Archive for April, 2007

A new fiction magazine will debut January 1, 2008.

Noctem Aeternus will be a FREE quarterly PDF magazine where the reader will find science fiction, fantasy, western, or even mystery stories…but all tales will have an element of horror.

“The horror genre sometimes gets a bad reputation for being the shock jocks of the literary field,” Editor Michael Knost said. “You can find plenty of blood and guts, but sometimes there is no story among the gore. Noctem Aeternus will be a quality fiction magazine, focusing on the story and its characters.”

The first issue will include a short story (and interview) from master storyteller Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey Campbell is perhaps the world’s most honored author of horror fiction. He has won four World Fantasy Awards, ten British Fantasy Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards, and the Horror Writer’s Association’ s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sign up for the FREE subscription or read the submission guidelines, at:


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Starting your own book club is a great way to share your love of books with other book lovers. Chances are many book lovers would love to start a club but simply don’t know how, or for some reason think it is difficult. Starting your own book club can be easy, inexpensive, fun, and rewarding. The main requirement? A passion for words!

Step One: Decide The Kind Of Club You Want

Book clubs come in all colors, shapes and sizes. The first thing you need to do to is decide what kind you want yours to be. So take out pen and paper, and start planning!

*Would you like a club where members discuss only fiction, or non-fiction as well? Would you like it to be specialized, handling a specific genre? Or you want your club to handle only classics? Or books written by a specific prolific author? Or perhaps only books which have been banned or won Nobel Prizes?

*Do you want your club to be big or small? Eight to twelve members is a good number, big enough for a variety of ideas and small enough to stay cozy.

*Do you want to keep the club between friends or recruit a diverse group of people? A diverse group may offer a more varied contribution to discussions, but do you really want strangers in your home?

*Do you want food to accompany book discussions, or only beverages? From my experience, food isn’t a good idea. People can’t concentrate well while chewing food. But it’s nice to have coffee or tea, especially if it’s a morning session. In fact, drinking hot beverages during discussion is an important part of the book club experience. Some hosts/hostesses serve wine if the discussions are held at night.

*Do you want to conduct the book discussions at your home, in a rotation basis at the other members’ homes, or outside at public places like libraries, bookshops, or restaurants? There are advantages and disadvantages either way. My favourite is a combination of both to keep the sessions fresh, lively and less routinely.

*How often do you want to meet? One month is a good idea. Less than this would be too often. People live hectic lives and members should have sufficient time to read the book comfortably. More than 6 weeks would make members too detached, and even prompt them to forget about the book until the last minute. Also, will you meet on weekends or weekdays?

*How long do you want each session to last? In general, two hours are enough time: The first 15 minutes for chatting, the next 1 ½ hours for the book discussion, and the last 15 minutes to wrap it up and chat some more.

Step Two: Name Your Club

I’m amazed at the number of book clubs out there that don’t have a name. Be original and inventive. Remember, this is your creation. A name gives it importance and legitimacy. Choose a name which suits the club. If your club will only handle vampire fiction, for example, The Transylvania Book Club would be a good name. Okay, maybe that’s not too original, but you get my drift.

Step Three: Recruit Members

Now that you know all about your book club and have given it a name, you can start recruiting members.

*If you want to keep it between friends, several emails or phone calls will do.

*If you want a diverse group with both friends and strangers, then put a few ads in several places where you know people would be interested to join, like local libraries, bookshops, your children’s school, or your church.

*Make your ad eye-catching, interesting, and professional. Include the name and some general info about your club.

Step Four: The First Meeting

Now that you have recruited the amount of members you wanted, you’re ready for the first meeting, which normally will take place at your home.

Once the members have chatted a little, got their coffees and teas and settled comfortably in their chairs, you can begin discussing the rules with the members.
Remember to be flexible. A “dictator” attitude is sure to turn members off. Be enthusiastic. You should aim for a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

*Discuss with the members all the points covered earlier in “Decide The Kind Of Book Club You Want,” so they can have a clear idea of your book club.

*As leader, you could make the first book suggestion. Simply bring a list of several books you would like the club to read and let them decide by majority one title. Be wise! The future of your club may well depend on the first book selected. You can print out some reviews about these books and read them to the group to spark their interest and help them decide.

*Decide as a group how the books will be chosen and subsequent meetings held.

-Ideally, each member should have a turn at suggesting books, being leader and hosting meetings.
-Will you purchase hardbacks or paperbacks?
-Who will order books and keep record of books selected, as well as keep record of rotations?
-Will books be selected in advance for the whole semester, or a meeting at a time? Selecting books in advance is generally more convenient.

*Remind members to be punctual, and, ideally, to turn their cell phones off during discussions. Needless to say, it is each member’s responsibility to read the whole book before each discussion.

*Make sure the “rules” are understood by all members and be prepared for questions.

*Reading is great, but reading critically is even better and will heighten the book club experience and add insight and depth to discussions. Offer the following suggestions to keep in mind when reading:

-Keep a pencil or highlighter in hand
-Look below the surface at underlying themes or ideas
-Is there anything unusual which gets your attention? Recurring images? Symbolism? Metaphors?
-Unusual plot devices?

*At the end, suggest they take out their agendas or planners so they can write down the date and place of their next meeting. This should be done at the end of each meeting.

Step Five: The Subsequent Meetings, The Discussion Sessions

You’ve finished the first meeting. Congratulations! You deserve a big hug. The worst is over and the best is yet to come.

If the first meeting was a success, chances are the subsequent ones will be, too. As host or hostess of the first book discussion, you will set the standard. Remember to conduct yourself warmly and enthusiastically. Though you may use index cards, it is always better to express your thoughts in your own words and not read from your notes. Trust me, this will put people to sleep. Always try to keep eye contact with the group. Begin by talking a bit about the author and how this particular book fits into his other body of work, or if it’s somehow related to his life.

Next get some general reactions:

-Did you enjoy it? Hate it? Was it entertaining? Boring? Exasperating? Did it grab you until the end? Was it a challenging, difficult read?

Once you have got some first reactions and “warmed up” the group, you can start going deeper:

-Were the characters believable? Stereotypical?
-What about the plot and pace?
-Did the book evoke any particular feeling? Anger? Frustration? Terror? Indifference?
-What’s unique about the story?
-Any recurring themes, images, symbols or metaphors?
-Any quote or passage which got your attention?
-Any similar works by other authors?
-Do you agree with the reviews written about this book?

If the book is non-fiction, you may want to discuss the following:

-Was the book helpful? Controversial? Informative?
-Was it objective or biased?
-Was the book persuasive enough to change your mind or stand on an issue?
-What was the author’s intention? Did he accomplish it?

Some Last Tips

*Several days before each meeting, send a quick reminder to all members with either email or a phone call.

*If you have small children and will need a baby-sitter during meetings, plan ahead.

*In all groups there will always be a couple of shy people. Encourage but don’t insist in making them talk if they don’t feel like it.

*If you have trouble coming up with a list of book suggestions, check book reviews on newspapers and online and print publications, or simply check titles on Amazon. Try not to stick only to bestsellers. There are wonderful gems out there from small presses, just waiting to be discovered.

*If you’re very serious about your book club, why not make some T-shirts or sweatshirts, mugs and caps with your club’s name—and even logo!—on them. This can be easily done at a print shop and members would share the cost. For a mystery club, for example, you could purchase deer hunter’s caps and smoking pipes, and have them personalized with the club’s name and/or logo. It’s fun and your club will get even more attention—specially if your meetings are held in a restaurant! The only limit is your imagination.

Good luck. Above everything else, enjoy!

By Mayra Calvani, aka The Dark Phantom

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Reviewing has been a hot subject among kidlit bloggers lately, ever since the magazine n+1 came up with an article about a week ago which criticized—though not in such direct terms—bloggers of not being objective, honest enough with their reviews, of not posting enough negative reviews and of lacing their positive reviews with facile praise. The main question seems to be: is it possible to be unbiased in a cozy environment where the people who post friendly comments under the bloggers’ posts are often the same people who request reviews from these bloggers? In other words, is it possible to be objective in the blogosphere, where authors, publishers, publicists, reviewers and librarians are in friendly terms with each other in such blog communities as Live Journal?

In a perfect world a reviewer should never review a book by a person he/she knows. But, as usual, more often than not, what is ideal in theory is not realistic in the real world, and this ‘sin’ is not only committed by bloggers, but also by professional reviewers who write for online and print review publications.

Another issue seems to be the lack of format which many (maybe most?) bloggers have when writing reviews. Unlike the ‘legitimate’ reviewers who seem to have a preference for a ‘standard’ structure—an interesting lead/opening sentence, a short summary of the plot without ever giving away spoilers or the ending, and an intelligent, fair, tactful evaluation—the bloggers write about books anyway they want. They have the freedom to write in any length or style without a thought to format—even to the point of giving away spoilers or relating the ending of a book. This freedom comes with the territory of being a blogger. But then, the questions arise… Are bloggers ‘real’ reviewers? What defines a review? After all, there are many types of reviews—academic and long, light and short, and snippets like those in such publications as Library Journal. Different review sites and publications have different guidelines. Are blogger reviews a new, different type of review? Should we draw a distinction between bloggers who are simply readers and post ‘reader reviews’ and ‘legitimate’ reviewers who post ‘real’ ones on their blogs? After all, just like on Amazon, there are reader reviews and reviewer reviews. Are bloggers the lowly counterparts of legitimate reviewers? Is this an elitist attitude?
I find these questions fascinating because I think there are no easy answers. As usual, opening a discussion about what is right and wrong is like opening a can of worms.

A couple of years ago, this dilemma started with the emerging online review sites… I remember how librarians and bookstores often dismissed them as ‘not legitimate’. Online review sites have come a long way. Now it’s the bloggers who are being attacked.

Ultimately, I think we’re not giving enough credit to the discerning reader of reviews. It’s so easy to tell a good review from a cheesy one guilty of facile praise! There are good and bad reviewers everywhere. Serious blogger reviewers aren’t going to be stupid enough to post overly positive reviews because if the reader buys a book based on that review and then finds that book to be poorly written, that blogger will lose all credibility and that reader won’t come back to this blogger for more reviews. Honesty and fairness go with our job as reviewers, without it, we’re nothing but weak, cheap publicity. That is not to say we should be nasty or mean… which brings me to the writing of negative reviews…

I personally think there are too many good books out there to be spending time writing about the bad ones (even negative reviews are a type of publicity!). Unless it’s a book that has been written by a famous author and/or heavily hyped, I won’t bother posting negative reviews on my blog and newsletters (this wouldn’t be the case, however, if the book was assigned by a review site/publication, in which case I wouldn’t have a choice but to write the negative review).

One thing the blogging technology has done is bring books and literature closer to the public and, let’s face it, the average person is so busy and/or has such a short attention span that long, insightful reviews are not the most practical thing in the world. Blogger reviews are like quick tasty treats of information for people on the run who enjoy reading about books. In the end, and in spite of the ‘slippery’ questions mentioned above, I’m all for anything that brings literature closer to the public.

Mayra Calvani is the co-author of the forthcoming book, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING, soon from Twilight Times Books.

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1.jpgHow long have you been writing?

I started writing stories when I was around seven. When I was thirteen, Arizona Highways Magazine sent me a check for $50 for a short story about riding a mule down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Getting that check hooked me, but I must say it was the last easy money I ever got for my writing.

Tell us about your latest thriller, DEATH GAME. What was your inspiration for this story? Is this your favorite genre?

Death Game is the beginning of a series about a family traumatized by their father’s secret life. The father may or may not be dead; you’ll have to read the series to find out. Death Game starts when the past reaches back and pulls the family’s youngest son, fifteen-year-old Jimmie O’Brien, into a murder plot. Jimmie’s sister Cooper tries desperately to extricate her brother. But she’s battling not only some very bad people but her brother’s misguided hero-worship of his missing father.

I’m a strong believer that family secrets are dangerous and perhaps that inspired the idea for the series as much as anything else. When children aren’t allowed to tell the truth about their family, I think they grow up both secretly ashamed and deeply confused. In my case, I’m living this out because my daughter is adopted from a third world country and she was born in difficult circumstances. From almost the first month my husband and I adopted her, we have told her the absolute truth about everything. We’ll see if that proves to be a good strategy.

Technically speaking, what’s the hardest part of writing a thriller? The easiest? The most fun?

People like to lose themselves in thrillers. They like to “step into them” and that requires the author to be particularly adept at creating a convincing sense of place and a character moving through it. A good thriller writer should be able to “take” the reader somewhere, make them “hold their breath” as they see the lead character totally focused while their risk level increases. It’s a type of self-transcendence—a truly great thriller writer can make an imaginary experience more vivid than one you actually have. This is the hardest part of writing a thriller, but also the most fun.

The easiest part is recreating exotic locations. I love to travel and I’m planning to send my heroine all over the world before I’m done. Some of the places I will have already been too, others I will make sure to visit before I write. Travel is a blast, whether you’re a reader or a writer.

Do you follow a disciplined schedule when you write?

I used to only be able to write in the evening. I’d put on a pot of coffee and write until dawn, snatch a few hours and then go off to work. My five-year-old daughter ended that; she’s a lot more demanding than a day job!

I’m writing full-time now, but it’s still hard to find uninterrupted time. Sigh. Maybe when Carmen is older I can start pulling all-nighters again. I love how the world seems to hold its breath in the early hours of the morning…it always inspires me.

Do you find the process of book promotion difficult? How many hours a week do you spend promoting your book?

Okay. I’m weird. For the most part, I enjoy book promotion. I have a strong marketing background and I like to try new things—see what works and what doesn’t. I also love the “press-the-flesh” part of book promotion, the book signings and readings. You meet fascinating people and I consider it all research for a forthcoming story.

For instance, at a book signing in a little Hawaii jungle town called Hanalei the other day, I met a gifted twenty-eight-year-old painter. Moses became a quadriplegic in 2002 from an accident and now paints holding the brush in his mouth. His art was technically proficient as well as extremely moving and he’s doing very well with it.

A month or so ago, I met a twenty-something woman who teaches scuba diving to cruise ship visitors. She took me out for my first night dive a while back. Moray eels were slinking through our legs!

It was terrifying.

Would you like to share with our readers any of your present or future projects? Any more thrillers on the horizon?

I’ve already mentioned that Death Game is the first in a series. The sequel is about 2/3’s done. In the meantime, I just sent a non-fiction manuscript out to an interested publisher yesterday. It’s an inspirational survival guide to breast cancer.

Perhaps that cancer guide will find a wider audience than just patients, because my take on the disease is quite different. The whole experience of facing a threat like cancer is something I would wish on everyone—without the disease, of course. About 90 percent of what used to bother you disappears forever from your life. One small example: the whole concept of a “bad hair day” doesn’t exist for me anymore. I’m just happy to have any hair at all. I read women’s magazines these days and laugh myself silly. I can’t even imagine being bothered by things they focus on. Some women never cared about those things to begin with, but I used to let my fears trap me.

For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being an author?

It used to be the writing itself. Now it’s the people I meet, particularly if they enjoy my writing. It was cancer that changed that for me as well. And…adopting from a country where the children have such a tough time just getting enough to eat. I don’t live inside myself so much anymore.

What is your favorite book of all time?

The Bible. I started reading the King James Version when all the other kids were reading Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys and the beauty of the language sank into my soul. I also loved all the graphic violence and sex in the Old Testament. My family was pretty anti-church in those days, so I kept a copy hidden and read it at night when everyone was asleep. Of course, that made it all the more thrilling.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

My website is www.cherylswanson.net. I have several personal blogs that you can link to on that website, but my favorite is my writing group blog: www.madten.wordpress.com.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Mayra, I know your daughter just published a book (my congratulations to her) and since we’re approaching Mother’s Day, I’ll focus on that. If you have a young artist or writer in your family, give them everything you can possibly give them to help them succeed. But also warn them that the only people who should try to make their living off of their creative work are people who really have to do so. It’s a very difficult career and the only people who should be in it are those who want it more than anything else.

Interview by Mayra Calvani, aka The Dark Phantom

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Virtual Book Tour Lesson One

What is a virtual book tour? Like a regular book tour, you go around talking about your book, yourself, and your writing. The ultimate goal, of course, is to generate sales, but mostly, you’re creating a buzz in hopes that people who might otherwise never learn about your work have a chance to “discover” you.

The beauty of a virtual book tour is it’s on the Internet: no expense, no leaving home and most of it can be done at your leisure. There are several ways to conduct a virtual tour appearance. The simplest is the book review–your host reads the book and reviews it on his site, or you write your own review for him. The next is the interview–again, your host can e-mail questions for you to answer, or you can write your own interview for her to post. Then there’s the guest chat–if your host has a chat room, you can talk to the audience. (Have a general topic in mind and a brief, prepared intro about yourself and your book.) Your host could have a contest for a copy of your book or hold a “reading” where you post a chapter or scene from your book. Use your imagination and ask your host–he or she may have a different idea.

Of course, you’ll want to talk about your book, but don’t limit yourself to that. Think about the things that affect your readers. For example, Infinite Space, Infinite God is Catholic SF; so at first glance, I should target blogs about Catholicism and science fiction. However, I tried to make this more than just a fun read; I wanted folks to use this book to discuss and learn. So I might reach high schoolers, homeschoolers, other writers, maybe even theology/philosophy-and-technology sites. I’m a writer working with a small press, so I can reach those people by talking about the experiences that led to the publishing of ISIG–and writers are terrific readers! I’m a busy mom, so I can talk about writing and raising kids–moms read or they may be looking for something for their SF-loving husbands.

Before you begin your tour, take a few minutes and brainstorm waht topics you have experience with or that your book covers. When you’re ready, read on.

Virtual Book Tour Lesson Two

Next, let’s talk about some preliminaries before launching a book tour. I’ve found these to be very helpful not just in the tour but translating that tour into real interest for my book:

#1 Preliminary materials. If you’re developing a media kit, these should be in your bag of tricks. These are things you can offer your host to make his page stand out or his interview even better:

–A print-quality graphic (.jpg is good) of your book cover. Ask your publisher.

–A print-quality photo of yourself. (Get a friend to take a good digital photo.)

–50-, 150-, and 250-word blurbs about your book. Hosts can use these to advertise your upcoming tour, weave them into their introduction, or post them elsewhere on their site.

–A fact sheet. This is more for you than them. Just list some of the more vital pieces of info about your book–from website to the chapter names and pages in your manuscript, interesting topics, factoids (Infinite Space, Infinite God took 2 years to find a publisher, for example), and interesting stories. This is one thing I did not do and I’m constantly racking my brain or searching my manuscript in order to answer an interviewer’s question. Learn from my mistake.

–Your own set of questions. (Optional) Some bloggers will ask you to write up your own interview. If you know what you want to talk about ahead of time, it’s easier. Be sure to tailor the questions and answers to the blog’s audience, however.

#2 Create your own website for your book! This has been the single most useful thing I’ve done. I created a website on tripod for Infinite Space, Infinite God before the tour and I constantly refer to it in the interviews and correspondence. It generated 400 hits in a month. The website holds all the information you’d like to tell folks: summaries, your bio, a calendar of your book tour and other events, a media room, and most importantly, Purchasing Information! There are a couple of places to create websites for free. I have sites on www.tripod.lycos.com and www.freewebs.com. Both have ready-made templates and easy to use editors that let you add text, photos, special effects, contact sites–all the basic website stuff. No programming experience is needed and they come out great! Check out http://isigsf.tripod.com for an example of a book promotion site. It took about 3 hours to build because of all the text to type in, and I add to it twice a week it seems. The editor is so easy, it only takes minutes.

#3 List who your target audience is for your book and who might be interested in you. You wrote the book–if people would find you interesting, chances are they or someone they know will find your book interesting as well.

For ISIG, I’m targeting science fiction fans, Catholics, Christians, people interested in technology and morals, and educators. However, I am a homeschooler, military wife, writer, Mensan, former AF officer, current military wife, Colorado State University alumnus. If I can find a magazine or paper that might be interested in me or my book, I can probably find a blog or e-zine that would be interested.

OK. You have your homework. Contact me if you have questions. Next lesson: how to find stops on your tour.

Virtual Book Tour Lesson Three

So you’ve got or are creating a kickin’ website about your book and you have a good idea who your book tour audience is. Now we can get into the meat of the tour itself: finding the Blogs!

Blogs are essentially on-line “journals” (usually by a person) about whatever interests them. As such, they cover the gamut of exposure, expertise and opinion. Some, like LiveJournal, are more like on-line diaries while others may be specifically targeted toward news. Some are by people who simply want to express themselves (regardless of their knowledge or experience on a topic) while others are serious commentary by experts in their field. Some of these may only have a few faithful viewers, while others may get thousands of views a day. Thus, as you search, you’ll also need to evaluate each blog to see if this blog is one on which you’d like to promote your book.

Here’s where I went to find my blog stops:

1. Friends. Not only might they have a blog they can host you one, they may know of a blog that would be interested in you. I found several Catholic blogs through friends, some of which have large audiences.

2. On-line groups. If you’re on a Yahoo group or other forum, post a request asking if anyone blogs in your target area, or can recommend any blogs.

3. Google. Type in “blog” and your target area. Do more than one search. For example, for “Infinite Space, Infinite God,” I searched under “Catholic science fiction blog,” and “Catholic fiction blog.” If your book has been out for awhile, Google the title name and see if anyone’s already mentioned it. I found a blog that didn’t show up on a general search when I typed in “Infinite Space, Infinite God.”

4. Search host sites. Most host sites like Blogger or MySpace allow you to search just their websites. Sometimes you can find blogs that have a loyal following but don’t show up on Google.

5. Check links on websites and blogs you visit.

Once you’ve found a site, look it over. Do the entries tie in with your book or your interests? Does the person seem sympathetic or potentially interested? Is there a counter–and if so, how many people have visited the site?

If you like the blog and would like to “visit” it on your tour, you try to contact the blogger. A good way to start is to find one of his posts you like and leave a comment. If it applies to your book, so much the better, but at very least, leave your name and your book name and website. For example:

What an interesting post! I didn’t realize Dr. Thinxalot has postulated a “human percentage” for determining how much genetic tinkering our DNA can take. Incidentally, that’s a topic we’ve explored in our SF anthology “Infinite Space, Infinite God.” I’ll have to look for more of Dr. T’s research.
–Karina Fabian, editor, Infinite Space, Infinite God http://isigsf.tripod.com

If there’s a contact site for the blogger, write her a note complimenting her on her blog and asking her if she’d be willing to host you on your virtual book tour. You may have to explain what that is and how it’s done. (I’ll post a sample e-mail next lesson) If you cannot find contact information on the site, ask her via a comment. Next: inviting yourself to a blog, being interviewed, generating “buzz.”

Virtual Book Tour Lesson Four

Here are two letters I sent to bloggers asking to be on their blogs. The first is an initial letter. I introduce myself, comment on the blog (how I came across it and something I liked about it), then ask the blogger if he’d host me. I always make sure I tie myself or my book to the blog, so he knows I’m not just picking him out blindly and that a post aobut me or my book adds to his blog. Then I offer more information. Here’s where a website comes in handy! Finally, I offer an advance review copy of the book. This is especially important for any site that you’re asking to host you specifically because they blog about something that your book applies to. Sometimes, they’ll want to review the book as well as interview you.

Dear Mr. Akins,

My friend Ann Lewis recommended your blog to me and I’ve been enjoying it greatly. (It was refreshing to see someone else who held a similar opinion on the genocide of the Cylons.)

Since you are a SF fan, I was wondering if you’d be interested in reviewing my husband Rob’s and my anthology of Catholic SF, Infinite Space, Infinite God. It’s out in e-book right now from Twilight Times Books and will be out in print in August. I’m planning virtual book tours in December and August, so if you are willing, I’d love to have you host us on one or both of those months.

I’ve attached a short blurb about ISIG, and if you’d like more information, please check out the website at http://isigsf.tripod.com. Then, if you are interested, please e-mail me back and I’ll be glad to send you an electronic ARC.

This second letter is a follow-up. The blogger has expressed interest and wants to know more. Virtual book touring is still very new and many people don’t know much about it. The thing I try to emphasize is that she is doing me a big favor and as such, I want to make it as easy on her as possible.

Dear Dustiam,

Thanks so much for agreeing to host rob and me on our virtual book tour to promote Infinite Space, Infinite God.

By hosting me (or Rob and me on your site), you’d devote a post to us and Infinite Space, Infinite God. We’re on a virtual book tour right now and are planning another for August, but any time that’s good for you is good for us. We can do this in several ways:

–You send us interview questions that we answer. You post the Q&A.

–You tell us what you’d like us to write about and we write an entry for you to post.

–We write our own interview and you post it.

–You just review the book.

We’ve done most of these, so whatever’s convenient for you is good for us. I’ve enclosed an electronic copy of the book. Let me know when you plan to post and I’ll put it a notice about it on our ISIG website (http://isigsf.tripod.com). You can also find more information on the website, including the other stops on our virtual book tour, where you can see what other bloggers have done in hosting us.

Virtual Book Tour Lesson Five

Another way to conduct a book tour is to leave comments on folks’ blogs. To tell you more about that, however, I’d like to share this article by Janet Elaine Smith. Janet is a novelist who also writes about useful tips for marketing your books. Check her out at http://www.janetelainesmith.com.)

Before you set off on a virtual book tour, remember that you are visiting various blogs as a guest. You don’t run the show. Always leave a comment about something in the blog before you issuing an invitation to partake of something you have to offer, whether it is to purchase your book, to visit your blog or to hang out at your website. Sadly common courtesy is all too often in short supply.

The best way to find blogs that best fit your virtual tour is with this search: http://www.blogsearch.google.com. Don’t just look for the obvious; be creative. After all, we are all writers, and imagination is our forte. And look for something that you can tie your book into. Let me give you a couple of examples. You know, show; don’t tell!

My book Par for the Course is a timetravel that takes a modern day golf pro and sends her back in time to golf with Mary, Queen of Scots, at St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland. Mary was the first woman golfer–true fact.

OK, so I did a search for Mary, Queen of Scots. History buffs who like to follow her are always looking for new info. Many of them do not know that she was the first known woman golfer. (I found that info in an old kids’ encyclopedia.) So, when I find a blog about Mary, I go to it and ask a simple question: “Do you know what sport Mary, Queen of Scots, was noted for? If you don’t, you can find out in my time travel, Par for the Course. If you do, or if you want to take a guess, come on over to my blog at www.janetelainesmith.blogspot.com and leave me a comment.” Then I leave a comment about their blog, like “I was pleased to learn that Mary was the tallest woman in Scotland at the time she lived. I am a firm believer that I am never too old to learn something new.”

Another one I did was for my book In St. Patrick’s Custody. I did a lot of similar blog entries to the one above only tied to this book of when it was close to St. Patrick’s Day. I then invited the blog visitors to go to Patrick and Grace’s website, http://crumbycapers.tripod.com (a fictional website I set up especially for the protagonists of that book–another promotional idea, by the way!) and leave me a note in the guestbook. Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Another one I did for In St. Patrick’s Custody was in connection with homelessness, because Grace ended up in a homeless shelter. That one got picked up and noticed by a few print newspapers and it led to a couple of actual print interviews about the issue of homelessness.

I don’t always leave a bunch of signature lines in a blog, but I do give the info if it pertains to the book I’m blogging about at the time. For instance, with Par for the Course, I usually include “Named best timetravel of the year by Affaire de Coeur Magazine.”

With In St. Patrick’s Custody I might end with something like “Responsible for countless new volunteers in homeless shelters across the country.”

Virtual Book Tour Lesson Six

We’ve learned a lot about what a virtual tour is, what it can do for you, and how to set one up. Today, I want to talk about why you should bother.

* Getting the word out. Virtual book tours probably will not get you a lot of sales, but they are effective at generating a buzz about your book. By getting onto blogs read by your target audience, you are using your time more effectively than if you just send out random press releases. In addition, the more your book is mentioned, the more likely it will show up on search engines, increasing the chances that someone looking for something related to your book will have your title or website appear on their screen. –And, of course, it’s immensely better than doing nothing at all.

* Learning to approach people for interviews. For many of us, it’s easier to e-mail someone who writes a blog for fun than, say, approach a television studio that needs to turn a profit. Nonetheless, you need to be able to present yourself to either with confidence and convince them that interviewing you is worth it to their readers.

* Giving a good interview. One thing books on marketing your novel recommend is to make up interview questions and answers before doing any live interviews. With a virtual book tour, you’ll have others giving you the questions. Even better, because you’re doing everything via the Internet, a virtual book tour interview gives you a great opportunity to think about your answers, research them, ask others, and really put your best foot forward. You can then use that information when you do a live tour.

I’ve been amazed on my own book tour how much I learned about myself, my book, and the genre. Bloggers, even those with small audiences, nonetheless took the time and effort to ask me some very thoughtful questions. I found myself having to research for facts to support my answers and even going to my writer friends for opinions on how they’d respond. As a result, I’m going to be much more confident when I do live interviews. (I have one tentatively scheduled this summer on FastForward.)

* Gathering information to use elsewhere. Another way to promote your book is to write articles about the topics it covers. Your interviews not only give you information, but also let you know the kind of things people are interested in. You can then use that to write articles to submit elsewhere. I have an article due on Catholic Science Fiction for Hereditas this month, and I’ll be pulling liberally from my many interviews.

* Having fun! What can be more rewarding to a just-published writer than to talk about his or her new book? Virtual book tours let you do that on your own time, in your own home, with the chance to go back, reword, rethink and put your best foot forward. They’re a good confidence builder.

That’s it for the Virtual Book Tour Primer. I may post articles from time to time, and of course, I’ll answer questions. (Is anyone out there reading this?!? Ask me your questions!) In October, I’ll be hosting a Virtual book Tour Workshop at the FREE MuseOnline Writers’ Conference.

If this primer helped you, please leave me a comment! In the meantime, thanks for dropping in and let me know how your virtual book tour goes!

Karina is going on another virtual book tour this August to promote Infinite Space, Infinite God, which comes out in print August 15. For more information, check out http://isigsf.tripod.com. She’s aiming for 30 spots in 30 days, so if you’d like to help her meet her goal, contact her via her website.

Karina Fabian
Editor, Infinite Space, Infinite God, 2007 EPPIE Winner for Best SF
Now available at www.twilighttimesbooks.com

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The Harrowing
By Alexandra Sokoloff
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 0-312-35748-6
Copyright 2006
Hardcover, 224 pages, $21.95

The Breakfast Club meets The Shinning in this engrossing, hard-to-put-down novel that will give you a fair amount of chills and shivers on those dark rainy days.

It’s Thanksgiving break at Baird College and most students are getting ready to visit their families. But this is not the case with Robin Stone; she’d much rather stay alone in the silent, creepy, one-hundred-year old residence hall and kill herself. However, right before taking her own life, she discovers she’s not alone. A few other students have chosen to stay as well—handsome football player Patrick, beautiful tease Lisa, eccentric Martin, and brooding musician Cain. In spite of all their differences and initial antagonism, a mutual rapport soon emerges as they begin playing with an old Guija board from the 1920’s… and discover that’s there’s an invisible sixth presence among them. Who is this being and what does it want? Is it benign or malevolent? Could it be the product of their own twisted and collective subconscious?

The author maintains a quick pace and the various characters are each distinct and interesting. The desolate college campus, gothic halls, and relentless storm create a deep sense of creepiness and menace, and serve as an ominous backdrop for the story. Although the last quarter of the book is somewhat predictable, lacks some originality, and doesn’t do justice to the beginning and middle—which were deliciously woven with elements of Jungian psychology—The Harrowing is still the perfect novel to be read this fall while cuddling in a cosy armchair by the fire.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

*This review originally appeared in Armchair Interviews

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1001 Ways to Market Your Books
by John Kremer
Open Horizons
ISBN: 0-912411-49-X
Copyright 2006 (6th Edition)
Trade Paperback, $27.95, 700 pages

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

If you were able to choose only one book on book marketing today, this would be definitely it. This 700-page monster has all the information any author or publisher will ever need to market and promote books, and to create a “state-of-the-art” marketing plan.

In spite of the huge amount of information Kremer offers, the book is well organized and the subjects easy to find, either from the table of contents or index. The author also includes articles by experts on various subjects, as well as an amalgam of up-to-date links and resources.

What sets this book part from others in the field, besides the amount of information, are the details. There are many books on promotion out there, but few go as deep as this one. In this sense, this is an invaluable reference work.

Though it is impossible to list all the subjects covered, following are some of them: basic fundamentals of book marketing, planning, distributors and wholesalers, major book reviewers, arranging print/radio/TV interviews, book tours, book signings, advertising (direct mail, finding lists, telemarketing, print ads), offbeat marketing, book fairs and conferences, catalogs, internet promotion, selling to bookstores, libraries, gifts shops and many other retail markets, subsidiary and foreign rights, and much, much more.

Kremer explores each subject in depth and offers clear, pragmatic advice on how to succeed at each level of promotion. Have your highlighter, pencil and Post-its ready, as this is a book you’ll want to dissect and examine section by section. A book that should be not on your shelf but on your desk at all times, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

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Although writing is a skill that can be learned, I believe some people are born writers. Do you consider yourself a born writer?I definitely consider myself a born writer. Or maybe it might be better to say, a born storyteller. As long as I can remember, I had stories in my head and eventually, I started putting those stories down on paper. In the meantime, I was always reading and I think that reading taught me about the craft of writing.

As an author of dark paranormal novels, what is it about vampires that you find so fascinating? Why do you think vampire stories exert such allure over readers?The darkness of the human spirit is something that calls to readers because they want to know what makes such dark characters click. In addition, there is a universal connection to the fight between good and evil and I think paranormals, especially vampire novels, touch upon that universal battle. Vampires represent the darkest parts of our personalities. Those dangerous things that call to us. The sensuality of the vampire’s kiss and the passion that comes from sharing yourself in such an intimate way. All of these things attract readers to the darkness in the stories.

Please tell us a bit about your vampire novels and series.
I had just finished writing a string of contemporary romances and wanted to try my hand at something different. Definitely something that was darkly different. I was tired of the whole Happily-Ever-After and heroes that were all goodness and light. I decided to write a story where the heroes had pasts that had showed them a harsh aspect of life that they still carried within them. I also wanted to explore what would happen when a kick-ass female FBI Agent met a protective Old World gentleman – a vampire. DARKNESS CALLS was born out of that inspiration and originally, it was much more violent and didn’t have a happily-ever-after.

In what other genres do you write? Which one is your favourite?
I also do straight romantic suspense and women’s fiction. I say straight romantic suspense because my paranormal novels are actually paranormal romantic suspense novels. I would have to say that I do love romantic suspense the most because of the inherent danger and excitement those stories contain.

Describe to us a regular day in Caridad Scordato’s life. I’m usually up around 5 a.m. in the morning to get ready for work. I still have a full-time job as a lawyer in Manhattan. By 6 a.m. I’m on a train to New York City and during the train ride, I’m almost always at work on my laptop, writing a story. When I get to NYC, I walk to my office. It’s a nice way to clear my head and get ready for work. Since I’m an Intellectual Property lawyer, I usually have a mess of paper on my desk that requires attention. At the end of the day, it’s a walk back to the train station where I plot out what I will work on during the trip home. At night, I usually relax with my family unless I’ve got a pressing deadline or promo materials to create. Weekends are when I do the bulk of my writing, normally 3 or 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Do you follow a disciplined writing schedule? Do you set yourself a minimum amount of pages per day? Per week?I definitely follow a disciplined writing schedule. I think you have to do that if you want to be a published author since publishing houses aren’t looking for just one book – they want to know you can deliver more than one work to them. I don’t normally go by the number of pages. I stick to the train ride and if necessary, night time writing as well as weekend writing in order to meet the deadlines I have.

What is the secret to such productivity? Or is it simply the deadlines on your multiple book contracts what keeps you on the edge?The secret to the productivity is perseverance and support. The latter is key since my family helps me out in whatever ways they can so I can work on my writing. It’s tough sometimes to balance work, writing and family and I couldn’t do it without the support of my family. As for deadlines, I guess being a lawyer makes me uber-crazy about keeping those deadlines. There are times when editor requests require moving some deadlines around, but in general, we’ve been able to keep to the schedules we’ve set for all the various novels.

Some writers listen to music or go for a walk when they feel particularly dry for ideas. Is there anything you do to spark your creativity?I watch videos and listen to music. I find that both of those help spark my creativity. Videos in particular are great, especially when it’s a really good movie or television show. Analyzing the story arcs and dialogue really help to inspire me when I’ve hit a block or need some inspiration.

How important are conferences and book signings for an author? Do you regularly take part in these?Networking is an important part of any business. I would highly recommend to all authors, whether published or pre-published, to go to conferences to meet not only other authors, but agents, editors and readers. As for book signings, they can be a crap shoot at times. You could go from having a good crowd to having no one come by if the weather is good or bad, or it’s a holiday, etc. Stock signings, namely where you go from on store to the other and sign the books, seem to yield results as booksellers love signed books to offer to their patrons.

Did you find an agent for your first book or you found a publisher on your own? Can you tell us a bit about the agent/publisher searching process?I sold my first ten books without an agent. I found that getting a good agent is almost as hard as getting published and that a bad agent was worse than no agent at all. The key to finding a good agent is to check them out thoroughly to make sure they are reputable. If an agent is part of AAR, that’s a good sign as AAR has a code of ethics to which the agents have to adhere. Next, if you and the agent seem to hit it off, sit down and let the agent know what you want to do with your career. The agent needs to know what you want and expect and should also provide you an idea of whether those goals are reasonable and if so, how the agent plans to help you meet those goals. Finally, if an agent asks for money – run. No one should ask you for money up front. The agent should take her pay from the sales she makes for you.

What frustrates you the most about the publishing world?
The hardest part is hearing over and over that editors are looking for “fresh” voices or ideas since oftentimes it seems as if they are unwilling to consider ideas that are different. I am lucky that the publishers that I’ve had have been receptive to different ideas. In particular, Leslie Wainger and Stacy Boyd at Harlequin were willing to take a risk on my different vampire novels and I’m very grateful that they did.

What are the most important points to keep in mind when writing dark paranormal suspense?Much like the different sides you find in life, the yin and yang of things, you need to remember balance when writing a dark novel. So, for all the dark elements in my novels, I try to find the corresponding light to balance that. Why? Again, I think the appeal of paranormals is that universal good versus evil battle and I believe that paranormal writers fight that battle in their own unique ways in each novel.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when crafting a novel?
The opening chapters are the hardest things for me. I really want to establish the tone of the novel as well as the conflict of the characters. I think it’s important to do that in the first three chapters in order to draw the readers into wanting to continue the story.

If you could recommend the greatest dark paranormal romance novel of all time, what would it be?That’s such a tough choice. There are so many wonderfully dark paranormal romance novels out there. If we’re talking about modern writers, I would suggest starting with early Laurell Hamilton for stories that are dark and sexy. Kim Harrison is another favorite.

Do you have a website where readers may learn more about you and your works?
I actually have two websites! www.caridad.com is my general website where I have information on all my novels and my blog as well. www.thecallingvampirenovels.com is the website for THE CALLING vampire novels and we’ve created a tone of new content and history on all the stories and characters in THE CALLING.

Would you like to share with us any of your future projects?BLOOD CALLS, May 2007, is the next installment of THE CALLING. Starting in December, THE CALLING will continue with a Christmas vampire novella titled FATE CALLS and after that, there will be three other novels in 2008/9. I’ll also have a romantic suspense, SECRET AGENT REUNION in August 2007 and my edgy women’s fiction, SOUTH BEACH CHICAS CATCH THEIR MAN in September 2007.

Thank you, Caridad!

Interview by Mayra Calvani, aka The Dark Phantom

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Some friends were talking recently and a subject came up that is near and dear to most of us authors (and others) out there, but is rarely talked about – The Impostor Syndrome.

This is the feeling deep inside that you aren’t at all good, that you have no right to be up there on that panel talking to fledgling writers, that your publisher is crazy for ever having agreed to publish your book. No matter how much actual success you gain, you just can’t reconcile yourself to the fact your talents did that! It must be luck, or a coincidence, or someone helping you out – no way could it actually be you.

At home, safe and sound, this feeling of being a fraud is not so strong. It mostly rears its ugly head when you are out there, in front of con goers, other writers (especially if you admire their work), or anyone else who approaches you that has heard you are a writer. For some, the feelings of being a fake and the guilt at daring to put themselves out there as something they know they are surely not can be extremely depressing, and actually paralyzing, keeping them from presenting themselves to others – the biggest fear being that someone somewhere will figure out their shame and expose them to all.

I did a Yahoo search on “Impostor Syndrome” just wondering what I would find. There were a lot of hits. Talentdevelop.com has the names of several major actors and actresses who have suffered from this – Nicole Kidman, Jodie Foster, Don Cheadle, and more. Caltech and Cornell both have a section on the syndrome at their site. Numerous psychologists have done papers on the subject.

One interesting fact I noticed is that this syndrome seems to be most prevalent in women. (Dang it!)

Okay, so now that you’re nodding your heads knowing what I am talking about and some of you feeling you have this thing, what can you do about it? Hey, don’t look at me! I have this too! And I am no expert. But…

To me, some of the feelings generated by the syndrome stem almost into the realm of phobias. I know some definite facets of it reflect in my shyness, my inability to toot my own horn, my embarrassment when others do it for me, and my not wanting to force people to buy my books but rather entice them into it so it’s is their own decision.

But what I have done (and it sort of works for me), and what others I know are so good at you would never ever think they doubt themselves or their relevance, is to create an Author Persona. Basically what it comes down to is making a professional copy of yourself, one that gets down to business and has no doubts. You don’t have to reinvent yourself! Just think of a more outgoing more confident you (even if by just a little) and give yourself some props to help you slide into the role.

In my case, I have clothes that I specifically use when I am the “writer”. They are fancier than my usual fare (Tomboy here! Tomboy!) and they make me look professional (I hope) – like I might actually know something. Others I know dress more casually, but still have something to set them aside from their everyday facade — they use things like funky vests, costumes (some even dress like their characters), neat hats, buttons, what have you.

Mind you, this professional alter-ego in no way makes any of the fears of feeling like a fraud disappear, but it can help you put enough of a lid on them to manage and do what you are there to do – whether it be a panel, a signing, a chat, sitting behind a dealer’s table and smiling, whatever. And of course, like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

If we’re very lucky, maybe even that feeling of being a fake will go away too someday. (Right…)

But it will let you function. And functioning before the fans and our peers as an author is something we must do! So go get ‘em! We rock! Don’t ever forget that!

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic

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Do your bookshelves groan with jumbled masses of books, some of which have been in your possession since childhood? Are there stacks of books on all horizontal surfaces wherever you look—tables, floor, couch, chairs, tops of cabinets, laps of visitors? Do you keep buying books at a faster rate than you can read them? Are you a ‘reverse library user’ who takes bags of books to the local library every month because, sad but true, there’s just no more space for them at home?

If you answered Yes to all of the above, you are either me, my clone, or an avid reader/book lover who is rapidly losing control of your home-space. But fear not. Help is at hand. Unless you have been hibernating under bookcovers for the past few years, you will have heard of e-books, perhaps even read a few on your computer. But do you really want to strain your eyes staring at the computer screen for hours on end? I certainly don’t. So when I heard of a hand-held portable device the size of a paperback that allows the reader to read with ease and maintain a virtual bookshelf stocked with dozens, nay, hundreds of e-books, I knew that, sooner or later, it will find its way into my greedy hands.

Research online convinced me that there was only one device that matched all the criteria I was looking for—small and light enough to be truly portable, yet with a big enough screen not to strain the eye. I was not prepared to squint into bitty-sized screens, trying to decipher tiny-fonted writing for the course of a novel. I wanted something that resembled the experience of reading a paperback as closely as possible. My search led me to the eBookwise-1150 reading device, aka the eBook Reader available from Ebookwise.com. Just like Fictionwise.com, Ebookwise.com. is an online seller of e-books. Without further ado, I ordered the eBookwise-1150 online and, on impulse, ordered two ebooks at the same time.

I jumped with excitement when my Reader finally arrived (it took longer than I expected, but perhaps that was due partly to my impatience), and I could not wait to rip it from the very secure packaging. It gleamed at me as I unwrapped it, my own reading device, perfect as a newborn and exactly the right size. At 7 ½ inches by 5 inches by 1½ inches, it’s more or less the size of a trade paperback, but, at 18 ounces, this baby weighs more like a hardcover. I would have been happier if it had been a tad lighter, but it’s good that it’s not flimsy. Indeed, it feels quite solidly constructed, and looks space-age and rather nifty.

Both internal modem and USB ports are built-in, and a phone cord and USB cable are included with other accessories such as a stylus, a soft carrying case, and a power adapter. The setup was pretty straightforward, except the phoneline connection did not work at first try, so I used the USB connection to connect to my laptop. I logged in, downloaded the driver from eBookwise.com and registered my reading device right away. There is a lightweight stylus that you will lose immediately, but no matter, the backlit LCD touchscreen (5½ by 3½ inches, a tad shorter than a paperback page) will respond to a tap of your finger.

As soon as I registered my device at eBookwise.com, the two books I had bought came up and I was able to download them from eBookwise.com and transfer them from my ‘online bookshelf’ to my ‘e-bookshelf’ right away. Already in the device were 5 free books (The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Random House Webster’s Concise Dictionary, and the indispensable eBook User’s Guide Version 4.1).

Still with the power cord attached (the battery takes two hours to charge, more if you’re using it), I began to read my first e-book purchase: Mayra Calvani’s dark fantasy Embraced by the Shadows. The rechargeable Lithium-ion battery will last between 7.5-15 hours on a full charge, depending on how you adjust the backlight. If it’s on minimal, it can last up to 15 hours. At full, the battery life is only half that. I adjusted mine for what I consider optimal viewing and it lasts over 10 hours.

The experience of reading on this device is unbelievably good. The device conforms well to my left hand (you can customize it for either hand). The font size, contrast, and screen brightness are adjustable. You can bookmark, highlight, and make notes as you read. You can even look up unfamiliar words in the included dictionary, though I did find the latter somewhat basic and was not able to find the first two words I looked for. The power-on button is recessed into one side and cannot be knocked on or off accidentally. The page-forward, page-back buttons are sleek and well-placed. What’s more, I believe I’m reading a lot faster than with a paper book. I finished Embraced by the Shadows within a couple of days, M.D. Benoit’s cross-genre Sci-Fi/detective novels, Metered Space and its sequel Meter Made after that, and have since started another one.

And here’s another thing: there are so many different genres of ebooks to choose from, and they’re all priced much less than print books that the amount you spend on the device is soon recouped if you read as much as I do. And let’s face it, who wants to bear the guilt of destroying trees, let alone an entire forest? With the basic 4MB RAM, 8MB internal Flash for program and content storage, there is enough internal memory for approximately 15-20 ebooks at a time. SmartMedia Cards allow expanded content storage. I bought the 64MB card at the same time as the reading device. (The 64MB card is being offered with the eBookwise reader-1150 as a promotion for US $125+shipping at eBookwise.com.) A 128MB is also available and would allow hundreds of ebooks to be stored on the one device. Personal content can be downloaded into the eBookwise-1150, complete with images, so long as each file does not exceed 2 MB, up to a total of 10MB.

So look around and inhale the musty scent of your old print books, my friends. Their days may or may not be numbered, but there’s no reason to add to the destruction of the planet, not now that eBookwise-1150 is on the market. Grab yourself one and delight your family and friends with your forward-thinking and environmental friendliness. Strangers will come up to you and ask to have a closer look. Fellow subway patrons will dart curious and envious glances at your latest accessory. It’s the must-have of all-seasons, and guess what, you’ll be reading more than ever, and those bookshelves of yours need groan no more than they do now.

So sit back and enjoy the read. The pleasures of e-fiction await you.

J.C. Hall is the author of such fantasy novels as Legends of the Serai and Lady of the Lakes. Visit her website at www.jc-hall.com.

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