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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar, "Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction."

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Some weeks ago I did a post that was almost nothing but the covers of fabulous vintage mysteries and a list of some of my favorite vintage authors. And that post was in response to a question asked by Sabine on an earlier post about being interviewed by the fabulous and hilarious Rachel X Russell.

    So I’m dedicating today’s post to Elisabeth Grace Foley, who spoke up in the comments to recommend the nineteenth-century authors Anna Katherine Green and Melville Davisson Post.

    I already knew about Green—although I had not read her (shame on me)—but Davisson Post’s name was a new one. So I immediately ran out and bought Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries: A Collection of Classic Detective Stories.

    But first I had the following conversation with my husband:

    Me: Uncle Abner? Are you kidding me? The cartoon character?

    My husband: I don’t think it was a cartoon about mysteries.

    Me: So this Davisson Post had a whole other double life—how brilliant is that?

    My husband: Except Davisson Post was apparently born in 1869, and the L’il Abner cartoon ran until the 1970s.

    Me: Holy crap! Talk about longevity!

    Eventually he convinced me that Uncle Abner and L’il Abner were not the same character. And I started reading the mysteries.

    Oh, so wonderful. . .

    1. Doomdorf

      Anyone who can invent a name like Doomdorf has me on their side automatically. Now I’m in a terrible quandary because I desperately want to write a ghost story about a house called Doomdorf, but that name is already taken.

      Watch for a novel called Dorfdoom.

    2. Historical setting

      Davisson Post was born only a few years after the end of the Civil War and lived his life in the back hills of Virginia, the land he knew so well and about which he wrote so vividly.

      His characters and stories ring true to life because they’re filled to the brim with details, habits, etiquette, and assumptions that could only possibly work in a world shaped entirely around them.

      When Uncle Abner and the boy-narrator ride through snow falling like great, grey, almost-sinister objects to cling to the branches of trees until they break, and they come upon a dilapidated old mansion with a single light burning and bang the knocker. . .the reader is not surprised that their reply is a gun report and splinters of wood flying through the door around them.

      We are purely delighted—here, indeed, is a mystery worth investigating!

      And when the narrator refers casually to the “disastrous failure of Prince Charles Edward Stuart to set up his kingdom in Scotland,” resulting in an influx of Scottish settlers in these Virginia hills whose ways and by-words Uncle Abner must understand in order to bring justice to a girl being married off against her will. . .again we are not surprised.

      Because Davisson Post speaks with such utter, detailed authority of his material, we are on the edge of our seats to learn what terrible secrets might lie hidden among these expatriates so far from home!

      And when the countryside teems with haggard women plaiting thorns to hide the wounds on their hands, and mortgages that can bought with gold coins in order to be forgiven, and insane old men who laugh demonically over having murdered abolitionists who would steal away their slaves. . .then we know we are not in our modern, automated, technological world at all.

      We are in Davisson Post country.

    3. Punch lines

      But what makes Davisson Post’s stories live on indelibly in the reader’s mind is not even all this—although we might think this would be enough.

      It is that each story ends on its punch line.

      And then stops.

      This is high art, my friends. This is the perfect design for which we each, in our many and various approaches to storytelling, are always seeking.

    4. Literary wisdom

      It is a law of the story-teller’s art that they do not tell a story. It is the listener who tells it. The story-teller does but provide them with the stimuli.
      —Melville Davisson Post, “The Doomdorf Mystery”

      If you study these lines long enough and hard enough, you’ll learn from them everything you ever need to know about creating literature.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Last week while I was teaching at the San Francisco Writers Conference, I left you a bunch of gorgeous exposition by Melville Davisson Post, so that when I got back you would all still be sitting in front of your computers with the goofy smiles of enlightenment plastered across your faces. But! I’m not back yet. So today I’m going to continue with the avalanche of brilliance. Because I love you (and Davisson Post) just that much.

    • Some love truth less than they love laurels.

    • If a ghost rides my way, it stops right here or it goes under to hell.

    • I’d be glad if scientists would explain why the evening in autumn always recalls the lost Kingdom of the Little.

    • Hatred is a force pressing out the empty places of the heart & making simple people crafty.

    • Sharp & jarring & without premonition are the surprises of youth.

    • If a horse tramps peacefully, the land is certainly clear of any evil thing.

    • I had ridden out of youth’s golden country & lost one of the most splendid illusions of that enchanted land.

    • After sunset, we are under the world yet, with only yellow haze shining through the door of the sky.

    • The crooked elves toil with their backs against the golden moon.

    • Aid is to be had from the great earth when one’s heart is very deeply troubled.

    • Twilight is the acre of ghosts.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    I’m not here today. I am THIS VERY MINUTE teaching at the San Francisco Writers Conference my 3-hour workshop: “Make Your Genre Fiction Irresistible.” So for all of you who can’t join us there, today I’m going to throw at you some exposition: what is it? do you want it? how do you do it right? how do you do it wrong? I’m going to toss regular posts right out the window and just blow your mind with a bunch of gorgeous, classical, profound exposition by one of the great masters of the English language, the magnificent Melville Davisson Post.

    • The bracing influence of a holy cause has been tremendously overrated.

    • Hatred is big when one is young.

    • The terrible justice of good faith & fair dealing is but dimly understood.

    • Dismount & sit on the earth whenever you have grave matters to consider.

    • Slowly arrange the proper sequence of a distant memory.

    • A taunt sinks in as oil sinks into cloth.

    • How cruelly it hurts, the first jamming against the granite door-posts of the world.

    • The loneliness of the vast, empty earth—forgotten in the rush of sunshine—is the constant loom of the mystery.

    • Who can say what might climb up over the rim of the world?

    • Against the strange shapes of darkness, an axe is but a little weapon.

    • I wish you a happy voyage to the cloud island.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    1 SFWC JPEG

    Even as you read this, I am getting ready to hit the road driving to San Francisco to teach at the 2016 San Francisco Writers Conference.

    Whoopee!

    SFWC is sold out, but my class will be one of the ones still open to the public, for 99 smackers.

    Monday is the main event: a 3-hour workshop in which I’ll walk you through the process of identifying your protagonist’s conflicting internal needs and grow a gripping, irresistible plot from that character. We’ll pay special attention to the internal needs that fuel your genre.

    Ever wonder what it means: “plot grows out of character”?

    Now you can find out!

    So if you’re in the SF Bay Area and know how to find the Mark Hopkins Hotel (gigantically tall hotel on the steep hill above the Theater District—classy PLUS good exercise!) this is my schedule:

    FRIDAY 3:45 – 5:00 pm
    45-Minute ‘Breakout’ Version of my Workshop
    “Make Your Genre Fiction Irresistible”

    MONDAY 9:00 am – noon
    3-hour Workshop
    “Make Your Genre Fiction Irresistible”

    Bring your manuscript and/or ideas and be prepared to walk out with a story to knock your reader’s socks off.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Hey everyone! I want to talk today about my new series on the Art & Craft of Writing: Step by Step Guides to Becoming Your Own Dev Editor. You can find out about how to sign up for this series through the email list inside my new free ebook, Secret Advice for Writers.

    acw-secret-cover-3dIn the past year my business has undergone a radical change: now the majority of the queries I receive are mass queries from self-publishing writers seeking only Copy Editing—not Developmental or Line Editing.

    I’ve mentioned before and I’ll mention again that Copy Editing is so minor to my work that I throw it in free with Line Editing. But it turns out that about a year ago someone self-published a book on how to sell yourself as an independent editor, so that my industry is suddenly inundated with ‘editors’ who may or may not know anything about this real work, but they can certainly buy a book on grammar and punctuation and sell themselves to writers as though they do.

    Some of these people even sell themselves as Developmental Editors, hoping to rely upon their experience in beta groups, advice from writing books, and the blogs of working Dev Editors. (I know because they email to tell me.)

    It sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Charge writers for your blind guesses instead of giving them away free? Who’s going to know that you’re simply taking advantage of someone else’s generosity toward those same writers? If you know where to look for the right advice, and the writers who query you don’t, you can skim off your piece of the pie at the writer’s expense, and they’ll never be able to tell.

    That what burns me up: at the writer’s expense.

    I call these guys Faux Editors.

    And they have become legion.

    They are all over the Internet now, taking writers’ hard-earned money for passing on their—often shockingly wrong—interpretations of real advice, making blind guesses, and in many cases actually introducing errors into manuscripts. Believe me, I hear the horror stories. I see the mangled manuscripts. Writers contact me in distress, having hired not one but two, three, sometimes even more Faux Editors, throwing good money after bad in the desperate hope that someone, somewhere, will turn out randomly to be a real editor.

    It is appalling, but there’s been nothing much I could do about it for those who can’t afford me or my (all top-flight) editor friends. . .

    Until now.

    This year, I’m changing the focus of my editing business. Instead of promoting my free advice on my blog and advice column to those writers who can’t afford me—simply hoping that they don’t fall prey to the Faux Editors—I’m going to begin teaching writers how I do the Dev Editing work I do, so that the Faux Editors can’t profit off their innocence.

    Yes, I know the Faux Editors will just use my advice to advance their own agendas. If I make public my professional body of knowledge about this wonderful art and craft, I won’t be able to stop them.

    But it’s better to raise the quality of writing everywhere than to continue standing by and watching slack-jawed the damage being wreaked.

    acw-secret-cover-3dI want to give you the tools to protect yourself from the Faux Editors. You guys have stood by me through years of this work, and I really appreciate it!

    So please feel free to join us. Sign up for my email list inside Secret Advice to Writers, and you’ll receive an invitation to become a part of my private list, the Mixoneers, for the Step-by-Step Guides to Becoming Your Own Dev Editor.

    If you’re already a Mixoneer and reading this because we’re all reading it together. . .thanks for being in the avant-garde!

    And if you don’t want to sign up for anything—that’s great too! I’ll be publishing the Step-by-Step Guides later this year, on sale to everyone.

    I love fiction so much.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Sandra Boynton logoAaaaahhh!!! Can you hear me shrieking?

    I’m on my way to Cow Planet!

    I’ve been asked to contribute to the Writer’s Digest 2017 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

    My #1 first choice of author to interview was, of course, the brilliant, hilarious, and unforgettable childhood classic: Sandra Boynton. So I was totally blown away when she agreed!

    This is me doing the Rhinoceros Tap.

    Now I need to know: what would you ask Boynton if you had the chance?

    Send me your question, and I’ll ask her!

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    3 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR GENRE FICTION IRRESISTIBLE:
    Doing What the Best Authors Do to Make Your Novel Sell
    Victoria Mixon, Author & Editor
    SFWC 2016

    Do you ever wonder why readers become addicted to an author, buy the all of the author’s books, become passionate fans—and whether you can be an author like that? These three secrets make or break every novel. They’re easy to learn, but most new writers don’t know them or how to use them. Bring your manuscript and/or ideas and be prepared to walk out with a story to knock your socks off. Handouts and free ebook of Secret Advice for Writers.

    You will learn:

    #1: Impossible Choice—Make Your Character Addictive In 3 Clear Strokes
    Understand Your Genre Reader
    Plug into Their Deepest Needs
    Use Their Own Addictions

    #2: Train Wreck—“Grow Plot Out Of Character” In 3 Simple Steps
    Plot toward Your Genre Climax
    Pull Out of the Station on Parallel Tracks
    Merge the Tracks

    #3: Survival—Why Readers Read Genre Fiction
    To Learn Something They Don’t Already Know about Survival
    To Be Reassured that Life Is Worth Surviving

    How the Reader Chooses Their Favorite Genre:
    Thriller/Mystery/Suspense (top-selling genre)
    Romance (top-selling genre)
    Other Genres:
    Fantasy (including Paranormal & Dystopian)
    Science-Fiction
    Historical
    Commercial Fiction
    Children’s Fiction
    Literary Fiction
    Mixed Genres & Subgenres

    Victoria Mixon has been a writer and editor for over thirty years, editing bestsellers and award winners. She is listed in the Who’s Who of America, and her blog, Victoria Mixon, Author & Editor, is a Top 10 Blog for Writers and Writer’s Digest 101 Best Writing Blogs. She has taught fiction through Writer’s Digest and the Mendocino Writer’s Club. Her books include Art & Craft of Writing Fiction, Art & Craft of Writing Stories, and the free ebook Secret Advice for Writers. Fee: $79 for attendees, $99 non-attendees.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Happy New Year, everybody!

    I want to do something a little different this year, and that is share with you the joy of rejection. I know this sounds smart-aleck, but I am absolutely serious. Last fall I queried a top literary agent with a new novel, waited my obligatory six weeks, and received the kindest form rejection I have ever seen.

    And you know the kicker? I actually forgot to include the SASE. I know. I woke up in the middle of the night 72 hours later in a cold sweat when I realized what I’d done. So this top literary agent not only had the great courtesy to send me a kind rejection letter (although it has become the norm these days for agents to simply dispense with rejection letters altogether), but she provided her own envelope and stamp.

    That’s what I call a class act.

    So I want to share my rejection letter with you. I want you to know that this is part of the process of becoming published—not only writing, editing, and revising, but also being rejected. I am probably the world’s laziest querent, as I love the writing, editing, and revising part but almost never bother querying. However, I do do it every once in awhile. And when I do, I generally ignore my own advice about being patient with revision and send out a manuscript that is not yet ready to be accepted. Then I get busy editing and forget about querying it, even after I’ve done another revision.

    It is truly a kindness in agents and publishers to reject a manuscript that is not ready.

    Dear Author,

    Thank you for writing to me about your project. I apologize that it has taken me so long to get back to you! I’m so sorry for the impersonal response, I hate to do this. Our agency used to respond directly to each query, but the letters have now reached a volume that is frankly unmanageable. Writing a good book or proposal is among the hardest things in the world to do; I promise, we’re not unsympathetic! You have our word that we are reading every single query letter that comes our way, but from now on, we’re only responding personally if we’re sufficiently curious and would like to read further. I’ve been focusing on maintaining my current list for the last few years and can only make an exception for the rare book for which I am completely over-the-top enthusiastic.

    I do encourage you to continue developing and submitting until you find the perfect home for your work—it’s out there! Along those lines, I wish you the very best.

    Take care.

    So do not despair, dear writers!

    Rejection comes to us all.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    This week I’m answering two new questions from long-time writer Diana Rubino on Victoria’s Advice Column:

    1) “I’m reading Art & Craft of Writing Stories, in which you say, ‘the protagonist must have two mutually-exclusive needs.’ I’ve learned that the protag must have a need, a goal, and that has to be thwarted, over and over. But I’ve never heard this before. Does having two needs give the story or protag more depth? Are the two needs external one and internal to parallel the ext. and int. conflicts?” Read more. . .

    2) “You say in Art & Craft of Writing Stories, ‘What do you suppose happened here? How could these needs have led somewhere else? How could my char have responded to their problems differently, given their fundamental driving forces?’ However, after the story’s been outlined and plotted, we know our protag inside out, so why add a something else? Wouldn’t that be another story altogether?” Read more. . .

    These are both excellent questions, so I’m glad Diana asked them!

    Come on over to the Advice Column today and learn the answers.

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Hey, guys!

    I’ll be teaching at the San Francisco Writers Conference 2016. My class, “3 Ways to Make Your Genre Fiction Irresistible,” will be held on Monday, February 15.

    It’s a three-hour class and workshop, in which I’ll teach my four standard questions—with which most of you are familiar—and then walk participants through the process of identifying the two conflicting needs and resulting impossible choice for each of their manuscripts. I plan an exciting three hours of all of us coming together to learn from each other’s brainstorming and support each other in discovering the core of each story. Oh, boy!

    You know how much I’d love to meet each and every one of you in person, after all these years of fellowship. So bring your manuscript and be prepared to walk out with a story designed to knock your socks off.

    I hope to see you there!

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    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    No Comments



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Authors


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .


BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .


SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I'm working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .


LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .


SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .


M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with her three sci-fi/fantasy series. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .


STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield's second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans' fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .


JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .


LISA MERCADO-FERNANDEZ writes literary novels of love, loss, and friendship set in the small coastal towns of New England. I edited Mercado-Fernandez' debut novel, The Shoebox, and her up-coming The Eighth Summer. Read more. . .


JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff's abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .


LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star, which agents had told him to throw away. Read more. . .


In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.

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