Writing Process

Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: What’s in the Cupboard?

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt: 

You are sitting in a chair when your child comes up and sits next to you. Out of nowhere, your child looks at you and says…

‘Daddy/Mummy, who is that in the cupboard upstairs and why are they sleeping when it’s not bed time?’

Begin with the above sentence.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Speaking Differently

Today, I wanted to focus on the various speaking styles of characters. I

Each character needs to have their own specific voice.

Write two pages of dialogue.

One character only speaks in short sentences whilst your other character is a bit more of a chatterbox. They speak in longer sentences.

Has this achieved two distinctive voices?

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NK Chats To: Roxie Cooper

Hi Roxie, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Day We Met (released today. Yay.) What’s it about and what inspired it?

Hi, thanks for having me! The Day We Met is novel about meeting the right person at the wrong time and it asks the question; what happens if you meet your soulmate when you’re just about to marry someone else? Stephanie and Jamie are both happy with other people when they meet each other, but they can’t ignore the strong connection and chemistry between them. Unwilling to slip into a typical affair, they decide to meet on the same weekend every year, as friends. The novel spans a ten-year period and we see how the relationship affects them, their marriages, and careers.

I wanted to write a different kind of love story, one which reflected modern times and attitudes. I’ve always been intrigued by people’s varying opinions on physical and emotional infidelity; is one worse than the other? How do emotional affairs start and just how damaging are they? It’s a huge grey area which sparks monumental discussion and, as a former lawyer, they’re something I love exploring. But it was when I heard Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This one day that the novel became fully alive in my mind. I knew this had to be an epic love story about two people who couldn’t be together but couldn’t be apart either. That was also the moment I decided that the novel would have to be set to music.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and is there something you need to do/have before you begin writing (coffee for example?)

Sorry to be really awkward, but I have different routines for different stages of the writing process! When I’m writing the actual book, I adopt a fairly strict routine but it’s carried out in a nice environment. So, I’ll drop both my kids at school then dash to a coffee shop on my local high street. Both of my previous books were written there. I don’t stop until I’ve written at least 1000 words and I need my iPod on with people walking around. I like being in the middle of the hustle of it all and I stay there until it’s time to pick the kids up again. Once I move onto edits, however, everything changes. I lock myself in the house and have the TV on at a barely audible volume – I need a tiny amount of white noise. I have to drink coffee in the morning, switching to tea in the afternoon. I turn into a complete recluse in this period, I don’t see my friends for months. It’s very extreme but it works for me!

 

Which author or book has most influenced you?

I’ve read so many books by authors I’ve admired, but in terms of ones who have influenced my career, I’d have to say Adele Parks. I read her novel, Playing Away, in my 20s and thought it was such a standout, brave debut. I researched the author and discovered that she, too, was from Teesside – I couldn’t believe it! That was the moment I thought ‘Wow – if someone from Boro can become an author, there’s hope for any of us.’ It was around this time I started to have ideas about a novel of my own but hadn’t started writing it yet (that book turned out to be my debut The Law of Attraction), but each time I read another of Adele’s books, it cemented my ambition.

 

What made you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved reading, but I was never one of those kids who wanted to write – or an adult, for that matter. The idea came to me after I became disillusioned with my former career as a criminal barrister. I come from a very working class background and would tell all my friends about the outrageously silly traditions and rituals I had to participate in at the Bar. Coming from Teesside, I’d tell the stories through a very unimpressed ‘Boro lens’ and they’d all say to me “You need to write a book about this!” I also got so fed up with people saying to me “You really don’t look like a barrister!” so in 2009 I started writing my debut novel The Law of Attraction – a book about a blonde, working class, intelligent, sassy girl from Teesside who is propelled into the posh world of barristers. I hadn’t even considered writing a book before I was 31 years old.

 

What’s your route to publication?

I did a lot of research before I submitted my debut novel to agents. My first novel was the only book I’d ever written and took me about 16 months to write. When I felt it was polished enough to allow an agent to read, I sent it off to three I had my eye on (which was terrifying!). Sarah Hornsley from The Bent Agency requested a full manuscript within 24 hours. I was a nervous wreck! Sarah called me and we had the most amazing chat. I knew then that she was the right agent for me. She made suggestions on how I could improve the manuscript (which I did) and six weeks later she offered representation. The next step was submitting the novel to publishers. I had offers from two publishing houses and The Law of Attraction was eventually published in June 2017 with the Harper Collins imprint, HQ Digital.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Different Orders

This week, I wanted to focus on how moving plot events around, you can change/improve the story. 

Write down the following four plot points, each on a separate piece of paper. Put them into a jar or a hat and take them back out one at a time, lining them up.

This is the new order for the story. Write your own version using this order.

Cinderella is told she can’t go to the ball.

Cinderella meets the Prince.

Cinderella loses her shoe. 

Cinderella gets married. 

How does the story change once you’ve moved it around?

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NK Chats To: N. Lombardi Jr

Hello Nicholas. It’s great to welcome you to the blog today. Please tell me a little about your new book, Justice Gone and what inspired it?

Justice Gone was inspired by a true event, the fatal beating of a homeless man in a small Californian town. This was such an extreme case, and one which did not include any racial elements, that it exposed the utter abuse of authority in which an outraged public reaction was inevitable. The town was Fullerton, the man’s name was Kelly Thomas, and the year was 2011. Although the police officers were indicted by a grand jury, they were acquitted in their trial. So I asked myself a question: if someone felt that justice was denied the deceased, would they take it in their own hands? This became the seed for the story.

 

What elements do you feel need to be present in a thriller novel? What are the challenges?

Suspense, that is, the anticipation of what is going to come next, and this is usually accompanied by actions to some degree, although if you have enough skill, words alone can create this tension. Whichever way you accomplish this, the challenge is to persuade the reader to invest their interest in what is going on, and this includes sympathy for the protagonists.

 

This is the first part of a series featuring Dr Tessa Thorpe. What advice do you have for someone trying to develop a series and a strong character that will keep them coming back to read their story?

You need to become friends, or even love the character, knowing their faults as well as their admirable traits. In this way you know what they will say and can predict what they’ll do in any situation.

Actually Tessa first appeared in Journey Towards a Falling Sun, a story I wrote over 30 years ago, but eventually got published in 2014. It was a minor role, but one in which she was born, so to speak.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write and do you prefer silence?

I can write in the early mornings when I’m fresh, or in the evenings when I’m relaxed. usually the time between is non-productive. Silence is mandatory.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

I don’t have a favourite word. I have a favourite colour, blue. Can I then say that “blue” is my favourite word?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Connecting Memories

Today, I thought we could try and connect three seemingly unrelated memories.

Write about three separate memories. These can be yours or they could belong to someone else.

Each one should be about fifty words.

Once you’ve done that, try and connect these three unrelated memories into one coherent story.

Three memories I have thought of off the top of my head are my Mum and Grandfather teaching me to ride my bike, My Grandmother’s first day of senior school and the day I got married.

Is what you’ve written something that could be used for a bigger project?

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NK Chats To… Steven J. Gill

Hi Steven. Welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me about your novel, The Rock ‘N’ The Roll ‘N’ That and what inspired it?

The novel in very simple terms is about a band.

A middle-aged man stumbles across said band as they prop up the bill in a subterranean haunt in Manchester.

He offers to manage them, and their journeys begin.

The backdrop is essentially to highlight love and friendship and the insecurities/successes/predicaments that middle-age can bring.

In terms of what inspired the novel, I’d previously read a book that used the music industry as a backdrop but felt it could be done better. I then attended the inaugural Festival Number 6. In North Wales and after an enjoyable afternoon at the literary stage, had somewhat of an epiphany and decided I would set to and get my book written.

The coupling of the music industry and this ‘new-breed’ of middle-aged felt like it had a lot mileage. Forty-something is now such a different beast in comparison to previous generations. And that opens a wealth of possibilities and jacking your job in to mange a band is well within the realms of possibility this day and age.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write and do you prefer silence? What keeps you motivated when writing?

It tends to fit in around work and I work in a room with a table, a huge bookcase and a stereo. I like to write for a couple of hours at a time. And I do very little in silence!

A perfect writing day involves no work. Get up and do a couple of hours. Go to the gym. Come back and eat couple more hours writing. Go for a walk for an hour mid afternoon and then a couple more hours writing. Breaking the creative process up allows for thinking time.

Motivation is progress in simple terms – be it writing or editing etc.

 

What’s your route to publication?

I ran a social media crowdfund campaign to gauge interest and to ‘out’ myself as a writer. The response was great, and I used the monies to get the book professionally edited and launched via Clink Street.

 

Do you have a favourite word?

Tough question and it can easily change from day-to-day – much like my favourite Beatles track – but let’s say preternaturally today.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: A Time For Firsts

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Pinch punch first day of the month.

Your character finds themselves overwhelmed when they experience three big firsts in one day.

Their age, gender, job is up to you.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Wishing

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

‘I am always wishing for.’

Starting with that line, write about someone (usually sad, cynical and bitter) who suddenly finds themselves with one wish.

However, the wish comes with a price and a choice that has to be made.

There will be a consequence.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Getting Started

Getting started. 

One of the things I obsess over too much is the first sentence. It is supposed to hook the reader.

Something to be remembered though…this is not something that is important with a first draft. Everything can be changed in editing (repeating this to myself like a mantra.)

Pick one of the following sentences as a starting point and then write for three minutes. 

Once you’ve done this, you could find one that applies to your book idea. 

‘I tried to leave the rabbit stopped me.’ 

‘When Lana opened the book, something took over.’ 

‘When he/she stepped into the attic, it was like stepping into the past.’ 

‘He/she wanted this moment to end. How was another matter.’ 

 

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NK Chats To: Jenni Keer

Hi Jenni, thank you for joining me today. Your novel is called The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?

You are very welcome – it’s lovely to be here. Your virtual sofa is very comfy!

Hmm… how to sum up my book. I guess The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is a heart-warming story with a variety of themes. I set out to write a romance but the book became so much more and, in a way, is two love stories; Lucy and George, but also Lucy and Brenda. It was the powerful intergenerational friendship between these two women and how they deal very differently with Brenda’s dementia diagnosis, that became the central theme. For the romance, I was initially inspired by a locket of my mother’s and my working title was Lucy’s Locket until it was picked up by the publisher. This mysterious piece of jewellery leads to lots of mishaps and comedy moments for Lucy but also makes her reassess her romantic options in life. It was a fun book to write.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence?

I weave my writing around part-time work, care for my mum and the hectic taxi service I appear to be running for my four teenage sons. My most productive times are during the school day – when the house is silent, and evenings – when it is not. I also work at the weekends when I can. I’ve developed a cunning strategy that involves wearing enormous headphones as a signal that I’m writing. If there is a lot of noise, I play music (I have a playlist of familiar songs so I’m not distracted by them) but I also cheat and pretend I’ve got music on so the boys leave me alone. It’s coffee during the day, and wine or tonic water at night – although the wine is only for weekends. Interestingly, some of the best comedy scenes have been wine-fuelled.

The other thing I do, to combat the isolation and to spur me on, is to meet up with my writing buddy, Clare Marchant, in our “virtual” office. It means we check in throughout the day with wordcounts and this accountability helps us both to focus. I do hate it when she leaves the virtual biscuit tin empty though…

 

Do you have a certain place you like to write?

I have an office – which is actually a desk in the corridor between the living room and the downstairs loo. I’m lucky to have this permanent space as a lot of writers work on the kitchen table or on their laps. It’s a total mess, like Lucy’s desk, but it’s mine. I have two screens set up (invaluable for editing) so it’s tricky for me to move. Research and planning I can do anywhere.

 

What’s your writing process like from planning to editing?

Planning – ha ha ha. You are funny. I am such a pantser and every time I begin a new novel I’m determined to plan. My second book for Avon (out next summer) was the first time I’d had to write a synopsis before writing the book and boy was that hard – but I did it. I’d like to get better at planning, but my brain doesn’t work that way and I’m what I like to call “an onion writer” – I write in layers. I get a rough first draft down and then I go over and over and over it, perfecting, editing, adding description etc. until I’m happy. Luckily, I love editing and always see it as an opportunity to make the story even better. Some of my best ideas come right at the end of the process and then I have to go back and weave it all in. I honestly don’t know how people plan.

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NK Chats To… Gila Green

Hi Gila, thank you for joining me today. Your novel is called Passport Control. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?

Passport Control is a coming of age novel about a twenty year old Canadian girl who feels forced to leave the home she shares with her father and, in her desire for revenge, goes to the one place he’s kept a secret all of his life, his home country Israel. Other than odds and ends, she doesn’t know anything about his past life there.

She finds herself in a dormitory with a range of Israelis from Jewish to Arab and struggles to navigate her way through the politics and culture around her. Along the road she falls in love, encounters murder, and discovers a shocking family secret.

The story was originally a short story written in a creative writing class with author Steve Stern. It was inspired by my own experience coming to Haifa University around the same age as my heroine, Miriam Gil and similarly struggling to navigate my various roommates, who all came from different cultures and backgrounds. At least that was the initial kernel behind my twelve-page short story. It evolved over time into a father-daughter story, and a family betrayal story with a side order of romance.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence? Do you have a certain place you like to write?

I have five children between the ages of 11 and 20. So my writing day has evolved over time with the ages of my children.

In the early days, I used to type a lot one-handed while nursing and later had to be done by 1 p.m. when nursery school closed.

Now, I have a lot more quiet during the day–which is vital for me to write–and yes, rivers of coffee. I write in my converted bomb shelter adjacent to the front door, so my writing is punctuated all day with, “Mom, is there any food?” as the kids come and go and the snoring of my dog.

 

What’s your writing process like from planning to editing?

My writing process has changed a lot over the years. I am much more of a planner these days.

I try to write at least two sentences for each chapter that explain the point of each one. At a certain point, I just write and usually the first three or four chapters are the first to go later on as I “write myself into the story.” But not always. Each novel is its own journey.

I don’t wait for perfection if that’s what you mean. You just have to dive in.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favorite word is balagan. That’s a Hebrew word with no single English translation.
It means mess, disorder, confusion but also problem and difficulty.

So, you could say, “today was a balagan,” or “my thoughts are a balagan” or “your room is a balagan!”
Try it! It’s a fun word to say.

 

Which song best describes you?

“Shout” by Tears for Fears.

 

What elements do you think make up a good novel?

Great novels are written by authors who excel at location in time and space.
If you feel as if you are really in Elizabethan England or in South Africa during Apartheid, or in downtown Toronto…you’ve got the elements of a great novel. I can’t think of a time when someone told me they loved a short story or novel and couldn’t tell me exactly where and when it was taking place.

Full disclosure: I teach an online Setting & Description course and I can’t believe how many new writers send me first drafts that take place Anywhere / Anytime. It’s not as intuitive as you might think.

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NK Chats To… Julie Houston

Hi Julie. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel is called A Village Affair. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it? 

Hi, and thank you so much for having me on your blog today. It’s much appreciated.

As writers, we’re always advised to write about what we know and “AVillage Affair”began its life under the guise of ‘Not in My backyard’ influenced, very much, by a real-life fight in my village where acres of fields and greenbelt land were in danger of having hundreds, if not thousands, of houses built upon them. As the main focus of the plot moved and centred upon the village school, the novel took on the handle “Little Acorns” and many of the school incidents are based on real happenings in the primary schools I have taught in over the years. Eventually Aria came up with the title “A Village Affair”which I love and which, I think, encompasses the different strands of the book.

What’s your writing process like (idea, research etc.) How do you approach editing? 

At the start of a new idea/novel I sit at my desk with a brand-new exercise book. I like my novels to be very much character-based and so I come up with characters’ names, write what they look like and actually give them a family tree. This is important as I’m mainly writing about the characters in one town and one village and so I have to make sure they’re not too related to each other, especially if they’re going to end up together!! With “Holly Close Farm”,as nearly half of it is set during WW2, I did a huge amount of research about the WAAFs and Bomber Command. I really enjoyed this bit and it was quite hard work leaving the reading to actually write. I love editing. I must be the only writer who enjoys this bit. I love going back over what I’ve written, tweaking and adding and crossing out. In my early days as a writer I would write one chapter and then edit it to death the next day because I was so proud that I’d actually written another chapter.  Now, with deadlines, I tend to just write and edit at the end. Editing means I’ve finished, which is always wonderful.

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have a place to write? Cup of coffee? Write in silence?

I’m a lark: I’m much better writing at 6am than later in the day. I had the most beautiful writing room at one end of the house but my husband is now working from home and has commandeered it for his office. I’m in a cupboard – not literally, but it feels like it after the lovely office with views down the valley. I actually quite like my cupboard: it’s jampacked with books, piles of papers, computer and, usually, the dog. I write, plan for school if I’m teaching a couple of days and do some private tuition in there. It does tend to get a bit cosy. One day, I’ll have my office back!

I need silence, tons of coffee (morning) and Earl Grey tea (afternoon).

So, basically, if it’s a writing day, I’ll get up early, have a mug of hot water and lemon (my mum always did and I’ve done this for the past 30 years) answer emails, decide whether it’s a swim or a run, shower, have breakfast and read the paper about eleven and then really get stuck in. If I can write 2-3000 words a day I’m more than happy.

What’s the most challenging thing with writing a novel?

The start of any new novel. By the end of a novel I love my characters so much I can’t bear to leave them and start again. I feel very disloyal to my old friends and it takes a while to love the new ones.

 

How do you pick names for your characters?

Probably with names I wanted to call my own children but for which my husband didn’t share the same enthusiasm. So India, Clementine, Kit, Theadora and Fin were born! My daughter, Georgia, is really cross I didn’t stick to my guns and call her Theadora – shortened to Teddy – that Harriet names one of her twins.

In my “Work in Progress“(Book 7 and desperate for inspiration for an actual title) it’s been easy to come up with names because I have Patrick, the father – a bit of a lothario – who is a Cambridge educated Classics professor and gives all his four daughters names from Greek literature. I’ve ended up with Isolde, Pandora, Juno and Lexia.

 

What elements make up a good novel?

When I read, I want a thumping good story. I want to know what happens next. I want to want to go to bed read to know what’s going to happen. I do like humour in a novel. It doesn’t have to be overtly laugh out loud. I think Liane Moriarty and Kate Atkinson are both superb writers, not only at weaving good stories but at having the ability to include some quite subtle humour. I aspire to both these wonderful novelists!!

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NK Chats To… Alison Sherlock

Sherlock_AlisonA Way Back Home is the new novel from Alison Sherlock. Hello Alison, thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel is called A Way Back Home. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

A Way Back Home is the third book in my Willow Tree Hall series, although they can each be read as standalone books. The story is about Will Harris, younger brother and ‘spare’ of the heir of Willow Tree Hall, his big brother Sam who was the hero in the first book, A House To Mend A Broken Heart. Will was great fun to write as I always pictured him as a playboy with a wickedly dry sense of humour but somewhat set apart from the rest of the family. Therefore it was only right that the heroine of the story would be a free-spirited woman called Skye who is the total opposite of Will!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere you like to write? Write in silence? Cup of coffee or tea?

I walk Harry, our daft golden retriever, first thing in the morning and then spend the next hour trying to wipe off the mud which he has inevitably brought home with him. Once he’s sleeping off his big walk and snoring happily, I can finally get to work for the rest of the day. I always write on my laptop at a desk with the music on to begin with. And always with a large mug of coffee to hand!

 

What’s your editing process like?

I do a little editing as I go along but mostly I like to get the whole story down first. A Way Back Home was written in just over 9 weeks, the quickest I’ve ever done. Hopefully that’s a good sign…!

 

If you found yourself with an airstream trailer and time, where would you go and why?

I love America but have never seen the middle of the country so it would definitely be next summer driving right across the southern states. Hopefully my husband would be driving as I’d be as hopeless towing a trailer as Skye is in the story!

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NK Chats To… Amelia Mandeville

mandeville-amelia-imageAmelia Mandeville joins me today. Her debut novel, Every Colour of You is released tomorrow by SphereHi Amelia, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called Every Colour of You. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?

Hello, thanks so much for having me!

My book follows the journey of Tristan, who is struggling with his mental health, and Zoe, who is the most positive person you’ll meet. It’s all about their friendship as very different people. I think my own personal struggles with mental health made me write this story. I also think it’s important for boys to be able to know that they can cry, they are allowed to not be okay, and talk about it.

 

What is your writing process like from research and plot development to editing? 

It’s different for each book. This one, I spent a little bit of time planning, writing down certain lines I really wanted Zoe or Tristan to say, their characteristics.  Then when I had the ending set in stone, I started writing. The editing was thorough, we did a lot of drafts before it got to my final draft, and I felt it just got better and better. My book would not be how it is, without Abby and Manpreet who edited.

 

Do you have any rituals when writing – a certain place to write, coffee, music, silence? 

Music. I always have to listen to music. I think of my most chapters to myself when I’m driving on my own, listening to a song. There’s something about music. It really just gets me in my zone. Specifically sad, emotional, music.

 

Which author/book has most influenced you? 

I think I always found Veronica Roth so successful, writing at such a young age. And obviously JK Rowling. Despite all those rejections, but her true talent eventually was recognized. I tried to remind myself that whenever I got rejections (I got a lot). I’m not saying I will ever be on the level of JK Rowling, but if she gave up, we would never have Harry Potter.

 

What is the best part of writing and what did you find the most challenging? 

The best part is creating characters that you feel so much emotion and love with, its lovely. The hard part is the self-criticism, and comparison. Also when you hitting a writing block. I really do doubt my writing abilities when I’m in that state of mind. But once you’re out it’s back into doing what you love again.

 

Are you working on a new book? Are you able to tell me a bit about it? 

I am! I’m keeping it secret. But I’m 20 thousand words in, and it will focus on duel narratives again. But it’s a very different story, with a very different situation.

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