Feedback Please! How Are We Doing?

Hi everyone! Just a quickie post today, asking for a bit of feedback. It’s been over six months since we transferred hosting sites and became Writers Helping Writers, so I wanted to do a check in:

How are we doing?

WHW blog buttonOur goal is to build a space that offers writers help, information and tools that can’t be found elsewhere. Becca and I want to support all writers, both with bettering their craft, and helping them navigate the marketing and the business end of being an author.

To do this right, we need your help.

If you don’t mind, take a minute to let us know what you really need to help you succeed as a writer or author. Is there a tool you’d like to see, a Thesaurus Collection you wish we’d create, or topics you want us to cover? If so, please tell us!

Also, don’t be afraid to make suggestions on how we can improve our website, and our current writerly offerings. We appreciate the time you spend with us, and want to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible. Becca and I are all about learning and improvement, so if there’s something we can be doing better, just shout it out. 🙂

UPDATE: More Books Releasing in Spring 2015

One of the most common questions we get via email is: what’s next? 

Here’s the scoop:  Becca and I are hard at work creating two new volumes that will encompass The Setting Thesaurus Collection. While we’ve posted quite a few setting choices here, we know there are a lot of “holes” in the range of locations available. And while we can’t create an entry for every type of setting, we’d like to double or triple our current location choices to give you all a really good selection of Contemporary Settings to choose from. Setting is incredibly important, and choosing the right one adds deeper meaning to the story through symbolism and motifs, pulls readers in through sensory detail and creates great opportunities to actively characterize your hero. We are super excited to be writing these books!

Becca and I may also release a third volume that will tackle Speculative Fiction Settings (think Horror, Paranormal, Sci-fi, Fantasy…that sort of thing) if we feel there is enough interest. As you can imagine, the research and time needed to write these books is pretty intense, so we want to make sure we’re focused on a topic that serves a broad audience. (So if you would be interested in a setting book for these genres, let us know!)

TIPPY-TIP: If you’d like to be on an email notification list for when we have a solid date for book releases, just fill this email request form out if you haven’t already! Don’t worry, we won’t spam you…that’s not how we roll.

So…onward to the comment section!

  • How can we better help you succeed as writers and authors?
  • What would you like to see here at Writers Helping Writers?
  • What types of tools/articles/webinar topics would you like to see us tackle?
  • What are your biggest writing or marketing struggles?
  • And most importantly, is Writers Helping Writers living up to its name?

We’d love to hear from you!

About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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77 Responses to Feedback Please! How Are We Doing?

  1. Heather Hayden says:

    My input may be a little late, but… I only just found your site and haven’t even picked up a copy of your already released thesauruses (although I plan to do so soon); however, I can say with certainty that a volume devoted to Speculative Fiction settings would be wonderful!

  2. I’d like to pop in and say thank you to everyone for giving us such great feedback on our site and for letting us know what you’d like to see in the future. For some reason, I wasn’t receiving notifications of new comments for awhile, and with the craziness that is my summer, I missed all of these messages. It looks like Angela has responded to everyone, but I wanted to say Thank You for the kind words, and for taking the time to leave your helpful notes!

  3. Kimbra Wilder Gish says:

    I would LOVE both a Setting Thesaurus and a Speculative Fiction Setting Thesaurus. If these are anything like the Emotion and Trait Thesauri in quality, style, depth, and price, I’d happily buy them both. I’m a speculative fiction writer and setting is something that’s always a challenge for me. I would hope you would include not just setting lists, but details for how to describe them effectively. 🙂

    I’m still thinking what other thesauri I’d like to see. I think I’d like to see one for physical traits as well…but that would have to be executed very well to be different from other, less effective, books of this type. I’m not interested in seeing lists without comprehension of the items’ significance…there’s one book that lists “mental disorders” without any evidence of understanding how those work or their complexity. Ugh.

    I’ll post more as I think of ideas, but I’d definitely want to see those two setting titles. 🙂

    Thanks,
    K.W. Gish 🙂

  4. Kathryn says:

    Your site has helped me tremendously! It has not only made me think outside the box but think outside of my comfort zone. I bought several of your books that make me think of images and ideas that I didn’t realize that I could come of with. You’re doing great, keep up the great work (I know I need your help and appreciate all of it).

  5. Jenni Gate says:

    Your sites (both of them) have been incredibly helpful. I agree with Robert, above, about the truncated messages for new posts. I loved that the full post came through on the other site.

    Any chance of doing a Plot Thesaurus? I read somewhere that there are actually only 20 plots that are used over and over in different ways. I would love to know what plot devices to avoid as cliche, what plot basics can be built on to craft our own, tailored plot, how to plot for different genres, etc. This may not be something you have any interest in tackling. Or maybe it even makes plotting a little too formulaic. I would love it though. 🙂

  6. Christine says:

    I would love to see the Fantasy/Sci-Fi type settings thesaurus, as that’s predominantly what I write. I have almost no use for contemporary settings at this point, and when I do, I can usually do my research in person. In Fantasy/Sci-Fi, it’s all up to my imagination, which sometimes could use a little prodding.

    I’d love to see more on physical descriptions of characters too. I always love it when an author picks something unusual to comment on or compare to other than the usual color of their hair/eyes. What thrills me are the descriptions of people’s posture, gait, or that hairy mole that draws your eye and won’t let you look at anything else.

    You both have done a fantastic job, and your thesauri have a place of honor within reach of my writing desk. I know whatever you tackle next will be great!

  7. Adora says:

    I love the new site. I think a speculative fiction setting book would be a wonderful idea. I belong to a speculative fiction writing group and I’m sure they would all be interested as well (I introduced them to your other 3 books and they received quite the round of oohs and ahhs).

  8. P.S. Josh says:

    I think the speculative setting book would be great. I’m also wondering if it would be possible to write a book of local slang, adjectives, or terms used in different locations in the U.S. such as the south or New England for instance. I once wrote the word “dang” and another writer commented that it sounded more southern than something someone would say in New England. She happened to be from New England.

    • That might be a good idea for a tool! Something tells me I have seen a website for it on my travels, something similar to this idea at any rate…if I find it again, I’ll post it here!

  9. Judith Ring says:

    Writers Helping Writers is the best site I’ve found. I keep saving pages to my desktop, so I can find them in a hurry. My “folder” for you is getting so big I’ve made a bunch of subfolders.

    As for your thesauri, I’ve bought three. As far as I know that’s all you’ve written so far, but if I’m wrong please let me know and I’ll buy the others. I have both ebooks and print books. I also use all your thesauri on the site. Wonderful! Wonderful!

    The settings you’ve mentioned in this post would be extremely helpful. And for those of us who write historicals, something to tell us what specific illnesses were called in the past if their names are different from what we use today (i.e., dropsy for edema, etc.) and what was used as medication for those illnesses – especially herbal medicines. How did they treat blood poisoning, for example.

    Also, perhaps references as to where to find this type of information – I’m apparently not too good at Google – and to find information on occupations available during specific periods. My current novel is set in 1869 Southern California and I’m not finding as much as I’d like about jobs open for women in that period, or even what men would do in a small town – I know men can be cowboys, lawyers, doctors, bankers, storekeepers, sheriff, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

    Perhaps these last things could also be contributed by readers who know the history of their area.

    In the meantime, thank you for the wonderful site you have and please keep up the good work!

  10. CHRIS BERYL says:

    YES! I live in Canada and read every newsletter. As a new writer, I like the variety of information. Maybe you have addressed this topic before, but I am interested in self e-publishing. I am just reading the free Kindle app about preparing a book for that format. I wonder if anyone would like to do a best formatting article, perhaps they have published an ebook. I am attempting to write a novel. There seems to be so many on-line publishing companies. I would like to know about editing, formatting, pricing, etc.,.Thanks so much for such a great resource.
    Chris Beryl, British Columbia.

  11. YES on the speculative setting info!! Obviously, I think you two are TOPS with the info you share on here now, but these would be my interests: more internal and how to get across your character’s personality more. How to describe them without resorting to a mirror trick. Description is a big thing for me because I want to expose the reader to the right details and leave out the boring or uninteresting things. I’ve always been told I had a screenwriter’s vision and that my description needs to pour onto the page more in fictional writing. I guess if I could marry the poet side of me to my fiction, all would be well, lol. Seriously, I love the interviews you have with different creative people as well as the business side of things. I’m always interested in learning more 3rd person pov tips. It would be fun if you could bring some historical info into play too.

  12. Diane Turner says:

    You two are doing a fanrtastic job! I have all your books and eagerly await the Settings Thesaurus. I am back and forth on your site all the time. Navigation is easy, subjects well presented, and material is relevant. Can’t get much better than that. Thanks so uch for your efforts.

    • Thanks so much Diane! So glad we’re meeting your needs! Give us a shout any time if you are finding there’s a void in information on a writing topic and we’ll do our best to help.

  13. Diane J. says:

    How can we better help you succeed as writers and authors?
    – I think you are both doing a fine job right now. I love seeing new entries in my email. especially the Skills and Talents.

    What would you like to see here at Writers Helping Writers?
    – I don’t know if this would be possible, but a state-by-state breakdown of plants, rocks, people, food, etc. that are indigenous to each area. Here in Western Washington we have a lot of moss and mildew…and slugs (we pressure wash our walkway three times a year and I still have family that live in drier areas and think moss and mildew take years to grow). When I was growing up in Montana I never saw a slug. Even though I grew up in the Western part of Montana with all the trees and mountains, it’s completely different than here. Obviously. 🙂 I went home and I had forgotten how dry and airy the dirt is in the summer, the reddish hue of the rock, the smell of dry pastures. The subtle differences that can really make a scene. In Montana we ate bison burgers and deer summer sausage and of course, regular beef burgers. Out here, it’s mainly beef burgers and veggie burgers and “what is summer sausage?” Apparently, the beef in Iowa is super tender (so a man visiting once told us – I can’t remember what kind of feed he insisted made it better).
    Even the difference of car care: Obviously, we aren’t washing our trucks in December in Montana. But in Washington, yeah, we do.
    When I go to the mountains in Washington people are dressed in fluffy down ski coats, fancy snow boots. Montana, a Carhartt work jacket suffices just fine for ten below. Most men are wearing their Pendleton shirts without jackets for daily errands. If they are going hunting, they dress warmer, but still you can find them wearing their work boots as their all-around shoe.
    I know when I visited Tennessee it was the first time I had ever seen pig snout in a grocery store.
    Such small details, but they leave huge impacts. within our writing.
    Hope that made sense. I would love to get glimpses into rural and urban areas in different states. Yeah, Google Earth can take me there, but only a human can tell me what’s common and uncommon.

    What are your biggest writing or marketing struggles?
    -My biggest writing struggle is self-doubt. One day the novel seems great. Two weeks later it sucks. Just keep pushing past those doubts and trudging along. Sometimes, I will step away from my novel for a whole month when I feel I’ve gone really astray. Then I have to give myself a pep talk, followed by tough love and get back at it.

    And most importantly, is Writers Helping Writers living up to its name?
    Absolutely! I thoroughly enjoy every post and the archives. Thank you for all the hard work and I look forward to your new book releases!

    • I know exactly what you mean. I agree, something like this would be helpful, but very labor intensive, especially because there are different environments in different states. That’s not to say we wouldn’t try tackling something like this, because I can definitely see the value. I honestly think this would be a great idea for a writer-inspired collective website, where people living in these regions fill out the entry themselves, for the benefit for all. Something to think about!

      I get you on trying to not let doubt take over. All of us writers struggle with it–I know i do. I wrote a guest post on this a while back, so it might help until I can write something fresh on it: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2011/12/guest-author-angela-ackerman-keeping.html

  14. You’re doing a great job. I already have every book you’ve put out and welcome any new ones because I know the quality will be the best possible. As a fantasy writer I’d gladly welcome a Speculative Fiction thesaurus. Absolutely! I saw above a thesaurus based on sounds mentioned and would second that.

    Further, I’d love to see a thesaurus delving into smells, the most underutilized writer sense and the most difficult to research. There are the obvious smells that we all recognize, of course, but there are also those associated with every tree, flower, region, kitchen around the globe. A typical kitchen in Italy will differ greatly from one in New Orleans or Delhi. Even in this country what invades your nose while walking down a street in the northwest would differ from the Deep South or Rockies. If you could pull that off you’d produce an invaluable thesaurus with no competition (that I know of). Often writers don’t forget the sense of smell, but ignore it because it’s difficult to move beyond the obvious and over used.

    There you go! Now you have enough work to keep you busy for the next 20 years. 🙂

    • “Now you have enough work to keep you busy for the next 20 years.”

      Haha, no kidding! Smells are under utilized, yet have the strongest tie to triggering memory, which is why we explore smell in the Setting Thesaurus. I do see what you’re saying though about the need for specificity, and it really would be a huge project because there is such a difference in sensory information depending on where a person is. A person will experience different woodland smells in a pine and spruce-dominated forest than they would in an aspen forest. But you never know…if there’s enough of a demand for anything description-oriented, Becca and I are always happy to take a crack at it if we think we can make it work! 🙂

    • :Donna Marie says:

      How about just one “Thesaurus of Senses”?

  15. Tori says:

    I think you are doing a great job and I already use the setting collection you have online, often utilising a few to help create a setting not detailed.

    I would definitely buy both a setting and speculative fiction setting thesaurus.

    Keep up the great work !

  16. I think you guys are doing a great job! I love the Emotion Thesaurus and your other resources. As a fantasy writer, I’d love to see setting thesaurus for speculative fiction. Keep up the great work!

  17. I love the format and look forward to hearing from you, even if I don’t always get to read you in a timely manner. I have no interest in speculative fiction. Don’t read it or write it. But I’ll bet there are a lot of people who love it. Good luck with that. It’s an interesting idea.

  18. Christina Li says:

    How can we better help you succeed as writers and authors? I think you guys are doing a GREAT job. I love your articles and books. I’ve used them heavily in my writing, especially the Emotion Thesaurus. Keep doing what you’re doing! 🙂
    What types of tools/articles/webinar topics would you like to see us tackle? For your ‘Talents and Skills’ entries, I’d like to see ‘computer hacker’ or ‘cyber detective’ or something like that.
    What are your biggest writing or marketing struggles? Marketing and ‘showing versus telling’.
    And most importantly, is Writers Helping Writers living up to its name? Absolutely, YES!!!!!

  19. Annie says:

    As a speculative fiction author, I would LOVE to see a spec-fic settings thesaurus! It’s great to hear that you’re planning to expand the setting choices you currently have, in any case. If you’re looking for ideas for the types of settings to add, I think it would be great to have a way readers could suggest certain ones that they think would be the most helpful to have.

    Thanks so much for all you do! Your site has been really helpful to me!

    • HI Annie,

      I think we’ve put out a call once already for setting suggestions, but it might not hurt to do so again. I sure wouldn’t want to miss a really cardinal one, that’s for sure. Thanks for the idea!

  20. Sara L. says:

    Ooooh, I’d definitely pick up a copy of the Speculative Fiction Settings Thesaurus if you wrote it!

    To be honest, I can’t think of anything at WHW that needs improvement. I pop in here every time a new article is posted, and many of those pieces have been incredibly helpful. They’ve answered questions I’d been asking myself about my WIP or caused me to consider things I hadn’t considered before. So, I think your site is on the right path.

    The only question I have is… Have you given any thought to doing a thesaurus or article series on themes, and how themes could be incorporated into stories?

    • Hi Sara–thanks! I’m glad you’re getting the help you need here. 🙂 Definitely a literary theme based thesaurus is on my radar. We touch on some in the Symbolism thesaurus, so do check in there for help in the meantime, but yes I think it would be good to have a bigger collection that looks at themes specifically, rather than the symbolic element! Thanks for weighing in!

  21. Amanda says:

    I have been very pleased with what you are offering on the new site. When I needed an editor to go over my manuscript your website was my first thought for finding someone that would be good and who I could trust. And I was right. I can’t think of anything else I’m looking for right now but you always come up with things I never thought of before. Keep up the good work.

  22. Since finding your site in the last six months I’ve been very pleased. I really like the books I’ve already purchased, and look forward to the future volumes. I enjoy the blog posts that remind us what can and shouldn’t be included in our writing that go along with the themes of the site.

    Thanks,
    Nancy

    • Thanks Nancy! So glad the books and the website is a help. : ) We know the needs of writers can change as the industry chances, and as they develop, so we just want to make sure we’re meeting these needs. 🙂

  23. Julie Musil says:

    You guys are the best. Seriously. You are doing an amazing job already. Your posts are a nice blend of thesaurus entries and other writing tips. A thesaurus for settings is a great idea. I write contemporary, so I’m of no help when it comes to the speculative question. I’m sure there are plenty of authors who would like that.

    I’d be interested in seeing more posts/information about indie publishing. Maybe how-to’s? What works for you? What doesn’t? New ideas you’re exploring?

    Keep up the good work, Angela and Becca. You two are treasures <3

    • Thanks Julie <3. Fair point about us maybe posting a bit more on Indie Publishing, and our own updates on how it's going, what we're doing, etc. Becca and I haven't really posted about any of that for a long time, and we should. I'll definitely put this on my to do list!

  24. Hi guys! First, I want you to know you’ve created a “gold mine.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used your website. And since I write fantasy, I think it would be great to have a thesaurus on fantasy/scifi: universe, galaxies, nebulae, etc, which I’ve had to do research on.

    And since I write fantasy, there is a category that I thought would be really helpful, and that is, how to “write” certain animal sounds, such as birds, for example. I can hear them out my window, but spelling the sound out is difficult, at least for me. We all know common animal sounds: pigs oink, dogs growl/bark, horses whinny. But sometimes I feel that these are boring descriptions of sounds. But how to actually spell the sound patterns of some critters, such as, an osprey, a hawk, a wren? Some authors do a marvelous job with the sound patterns of their little creatures, but even when I hear the sounds I have a hard time describing the pattern. It’d be great to have a thesaurus of particular animal “sounds and/or patterns of their sounds”. I have my horse character growling a few times because I discovered on a website that horses can growl. But someone who read my story commented that “horses don’t growl.” Well, they can and do, if excited.

    Or, how do certain animals act and move? A description, possibly? This would be so helpful, too.

    Just a few suggestions. Your website is such a great help for writers and greatly appreciated! And, of course, you guys are awesome! Keep up the great work!
    Debbie

    • Hi Debbie–thank you so much for the kind words. 🙂 I agree, sounds are difficult to write–we have had a few email requests for something that is onomatopoeia in nature, so we may just take this on. Animals and their body language would be an interesting one too, but might be too research intensive unless we did something very basic. Thanks for the ideas!

  25. Cathryn Cade says:

    Have your books, subscribe to your column and love the tips and hints on characterization! Keep up the great work, please.

  26. Funny you should mention … speculative fiction settings. Yes! Bring it on. Also, verb/verb phrase info would be so appreciated. There are several verb lists on the internet–but that’s all they are–lists. A few lists match verbs with emotions, but not many and when you do locate them, there’s only a few on the list. I’ve been trying to hunt a book of this nature down for years but no soap. Thank-you for querying. You ladies are a Godsend!

  27. I CAN’T wait!!! Your first three thesauri are currently sitting on the kitchen table, waiting for me to get off the internet and start working on my newest project. Love. Those. Books.

  28. :Donna Marie says:

    Girls, I think you already know how I feel about the quality of your posts and what you offer your followers. I sincerely find it all STUNNING! I’m only following you since last year and must’ve jumped on board your new site right after you switched over so wouldn’t know what came before! lol

    Since I’m not in true “writing mode” yet, I’m not sure what tools I’ll need in addition to what I already have (which includes 3 of your books…so far!) and what I’ll be struggling with. My biggest issue is TIME—so little of it and way too much to do. I’m getting there though—I hope and pray.

    I’m excited about your Settings Thesauruses and, off the top of my head, can’t think of anything you have probably offered in the past (I haven’t yet made full use of all the info on this site, but plan to) and what you continue to put up. It’s addictive! I sincerely wish I could be of more help with suggestions, but I’m sure others will give you much better feedback in that area.

    Thank you for all you do, and you most DEFINITELY are WRITERS HELPING WRITERS!!! 🙂

  29. Look forward to Settings as always try to find the one that matches the mood and action.

    Biggest struggle is trying to get my head around editing – never sure if I’m chipping away my creation’s nose (or worse). Or maybe the struggle it Time – time to switch off from writing and onto improvement.

    Site is definitely living up to its name. Many thanks.

    • I see time is coming up quite a bit here, and I’m not surprised. These days, we all wear so many hats, and so writing time (which is often in short supply) is carved up further as we learn the business, create a platform and educate ourselves in writing technique. It certainly isn’t easy, so I think this is definitely something we can cover more in future posts. 🙂

  30. Leila Wilson says:

    Just wanted to leave a comment for you both to tell you that over the past year I have deleted various blogs which have claimed to help writers or aspiring writers. The reason for these actions has been that all they want is to sell their books.
    I now have two sites I still subscribe to and one of them is yours. Thank you both so much for the enormous help you give so generously to people like me. I have your books on my Kindle too. Five stars to you both!!!!

    • Hi Leila! Thanks for keeping us! 🙂 I am glad this site offers you good content, and we want to keep making sure we do moving forward. And yeah, sites that push their books too much is a turn off. The way I figure, people should focus on providing value tailored to an audience, and if they want, they can choose to look into that person’s books. 🙂

  31. I hope this doesn’t end up being a double post…

    First, I would like to thank you ladies for all you do for us. The Emotion Thesaurus has helped my writing improve a thousandfold. Which brings me to my first idea/request: How about an Emotion Thesaurus II? Naturally, you could expand beyond the ones you have in the first one.

    Second idea/request: How about a Body Language Thesaurus? For example, how can we convey something like anger without resorting to the standards like a scowl, or clenched fists/jaw, punching a wall, or grabbing the object of the upset?

    • Robert, we definitely will update the Emotion Thesaurus at some point. There are a few more emotions we could add, and include a few more extras that people might feel helpful. I do like the idea of also including some emotional examples, to really illustrate how to take a simple emotional action and turn it into something descriptive. Because really, this is what we want to encourage–people to take our ideas and use them to create a piece of compelling emotional description. 🙂 Thanks!

  32. What you do is fantastic, so keep doing that!

    By the way, one thing I’d be happy to see is when I get a ‘Writers Helping Writers’ tip via email, I would ilike to be able to read the entire post in the email. Often most of it is truncated. I understand you might want people to click through, but I’d personally like to read more in my main consumption channel–email–before feeling like clicking through (and have enough thought in my head about what you’ve written to want to click through). At the moment I read it and often don’t click through to read the rest! (Silly me, I know)

    Anyway – what thesaurus would I most like?

    FACIAL EXPRESSIONS THESAURUS
    When writing I seem to get in a rut of facial tics to help ‘show’ emotions. Your own Emotion Thesaurus is quite brilliant, but can we do something for how to describe facial expressions more effectively than just ‘gave her a quizzical look’ for example? (I have no idea, I’m new here at this game haha!)

    And thanks for asking!

    • Robert, I will look into the email thing–i have no issues with people reading over their email, and I know this makes things easier. Thanks for letting me know!

      Facial emotions are a tough one, I agree! I will think about how I can post blog tips on how to better describe the face. Generally Itry to encourage people to think beyond the face, because the face is rather limited. This post might help: http://writetodone.com/character-emotion-written-all-over-their-face/

      • Thanks Angela – I read that blog post (and some of the comments). I think you are right – it’s the general tics too and perhaps what I’m doing is seeing how many ‘smiles, frowns and nods’ go into my first draft and letting them slow me down, rather than acting as placeholders. I do use the Emotion Thesaurus in both first draft and revision, but sometimes I just can’t quite nail that expression! (then end up with too many ‘raised eyebrows’). I’ll try just taking some out and seeing if the dialog will bring it out – or if I will have to work harder to make the dialog bring it out. Always a challenge, haha!

        • I think it’s very natural for us to want to describe facial expressions, because this is what we focus on when we talk to people in real life. And so putting some in writing is natural…we just have to be careful we don’t over rely on them. This is why after I write a draft, I run a Word search for things like “smile” and “eyes” to see just how much I’ve used, and if it seems excessive, I go through each one and challenge myself on another way to show that emotion. 🙂 Some stay as they are, others I change. I find this works well to balance facial with bodily expressions. 🙂

    • Just wanted to let you know that I have looked into the email thing and can’t seem to find a way to force the plug in to show the whole post in the notification email. Really sorry about that!

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