1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Can I get a crit on the back blurb for my indie pub novel?

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Catrin Lewis, Feb 26, 2019.

    I need to get off my rear and publish the paperback version of my novel, The Single Eye. I've let lack of confidence in my back blurb hold me up the past five weeks nearly. I've just made a couple of edits, and here it is:

    It's 1981, and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life is to practice architecture to the glory of God. It won’t hurt if that includes continuing as sole assistant to brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann.

    His loving her as she secretly loves him would be too much to ask— Eric’s focus is on architecture alone. Fighting for the survival of his new firm, he has no use for marriage or Christianity, and certainly not for a complicated romance with the attractive young woman he hired to be his right hand.

    But complication and danger loom for them both after she convinces him to turn down what appeared to be the commission of a lifetime. The uncanny-eyed would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and before his plans are through, he will force Eric and Sandy to make a diabolical choice that will pit what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls.


    I understand that a lot of people on these forums aren't interested in this genre (Christian romantic suspense), but if you are, or if you're willing to exercise your imagination on something outside your genre, tell me how this strikes you, and if you're noticing any clunkers I've overlooked.

    Thanks.

    EDIT: Current revised version below, including the headline/hook.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
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  2. Hammer

    Hammer Active Member

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    Hi @Catrin Lewis

    I would be lying if I said that this was my go-to genre for a long-haul flight, but I am happy to try to offer objective critique for what it's worth to you.

    Firstly - If you are going to open with 1981 I would try to ground it with some kind of popular culture - "It's 1981, Ronald Reagan has just been elected president, you can't move without hearing about Bette Davis' eyes, and Diana Ross is singing about Endless love with Lionel Richie" (or perhaps something more genre-based but you get the idea). Otherwise the first para sets the scene nicely.

    The second para is a bit convuluted - "His loving her as she secretly loves him would be too much to ask". made me think of music to watch girls by ("The boys watch the girls while the girls watch the boys who watch the girls go by"). Maybe something simpler along the lines of "Sally has to conceal her secret love as Eric is blinded by his love of architecture"?

    Thirdly -and I'll put in a spoiler because it's my dirty mind and not very Chsristian...
    "attractive young woman he hired to be his right hand" - there is only one thing men are thinking of doing with their right hands when they are thinking of attractive women, and it isn't drinking...

    Third para - lose the opening "But" -- immediately! You can start a sentence with a conjunction if you like, even a paragraph if you have to, but here it adds nothing and is just bleagh. Much more immediate without it, and this para needs to make me get my cash out, so, also, trim the last sentence - "The would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and Eric and Sandy are forced to make a diabolical choice that will pit their passions against their humanity and endanger their very souls". (actually "their very souls sounds a bit cliche to me, but it might be ok in genre?)

    Anyway, my two penneth - good luck with the project, I am at a similar crossroads with a piece that I should self-publish.
     
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  3. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yeah, I'm struggling with that third para conjugation. It's in there (for the moment at least) to set up a contrast with Eric's goals in para 2. Just launching in with "Complication and danger" seems too out of the blue.

    I'll keep working on it.
     
  4. Hammer

    Hammer Active Member

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    I don't think it's too out of the blue. "Complication and danger loom for them when Sandy convinces Eric to turn down..."

    I need something to take this book to the checkout! Complication and danger might be the lure, and I will probably be expecting it from the cover?

    The blurb has to lure me in - an interesting cover and the promise of intrigue/conundrums/sex/romance/scary-things/hobbits... whatever floats the audience's boat. May be boat stories...whatever, but you have < 200 words to make them open it!
     
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The third paragraph makes no sense to me (and while I don't read Christian romantic suspense, I am a Christian who writes a lot of romantic plots into her books, and I do like suspense and thrillers, so it's not too far-fetched to think of me as one of your potential readers). There's no suspense to the third paragraph because it's just so vague. Who's this client, what is it he's asked of them, and why did they turn it down, and why won't he take no for an answer? How does a client wanting what I presume is a commission lead to the stakes being their very lives and humanity?

    I'm not saying you necessarily have to explain all this - I understand this is a blurb and not a query - but some of this does need to be mentioned.

    And honestly, how does any of that impact on their romance, which was the driving force of your previous two paragraphs?
     
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  6. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Ironically, these are the questions I want the potential reader to ask, and buy the book to find out.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, aargh. I hate writing these things!

    I don't know. I've read this several times trying to pinpoint why it doesn't quite work for me. (And I'm not letting the Christian slant bother me.)

    I wonder if you're trying to cram in too much information, and also being fairly vague about it as well. What is practicing architecture to the glory of God? I have absolutely no idea what that is. Is she building churches? And do we really need to know it's 1981, in the blurb?

    I think the second paragraph is the best one, although I'd cut it a bit. Maybe: His loving her, as she secretly loves him, would be too much to ask. Eric is fighting for the survival of his new firm. He has no use for marriage or Christianity, and certainly not for a complicated romance with the attractive young woman he hired to be his right hand.

    For me, the third paragraph needs more clarity. I have no idea what 'uncanny-eyed' is. And when you get to the last bit—the make a diabolical choice that will pit what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls—you lose me completely. This sounds terribly melodramatic, but is also too vague to be compelling.

    Is there some way you could actually state what this choice is? In concrete terms? What they're being asked to do, or asked to give up, or whatever? It won't be giving away the end, but it might sharpen our interest.

    Anyway, good luck! I'm struggling with my own blurb at the moment, and man, do I feel for you!
    cringe copy.png
     
  8. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Senior Member

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    It's 1981, and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life ambition is to practice architecture to the glory of God. It won’t hurt if that includes continuing as she can stay as sole assistant to (the) brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann.

    His loving her as she secretly loves him would be too much to ask— Eric’s focus is on architecture alonelives only for his art. Fighting for the survival of his new firm, He has no use for marriage or Christianity, and certainly not for a complicated romance with the attractive young woman he hired to be his right hand.

    But Complications and Danger looms for them both after she convinces him to turn down what appeared to be the commission of a lifetime. The An uncanny-eyed would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and.Before his plans are through, he will force Eric and Sandy into make a diabolical choice that will pit what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls.​


    Here would be my edits, which I know are overkill and put it into my voice not yours. But maybe there's an idea there you can steal. I'm just streamlining phrases. I thought a few lines were wordy in connectives. That frees up room to say something else, if you want to do that.

    There's a really subtle issue with "His loving her as she secretly loves him." It should be "Him loving her" so that you have two actions in comparison, rather than a gerund and an action. Maybe "his" is okay . . . I suspect it isn't but it's so delicate that I can't convince myself 100%.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
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  9. Reece

    Reece Member

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    Made some slight changes so that it reads better to my eye and engages me more. I feel like you kind of dropped the Christianity in there haphazardly, so I've reworded it. I've dropped uncanny-eyed because it just makes things clunky and doesn't bring much to the table for me.

    It's 1981, and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life is to practice architecture to the glory of God. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if that happened to include continuing as sole assistant to brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann, whom she secretly loves.


    But their visions do not align. Eric’s focus is on architecture alone, not God. He is fighting for the survival of his new firm and has no time for thoughts of marriage. Certainly not for a complicated romance with the attractive young Christian woman he hired to be his right hand.

    Complication and danger loom for them both after she convinces him to turn down what appeared to be the commission of a lifetime. The would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and before his plans are through, he will force Eric and Sandy to make a diabolical choice that will pit what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    OK, version as currently revised, including headline/hook:

    For what would you sell your soul? For what are you willing to die?

    It’s 1981, and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life is to practice architecture to the glory of God. She wouldn’t mind at all if that includes remaining as sole assistant to brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann.

    His returning her secret love would be too much to ask. Fighting for the survival of his new firm, Eric has no use for marriage or Christianity, and certainly not for a complicated romance with the attractive young woman he hired to be his right hand.

    But complication and danger loom for them both after she convinces him to turn down what appeared to be the commission of a lifetime. The uncanny-eyed would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and before his plans are through, he will force Eric and Sandy to make a diabolical choice that will pit what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls.
     
  11. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'll give this a look.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I know, right?

    I have to get this thing going, since IngramSpark is offering free print book formatting through the end of March to people, like me, who won NaNoWriMo. But unless things have changed, they charge around $49 for every revised version. Gotta get it right the first time.

    Yeah, there's KDP print, but they haven't quite got their act together. Any why not let both printers have a go at it, and see whose rendition looks best?
     
  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    apart from the very last couple of lines it sounds like the blurb for a love story... I thought your book was a thriller
     
  14. GrahamLewis

    GrahamLewis Let me chew on your criticism a bit. Contributor

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    Here's what I would suggest, though I have no idea what "uncanny-eyed" means. How about "eerie-eyed" or "sinister-eyed" or even "eerie-eyed"? Or, perhaps, something like "When the would-be client, eyes flashing with sinister intent, refuses to take . . .."

    BTW, does the year matter to the heart of the story? I'd think the theme is timeless.

    "It's 1981, and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life is to practice architecture to the glory of God. It won’t hurt if that includes continuing as sole assistant to Not to mention working alongside brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann.

    His loving her as she secretly loves him would be too much to ask— She's under no illusion that Eric will return her secret love for him -- Eric’s focus is on architecture alone. Fighting for the survival of his new firm, he has no use for marriage or Christianity, and certainly not no interest in for a complicated romance with the attractive young woman he hired to be his right hand sole assistant.

    But cSoon, though, none of that matters. Complication and danger loom for them both after she convinces him to turn down what appeared to be seemed the commission of a lifetime. When the uncanny-eyed would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and before his plans are through, he will force Eric and Sandy will face a diabolical choice that will pit pitting what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls."
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Possibly just a very small emu Contributor

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    For what would you sell your soul? For what are you willing to die? - I feel like the parallelism here is a bit shaky. For what would and then for what are... The "for what" structure is already a bit awkward (I assume you're trying to avoid ending with a preposition?) so I think it would work best if everything else was really smooth. Maybe "For what would you sell your soul? For what would you willingly die?"

    It’s 1981,The year feels irrelevant without further context. Why did you choose to set your story then? Can you include a bit of whatever appealed to you in the query? and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life "vision in life" feels strange to me. Not wrong, necessarily, but... it's not a phrase I'd expect. is to practice architecture to for? the glory of God. She {wouldn’t mind at all if that includes remaining as sole assistant} This phrase feels awkward. And it feels a bit fluffy for a novel that seems to be dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Possibly you're trying to make things fluffy at the start and building toward heavy by the end, but I'm not sure a blurb is long enough to do that transition justice. Is she distracted by Baumann? Tempted? She wants to work for the glory of God - should she be letting herself be distracted by this guy? Is there any tension in her crush? to brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann.

    His returning her secret love would be too much to ask. Still feels awkward to me. And we're into some POV weirdness. The first sentence of this feels like it's from Sandy's POV, but the rest of the paragraph seems to be from Eric's? I think switching POVs mid-paragraph may be confusing. Maybe something like "Eric is oblivious to Sandy's infatuation" or whatever. Fighting for the survival of his new firm, Eric has no use for marriage or Christianity, and certainly not for a complicated why complicated? romance with the attractive attractive seems like an argument FOR romance, but it's being presented here as part of an argument AGAINST romance...? young woman he hired to be his right hand.

    But complication second use of "complication" with no real explanation of what's complicated. and danger loom for them both after she convinces him to turn down what appeared to be the commission of a lifetime. Why/how does she convince him to do this? The uncanny-eyed Add another reader who's confused by the "uncanny-eyed" bit. I can sort of figure out what's probably meant by it, but it really doesn't flow. would-be client refuses to take no for an answer, and before his plans are through, he will force Eric and Sandy to make a diabolical choice that will pit what they love most on earth against their humanity, their lives, and their very souls. There's a LOT going on in that last sentence, and it feels like it's coming out of the blue. Is there a way to foreshadow the supernatural element in your first paragraphs, and maybe simplify the last sentence?
     
  16. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Read your sentences aloud to yourself and that will help you identify awkward phrasing. It is difficult to get one's mouth around the sentences in their current configuration. Try to write more directly and say things with more economy. Some examples that stand out are:

    It’s 1981, and Sandy Beichten’s vision in life is to practice architecture to the glory of God.

    That's a mouthful. Try conveying the same idea more directly.

    ...and again here:

    She wouldn’t mind at all if that includes remaining as sole assistant to brilliant and handsome young architect Eric Baumann.

    It feels as though you are approaching the idea using the back door. I had to read this sentence multiple times to really get my head around it. That's not good, especially for a back-cover blurb.

    The blurb was very difficult to read primarily because of the sentence structure. It it non-intuitive and awkward.

    As I mentioned above, read your sentences aloud to yourself to test for smooth flow. Continue to seek feedback. Read extensively in a variety of genres, focusing esepcially on authors who are experts. Seek out good writing and get a feel for literary flow.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your book.
     
  17. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think one of the problems here is that I'm riffing off the book's title The Single Eye, and deliberately working in references to vision, sight, appearances, etc. I'd really like to keep that in.

    It also seems that when I put things "more directly," as @mrieder79 puts it, I double the word count.

    Crap.
     
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  18. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Here we go, what everyone needs, a handy-dandy blurb generator:

    https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/create.php?type=8

    (It says plot generator, but ignore that.)
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I honestly don't know why it's so hard to find any solid advice on how to begin to write blurbs. Okay, we know what a blurb should end up like. But knowing how to view your own story so you can generate a good blurb? That's the problem. At least for me. It's one of those gaps in how-to advice that I've not been able to bridge. Nightmare.
     
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  20. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    Maybe try something like:

    "She wouldn't mind at all if that includes being sole assistant to her secret love, the young, handsome, and brilliant Eric Baumann."

    Some sort of reconstruction like this might then allow for:

    "But Eric has no use for a complicated romance with an attractive lady, marriage, or Christianity. He's fighting for the survival of his new firm."

    Might I ask why he's fighting for its survival? Is it competition? Bad economy? I don't know if it's something that ought to be added in the blurb, but figured it's worth considering.

    My back-seat writing aside, my advice is basically to work those two details into other areas of the blurb (where they would still make sense) so that you can get rid of the awkward phrasing. I think separating them into the ending of the first paragraph and the beginning of the second paragraph would still maintain the desired contrast.

    As for the third paragraph, my only complaint is that I don't see how it directly relates to the first and second. As in, how will the conflict in the third paragraph impact the one between Sandy and Eric? I presume it does in the story.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
  21. XRD_author

    XRD_author Member Supporter

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    My impression is that a good blurb is very similar to a good query, just without things like word count, comps, or info about the author. After all, the function of both a blurb and a query is to get someone to read the first page(s) of the story.

    There's a few resources on the web that teach query writing, for example, Query Shark.
     
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  22. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But there's a fine line between being too vague (not giving enough information) and being suspenseful (giving just enough for the reader to ask a very specific question). These questions I've asked right now are anything but specific - they're very general and without which no one can form a proper picture or opinion of what's going on. Without that picture, there is no suspense because there are no stakes in the reader's head.

    Do not confuse "vague" with suspense. And if you're making this mistake in the blurb, it makes me question how well the suspense could be crafted in the actual book. This isn't an attack on your writing - for all I know you've written it marvellously. But I only have the blurb to go on and by which to judge the rest of your writing quality, and mistaking vague for suspense would be a very bad one for the reader to assume.

    Let me add I've read my fair share of suspense and crime novels - not in the romance or Christian genres, just straight up crime/suspense - and therefore I've read my fair share of blurbs. I'll admit I'm not hooked at all by blurbs being vague, not just because it's poor sales technique but also because every single blurb reads the same. The awful secret, the horrific crime, the lone detective with a bad family/marriage history, the killer targeting the detective, the stakes being a "race for time" or the detective fighting for his life or the life of a loved one. Read it before, no need to waste another £8.99 and 300+ pages' worth of time on it.

    Your key fault with the third paragraph though, more than being vague, I'd say would be the fact that it has no obvious link to the romance. If the reader can't make the connection, they're not going to understand why it's suspenseful, and you've just lost a reader. You don't want a confused reader asking, "But how are these things connected? I see no rhyme or logic." You need the reader to see a puzzle they can't solve. Right now there isn't a puzzle. A puzzle has lines and fragments of pictures leading the reader to think in a certain direction - they can't see how the pieces join together but they do know it joins together, just how? Right now with what you have, I do not see that the pieces do join together. I see a mish-mash of vague elements with nothing to indicate they form one cohesive story. Do you see the difference I'm getting at?

    ETA: you wrote "put what they love most" - for Sandy, that would be Eric. For Eric, he's about to lose... architecture? His firm, I presume. Why should I care about his firm? I think you'd be wiser to stick with the romance stake - a blurb simply doesn't given you enough space to expand on the importance of the company and why losing that is terrible. Also, it still takes focus away from the romance. You only have space for one major stake in a blurb, in my opinion, not two.

    Side note: since this is in the Christian genre, I do wonder if you shouldn't emphasise more about Eric's lack of salvation? The stake, besides the romance, should clearly be that he's going to reject God once and for all, which, for a Christian woman in love with said unsaved soul, would be a very obvious tragedy your entire target market can understand. So how come this hasn't been exploited?
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
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  23. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    I agree. With the above in mind, I edited my previous suggestion:

    "But Eric has no use for a complicated romance with an attractive lady, marriage, or even Christianity; he's fighting for the salvation of his firm, not his own."

    The examples I've written are just me trying to help, by the way. Not expecting them to be used. Only demonstrations.

    EDIT: Also, I guess it's almost a cliché way of phrasing it, but you (@Catrin Lewis) could reference vision / sight / appearances by saying something like "Eric doesn't look at her the same way."
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
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  24. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    SINNERS

    1.

    Did you hear? He hired an attractive woman as his right hand. @Hammer, in the name of the Lord what are you sniggering at, you dirty, dirty, dirty dog? Take this vial, swallow the entire contents from Jerusalem.

    ...

    2.

    'And I'm not letting the Christian slant bother me,' said @jannert, taking her shopping from the till.


    'Oh...and a good day to you, Mrs Satan.'
     
  25. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'll check that out. Thanks. But most of the how-to advice I've seen thus far comes in the form of what makes a good query/blurb. (This one is good, this one is not so good, etc.)

    Yes, yes. That's advice on how to write a blurb. But what I need to figure out is what will make a good query/blurb angle for my particular story. What's the hook? How do I get another perspective on my story?

    Once I figure out what I want to write, I have no doubt I can write it in an acceptably blurby fashion. It's figuring out what to write about that stumps me.

    My story is huge, and not action-oriented, but character oriented. How do I pick out what will make a good blurb angle? That's my problem, and I suspect that's similar to what's bothering @Catrin Lewis as well.

    ........that being said......
    I just checked out Query Shark, and came across a blog which has already given me a few angles to explore. So thanks again, XRD....

    https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/20-tips-on-query-letters-as-told-by-agent-janet-reid
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
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