Final Departure

Image result for Chawton cottageAs some of you know, this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s much-too-early death, and many of the faithful are noting events leading up to the end as they pass on the calendar. Yesterday (May 24th), for example, marked the day when Jane left her home in Chawton for what would turn out to be the last time, seeking medical help in Winchester, where she later died.

Jane loved her Chawton Cottage home (which she shared with her mother, sister Cassandra, and friend Martha), and it must have been very painful indeed to leave it, knowing she might never see it again.

Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. ‘Dear, dear Norland!’ said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house on the last evening of their being there. ‘When shall I cease to regret you, when learn to feel a home elsewhere? Oh, happy house! Could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more!’ (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 5)

Image result for The Persuasion of Miss Jane AustenReading the recent posts about Jane’s move to Winchester (such as this one at the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation) brought back to my mind when I had researched this time in her life for The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. I took the known facts, filled in from imagination what it must have been like for Jane to leave her home, and then wrote the scene. It seemed appropriate to share it with you today.

So here is most of chapter 31 from The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, strategically edited to avoid spoilers (since my version of events in this book departs from the historical record in surprising but happily plausible ways!). Jane Austen tells the story in her own words:



I woke feeling far more tired than when I had gone to sleep, and I was so weak that I could not get out of bed. Within days, the dark blotches, which I could never have feigned, obligingly re-appeared on my skin. The only conscious effort I had to make to advance my objective was to no longer hide what I was feeling. Now, when my back ached, I groaned aloud instead of stifling myself. Now, I did not bother to deny that I was very ill indeed.

My family was genuinely concerned at this most frightening turn, as indeed was I. And, when the limited talents of the local medical man yielded no appreciable result, Mama’s mind was made up for Winchester without my even having to suggest it.

Although the course of action required was decided quickly enough, it could not be enacted without considerable exertion. Letters had to be written – one to Mr. Lyford to warn him of my coming, and another to James to secure the loan of his carriage to take me thither. Winchester lodgings had also to be found. Then there was the packing together of all that Cassandra and I might need for a stay from home of undetermined duration, and the funds necessary to support us through it.

All these arrangements I observed and yet was powerless to assist in. Mama, Martha, Cassandra, and Henry: they all buzzed and fussed about me, fulfilling my every need and providing every tender comfort within their reach. And the others rallied round as well, visiting and contributing what they could.

It is a humbling thing to find oneself utterly helpless, and yet it can be a gift as well. One who is too proud to admit a weakness will never experience the compassionate care of others. It is only when that person is brought low, dropped to the bottom of a deep pit, that he or she will look up for relief and find it.

Such a one was I, although I did not know it before then. I had privately taken satisfaction in my own abilities and often thought myself a cut above my company – not perhaps by society’s standards, but by my own. Now where were my grounds for boasting? What benefit to me was my intellect in this situation? Could I think myself well again? When I was unable to even raise my head from the pillow, could I by my own efforts expect to add one minute to the length of my life?

Only God could do that. He would ultimately decide the length and course of my days. In the meantime, He had already sent his ministering angels round me, I perceived, in the form of my friends. I had never known such tenderness and love as they showed me through my illness. Or perhaps it had been there all along, and I had failed to properly appreciate it. In any case, I understood as never be-fore that I was blessed. And there were moments when I felt as if I might wish for nothing better than to die there, peacefully, at home, and cradled in the bosom of such a family.

But we are not made that way. We are made to cling to life so long as there is hope. And I still had the hope of getting well and the hope of seeing Captain Devereaux again. These things compelled me to continue forward, to not give in just yet.

So, I said goodbye to my mother, knowing it would be, in all likelihood, the last time I would see her on this side of heaven, and I allowed myself to be carried off to Winchester. Cassandra travelled with me in my brother James’s carriage, with Henry and my nephew William riding escort alongside.

“They will surely be soaked clean through,” I said as I watched the rain running down the windows, heard it pattering on the roof of the coach. I was reclined on the makeshift bed that had been arranged for me, bridging across from one set of seats to the opposite. Poor Cassandra was crushed into the little space leftover. “If I were not such a wretched invalid, we could all have ridden inside where is it dry. What a bother I am.”

“Don’t be silly, Jane,” she replied, straight faced. “If you were not an invalid, we would hardly be going to Winchester in the first place.”

She meant it in jest, I knew, and I laughed at her joke – one more proof that she really is the witty one. “Of course, you are right,” I agreed. “It would seem that even my mind is failing me now. More evidence of what I was saying, Cass. I am become a dreadful burden, especially to you.”

“Let us have no more of this kind of talk. It is for me to decide if I am overburdened, not you. And I can always call on Mary to help with the nursing if it becomes more than I can manage.”

I sighed. “I think we can hardly stop her coming. She sounded so determined in her letter,” said I, referring to the note that had arrived from Steventon parsonage along with the carriage, wherein my sister-in-law had volunteered her services.

“Now, Jane, although Mary is not a favourite with you, you ought to be grateful for her kind offer.”

“I know you are right, and I am grateful, but I fear she will become a complication we can ill afford…”

…We jostled along several minutes in relative silence, with only hoof beats, the jingle of harness, and the creaking of the carriage timbers to fill our ears…

…I felt excitement building in my chest as we neared our destination. I began thinking less of difficulties and of what I had left behind, and more for what lay ahead. It would be an adventure either way. I had always liked Winchester for its own sake – the beautiful cathedral especially.  Now it was where my fate would be decided. In Winchester, God willing, I would see Captain Devereaux again. Perhaps he was in town already. That thought set my heart to fluttering despite my weariness.

We stopped at Mr. Lyford’s house in Parchment Street only long enough for Henry to go to the door and announce our arrival.

“Lyford said he would come to you tomorrow morning,” Henry reported upon his return to the carriage.

Image result for Winchester house where Jane Austen diedWe drove on to College Street, where we had arranged to rent rooms, but attaining those rooms was no easy task. In my dependent state, I had to nearly be carried up the narrow flight of stairs. I was especially glad for young William’s presence then, for it was an awkward business and I doubt as to Henry’s being able to have managed it on his own. Once more I apologised for my helplessness, and once more I was assured that my friends considered it a privilege to be of service to me.

Image result for Winchester house where Jane Austen diedThe best feature of our apartment was the neat little drawing room, which boasted a bow window with a view to the street, the old city wall, and Dr. Gabell’s garden. It was a pleasant room, but as I looked about myself I could not help wondering if I would ever leave that place again. Were those four walls, with the faded paisley paper peeling at the seams, the last sight my eyes would behold before closing forever? If so, the glories of heaven were sure to be the more impressive for the dramatic contrast.

I had no complaints, however. My surroundings did not signify… I was content in knowing that I would have a secure place to rest my head and the care of my friends.



 

If you think this is all too sad to bear, I agree with you. That’s the main reason I wrote The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen in the first place. It’s dedicated to every fan who has wished Jane Austen herself might have enjoyed the romance and happy ending she so carefully crafted for all of her heroines. I have endeavored to grant that wish!

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Number Eight is Underway!

20170222_144124_resizedFirst, let me thank everyone who has already read one or both of my two new releases, Leap of Faith and Leap of Hope, especially those who have gone the extra mile and posted a review. I appreciate your confidence and support more than I can say!

The ink is barely dry on these novels, number six and seven, and I’ve already started work on number eight, tentatively titled The Ladies of Rosings Park. I only have a couple of chapters at this point, but so far it’s been a lot of fun to write – my favorite story with a fresh take. If everything goes well, the new book will become the fourth in my The Darcys of Pemberley series – not expanding the series chronologically but laterally, like Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley did in 2015.

Image result for Rosings ParkThis one, as the name implies, will tell events (during the timelines of P&P and TDoP) through the eyes of Anne de Bourgh alternating with Lady Catherine. (Mrs. Jenkinson might even get a chapter or two!) As you might imagine, the mother’s take on things will be a little different than the daughter’s, and Lady Catherine, of course, is never wrong! 

Here’s the prologue to give you a taste. I hope you’ll leave me a comment afterward to let me know what you think. I’m open to suggestions or how I can incorporate your scathingly brilliant ideas!



Miss De BourghTwo things Anne de Bourgh understood from a very early age: first, that she was loved by her father, and second, that she would one day marry Fitzwilliam Darcy.

These unalterable facts served as the sure foundation of her young life. If her mother censured some weakness in her character or deportment, Anne could depend on finding unconditional approval in her other parent. When she might have been tempted to fret for her future prospects, especially in light of her sickly constitution, she was reassured that an excellent match had already been made for her. Her continued social consequence and connubial contentment were secure.

Lady De Bourgh“My sister and I arranged it all between ourselves,” Lady Catherine frequently told her only child, sometimes varying her exact words but never her conclusion. “And the men mean to make no difficulty about it. When the time comes, you shall marry your cousin. It is not only the cherished wish of your mother and aunt, it is a solemn promise and therefore to be considered a settled engagement. The two great estates will thus be united in one family. There could be no connection more highly desirable on either side, no alliance more perfectly natural.”

Anne, being still too young to understand the mysteries of love between a man and a woman, could see no reason to question her mother’s decree on the subject, especially since her dear papa concurred when pressed.

“It will be a fine thing for you,” he had said with conviction if not enthusiasm. “A fine thing indeed, my pet.”

No evidence to the contrary, Anne believed she should be as happy with her cousin as with any other man. Had he not always been kind to her?

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth BennetBut nothing lasts forever, it seems, not even sure foundations. One pillar of support crumbled when Anne’s father suddenly died a month short of her fourteenth birthday. A few years later, the other – her betrothal to Fitzwilliam Darcy – was cast into serious jeopardy upon the arrival at Rosings of a young woman named Elizabeth Bennet.



“Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two estates.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 16)

Posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, my books, Shannon Winslow, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

For the Love of the Game

Image result for seattle marinersToday’s the opening day of baseball season! We’ve made it through that 2-month-long drought after Superbowl, where there was nothing to watch on TV, sports-wise, except soccer and basketball, neither of which interest me very much. Now, there will be a Mariners’ game on almost every night to keep me company while I clean up the kitchen, fold the laundry, or putter around on the internet. And just maybe this, at long last, will be Seattle’s year!

It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, BASEBALL, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books – or at least books of information… (Northanger Abbey, chapter 1)

Image result for seattle marinersFor me, baseball is just one of many interests, a pleasant diversion, an undemanding entertainment – not my passion. But for someone aspiring to play the game professionally, it is serious business and, by necessity, an all-consuming passion. Nothing less than single-minded dedication would produce success in one of the most competitive sports on the planet.

I suppose I knew that much even before I began my research for the character of Ben Lewis in Leap of Faith, just released. Then the idea was confirmed by everything I learned through that process, including my conversations with Christopher Rosenbaum, a minor league professional baseball player, who ultimately became the technical adviser for the book.

Chris’s playing days are over now, but he’s found a way to stay in the game, converting his life-long love of baseball into what will hopefully be for him a life-long career. I thought today, in honor of Opening Day, I’d share some of his thoughts on the game, an excerpt from his retrospective that I included as a postscript in Leap of Faith. In his own words:



Image result for baseball catcherBaseball is a beautiful game, one that has been stitched into the fabric of my life since I began playing when I was eight years old. I spent seventeen years on the field and sixteen of them as a catcher behind home plate – a fitting name, for no matter which field, that patch of ground always feels like home to me.

It was an early goal of mine to play professional baseball – not an easy feat but one I was fortunate enough to accomplish. After a successful collegiate career, with two NCAA National Championships and an Academic All-American honor, I was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Again, I had some triumphs – enough to keep me going – but after three seasons in the minors, suddenly it was over. Despite all the time and hard work I had invested, I was released.

As realistic as I had been regarding my talent, knowing I wasn’t as good as many of my peers, it was still painful to hear I was no longer wanted. What do you do when the one constant in your life is being taken away?

Although I had hoped that day wouldn’t come so soon, I knew I would eventually need to face life after baseball…

[With an MBA under his belt, Chris prepared to enter the corporate world, only to discover that the economic downturn had left no room for him there. So he turned back to baseball. His new plan became breaking into baseball’s executive side, using his unique combination of player experience and business skill to help his organization win, this time without actually setting foot on the field. He’s now a full-time advance scout for the Washington Nationals.]

 

Image result for baseball player …But, looking back, was it all worth it? – the enormous effort and countless sacrifices made so I could play professional baseball?

Especially in light of the disappointment of a premature end to my playing days, it would be easy to become jaded remembering below-minimum-wage salaries, endless bus-rides through the night, debilitating injuries, and grueling rehab. And yet baseball has given back so much to me. I’ve had opportunities and experiences most only dream of.

The game that I loved growing up has transformed into an ongoing livelihood and vocation for me. However, the true beauty of baseball lies within its unchanged core, where pitches are still balls or strikes, runners are out or safe, and batted balls are either fair or foul. There is no clock; every team gets an even chance to win, to claim Image result for Chris Rosenbaumvictory by the collective sum of their individual efforts.

So, like Ben Lewis, I have no regrets. To borrow a thought from the final chapter of this book, I lived my dream, however briefly, not achieving everything I once hoped, but enough. Whatever else I do in life, I can always be satisfied that I played hard and competed honorably.     Chris Rosenbaum



What do you think? Do you love baseball too? Can you relate to any of the sentiments Chris has expressed? Do you see any parallels to whatever career you have pursued? My passion is writing. What’s yours?

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Time to Tour!

My two new novels have just launched out into the world, and one early reader has already burned through them both, leaving 5-star reviews for each on Amazon! Here they are:

second-chance-at-the-dream_kindleLeap of Faith: What a great story! I love second chance stories, and Winslow’s told a good one with a unexpected twist in it. I’ve read several of her other books; my favorite is ‘The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen.’ Leap of Faith was entertaining as well as thought-provoking, and I’m looking forward to reading Leap of Hope.

chance-at-an-austen-kind-of-life_kindleLeap of Hope: Excellent book! This is the second book in a ‘second-chance’ series. It is tied to the first book, but only in the means by which our heroine gets her second chance. Unlike in the first book, Hope asks for a brand-new life for her second chance. Her adjustments to her new time were quite funny (no spoilers!) To her surprise, what she expected out of a new life is not quite what she ends up getting…

Thanks, “Leslie.” Reviews are SO helpful, and I truly appreciate anyone who takes the time to leave one for me!

blog-tour-suitcaseNow it’s time for me to go on book tour! – virtual book tour, that is, visiting several blogs this month as a guest blogger, all in an effort to get the word out about Leap of Faith and Leap of Hope to a wider audience. Along the way, I’ll be giving more books away (but you still have one day left to enter to win the biggest giveaway at the Austen Variations launch!). Each post will be different – excerpts, interviews, and fun stuff related to the new books. So I hope you’ll follow along.

Here’s the schedule, which I’ll be updating with topics and live links as we go along, so check back periodically or watch for my announcements on Facebook.

Even though these new books are a little different than what I’ve given you before, I trust you’ll find the quality of writing the same and the stories just as compelling. And as always, you can count on romance and happy endings!

“I shall be miserable without you – t’will be a most pleasant tour to you… pray, be persuaded.” (from Jack and Alice – a juvenile work of Jane Austen)

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Twin Sailing

celebrate2My big double launch day is finally here! And I do mean FINALLY. One of these two books has been waiting a very long time for its turn at publication.

It really started about eight years ago. I’d had about the best fun of my life writing my first two JAFF novels, and now I was diligently pursuing their publication. Although the odds were against me, I was hopeful. But what if the whole Jane Austen thing didn’t pan out? I didn’t want to stop writing; I was totally hooked by then. So I asked myself what other genre I would be interested in pursuing.

20170222_144124_resizedI’ve always been intrigued by the idea that a single choice in life can change everything that happens subsequently. For example, what if rather than choosing to go to college A, where you met your future spouse, you had selected college B? Would you have ended up marrying someone else instead, and consequently having different children? Yikes! Even a minor decision (such as where to eat lunch, what to order, or what route to take getting there) might make the difference between an ordinary day and winding up in the hospital from food poisoning or a car accident. Of course, being the romantic that I am, I’m thinking you might meet that certain someone wonderful in the hospital, which you never would have if you hadn’t gotten sick/injured. The possible variations are endless.

But let’s take it one step further. What if there were a way you could turn back the clock and make a change, perhaps to correct the biggest mistake of your life?  Is there a certain point where you turned left and now wonder what would have happened if you’d turned right instead? Or would you use your second chance to choose a different life entirely?

Well, the Jane Austen thing did catch on for me, I’m happy to say. But in the meantime I’d written my first book of what I’m calling my Crossroads CollectionLeap of Faith has been patiently waiting its turn for publication ever since.

second-chance-at-the-dream_kindleAt the Crossroads Center, they’re in the business of granting second chances.  And their newest client is Ben Lewis, a former star athlete who never recovered from the death of his dream to make it big in the big leagues. Now he’s being offered the opportunity to return to 1991 and try again, this time without the illness that originally ended his baseball hopes.  What’s the catch?  He will pay for his second chance by forfeiting his memories of the first… and possibly along with them, the love of his life. Can he find his way home to the woman he’s long forgotten but never stopped missing? Or will reaching for the brass ring with both hands cause the treasure he once possessed to slip forever from his grasp?

Yes, there’s a modern setting. Yes, there’s baseball and a time-travel element. And yet, Leap of Faith really isn’t so different from my other stories, dealing with love and the forces that bring people together… or keep them apart. Romance is job one, in other words. (In the beginning, I actually tried to make this book about something else, but I just couldn’t do it!) Still, I wasn’t sure my JAFF-readers would be willing to make the “leap” with me to a modern story about a baseball player, even if he does remind me a lot of Mr. Darcy – tall, dark, brooding good looks. You can see it, can’t you? Anyway, to help you along a little, I decided to take one of the minor character’s from Ben’s story – a Jane Austen obsessed college student named Hope – and give her her own book!

I’m counting on Leap of Hope (which is totally JAFF) to bridge the gap between what you’ve been used to from me into this new series. Actually, I call it a “collection” instead because the books don’t have to be read in any particular order. Each one is complete in itself. But whichever book you read, you’ll meet the hero/heroine of the next/previous book on their common ground: the Crossroads Center. Of course I’m hoping you will decide to read both. Then you can tell me which character you meet at Crossroads you think should get the next book!

chance-at-an-austen-kind-of-life_kindleAt the Crossroads Center, they’re in the business of handing out second chances. And their newest client is Hope O’Neil – college student and Jane Austen devotee, who has always believed she’d be more at home in the past, wearing corsets and courted by men in cravats. But can a modern girl really fit into a world with no electricity, cell phones, or indoor plumbing? Hope is about to find out when her wish for an Austen kind of life is unexpectedly granted. Although she envisions her second chance will be like something straight out of Pride and Prejudice – complete with her own Mr. Darcy and a romantic happy ending – she gets more than she bargained for in this delightful romp through Regency England… a lot more.

Now, time to give away some books! Since I don’t want to play favorites (I love all seven of my “darling children” equally!), I’m going to be giving these two books away together, in pairs! Visit my official launch at Austen Variations (running this post concurrently) and leave a comment for a chance to win one of five sets (2 signed paperback sets and 3 Kindle copy sets). I’d love comments here, too, but the giveaway is happening there. Also, learn how to double your odds of winning by sharing my news on social media sites. Good luck!

Thank you for sharing this exciting day with me, and happy reading!

(These two books are currently available in paperback and Kindle. See full covers and read the prologue to Leap of Hope on previous Austen Variations posts.)

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Double-the-Fun Cover Reveal

What could be more fun and exciting to book lovers (and authors) than a brand new cover revealed? Two brand new covers revealed, of course! That’s what I have for you today: the full covers of the two new books I’m releasing at the end of the month. Yippee!

Leap of Faith and Leap of Hope are the first two novels of my new series called the Crossroads Collection – something I’ve been thinking about and working on for a long time. These are stories about turning points, possibilities, and out-of-this-world second chances. Each book will be complete in itself but connected to the others by theme and the Crossroads Center characters. I hope you’re able to read the book blurbs on the back covers. If not, pop on over to the Crossroads Collection page to learn more.

You’ll notice that only one of these two is actually a Jane Austen Fan Fiction piece (Leap of Hope), but I want to challenge you hard-core JAFF readers to expand your horizons a little and give Leap of Faith a chance too. (I’m hoping the hunky guy on the cover will convince you!)

So, without further ado, here they are! Be sure to tell me what you think.

Posted in Austen Variations, my books, Shannon Winslow, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scavenger Hunt

scavenger-huntToday, in coordination with Austen Variations, I have a scavenger hunt for you, complete with buried treasure! If you’ve already been to my post at Austen Variations, you have arrived here with a pocket full of words to solve the puzzle below. If you haven’t got the magic words yet, go find them and hurry back to play!

Okay, now you’re ready for part 2!

For-Myself-Alone_KINDLEBefore, you were looking at quotes from Jane Austen. Now here’s one of mine from For Myself Alone, but it’s missing some critical words. You just need to fill in the blanks with the words you brought with you from Austen Variations. Email your answers (the correct words in correct order) to me at shannon(at)shannonwinslow(dot)com to be entered in the drawing for today’s prizes as well as the final grand prize at the end of the month! Be sure to write “Scavenger Hunt” in the subject line. Extra credit (your name entered twice for today’s drawing) if you can tell me in what chapter of FMA this quote appears. Good luck!

To my dismay, I have ___1___ that most gentlemen do not wish their prowess in the ___2___ realm challenged, especially by anyone ___3___. I  remember once reading that a woman, if she have the ___4___ to know anything, should ___5___ it as well as she can. Perhaps I should have taken this ___6___ to heart, for I believe my ___7___ has proved a bit too ___8___ for some. Having once been cut by it, many a man has ___9___ to be put at peril of it again.

Did you notice the quote within the quote? Most of the second sentence is pure Jane Austen. That’s one of the features of this book – over forty direct Jane Austen quotes blended into the story.

When I began this novel, my goal was to create, not a sequel or tie-in this time, but a new story, one I imagined Jane might have written next. I didn’t intend any direct references to her work, only a nod to her style. With her words so deeply entrenched in my mind, however, I often found myself thinking of and alluding to various passages from her books as I went along. Rather than fighting the temptation to borrow some of her expertly turned phrases, I decided to go with it. After all, I couldn’t hope to improve on the master! I had a wonderful time tucking these little jewels in between the pages and trust readers have just as much fun discovering them there!

Meanwhile, back to our scavenger hunt. Did you solve the puzzle? Today’s three prizes are as follows:

  • a signed Shannon Winslow paperback of your choice (US only)
  • a Shannon Winslow ebook of your choice (international)
  • an exclusive “bookbead” of my best-selling The Darcys of Pemberley (international)

20170103_103944_resizedWinners will be chosen by random drawing from those submitting a correct entry via email as directed above. Along with your answers, include your preference of the three prizes, which book you would like and in what format. Winners will be posted (here and on my post at Austen Variations) on 1/11/17 and also notified by email. Good luck!

Thank you for participating in today’s scavenger hunt! Watch for more games and prizes all this month at Austen Variations.


1/11/17 Update:  The lucky winners are Anji Dale, Sarah Brandon, and Zenaida Cook! I will be contacting you by email about your prizes. Here is the correctly completed quote from chapter one of For Myself Alone:

To my dismay, I have discovered that most gentlemen do not wish their prowess in the intellectual realm challenged, especially by anyone female. I  remember once reading that a woman, if she have the misfortune to know anything, should conceal it as well as she can. Perhaps I should have taken this advice to heart, for I believe my wit has proved a bit too sharp for some. Having once been cut by it, many a man has declined to be put at peril of it again.

 

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