Freedom as sample authorgraphAre you an e-book reader who wishes you could have e-book signings?  Well, you can now!  What fun!  Go to www.authorgraph.com to find the site where you can request an author to sign an e-book and sign up.  It takes a twitter account to connect.  Once you’re a member, simply search the author’s name and the e-books will pop up.  Request the autograph and an email will tell you when it’s ready.  You can collect these on your digital device or print it out for a collection file.

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Iliad

 

This link, http://kottke.org/17/02/map-showing-the-homeland-of-every-character-in-homers-iliad, takes you to a map showing the home of each character in the Iliad.  I can remember teaching the Iliad and Odyssey way back in the 1960s.  It wasn’t part of the curriculum, but I added it so students got some real literature.  These stories captured their imaginations as nothing else did.  How delightful it would have been to have this map back then!

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Mammoth-Gomphothere

Mammoth (left) Gomphothere (right)

Facts can be so simple. 250,000 years ago a mammoth died in Mexico.  While the bones were still green, someone carved a gomphothere into the pelvis bone of the mammoth.  A gomphothere is a four-tusked extinct elephant.  Another carving in the bone illustrated a speared cat.  It was all very exciting.  The Smithsonian featured it and LIFE Magazine did an article on the find with the expectation that the carving dated to 30,000 BC.

From the same site in the late 1800s a skull was found that had attributes of brow ridges.  A German carried the skull to Leipzig where it was featured in a museum until it was lost in World War II bombing.  The skull did contain diatoms from having been submerged for some time.  The diatoms were classified as antediluvian.  Sam VanLandingham dated a reference scraping of the diatoms and dated the diatoms at 80,000 to 220,000 years ago.  Diatoms found at the Valsequillo site are consistent with those of the scraping.

The mammoth bone was tested sometime after the LIFE Magazine article and Smithsonian feature.  The carved mammoth bone dated to 250,000 BC.  Suddenly the find was viewed as a hoax, because of the belief that people weren’t supposed to be in the Americas in 250,000 BC.  The people who were studying the site were accused of fraud, though fraud was unproven.

In a different scientific field, Albert Einstein stated the solution simplistically:  “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the theory.”  Unfortunately, this scientific principle was ignored regarding Valsequillo.  Even today people choose to believe that no people were in the Americas in 250,000 BC.  Imagine how exciting it would be to be free to follow the facts.  Imagine the finds there might be if the theory changed and people could search for the potential of people throughout the Americas as far back as 250,000 years ago or longer.  To follow the facts without fear of ridicule or accusation of fraud.  To me that’s what science is.

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The second book in the Pre-Clovis Archaeological Sites in the Americas Series, Toca do Boqueirão da Pedra Furada, Parque Nacional Serra da Capivara in Brazil, is associated with phenomenal cave art. It depicts a vital community living in the middle of nowhere. I was entranced when I saw the first images of the cave art. I wondered why the people were there, what possessed them to create the cave art, why they painted what they did, why they chose the variety of media, what the tree ritual might be about, and so on. This is the place where the writer of fiction has a license that scientists are not supposed to have, the opportunity to answer the questions in a logical but creative fashion. Frankly, the cave art is the inspiration for the story. The images speak to me. I love their connectivity among the people and with the wildlife. There is a touch of joy to me exhibited in the cave art.

I intend to share with you images that I took from my research and from the cave art to weave this story. The reason for sharing is that when these images are printed they’ll be in black and white. You can see the full color images here. The other element in story development is in the Exordium in each of the novellas. It adds another level of transparency into the author process.

First, here are images of the elements intended for the cover. These will be transmitted to the publisher’s design team, and they’ll pull the images together into a whole. First, is the young girl, Maru. The image is from Pedro França/MinC (CCA 2.0). The second image is the crocodile. The image is from Tomás Castelazo, (CCA-SA 2.5). The background is the mimosa tree image, available in the public domain.

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This is the geographic location of the Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil.

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My illustration.

The amazing picture here is Pedra Furada.

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Pedra Furada, Serra da Capivara National Park (Artur Warchavchik CCA-SA 3.0)

This gives an impression of the land forms, sandstone from the bottom of a warm sea long, long ago.

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The image is courtesy of Diego Rego Monteiro (CCA-SA 3.0)

This image is a distant shot of the cave art at Toca da Boqueirão.

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Courtesy Diego Rego Monteiro, (CCA-SA 4.0)

Here is a close up of the same image.  I had to magnify this shot 400 times normal to learn the secrets of the paint application and in some cases what the artist did.  Today’s technology is phenomenal!

9-15-8This image is courtesy Artur Warchavchik (CCA-SA 3.0)

This image is fun!  Must have been quite a dash!

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Serra da Capivara National Park Cave Art (B4unorocha CCA-SA 3.0)

Here are some random images.  I wanted to show a rhea, the large bird that is a bit like an ostrich.

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Courtesy Artur Warchavchik (CCS-SA 3.0)

This image shows what people today call the tree ritual.

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It is shown courtesy Vitor 1234 (CCA-SA 3.0)

Here’s another active scene.  The great white gash is where some of the cave wall fell off.

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Courtesy Augusto Pessos (CCA-SA 3.0)

This image totally fascinates me.  There is a giant cat overshadowing the whole image.  It’s comparatively huge.  I did not address this but find the artwork arresting.

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Courtesy Diego Rego Monteiro (CCA-SA 3.0)

Finally, a little romance, though there is no romance in the novella.

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Courtesy Willame carvalho e silva (CCA-SA 3.0)

Now, if you read the book you’ll know the bases for what threads were woven into the story from what the ancients left behind.

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8-17-2I hear authors talk a lot. Most want to communicate something to some group of readers. Some want fame, fortune, esteem, or any of a number of accoutrements that accrue to the few. There are awards, reviews, book signings, great sales, speaking events, and teaching options. What is it that writers would answer to the question, “What would you prefer to see above all return for your writing?”

I’ve thought about that. I’ve been among the fortunate. I’ve had numbers of awards, a few reviews to die for, plenty of book signings, and speaking events. Sales don’t hit the great category, but my genre isn’t something that the general population craves like they do mystery, thriller, and romance novels.

And then I get blindsided. When The SealEaters, 20,000 BC award comments from Grace Cavalieri were read, I heard the line, “America’s preeminent writer of prehistoric history,” and I didn’t hear anything but a great thought in my mind, “What? Surely, I didn’t hear what I thought I heard.” When the review from Midwest Book Review gave my novel series such an awesome, glowing review, I was speechless. Those things carried great meaning to me.

Little did I know that there would be something to top those comments. Something that came out of the blue following a post I wrote letting people know that I’d reached the proofing stage of the novella, Freedom, 250,000 BC: Out From the Shadow of Popocatépetl. Just a routine post. Then a response came that tore my heart out, laid it on the table before me so I could see it falter at the words. I fought to hold back tears. They came anyway. Here’s the comment:

Bonnye Matthewes . what you write is amazing and beautiful, it is the ability of men with a life on our continent unsuspected by millions of people thank you for enriching our human history . I look forward to buy your book when on sale . i can writte a litte english!

—Jonathan Melendez, Valued Reader from Monterrey Nuevo Leon Mexico

That is the whole purpose of writing to me. A writer communicates something to a reader through the written word. It’s such a simple thing. Yet, when confronted with such beautiful communication, I was humbled utterly. “Writte a litte English!” Jonathan Melendez communicated volumes to me in English. I understood in crystal clarity.

Writers are so very responsible for our communication. We do communicate to others. We can affect others in positives or negatives. I had thought that I communicated a story as I write. I also wanted people to realize the wonderful prehistory we have under our feet, but I felt that beyond me. To have it come back so eloquently and concisely touched me at the very pit of my soul. It affected my spirit. It deepened my commitment to realizing with each story I write, I want my words to reach people for the positives. It’s always a stretch. But that will no longer be a hope but will attain goal status before I approve the final for my books. I’ll send the proofed copy of Freedom, 250,000 BC back to the publisher either tonight or tomorrow. I feel it meets the goal I’ve set.

To answer my own question as to what I’d want to see most from my writing, I’d have to say that Jonathan Melendez’s words are the answer. An honest comment from a reader that shows that not only did my writing communicate at the superficial level but also at a deeper lever coupled with the positives. That’s what I most want. It’s not very entrepreneurial, but it’s true. Jonathan Melendez’s words will appear on the back of Freedom, 250,000 BC: Out From the Shadow of Popocatépetl along with the words from Cavalieri and Midwest Book Review. His words complete the awards comments, book review, and reader comment on my writing that I hoped to place on the back cover to help the reader decide whether to consider the book to read.

His words and permission to use the quote arrived less than 24 hours before the final proof goes to the publisher. What timing!

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8-17-1What a delight! My morning began with an email: the proof for Freedom, 250,000 BC: Out From the Shadow of Popocatepetl. I’ll be doing the final polishing of the product today. Some people don’t enjoy proofing, but to me it’s the final polish. I love it that this shorter book length can have larger type. It’s so much easier for people of my generation.

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I received my first glimpse of the cover for Freedom, 250,000 BC: Out From the Shadow of Popopcatépetl. It blew my socks off! I’m one of those fortunate ones whose publisher lets me have input on the cover design. I found two images: (1) the Homo erectus youth and (2) the image of the volcano, Popocatépetl. I asked the publisher to ask the cover designer to put a skirt on the young boy, since he can’t run around like that here, and to superimpose the boy over the background. Here are the two images:

The young Homo erectus:

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The volcano, Popocatepétl:

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In the story, Wing, the main character is shorter and thinner than his peers. In the image above, there is glass glare on the young man and he needed clothing. There was a lot of background. In the story the young man has been cowed and leaves his home. The image on the cover shows shoulders pulled forward, as described in the story. Somehow when the two images were put together, it paired perfectly with the story. Even better than I could have imagined. They do phenomenal work.

The book won’t be out until September, but this is an extremely promising step in the process.

 

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I’m excited to share the Dedication and Introduction to Freedom, 250,000 BC:  Out From the Shadow of Popocatépetl.  It’s my first novella and is due about September 1, 2016.  Each novella in this series will be dedicated to a different archaeological site in existence prior to 11,700 years ago.
Dedication

Archaeological Site at Valsequillo

This book is dedicated to the archaeological site south of Puebla, Mexico at the Valsequillo Reservoir.  What the site shows is an amazingly rich prehistoric view of human life in the Americas, specifically Mexico, in 250,000 BC.  That date is the glory and infamy of the Valsequillo site.
Two mountains are involved in this story.  The title, Freedom, 250,000 BC:  Out From the Shadow of Popocatépetl, refers to the volcanic mountain, Popocatépetl, to the northwest of the Valsequillo site.  Popocatépetl is pronounced po-po-ca-te-petal, the last part like flower petal.  The other mountain, La Malinque, erupted and its ash preserved the amazing finds at the site.

Introduction
 .
There is no longer an archaeological site south of Puebla, Mexico at Valsequillo.  It’s been buried and hidden.  Why?  The answer is as old as man.  It’s a power war over dogmatic belief.  I chose this site for the first novella in the series because of the controversy, not despite it.
In 1959 an accountant in Mexico who was fascinated by prehistoric finds in the Valsequillo area, chanced to discover a mammoth pelvis bone.  He pried it from the soil.  It was not an unusual find, until, when cleaning it later, he found animal carvings on the mammoth bone. Surprisingly one of the animals was an extinct gomphothere (Ryncotherium), a four-tusked elephant-like animal; another, a speared feline.  There were others.  The find immediately generated great interest.  The Smithsonian Institution featured it, and “LIFE Magazine” did a brief article showing the carving (Illustration 1).  The bone had been carved when green.  In other words, it was carved when the bone was fresh.  What’s remarkable, and unknown at the time of the article, is that the bone scientifically dated to 250,000 years ago.  That simple scientific test would set off an explosive archaeological battle over the past that continues today.  There was a carver 250,000 years ago in the Americas!  That was heresy in the world of evolutionary belief;  totally plausible scientifically.

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Illustration 1:  “LIFE Magazine,” Volume 49, No. 7, page 86.

In addition to the engraved mammoth pelvis bone two skulls have been found that relate to man in the Americas at a very early time.   Skull 1:  Associated with the Valsequillo site, the Dorenberg skull, found at the Valsequillo site in the late 1800s ended up in a museum in Leipzig, Germany, where it was destroyed by bombing during WWII.  It’s gone.  Inside that skull there was encrustation from diatoms.  Diatoms are minute photosynthesizing algae with silica cell walls, intricate in form.  Hugo Reichelt in Leipzig scraped diatoms from the skull to get a sense of its date.  The date of the diatoms scraping was established as “antediluvian,” not a very helpful term.  Essentially, it meant before the Biblical flood. Some of the diatoms were extinct 80,000 years ago.  A few decades ago, Sam L. VanLandingham, a diatom paleontologist, dated a reference slide of diatoms at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  The diatoms on the slide came from the Doremberg skull scraping.  He dated them to the Sangamon age (about 80,000 to 220,000 years ago).   Using today’s methods, Sam VanLandingham also dated diatoms at the site where the skull and artifacts had been found.  The diatoms at the site dated to between 80,000 to 220,000 years before the present.  The same forms of diatoms found in the soil at the site at Valsequillo and the skull scrapings are consistent.  Skull 2:  The Ostrander skull was found in California.  With the brow ridges, it’s either a Homo erectus or Homo neanderthalensis. Very ancient people were in the southwest part of what’s now the USA and Mexico a long, long time ago.  Neither skull remains available today.  The first was destroyed in WWII and the second may have been given a Native American burial.

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Illustration 2:  Ostrander skull (on right).  Used with permission from Austin Whittall.

So what happened at Valsequillo?  The wonderful bone art found by Comacho, spotlighted by the Smithsonian, and photographed in “LIFE Magazine” was dated.  C-14 wouldn’t go back far enough.  Testing was performed using the Uranium series.  The date?  250,000 years ago.  Then things went haywire.  The lead scientist on the site, Cynthia Irwin-Williams, refused to accept the date.  Rather than face ridicule, which she knew would follow, she essentially dropped the project.  And ridicule came.  Along came other problems.  Finds were removed from the scientists and hidden or destroyed.  Scientists were accused of planting finds to discredit the work.  How it never occurred to anyone that no self-respecting scientist would knowingly plant finds that would cause himself to be ridiculed, I don’t know.

What has been buried at the Valsequillo site is precious.  Skulls, engravings, tools all once showed a site at 250,000 years ago just south of Puebla, Mexico.  It’s part of a potentially rich and amazing heritage in this land of ours.  Nonsense brought it to the current conclusion. Maybe in time there will be an environment in which the site can be revisited to learn what lies beneath the surface.  More skulls, more carvings, more tools?  Maybe humans can gain understanding that will help explain this world in which we live.  As it is, it’s the single most intriguing archaeological site in the Americas from my point of view.

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7-9So I lied. I didn’t plan to lie. I really thought I wasn’t going to write any books this year—focus only on marketing. Ah, Bobby Burns, wonderful past poet, my plans “gang aft agley.” My words, however, should not be worthless nor my character terribly impugned. At least I hope not.

July 5, my publisher asked me if I would be willing to write a novella and have it to him by September 15. Now, I’ve been writing novels averaging over 140,000 words in length. I had to ask what the length of a novella was. He told me 20,000 to 30,000 words. I asked for twenty-four hours. I wanted to be certain that my manuscript readers on whom I depend would be with me. Both replied enthusiastically in the affirmative. Well, then, I found myself agreeing to deliver a manuscript by September 15. Yikes.

I spent some time thinking about how to choose a subject. I didn’t want to write outside my chosen subject of passion, peopling the Americas before the last Ice Age glaciation event. Then, it came to me. I’d write novellas, not just one. I’d write them identifying the places suspected of being pre-Clovis sites across the Americas. That could set me up for years and fill my time with effort of substantially less than a 140,000+ word novel. What a delightful opportunity.

I fumbled around wondering which site to pick first. It wasn’t difficult. The single most fascinating site to me is the Valsequillo area in Mexico. There was a find of a human skull that had been dated to 250,000 years ago. The location was under volcanic ash. The story of that location is messy. What happened there isn’t nice. I think of it as the ugly side of the Clovis-First power, not science, just strong fisted power. I may be misjudging it, but if so then I’m guilty. I don’t often go out that far on a limb, but in this case, I’m willing.

Many findings from that site have been removed, destroyed, made unavailable. Still, it hasn’t been utterly discredited and the findings that remain are amazing. That does not preclude stories from forming around what’s known. Storytellers will weave their tales. This one’s irresistible to me.

So, I now have a plan for a series of novellas growing. It’s exciting to me! The first is a “take” on Cinderella. Well, it’s a far-fetched take. In this case, Cinderella is a guy, age sixteen, whose name is Wing. The title of the story is 250,000 BC: From the Shadow of Popocatépetl. The name of the mountain is pronounced at the end so that petl sounds like petal (e.g., flower petal). The second e is not a long e.

Having to think small is a challenge. I’m already at about 9,000 words. That’s about one half to one third complete. Yeah, I do write fast. The writing style has changed. I remain utterly convinced these people have plenty of intelligence, but I’ve decided to limit their verbal communication to simple sentences. Ever try to limit yourself to writing in simple sentences? It can be hilarious!

Yeah, I know the story from end to end. I always have to do that before I write. I won’t give it away though. You’ll have to read the novella. It’ll be short! I hope to be able to send it off to my readers by the end of next week. I’m eager to get reaction to the change and the story.

Read the novella and decide whether to impugn my character!

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7-3-2Numbers of people have been curious about the length of time it takes, or doesn’t take, me to write my novels. My novels average 140,000 words per book, most a few thousand over. The first one, Ki’ti’s Story, 75,000 BC, took me about nine months. I was new at it. It’s a bit awkward, but readers tend to favor it, though it’s the least well written in my own opinion. The second was about four months of writing time. The rest were a lot faster at about three months. Ki’ti’s Story, 75,000 BC came out in 2012, Manak-na’s Story, 75,000 BC came out in 2013, Zamimolo’s Story, 50,000 BC and Tuksook’s Story, 35,000 BC both came out in 2014, and The SealEaters, 20,000 BC came out in 2015. I do work very long days and require little sleep. When I’m writing I’m “submerged” so that often I don’t hear the phone ring. Being “submerged” like that is a source of great pleasure. It’s a total envelopment in the project.

I never have an outline. In my school days when teachers required outlines, I’d have to write my paper and then outline it. My brain synthesizes before analyzing. The closest I come to an outline is the genealogical chart that appears in each of the Winds of Change novels. That is actually an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, and I occasionally put notes on it. It gives me all the guidance I need on one surface. It’s great.

Oddly the third book, Zamimolo’s Story, 50,000 BC, brought out a reader complaint that the book appeared to have been written too fast. I don’t have deadlines. There’s no need. Zamimolo’s Story, 50,000 BC was about average in writing time, and, no, I wasn’t pressed. I had read a book on plot and structure, thinking that might enhance my writing. I’ve never taken a novel writing course. I thought some learning might be good. I followed the guidelines of the book. Readers didn’t like the effect, so for the remaining two novels, I discarded what the book taught and reverted to my original storytelling approach.

It’s not that I never wrote as a part of my occupations. One of my early jobs was writing self-instruction courses for the federal government. A friend of mine and I had the same function but we arrived at our products very differently. She wrote and wrote, filling trash cans with wads of paper. I walked about the office building on the 26th floor of the Federal Building in Seattle staring out the windows, drinking coffee, sometimes almost audibly humming. People knew not to startle me when I was roaming. Near the same time my fellow writer and I would both write our final draft. We were friends, and after we finished writing, we’d go somewhere we could make noise, and we’d critique the other’s writing. Some saw it as brutal. Neither of us did. At that point our job was to polish the product of the other to the very best of our ability. It was pure joy to each of us to see our product improve due to the effort of the other. One of us might say to the other, “When you wrote that (pointing to a line), what were you thinking?” Then when the writer saw the problem, we’d both explode with laughter. The problem would be fixed, piece polished, and move on.

When people asked about our processes, I explained my process as lazy. I wrote the course in my head as I wandered around the building. When I finally sat down, I knew the structure and content from end to end. I’d write the first and final draft. The same holds true for my novels. Except, instead of wandering about a high rise, I’m at home, out doing book signings where there’s an occasional lull, driving the car, sitting on the porch, running the tractor, and so on. All these interludes are filled with my head actively massaging the story. Then it’s just a matter of sitting down to write the book from end to end. I still have initial readers who know me well enough to pick at my work down to the molecular level. They are wonderful! They give me their input and I take that and do the final edit.

Sometimes as I’ve walked through a store, people may have thought me rude for not recognizing them. Little did they know that I might be imagining thousands of years ago in a cave. I could pull up the scent of the place, the breeze, the chatter of characters and birds in the trees. I didn’t see the apparel beyond the groceries. I saw imagined Neanderthals. I “wrote” mentally as I walked through the store. I enjoyed that while shopping, something so routine and boring that the grocery list on my phone and my knowledge of where the product could be found in the store led my walking, while my brain freely “wrote” or tested what-ifs or processed other questions. How would a character or two or three respond if something, such as _____, were to occur? Could I interject this little piece of information in this way smoothly? This mental writing form gave me time to get to know my characters. Playing the mini scene let me know whether the behavior would be consistent with each character. In doing this, the brain can function differently. Some writers will call it arguing with a character. In freely writing in one’s head, it can happen that the what-ifs come up with something for which I had no plan at all. I cannot pin down the source. But it was the prior development of the character that showed me that my expectation did not fit with the character and what “came to me” did. Arguing with a character? I don’t really think so. I do know that might be how it would look. I’d much prefer to do that mentally than on paper!

One factor that influences my writing fast is that I researched for five years before I started writing. That provided a wonderful platform for “writing” the whole series. It gave me my sense of time where humans were affected by great earth events, starting with the actual eruption of the supervolcano, Mt. Toba, setting off a Time of Peace on earth as humans had to depend on one another for basic survival to the Ice Age Glaciation of the mid-20,000 years ago which ushered in a Time of War, creating land ownership conflicts that continue on today, shifting from guilelessness to cunning.

Research time isn’t a neat tidy package. Bits of knowledge float about in a murky soup. It’s only by staying with it, stirring, adding more elements to the soup, that it suddenly becomes analyzable, almost mystically, and then the soup becomes something that can be synthesized into a novel and novels and a series of novels. In some ways research is my favorite time. It sets off great sparks of creation that ignite my interest in the stories. Interests that last for keyboarding the story, editing it, seeing it form into substance, and establishing the passion for the crusade of getting the book out there to share with others.

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