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A DARKNESS IN SPRING (dark fantasy); FINAL VERSION


Best Answer MICRONESIA , 29 May 2018 - 01:56 PM

Final version. After this, I'm dropping the mic and walking away. If anyone has any last-minute suggestions, leave them below. 

 

I can't take it anymore. Let the chips fall where they may. I'm done.  :cool:

 

 

 

When nature worshiper Jean Miller moves to the Great Smoky Mountains, she hopes to renew her spirits and reconnect with the Earth. But after a local boy is found dead in the woods, Jean is shocked to learn he’s not the first to wander into the wilds and succumb to the elements.

 

Soon, Jean finds herself roaming the midnight woods, enticed by a springtime presence that sings with the voice of juniper and bristlemoss. None of the strangeness adds up—until she catches Miles, her roommate and lover, leaving offerings to something called “the Fair Folk.”

 

Hostile, woodland forces are reclaiming nature from humanity, and dead locals are only the beginning. Moreover, the Fair Folk have chosen the Earth-loving Jean to help lead the revolution. Desperate to prevent more killings, she forges deeper into the hollow hills—knowing she’ll find either a peaceful solution, or death.

 

She doesn’t have long. Because soon the hills will open up, and the culling will begin.

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a dark fantasy novel of 70,000 words. Within, the elemental demons of The Ocean at the End of the Lane stalk the whispering backwoods of Universal Harvester. In 2010, I received an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

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#141 VSChapman

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Posted 26 January 2018 - 10:12 PM

Wow, so I'm NEVER going camping again! 



#142 MICRONESIA

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 01:58 PM

Well... I think I'm ready to start querying again. 

 

If anyone has any last-second recommendations -- or full-on criticisms -- please jump in. I'll reciprocate ASAP!



#143 PureZhar3

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 03:15 PM

Jean Miller doesn’t believe in modern witchcraft—until she casts a spell and an ATM starts spitting out cash.

 

After shoving twenty-grand in her backpack, Jean flees to rural North Carolina, hoping to start a new life closer to nature. But none of her Wiccan spells can ward off the Landlord, a warlock who moves through the walls of her new apartment. His astral spirit entices her with visions of a greener, more sustainable world—the future she’s always longed for. But in order for it to become a reality, hordes of people must die on a burning mountain.

 

Ravenous for this lush future, yet desperate to prevent the cost, Jean investigates the surrounding hills. Her findings of pagan cults and missing children call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this is why the Landlord keeps buying property on these so-called “fairy portals.” And why luminol tests reveal bloodstains under the apartment’s carpets. These last two sentences, I had to reread a time or two to fully understand. But that may have just been my tired brain

 

Nature itself is staging a revolution, and Jean will play a starring role. For years, the Landlord has been gathering a coven for the most ambitious conjuration ever attempted—and he craves Jean’s untapped powers. If he’s successful, the Fair Folk will reclaim the dying Earth from humanity. With their guidance, nature and society will thrive again. But in order for the portal to open, thousands of innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. If Jean refuses the Landlord, she will join them.

 

She doesn’t have long to decide. Because soon the mountain will open up, and the revolution will begin.

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror/fantasy novel of 70,000 words. It is partially inspired by the real-life Missing 411 mystery, which involves strange deaths in rural settings. In 2010, I received an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

Oh this is fascinating! I have nothing to say to improve it. Good luck querying!


If you have time, I'd appreciate it if you took a look at my query: http://agentquerycon...-realismsci-fi/


#144 Emily804

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Posted 24 February 2018 - 09:34 PM

Jean Miller doesn’t believe in modern witchcraft—until she casts a spell and an ATM starts spitting out cash.

 

After shoving twenty-grand in her backpack, Jean flees to rural North Carolina, hoping to start a new life closer to nature. But none of her Wiccan spells can ward off the Landlord, a warlock who moves through the walls of her new apartment. His astral spirit entices her with visions of a greener, more sustainable world—the future she’s always longed for. But in order for it to become a reality, hordes of people must die on a burning mountain.

 

Ravenous for this lush future, yet desperate to prevent the cost, Jean investigates the surrounding hills. Her findings of pagan cults and missing children call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this is why the apartments’ owners keep buying property on these so-called “fairy portals.” And why luminol tests reveal bloodstains under the carpets.

 

Nature itself is staging a revolution, and Jean will play a starring role. For years, the Landlord has been gathering a coven for the most ambitious conjuration ever attempted—and he craves Jean’s untapped powers. If he’s successful, the Fair Folk will reclaim the dying Earth from humanity. With their guidance, nature and society will thrive again. But in order for the portal to open, thousands of innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. If Jean refuses the Landlord, she will join them.

 

She doesn’t have long to decide. Because soon the mountain will open up, and the revolution will begin.

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror/fantasy novel of 70,000 words. It’s partially inspired by the real-life Missing 411 mystery, which involves strange deaths in rural settings. In 2010, I received an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

Have you sent this out yet?? To me it looks ready. 


Query Compatibility YA sci-fi: http://agentquerycon...lity-ya-sci-fi/


#145 MICRONESIA

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Posted 26 February 2018 - 10:49 AM

Yeah, I've sent out a handful of this new version. I'm gonna submit at a slow, steady pace -- a query every four days.

 

I think it's in a pretty good place... but I'm slightly concerned it doesn't have enough voice. It seems a lot of agents dig that quirky/sassy/hip/modern personality that "jumps off the page." That's not my character, and that's not my story. Still, it risks coming off a bit dry.

 

Thoughts? Or am I over-thinking things?



#146 DisgruntledWriter

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Posted 26 February 2018 - 12:04 PM

Yeah, I've sent out a handful of this new version. I'm gonna submit at a slow, steady page -- a query every four days.

 

I think it's in a pretty good place... but I'm slightly concerned it doesn't have enough voice. It seems a lot of agents dig that quirky/sassy/hip/modern personality that "jumps off the page." That's not my character, and that's not my story. Still, it risks coming off a bit dry.

 

Thoughts? Or am I over-thinking things?

 

I think you're overthinking things.  I quite enjoyed reading both your query and your synopsis.  If the story and character aren't sassy, and the query comes across as that, then the agents are going to be in for a surprise, and not in a good way, if they request more.  I feel it's always best to go with the same tone as your story.  If an agent thinks it's too dry, you don't want them as your agent anyways.



#147 RegE

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Posted 28 February 2018 - 03:31 AM

Jean Miller doesn’t believe in modern witchcraft—until she casts a spell and an ATM starts spitting out cash. I like the hook, but wonder why she even thinks to cast a spell. Is it by accident. Like "I wish to high hell that I had some cash", or does she actually cast a spell purposefully? 

 

After shoving twenty-grand in her backpack, Jean flees to rural North Carolina, hoping to start a new life closer to nature. But none of her Wiccan (So she's a Wiccan!? But why doesn't she believe in modern witchcraft?) spells can ward off the Landlord, a warlock who moves through the walls of her new apartment. His astral spirit (She knows a lot about the occult for someone who doesn't believe in witchcraft) entices her with visions of a greener, more sustainable world—the future she’s always longed for. But in order for it to become a reality, hordes of people must die on a burning mountain (why?).

 

Ravenous for this lush future, yet desperate to prevent the cost, Jean investigates the surrounding hills. Her findings of pagan cults and missing children call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this is why the apartments’ owners keep buying property on these so-called “fairy portals.” And why luminol tests reveal bloodstains under the carpets.

 

Nature itself is staging a revolution, and Jean will play a starring role. For years, the Landlord has been gathering a coven for the most ambitious conjuration ever attempted—and he craves Jean’s untapped powers. If he’s successful, the Fair Folk will reclaim the dying Earth from humanity. With their guidance, nature and society will thrive again. But in order for the portal to open, thousands of innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. If Jean refuses the Landlord, she will join them.

 

She doesn’t have long to decide. Because soon the mountain will open up, and the revolution will begin.

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror/fantasy novel of 70,000 words. It’s partially inspired by the real-life Missing 411 mystery, which involves strange deaths in rural settings. In 2010, I received an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

 

So I followed this query for a while. I do like the hook, but think it contradicts with the fact that her knowledge of the occult seems vast.

 

When you begin to talk about the stakes (the hordes of dead people and the burning mountain) I got a bit confused. I think the reader needs to understand why these are the stakes. How will saving the planet lead to the death of so many people and the burning of a mountain? Is it a sacrifice? If so, then make this clear.

 

In the third para (Fair Folk etc), I got completely lost. Similar to my query, I think there may be too much going on. I like the idea of her being a newbie to the occult, discovering that she can save Earth, but that doing so will involve a giant sacrifice. Maybe boil it down to these plot points.

 

I made this critique without reading the history of comments and revisions, so this is my first, unbiased impression of your query.  Hope it helps



#148 MICRONESIA

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Posted 28 February 2018 - 08:11 AM

Thanks for the comments! You're right: none of HER Wiccan spells might seem to indicate she knows a lot about this stuff. And yeah, maybe the "stakes" paragraph is too cluttered. I've wondered that too, but no one else has pointed it out. ETA: I've simplified it a bit.

 

When you begin to talk about the stakes (the hordes of dead people and the burning mountain) I got a bit confused. I think the reader needs to understand why these are the stakes. How will saving the planet lead to the death of so many people and the burning of a mountain? Is it a sacrifice? If so, then make this clear.

 

This is the only critique I'm not really following.

 

For years, the Landlord has been gathering a coven for the most ambitious conjuration ever attempted—and he craves Jean’s untapped powers.

 

But in order for the portal to open, thousands of innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. 

 

Plus, all the mentions of witchcraft, warlocks, cults, etc. I mean... isn't it pretty clear that a sacrifice is going on? Mountain deaths --> Fair Folk summoned --> planet saved. Could you be a bit clearer about what's missing?



#149 RegE

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Posted 28 February 2018 - 10:58 PM

Jean Miller doesn’t believe in modern witchcraft—until she casts a spell and an ATM starts spitting out cash.

 

After shoving twenty-grand into her backpack, Jean flees to rural North Carolina, hoping to start a new life closer to nature. But nothing in her Wiccan spellbook (So this is still the only thing which is unclear to me. Like I said before, she doesn't believe in witchcraft, but casts a spell and has a Wiccan spellbook. I want to know how or why she's suddenly initiated into the world of real witchcraft. Does she hear voices telling her to cast a spell? Does a witch give her a Wiccan spell book or does she buy it from a shop once she realizes she had powers? Her change from not believing to being full blown involved in the witching world is too jarring for me) can ward off the Landlord, a warlock who moves through the walls of her new apartment. His astral spirit (The same spirit that urges her to cast a spell? What is an astral spirit!?) entices her with visions of a greener, more sustainable Earth—the future she’s always longed for. But in order for it to become a reality, hordes of people must die on a burning mountain.

 

Ravenous for this lush future, yet desperate to prevent the cost, Jean investigates the surrounding hills. Her findings of pagan cults and dead children call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this is why the apartments’ owners keep buying property on these so-called “fairy portals.” And why luminol tests reveal bloodstains under the carpets.

 

The Landlord, she learns, has been gathering a coven for a massive conjuration ritual—and he craves Jean’s untapped powers. If successful, the Fair Folk will reclaim the dying Earth from humanity. Nature and society will thrive again. But in order for the portal to open, thousands of innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. If Jean refuses the Landlord, she will join them. This def reads better now.

 

She doesn’t have long to decide. Because soon the mountain will open up, and the revolution will begin.

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror/fantasy novel of 70,000 words. It’s partially inspired by the real-life Missing 411 mystery, which involves strange deaths in rural settings. In 2010, I received an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

 

 Sorry that my crit is pretty similar to my last. I def think you did a good job of uncluttering the stakes paragraph, though I wonder, why don't you just use the word 'sacrifice'?  Overall, I love the query. I just think explaining her transition from a non magical to magical person would  improve it. 



#150 MICRONESIA

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Posted 01 March 2018 - 08:11 AM

She finds one of her dead mom's spellbooks and casts one as a goofy form of tribute. Then the ATM incident occurs (it was a "money-drawing" ritual she cast). When that happens, she's like... "Damn. There might be something here." She doesn't believe in modern witchcraft UNTIL she casts a spell [that works.]

 

My feeling is I'm better off without all that backstory cluttering things. But I'll try to come up with some possible solutions, especially if others agree with you. 



#151 Gabe S.

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Posted 01 March 2018 - 08:41 AM

I agree with Chloe. If the narrative in the MS is that the MC suspects there’s one above the place, then reword it. ‘Must’ is not good enough. I’d spent the extra word or two.

If you'd like, you can critique my query at: http://agentquerycon...aded-ya-sci-fi/


#152 MICRONESIA

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Posted 01 March 2018 - 09:09 AM

I think you might be commenting on a version from back in September. :)

 

(Update is always Post #1.)



#153 DisgruntledWriter

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Posted 01 March 2018 - 09:39 AM

I'm late to the query party, but if there's confusion about her not believing in witchcraft and then owning a book on it... is the book her late mother's? You could just say something like "but nothing in her mother's old Wiccan spellbook can ward off the landlord..." or something to that degree. 



#154 PureZhar3

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 09:18 AM

Alternatively, you could keep it simple and mildly accurate by just saying something like new... "But nothing in her new(ly acquired?) Wiccan spellbook"... of course you just used the word new in the last sentence. If you can fix it with a word or two, like that, I would say fix it, but otherwise it's minor - and in my opinion it isn't worth cluttering the query to answer a question only some agents will have.


If you have time, I'd appreciate it if you took a look at my query: http://agentquerycon...-realismsci-fi/


#155 MICRONESIA

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 09:34 AM

...it isn't worth cluttering the query to answer a question only some agents will have.

 

This is kinda where I stand on it. Most people have messed around with ouija boards and tarot cards, right?



#156 PureZhar3

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 09:41 AM

This is kinda where I stand on it. Most people have messed around with ouija boards and tarot cards, right?

 

Precisely. Particularly because she's starting a new life, so it isn't as if you said "The next day, she uses her Wiccan spellbook..."


If you have time, I'd appreciate it if you took a look at my query: http://agentquerycon...-realismsci-fi/


#157 RegE

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Posted 03 March 2018 - 10:03 AM

Yeah, I agree with the above posters. It's just a question that I had, but you shouldn't clutter up your query just to answer it. I guess some agents will wonder and some won't. I was just finding something to crit in an otherwise tight query. You could either slightly change the wording or not bother. It's hard to alter it without making the sentence clunky.

 

Nothing in her dead mom's spell book....??



#158 CavalierdeNuit

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 03:22 PM

Jean Miller thinks modern witchcraft is bullshit—until she casts a spell and an ATM starts spitting out cash. I would make this about her not believing in herself. I would also make the money she received a "gift" from the Landlord to lure her to his apartment complex. I would avoid putting the word bullshit in your query.

Jean Miller has no faith her own magic, until she wishes for money, and an ATM spits out twenty grand. She moves to the Appalachian Mountains or Blue Ridge Mountains to start a new life closer to nature where she can practice her craft everyday. 

 

After shoving twenty-grand into her backpack, Jean flees to the North Carolina mountains Appalachian Mountains or Blue Ridge Mountains, best to be specific, hoping to start a new life closer to nature. But nothing in her Wiccan spellbook can ward off the Landlord, a warlock who moves through the walls of her new apartment. His astral spirit entices her with visions of a greener, more sustainable Earth—the future she’s always longed for. You are making this sound like the world has gone to hell. What kind of place is Earth in your book? Normal present day? A post-apocalyptic future? Is the Landlord trying to trick Jean into working for him? 

 

 

He doesn’t explain why it requires killing thousands of people on a blazing mountain. Or why she has to help him do it. Now it sounds like the Landlord wants to bring on the apocalypse. 

 

Ravenous Desperate for this lush future, the present day sucks this bad? yet desperate to prevent the cost, Jean ransacks the countryside for answers. Her findings of pagan cults and dead children call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this is why the apartments’ owners keep buying property on these so-called “fairy portals.” And why luminol tests reveal bloodstains under the carpets. Is it human blood?

 

The Landlord, she learns, is gathering a coven for a massive conjuration ritual—and he craves needs Jean’s untapped powers. If he’s successful, the Fair Folk will reclaim the dying Earth from humanity. How is it dying? Nature and society will thrive again. How will society thrive if it's been claimed by the hateful Fair Folk? But in order for the portal to open, twenty-thousand innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. If Jean refuses the Landlord, she will join them.

 

She doesn’t have long to decide. Because soon the mountain will open up, and the revolution will begin. What revolution? Will creatures be coming out of this opening in the earth? Seems like the Fair Folk should be working for the Landlord to reclaim the earth from humans, and make society a living hell, enslaving humans and burning down forests. Sounds like the Landlord wants world domination. But why? Who is he really? Why did he choose Jean?

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror/fantasy novel of 70,000 words. It’s partly inspired by the real-life Missing 411 mystery, which involves strange deaths in rural settings. In 2010, I received an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

 

This sounds really fresh and good, but it doesn't make sense in some parts. I would make Jean sound like sort of a recluse who only wants to live in nature and practice her magic. Maybe she lives in a city and feels like her power is worthless there. She hates her dead end job minimum wage job. Then she gets some cash from an ATM and her adventure begins. 



#159 Wayfarer

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 12:54 PM

Jean Miller thinks modern witchcraft is bullshit—until she casts a spell and an ATM starts spitting out cash.

 

After shoving twenty-grand into her backpack, Jean flees to the North Carolina mountains, hoping to start a new life closer to nature. But nothing in her Wiccan spellbook can ward off the Landlord, a warlock who moves through the walls of her new apartment. His astral spirit entices her with visions of a greener, more sustainable Earth—the future she’s always longed for.

 

He doesn’t explain why it requires killing thousands of people on a blazing mountain. Or why she has to help him do it.

 

Ravenous for this lush future, yet desperate to prevent the cost, Jean ransacks the countryside for answers. Her findings of pagan cults and dead children call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this is why the apartments’ owners keep buying property on these so-called “fairy portals.” And why luminol tests reveal bloodstains under the carpets.

 

The Landlord, she learns, is gathering a coven for a massive conjuration ritual—and he craves Jean’s untapped powers. If he’s successful, the Fair Folk will reclaim the dying Earth from humanity. Nature and society will thrive again. But in order for the portal to open, twenty-thousand innocents must burn on the May Eve pyre. If Jean refuses the Landlord, she will join them.

 

She doesn’t have long to decide. Because soon the mountain will open up, and the revolution will begin.

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror/fantasy novel of 70,000 words. It’s partly inspired by the real-life Missing 411 mystery, which involves strange deaths in rural settings. In 2010, I received an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.

Oh man this is significantly better than the last revision I read, which was sometime ago. Little inclusions like the word "astral" helped refine some of the questions I remember having last time. I don't have any suggestions to offer, excellent work.



#160 MICRONESIA

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Posted 05 May 2018 - 02:16 PM

Hi all! Over the past month or so, I've sent out about a dozen queries. No requests yet (still waiting on a few), but I've gotten excellent feedback from the agents who turned me down:

 

- Pages look good. The problems lie with the premise itself.

 

- Bubbly tone doesn't match horror elements.

 

- Some might be put off by Jean's dilemma: her possible willingness to let thousands die in a fire. This is much more complex in the book. With the way it's said here, it makes her seem much less sympathetic (I was worried about this five months ago, haha).

 

- There are confusions, especially toward the end (the "nature and society" line). 

 

- Wiccanism/witchcraft is tough to pull off in fiction. Agents are automatically wary.

 

- Agents are also automatically wary of someone writing for the opposite sex (had no idea this was a fear).

 

- I've focused too much on getting the choice/conflict onto the page. I've neglected to think about what elements will SELL.

 

 

So... here's the rewrite I threw together today. I've posted it here and in the OP as well. I've gone for SIMPLE and NON-CONFUSING... which means I'm probably nowhere close to pulling that off yet. :p

 

Thanks for the help. I see a couple folks have critiqued me since I left. I'll return the favor ASAP.

 

 

 

Jean Miller adores her new, rural apartment—until something starts luring her into the woods at night.

 

Disoriented, Jean staggers down unfamiliar paths, enchanted by a springtime presence that sings with the voice of thatched leaves. In the morning, Jean awakes beside her new lover, Miles, with no memory of how she got home. At first, she’s unafraid. After all, this is why she moved to the Smokies in the first place—to ditch modern distractions and reconnect with nature. Then she discovers the town’s terrifying history: dozens of children lured into the wilderness to die in the elements.

 

With the help of Miles and her neighbors, Jean ransacks the countryside for answers. Her findings call to mind legends of the Fair Folk: nature spirits with a deep hatred for modern man. Maybe this explains why Miles leaves secret gifts on the porch at night. And why the number of victims seems to be increasing.

 

Soon, Jean begins receiving visions of a greener, more sustainable Earth: the future she’s always longed for. Suddenly, she understands why the Fair Folk have drawn her here, and what they have planned for humanity.

 

And then there are the other visions, the ones she can’t wrap her head around. The ones that show hordes of people dying on a blazing mountain…

 

A DARKNESS IN SPRING is a horror novel of 70,000 words. Within, the elemental demons of The Ocean at the End of the Lane stalk the whispering backwoods of Universal Harvester. In 2010, I received an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Thank you for your consideration.






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