Writing

My #1 Tip for Writers & Readers

Every day, I see a slew of writing-related ads. Some guarantee that if you sign up for a “free” course (don’t read the fine print) you’ll sell a zillion books. Some offer to tweet for you and post Facebook ads for a (small/medium/large) monthly fee. There are publicists for hire, who promise to increase your visibility and help you sell more books. Then there are the thousands upon thousands of books on the craft of writing, often from people you’ve never read or heard of. There are also those offering editorial services, some of whom have no success to speak of in the book business. Finally, there are publishing companies that for $15-$20 grand and up will publish and promote your book.

Many of these ads and the people associated with them make me angry. I’m not saying there aren’t good folks out there who can genuinely help improve your writing and increase your sales. What I am saying is that those who can truly do so are few and far between.

But before we go any further, let’s be clear about one thing: You should NEVER pay to publish your book. The only exceptions are if you just want to do it for your family and friends, or consider it a lifelong goal no matter the cost.

With regard to editorial services, the overwhelming majority of writers use an editor. Well established authors use editors provided by their agents/publishers. Other authors, especially if they’re at an early stage in their careers, hire an editor for content and/or copyedit purposes. This is often crucial to the success of a book, for nothing turns readers off like disjointed plots, weak characters, grammar mistakes, and typos. In my humble opinion, if your book isn’t as close to perfect as you can get it, you have no business trying to sell it.

But it’s important to realize that an editor will not rewrite your book, nor can he or she guarantee it will get published. Furthermore, many editors charge the same fee regardless of how much editing your manuscript needs. I understand the reasoning here, from the perspective of the editor: some manuscripts require more work than others. Editors feel that by charging everyone the same rate, often a flat fee per page, everything evens out. And it does…for them, not the writer.

Beware of editors who offer little feedback. From the outset be clear as to the type and amount of feedback you expect. Here you really can’t be too cautious. Most editors will provide a sample edit of a chapter or a few pages. This is great; just make sure you’re satisfied with the sample and hold the editor responsible for being as diligent throughout the entire project.

Once you’re published, there are a plethora of services that offer to plaster social media with ads about your book. In my experience, ads on Facebook and Twitter do poorly. I have over 20,000 followers on Twitter and I could probably count on two hands the number of books I’ve sold that way.

Facebook and Twitter ads, however, provide some visibility. But I recommend you do your own posting, especially since you probably won’t sell too many books this way. Learn to use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or a similar program that will help you do it yourself. The same goes for publicists. Unless the person is well established—and if he or she is, you can expect to pay out the wazoo—you can do many things a publicist does. You can contact radio programs and blogsites, send out review copies, schedule some appearances and signings at bookstores, etc.

I’m skeptical of people who offer courses/insider tips on writing/marketing, especially if they charge for them. I don’t believe there are any tricks to writing/marketing. In fact, everything I’ve learned in the past several years can be summed up this way: Write the greatest book you possibly can—good is no longer enough—and then start writing the next one.

How do you write the greatest book you possibly can? Well, you start by reading great books—and poems, and stories, and plays, and screenplays, and non-fiction—and writing as often as you can. In terms of books on the craft, there are so many I fear some authors are trying to cash in on the insecurities we writers have by writing books that allegedly help, but often divert us from the one thing that will definitely improve our writing—namely, writing. That having been said, there are a handful of writing resources I wouldn’t do without. If you’re interested in hearing my recommendations, please contact me and I’ll be happy to share.

Okay, without further ado, I present my #1 tip for authors trying to market their great books and for readers who want to read them: BOOKBUB!

If you are a reader, you should really consider signing-up for Bookbub. It’s free, and every day you’ll receive an email blast letting you know about great discounted e-books in your chosen categories. You can get books for free, $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99. As a reader, I think it’s the greatest thing since pizza (or whatever food happens to be your weakness).

If you’re an author marketing a book, I don’t think anything beats Bookbub. You have to apply to get accepted, but applying is free. It’s tough to get approved, but you can keep applying if you get rejected, and you only pay if you’re accepted. Costs vary according to your genre and the price at which you want to sell your book (the free option is the least expensive, followed by $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99). Click here for a chart that gives you a general idea of the cost. If your book is accepted as a featured promotion, it will appear for one day in Bookbub’s daily e-mail blast. In terms of marketing / advertising it is the only thing that I’ve found truly effective (and I’ve tried just about everything). Trust me when I say the results, in terms of sales, will probably astound you.

Well, that’s it, friends. There you have my #1 tip for writers and readers and it hasn’t cost you a penny.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear about your writng/reading/marketing experiences!

All the best,

Matthew

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 30, 2017 at 6:25 am

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Release Day for KILLING JOHN THE BAPTIST: A NICHOLAS BRANSON NOVEL—BOOK 2

I’m really excited! Today is the official release day of the second book of the Nicholas Branson novels, KILLING JOHN THE BAPTIST. Here is a blurb:

The gruesome murder of a U.S. presidential aide. A secret so terrible it will change the world. Can ex-Jesuit Nicholas Branson and modern-day Cathar Jessica Jones discover the awful truth in time to save a persecuted religious group from extinction? Or will they be thwarted by a megalomaniacal pope and an ultra-secret U.S. government force? From the powerful corridors of Washington to the holy, frescoed halls of the Vatican, from Iraq to the Holy Land, southern France, Egypt, and beyond, join Branson and Jones in a race against time to uncover the most shocking truth ever known. Perfect for fans of Robert Langdon and Indiana Jones!

I had the honor of being interviewed by THE BIG THRILL, the publication of International Thriller Writers, about KILLING JOHN THE BAPTIST. The interview will appear in the November issue. To welcome new readers, I’m offering the e-book of the first Nicholas Branson novel, THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS, at the discounted price of $0.99 for a limited time. Here are purchasing links for both books:

 

Killing John the Baptist: A Nicholas Branson Novel–Book 2

Available at:

Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2grAbIo

Barnes & Noblehttp://bit.ly/2hBuvvb

iBookshttp://apple.co/2hX0dmC 

Kobohttp://bit.ly/2yYx3hL

Smashwordshttp://bit.ly/2itpd8N

 

The Brothers’ Keepers: A Nicholas Branson Novel–Book 1

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?

Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.

Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.

Available at:

Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2yahXnL

Barnes & Noblehttp://bit.ly/2qSAVIL

iBookshttp://apple.co/2yGeNs5

Kobohttp://bit.ly/2yEWFxa

Smashwordshttp://bit.ly/2zGFjQL

 

I’m also holding an Amazon giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle copy of THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS. For those interested in winning a signed paperback copy, I’m hosting a Goodreads giveaway.

I want to thank all the readers out there who helped make THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS a bestselling thriller. I also want to thank Nancy Schumacher, Caroline Andrus, Lynsee Lauritsen, and Lisa Petrocelli at Melange Books, and the wonderful people at Bookbub, particularly Tyrone Li, for taking a chance on the book.

I hope you enjoy the Nicholas Branson novels!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 24, 2017 at 6:03 am

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The Value of Indy

Autumn Scenery by photoangel / Freepik

 

 

I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies. My preferences have changed over the years, but what’s changed even more is my perception of the entertainment industry, especially as it’s evolved over the last several years.

There was a time, and it wasn’t very long ago, when the only books and movies you could read/watch came from mainstream media—publishers like Random House and HarperCollins and film giants like 20th Century Fox and MGM.

What’s happened over the past several years is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, there has been an increasing centralization of the book and film industries. The playing field has shrunk to a handful of huge multi-media conglomerates, which now own the biggest entertainment companies. At the same time, the self-publishing revolution and the widespread availability of easy to operate cameras have opened the market to books and movies that otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

The results have been mixed. The good news is that more people can shoot movies and publish books than ever before. The bad news is that more people can shoot movies and publish books than ever before. The quantity of books and movies has certainly increased, but often at the expense of quality.

To me, the real value of indy (including both individual efforts and those of small companies) books and movies lies in their depiction of viewpoints often marginalized or ignored by mainstream media. We have much more of a choice now than ever before when it comes to what we read and watch. This is an extremely powerful and positive development.

Buying/watching well-done indy entertainment is as much a political statement as growing your own food. Don’t let the giant media conglomerates dictate what you see and read. There is a whole world of perspectives out there. Try indy; you just might like it!

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P.S. I’m hosting an Amazon giveaway for Kindle copies of The Brothers’ Keepers, the bestselling first book in the Nicholas Branson series. Please enter for a chance to win and please feel free to share the contest with others!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 17, 2017 at 6:51 am

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What is Our Role as Fiction Writers?

What is Our Role as Fiction Writers?

I used to ponder the utility of fiction. My view was partly predicated on my training as a political scientist, but it was also because I found non-fiction much more interesting than any made-up story. A majority of my reading for the past several years has been non-fiction, and I often prefer documentaries to movies and true-life crime shows to murder mysteries.

But I write fiction now, and so unless I concede that what I write is useless, which I can’t or won’t do, then it must be the case that made-up stories have some real-world significance. The question becomes just what form that takes.

But before attempting to answer the question of just what the role of a writer is, two points are in order. First, I’m only considering writing that is meant for public consumption. Second, the categories discussed below are not presented in any particular order, nor are they meant to be mutually exclusive.

In order to figure out our role as writers, we should first try to understand why people read fiction in the first place. One reason, perhaps the most popular, is entertainment. Another reason is to better understand the thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and psychology of others. Some might find that reading fiction also increases their creativity. Finally, people might turn to fiction as a way of learning about different things. This is especially true of historical fiction, as some folks find reading straight, non-fiction history a veritable snooze-fest.

There are countless other reasons why a person might pick up a novel, but these will suffice for now. So getting back to our original question, what is our role as fiction writers?

First and directly related to the above, we are storytellers and providers of entertainment. The value people place on escaping from reality is enormous, as evidenced by the astronomical incomes of the top entertainers in our society. While this is particularly true of actors and sports figures, authors like Stephen King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rowling have incomes that would make Midas blush. Consequently, some argue that our role as writers is to entertain the most people we can, as measured particularly by book sales and incomes.

This is perhaps the most popular role of the fiction writer, but there are others. Some writers consider increasing awareness and understanding of a particular character/viewpoint crucial. I attempt to do this in Conversations Among Ruins, where the male protagonist is dual diagnosed (i.e., suffers from a mood disorder and chemical dependency), a perspective/illness not often portrayed in novels. Presenting the viewpoints of underrepresented voices in fiction can help increase understanding of marginalized peoples. Understanding can promote empathy and empathy is one thing I believe can help ameliorate our increasingly atomized society.

This leads to my last point. I think that one of our most important, and currently neglected, roles as fiction writers is to take part in the societal debates that shape our times. In the past, great novels often had sociopolitical implications—think Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 1984 by George Orwell, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and, more recently, Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

If we look at popular books in recent years we see that most of them have little to do with reality: The Harry Potter books, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. I’m not saying that all books should take on important issues, but I think the fact that so few do is an abdication of an important role of the writer. This is especially true in these divided times, where, regardless of your beliefs or political stance, being a well-informed citizen is crucial.

Fiction has a way of reaching people in a way that non-fiction doesn’t and can be an important tool in raising awareness and promoting discussion of critical topics. I think we as writers almost have an obligation to do so.

What do you think?

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Posted by Matthew Peters - April 4, 2017 at 8:10 am

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Having a Hard Time Writing? Try This

So you clicked here, did you? Well, good…sort of.

Let me start by getting some things out in the open. First, this post is a little long. Second, you may not agree with or like everything I’m about to say. Third, I’m writing this because I actually care about writers like you, or at least that’s my honest-to-goodness reason for hammering out this post. Fourth, I probably need to hear it as much, if not more than, you. So hopefully what I’m about to say will help hammer it into my brain (and yours, should you benefit as well).worker-with-a-hammer_1048-1733Okay, enough of the preliminaries. I thought I might grab your attention with my catchy title (you often have to pat yourself on the back, because your publisher, editor, agent, and readers aren’t always up for the task). Then I figured I’d offer my insights into what you should really do when you’re having a hard time writing, whether it be from writer’s block, fatigue, lack of inspiration, or the itty bitty shitty committee that lives inside your head and tells you that your writing sucks 🙁

But wait! you might protest. Why take advice from a guy who’s only had two books published? If I told you I was almost finished with the third, would that help? No, probably not. Okay, well, let me say a few things in my defense. First, there are thousands of writers out there (a rather conservative estimate) who give advice and/or publish how-to books on what to do when you’re stuck in your writing who haven’t many published books to their credit. So let’s just say I’m in ___________company (I’ll let you fill in the blank).

In fact, I’ve read so much of this advice and so many of these books (in case you’re keeping track, this is the second point in my defense), that I feel warranted—no, I’d go with darn near compelled—to say something on the topic. Yes, friends, from Aristotle’s Poetics, E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel (rewind if you missed the quantum leap) and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write, to more modern folks like Dwight Swain (Techniques of the Selling Writer), Larry Brooks (Story Engineering), James Scott Bell (Plot & Structure), Nancy Peacock (A Broom of One’s Own), Ann Lamott (Bird by Bird), Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) and a slew of others, I’ve read the gamut of writing books. So maybe that puts me in a place where what I have to say on the topic at least qualifies me to…well, at least not to say anything too stupid.

I know, I know. You’re saying, “Well hell, Matthew, you’ve already done that,” to which I’d heartily concur and slap my head in Homer Simpson fashion (“Doh”!). Nonetheless, I remain undaunted in my effort to (eventually) get to the point. Now I hear your chorus of, “Oh, please, God, soon!” so I’ll make this a little shorter than I’d intended.

 

Screwbaseball-ball-illustration_23-2147492003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third part of my defense (that I have something useful to say on writing despite having only two novels published) consists of the very fact that, after many years of hard work, I’ve only had two novels published. Now, how can I use such a point as a justification for the very same point? That, my wordsmith friend, is an excellent point. I’m going to try my hardest not to use the word “point” for the remainder of this paragraph.

There, I’ve succeeded. My point is this: If you’re having a hard time writing, the best solution I can offer (after years of reading about writing much more than I’ve actually written) is to write. I’ve discovered via that long and winding road (and strawberry fields forever, man) that when you’re a writer, the answer to most questions/issues concerning writing can be found by doing one thing: writing. Now, if you’re completely burned out (and only you can tell if you are), or forcibly restrained, this does not hold, I repeat: this does not hold. But short of these exceptions, the general rule seems to be that, when in doubt, write. In fact, when you’re not in doubt, write. Actually, I think there are only two times when you should write: when you feel like it, and when you don’t. Even if you don’t actually use what you write in your work in progress (WIP), having something on paper, to me at least, sure beats having nothing on paper.

green-fountain-pen-and-ink-bottle_2750795

So what am I saying? Am I telling you not to read books on writing? No. I would never tell you to do or not to do anything. There are certain books out there I have found absolutely essential to keep me sane as a writer and a human being, and to prime the pump when my creative juices freeze into a popsicle. If you’re wondering what those books are, please see all the books I mentioned earlier—with the exception of E.M. Forster’s book (I just couldn’t get that one to work). Are there other good books out there on writing? Certainly. I just mentioned the ones that I can’t do without—your choices may well be different. But I also know that writing books on writing is to some people a lucrative business, one that preys on our insecurities. So I think we need to be selective in the books we choose to help develop our craft, and to realize that, once we’ve got the fundamentals of writing down, often the solution to our writing problems is to keep on writing.

There are a million excuses not to write, but the creativity we use in coming up with such justifications and rationalizations would be better served furthering our WIPs. So the stark naked realization I’ve come to is that 99 out of 100 times, writing is the best solution to my writing problems. The boldness, starkness, and simplicity of this statement may catch some unaware or cause others to say, “Well, of course”! It’s kind of like saying the answer to your smoking addiction is to stop smoking, and the solution to your drinking problem is to quit drinking. But ultimately, these ARE the answers, and, however simple and painful they are, they exist whether we want to acknowledge them or not. It’s taken me a long time to realize this, and a longer time to implement it, so I needed to put it out there. I hope it helps someone.

I’ll sign off with the words of Brenda Ueland. They’ve often provided me with inspiration to keep on writing and to help me remember that writing can be joyous. “[Y]ou should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”

Peace and love, my friends.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - September 30, 2016 at 11:09 am

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Early Advice on Writing a Novel

graph_2104423This is adapted from a post I did last year.

Recently, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of talking with writers who are working on their first novels. I’ve been asked the question: How do I start writing a book?

My best answer involves a look at framing the story question.

What exactly does that mean, and how might it help you start your novel?

In Anne Lamott’s wonderful book Bird by Bird, she mentions an interview with Carolyn Chute, the author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine. In the interview Chute says, “I feel like a lot of time my writing is like having about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. But no tree. You’re going, Where do I put this? Then they go, Okay, you can have a tree, but we’ll blindfold you and you gotta cut it down with a spoon.” Ann Lamott goes on to say that, “This is how I’ve arrived at my plots a number of times.”

Are there other ways to frame a story and develop a plot?

Yes. And I’d like to talk about one of them.

But first you may think that what I’m about to say applies only to outliners and not to pantsers. That only outliners need to concern themselves, right off the bat, at least, with plot. But I believe pantsers will benefit from this discussion too, because oftentimes we have to start somewhere: we all need a tree on which to hang our ornaments. And what I’m going to talk about is essentially growing the tree.

I’m not going to talk about where ideas come from. But I will mention one place that’s worked for me. And truly I can’t think of a better place to get story ideas. And that’s from reading.

In conjunction with reading, you may benefit from playing the what-if game. As I’ll mention a little later I eventually developed the story-line for one of my novels, The Brothers’ Keepers, by playing this game—well, by playing the game and also by doing a boatload of research.

So let’s say you’ve come up with a basic idea for a story. One of the things I like to do next is to make sure the idea hasn’t been done to death. How do you do this? I suggest plugging a few key words of your topic into Amazon with the tag “fiction” added and see what comes up.  Of course, if you want to find books for research, of the non-fiction variety, leave the fiction tag off. I can’t tell you how many important books I’ve found this way.

Once I’ve come up with a basic idea for a story, and thought a little about the main characters, I try to frame the story in two sentences. This framing of the story in two sentences is one of the most important things I’ve learned after writing two novels and reading a boatload of books on writing. I learned the technique from Dwight v. Swain, who lays it out in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer. If you don’t have this book, I strongly recommend you get a copy. It is my favorite book on writing.

Okay, so what is this two-sentence method of framing a story?

The first sentence is a statement that deals with character, situation, and objective, and the second is a question that deals with opponent and disaster. That’s all well and good, but what does this look like in practice?

It is hard to improve on Swain’s examples so I’ll start by simply relating one of his. Say you are writing a science-fiction story.

Your basic idea is that humans start growing very tall and the main character’s objective is to find out why. So your first sentence that deals with character, situation, and objective looks something like this:

Sentence 1: When humans suddenly sprout to twelve-feet tall, John Storm tries to find out why.

The first sentence of story structure is posited in the form of a statement. In it, we have the situation (humans suddenly growing tall), the character (John Storm) and the objective (trying to find out why this is happening).

The second sentence that frames the story deals with opponent and disaster and is cast in the form of a question:

Sentence 2: But can he (John Storm) defeat the traitors in high places who want to kill him in order to make the change appear to be the result of an extraterrestrial plot?

Here we have the opponent and the disaster that threatens our protagonist—namely, death.

Another example:

Sentence 1: Sick of the conformity and hypocrisy that go with his high-paid job, and with a modest life income assured, Dale Boulton decides to retire ten years early, to go live on a shanty boat and poke through crumbling river ghost-towns, in fulfillment of a boyhood dream.

Sentence 2: Can he make the break successfully, when his wife, Sandra, fights him all the way and finally, threatens to have him declared incompetent?

Let’s take an example everyone is probably familiar with: The Wizard of Oz.

the-ultimate-chick-flick

What would sentence one look like for this story?

Sentence 1: When a cyclone drops Dorothy into a strange new world, she seeks to return home to her farm in Kansas.

Sentence 2: Can she get the great Wizard of Oz to assist her in her efforts to return home before the Wicked Witch of the East kills her?

This may sound simple, but framing story structure in such a way, really helps.

For my novel The Brother Keepers, I started off with a fascination for the Jesuits. After a good deal of reading and research I eventually formulated and honed the two sentence story structure into something like the following:

Sentence 1: Nicholas Branson, a renegade Jesuit, is brought into an investigation to help solve the mystery of a Senator’s murder.

Sentence 2: Can he discover the truth before he’s killed by religious and political officials hell-bent on keeping the mystery a secret?

Eventually, The Brothers’ Keepers grew into a story with the following mini-synopsis:

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?

Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.

Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.

How will it end? Read The Brothers’ Keepers … if you dare.

This book is largely genre fiction. Does the two-sentence farming method work in the case of literary fiction?

I have found it useful. For Conversations Among Ruins, the two sentences started out something like the following:

Sentence 1: While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed lecturer, meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter, a woman who has a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.

Sentence 2: Can Daniel maintain his job and his sanity in the face of an increasingly tempestuous and mysterious romance?

This story evolved into the following:

Conversations Among Ruins is a portrait of a descent into madness, and the potential of finding salvation there.

While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed* professor meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter. But Mimi has secrets and, strangely, a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.

Drawn together by broken pasts, they pursue a twisted, tempestuous romance. When it ends, a deteriorating Stavros seeks refuge at a mountain cabin where a series of surreal experiences brings him face to face with something he’s avoided all his life: himself.

Though miles away, Mimi’s actions run oddly parallel to Daniel’s. Will either be redeemed, or will both careen toward self-destruction?

*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.

Can you take your work in progress and frame it using the two sentence structure?

Next time, I’ll talk about what follows in my development process.

Please note, these tips are offered only as ideas/suggestions. The most important thing is to come up with a way that works for you.

I hope this is of some help.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 19, 2015 at 7:55 am

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Guest Post: Jami Gray on Why Critique Groups Are For Everyone

Today I’m pleased to have Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romantic Suspense author extraordinaire Jami Gray dish to us on why critique groups are for everyone.

Jami Gray Small

Critique Groups Are For Everyone 

Let me just start out by saying, I’m a HUGE advocate of critique groups.  If there was one small gem I could share with any writer it would be: Go forth and become part of a critique group.

I can hear the moans and groans now.  “I’ve already tried, but…” and the list of reasons why to avoid a critique group grows by the minute.

“…it was too big”

“…the people were strange”

“…they didn’t get my writing style”

“…I don’t have time”

“…meet new people? Really?”

and so on.

Don’t leave!  Let me tell you how I finally, after three years of critique group shopping, found my home with the 7 Evil Dwarves.  I even stayed for seven years, an eternity for any critique group.

Writing has been part of who I am for…forever.  While in college I thought being the anti-social, reclusive hermit was a pre-requisite for every aspiring writer. I wouldn’t share what I wrote unless I was submitting to publishers. I know (ducking the head slaps), if I could, I’d go back and smack myself for that alone.

Somehow as I was finishing up my first college tour, I managed to come out of my cave long enough to marry my best friend.  A few years passed, writing took a bit of a backseat as I finished an advanced tour of college, (yes, professional student did get mentioned once or twice). Writing got pushed back even further when my little family of two, went to three and eighteen months later, to four.

As you can see, insanity was bound to set in and when it finally began popping up in various forms, I knew it was time to turn back to my own self-therapy—writing.

My first problem was nerves.  I could write. That part was easy.  I could do it hiding in a closet, under a blanket with a flashlight so the little rug crawlers couldn’t find me.  I could jot a few lines in-between real work and family-raising time. Writing is a solo adventure, right? Wrong.

My very loving, and patient, hubby finally dragged me out of the house, pushed me out of the moving car and said, “Go spend some time with this Mother’s Writing group.”  He didn’t even wait for my response, as if it could’ve been heard over the squealing tires disappearing in a cloud of dust.

I stumbled to my feet and cautiously made my way into my very first writing group.  They were great—women from various walks of life, writing in a variety of genres.  This first group became the ones who made me realize how valuable a support group (aka critique group) is to a writer.

Feeling bolder, I waved good-bye to that group and began a long journey on my search for “my” critique group.  Considering I write Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, it was a rocky road.

The first group was large, twenty people at a minimum, and every genre under the sun was represented.  It was heartbreaking to hear how someone thought my work was “too dark and depressing”, or another couldn’t understand “why anyone would believe magic existed in the real world”. I almost gave up, but do you know what I found?

The core of the 7 Evil Dwarves.  These were writers of Speculative Fiction, a term I hadn’t heard used before.  Soon, four or five of us decided a smaller group would be more productive.  Plus, wouldn’t it help if everyone knew what Spec Fic was?

Our group underwent a great many changes.  Anything important always does.  It took us almost five years to create a solid, steady group.  We had some great members stop and share their creations with us, and then move on.  And yes, we’ve had a few entertaining guests, which I’m under threat of death by zombies if I reveal, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. You’ll probably come up with more exciting scenarios anyway.

There were times I was scared to death to set my stuff before my group.  The whispers of my very loving and supportive critique group twisted through my mind when I wrote. It helped if I was a few (or more) chapters ahead of where they were critiquing, but when they were right behind me—I found myself overanalyzing every word I typed. I became hyperaware of small edit type things instead of getting the basic story out on paper.

See the Evil 7 were damn good. They caught everything. From how many times I used “ing” to how much I truly suck at math anything (do you know what a polyhedron is? I don’t.). They made great therapists. I mean, how many of your friends would take the time to discuss the nature of relationships between dragons and warlocks, or how manipulative a ghost can be with three young friends? Uh-huh, I thought so.

Then came the point in ever writer’s life, I out grew my group. It wasn’t an easy decision. Seven years I spent with these fantastic writers, mining every bit of advice, hoarding their critiques for more. But things changed, and so did my writing, to the extent that I felt our critiques weren’t quite the chisel they’d once been. So I bid the Evil 7 adieu with many hugs, and back out I went. This time, I found writing partners, two to three individuals I could trust to give me honest feedback, because in the end, that is what writers want and need.

I’m still a firm believer in critique groups. While I struggled to build my worlds into cohesive realities, breathe life into my characters, and untangle the twists and turns of my plots, I knew there was this great group who had my back. The Evil 7 might have driven me to screaming when they pointed out how much my new character is channeled my previous one, or questioned the depth of trust between characters who’d been to hell and back, but you know what? Even though the holes they pointed out scared me, I was ever so grateful, because when it was all done and I clicked save for the last time, I had a story that was stronger than what I started with. That’s why I loved my critique group, even when they scared me.

Pick up SHADOW’S EDGE for FREE for a limited time and dive into the shadows of the Kyn…

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THE KYN KRONICLES (Urban Fantasy series w/Black Opal Books)

 

WRAPPED IN SHADOWS, Kyn Kronicles .5

(Things That Go Bump For The Holidays Anthology)

The magic of the holidays can be hell…

Celebrations abound during the holidays, but this Christmas an engagement celebration goes horrifically wrong.  What appears to be a simple murder/suicide hides a vicious surprise. The type of gift Raine and Gavin, elite member of the Kyn, didn’t want humans to unwrap, because revealing the monsters in the shadows isn’t the way to spread holiday cheer.

 

SHADOW’S EDGE, Kyn Kronicles #1

Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

When the supernatural lurks in the shadows of the mundane, hunting monsters requires unique skills, like those of Raine McCord. A series of deaths threatens to reveal the Kyn community and forces her to partner with the sexy Gavin Durand.

As the trail leads to the foundation haunting Raine’s childhood, she and Gavin must unravel lies and betrayals to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

 

SHADOW’S SOUL, Kyn Kronicles #2

Some nightmares are born of love…

A simple assignment turns into a nightmare when Raine McCord follows Cheveyo to the Southwest on a consulting gig. When the most feared beings of the Kyn kidnaps Cheveyo and leaves Raine for dead, her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand.

Unraveling the Southwest Kyn’s web of secrets and hidden vendettas will either bring them together or tear them apart forever.

 

SHADOW’S MOON, Kyn Kronicles #3

Even wild hearts can be broken…

Tracker, Xander Cade, confronts an enraged Shifter in a crowded human nightclub, fraying the thin secrecy shielding the supernatural community from public scrutiny. Danger stalks the pack and she must protect her alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis, even if he doesn’t want it.

If they don’t find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond they risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.

 

SHADOW’S CURSE, Kyn Kronicles #4

Death and chaos can devastate even the best-laid plans…

After tragedy strikes the Northwest Kyn, leaving the houses in chaos and the Wraiths hungry for blood, the fallout threatens Natasha Bertoi’s carefully laid plans. When the Council sends Darius Abazi, the one man guaranteed to skew the odds, she faces her toughest opponent yet.

As death stalks the Northwest Kyn, can Natasha trust Darius, a man well versed in subterfuge, to uncover the truth before treachery destroys them all?

 

Coming Fall 2015:


A collection of Kyn shorts, including WRAPPED IN SHADOWS

 

 

PSY-IV Teams (Paranormal Romantic Suspense series w/MuseIt Up Publishing)

 

HUNTED BY THE PAST, PSY-IV Teams #1

Sometimes death is the only way to out run the past…

Changing the past is impossible, a fact ex-marine, Cynthia Arden, understands all too well. Struggling with the aftermath of a botched mission, a panicked phone call brings her home to face a killer’s game. Unfortunately, the distracting Kayden Shaw returns as well, the one man she thought would stand by her, until he chose his job over her.

To survive, will Cyn risk her heart or lose the man she loves and her life?

 

Coming Spring 2016:


TOUCHED BY FATE, PSY-IV Teams #2

Trusting him with her secrets is dangerous. Trusting him with her heart could be fatal.

As a specialized consultant for the Department of Defense, Risia Lacoste understands the bargaining chip of a well-kept secret. When her current assignment threatens to unearth her deeply buried skeletons, she’s forced into a high-stakes game of lies and loyalty where even her ability to foresee the future can’t predict the winner.

Darkness lies under the skin of every man, and PSY-IV Team operative and touch empath, Tag Gunderson, has the demons to prove it. Scarred by betrayal and disillusionment, he’s not Risia’s top pick for a partner in the game, but he’s all she’s got.

As the game draws them deeper into a pit of intrigue and their list of enemies grow, will Risia trust Tag with more than her secrets or will his demons destroy them both?

 

BIO:

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.

 

You can find me at:


Black Opal Books:    www.BlackOpalBooks.com

Muse It Up Publishing:  http://museituppublishing.com

Website:     www.JamiGray.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/jamigray.author

Facebook Author Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/JamiGrayUFWriter

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/JamiGrayAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/JamiGray

Google+:  https://google.com/+JamiGray

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B006HU3HJI

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/LvoZn

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jamigrayauthor/

 

 

BUY LINKS:

You can find all the buy links for both The Kyn Kronicles and PSY-IV Teams, in all formats at:

 

http://jamigray.com/kynkronicles/

http://jamigray.com/psyivteams/ 

 

 

Or you can use the following:

 

THE KYN KRONICLES:

 

THINGS THAT GO BUMP FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Wrapped in Shadows .5 Kyn Kronicles)

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/1626940908

Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/things-that-go-bump-for-the-holidays-black-opal-books/1117680975?ean=2940148940685

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/387518

Black Opal Books:  http://www.blackopalbooks.com/anthology/things-that-go-bump

  

 

Shadow’s Edge: Bk 1 of Kyn Kronicles

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0061CAXJ4

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-shadow039sedgethekynkroniclesbook1-625433-139.html

Black Opal Books: http://www.blackopalbooks.com/shop-our-store/authors/jami-gray

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/101023

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shadows-edge-kyn-kronicles/id482595056?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shadow-s-edge-the-kyn-kronicles-book-1

Scribd.: https://www.scribd.com/book/235371403/Shadow-s-Edge-The-Kyn-Kronicles-Book-1

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jami_Gray_Shadow_s_Edge?id=ubxyAgAAQBAJ

 

Shadow’s Soul:Bk 2 of the Kyn Kronicles

Black Opal Books: http://www.blackopalbooks.com/shop-our-store/authors/jami-gray

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B008DIZ9OI

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-shadow039ssoulthekynkroniclesbook2-848561-139.html

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-soul-the-kyn-kronicles-book-2-jami-gray/1111742135?ean=2940014698955

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/174291

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shadows-soul-kyn-kronicles/id541827836?mt=11

Kobo:  http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shadow-s-soul-the-kyn-kronicles-book-2-1

Scribd.: https://www.scribd.com/book/235371430/Shadow-s-Soul-the-Kyn-Kronicles-Book-2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jami_Gray_Shadow_s_Soul?id=nb9yAgAAQBAJ

 

Shadow’s Moon: Bk 3 of the Kyn Kronicles

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B00K8AZZES

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-moon-the-kyn-kronicles-book-3-jami-gray/1119462166?ean=2940149437719

Black Opal Books: http://www.blackopalbooks.com/shop-our-store/authors/jami-gray

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/435674

ARe:  https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-shadow039smoonthekynkroniclesbook3-1507186-140.html

iBooks:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shadows-moon-kyn-kronicles/id875444016?mt=11

Kobohttp://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shadow-s-moon

Scribd.: https://www.scribd.com/book/233279819/Shadow-s-Moon-The-Kyn-Kronicles-Book-3

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jami_Gray_Shadow_s_Moon?id=npODAwAAQBAJ

 

Shadow’s Curse: Bk 4 of the Kyn Kronicles

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B00RLE3PZU

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-curse-jami-gray/1121072005?ean=9781626942202

Black Opal Books:  http://www.blackopalbooks.com/shop-our-store/authors/jami-gray

iBooks:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shadows-curse-kyn-kronicles/id954894551?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/505822

KOBO: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shadow-s-curse-the-kyn-kronicles-book-4

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-shadow039sedgethekynkroniclesbook1-625433-140.html

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/253090806/Shadow-s-Curse-The-Kyn-Kronicles-Book-4

 

 

THE PSY-IV TEAMS:

 

Hunted by the Past: Bk 1 of PSY-IV Teams

MuseItUp Publishing:  https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/our-authors/57-our-authors/authors-g/445-jami-gray

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B00M289FTA

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449240

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1119776913?ean=9781771275538&itm=1&usri=9781771275538

iBooks:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id890554328

ARe: https://www.omnilit.com/product-huntedbythepast-1553419-143.html

Kobo:  http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/Hunted-by-the-Past/PsOHi6QaXUSjCDITW_cZ-A?MixID=PsOHi6QaXUSjCDITW_cZ-A&PageNumber=1&MixID=PsOHi6QaXUSjCDITW_cZ-A&PageNumber=1

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jami_Gray_Hunted_by_the_Past?id=u1nOBAAAQBAJ

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - July 14, 2015 at 5:23 am

Categories: Writing   Tags:

The Magic of (Actually) Writing

abstract-glowing-light-with-stars-vector-background_53-8569Sometimes I really don’t feel like writing.

In fact, to be honest, most days I don’t feel like writing, not at first anyway.

But regardless of how I feel, I try to write at least five days a week.

That’s the not so good news, not feeling like writing and then writing anyway.

But here’s the good news: Once I start writing, something magic often happens and the words flow and for some period of time I am transported outside of myself, into another world.

I lose track of time. I lose track of whether I’ve eaten. I just keep going and going like some crazed, literary version of the Duracell Bunny.

Here’s the best news I’ve got for you today: That magic has NO chance of happening if you and I don’t start writing. And I firmly believe that the best writing happens when we’re writing, not when we’re thinking of writing or planning on writing, but when we’re actually putting fingers to keyboard or pen/pencil to paper.

Oftentimes, I worry about how this scene is going to come out, or how I’m going to portray that character. I worry about pacing, plot, arcs, denouement, and a thousand other things. But these things tend to work themselves out during the writing process. It is miraculous. Yes, since I’ve become a writer, I’ve come to believe in miracles. We all should. I’m not sure books get written any other way. For think of the power of the imagination and what you can do when you express your ideas on paper.

My writing blocks come when I worry about writing, when I obsess about writing, when I focus on planning to write. Usually that anxiety disappears when I actually start writing.

If you’re suffering from writer’s block this might be the problem. You are worrying about what your writing is going to look like, how it’s going to sound.

But again, more good news. We’re not neurosurgeons. We don’t have to get it “right” the first time around, or the second, or third, or thirteenth, really. We just have to keep striving.

As I said on Facebook the other day, I have a long way to go to become the writer I want to be, but today I’m a little closer to that goal than I was yesterday. And for that I’m grateful. But I’m only closer to that goal if I write today. Because I’ve come to learn the hard way that we don’t improve our writing by thinking about writing, about having great ideas that we are one day going to commit to paper. We get better by actually doing it.

Will we make mistakes? Of course! Remember perfectionism is a demon that defeats you before you even begin, it is crippling. Make mistakes! For when we make mistakes it shows that we are writing, which is the best thing writers can do, if we’re striving to become the best writers we can be.

All the very best, and keep writing,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - April 30, 2015 at 6:43 am

Categories: Writing   Tags:

A Confession Re: Writing Novels

old-typewriter-and-typist_2966154I have a confession to make.

I can’t write a novel.

It’s true, I really can’t.

The fact that I’ve had two novels published and am working on a third doesn’t render my confession false.

But what’s going on here?

Either I’m mad or I’m lying.

The fact of the matter is that writing a novel is a maddening prospect.

As George Orwell said, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

The thing is, I doubt Orwell could write a  novel. Or Dostoevsky. Or Tolstoy, for that matter.

What?

But these are some of the greatest novelists the world has ever known!

Now, you say, that Matthew Peters has certainly gone off the deep end.

But what I mean is that writing a novel is too difficult to consider as a whole. There are simply too many things to keep track of: word choice, pacing, characterization, character arcs, plot, subplots, theme, imagery, when to reveal what, how to build to a climax, how to provide resolution, etc., etc., etc.

What we writers are capable of is writing a single chapter or, as I like to think of it, a single scene.

And, that to me, is one of the most important things I’ve learned about writing: you just do it one scene at a time.

To do otherwise is overwhelming.

The fact of the matter is that breaking things down to their component parts helps.

Anne Lamott, in her incomparable book, Bird by Bird, admits that writing can be daunting. She talks about how she keeps a one-inch picture frame on her desk.

Lamott says of the one–inch picture frame: “It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.”

She also recalls E. L. Doctorow’s sage advice that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Lamott adds, “You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

When all else fails, I break down writing to its smallest component: the word. One word. I use a trick I call the one word challenge. It works like this:

Open up your WIP. Yes, I know, this is often the most difficult part, but trust me on this one.

Read the last sentence you wrote (not more than this, because then you’ll want to start editing and editing can be a form of procrastination if you haven’t finished a complete draft yet).

Now, write one word you feel could come next.

Force yourself to stop with that one word.

Here’s the thing: I’ll bet you can’t stop at one word. Just like potato chips it’s hard to stop at one.

Try this next time you’re stuck, and please let me know how it works out for you.

 

All the best and keep writing,

Matt

 

A version of this post originally appeared on Margaret Mendel’s blog, Fish Kicker, on April 1, 2015.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - April 23, 2015 at 7:58 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , , ,

Book Marketing 101: What I’m Learning

old-book--book_19-124575I hope this post saves you money and energy.

Let’s start with a common refrain: something’s happened in the book world in the past few years, something that’s made selling books extremely difficult. This especially holds true for indie and small press authors.

I had two novels come out last year, both with small presses. I can say with certainty that marketing my books has proven very challenging.

Here’s a list of things I’ve tried:

 

  1. Posting in Facebook groups/doing paid ads on Facebook
  2. Tweeting about my books
  3. Doing a virtual book tour
  4. Hiring a publicist to help with promotion
  5. Doing radio shows
  6. Holding a book launch
  7. Doing readings/signings at bookstores
  8. Creating Facebook pages for both novels
  9. Telling everyone I know about my books
  10. Reading tons of stuff in books and online about marketing and promoting

These are the things I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more.

The bottom line? None of these have proven singly effective in selling books.What has been most effective is meeting people in person and online and forming relationships with them.

There is one last marketing venue I’m considering: Bookbub.  I’ve heard nothing but good things from authors who have been accepted and advertised through them. If you’ve had any experiences with Bookbub, please share them in the comments.

So several hundred dollars and not a tremendous number of book sales later where do things stand?

After reading endlessly and talking to numerous authors and readers, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to sell a book is to write another one. This is particularly true for those of us who write series.

However, I say this with some trepidation.

Now, I am not opposed to writing more books. After all, I consider myself an author, and that’s what authors do.

What I am opposed to is increasing quantity at the expense of quality.

Let’s face it: Amazon and other publishing services don’t really care about the quality of books we put out there. They’re just interested in skimming profits off the top. But the fact of the matter is we should care about the quality of the books we publish because they are a reflection on all of us in the writing community.

So let’s forge relationships and let’s write more books, but let’s also make sure they are of high quality. Everyone benefits that way. And let’s keep sharing our marketing experiences so we know what works and what doesn’t. Because at the end of the day, professionally speaking, all we have is one another.

May we take pride in that.

Yours in writing,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - April 19, 2015 at 8:30 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: ,

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