Showing posts with label Valjeanne Jeffers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Valjeanne Jeffers. Show all posts

Friday, December 20, 2013

17 Months Later With: VALJEANNE JEFFERS

It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo interview with Valjeanne so I thought it about time we caught up with what she’s all about and what she’s doing 17 MONTHS LATER…


Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life since we last talked?

Valjeanne Jeffers: Actually, yes. Im pleased to announce that my new grand-baby, Kyle Toussaint will arrive in December of 2013. My first grand-baby, Logan Alexander, turned four this year; and he is a continual source of joy in my journey.

Ive been published in two anthologies, which were just released this year: Griots: Sisters of the Spear, and Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction Volume II. And Im releasing two new novels, Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective.

Colony: Ascension, is a spin-off of my earlier short stories, “Colony” and “Probe.” It is a full-length novel about an apocalyptic, dying Earth. . .and what becomes of it. In the year 2045, Earths leaders are hell-bent on colonizing new planets. But an alien species has its own agenda, its own ideas, about what the future of Earth should hold. Heres a short excerpt from Colony: Ascension.

Earth’s atmosphere was polluted. The weather was a miasma of storms, heat waves and solar flares; shifting from twenty to ninety degrees within the space of a day. Mutated animals roamed the streets. Those without jobs, panhandled and squatted in alleys and deserted building. When their rationed water was gone, they used homemade filters. They ate rats, insects, dogs—anything they could find. Some had even become cannibals. Those with jobs lived under the Domes.

I thought Id be finished with both novels by the end of the year, but they wont be ready until sometime in 2014. Quinton Veal, my cover artist and fiancée, is releasing his fourth book, Fire and Desire, in 2014which is also a very big deal for me.

I have two audio books, too, which are coming out soon (both narrated by voice actress Darla Middlebrook). The audio book of my first novel, Immortal, will be released on December 31, 2013. The audio of the second novel of my series, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, will be out in March 2014.







DF: How do you feel your writing has developed since we last talked?

VJ: As writers we are always developing, always growing. When I wrote my first novel, it was more fun than work. I would slip into my characters’ world during the day, like a beautiful waking dream. Even when I wasn’t writing, my characters were never far from my mind.

Now, as a more seasoned author, I’m still just as consumed with my writing. But I have to remind myself to have fun. Writing is hard work. But authors also have to enjoy themselves. That’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. Especially when you have self-imposed deadlines and quotas to meet.

I have to remind myself, too, to slip into my characters’ skin; to let let them evolve emotionally and connect with them emotionally. In this way my characters become “spirits who walk across the page,” rather than chess pieces I’m pushing across a book. I enjoy them, love them, and so do my readers.

DF: In what direction do you think your work is heading now as opposed to seventeen months ago? Or is it heading in the same direction?

VJ: I believe that in last year or so, I’ve learned to take my time—to not rush my writing. I’d venture to say that I’ve actually developed more patience, which is no mean feat for me. Anyone who knows me well, will tell you patience is not my strong suit. But I am learning.

DF: Tell us about Mona Livelong.

VJ: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective is a new series, in which I introduce Mona Livelong, a seasoned detective who is takes on a case, “The Case of the Angry Ghost”, of a family haunted by an angry poltergeist, an evil spirit if you will. Mona grudgingly takes the job, and finds herself swept up into a dangerous plot to turn North America on its head. But she’s “sharp as a mosquito’s tweeter,” as one of my characters describes her, and gifted with preternatural abilities.



In “The Case of the Angry Ghost” the first novel of the Mona Livelong series, I introduce my readers to a whole new cast of characters: Mona, the darkly beautiful sorceress and sleuth; her on-again/off-again lover, Curtis Dubois, a Haitian detective; his partner and best friend, Harold Polanski.  And a charming Southern gambler, who also happens to be a ghost, “Larry Junebug Walker.”

Here’s a short excerpt:

Mona turned the crank on her steam-powered auto and trailed Bouvier, traveling east to Bourbon one of her town, Clearwater’s, Black communities. The home was a freshly painted, two-story, bone-white house with a wraparound porch complete with swing, and roses blooming in the yard.

The moment she stepped out of her auto, she felt it. Negative energy surrounded the house. In the second-story window, Mona saw the silhouette of woman. And she knew she wasnt human. Broke as she was, Mona was starting to think this was a bad idea. Vengeful spirits were among her least favorite preternatural beings. They couldn’t be trusted.

Sneaky, unreliable hants. Like this one, being quiet until these folks moved in and then raising all this hell. She’d known them to lay low for weeks at a time, sometimes years, lulling folks into a false sense of security. Only to attack the new owners of the house later.

This is a new series I hope my readers will love, as much as they love my Immortal series. But it is detour off the beaten path for me. Mona Livelong is a detective novel, and a horror/steamfunk book, with shades of Voudon.

In writing a horror novel, I deliberately steered away from my comfort zone. Those who are familiar with my writing will tell you that I like to mix genres. But this was the first time that I’ve gone out my way to scare my readers. I hope they enjoy it.

DF: You’ve got a story in Griots II. Tell us about it.

VJ: Griots: Sisters of the Spear (edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis) is the second volume of the Griots Anthology series; and my short story, “The Sickness” is included in it. In “The Sickness”, the journey of Nandi, a young West African woman, continues. Nandi is also the heroine of “Awakening”, my story which was published in Griots: A Sword and Sword Anthology. She is a warrior who has taken control of her own destiny— with a little supernatural help from her friends.



This anthology features some exceptional writers; including the man himself, Charles Saunders, Carole McDonnell, Ronald Jones, and Joe Bonadonna. It is a pleasure and an honor to be listed among them.

DF: Tell us about Steamfunk and your place in the genre.

VJ: Steamfunk is a sub-genre in which Steampunk is written from an African American’s, really any person of color’s worldview.  This genre gives me an opportunity to be creative with gizmos and gadgets, as well as to tie them to other plot mechanisms; such as (as one of readers described it) environmental racism. And when writing within this genre the author is automatically creating an alternative universe—which I love.

I found my niche in Steamfunk back in 2011, when I wrote The Switch. In the beginning, The Switch was an open-ended short story that I really enjoyed writing, but had no intentions of continuing. But, at the urging of my oldest son, Toussaint, I revisited it and developed it into a full novel: The Switch II: Clockwork: which includes The Switch as a Prologue and The Switch II as the Conclusion.



The Switch: Book I, was later published in the Steamfunk! anthology. It was also nominated the 2013 E-festival of Words for Best Novella Award. Since 2011, I’ve become very comfortable with Steamfunk. I’ve written two more short stories, “Mocha Faeryland” and “Outcasts”, a story of an alternate Haiti and Toussaint L’Overture’s revolution. And then, of course, there’s Mona Livelong.

DF: Where do you see Valjeanne Jeffers in five years?

VJ: In five years, Quinton and I plan to edit and release at least one SF/Fantasy anthology. I also plan to write four more novels, and connect with more of my wonderful readers, so that I go on to become a bestselling author.

DF: Hollywood calls and says that they’re going to give you 500 million dollars to make a movie out of one of your books and let you pick the director. Which book do you let them have and which director do you choose?

VJ: I don’t even have to think about it. Immortal. Not only is the first novel, of my first series, very near and dear to my heart, I believe that Immortal would make a dynamite movie. The special effects alone would be off the chain.




The director? Also a no-brainer. I’d pick filmmaker/director M. Asli Dukan, who is writing and directing a film documentary of Black Speculative Fiction, entitled “Invisible Universe”. I’m very, very honored to be listed among the authors of the “Invisible Universe.”

DF: Recommend a movie, a book and a TV show.

VJ: I’d recommend “Sugar Hill”, a Blaxploitation Horror classic about a young woman, Diane Hill, who avenges her lover’s death with the help of a powerful Voudon Loa. For books, how could I pass up a chance to recommend The Switch II: Clockwork? It’s got science fiction, time-travel, Steamfunk and even a little erotica. What’s not to love?

For TV shows, my all-time favorite is “Supernatural”—a horror series. This show features deep, subtle commentary about life, from some very likable characters. It even manages to be funny. “Supernatural” also has one of the best rock soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening too.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Valjeanne Jeffers: Readers can preview or publish my books at: www.vjeffersandqveal.com

I’d like to thank Derrick Ferguson, Author Extraordinaire, for taking the time to interview me.





Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: VALJEANNE JEFFERS


DERRICK FERGUSON: Who is Valjeanne Jeffers?

VALJEANNE JEFFERS: I'm an artist, poet and science fiction author. I'm also a member of the Carolina African American Writer's Collective (CAAWC) and a graduate of both Spelman College and NCCU.



I've written six books. I paint and I've had poems and nonfiction published too. During the late '90s, I wrote my first, and only, nonfiction book, The Story of Eve, a collection of essays in which I analyzed the media's connection to politics and our behavior. I really had a lot of fun writing it, because I'm something of movie buff. Obviously, this wasn't my last stop. The Story of Eve was never published as an entire volume, although excerpts have appeared in PurpleMag.

But the absolute love of my life is science fiction.

DF:Where do you live and what do you do to keep yourself in cheese and crackers?

VJ:I live in Alabama. I have an MA in Psychology, and I taught college for a few semesters. I enjoyed teaching—I've always loved a good rousing discussion. I mean, let's face it, what is teaching but engaging your students in dialogue that encourages them to think and question the world around them?

More recently I've begun working as an editor for Mocha Memoir Press and also as a freelance editor (I'm co-owner with my fiancĂ© of  Q and V Affordable Editing). Editing is another job I enjoy, because I get to read some of the best novels written before they're even published! I'm also self-published, so I sell my own books and earn income this way too.


DF:How long have you been writing?

VJ:I've been writing since I was nine or ten years old. As a child, I found writing to be a wonderful escape— just like reading, only more interactive. I was also a greedy reader of SF/ fantasy literature.
I rediscovered this love during the '90s, when I became a lifelong fan of Stephen King. I remember working as secretary (while going to classes at night) and reading books during my lunch hour—in class too whenever things got boring.

Then I stumbled upon Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. Octavia was a revelation! I'd never read science fiction written by a Black person—I didn’t even know People of Color wrote SF! I became obsessed with writing my own novel, creating my own worlds. When I first starting writing science fiction, I found that I was able to escape into my characters' lives, even when I just thinking about a plot or scene twist. For me, this is still the most productive and fun part of writing—the ability to slip into my character’s skin.


DF:Why science fiction?

VJ:Science fiction, in my humble opinion, is the most wonderful genre ever created! In what other motif can you create an alternate universe, give your characters preternatural powers, and make a statement about the human condition? You're only limited by your imagination. As an author, I like having that kind of freedom— the freedom of not being constricted by the laws of our physical universe.

With science fiction you can use your character's “powers” to make statements about who they are. You can even manufacture the kind of world you'd like to live in...one that is imagined, but (perhaps) not impossible, such as in the “not-too-distant-future” worlds. After all 40, years ago cell phones and modern computers were science fiction. Two hundred years ago, so were airplanes.

DF:What writers have influenced you?

VJ:There have been so many! In my youth, I read a lot of  YA SF/fantasy, pulp fiction and African American literature. I was addicted to the Nancy Drew mystery series and to Marvel comics. I also devoured the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Chester Himes. I'm the daughter of two English teachers, so AA literature was required reading in my household. But I didn't enjoy them any less because of this.

I later came to feel that the magic realism of African American literature (especially the novels of Himes and Wright) had a profound effect upon my evolution as a writer. I mean take Richard Wright's The Outsider, for instance, in which the protagonist fakes his own death and recreates himself. This is the classic stuff of pulp and science fiction!

As an adult, I credit Stephen King, Dean Kootz, Sarah Zettle and Tad Williams as among my early influences. But during my last five years as a writer, I believe I was most strongly influenced by Octavia Butler, Charles Saunders, Tananarive Due, and Steven Barnes.

Of course I have other favorite authors, who I know have impacted me—folks like Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, Carole McDonnell, Quinton Veal, Ronald Jones, Edward Uzzle, Milton Davis, Joe Bonadonna, Derrick Ferguson and Balogun Ojetade.


DF:When I'm asked to describe your work I always say it's imaginatively experimental. How would you describe it?

VJ:Thanks for the compliment! I'd say that “imaginatively experimental” is an excellent description. In adding to this, I'd describe my work as loosely fitting into the science fiction genre, with elements of fantasy, erotica and horror.

The alternate worlds I build are in keeping with what is scientifically probable if not yet possible. But there is sorcery too—magic just seems to find its way in my books. Charles Saunders once described my Immortal series, as a world in which science and sorcery co-exist. (I floated around on cloud nine for a month after that review!)

There is horror too, simply because some of the scenes in my novels can be very frightening. But life can be scary, and art imitates life. So there are scenarios that will make the reader's hair stand up on the back of their necks.

I've also been known to write some pretty steamy love scenes. Hence the erotica. I take the attitude that all authors express their connection to love and sexuality differently. There is never a right and wrong approach. James Baldwin, for example, could be graphically sexually in his novels. Octavia Butler, more reserved. Both are brilliant authors, and both are acceptable ways of approaching love and sexuality. I view sex as a part of life. I don't ignore it. I don't emphasize it either, so it's not on every other page.

DF:Tell us about the IMMORTAL series.

VJ:Each novel has time-travel, sorcery and shape shifting woven into the plot. The books are set on the alternate planet Tundra, a world without racism, sexism, poverty or crime. This is the setting of Immortal in the year 3075.

But the setting of 2075, a year which impinges on the present, is just as violent and conflicted as American during the 1960s. In fact, I drew heavily on the '60s, an era of great conflict but also of great love and sacrifice, when I wrote the Immortal series. And my readers have said that they get a strong “Make Love not War” vibe when reading them. 

In the first novel, Immortal, I introduce Karla and Joseph: lovers who've been separated by time and space. The inhabitants of Tundra decided that this was the way they wanted it, and fought to make it so. Karla and Joseph are gifted. They are also burdened. Gifted because they are werewolves. Burdened, because it falls upon them to protect Tundra from a powerful evil that has been unleashed upon their world.



Karla and Joseph are not the only protagonists of Immortal. The first novel builds the groundwork for the communes of supernatural beings, good and evil that make their appearance. In the second novel, the reader meets Karla and Joseph's kindred, who are also the saviors of Tundra. In Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, another key player emerges: Annabelle, a vampire with her own agenda and her own stake in Tundra's survival.




In Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds, the characters find themselves in a sinister, steam punk realm without their memories. Their death or survival is interwoven with the fate of Tyrol (The Switch II: Clockwork). That's all I can say giving away too many plot goodies. This is the conclusion to the series. At least, it was supposed to be. However, my readers have told me in no uncertain terms that I can't end it there. So we'll see.



DF:In the IMMORTAL series you're fearless in mixing science fiction with werewolves, vampires and eroticism. When you began the series did you worry that it would be too much for potential readers?

VJ:Most definitely! In the beginning, I felt like I had so much going on, that no one would ever want to read it. But the story is what the story is. When one begins to write, the characters take on lives of their own...these spirits that walk across the page.

I got good feedback from CAAWC. So I pressed on. I started to realize that I had a very unique book and that everything somehow fit together to create a compelling mosaic.  I remembered Octavia Butler's fiction. She was well known for her supernatural “communities.” I thought of The Talisman too, a SF odyssey in which the characters “flip” between realities. Then I knew I had a winner.


DF:Tell us about THE SWITCH series

VJ:The Switch was my first plunge into the steam punk genre. It takes place on the planet Tyrol: a world in which the wealthy live in luxury in the skies, and the poor in a cancerous, steam punk underground.  One of the problems with Tyrol, along with the oppression of the poor, is that the society has become so cut-throat that wealthy women cannot take lovers— for fear the men will marry and then murder them to steal their money. So the rich create androids for their own pleasure.



Like my Immortal series, there is a sharp contrast between the privileged and the poor. There are also two lovers, Simone2 and Dumas2, who are central to the plot, and to the liberation of their planet. There is sorcery and there is time travel. But The Switch is also an erotic thriller, with a plenty of sharp turns and twists. I've had two fellow writers compare it to Phillip K. Dick's Blade Runner! Of course, I'm honored by such a comparison!

There is also heavy emphasis on the other characters, such as Z100, an evil agent provocateur, and Lotus, the time keeper. And for anyone who missed reading Book I: The Switch (originally published by Mocha Memoirs Press) not to worry. I've condensed both books into The Switch II: Clockwork.  


Charles Saunders has just written a fantastic review of The Switch and Immortal IV and I'm really juiced up about it!  It's up on his site for anyone who wants to check it out!

DF:What are your future plans for your writing career?

VJ:I've just two of my stories published in anthologies, which I'm very excited about! My interracial romance story, Mocha Faeryland was just published in 31 Shots of Mocha (Mocha Memoirs Press). This was the very first fantasy romance story I'd ever written. But I like pushing myself outside my comfort zone. And my sword and soul story, The Sickness, was accepted for publication in Griots II: Sisters of The Spear (MV Media). Griots II should be out in 2013.

I'm also writing a space opera, Colony. If readers are interested, they can read the first chapters at smashwords or my wordpress site. I have a paranormal novel, set in New Orleans, in the works. And I'm working on a film based on one of my stories, Grandmere's Secret, with Balogun Ojetade. It's the first time I've ever attempted anything like this, and so I'm both anxious and excited about it.

DERRICK FERGUSON:What's a Day In The Life Of Valjeanne Jeffers like?

VALJEANNE JEFFERS: I spend my day writing, editing, reading—not necessarily in that order—and playing with my grandbaby. And I hang out with my guy, Quinton Veal. Quinton writes erotic poetry (Her Black Body I Treasure) and he's an extraordinarily talented artist too. So we have a really cool relationship.

Anything else we need to know about you?
I'd like to thank Derrick Ferguson, pulp fiction writer extraordinaire for interviewing me. I had a blast!

Valjeanne Jeffers








Monday, February 27, 2012

Derrick Ferguson Listens To The Tales of The GRIOTS




·  Paperback: 294 pages
·  Publisher: MVmedia, LLC (August 7, 2011)
·  Language: English
·  ISBN-10: 0980084288
·  ISBN-13: 978-0980084283

Before we get into the meat-n-potatoes of this review, it’s necessary that Sherman set the Wayback Machine for 1970’s so we can indulge in a brief history lesson for context: Charles R. Saunders is a writer who like most of you reading this review fell in love with the work of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, King Kull and Solomon Kane.  REH is credited with being the creator of “sword and sorcery” a sub-genre of epic fantasy.  Sword and sorcery concerns itself with stories driven by action, healthy doses of sex and violence and strong supernatural/magical elements.

So in love with sword and sorcery is he that Mr. Saunders sets about writing his own stories.  And in doing so he determines to expand the genre by creating a black heroic fantasy character and set his adventures in a mythical Africa just as fabulous and dangerous as Howard’s Hyborian Age.  And with his stories of Imaro, Charles Saunders gives birth to what is now known as “sword and soul” which are fantasy stories with an African connection or featuring African characters 

I’ve been a fan of Mr. Saunders and his work ever since I was a high school student back in the 70’s and devouring heroic fiction at an appalling rate.  And as the Wayback Machine brings us back to the present we can begin this review proper with the good news that sword-and-soul is not only thriving here and now, it is giving voice to a new generation of African American fantasy writers eager to explore the genre and continue to nourish it with their talents.

GRIOTS is an anthology of sword and soul stories co-edited by Mr. Saunders and Milton J. Davis who himself has long carved out his own territory in the genre.  The fourteen stories in the book are:

“Captured Beauty” by Milton Davis.  It’s a great action story to lead off the book with.  It’s a simple plot having to do with rescuing a beautiful damsel in distress from the clutches of a vile villain.  But what made this story stand out for me were the characterizations of the protagonist Changa and his employer, the merchant Belay and their relationship.

“Awakening” by Valjeanne Jeffers.  It starts out with a little girl who has no desire to spend her adult days sitting around being ladylike and raising squalling brats while the men have all the fun being warriors. The girl, Nandi, grows up and finds out that there’s a supernatural force in her life who also thinks that yeah, her being a warrior is a pretty good idea.

“Lost Son” by Maurice Broaddus is a story I wanted to like a lot more than I do as I like Mr. Broaddus’ style of writing.  But the story just seemed to end without resolution or even much of a point.

“In The Wake of Mist” by Kirk A. Johnson is another story I didn’t get.  Although I liked the imagery the writer evokes, that’s all the impression the story made on me.  A series of wonderfully described images that really didn’t seem to go anywhere or evoke any sort of feeling in me.

“Skin Magic” by Djeli A. Clark kicks the anthology back into action mode with a story that has a healthy heap of horror.  The main character is a thief on the run who has living tattoos on his skin that are portals to a nightmarish limbo through which Cthulhuian creatures can emerge into our world.  The thief, barely able to control this horrible ability is pursued by the fearsome minions of a consortium of dark magicians who desire this power for their own purposes.  As soon as I finished this story, I wanted to read a sequel right away.

“The Demon In The Wall” by Stafford L. Battle is one of my favorite stories in this anthology.  Equal parts high adventure and comedy, it’s an entertaining near parody of the genre.  The sorceress Makhulu and her grandson, the warrior Zende are characters I’d love to see more of.  The banter between them alone is worth reading the story for.

“The Belly of The Crocodile” by Minister Faust is a tale of sibling rivalry.  And that’s all I’ll say about it because it’s not a long story and its emotional punch is best served by reading it yourself.

“Changeling” by Carole McDonnell is a story that works just the way it is but if it were twice as long I wouldn’t kick.  This is about three sisters destined to marry and become queens of their own kingdoms.  But the real prize is their native kingdom only one of them will inherit when their mother dies.  It’s got that ‘Once Upon A Time” feeling as it unfolds it’s ultimately sorrowful tale.  It’s a story of Shakespearean tragedy that has a lot to say about human nature and the ugly power of jealousy. 

“The General’s Daughter” by Anthony Nana Kwamu is a good choice to follow “Changeling” as they have something in common.  Both of them have more than their share of action but they also dig deeper into the emotional core of their characters to reveal who these people really are and why we should care about what happens to them.  I really liked the emotional resonance I felt in both these stories after I finished them.

“Sekadi’s Koan” by Geoffrey Thorne is another story I immediately wanted a sequel to as soon as I finished reading it.  I got a very strong Roger Zelazny vibe in this tale of a gifted martial artist studying her deadly art at a school located…well, I’m not sure where it’s located but I was so entertained I didn’t care.  And unlike some other stories where I got the impression that the writers themselves weren’t sure of where their stories were happening, I didn’t get that impression from Mr. Thorne.  I got the feeling he knew exactly where and when his story was taking place but is saving that for what I hope will be future stories about Sekadi.

“The Queen, The Demon and The Mercenary” is by Ronald T. Jones and like “The Demon In The Wall” is a story that seems designed for nothing but the reader to have as much fun reading it as I’m sure the writer had writing it.  The swaggering warrior Toulou sets out to rescue a suffering kingdom from the demon-wizard terrorizing the people and does it in style.  Highly recommended.

“Icewitch” by Rebecca McFarland Kyle proves that you don’t necessarily have to set a sword and soul story in an African setting.  This story takes place in a frigid realm where a dark-skinned youth struggles to find acceptance among his mother’s people who are lighter-skinned. 

The only real problem I have with Melvin Carter’s “The Leopard Walks Alone” is the ugliness of the names in the story.  I tried saying them aloud and I swear I bruised my tongue.  I realize it’s a somewhat petty quibble but naming is important in fantasy stories.  Difficult and harsh sounding names should be used sparingly. 

And The Master himself, Charles Saunders finishes up the anthology with a tale of Imaro: “The Three Faced One”  If you’ve never read an Imaro story or anything by Charles Saunders, this is an excellent introduction to both.

GRIOTS also boasts fourteen interior black and white illustrations by fourteen separate artists as well as biographical information about the writers and artists and introductory essays by the editors.  The cover by Natiq Jalil is simply wonderful to look at.

So should you read GRIOTS?  Absolutely.  True, a few of the stories didn’t turn my crank but most of them did.  If you’re a sword and sorcery fan looking for some heroic fantasy that takes place in realms other than the Medieval or ancient settings most sword-and-sorcery stories take place in then you most certainly should check this anthology out.  










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