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Guest Blogger–Dick Gillman

Victorian Julia

Welcome today to guest blogger, Dick Gillman!

 

So… after the death of the greatest Victorian villain, James Moriarty, what now?

If, like me, you mourned the passing of Sherlock Holmes’s arch-enemy Professor James Moriarty, you are in luck! I truly missed the tingle whenever his name was mentioned in a Sherlock Holmes story. The thought that Holmes was facing a fiendish, heartless foe with an intellect equal to his own always spurred me on to read more. So who is there now to challenge him? I could not rest nor resist … so Julia Moriarty was born.

Well, I say born. She is, of course, the product of my imagination. As the devoted younger sister of the late James Moriarty, she is equal in intellect to her brother, totally ruthless and stunningly beautiful. Whilst initially focussed only on revenge for the death of her brother, she goes on to cause mayhem in her own right.

Julia Moriarty is a flaming red-head. An exquisitely dressed, fashionable Victorian lady who is renowned for both her guile and for carrying a nickel-plated revolver in her handbag. Utterly devoid of compassion and totally ruthless, she becomes Holmes’s deadliest foe. Nevertheless, she is the star of the three stories that make up ‘The Julia Moriarty Trilogy’.

Although I create stories with different characters, I find myself drawn to her like a moth to a candle flame. I am fatally attracted. With each book I write, I have to fight the urge to include her. Whilst writing my last two stories I have been able to resist… but for how long?

Recently I signed a contract with MX Publishing, the world’s largest specialist publisher of Sherlock Holmes books and they are to publish The Julia Moriarty Trilogy a little later this year. Bob Gibson, an illustrator at Staunch.com, has done a wonderful job on the cover. Julia Moriarty exudes femininity… but with just a hint of menace.

Blurbs

 The Shadows of James Moriarty

 An explosive event on Holmes’s birthday begins the case that Dr John Watson records as The Shadow of James Moriarty. Since Moriarty’s death there has been no-one to challenge Holmes’s formidable intellect…until now. It seems like the very shadow of Moriarty himself is to envelop Holmes and take him from us. Only Holmes’s great intellect and a grand deception stands between him and certain death.

(available on Amazon)

Sherlock Holmes and the Highgate Magician

The disappearance on stage of a magician’s assistant draws Holmes and Watson into the world of international intrigue. A German pianist, a diplomat working as an aide to the Kaiser, is enraged by Holmes’s activities. However, this chance meeting inadvertently saves Holmes from certain death. Only Holmes’s unique skills and swift action can halt a very public assassination and avert war in Europe.

(available at Amazon)

Sherlock Holmes and The Severed Finger

‘Holmes and Watson’s evening is disturbed by a gruesome find by cabbie Henry Wiggins. A cryptic note and a freshly severed finger trigger a desperate search for the owner. Mycroft Homes is summoned when the involvement of Julia Moriarty is discovered. Holmes has a tense encounter with Moriarty and must balance an arms shipment to a potential enemy against a man’s life. Has Moriarty finally defeated Holmes?

(available at Amazon)

 

 Excerpt

‘Sherlock Holmes and The Severed Finger’

3rd book in the Julia Moriarty Trilogy

We spent Saturday morning nurturing our own thoughts and, after a light luncheon eaten almost in silence, the afternoon saw us making our way to Piccadilly. On arrival at the tea-room I noticed that the clientele was quite varied. There were couples, single gentlemen and single ladies. Indeed, it was one of the few places in London thought to be respectable for single young ladies to meet friends.

In the front window was a table with two chairs facing each other. Upon the table was a small, double-sided card, which announced that the table was ‘Reserved’. Holmes sat at one side of this table whilst I moved to sit one table away, in a position where I could follow proceedings with, I thought, some anonymity.

At 1:35p.m. a gentleman carrying a folded newspaper entered the tea-room and, after looking around, came and sat opposite me at my table. The waitress came and took our orders and, as I looked up, I saw an auburn-haired young woman enter the tea-room and sit at the table occupied by Holmes. I stiffened involuntarily and felt some comfort from the weight of my service revolver in my jacket pocket.

It was at that point that the gentleman opposite me spoke, “I would be grateful if you were to put both your hands on the table, Dr Watson.”

I was taken aback and looked more closely at the fellow. Only then did I see the muzzle of his Mauser, with its familiar box magazine, pointing directly at my heart from within the folded newspaper.

“Please, Dr Watson. If you look around the room you will see that there are four other gentlemen with folded newspapers on their table. We don’t want any senseless loss of life.”

I looked around and saw the truth in what he said. I had not noticed before but at four other tables, each one with a clear field of fire, there sat a man with a folded newspaper on the table and his hand resting casually upon it. As I placed my hands on the table I felt completely impotent. I could not protect Holmes and any attempt to detain Julia Moriarty would have resulted in pointless slaughter.

Julia Moriarty did not seem at all surprised to see Holmes and, from my position a bare three feet away, I was able to follow their conversation.

Julia Moriarty sat down, saying “Ah, Mr Holmes. Why am I not surprised to see you?”

Holmes’s face was rigid. “I assume, madam, it is because you might suspect that a severed finger found in a Hansom by a cabbie who plies his trade close to Baker Street would bring it to me.”

Sitting back she smiled, saying, “So that is where it was found. I must confess that, until I saw the ‘Reserved’ card on the table this morning, I feared that I would have to repeat the communication with another finger…although lacking the all-important ring. Or, perhaps, an ear, something the family would recognise.”

Holmes stiffened. For a dreadful moment I feared that he would spring across the table and squeeze the very life from her. I made a slight movement to rise but the steely muzzle of the Mauser opposite me nudged upwards an inch or so, just to remind me of its presence and to keep me in my place.

Moriarty continued, “I take it that your presence indicates that Sir Brian is willing to accept my terms?”

Showing immense control, Holmes could only nod.

“The crates containing the Maxims are to be brought by wagon to the dockside. They are to be laid out in two rows of three so that they may be easily opened and the contents inspected. There will be no escort for the wagon. If any police or troops are seen in the area of the dock, then Edward Martindale will surely perish. Similarly, if I do not return within an hour of my departure, he will perish.”

Julia Moriarty was clearly enjoying the moment. She paused and then said, “Why, I do believe that you are even less talkative than the last time we sat together, Mr Holmes.”

Holmes’s voice was like ice, “I have very little to say to a woman who can maim an innocent young man in order to blackmail his father. What proof have I that Edward Martindale is still alive?”

Again she smiled. She turned her head to look out of the window and then slightly raised her hand. Holmes and I both turned to follow her gaze and as we did so, a closed carriage, which had been waiting some fifty yards away, set off from the kerb. As it passed the tea-room, the face of a young man, his left arm pinioned to display a bandaged hand, could be seen in the window of the carriage.

Holmes moved to stand but the glint of nickel in Julia Moriarty’s hand made him pause. “We will meet again on the 17th, Mr Holmes.”

With that she rose and left. The fellow opposite me touched his hat and, almost as one, the five men in the tea-room rose and followed her out of the door and towards a waiting carriage.

I moved to Holmes’s side; his body was rigid with anger. “That woman, Watson! That woman! She is the very embodiment of evil. When she is caught, I swear that I shall be the one who places the hangman’s noose around her neck. She will not cheat death a second time.”

 

All of my books can be found as e-books on both Amazon and Smashwords.

However, the new 2nd edition paperback version of the trilogy is to be published by MX in mid-September 2015.

www.mxpublishing.co.uk

You may also like to discover other Sherlock Holmes authors through links in The Strand Magazine or through their Facebook page.

http://www.strandmag.com/Books_c_6.html

https://www.facebook.com/strandmagazine

MX Publishing is the world’s largest specialist Sherlock Holmes publisher, with over a hundred titles and fifty authors creating the latest in Sherlock Holmes fiction and non-fiction. From traditional short stories and novels to travel guides and quiz books, MX Publishing cater for all Holmes fans. The collection includes leading titles such as Benedict Cumberbatch In Transition and The Norwood Author which won the 2011 Howlett Award (Sherlock Holmes Book of the Year). MX Publishing also has one of the largest communities of Holmes fans on Facebook with regular contributions

Guest Blogger–Rachel Brimble

Rachel Brimble

A warm welcome today to our guest blogger, Rachel Brimble

My Favorite Victorian books, films and TV shows…

 What A Woman Desires is my third Victorian romance for eKensington/Lyrical Press and I am in the process of writing my fourth. I love the Victorian era! Many people initially think of Queen Victoria in mourning, Dickensian poverty or cruelty, or ladies dressed in high-neck dresses, looking down their noses at anyone even thinking an immoral thought, let alone acting on one.

 These passing assumptions are not entirely true…although they are true of some people and places from that time. If you have read any of my previous books, you will know my Victorian romances tend to be darker than most on the market, and focus on the lower classes of society, rather than the upper-middle and middle classes.

 It is my mission to prove even people not born into money deserve a happy ever after! 

Many authors, including me, garner a lot of inspiration from what we read and watch. It is because of my favorite books, films and period TV series that I became so interested in Victoriana. I am lucky enough to live just a short drive from the city of Bath, England in one direction and the beautiful Cotswolds in the other. It would’ve been a sin for me to not take advantage of my location in my books.

 What A Woman Desires and my previous books (The Seduction of Emily & The Temptation of Laura) are all set in and around Bath. Here are some books and viewing I highly recommend…albeit most of them are set in London. Enjoy!

 Books

 Tipping The Velvet, Affinity & Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

A Glimpse at Happiness by Jean Fullerton

The Victorian House by Judith Flanders (non-fiction)

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Mr Briggs’ Hat by Kate Colquhoun

 Film/TV

 North & South – (British TV)

North & South – (US TV) – these are two VERY different stories!

Bleak House – (British TV)

The Young Victoria – film

Gangs of New York – film

 

What a Woman Desires

From country girl to actress of the stage, one woman dares to live her dreams—but is she brave enough to open her heart…?

Monica Danes always wanted more than the village of Biddestone had to offer. After a failed courtship to a man of her parents’ choosing, she fled for the city of Bath and never looked back. Today, Monica is the undisputed queen of the theater—a wealthy, independent woman. But when she is called home in the wake of tragedy, Monica returns—intending to leave again as soon as possible.

Thomas Ashby has been a groom at the Danes estate since he was a boy—and has been enamored with Monica for almost as long. He knows he isn’t a suitable match for his master’s daughter, despite the special bond he and Monica have always shared—and their undeniable attraction. But now that she’s returned, Thomas has one last chance to prove himself worthy—and to show Monica a life, and a love, she won’t want to give up…

Excerpt

Thomas clenched his jaw as Monica tightened her arms around his waist. He longed to feel the weight of her head on his back, too, but knew well enough she would not lean on him considering the dark cloud under which he left Marksville the night before. He purposely kept Jake at a slow walk, wanting this closeness between him and Monica to last as long as possible. He’d been foolish enough to wake this morning, thinking the night apart had strengthened his resolve and he would be strong enough to accept her as his employer and nothing else.

Now he was with her, the notion was laughable—but one he must adhere to.

He needed to play nice and convince her staying at Marksville wouldn’t mean the future she dreaded. If he could do that, he would keep his father’s legacy intact and maybe, one day, his son would take the reins and become a groom to the Danes family as two generations had before him. She had to understand positions like his and Mrs. Seton’s weren’t just jobs, they were a livelihood, a lifestyle, and treasured way of life.

He’d come out of the stable yard astride Jake, and as soon as he had seen Monica standing alone, her head back and her breasts thrust forward, nothing of his job entered his mind. Only pure, unadulterated attraction had surged through him. The sun glowed on her dark hair like a million dancing lights and, with her hands on her hips, her delicate figure taunted him with forbidden possibility that had lingered in his subconscious forever. Even in mourning, the woman was beautiful.

 

Available:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

About Rachel

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. In 2012, she sold two books to Harlequin Superromance and a further three in 2013. She also writes Victorian romance for Kensington–her debut was released in April 2013, followed by a second in January 2014 and the third is released Jan 2015.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family and beloved black Lab, Max. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

Links:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

 

 

NEW RELEASE – AN AMERICAN VICTORIAN ROMANCE

By Caroline Clemmons

Welcome, readers! Today, I’m so pleased to announce the release of my new American-set Victorian  romance, WINTER BRIDE. This western historical romance is a stand-alone part of the Stone Mountain, Texas series set in the Palo Pinto Mountains of North Central Texas.

Here’s the blurb for WINTER BRIDE:

Sweet western historical romance of 60,000 words by bestselling author Caroline Clemmons is a stand-alone novel of the Stone Mountain Texas series including murder, danger, and adventure.

When Kendra Murdoch’s brother in law murders her sister, she takes charge of her nephew and two nieces. Fearing the man plans the same fate for her, she seeks shelter in Radford Crossing where she operates a café to support her small family.

Determined to be self-sufficient, Kendra shuns all advances from the handsome sheriff as danger hangs heavily over her head. But can she safeguard her family alone?

Butch Parrish battled a snowstorm and a killer to rescue Kendra and the children. He’ll do whatever is necessary to protect the independent young woman who rekindles sensations he hoped were dead long ago. Protecting her, chasing a killer, dealing with the town gossips, and investigating a stagecoach robbery, Butch has a battle on his hands.

smallWINTERBRIDEcover

Here’s an excerpt from WINTER BRIDE involving hero, Sheriff Butch Parrish:

As he turned onto the faint trail he sought, he spotted fresh tracks in the snow. He pulled his rifle from the saddle scabbard and slowed his horse. Instead of heading along the trail, the tracks led around the boulders.

Scout’s ears twitched forward, the chestnut’s signal of trouble. Even more slowly, Butch eased forward. He dismounted and crept along the boulders. If he could climb up to the taller rocks, he could spot where the tracks led and if Tucker waited for him.

Quietly as his boots allowed, he climbed. As he gained height, he spotted a horse tied to brush twenty yards from where he stood. Tracks crisscrossed in the snow, but where was Tucker? The man had the advantage of knowing this area’s terrain better than Butch.

“Sheriff?” The yell came from below and behind him.

Butch crouched and turned. A streak of fire burned into his chest. The impact sent him tumbling from rock to rock until he hit the snow-covered ground. He landed on his back, stars lit the backs of his eyelids, and his breath whooshed from his lungs. His rifle lay just beyond his grasp.

WINTER BRIDE is a romance, but the storyline includes mystery, murder, and mayhem. I like stories where something happens. I hope you do, too.

Here’s the buy link for Amazon http://amzn.com/B00VC9C31W

To celebrate my new release, I’m giving away a free download to someone who comments on this post by April 5th. Thanks and happy reading!

This Day In Civil War History – Andersonville

400px-Andersonville_PrisonOn February 27, 1864, the first Federal inmates were brought into Andersonville prison, but the prison was not fully constructed at that time. The name Andersonville was associated with a death trap, since a quarter of the inmates died while in captivity. Henry Wirz ran the camp and, after the war ended, he was executed for brutality and mistreatment of prisoners by those under  his command.


The official name of the prison was Camp Sumter. Prior to 1863, Northern and Southern armies had enacted a prisoner exchange syster for those captured. But arguments over the handling of black soldiers caused problems and prison camps had to be hastily constructed by both sides. Andersonville was built with slave labor and was located in the Georgia woods close to a railroad but away from front battle lines. On 16 acres of land, the prison was supposed to include a barracks constructed of wood, but due to inflated lumber prices, Union prisoners were forced to live under open skies, with only makeshift shanties named “shebangs” made of wood scraps and blankets, for shelter. A stream supplied fresh water in the beginning, but it soon grew contaminated with human waste.

The prison was supposed to hold 10,000 men, but after six months, three times that number were imprisoned there. The contaminated creek eroded, becoming a swamp. It took up a great portion of the compound. The prisoners received inadequate rations and most of the time, half of the population were ill. Guards often brutalized inmates and violence existed between prisoners.

Andersonville proved to be the worst among both Union and Confederate prisons.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/federal-prisoners-begin-arriving-at-andersonville

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/warfare/andersonville.html

Victorian Slang of the Week–clawhammer

clawhammer–a man’s dress coat. Really. It seems that Nathaniel Hawthorne used it first and it was a nautical term. It was used from 1863 through the end of the century, but it doesn’t appear to be used much after that. I’ve been watching the first few seasons of Downton Abbey (which is the Edwardian period, but the grandmother is from the Victorian period, and the Earl and Lady Grantham to some extent) and couldn’t figure out which coat to which this was referring. So I googled and found out it was evening dress, a cutaway/ tails coat, based upon this wonderful, free book, Historic Dress in America 1800-1870. No worries, not stealing from anybody. Apparently it’s free because it’s 100 years past the 1910 copyright date. The reference to clawhammer is on page 423.

So there you go, slang and a cool book to look at!

The Sinking of The Sultana

Sultana[1]In Shadows of the Soul, the hero, Luke Devlin, is a mentally and emotionally tortured hero. The torture starts when he’s young, perpetrated by an emotionally abusive aunt. But his life after leaving home is no picnic (partly to his own choices). He ends up in Andersonville prison. When he’s released, he decides to travel to Iowa to find the heroine. Unfortunately, he chooses the Sultana.

The Sultana was a riverboat that traveled the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, which sank after a terrible explosion on the morning of April 27, 1865. Most of the people on board were soldiers, many like my fictional character Luke, survivors of Andersonville prison or Cahaba prison.

Launched on January 3rd 1863, the Sultana was a $60,000 side-wheel riverboat/steamboat, 260 feet long with a hold 7 feet deep. Constructed with a flat bottom for inland water ways, it sported four coal-burning boilers, made in the new “fire tube” style. This style was considered more efficient, but were not, however , particularly good for the muddy water of the  lower Mississippi.

Originally built for the lower Mississippi cotton trade, The Sultana was a beautifully appointed ship with glass chandeliers and ornate Victorian trimming. It had room for 66 cabin passengers. The staterooms were small but luxurious, and the passengers could enjoy the passing scenery from the boiler deck promenade. The rest of the ship could accommodate 300 deck passengers and crew, the former of whom were like “steerage” passengers on ocean liners, and slept on bare planks, and had their food served on tin plates.

For all that, on the day the Sultana sank two years later it carried an estimated 2400 passengers.

Riverboats on Mississippi had a rough life. They were only expected to last  4 -5 years due to the perils of snags, debris and collisions. However about 200 of steamship disasters in the first half of century were due to boiler explosions.

At any rate Captain J.C. Mason piloted the Sultana out of Cairo, Illinois headed for New Orleans on April 15, 1865, the day President Lincoln died, and a week after the official end of the war. At the time, War Secretary Stanton had ordered southern newspapers not to print anything about Lincoln’s assassination, so when the Sultana arrived in New Orleans on April 19th, it was the first time they’d heard this news, which many didn’t believe.

The Sultana left New Orleans two days later on April 21st 1865 with only 75-100 passengers. 75 miles south of Vicksburg it was discovered that one of the coal-burning boilers was leaking from a bulging seam. They reduced the ship’s speed and it was decided to repair the boiler in Vicksburg. There the Captain was informed that the best repair, the most thorough and permanent, would be to replace two metal sheets adjoining the leak. However, Captain Mason was persuaded against his better judgment to patch the seam instead. It took 20 hours and the patch itself was thinner than the regular plating on the boiler. In addition heavy rain and melting snow increased the current made it harder for the steamship to travel.

While the Sultana was being repaired, Federal prisoners from Andersonville and Cahaba were arriving for passage to Cairo, Illinois. The price paid to transport enlisted men was generally five dollars, and ten dollars for an officer, good money for the time. The first 1300 soldiers, the lucky ones, were taken north by the Henry Ames on April 22. Afterwards more ex-prisoners being held at Camp Fisk were marched four miles to Vicksburg to board the Sultana. They were crammed on board, along with army mules, horses and hogs.

When the Sultana left Vicksburg it had 2400 people on board. It steamed North for 30 or more hours to Helena Arkansas, on April 26. There the last picture of the Sultana was taken. When the passengers heard of the photograph they moved to the port side to be part of the photograph, nearly capsizing the boat. An hour later it started up river. It’s next stop was Memphis, Tennessee, where they docked at 6:30 pm that night. There they did some minor repairs again on the boiler while some passengers disembarked. The ones who didn’t re-embark were the lucky ones. At midnight the Sultana cut across-stream to a coal yard, where it picked up a thousand bushels of coal. It left at 1 am on April 27th.

7 miles north of Memphis, at 2 am, The Sultana’s boiler finally gave out. It’s believe that the explosion ruptured two of three remaining boilers, and was heard all the way to Memphis. Debris tore through decks below, and many passengers were instantly scalded by superheated steam. Some were hurled into the air and thrown into the river. Others were burned or wounded by flying metal, and some were trapped in the burning ship.

The Sultana Saga, The Titanic of the Mississippi by Rex T. Jackson, has many different direct recollections of survivors’ tales. One passenger reported the hissing of steam and the crashing of the different decks, along with the horrors of the falling of the smoke stacks, and flames bursting through crowds of people, burning alive men who had survived battle and the horrors of Andersonville. He reported the sounds of people begging for help, of women shrieking and the sounds of horses neighing and mules braying, all kicking frantically in fear.

The explosion made machinery parts into projectiles, flying through the upper decks and killing passengers as they slept. One man wrote an account of waking up surrounded by fire. He escaped to the hurricane deck and used ropes to get to the bow, where he saw the dead and dying being trampled as people tried to escape. He reported seeing people crying, praying and singing.

As the Sultana burned, terrified people jumped into the water, whether they could swim or not. The water, one passenger reported, was a seething mass of humanity, and people jumping in often landed on top of other people. The passengers in the water hung onto each other. It didn’t last for very long, however. Many were injured by the explosion. Many were weakened by their time in prison, and drowned quickly.

One man was thrown into the water by the explosion, fully clothed. He swam as best he could for a while and was lucky  to catch hold a piece of debris large enough to keep him afloat.

One man sleeping on the boiler deck about 16 feet away from the explosion had his shoulder broken by the explosion. He was badly scalded and believed he should be burned alive, but he managed to crawl to the front of the boat. He jumped into the water and swam three and a half miles to shore, where he stayed until 9 am the next morning.

One smart man picked up a hatch door, threw it into the water, and then jumped on top of it. He floated on it until another steamer, the Bostonia picked him up. The Bostonia picked up about one hundred passengers.

Sadly, the Sultana had only one lifeboat. Although people did manage to get it into the water, so many tried to get into it that eventually it sank, taking everybody down with it.

Meanwhile on shor, a man whose house was across the river from the explosion said that fire was so bright, he could the ground clearly by it. He watched as the ship because a ball of fire and drifted down the river. By dawn of April 27th it sank in 26 feet of water, taking many dead with it.

That day and for weeks to follow bodies washed up on shore in and around Memphis, Fort Pickering and Helena. Many bodies just floated in the water decomposing and getting in the way of other boats and steamers, some of which would get caught up in the wheels of the paddle boats. To get them untangled was a gruesome job. 520 victims made it to hospitals, 200 of whom died, many so badly burned or wounded they died within hours.

In the end an estimated 1,547 people died that day. However, taking into account the people at the hospital, the casualty count is probably more like 1700-1800 in all. In comparison, the estimated dead of the Titanic 47 years later was about 1500 people. And yet, very few people have heard of this disaster, probably because it was so close to the end of the war and the death of Lincoln. Understandable, of course, but for the people who lost loved ones on the Sultana, and those who survived it to be physically and mentally scarred for the rest of their lives, the lack of press and therefore lack of understanding, was difficult and painful.

PHOTO borrowed from this site, which has some more very interesting information, and an eyewitness account.

The majority of my information came from The Sultana Saga, The Titanic of the Mississippi, by Tex T. Jackson

Victorian Slang of the Week–claret

claret–blood, especially in boxing. This is a term that for some reason I generally associate with the Regency era in England. However, it appears to have been used quite a bit in the U.S., from 1831 on. Also, claret jug, which is the bleeding nose, first mentioned in 1859, but I expect it was used earlier.

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