wasn’t a “real job” that people would accept. My estranged mother, right up until the day she died, thought I had wasted my life.

Wasted my potential” as she used to say.

And by the time she died I was a major bestseller. Didn’t matter. To her way of thinking, the real job way of thinking, I didn’t really work.

I didn’t get a paycheck, cash it, try to make it stretch until the next paycheck. Therefore I was a failure. Period.

The very real fear of not having a real job if you were raised in that kind of thinking is almost impossible to break. To this day I honestly don’t know how I escaped it. And I haven’t escaped it completely.

Dean Wesley Smith

I’d like to offer for your approval the highly unfashionable idea that good storytelling trumps everything else. Writers whose characters are made of purest silly putty and who can’t parse a simple English sentence regularly end up on the bestseller list because they know how to tell a story and keep readers turning pages.

There seems to be a school of thought that lovely writing is all that literature is about. I love to bask in beautiful writing, but I much prefer writing to be in aid of something, which is to say a good story. Likewise, I fully appreciate well-drawn characters, but well-drawn characters with nothing to do but gaze at the wall and soliloquize to themselves are pretty darn dull.

– Walter Jon Williams

I’m also confused by the fact that such a large part of recently written science fiction is very pessimistic. It worries me particularly that in SF aimed at children and young adults, dystopias have become the popular and most frequently published subgenre. I myself am naive enough to believe that we would feel better if we could read about a future that is worth living in. I’m also naive enough to believe that we currently have all the information we need to create such a future. Why, then, do so few science fiction writers nowadays describe this kind of alternative? This remains a mystery to me but it would be nice if more writers were to even give it a try.

– John-Henri Holmberg.

Remember This: Human Beings Learn Best Through Storytelling

We live inside stories. We learn empathy from stories. We gain other points of view and other ways of thinking from stories.Stories open new worlds. Stories create community.

Stories have great value—not just as entertainment, but from one human being to another.

Your readers might love your characters, characters those readers would hate in real life, and those characters might make it easier for your readers to understand their corner of the world.

Finally: Value Your Art

Kris Rusch

Hope is your beacon of light during the darkest of times as the tiniest sliver of light shines brightest just before the dawn. The best advice I can give to you for the difficult days ahead is to find the things and people they give you hope. Follow them. Support them. Do what you can to ensure the things that give you hope can continue.

Do not go gently into that good night. Fight. Hold on to your hopes and dreams for the future. Art harder. Live bolder. Become the best and strongest version of yourself that you possibly can. Take care of yourself and your fellow humans.

Love with all of your might, but whatever you do, never give in, never lose hope.
Steven Spohn

Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! And since we’re moving into the month of sci-fi, he’s a sci-fi writer! We met at a few Worldcons through the years as well as book fairs in Italy. He’s a great guy, great writer and great publisher! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Francesco Verso!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in Rome (Italy) since most of my time.

Why do you write?

I believe in the power of Science Fiction to shed some light on the future of mankind. I am convinced that literature can help to better understand the psychological and socials mechanics of the world we live in and, in particular, now that technology is playing an ever important role in our lives and relationship we can’t avoid its impact on our reality. Thus, my stories imagine what would be the short and long term consequences of our symbiosis with different kind of technologies ranging from prosthetics, to artificial intelligences, from 3D printed replaceable organs to DNA modifications and nanotech developments. All these anatomical augmentations will have a deep reflection on our identity and thus on our ethics and morals, both on an individual and social scale.

I feel there’s an urgency to update our dramaturgy to the technically accelerated times we live in, something that the mainstream genre is also starting to acknowledge, thanks to the popularity of TV Series like “Black Mirror”, “Westworld”, “Humans”, “Mr. Robot”, “Electric Dreams”.

When did you start writing?

During my University years, I’ve studied one year in Amsterdam for an Erasmus project and there – along the canals – I’ve found a little second hand shop run by an American guy who had opened a bookstore there specialized in SF. Down in the cellar he kept hundreds of SF classics, like Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, Ian McDonal’s “Desolation Road”, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, Ursula Le Guin “The Left Hand of Darkness”. I started from there, with the crazy ambition of imitating the writers that I now consider my teachers and sources of inspiration.

What genre(s) do you write?

I write Science Fiction, which means I set my stories in the near future and mostly on Earth. I can’t really write about other worlds as I believe there’s enough “alien realities” and “otherness” here on our planet, just around the corner of wherever we live, to light up any sense of wonder and walk into an “uncanny valley”. Lately I am interested in exploring the solarpunk and human augmentation subgenres – say sustainable energies and posthuman issues driven by technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 – as tools to analyze the biopolitical scenarios we’re heading to in the next years.

What does your writing routine consist of?

I used to have a routine of writing very early in the morning (from 6 to 8am). I’ve managed to write 4 novels and 7 short stories in this way, over the course of 6 years. But since I’ve opened a small press called Future Fiction dedicated to scouting, translating and publishing the best SF authors from every corner of the world, I have changed my schedule. Now I try to concentrate the first draft of my writings during some weeks where I focus all day long and then edit the material whenever I can find some spare time during the year. I became a full time writer 10 years ago, so I have plenty of time, but I need to organize it in a very efficient way, since Future Fiction is taking a lot of my time in reading other people’s stories, going to Book Fairs and SF Cons around the world. Lately I’ve turned also into a public speaker so the time for writing is getting smaller and smaller but more intense.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

Good question and not easy to answer. Let’s say I like to build an interesting plot. My stories are always driven by the actions and desires of the main characters because I think readers should always identify themselves with the themes at stake. Also I am a very curious researcher and careful editor, that means I work a lot on new, breakthrough ideas, or at least on innovative ways to retelling them as not to leave the feeling of “being there, done that”. For me, fiction is the best way to discover new realities through the eyes of someone who can make me believe he/she has been there.

Over the years, I’ve developed a great attention to “meaningful details” and to master the themes of the stories I write about. I need to know a lot more than what appears on paper (the famous “iceberg” approach) and not just in the first draft but also during the revision, which takes much more time and dedication than the first draft (approx. 3-4 times more). My latest novel – the Walkers – went through 9 different revisions and at least three editors looked at the story before I could consider it ready to be published.

So I’ve learned to wait, to have a discipline, not to rush to the end, and then to appreciate the process more than the finish. Maturity taught me that a writer’s biggest enemy is not sold book or selling charts but time; I write to win its favor.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I’m an outliner. I like to know where I am going and also where I am taking the readers. During the plotting, I sketch the course of actions and relationships between the main characters. Then of course I allow myself the freedom to wander around and take different directions if they are in line with the general path. I limit the improvisation to the writing phase, also because I believe in the value of content density, meaning that writing should embody the highest level of meaning in the shortest amount of words. To achieve this goal, I write brief summaries of every chapter as they – at least for me – should respect a sort of “opening-apex-hook” dramatic structure.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

There isn’t a specific goal: writing is already a kind of reward for me and the feeling that I am contributing with novels and short stories to a wider discussion (the future of mankind, the ever changing relationship between man and machine, the development of biopolitics) is a stimulating challenge for my mind. I enjoy the moment when a new idea crosses my thoughts, the very moment when a piece of dramatic information has the potential of turning into a full story, the craft of an interesting scenario that comes alive in front of your own eyes. In a way, it’s like playing God with possible futures, exploring the good and bad of mankind behavior… and that’s not a small thing for me. And then, most of all, when I go to SF Cons and Book Fairs around the world and I can share all these experiences and discussions with other fellow writers and readers, that’s when I truly feel happy and satisfied. It’s a difficult job in terms of money (small payments, no insurance about the future, no idea if your next book will be good as a previous one) with lots of personal disappointments, emotional failings and hard time but it’s also the only job I wouldn’t change with anything else.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

An editor once told me: “Furnish your plot, not your character’s thoughts,” meaning that actions should emerge from the character’s behaviour and not from his/her mumbling and concerns. Readers are best engaged by other people’s actions and reactions more than their thoughts and internal monologues. That doesn’t mean characters should be flat and simply driven by hectic actions like in a thriller movie, but that – on the contrary – all inside feelings and emotions should rise to the surface of behaviour during the course of events and physical actions. In other words, it simply means putting real life into fiction and not consider fiction as a literary world outside the real one. I’ve learned maybe a very simple thing: that fiction imitates life and life imitates fiction. That’s what makes Science Fiction plausible and move the readers mind in a wonderful direction: a story that keeps doing its job even when the book is over since a long time. The persistence of a book is the best measure of its quality.

I hear your novel “Nexhuman” has been translated from Italian into English and published by Apex books. Care to elaborate on that?

It took around 8 years to write the book, publish it on Delos Books in Italy, then have it translated in English and publish it in Australia with Xoum and then finally to arrive on the US market thanks to Jason Sizemore who liked it so much he decided to have a US edition of Nexhuman.

So I am very happy to see an Italian SF book published by an established and highly valued SF publishing house like Apex since a very long time. The US market is almost impossible to enter if you don’t write in English, which means the costs of translation are often on the shoulders of writers or the publishing house that decides to invest in it (except maybe for mainstream and literary books that have a slightly better treatment thanks to funds and grants). So paradoxically, in SF, where there should be more openness and desire to overcome boundaries and limitations than any other genre, we see a totally different picture: it’s been formally addressed as the “3% Problem”, meaning that only 3% of what is published in the US market comes from Non-English speaking countries and in that 3% are included all the languages of the World!

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I’ve just published in Italian on Future Fiction the first book of my latest novel called “The Walkers” which is made of two stories: “The Pulldogs” and “No/Mad/Land”. The first book has been already translated in English by Jennifer Delare and I hope to find a publisher for it outside of Italy.

Then on the editing side, I’ve worked with Bill Campbell, editor of Rosarium Publishing to publish an anthology called “Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International SF”, where we’ve selected stories from the best SF authors from the world coming also from Non-English speaking countries. And the same thing I’ve done China with Guangzhou Blue Ocean Press selecting SF stories for high-schools and universities students.


Find Francesco online:

Web Page:




Author Central:

Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! Another fantasy author… Don’t you dare saying “Enough of them!” I love them fantasy authors! I’m one of them! 🙂 Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Andy Peloquin!

Where do you live and write from?

I have been living in Mexico for the last 16 years, but just moved back to my home country of Canada, where I am now living in the province of British Columbia.

Why do you write?

You know when you get up first thing in the morning and your bladder is so full that you have to pee? Well, writing is a lot like that for me! (Yes, I used a pee metaphor—shows what kind of writer I am.)

Writing gives me an outlet for all the creativity pent up within me. I am a terrible artist and adequate-at-best musician, so without writing, I’d have no other way to express myself creatively. Writing allows me to put pieces of myself out into the world, where people can connect with me through my stories.

When did you start writing?

I had an elementary school teacher that was passionate about the arts, and he would make us write poems and short stories for our classes. That got me interested in writing, but I didn’t start on my own until I was 15 or 16 years old. I wrote a few short pieces and the beginnings of a novel until I was 19, but stopped to pursue other activities. I didn’t really pick it back up until 2014, at the age of 25.

What genre(s) do you write?

Fantasy is my genre! Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!

What does your writing routine consist of?

Monday through Wednesday, I only get afternoons to work, so I usually fit in a 2-hour slot between 3 and 5 PM. On Thursday and Friday, I get the full day for writing projects, so I’ll do three 2-hour writing shifts: 7-9 AM, 11 AM – 1 PM, 3-5 PM.

I like to have a little something sweet to write: coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chai, a cookie, chewing gum, etc. I also need lots of water and a great playlist to keep my creativity flowing.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

I’d say I’ve learned a lot about crafting great characters and worlds through research and study of people around me and diving into psychology (as a hobbyist, not a licensed professional). I do a lot of research ahead of time so I can fully understand the story I’m shaping. When I sit down to write, it just flows because I’m already full of the subject.

This has led me to investing time into worldbuilding and character outlining (at least in broad strokes) before I sit down to write. It helps me get in the right headspace so I can create from a place of knowledge and preparedness.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

Inspiration comes from everywhere: billboards, TV shows, movies, books, comics, video games, my family, random conversations, people passing by on the street, and the list goes on! Anything can spark an idea, and all I have to do is keep tugging at the thread of creativity to unravel the inspiration.

I find that I do tend to put pieces of myself into each story. I’ve been told “Write what you know”, and when I invest my characters with fragments of myself—my thoughts, beliefs, emotions, rationales, and motives—they come alive and become so much more interesting.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

Outliner, with room for improvisation. I have a “broad strokes” outline that helps me to stay on track, but I give myself all the wiggle room I need because there’s always something new and unique that pops up when I sit down to write.

Having an outline (and the above-mentioned worldbuilding) helps me to write fast. I can produce about 3,500-5,500 words in a 2-hour writing stint.

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

Darkblade Assassin is actually the first book that I ever published. It was originally titled “Blade of the Destroyer”, and it was released via a small publishing house. But in December 2017, I regained the rights to the book (and the two others released) and am republishing them under the new titles.

The Hero of Darkness series follows the Hunter of Voramis, an assassin with a mysterious past and a dagger that drives him to kill. On the surface, he seems like nothing more than a bad-ass, but he’s actually someone who (like me, like all of us) is looking to belong in a world that rejects him. He struggles with his “inner demons” (literally) and the dagger’s demand for blood. He may be an assassin, but in the human aspects, he’s someone that we can all relate to.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

I went the route of publishing two series via a small press, but I’ve decided that it was time to try self-publishing. I have more control over the books, and I can churn them out/publish them much more quickly. Given the ever-changing market, it seemed like the best option.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

This six-book series is totally written and with the editor, and I will be releasing the entire series between May 29 and September 4th. As that’s happening, I’m working on a five-book sequel series, which is set up via a murder mystery novel that features both the Hunter of Voramis and Ilanna, the thief protagonist from my Queen of Thieves series.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

My goal is to tell the best stories possible, and to connect with people through the characters and situations I write. In order to do that, I have to take risks with my creativity. For example, writing the Queen of Thieves series was that risk, because I (being a 6’6” male) have no experience writing a small (5’3”) female. Writing the Queen of Thieves series was a huge gamble, but one I was thrilled to tackle because it challenged me to see life from the opposite perspective. It took a lot of research to get it right, but I’m very glad I did because it is still my favorite series to date.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Just let it flow. I’m the kind of person who likes to have everything figured out and in place before I start writing, but sometimes that kind of overthinking can stifle creativity. I’ve come to realize that I can organize myself with an outline, but ultimately the story will flow much better if I don’t have every little detail figured out. The story tends to shape itself within the structure, but it needs room to breathe and grow.

Links & Bio:

I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I’m also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Fan Group:


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10 Things You Need to Know About Me:

  1. Hot wings, ALWAYS!
  2. I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
  3. I’m a head taller than the average person (I’m 6′ 6″)
  4. Marvel > DC
  5. I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
  6. Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
  7. Aliens are real, but it’s self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
  8. Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
  9. I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
  10. I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Favorite Books: The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, Sherlock Holmes by A.C. Doyle, Warlord of Mars by E.R. Burroughs

Favorite Songs: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch, Prayer by Disturbed, I’m an Albatraoz by AronChupa, Look Down from Les Miserables, Shatter Me by Lindsay Sterling and Lizzi Hale

Favorite Movies: 300, Red Cliff, Shoot Em Up, Love Actually, Princess Bride

Favorite Comics: Anything with Deadpool, Wolverine or Doop in it

Favorite Foods: Hot Wings, Meat-Lover’s Salad, A good sandwich (made by me), Yaki Soba, Sushi

Favorite TV Shows: The Flash, Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hawaii Five-0, Brooklyn 99, Firefly (too soon!), The Last Ship, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones

Random Friday

Since I don’t have anything new to report, here you go with words of wisdom, writers on writing, whatever you want to call them! Have a great weekend! 🙂

The formula for long-term success is easy.

1… Write what you love, what entertains you.

2… Learn continuously about the craft of telling stories.

3… Learn continuously about the business of publishing.

4… Learn continuously about how to handle a business and money.

5… Write more stories and novels than anyone else.

You want to study how I went from stalled to making lots of money with my writing?

Just buy all 36 issues of Smith’s Monthly and study them. 36 novels, 160 plus short stories, tons of articles and non-fiction, serial novels, and so on. And realize I laid out the first thirty of those issues out, from cover to interior to ads. Yes, I did the work on them as well until just last spring.

Write that much in three years, keep learning, and find innovative ways to get your stories to readers and you will be surprised how much money you can make.

But you can’t do that writing to market. At least not for long.

Only writing for love will allow you to maintain that pace and have fun at the same time.

So now I have, as Heinlein said, “Given away the secret.” Now anyone can do it.

Anyone can, actually.

Have fun.

Dean Wesley Smith

If we add up the sheer volume of TIME involved in the old way, why are we griping that we have been self-published three years and aren’t yet J.K. Rowling?

I have mentioned the problems with Millennial Authors (these are writers who have “come of age” during the digital revolution and they could be 22 or 67). I know the “old way” wasn’t better, but it does lead me to believe that writers of the “old days” have better tenacity because they didn’t enter the profession in the Age of Instant.

Yes, our first book might only sell a handful of copies. But guess what? In the “old days” odds were we would only sell a small number of copies as well (refer to statistics above). But, unlike the “old days” we can keep writing more books. We can keep at it until something sticks or until we decide to move on.
Kristen Lamb

2017 is going to be fascinating because the world economic situation is in flux, just like our industry is in flux. What we do know is this: People read books in good times, and people read books in bad times. We just have to figure out how to get people to read our books.

How do we do that?

First, we write the best damn stories we can. That’s why people read. They want to escape (or get information and escape, in the case of nonfiction).

Second, we produce the best product we can, in as many formats as we can manage, so that our readers have choice.

Third, we let our readers know that a book is available. Note that Open Road succeeded by putting backlist books on bestseller lists. Five years ago, traditional publishers said such things were impossible.

Fourth, we plan for the good and the bad. Readers want us to keep writing. They want their favorite authors to publish as many books as possible as fast as possible. Readers also know that we’re not machines, so they move to other writers while they wait for us. But readers will wait.

So if you’re having a rough year, figure out what it will take to survive that rough year. Then return. And as you plan for your future after that rough year, plan for the good and the bad. Try to be debt free. Try not to overpromise. Start learning your business and grow, slowly, so that you can be around ten years from now.
Kris Rusch

To me sketching is like taking notes of thoughts. You practice and practice to build up that sense of shape, form and beauty, but not to just do beautiful drawings or paintings. I think too many artists are obsessed with doing a perfect drawing every time. It is not about doing a nice drawing every time, it is about being able to do a nice drawing when you need it. That is why you practice, that is why I doodle.
– Claire Wendling (Barb’s note: this applies to writing as well… just sayin’!)

(…) there are so many layers of competency you have to take on in writing science fiction and fantasy. When your writing concerns only reality, there are things you don’t need to question. Writing science fiction and fantasy means you need to question whether there’s even a sun. And then question what direction that sun comes up in and what color it is.
– Nalo Hopkinson

Sunday Surprise

Words of wisdoms, writers on writing, you name it! Enjoy these writers’ quotes and happy Sunday! 🙂

However, artistic freedom sometimes comes with a price. And that price is sometimes too steep for many writers to pay. Low sales, bad reviews, and so on.
Artistic freedom takes courage to write what you actually want to write, not just what you think you “should” be writing to keep the money flowing or what your workshop tells you to write or some editor or agent tells you to write.
Courage to hold onto your own artistic freedom is sometimes difficult and certainly not an easy task.
But the artistic freedom this new world of publishing gives you should be cherished. I know, I worked thirty years without it and now that I actually understand how lucky I am, I’m going to defend it even more
I love the freedom to make my own choices in publishing, right or wrong.
I love the freedom to write what I love to write, what I want to write. Period.
And once again, I will say it simply: I love this new world.
Dean Wesley Smith

There is a saying among writers: “When you write a book, the first words of the novel will sell that novel, but the last words in the novel will sell the next.” In other words, a powerful novel will make your reputation, will cause people to remember your name, so that with future books, the fans will simply pick them up without thinking. They might not need to know the title or check the reviews on your next novel. They’re fans for life.
David Farland

Because ELIXIR was my first book, I didn’t write it under a deadline. I could take my sweet time to work on the story, waste hundreds of pages on tangent plot lines that went nowhere, stop and start as inspiration ebbed and flowed, and revise indefinitely. All told, I spent almost seven years on that first book. And then the publishing gods smiled on me and I found myself with a two-book contract which allowed me a little over seven months to write the follow-up, UNVEILED. Given my writing history, this task sounded almost impossibly daunting. What I realized, however, as I successfully completed the manuscript well within the deadline, is that tasks expand or contract to fill the time available. I took seven years to write ELIXIR because I could. I wrote UNVEILED in seven months because I had to. More time does not necessarily make for a better book, either. When there was all the time in the world, that time was most often unproductively frittered, whereas the deadline had a way of sharpening my focus, making me more attentive. And attention begets inspiration.
Ruth Vincent

Inspiration comes and goes, creativity is the result of practice.
– Phil Cousineau

What I know is this:
We’re writers, and writers write.
And so, this year’s authorial resolution is far humbler, far smaller –
Write, despite.
What I mean is, no matter what happens, keep writing. No matter how exciting or terrifying the news becomes, write anyway. Force the time. Look away. Focus up. Eyes on your paper. Demand of yourself the creation of stories. Carve out the mental and emotional territory, and the temporal and physical landscape, in order to keep doing what you’re doing. In times like this, the distractions are endless. It’s easy to stop. It’s all too simple to feel overwhelmed by what’s going on and to stare at the Eye of Mordor as it fixes its gaze upon you. And yet, no matter what, you gotta do the thing. You gotta tell the stories. You gotta write it all down.
Write, despite. Or if you’re so inclined, write in spite of everything.
Your art does not need to be rebellious for you to rebel against everything. Just making art is an act outside the natural order. It is already a contravention of the status quo. And it’ll only get moreso in the coming year(s). Write despite. You needn’t aim any higher than that. You can. But the best thing you can do is to give yourself that mandate:
Write no matter what, write anyway, write always.
Have a great 2017. Carve your words into its hide. Tell the monster your tales.
Chuck Wendig

Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! She has a brand new book out! And she’s another fantasy author! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome J. Elizabeth Vincent!

Where do you live and write from?

I live and write in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It’s such a beautiful area that I’m never lacking in inspiration from nature. We also have a thriving arts community that I treasure very much.

Why do you write?

Reading and telling stories has been something I’ve been passionate about since I can remember. Seeing someone’s face light up when they’ve read or heard one of my stories, when they can imagine themselves in it—well, there’s nothing quite like that feeling. I think most people need some sort of creative outlet, and writing is one of mine, probably my main one, as I’ve always felt connected to the power of words and what they can be used to create.

When did you start writing?

I’m not exactly sure, but I remember in high school deciding that writing was something I wanted to do. Between a particularly encouraging freshman English teacher and a best friend who couldn’t get enough of my stories, I was hooked.

What genre(s) do you write?

I will try just about anything, but my favorite genre to write is any kind of fantasy. I like the freedom of being able to rewrite the rules of reality while still having the boundaries of the way “people”—be they elves, monsters, or humans—relate to each other. I’ve also written plenty of nonfiction, along with romance, suspense, poetry, and even horror.

What does your writing routine consist of?

I often write early in the morning, around 5:30 a.m. My full house is quiet then, and I haven’t yet allowed anything but the story enter my overcrowded mind. I write for one to two hours before starting the rest of my day, which includes working as a freelance editor and designer and homeschooling my three children.

What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?

When it comes to fiction, I’ve found a way to make the words flow in a way that’s easy to read and very natural. I believe that comes from years of reading and editing for others. I think the biggest help is just writing through, practicing my craft as much as I can.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

I find inspiration everywhere, especially in nature, but I also find inspiration from art, books, and television. For example, one night I was brainstorming story ideas, and I thought how cool it would be if there were a superhero like Jessica Jones but with wings and set in a fantasy world. However, when Mariah, the character who came from that idea, grew, she became something much different and developed a unique personality all her own.

I don’t often put myself in my writing. Like many people, I find myself kind of boring, but sometimes I’ll pick out a particularly juicy or odd element or thought from my life and grow an idea from that seed.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I do a muddy mix of both outlining and flying by the seat of my pants. I often start with some kind of outline, but I usually don’t stick to it to the letter because once I’m in the zone, the story starts to write itself. However, when I get stuck or feel like something is not working, I’ll go back to the outline, reworking things until the story feels better.

As far as speed goes, it all depends on the day or week. When there is a lot going on with my family or freelance business, my writing slows down, but when those things are slower or more even, I get a lot more words in.

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published) + indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

My latest book was actually my debut novel. I also have two nonfiction books published under my real name and a couple of short stories published under my pen name.

Raven Thrall (Legends of the Ceo San: Book 1) tells the story of a girl with wings who has been sheltered all her life, only to be suddenly driven from her home and everything she knows. Years later, she finds herself locked in a struggle with her own identity when she is asked to return to her homeland, where her kind is still persecuted, to help another young family facing slavery because of their special gifts. In her quest, Mariah must decide between doing what is safe and doing what is right.

I decided to self-publish my second nonfiction book along with Raven Thrall for many reasons. One was that I prefer the creative control and the ability to oversee every step of the publishing process, from story building to price setting. Also, having worked in the publishing industry in one form or another for the last twenty years and with constant self-education, I felt confident that I could do a good job on my own or at least that I knew how to find the right people to help me.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

Yes, I have three works in progress. Healer’s Sacrifice is a prequel novella set in the Legends of the Ceo San world. It’s very close to being finished. I have also started Book 2 of the Legends of the Ceo San series, which is tentatively titled Revelation of the Dragon. I’m also working on a third draft of an urban fantasy/lesbian paranormal romance novel called Blood Mastery. I actually finished the first draft of Blood Mastery before I wrote Raven Thrall, but it’s been my biggest challenge, and I’m still working on getting that one right before bringing it to my readers.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

Honestly, my goal as a writer is and has always been to entertain (with fiction) and to educate (with nonfiction). If I can help someone have a better day by giving them a fun read or by offering them some new information, it makes me happy. Personally, I want to make writing a large part of the way I make a living as well, so I plan to keep writing books as long as it makes me and my readers happy.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

When I was 16, I wrote to my favorite author, whose books are still a source of inspiration for me. Stephen R. Donaldson was kind enough to write me back. He gave me the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten, although it took me almost 30 years to apply it. His advice was to apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and write.

I’ve learned that writing consistently not only gets the job done but that the act of writing makes you a better writer, just like practicing dance makes you a better dancer. You can’t expect to be a good writer if you only practice once or twice a year or when you feel like it. Writing every day (or as close as you can manage) hones your writing muscles. It teaches you that the blank page is not an obstacle. It teaches you that you can write when you’re mildly sick, when you’re not in the best mood, and when the muses are giving you nothing but drivel. You sit and write like you go to work every day. It’s a job, and some days are better than others. Thankfully, with writing, you usually get at least one chance to go back and polish or even redo it, but you can’t do that until you get it on the page to begin with.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Barb!


Raven Thrall will be free on Amazon Kindle from Monday, May 21, 2018 at 12:00 am PDT to Friday, May 25, 2018 at 11:59 PM PDT!

Fantasy & Urban Fantasy Author J. Elizabeth Vincent






Sunday Surprise

Hi guys,

I’m Samantha and I come from another world – the original, old Silvery Earth, where people are immortal and never grow up. When I’m not switching bodies at will, I travel to other universes, especially books or movies. That’s how I met Rajveer the vampire, for example!

So, I’m taking over the interviews on this blog! And here I am, meeting people from other books/universes/whatever!
Hello there! Tell me a little about yourself (name, age…)

S’pose it can’t hurt. My name is Pierce Landcross, and I’m . . . how should I bloody say it? One who has fallen out of favor with the law. I’ve been told I’m the most wanted thief in England. It seems ’about right, considering I tried stealing from Queen Victoria inside her palace. I’m twenty-seven and have been scraping by my whole life with no real direction on the horizon.

I like it! Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

Ten words, eh? Right. I measure up to around five-eight in height, slender build, with shoulder length hair, green eyes, a nasty scar across my throat and a brand mark of a figure-eight on my chest. Long story.

Okay… Do you have an enemy or nemesis? If so, who are they and how did they become an enemy?

Bloody hell, where do I begin answering this one? Being a thief, a smuggler, and all-around troublemaker, I haven’t left many mates in my wake. One enemy of mine, in particular, is a German named Volker Jäger. He was once a general in Hamburg where I attempted to highway rob a friend of the mayor. Ol’ Volker was assigned to find me, but with some help, I managed to escape. Volker was discharged shortly after and has been hunting for me since to redeem himself.

Would you kill for those you love? And would you die for them?

Unfortunately, killing comes with the territory of being a fugitive. *Sighs deeply* I’m not proud of the lives I’ve taken, but nor do I regret it, especially when it comes down to taking out those threatening people I care for. It drives me to act whenever a loved one is in danger, it’s just who I am. I once offered the Queen my life for my folk’s when they were imprisoned at Newgate Prison. Which, I might add, turned out utterly different from what I had expected. I bloody swear these one-eighties that keep happening to me is truly the story of my bleedin’ life.

Where do you live?

My world is one heading steadfast toward the next new cycle of the human existence. Since the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, there has been this strive to invent and bring about new gadgets and machinery by inventors known as Contributors. These sods are working their way up to the peak to this steam-powered age to reach the new era, The Age of the Machine. Whether it’ll actually occur or not is anyone’s guess, but I’ve seen a thing or two to not discredit that such a stage will come. As of where I live, it depends on where I am. Other than being a hunted outlaw, I’m a wanderer by nature. My brother and I grew up with my folks who traveled with Gypsies until Joaquin and me got separated from them in Abney Park in London. Afterward, we roamed about, trying to find them. We never did, and all we achieved was becoming common criminals.

Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

Aye. I managed to find someone, and surprisingly enough, she loves me as much as I love her. Her name is Taisia Kuzentsov, a Russian lass who grew up performing in the circus before setting off on her own to explore Europe. Tai is very brave who can hold her own in the face of danger and believe me, we’ve encountered our fair share. She’s also a protector who has no quarrel about putting herself in harm’s way to keep her loved safe. When I look at her, her beauty completely undoes me sometimes.

What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

Staying alive, mostly. To tell the truth, I suspect I’m cursed. It seems that every time I bloody well peer my head up for a single moment, something happens and I wind up in another life-threatening adventure.

Heh. Authors tend to do that to their characters. Do you have a family? Tell me about them.

Aye. My mum, Nona, dad, Jasper, and my grandmother, Élie Fey. As I mentioned before, my brother and I were raised by Gypsies. Taisia actually came across my folks during her travels and joined up with them on theirs. My family is a pretty unique bunch. Mum is the person in charge of the family. S’pose her assertiveness comes from her father, who’s a forest elf living in the Netherlands. Dad also has his own special bloodlines and Grandmother Fey is an enchantress. My brother, Joaquin, is an outlaw like me, doing what does to keep on living.

Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

I talked about the bloodlines in my family. I’ve inherited these, which doesn’t make me into any superhuman, or anything, but it has made me a target for a witch named Freya Bates, who has this grand plan that no one knows about and for some reason or another she needs me dead to achieve it. Like I said, earlier, I’m cursed.

Nah, I’m sure you’ll survive! What 2 or 3 questions do you wish I’d asked and what are your answers to them?

Interesting question. Erm, s’pose if you were to ask me what I’d like to do other than be a thief, I’d say be an English professor. Aye, stop your laughing now, even though I sound like a hick, I’m very well-read. I love books, you see, and teaching literature would give me a chance to explore more deeply into the novels I’ve read while enlightening others.

The other question would be what’s all is in store for me. A lot, actually! Grandmother Fey used to be a fortuneteller of sorts. She once told me each life has many paths that lead in different directions. No one can truly see into the future because the future is always changing. I dunno my whole story yet, but I can tell you it involves me traveling through the Netherlands and following clues to a family inheritance, dealing with the Hellfire Club in Scotland, sailing to Sonora, Mexico with my mates, the Sea Warriors where I’ll be hunting for fugitives, a jailbreak in New Orleans, and returning to England to face my most feared enemies.

Okay, I guess we’re done with the gentleman… hello there, milady! Tell me a little about yourself.

My name is Clover Alice Norwich, and I’m ten years old. I am the daughter of a terrible man, Lord Tarquin Norwich, and sister to Archie Norwich. I write fantasy stories and hope to become an established author one day.

Oh, cool! Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

I’m tall for my age, with red wine-colored hair, dark brown eyes, with some freckles sprinkled over my face.

What is your role in the story?

Mainly I get the boys out of trouble. Father had ordered Archie and me to travel to France to capture Mr. Pierce and bring him back to Southampton where he could be questioned about the Toymaker, Mr. Indigo Peachtree. That plan fails when Mr. Pierce is saved by the Sea Warriors during our crossing over the Channel. After that, I use my crafty planning to keep us three alive while we try finding Mr. Peachtree.

Way to go, girl! What is your relationship with the protagonist(s)?

Like I said, Archie is my brother. My older brother, who is caught between obeying our ruthless father while trying to find a way for us to escape him. Archie is a good brother. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Mr. Pierce is my friend, which didn’t start off that way, considering we were sent to catch him and bring him to Father.

I wish I had an elder brother too – only a twin sister and more sisters around here, sgrunt. Where do you live ?

I live in Southampton inside a stuffy old mansion. My life as a noble is very dull and unproductive. If it wasn’t for my writing, I’m awfully sure I’d go mad.

I bet you would! Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

*Giggles* No. I’m only ten, after all. Although, if I was years older, I’d marry Mr. Pierce. He’s very handsome and kind. He also likes reading which is very appealing to any writer.

Tee-hee! Indeed! He could become your first reader! What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

I was kidnapped by Mr. Pierce’s older brother, Joaquin, and handed over to some bad people working for my father at his castle on the Isle of Wight. They didn’t know who I was, so they locked me in the dungeon. Never had I experienced such mistreatment nor I have been so frightened. I suppose the biggest challenge I face is acclimating to this exposure of cruelty.

Mean people. They shall be punished! Do you have a moral code?

Sure, I do. I have lots of them, I suppose.

Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

I died once. I don’t want to go into details because it was a very dramatic experience for me, especially because of who shot me dead. But I crossed over to the other side and came back!

Color me impressed! What 2 or 3 questions do you wish I’d asked and what are your answers to them?

How about what kind of books I write? My answer is fantasy stories where I cast myself as the protagonist and explore other types of worlds. Another question would be what are my plans for the future. I’d like to grow up and live in a quaint little cottage in the countryside and spend my days writing my stories and to travel the world, preferably with the man I love. *Giggle and blushes* Like Mr. Pierce.

Book(s) in which the character appears and links

Legacy (vol.1) Legacy-The Reunion




Legacy-The Reunion Goodreads:

Full Series Synopsis:

Author’s Facebook:

Michelle E. Lowe is the author of The Warning, Atlantic Pyramid, Cherished Thief, and Legacy. Children’s books, Poe’s Haunted House Tour, and The Hex Hunt. Her works in progress are the continuations of Legacy. Currently, she lives in Lake Forest, California with husband Ben, and their two daughters.



Twitter: @MichelleLowe_7


Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! From my latest curated bundle, Thieves… She is even out there this weekend, if you are at the Wild Wild West Steam Fest in Santa Ana, go and greet her! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Michelle E. Lowe!

Where do you live and write from?>
Southern California.

Why do you write?
Why does someone want to be a cop, or actor, or engineer? It’s installed in us at birth. I believe that we’re meant to do these things, even if we don’t realize it right away. I love stories, and I love telling stories. Creating worlds, characters, and plotlines out of thin air is a magical thing which is fascinating that people (especially someone like me) can do it.

When did you start writing?
I’ve written small stuff throughout my life. Short stories, poems, things like that. When I was nineteen and in college for graphic design, I was alone, grieving in my dorm room. I’d just lost my older brother in a motorcycle accident. To occupy my mind, I decided to write out this story that had been playing around inside my head for a while, and once I started, I couldn’t stop! I swear, it happened in a snap. As hokey as it sounds, in a split second I’d found my calling. I like to think my brother was telling me something.

What genre(s) do you write?
Fiction mostly. I wrote one nonfiction book about the life story of the infamous highwayman, Claude du Vall, but the rest are all fiction. Steampunk/fantasy, science fiction, a few children’s books, even a thriller.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
I’ve been writing for the better part of twenty years now and would like to make it my full-time profession. Doing what you love and making an actual living at it IS the dream, right? To do so is to promote and to reach out to readers so to build a fan base. I’ve attended events like Gaslight Steampunk Expo and Gaslight Gathering in San Diego, WonderCon, and this weekend, I’ll be at the Wild Wild West Steam Fest in Santa Ana, signing books. I love doing these shows because I get to meet people and chat with them, which is always a treat for me. I also make connections, which is critical for any business.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m not sure if this qualifies as advice and it wasn’t said to me personally, but there’s this lovely quote by Toni Morrison, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”I like this quote a lot because if an author writes what they want to read, the story will be more enriched by the care and devotion the writer is willing to put into it.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?
Having an outline is a must for me. I don’t like diving into a story with no compass. Having said that, I don’t restrict my story to any framework. Most of the time, I end up writing a completely different story outside of the outline. Planning out a story beforehand simply helps me push forward faster and allows me to document little details I might later forget. Outlines aren’t barbwire fences that demand to be followed, but a guide assisting you on your way.

Tell us more about your book in the bundle
Legacy (vol.1) is my steampunk/fantasy story. It’s the first of a six-part series, (which are all written, the last four only need to be edited.) The premise is that an evil man named Tarquin Norwich is searching for a toymaker, Indigo Peachtree, and the only way to do so is to force two outlaw brothers, Joaquin and Pierce Landcross, in helping to find him. Tarquin sends his children, Archie and Clover across the English Channel to snare Pierce in France, while Tarquin and his oldest son, Ivor, go after Joaquin in the north. Nothing goes as planned, however, and the story becomes a cat-and-mouse scenario of who can find who and what first. Here is a link to a short video about Legacy which includes excerpts of the book itself. 😊

(buy the book on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Smashwords or get it in the bundle Thieves)

Tell us about your latest book
I just released the second installment of Legacy, titled Legacy-The Reunion. It basically picks up where the first book leaves off, but with a completely different storyline. In this story, Pierce Landcross discovers that his long-lost parents are imprisoned in Newgate Prison and goes in to rescue them. He soon finds out that there has been an inheritance left to the family and when Pierce goes to the lawyer to collect it, he discovers that in order to claim the fortune, he must first follow a series of clue throughout the Netherlands to its location. Pierce is also accompanied by a beautiful and clever young woman, Taisia Kuzentsov, and together they seek out the loot. Their quest isn’t without risk. A dangerous bounty hunter who has his eye on the inheritance and on the price on Landcross’s head, is tailing them, waiting for the right time to act.

(buy the books on Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

Any other projects in the pipeline?
I’ve just started on the next series, The Age of the Machine, which I have set up as being four books total. This series will be more steampunk than fantasy like Legacy is, and hopefully just as much fun to write!


Find Michelle online






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