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Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

Any Dream Will Do

As I type this post tears are streaming down my face so please bear with any typos you might find.

I just finished a new release by Debbie Macomber called Any Dream Will Do and for the first time in many months I’m moved to write and share with my readers a piece of myself.

I am a convicted felon.

This is not something I share with everyone usually, nor is it something I’m proud of, but it is a fact.

In 2007 I was charged with and convicted of embezzlement. As a result of this I lost many friends, most of my family, custody of my precious daughter, and all my hopes for my future. For ten years I’ve lived with the horrible choices I made and felt that each day was just the bridge to the next day since all my dreams of a future for myself, a career, and a family were forever lost. Most days I feel utterly and completely hopeless.

As a person who has battled depression and anxiety from a young age the added hopelessness occasionally pounds down around me like a blackness threatening to overtake me entirely. I try very hard everyday to remind myself I am exactly where I put myself and don’t wallow in the self-pity; some days I give in to it.

The hardest part of living with a felony is knowing who you can trust not to judge you for the mistakes you made. In my experience there aren’t very many people who fall into that category. I’ve been lucky to find a handful of new friends over the last decade that have embraced me and the history I bring with me with loving, non-judgemental arms. They have allowed me to show them who I am today without unpacking all the baggage I carry around. I’m also lucky to have just a couple of friends who have looked past my transgressions and have remained, unwaveringly, loyal and loving before, during, and following the worst years of my life. For all those people I am and forever will be eternally grateful.

However, there have been so many more, from lovers to friends, who have refused to see me as anything more than the mistakes I have made. The hardest of those who judge are definitely potential employers. As a convicted felon any job I am qualified for and more than capable of doing and succeeding at comes with a background check that I cannot pass. If you tell an employer up front that there’s a felony charge in your history you will never get a foot in the door. I’ve learned this repeatedly over the last decade. It doesn’t matter what your experience is, your level of intelligence, or your skill set. Employers are unforgiving of money based crimes and will not give you the opportunity to show your value as a potential team member. I wish this weren’t true, but I have yet to experience anything else.

In Any Dream Will Do, Shay Benson finds a program that not only teaches her to stop being so angry about her past, but also teaches her to dream again for her future when, like myself, she feels her hopes and dreams are gone. She makes a series of connections that give her the opportunities to prove her worth both to them and to herself. She finds love and forgiveness in friends and a man she cares for. Drew Douglas shows her that she can trust her heart to someone who won’t always jump to the wrong conclusions about her because “once a thief…..”

I almost feel foolish in letting this book give me a renewed spark of hope, but it has. These types of programs don’t exist where I live, and I am not a religious person as Drew is, but somehow this story touched a piece of my heart that has been closed up for a long time; the part of my heart that holds my dreams.

I am not a young woman, nor am I in any of the same types of circumstances or community that Shay was in, but this book has reignited some hope. I can’t even begin to explain how that feels. For now it’s enough just to reconnect to that feeling.

Thank you, Debbie Macomber for writing Any Dream Will Do and for reminding me you have to dream something, anything, or it will never have the chance to come true.

Monique Pearson

 

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To Write Love On Her Arms

I just finished a movie called To Write Love on Her Arms and I have to tell you it touched me more than almost any movie I can remember.

Let me start by saying I do not struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. I am not bi-polar. I am not a cutter. I am not suicidal.

I am also not religious and for me this was not a story about any god or religion.

What I am is a person who battles depression and anxiety. I am a person who has struggled in life, at times, to find a reason for waking up another day. I am a person who has felt lost within herself. I am a person who believes in hope. I am a person who KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I NEED other people in my life for me to be okay. No matter what anyone believes about themselves, we all do.

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To Write Love On Her Arms is the true story of a young lady named Renee Yohe. It all started with a blog post by her friend Jamie who, after meeting her and helping her detox, found her story to be encouraging. He wasn’t encouraged because she had already triumphed, but because she was damaged yet still not broken. She was beyond help in the eyes of most of the world but surrounded by a small group of people who loved her enough to help her put her life back together; even if they had to keep gluing the shards of her hope over and over again.

Sometimes that’s all you need in life; that person or those persons who stick. The ones who see your scars, visible or not, self-inflicted or not, and don’t flinch. The ones who love you when you feel unlovable. The ones who hope for you when you feel hopeless. The ones who see you plain as day when you feel completely lost. Everyone needs those people. EVERYONE.

There have been days when the war being waged in me felt like it could rip me to shreds. I can only thank my own fear of being controlled, by persons or substances, that I didn’t use drugs and alcohol to escape to some place away from myself.

Renee’s story reminded me just how much I depend on my people. My best friend, my internet friends, and my chosen family are all intricate stitches in the fabric of my being. When my edges are frayed I just turn to any one of them and their kindness and love and acceptance weaves the hope back in until I’m whole again. For me; that love and that hope are my religion, my higher power. I turn to these things like a flower turns it’s face to the sun.

Renee-Yohe

Some might look upon this young woman’s face and wonder how could a young life be so bad or so difficult that addiction and pain feel better than merely existing. But I get it. Sometimes just waking up to exist another day is the monster beneath the bed, the unknown thing you fear the most. Perhaps it’s true that “it’s never as bad as you imagine it will be,” but then again maybe that’s the lie we tell ourselves to get out of the bed and step foot in front of the beast waiting to devour us. Until it’s your bed, your feet, your monster, you don’t know for sure.

For many of us the thing that gets us past the monster, the fear, is the person or persons waiting outside the door for us. Our children, our spouses, our families, and our true friends give us the courage to hope that our exposed limb won’t be snatched. Not today at least. Trying to find that courage when there’s no one waiting on the other side of your fear, whose mere existence in your life is the reward for getting there, is damn near impossible.

https://twloha.com was founded by Jamie after the overwhelming response to Renee’s story showed him just how many people were in desperate need of someone in their corner. Because honestly the only thing worse than hating yourself, hurting yourself, being afraid, and suffering from mental illness of any kind is doing it all alone. There’s enough people on this big ball we all live on that no one should have to do it all alone.

My hope is that even just one of you will read or watch Renee’s story, now that I’ve told you about it, and you will think of someone who needs to know they aren’t alone in life, and you will SHOW them you are there for them; you will find time in your busy life to help someone hold their pieces together.

And if you are a person who needs to connect to someone who sees you through your own fog; who needs someone to hand you the hope and love you can’t quite grasp on your own; who needs someone to hold the pieces in place as you glue them back together for maybe the hundredth time; who needs a reason to face the monsters that lurk around the corners and behind your eyes…I beg of you…reach out.

I promise you that someone doesn’t have to have walked in your shoes to be exactly who you need. They only need to be let inside your walls. No one can be your person if you don’t allow them to be. Surround yourself with people who want to be there for you and then let them.

Have hope. Be brave. As Renee said, “The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope.”

See the blog post that started the To Write Love On Her Arms movement here: https://twloha.com/learn/story/

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Going After Your Dreams

Chase Your Dreams!

When I was about 10 I fell in love with reading. I started out like most kids with Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. Seriously, who didn’t love Ramona Quimby or Superfudge? I was going through these books so fast that I was quickly running out of “appropriate” things to read. By age 12 I was reading Sweet Valley High romances and started writing my own version of those when I couldn’t get my hands on new ones in the series. By 13 I’d discovered my mother’s secret stash of historical romances.
Like many latchkey kids, I was bored and nosy. I found a shelf in my mother’s closet that contained rows and rows of these thick books featuring women in amazing gowns and men with lots of muscles and long gorgeous hair. The titles were even exotic. Savage Thunder, Defy Not The Heart, and The Fires of Winter.  Certainly not the kinds of titles you’d find on a teen romance. I would occasionally flip through them but was daunted by their length. One day I discovered one of the books not only had a character with my name, but it was about a third smaller than all the others. That was enough for me to give it a chance.
I opened the book, right there in the closet, and began reading. 4 hours later when my mother came home I was still sitting in the closet and was almost finished with the book. That was it. I was hooked. The sex didn’t concern me. It wasn’t actually graphic, just passionate. I’d seen much worse on cable TV. My mother wasn’t mad, except for the fact my chores hadn’t gotten done and I was sitting in her closet (which actually confused her more than anything I think).
I started going through my mother’s collection of romances one by one for the next 3 years. What hooked me was the unlikely pairings, the “I’d die for you” devotion, and the fact that no matter what they faced somehow they came together in the end to be together.

Happily Ever After.

Who doesn’t want that?
I’ve heard parents blame a young girl’s unrealistic expectations of love and romance on Disney and their multiple princes who always save the day for their true love. Disney had nothing to do with creating the hopeless romantic in me. It was Penelope Neri, Johanna Lindsay, and Julie Garwood. Even though these stories were set mostly in other countries and all in another time I came to love escaping into the lives of the heroines who tested the boundaries of society, pushed the limits of ladylike behavior, and always found their happy ending in the arms of true love. From Indian maidens to viking princesses to duchesses of grand estates, they all had one thing in common; a happy ending.
Early on I started imagining how I wanted the book to end before I ever got to the ending. Sometimes I was right in line with the author, sometimes their ending was much more intricate than I could have imagined, and sometimes I really believed my ending would have made the book better. I was feeding my imagination and building stories in my head before I was even fully aware of what love and romance were all about.
I didn’t have a traditional English or Grammar teacher. Mrs. Cook was more concerned with teaching mythology, Shakespeare, and all the manias and phobias. I still don’t know how to diagram a sentence and I couldn’t tell you what a split infinitive is, but I can tell you how the Goddess, Athena, was born and draw you a pretty accurate depiction of an Elizabethan theater. The rules for commas are lost to me, just ask my friend the editor, and my ability to stay in the same tense comes and goes.
Then came my Junior year of high school with American Literature followed by a Senior year with World Literature. From Dante’s Inferno to Pride and Prejudice to The Raven to Canterbury Tales. I LOVED IT ALL. In college I read W.E.B. DuBois, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This list goes on and on and there were so few that didn’t fascinate me.
I took every writing class I could get into and found that after years of reading my imagination was endless. My technique definitely not comparable to the greats, but I was a bottomless well of ideas. I could pick and emotion and write a story that would make my teacher feel it. I could pick a life and convince the reader I’d lived it.

I’d found my passion.

Many people go through life never finding what it is they are passionate about. I KNEW I wanted to be a writer. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was meant to write. I had no idea what I wanted to write but I knew I had to tell stories.
Like most people life went on and I got busy just making a living and my dream was put on the back burner, ignored, and almost forgotten. I was still reading anytime I could, but I’d stopped writing.

The Book That Changed Everything

In 2011 a phenomenon happened when a previously unpublished writer self-published and self-promoted a trilogy of romances set in a fictional world of billionaires and BDSM. It took off like no other adult book I’ve ever seen. The sex scenes made those historical romances seem innocent. The main character of Christian Grey was suddenly creating a frenzy of women who coined the term “Book Boyfriend.” He was sexy, rich, mysterious, a little dangerous, and would do anything to keep his woman. Without the half naked people on the covers moms everywhere were able to put these books in their purse without fear of being caught with their smutty, romantic reads. Finally giving into the trend I read the trilogy, in less than a week, and then craved more. I quickly found authors with similar works featuring alpha men and luxurious lifestyles where possibilities were endless and creative sexuality was encouraged. All that had been “taboo” was no longer. I fell in love with other authors like Julie Kenner, Maya Banks, and Tara Sue Me.
Now a woman in my late 30s and early 40s my imagination was sparked in new ways and I began to write again. Short stories. Snippets of scenes. Nothing extensive. Thanks to social media I was able to follow and actually interact with authors I was reading. One of the best days of my life was when Julie Kenner sent me a friend request on Facebook then just a few months later another author idol of mine, Lauren Blakely, saw a post I’d written mentioning her and she also sent me a friend request. These are women selling millions of books to millions of fans and I can now interact with them directly. I found indie authors of every sub-genre of romance and through social media interaction started actually building friendships and have extensive conversations with these women. Through these authors I’ve discovered other authors who I not only like as people but love as authors. My book collection, both paperback and e-book, is massive. I’ve become engrossed in the world of romance and writers.

BUT…

The more I read the more I doubt I have any place among these amazing writers. Some offer to read what I’ve written and many encourage me to just write until I get more comfortable with my skill level and improve naturally with time and practice. Fear has a way of making a person immobile. Fear of not being good enough and of being a small fish lost in a giant ocean kept me from even trying. I kept making excuses to keep my dream just that, a dream.
I started this blog to give me an outlet to write whatever I wanted without fear of success or failure. It’s for me. It’s nice that others have read it and enjoyed it when I’ve written, but that wasn’t the point. I would never have guessed that this one thing I did just for me would lead to all the crazy things happening just over the last several months.
First, I received and email from and unknown sender. I actually opened it simply because of the subject. Smut For Charity. Wouldn’t you open it?  It was an offer for previously unpublished bloggers of romance to submit their own short story for publication in an anthology. I read that email probably 10 times and kept finding excuses not to reply. I didn’t have time, I didn’t have the energy, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have any fresh ideas, etc, etc. Then my daughter came to visit me. After listening to all the “practical” reasons she was putting aside her dream of art school and seeing her enthusiasm for art dwindling because she believes that her dreams are always going to be out of reach I was heartbroken for her. A parent never wants to see their child settle for less than their greatest potential no matter how impractical or impossible it might seem. But here I was doing the same thing I didn’t want her to do. I had all kinds of excuses for why I couldn’t be the writer I always dreamed of being.
So I answered the email. I kept putting off writing my story because I didn’t think it would come out as well as the ideas that were forming in my head. Finally I made a promise to one of the ladies putting together the anthology of a day I would submit my story by. Someone was counting on me to follow through. I wrote my story in less than two days and sent it in.  There’s things I’d change now if I could since I’ve reread it probably 100 times but it’s my first time and you learn as you go. The people who have read my story have given me a lot of great feedback. So much that I decided that this year I would face another fear and take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, which is November, and meeting a goal of 50,000 words written. I’m not at my goal yet, but I’m well on my way. In the meantime the anthology is being put together as I write this and is due to release on November 29th. My story is not only the first one in the book, but also an excerpt from the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo will be in the back of the book. We have several prominent authors supporting us and promoting the anthology. Even Ms. Julie Kenner has offered to promote the release, among other super supportive author friends I’ve made.
As an unpublished writer I’m learning the cost of things like editors and formatters and cover art. I have an amazing author friend who offered to edit my first work for me when I’m ready, which is a HUGE chunk of the cost, and so many ready to support and share my solo book when it comes out and my short story isn’t even out yet. I’m facing these fears reluctantly but every step of the way I keep reminding myself that I want to show my daughter that if you want it you have to go for it. You can’t give up before you’ve even tried. You can’t make excuses and expect any results. I’ve already invested in cover art for two books and have the support and push from those who won’t let me turn back.

Every day I write a little. Some days I write a lot. What matters is at the end of the day, before you close your eyes, ask yourself this question; what did I do today to get one step closer to making my dreams a reality? It doesn’t matter how small it is, do something, EVERY SINGLE DAY and don’t settle until you’ve exhausted every possibility. You can’t be the best if you don’t try. You can’t grab the trophy if you don’t show up.

Reading romances taught me if you want it bad enough you make it happen. Never give up hope until you find your Happily Ever After.

Monique P.

chances

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Remembering The OKC Bombing

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April 19, 1995

Those born on April 19, 1995 are celebrating their 21st birthday today. For many Oklahomans it’s the 21st anniversary of the day their home was attacked and their loved ones were murdered by deranged individuals seeking revenge on a government they disagreed with.

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On April 19, 1995 at 9:01 am Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was having a day like any other. People were arriving to work, babies were being held at daycare, phone calls were being made, kids were sitting in classes. It took 1 minute and 1 individual full of anger and hate to end the lives of 168 Americans and change the lives of thousands more forever. By 9:03 am we were a wounded city, state and nation. All over the world people mourned and prayed for Oklahoma. All that pain and devastation because someone hated choices made by individuals in our government trying to protect others.

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Our government makes mistakes and sometimes we greatly disagree with their choices and decisions but we, Americans, also take for granted all the things our government has given us and how much better off we are than so many other nations. Can our government be better? Absolutely! But attacking one another and creating more hate and anger towards each other only creates more of these horrible events. Hate fuels the fire within people who don’t understand reason, compassion, or acceptance. We CAN NOT be a nation that stands behind any person or group that supports division instead of unification. Do not give your votes to people who spew hate and disrespect of other individuals, groups or agencies. We can disagree with each other’s choices and still embrace our diversity and accept that we are different and show respect for one another.

Any individual or group who supports hating or creating fear among any part of our population is creating more homeland terrorism. More events like the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Building are inevitable when people become irrational with hate and fear. Our basic rights are not being attacked by our government or any other power because laws are created trying, sometimes fruitlessly, to keep us from continually harming one another. Those who encourage such thinking are inciting anger and fear unnecessarily.

Today and everyday I ask you to remember the Pledge of Allegiance we recited as children all over this country. Let those last five words, “liberty and justice for all.”, mean something to you as you go through your daily life in an amazingly diverse world full of all kinds of people with all kinds of lives. Liberty and justice FOR ALL; not just the white, straight, christian, American born.

Let the lights of the OKC Bombing Memorial be a reminder of what hate and fear can do.

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Embrace diversity. Embrace change.

“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” ~Noam Chomsky

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All Photo Credits by Chrissy Justice

As an Oklahoman who cried 21 years ago and every time I look back on the devastation caused by one irrationally fearful and hate-filled man (and those who followed him) I worry those with big voices are encouraging this kind of event to happen again. The only thing more powerful than fear and hate is love. Love one another because of our differences, not despite them.

Monique P

Amazon, you hit like a bitch.

As a blogger and HUGE fan of books I find this to be a disgusting misuse of power. Some bloggers actually do make a living giving HONEST reviews of upcoming and newly released books.
I love to read and when I read a book that speaks to me I want to share that with the reading community. So many of the best books I’ve read have been either A. a recommendation from a fellow reader or B. a new release from an author I “know” since I “follow” them on social media waiting with baited breathe for them to give me a new book to devour.
Do we “know” these authors we follow? We’d like to think so, but in all honestly we usually do not. We often know them by pen names, social media presence and what small details of their lives they share with their fans. I “know” Stevie J. Cole and Audrey Carlan as much as I “know” Barry Manilow (and I have been able to tell you everything there is to know about Barry since I was 8 years old, I touched him in 1996 and got a “personal” letter from him in the 80s).
Whether I am reviewing one of these authors’ books or Barry’s newest compilation album it’s an honest review of what I thought and why I thought it. How much I stalk a person on social media doesn’t change my tastes in books (or music and yes I realize I’m very uncool and I’m okay with that).
Amazon not only taking away years of reviews but disregarding the reviewer’s concerns about why this was done is just one example of how they have gotten too big for their britches. Readers who care pour their hearts out in reviews and carefully select their words to properly convey exactly what and why they like or do not like a book. We readers are passionate and to disregard hours of honest reviews about books that have touched us, changed us, and moved us is disrespectful and belittling.
What links do we usually share to fellow readers so they too may enjoy these books? Amazon.com of course. They are the behemoth of the book buying universe.
I am disgusting for my fellow blogger and saddened because these kinds of actions from a book source so many of us send chunks or our paychecks to leave us to wonder how we fight back. Do we let them win and pay the higher dollar at other retailers, go without our e-books and stop sharing our best loved books with others or let them win by allowing this treatment to go on unfettered without altering our spending habits?
You will find one thing to be true 99.9% of the time: readers are passionate about their books and about their opinions of the books they like, love, and hate.
To erase a passionate reader’s voice without so much as a conversation is vile and rude and no matter how big and powerful you are neither of those things will ever be acceptable.
My fellow bloggers and reviewers, somehow we must address and resolve this injustice.

In the meantime; keep reading!

Monique P

The Never Ending Book Basket

It’s taken me a bit of time to write this post, but I figured it’s about time to share the utter nonsense that’s happened between me and Amazon, and how a company that I once highly respected, has now become one that I have zero respect for.

I’ve thought about writing this post for weeks, what I would say and how I would capture everything that’s happened, and I’ll be honest with the fact that this post has taken on many forms, but finally I decided that it would just be easiest to state the facts.

So here it goes…

As some of you know, on February 24th I was sent an email from Amazon letting me know that I could no longer post reviews on their website, and that all of my previous reviews had been suppressed or removed. In case you’re wondering, that was well over 300…

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COVER REVEAL: Exrated by: Stevie J. Cole

Title: EXRATED

Author: Stevie J. Cole

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: May 2, 2016

Blurb

Tyler Westbrook, better known as Johnny Depth, is taking the adult film industry by storm. With his playboy looks, it’s no surprise a few coworkers have attempted to take things off set and into the bedroom, but Tyler refuses to blur the lines between work and play…until the new assistant to the director walks in.

Jemma Morgan was recently fired from a lead role on a kid’s TV show that was supposed to be her big break. Unable to get another acting gig, she’s accepted a job in an industry she never expected to be a part of. Although she anticipates being shocked her first few days on set, nothing could prepare her for the moment she’s asked to hold the reflector as her ex-boyfriend plows through a woman like a Kansas cornfield.

In a world of butt-plugs, lube, and fake moans, is there a place for a second chance? Exes and some serious ohs…the term ex-rated just took on a whole new meaning.

Pre-order Links

SPECIAL PRE-ORDER PRICE OF 99c

AMAZON US / UK

Author Bio

Stevie J. Cole is a secret rock star. Sex, drugs and, oh wait, no, just sex. She’s a whore for a British accent and has an unhealthy obsession with Russell Brand. She and LP plan to elope in Vegas and breed the world’s most epic child.

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GOODREADS

Wynn in Doubt by Emily Hemmer

Check out this book on Goodreads: Wynn in Doubt http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25497061-wynn-in-doubt

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You MUST read this! Seriously…just go to Amazon and use your 1-Click finger right now. Just do it. You’ll thank me later!

I’m so glad I read this and once I started I couldn’t put it down. I had to know how Lola’s story ended and how it impacted Wynn’s story. There’s a line about people only being afraid to die if they are afraid they haven’t lived…not a direct quote ….that was like a punch in the gut. I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought this at 43 years old. What have I used these 4 decades to do? Why do I keep talking myself out of following my dreams? Maybe I’ll fail but I have to try. I have to stop being afraid to try and stop making excuses for not trying. I want to write. I’ve been doing it as a hobby since I was 12. And maybe I’m no good really but maybe 1 of the stories in my head will move someone like this one moved me. Just maybe. And if not, I’ll still be able to say, “I tried. I wrote that book (or that story).” And I’ll have left that piece of me behind to show I was here and I lived.

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I cried several times and many more times I had to pause and absorb what I had just read. It felt like Emily Hemmer wrote this just for me and I found it just when I was supposed to. That feeling is a rare treasure. I’m a fan for life!
This book will be read again and again.
Start living!  (Right after you read this book!)

Happy Reading!
Monique P

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