A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

NOTE: the blog is currently dormant but please enjoy the posts we're keeping online.

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Sunday, June 28, 2015


    I met my hubs on the 4th of July a very long time ago and in what seems like a galaxy far, far away. Coming up on that anniversary romance has been on my mind. So I’m going to share my thoughts on what it is and isn’t.
    I feel very strongly romance in a book can’t be legislated by ANYONE but the author. Their world-view feeds the romance. Nourishes it until it blooms. What romance is to one may not be to another. Some romance books have no sex, others have it behind closed doors. Then there are those that go from hot to off the charts steamy. I can tell you right now I consider abuse of any kind and or cheating between an H&H not romance, not love and not an enjoyable read for me. That book will immediately be returned. Sure people can screw up their lives and relationships. If they’re lucky, they get a second chance to make it up. Haven’t we all been there? I love it when an author brings a couple through bad times to grow their love.
    Those who speak as authorities on the subject of romance in books say what I think of as romance is in fact a love story. Romance MUST follow a certain criteria says a deep voice from behind the curtain. Well, guess what? Plllaaaatttttttt! Raspberries to you all. Not saying it’s bad to meet that criteria but I don’t care if a book does or doesn’t. Do you think a reader cares? I think not.
    For me romance in books is like this line from the song Thinking Out Loud, “I’m thinking ‘bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways.  Some couples can take years to fall in love others know in seconds. I love the thrill of discovery for the couples in the books I read.
    RAINWATER by Sandra Brown does not have an HEA or the possibility of one. It is one of the most poignant romances, love stories, whatever the freak you want to call it, I’ve ever read. Are J D Robb’s books romances using the criteria? Hmmmm?
    When an author does a good job of drawing me into a couple’s romance/love arc I don’t care if it takes up ten or ninety percent of the story. Make me feel something for those characters and I will remember them forever.  For…ev…ver.
    I also don’t care if the romance drives the story. More and more I see love and romance being added to books not in the so-called romance genre. Those other genre authors are beginning to take romance seriously. Is it because romance sells or because love is a real human emotion that readers can connect with? I don’t care.  Do you think the reader does? I think not.
    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So everybody write on. Call it what you want. I don’t care. Just write me a good story.  

    Rita writes about extraordinary women in the military and the men they love. Call it what you like. She doesn’t care. She only wants you to enjoy it.    

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tips For An Effective Website

By Sandy Parks

Everybody wants a website that is easy to use and effective as a sales or information tool. All these things are within easy reach whether you do your own, have someone do it for you, or a combination of both. All of it depends on your technical abilities and knowing what a good website requires. Having designed several websites, I've put together a list of my top eleven tips for an effective website for authors.

1. Make sure your name and what you do (author, writer, cover artist) are across the top, in an easy to read font, and against an eye-catching background. The header above with Sandy Parks has “Author” in the header. On the header below for Sandy Moffett, I waited and put the info as a header in the first column to the left. Why the left? In a responsive or mobile ready site (ie. your cellphone), your left column is usually the one seen first.

2. Have simple clean navigation on every page and even at the bottom if it works for your site. You should be able to reach all the pages on a website from any page on the site. That also goes for your blog. Many times I have left a website to check out an authors blog and then can’t find a link back to the website or vice versa. I leave frustrated and they’ve lost a potential fan/sale. The header photos both have an example of a navigation bar that should be on all pages. This one is horizontal, but they can also be vertical. Some fancy sites even have a floating navigation box. Personally, I find them distracting, but others love the convenience. What is not obvious in the photos, is that on the website the navigation bars have more drop down choices when you roll a cursor over them. Too many choices on the main bar can clutter the page.

3. If you link to locations off your website (Amazon, blog, information, favorite authors), those should open in a new window so viewers can easily tab back to your page (not using back arrows). When you add links in most programs it will ask if you want to open on a “blank” page or in a "new window." Answer yes, and your link will open a new tab and window on your search engine. Easy. Try out this link to Anne Marie Becker’s website and see if it opens in a new window (but please come back for the rest of the tips).

4. Make your website compatible with mobile devices! This is extremely important as Google and likely other search engines are giving ranking priority to “mobile ready” or “responsive” content. What does this mean?

If you search for your website on your phone or tablet, the columns should automatically condense to one or two columns (as in the photo to the left). For example, if you have a three column site, it should realign to one long column for those reading on a smart phone. Or perhaps two columns for ease of reading on a tablet.

5. Also important with a MOBILE compatible website is the navigation when in mobile configuration. It should show at the top of the window at all times, rather like when viewing Facebook or Twitter on your phone. The screen shot below shows three small bars in the upper right, and the selections that would normally be across the top of a wider website are now stacked up and still accessible. I’ve clicked on Books & Writing so submenus are visible (in light blue). You can also hide the menu’s to see more content.

6. Have a Newsletter Signup on the FIRST PAGE, not the Contact Page. Some viewers never click on the Contact page and thus will never see your sign-up notice/link/form. You can see an example in the photo above. Mine links to MailChimp, but there are many sites/methods which can help collect the information. Many successful authors will tell you these lists of readers can make or break their sales.

7. Add Twitter feed (example below). It updates your website whenever you post on Twitter so search engines note your site is active and that helps keep it visible to searchers. You can find the information on how to add it from the Twitter site.

8. Place links to buy books at every available vendor on every page where that book is mentioned. This is not as easy as you think. On my websites books are mentioned on the home page, a separate book category page, and a separate book excerpt page. There are places where I have added new book material and have yet to add a link. That’s why I also keep a website To Do list. When you add links they should include your affiliate link for the vendor. That is another source of income for an author whether indie or traditionally published, so check it out if you haven’t set up an account with a vendor. If you use icons for the vendors on your website, you should double check if the vendor has a required style. Several of the ones on my site need to be updated to reflect recent changes.

9. Your most recent book cover, if not more, should be displayed on the HOME page. The whole purpose of your website is to encourage sales and make the title of your book and your name familiar to the person stopping by.

10. No flashing, twinkling, constant motion on your site. These type things can be terribly distracting and actually drive people away (music is also a touchy subject and not recommended). Photo or banner rotators are fine if they are set to move or change slowly and have professional content (photographs that relate to subject, book covers, etc). You can also have some quick initial or introductory motion, but once people are on the sight and looking at content, that should be it. For example, Julie Moffett wanted something geeky for her website (about a geek sleuth) so she has motion as you load the site and particular pages.

I could go on and list many more examples, but have to do some website tweaking of my own. So I’ll close with this last tip.

11. Check out all your links and other things on your site once in a while, especially after adding new content and updating the old.

Hope these tips help. You can check out my less than perfect website at Sandy Parks or Sandy Moffett. I'd also love to hear your website tips or opinions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Courtesy Dana Rothstein Dreamstime Stock Photos
     I recycle glass, metal and plastics, newspapers, advertisements, and circulars, and use USDA certified biobased products but—when it comes to writing I print out page after page of my stories and articles. Reading what I’ve written on the computer works for my first few drafts but after that I need to look at the print on the page even when the piece is meant for an e-book or an on-line site.
     Mistakes I hadn’t noticed when I read the words on the screen jump out and accuse me of carelessness. I cringe when I notice a dull sentence—so dull I know a more active word must be found, and often I discover I’ve repeated words or a descriptive phrase more times than I thought humanly possible.
     Characters scold—telling me they would never use certain expressions or behave in a manner so completely removed from their reality. Sometimes my protagonist encourages me to change the direction of the plot or forces me to alter the antagonist’s motivation.  

Courtesy Terry McAllister Dreamstime Stock Photos     
     I may find I haven’t clued my future reader into something they need to know—that would be a disaster and sometimes I’ve said too much—why would someone bother reading to the last page if they’re way ahead of me? Times and dates urge me to double and triple check and make sure the actions and events I’ve planned could have possibly happened within the period written about. Was that dish served or that special gown worn in that particular country, in that particular century?
     I print out chapter pages or an entire article, make sure I have a pen and take it with me to work on in another place. Perhaps a ride on a bus, a park bench, or a coffee house; then it’s back to the computer to make changes and begin again—begin at the beginning.
Courtesy Dreamstime Stock Photos

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Smorgasbord of Suspense

Smorgasbord originally meant a Swedish buffet, but now the term refers to a wide range of options, a variety of styles. That variety is one of the things I love about the current offerings in multi-author boxed sets. The sets are a way to discover and “try out” new-to-me authors at a price that seem too good to be true. How can you beat $.99-$2.99 for groups of novels from your favorite authors? I’ve discovered really good books by picking up a friend’s box set—and discovering new favorites.

DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS just released and is heating up more than the bestseller list! With a variety of heat levels, there’s a story to tempt everyone.

Get your heartbeat racing with 13 romantic-suspense novels from USA Today, bestselling, and award-winning authors. Nerve-wracking thrills and dangers, heart-melting romance and love--enjoy them all in this outstanding collection of DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS....

Fallen Idol - USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett
Sparks ignite between a single father and a singer making her musical comeback, but danger lurks in the distance, only getting closer as time goes on. For two people who want different things out of life, it's possible to find healing together...

Cross Examination - Bestselling Author Denise Moncrief
Tamara Slay moves to Louisiana to start a new life with her daughter, but her dreams of a peaceful existence are shattered when Lt. Martin Beck suspects her ex-husband is a serial killer.

Carnival Tricks - Award-Winning, Bestselling Author Jade Kerrion
A dying scientist propels a waitress into the shady world of corporate espionage. The unwilling carrier of the recipe for a lethal chemical weapon, can Sofia save the world when she can't even save herself?

Height of Danger - Nancy & Nolan Radke
How do you keep a woman safe who distrusts you, and won't stay where you hide her? CIA operative Owen Putman has to protect his employer's daughter while trying to find out who is killing construction workers at a Central American dam site.

Six Days of Memories - International Bestselling Author Stacy Eaton
Detective Natasha Foster comes across the crime scene of her career, and she will put everything on the line to find out the truth, including her heart. Jay's need to know if he's the victim or criminal pushes him to remember who he is and with the pull of a trigger, Jay's memory will suddenly return and with it, the terrible truth.

Broken Lies - Sharon Coady
Bodyguard Niall Kerrigan lets his guard down and falls for Abby Bailey, a beautiful woman with a secret past. When Abby goes missing Niall must face his ruthless father to fight for the woman he loves and choose between a life with her or keeping her safe without him.

Don't Know Jack - Amy Manemann
Undercover FBI agent Jack Hamlin meets his match in small town bakery owner, Kate Monroe, when they're swept into a dangerous game of lies, intrigue and desire.

Cypher - Award-Winning Bestselling Author Cathy Perkins
When a hit man kills the wrong person, a SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim--a woman who's hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.

Murderous Lies - Bestselling Author Chantel Rhondeau
Max is exonerated for murder after eight years, returning to his home town and the fiancée he left there. Rose isn't so happy to see him...and then the murders start again.

Tidal Falls - Jacquie Biggar
When Nick fails to notice an IED and loses most of his teammates, he shuts down. It takes meeting and falling in love with a woman in danger to make him realize life's worth living.

Suspended Animation - Sylvie Grayson
Suspense, spicy romance and attempted murder erupt when hockey player Brett hires Katy to run the office of his ailing father's near-bankrupt trucking company. Can he protect her from her lethal friends and the chaos surrounding them?

Knowing Vera - Award-Winning, Bestselling Author Rachelle Ayala
Suspenseful romance, an unsolved murder, and love on the beach. A young woman seeks to prove her father innocent of murdering her boyfriend's mother.

Special Agent Francesca - New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Mimi Barbour
Violence, suspense and sizzling romance explode during Special Agent Francesca's humorous journey fighting off the mob! Dr. Sean Collins wants to tame her! Yeah-like that's gonna happen. Only one thing keeps Francesca motivated. Proving to her mother, the FBI "Snow Queen," that working undercover is where she belongs.

I hope you’ll take a moment to check out this amazing deal and if you give the stories a try, I hope you come back and share your experience with us.

Don’t forget, reviews are an author’s best friend :)

Nook: Pending
Google Play:

Watch our awesome trailer:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five Things You Can Do to Improve Your Mystery Writing Now

1 - Figure out what type of crime story you’re writing. Despite sub-genre snobberies, there is no “better” or “more important” category. Some people prefer cozies, some people prefer romantic suspense, some people prefer thrillers. Write whatever you enjoy, but understand the demands of your chosen sub-genre. That will make it easier when the time comes to target your promotion to the right audience.

Here’s a tip. Your audience is not “everyone who likes a good mystery.” Seriously.

2 - Make sure that every single character in your story has a motive. And I don’t mean a motive for committing the crime. I mean a reason for every single thing they do.  Not just a reason, a believable reason. Because in real life, we all have reasons for the things we do -- in fact, we often have several reasons, even if we appear to be behaving inexplicably and unreasonably.

If your characters are acting out merely in order to advance the plot, go back to the drawing board and figure out a plausible reason for their actions. And then lay the groundwork so that your reader believes this character would act that way given this certain set of circumstances.


Here’s a tip. “In real life people act out of character” is not sufficient motivation. Fiction has to make sense in a way real life does not.

3 -  Have at least three viable suspects for the crime. Of course, when the book starts out, everybody is a viable suspect, but by the mid-point of the story, most readers have ruled out most of the suspects. Keep it entertaining for the reader and make sure there are at least two -- preferably three -- viable suspects remaining. Which of course goes back to making sure everyone has believable motives for the things they do.

Here’s a tip: Good people do bad things. Don’t be afraid to make your villain sympathetic or even likable. Everybody has a breaking point, and maybe your likable, sympathetic culprit got pushed too far.

4 - FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE HAVE SOMEONE DO SOME GENUINE INVESTIGATION. All useful information can not come via a cop boyfriend. Also, deductions must be based on information received either through questioning or observation. Crimes cannot be solved solely by acts of God, coincidence, psychic powers or intuition, though these things may play a role in the denouement. Your sleuth’s flash of intuition must be triggered by something that the reader would also have a fair chance of connecting to the crime.

Furthermore, the villain cannot just give up and confess. As convenient as this would be, no. Really.

Here’s a tip. Think of writing your mystery novel as a friendly game played between you and the reader. You want to make it fun for the reader, so it can’t be too easy. But you also can’t cheat and withhold vital information. Readers do want to solve the mystery -- they want that ah ha! I knew it all the time! moment -- but they don’t want it to come too far ahead of your sleuth.

5 - Don’t focus on the puzzle and the twists at the expense of the emotional core of your story. Murder is a terrible, terrible crime and your story should reflect that. Don’t let your victim be a cipher. Whether the victim was someone everyone wanted dead or beloved Uncle Arnold, there should be ramifications to this death, there should be emotional impact. Murder is a serious business and your story should reflect that -- even if you write funny, cozy mysteries.

Here’s a tip. You should give as much thought to the characterization of your primary murder victim as you would any other cast member.


A distinct voice in gay fiction, JOSH LANYON is the multi-award-winning author of nearly seventy stories of male/male mystery, adventure and romance. Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews award for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, and the first recipient of the Goodreads M/M Romance group's Hall of Fame award.

Twitter: @JoshLanyon

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Literary London: A Visit to the Charles Dickens House

Throughout his all-too-brief life, Charles Dickens was constantly on the move. By any measure, his list of residences is astounding. Perhaps he inherited this restless spirit from his father, who moved from pillar to post, usually one step ahead of the creditors. Sadly, most of Dickens's homes no longer exist, their presence--or rather absence--marked by a sign or commemorative plaque saying Charles Dickens once lived here 

But that’s okay--a great city such as London is like the Phoenix, constantly recreating itself in the ashes of its own destruction. And anyway Dickens's London still exists in the pages of his  books. Still,there is a remaining jewel: In 1837, Charles Dickens, his wife Catherine, and her seventeen-year-old sister Mary Hogarth moved to 48 Doughty Street. Dickens was delighted with his new house, that befitted his position as a young novelist on the rise:

"It was a pleasant twelve-room dwelling of pink brick, with three stories and an attic, a white arched entrance door...and a small private garden in the rear."
Is Mr. Dickens at home?
This beautifully restored house is now home to the Charles Dickens Museum and a must-see for any lover of Dickens.When my husband and I visited, we were lucky enough to catch the costumed tour. Here's the set-up: It is 1839. Mr. Dickens and his family aren't at home, but the chatty housemaid invites us inside for a look around. I rather suspected the young flibbertigibbet was in her cups, but who can blame her? It was a chill April morning and I'd have gladly joined her in a bowl of Smoking Bishop, if she'd offered.

Mr. Dickens's Study

During his three-year sojourn at Doughty Street, Dickens first experienced commercial and critical success, with The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. When our hostess led us into the study where he had penned these three early novels, I was momentarily struck dumb. This was where Oliver Twist drew his first breath and Nancy her last, Sensing my interest, our hostess took me aside for a private word.

"I daresay when I first entered Mr. Dickens's employ. I thought the master was mad as hops! I'd be passing on the stairs and hear him in his study talkin' and yellin' to himself in all different kind of voices. I would have sworn to the Beadle he weren't alone, though I knew the truth of it, I did." The good woman laughed and lowered her voice. "Why, once I peeked in and he were  winkin' and twitchin' at himself in the mirror, like one of them crazed folk at Bedlam!"

"He was happy here," I said and a shadow passed over the kind woman's face. "Wasn't he?"
The room where young Mary died

"You've read his books, so you know how it was--how it is. Life is always mixed up, not all one or the other. Come, let me take you to her room."

"Mary's room?" I whispered and our hostess nodded.

One night in 1837, Dickens's beloved sister-in-law Mary Hogarth fell ill.She died the next day, in Mr. Dickens's arms. Distraught, Dickens removed a ring that he had given Mary and slipped it on his own finger, where it remained for the rest of his days. Inconsolable after the loss of "so perfect a creature," he was unable--for the first and last time in his professional life--to put pen to paper. While all of London watched in trepidation, time and deadlines passed, with no new installments of The Pickwick Papers or Oliver Twist.

Of course, Dickens picked up his pen again, but he never really recovered from the tragedy--Mary's untimely death haunted his life and his fiction.  In The Old Curiosity Shop Little Nell, whose ultimate fate obsessed two continents, was the most direct representation of young Mary. Dickens was loath to let Little Nell die, but his good friend John Forster convinced him that Nell must die, arguing that an angel such as she deserved better than a conventionally happy ending.  In writing Nell's death, Dickens lamented that he felt as if he'd lost Mary all over again.

In David Copperfield, Dickens's most autobiographical novel, Mary shares a somewhat happier fate when she is resurrected in the character of Agnes. And there were so many others: as Dickens's ideal woman, Mary Hogarth was a wellspring of inspiration. It might seem hard, but that's what writers do--they mine their own lives and the lives of of the people around them to create art.

After leaving Mary's room, we followed our hostess to the dining room, where I was cheered to
find the dining table set for guests. But then, Dickens always loved company--he was an actor on the stage of life, playing his role to the hilt.

As our time at Doughty Street drew to a close, I thought that this little house was not unlike one of Mr. Dickens's books. His novels brimmed with life,but death was a constant presence, the uninvited guest at life's banquet. Though he recognized the evil that men do, he affirmed--again and again--the power of the human heart. Though a frail organ, Dickens believed that there was no darkness so profound that it could not be illuminated by a loving human heart.

I'd like to believe he was right. Wouldn't you?

Then it was time to leave 1837 and the cozy house on Doughty Street. In farewell, our hostess quoted these words form the conclusion of The Pickwick Papers, when our narrator bids a final goodbye to that goodhearted fool, Mr.Pickwick.

Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them.

Well said, Mr. Dickens.

Check out Daryl's website.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Summer Job

I am blessed with three little animals—er, children—between the ages of 5 and 12, who have been out of their enclosures—um, school—for a little over a week. This means that, in addition to writing romantic suspense, I’ve resumed my regular summer position as zookeeper. Some of you are in the same boat (Ark? Cage?). In fact, fellow author Julie Anne Lindsey had a similar blog about summer word deprivation last week. (To view it, click here.) And I know others of you have all kinds of other life complications to deal with.

I've found that spending a few hours each day maintaining the zoo and trying to embrace the chaos helps me stay sane, and even find some writing time. 

A zookeeper’s responsibilities include:

  • Behavioral Observation.

The kids' chorus of “I’m bored” (typically combined with draping themselves across the furniture and floor as if every bone in their bodies melted) filled the house within twenty-four hours of their release from the confines of a regular schedule.

“But Mom’s not bored,” I say. “Mom has a book due July 31st.” This, of course, yields no sympathy. Sigh. If only I could put the monkeys to work writing my book…

The sounds of wild animals squabbling over territory also fill the zoo at regular intervals.

Luckily, if I spend a few minutes playing with them, getting them started on an activity, they'll usually play for about twenty minutes in a more or less content manner. Sure, twenty minutes isn't a lot, but it's a writing sprint, or a page or two of edits. And if I do this several times a day, it adds up...

  • Exhibit Maintenance.

My husband and I decided against a lot of summer traveling or costly kid camps this year, though there will be a martial arts camp during that last week of July. (Thank goodness. That’s deadline week!) The added benefit to enjoying a staycation this year is we had the money to do some redecorating around the house, and even create a writing "nook" for me. This has given me a place to focus my energy on my writing activities.

When it comes to sibling fights, the threat of having to help Mom clean the house or having to go to their rooms and clean has come in handy a time or two.

  • Environmental Enrichment.

Within the enclosures, introducing the occasional new game, puzzle, or movie, or dragging out old games, puzzles and books that have been forgotten, can build excitement. 

Also, taking a walk as a family, and choosing different paths on occasion, lets Zookeeper Mommy get a break from time in front of a computer screen, but also gives us all exercise time. Our town has an immense web of urban trails that we have yet to explore, and we’re planning to pick one a week to investigate. Let the animals (and zookeeper) escape their confines for a little bit. It might even lead to a dose of writing inspiration.

And if that’s not enough, invest in a trampoline. It worked for us, and keeps the kids from too much screen time. The saved money from our staycation (the only reason I set up a deadline in the summer!) gave us the funds to do some fun things at home and around town.

  • Feeding, Maintaining, and Cleaning.

I try to make cleaning the house, baking with the kids, or running errands fun "breaks" between writing spells. The 5-year-old loves to go grocery shopping and do other activities that help us both get things done while still feeling like a break.

I try to plan ahead for those times when the animals will be extra-needy (around orthodontist appointments, for example, when one can expect a higher degree of whininess from both child and parent), so my word count or editing page goal won’t be as high. Knowing my limits, and organizing my schedule around them will hopefully save me heartache when that deadline looms.

Finally, thank goodness my animals aren't nocturnal. They still go to bed at a relatively decent hour, so sometimes my writing has to wait until then zoo is quiet.

Overall, I try to remind myself to enjoy the animals. And the summer. Sure, writing is important, but it isn't everything. And it's all that other stuff that eventually fuels my creativity.

How about you? Any tips for this zookeeper? How does your writing routine change with the season—or does it? How do you overcome upheaval in your writing habits?

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