Before we get to final post of the year, I would like to take a quick moment to say thank you to every author who made zOctober 2014 such an awesome event. I hope everyone enjoyed these 31 days of zombie and post-apocalyptic goodness. I had such a blast hanging out with you, and I hope to see everyone again next year!! Bloody hugs and infectious slobber for you!
by Shana Festa
Series: Time of Death
Publication date: May 27th 2014
by Permuted Press
Genre: Horror, Zombies
When no one or nowhere is safe, where do you go to escape the monsters?
In a few short days, 37 year old Emma Rossi’s hard work will finally pay off. She will don her cap and gown and graduate with a degree in nursing, but not before she loses her first patient and is confronted with a new reality. In Cape Coral, Florida, a storm approaches. The dead are coming back to life.
And they’re hungry.
Infection ravages the Eastern Seaboard with alarming speed while attempts to contain the spread of infection fail. Within days, a small pocket of panicked survivors are all that remain of civilization. Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse alongside her husband Jake and their dog Daphne, Emma comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare.
Relying on snarky wit and sheer determination, she is forced to commit atrocious acts to protect her family and avoid joining the ranks of the undead.
Time of Death is author Shana Festa’s full-length novel debut.
10 Ways to Collaborate & Support Authors
“We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” — Benjamin Franklin
Collaboration and teamwork is a critical part of success. Let’s take the zOctober event here, amazing authors working together to cross-promote. I love the concept. Contrary to popular belief, there IS room for more than one author at the top. If you climb a mountain, isn’t the view from the highest peak that much sweeter when you have a friend to share it with?
Cross promotion does not mean an author will lose a reader to another author. It’s an opportunity to expose your work to a whole new set of readers. Let’s get real, readers can enjoy multiple books.
How can you, as a reader and/or fellow author support each other?
Sign up for each other’s mailing lists. When they send out a newsletter, share it with your readers. If you’ve read and enjoyed each other’s work, highlight it in your monthly newsletter.
If you see a book promotion for one of your friends or favorite authors, share it. Most success for authors comes from word of mouth. Sharing is caring!
Collaborate! Heck, you can save yourself some money, and double your exposure by collaborating with other authors on advertising.
Leave a review. The highest compliment an author can receive comes in the form of reader feedback and interaction. Reviews=Social Proof. And generally give an author that warm and fuzzy feeling.
Did you receive a free copy in return for an honest review? Did you love the book? Buy it. I can tell you that I have likely given away more free copies of my books to reviewers and contest winners. I’m okay with that, it’s just how things work. But if you love the book, pay the author the ultimate compliment by telling them it’s worth the purchase. Hearing someone has purchased my book even though they received a free copy makes me burst with pride.
Follow an author on social media. Not only is this an effective way to stay informed of news and announcements, but it feels good to see someone appreciate your work enough to want to stay in touch. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest.
Participate in author events. Make an appearance at their launch parties, wish them well, donate to their prizes by supplying copies of your work. Not only are you helping a friend and colleague, but you also increase your readership.
Find a typo in their book? Tell them! No book is perfect, and you’re likely to come across typos or editing issues in every single one…even the big-boys of the writing world. Let them know so they have an opportunity to fix it for future readers.
Are you creative? Do up some fan-art. Someone did this for my characters and it floored me. I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread!
Create or vote on Amazon & Goodreads lists that include your favorite books. Or upvote the books you like. If you enjoyed Time of Death: Induction, for example, here’s a list of places you can upvote it on Goodreads.
When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself. — Tibetan Proverb
What do I get asked the most?
How the heck do you pronounce your name?
You’d think it would be a no brainer. Shana is pronounced Shay-na, five little letters. I’ve received every possible variation, and many not even close, over the years. Nowadays I just tell people to call me Shay. And, since I’m a nurse, I’ll generally answer to “Hey You”, and other various four-letter words.
Do you base characters off of you or people you know?
Many of my main characters are inspired by friends and family. My main character, Emma, has been infused with my snarky personality, and some of her follies are based on some real-life experiences. Someone once told me to write what I know. After writing Time of Death: Induction, I can say with confidence that their advice is on the money. Some of the best bits in the book are those written with a personal experience in mind. I seem to attract some interesting people, which makes for some very wonky interactions.
Is there a real Daphne behind the hilarious ankle-biter portrayed in your book?
YES! Daphne is probably the character written most true-to-life. One of my beta readers asked me, after finishing the book, how I captured that insane dog-centered trait of a person so well. It was easy, I’m insane about my dog. She has an outrageous personality, and just like my ‘fictional’ Daphne, she loves to hide little brown packages all over the place. Not an exaggeration…one day she sat behind my mother-in-law on the back of our sofa. My mother-in-law went into a possessed frenzy, due to finding a poo-nugget in her hair.
As a reviewer, who do you enjoying reading?
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Mark Tufo’s work, namely his Zombie Fallout and Timothy series. I tend to gravitate towards zombie books with a strong backbone of humor. My vote for favorite reads this year is currently going to Chris Philbrook’s Adrian’s Undead Diary series.
What were your influences growing up in the horror genre?
My father used to torture me with horror movies. Every night he would find the scariest movie available and turn it on. Being the eighties, we only had the main television, so unless I wanted to go to bed after dinner, my only other option was to watch with him. Nightmare on Elm Street, American Werewolf in London, Child’s Play and Night of the Living Dead, were staples in our household.
More Books by Shana
Asylum, Book Two Synopsis: Available December 9th!
The last two months have brought nothing but death and destruction for Emma Rossi. She survived the initial zombie outbreak with her husband, Jake, and their dog, Daphne, but the cost was steep: Sanibel has fallen.
In a world where the only constant is change, the group is pushed to their limits before reaching the gates of Asylum, a coastal stronghold in Sarasota, Florida.
Once again, Emma must navigate an apocalyptic wasteland filled with relentless hordes of the undead and other menacing horrors that threaten her survival.
Only thing is certain. No one is safe from what lurks on either side of Asylum’s gates. Asylum may offer more than just safety.
Sanity will be tested; and many won’t live to tell the tale.
At Hell’s Gates Synopsis: Available Now!
When evil overflows from the deepest, fiery pits, the battle will be At Hell’s Gates…Whether you are a zombie aficionado, or you feed on horror, there is something for everyone. We’ve summoned some of the top Zompoc authors, masters in horror, and even some new talent to strike fear into even the most jaded soul. Dare you look, let alone approach, the dreaded gates?
Each skillfully crafted vignette showcases previously created worlds in the individual author’s works. If you’ve ever yearned for more back story or ached to learn what happened to a peripheral character; your wait is over. But, as they say, “Be careful what you wish for”. Once it has been seen, you cannot go back. And once infected; there is no cure.
This collaboration is in honor of the brave men and women in our Armed Services who willingly lay down their lives for our freedom. Words could not possibly express our undying gratitude, so we have banded together, doing what we do best, to show our appreciation. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to serve wounded soldiers and their families. This is for you, those who have truly been…At Hell’s Gates.
For more information on this release, future anthologies in the At Hell’s Gates series, and how to get involved with the project as an author or editor, visit http://www.athellsgates.com.
For more information on The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit http://www.fallenheroesfund.org/.
Short Stories from seventeen of your favorite authors, and set in the worlds you know!
Exclusive Excerpt Reveal of Asylum
Chapter 01: Silent Night
I couldn’t sleep; instead my eyes remained glued to the ceiling tiles. Each time they threatened to close, I was overwhelmed by graphic images of the day’s events as they flashed in rapid succession. My hand absently stroked Daphne’s soft fur while Jake dozed restlessly by my side.
At some point the sun started its ascent, signaling that another day was indeed on the horizon. Dawn was sneaking up on me, and it wasn’t until the light shone in my eyes and pulled me from my inky haze, that I realized it was morning. I sighed quietly and started to rise. Daphne made a soft cooing sound as she nuzzled closer to Jake.
“Where are you going?” he asked, his voice sounding weary.
“I didn’t mean to wake you. I just can’t lay in bed anymore,” I confessed. “I just keep reliving yesterday over and over.”
With a great deal of effort, he sat up and blinked the sleep from his eyes. “Let me get changed and I’ll come with you.”
I looked down at my torn and blood-stained shirt and cringed. After replacing it with a clean tee shirt, I crumpled it into a ball and tossed it in the corner of the room to discard later.
The boat was quiet, and the lack of sound left me feeling unsettled and anxious. Meg’s door was closed and I wasn’t ready to face her yet, so I passed by silently and continued into the galley. Whoever designed the layout of the boat was talented. The four bedrooms were situated at the bow, and the interior ceiling was high in the common areas, allowing the bedrooms to be split between two floors. The master bedroom and kids’ room took up the main level, and above them were two guest rooms, each with a queen-sized bed. Beyond that, the common room had a seating area and full-sized kitchen.
I tiptoed up the stairs to check on Vinny, but found both rooms empty and the beds still showed signs of Seth’s handiwork. The blankets were pulled so tight I could have bounced a quarter on them. Seth had been a neat freak, and I loved to bust his balls about it. The pit in my stomach was heavier than a bowling ball. I hadn’t known him long, but I was proud to count him among my inner circle. He was a good man; he deserved better.
The galley, too, was empty; the only sign that Vinny had been there was a wrinkled afghan on the floor in front of the sofa. We walked the short distance back through the sleeping quarters and climbed the stairs to the upper deck.
The month away had done nothing to improve the smell of rot. In fact, it had gotten worse. The cloying scent hit me in the face and I took a step back as if trying to avoid its path.
“Fuck, that’s disgusting,” I said, drawing out the word for emphasis.
Jake pulled the collar of his shirt over his nose and was blinking his eyes. “Jesus, my eyes are watering.”
“Hmm,” I murmured. The zombies that had been teeming on the dock last time we were here had dwindled. I only counted eight decrepit meat sacks. A few of them noticed us and were predictably reaching and calling out in dry, raspy, moans.
Vinny sat at the back of the boat, under the hardcover, staring in the direction of the zombies. He didn’t acknowledge us as we joined him. Opting to not focus on the loathsome beasts, I instead sat on the vinyl bench lining the railing and gazed out at the calm ocean. The air had a crisp bite, reminding me that it was late December, and I rubbed my hands over my crossed arms to generate warmth.
The coastal breeze brought with it the faint smell of smoke, and I squinted my eyes in the direction of Sanibel. I wasn’t certain, but I could’ve sworn I’d seen billows in the distance. Maybe the island was burning; maybe it wasn’t. I pondered my feelings about the possibility; and decided I wanted it to be burning. I much preferred the notion that our undead friends would be rendered inert by flames than the thought of them wandering the beaches indefinitely. They deserved some peace. Hell, we all did.
The silence became too much for Jake and he broke it. “Hey, Vin.”
“Sup,” Vinny grunted, never taking his eyes from the zombies.
I looked up at my husband, who wore a dejected expression, and tightened my lips into a grim smile when he looked at me for direction.
“You okay, man?” He tried again.
His brother drained the last of the water from his bottle and resealed the cap. The label was frayed at the edges like he’d been picking at it with his nails. He didn’t answer, but turned his gaze downward and stared intently at the bottle. “Fine,” he replied in a clipped tone.
Jake took a deep breath and trudged on. “That was some messed up shit yesterday. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Fuck that noise,” he growled. The plastic bottle crackled loudly as he twisted it between his hands and plunked it into the water in frustration. “AHHH!” he bellowed and brought his clenched fist down on the railing.
“This is fucking horse shit.”
“Vin,” I said in a calm tone and placed my hand on his forearm.
He pulled his arm back like my touch had burned his skin. “Get the fuck off of me.” The railing shook with his violent yanks, reminding me of a caged ape at the zoo.
I looked up at Jake with concern, and he shared my expression. We both just watched as Vinny’s anger bubbled over, eventually petering out and leaving him panting. A movement at the front of the boat caught my attention and I turned my head and stood, ready to defend myself.
Meg was at the top of the stairs, still dressed in her dirty clothes, and staring at us. Her arms wrapped around her tiny waist in a protective hug, and she made no effort to come closer.
“Meg,” I said, starting toward her. Vinny’s head snapped up, and he looked guilty and concerned all at once.
She let me lead her down to her brothers and I patted the bench next to me as I sat. I put my arm around her shoulder, drawing her close. Her puffy red eyes met mine, and my heart clenched with sadness for her. They say the eyes are the windows to one’s soul, and hers looked like hollow, empty, orbs. The light that had once twinkled so brightly in those beautiful brown irises was gone.
I wrapped my arms around her frail body tighter and drew her into a real hug. “Oh, Meggy, I’m so sorry,” I whispered. She buried her head in my chest and cried, soft mewling sounds escaping as she was once again pulled under by her grief. Losing Will was hard on all of us, and I sympathized with her pain. It reminded me of how I felt when I thought Jake was dead.
We sat, the four of us, serenaded by the sounds of Meg’s sorrow and the undead begging for our flesh. Eventually, her tears stopped falling, and she sucked in stuttering, forced inhalations as she fought to catch her breath. When her breathing returned to normal, she pulled her head up and looked at me with swollen eyes. A small twitch at the corner of her lips was all she managed, but it was something. I took it as a positive sign; Meg would come back from this, hard as it may be, she would be okay, eventually.
* * *
“What are you, a fucking moron?” Vinny ran his fingers through his hair while he berated me.
“Cut the shit, Vin,” Jake defended me, as any good husband should.
“Seriously? You don’t think she’s an idiot?”
“Yeah, a little, but can you blame her for asking? Wouldn’t you be thinking the same thing if it was our parents?”
“Excuse me?” I cautioned, my tone of warning earning a sheepish look from Jake. Daphne reacted to my pitch and looked up at me with guilt. I don’t know what it is about dogs, but they always feel guilty for something. I’d suspect the tiny poop-machine had tucked away a little brown package somewhere and was just waiting for us to find it.
“I didn’t mean that,” he protested. “Of course I don’t think you’re an idiot. What I meant was you’re thinking emotionally, not rationally. It’s December. It may be a bit cool in Florida, but if we tried to make it to Boston we’d be snowed in before making it even halfway there.”
I slumped back on the sofa and let out an exasperated breath. “Yeah, I know.”
Jake sat down next to me and took my hands in what he intended to be a compassionate gesture. It felt more placating to me. “Emma, we have no idea what the highways are like. Think about how difficult it was to navigate the streets in our small town. Even if we wanted to, it would probably take us weeks to make it there, maybe even months.”
“Not to mention,” piped in Vinny, “it would be freezing, and just because we got word from the north that they still had power, there’s no telling if it would still be on by the time we got there.”
Vinny had been pacing the same path for an hour now, and his tracks made a clear impression on the carpet. I wasn’t sure the material would recover if he kept it up.
“Jesus, Vin, you’re making me dizzy. Take a seat, will ya?” I asked.
He rolled his eyes at me and gave a huff of annoyance, but took the cue and sat down at the kitchen table.
“Do you guys have a better plan?” I eyed both of them expectantly. “It’s not like we can just live on the boat. What do we have, like a week’s worth of food and water? Two at best?”
My frustration level had been creeping up for about thirty minutes, and I could feel myself teetering on the verge of an outburst. It was one thing to shoot down my ideas, but at least provide some sort of alternative. Instead, they both sat there staring back at me as if I would pull the answer out of my ass like a magician. Meg sat on the other side of the sofa, listening to our bickering, but not offering any suggestions of her own. It wasn’t like I really expected her to. I was just relieved she wasn’t hiding under the covers drowning in grief.
“I still think we should go back to mom and dad’s house,” Vinny offered, for the third time. “They have automatic hurricane shutters, and you know their pantry is stocked. We could try to wait things out there.”
“Seriously, Vin,” chastised Jake. “Give it up. We aren’t going to lock ourselves in and hope for the best.”
“I don’t get it. You had a front row seat to the apocalypse every time you left to scavenge. How could you think for even a second that’s a remotely good plan?” I looked over at Jake and gave him the please knock some sense into your brother look.
“It’s better than a suicide road trip up the east coast,” he retorted.
That was it! The look on his face sucked away the last of my patience and I felt my cheeks go red. Jake saw it, too, and after ten years of marriage he knew what was coming next. Bless his heart for stepping in when he did.
“All right, all right, both your ideas blow. We don’t need to solve everything today. Let’s take a break and figure out what’s for dinner.”
Meg was rummaging through her backpack and pulled out a checkbook-sized calendar, one of those free ones banks give you for opening a new account. Like anyone used checks anymore, even before the zombies. When she opened the wrinkled calendar I saw black crosses marking the days, she must have been keeping track. She let out a sarcastic laugh.
“Yesterday was Christmas Eve, which makes today Christmas. Ho, ho, ho, can’t you just feel the holiday spirit?”
“I don’t think Santa made the rounds last night,” quipped Jake.
The four of us sat around the dinner table sharing cans of green beans, Spam, and corn. For dessert, a can of peaches sat in the center of the table.
“Prime Rib,” I said. My mouth watered just thinking of my mother-in-law’s prime rib.
“Mashed potatoes,” added Jake.
“Green bean casserole,” said Meg and Vinny in unison.
We all sat licking our lips and making grunts of approval as we listed off our favorite foods served on the holidays. Our current feast was a miserable pittance. We sprinkled the green beans with a meager dusting of Molly McButter in hopes of adding a touch of flavor.
“Worst Christmas ever,” Jake declared, and we all agreed.
“Ooh!” I jumped up from the table, leaving them looking stunned and confused, and ran to the bedroom. I returned looking triumphant and waving my iPhone in the air.
“I may not be able to talk to anyone, but there’s still a little juice in this baby. What’s Christmas without Burl Ives and Bing Crosby? Thanks to my random taste in music, I’ve got an awesome Christmas play list.” I put the phone on the counter and hit play. “Jingle Bells” started off the list, lifting our spirits despite the gravity of our situation. A few more uplifting songs and all four of us were singing along with the greats.
A short pause left us in anticipation of the next song; the possibilities were endless. The power of music was amazing; I had forgotten how easy it was for a song to evoke emotion. Dean Martin’s smooth baritone crooned from the small speaker with his version of “Silent Night.” The little contentment we built up fizzled as the depressing tune played out. By the end of the song there wasn’t a dry eye among us. If it was possible, we felt even lower than we had before I whipped out the phone.
Meg stared down at her feet. “Thanks, guys, I needed that. I think I’m going to go lay down and try to get some sleep.”
“Do you want me to come sit with you until you fall asleep?” I asked her.
“Nah, I’m good.”
Jake leaned over and gave her forehead a kiss. “Night, Meggy.”
I wasn’t tired yet; the sun had barely made its exit for the night. My mind was jumbled with memories of our friends and their fates. The boys were deep in debate about which rifle, the M4 or M16, was the better weapon.
“I’m going up on deck for some air,” I proclaimed.
They barely noticed me as I walked by. Daphne wove excitedly between my feet as I climbed the stairs, causing me to trip and stumble up a few steps. My elbow hit the wall when I tried to steady myself, causing a sharp sting to shoot up to my shoulder, and I yelped in pain.
“You okay?” Jake called from inside.
“Yeah, damn dog got underfoot and I hit my weenus on the wall.”
I heard Vinny ask what I was talking about, and Jake explained that the weenus is that weird flap of skin on the elbow. Personally, I was confounded by the weenus. It’s so strange. I can squeeze the skin hard enough that I should feel pain, but instead I feel nothing. But hit that thing head on and the nerve pain is crippling. Okay, so I know the human anatomy well enough to realize there’s a more technical term for it, but weenus just stuck. Olecranon doesn’t really flow off the tongue like weenus.
“Come on, you little shit,” I beckoned Daphne to the top of the stairs.
The smell of smoke still lingered on the breeze, and I still couldn’t figure out if I was imagining it or if it was real. Me and the pooch-wonder stretched out on the bench and lay there staring up at the sky. The stars were the only things that hadn’t changed in this crazy world. Daphne nudged my hand in an effort to garner some attention, and when I didn’t give her what she wanted, she inched up my chest with her front paws until she was inches away from my face. I let out a snicker and the rise of my chest gave her a little bounce.
It was a Mexican standoff. We stared into each other’s eyes waiting for the other to break first. When I didn’t resume the petting, she upped the ante. Her paw rose in the air and she held it for a few seconds, daring me not to pet her. Then, she hit me in the face a few times.
“Okay, I give,” I resigned, and scooped her up for some kisses. “You are seriously the cutest dog in the world, and I mean even before you were most likely the last dog left in the world.”
Another smell mixed in with the phantom smoke and fetid corpses. “Oh, come on!” I waved my hand wildly in front of my face and objected. “Did you seriously have to wait until you were inches from my face to fart? Gross!”
With dog farts marking the end of my peaceful relaxation, I tucked her under my arm and was going to make my way to bed when I noticed Jake had joined us on deck.
“What are you doing just standing there in the dark? Creepy much?”
“Sorry, you were having a moment; I didn’t want to ruin it for you. These days, we’ve gotta make the most of every minute of peace.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” I patted the seat beside me and beckoned for him to join me.
He sat down and I leaned into him. His strong arms wrapped around me felt good and I got closer.
“Penny for your thoughts?” he said.
I looked up into his face and sighed. “I feel lost,” I admitted. “What’s the point of living if all that’s left is death?”
My vision blurred as my eyes filled with tears that spilled over and slid down my cheeks. I took in a deep breath and went on. “Jesus, Jake. They’re all gone. How am I supposed to go on when every time I close my eyes, I’m haunted by their faces?”
He squeezed me tighter and Daphne whined from the confinement between us, causing Jake to pull back just enough so she wasn’t being crushed. We sat in the dark, the only source of light a crescent moon, and withdrew into ourselves. When the silence became oppressive, I spoke again, this time my voice coming out muffled with emotion.
“It’s my fault Adam is dead; it should have been me. It’s not fair.” I sobbed. “It’s not fucking fair.”
“He was a good man, a good friend, and he loved you.” His admission brought me up short, and I snapped my head up to look at him.
“I…what? How did you know?” My face flushed with guilt, as if I was somehow to blame for the way Adam felt.
“Anyone could see the way he felt about you. The way he looked at you, treated you.” He looked into my eyes, and there was pity there. “I know you had feelings for him, too. I’m not angry at you, I get it. I was gone and he was there for you.”
“Jake,” I started, “I never—”
“Stop. I know nothing ever happened. I’m not accusing you of anything, I promise. I’m grateful to him for being there for you. I can’t imagine what you went through when I didn’t come back to Target, and Adam stepped up to the plate. I’m forever in his debt and will never be anything but thankful and honored to call him a friend.”
The guilt I had carried for so long about my feelings for Adam lessened a bit, and the pressing weight lifted just a little. I cried that wailing, ugly, cry reserved for the direst of circumstances, and my husband just held me close, muttering soft words of support and encouragement. “Let it go, baby. Let it all go.”
He lifted my face, inspecting the open wound on my chin that I’d received the day before. Wincing, he said, “That really should be stitched up. It’s going to leave a nasty scar.”
“Humph,” I mumbled. “Everything from yesterday is going to leave a nasty scar.”
When my tank of despair ran dry and my sobbing quieted, I said goodbyes to Adam, Seth, and the rest of our friends who perished. The conscious decision to let them go didn’t come easily, but if I didn’t, I would drown in sadness and squander the reprieve each of their sacrifices had provided me. Looking up at the night sky, I said each of their names aloud and emotionally guided them through the gates of Heaven. I paused after uttering Adam’s name and added, “We will never forget you.”
~About the Author~
Shana Festa grew up in the small town of Northborough Massachusetts. As an impressionable tike, she shared in her father’s love for Horror, and spent most of her childhood hiding under the blankets worrying what nightmarish creature lurked in her closet. She grew up on a healthy diet of classics like Nightmare on Elm Street, Return of the Living Dead, American Werewolf in London, Child’s Play and Poltergeist.
Her writing career was born from her long-time addiction to terrifying tales. Under her alter ego, The Bookie Monster, Shana reviews horror and paranormal books, with an emphasis on zombie fiction. Her altruistic beliefs fuse seamlessly with The Bookie Monster’s mission to provide readers with honest reviews and to provide authors with a platform to promote their labors of love.
Shana holds a degree in nursing and now resides in Cape Coral, Florida with her husband and two adorable dogs. In addition to her apocalyptic series, TIME OF DEATH, she is a founding member of AT HELL’S GATES, a horror anthology series dedicated to supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
Shana’s Website | The Bookie Monster | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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