My First Year with a Publisher

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I signed my publishing contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus. A lot has happened in that time and the year seems to have flown by. So, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is in store in the future.

Progress so Far

At the time of writing Born Bad is currently ranked 82 on Amazon UK out of over 5 million books, and for the last couple of weeks it has hovered around the 100 mark. The highest rank it has achieved so far was 58 on two occasions. It has also received some excellent reviews. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled as it has exceeded all my expectations.  

I am gaining a growing fan base which is wonderful to see. People are going on to read my other books as well as signing up to my mailing list and following me on social media.

At the moment I am polishing up book two so that I can send it to my publishers in a few weeks’ time, and it will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.

What I’ve Learned

Working with a publisher means that there are lots of tight deadlines to meet. However, this is good for me as I am usually a massive procrastinator and it has made me become more self-disciplined with my writing routine.

It is wonderful to have the knowledge and support of a professional publisher which has been brilliant in terms of editing, marketing and promotion. Marketing encompasses a whole spectrum of activity from cover design to the book blurb and everything after that. At every stage it is specifically tailored to reach the target readership.

In terms of promotion, I have found that ads on large reader websites do work provided they are targeted, and this is one aspect in which my publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. A good publisher can also reach areas that I couldn’t have reached as an independent author e.g. the Amazon Summer Sale, which features only a few hundred books out of the millions available on Amazon UK.

Support

No matter what questions I have, my publishers are always on hand with help and advice. I am also connecting with other Aria authors who are a friendly, supportive bunch and I am discovering some great books that have been written by them. I still also keep in touch with some of my Indie author friends who have been very supportive over the years. 

Future Plans

The second book in the trilogy will be published at the end of this year/beginning of next although it will be available for pre-order on Amazon long before that. The third and final book in the trilogy will be published next summer.

After that, I would love to work with Aria again provided we can agree terms. I have a lot of ideas for other crime novels which I am looking forward to writing in the future.

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Domestic Violence in the UK

My latest book, Born Bad, features a character who is a victim of domestic violence. I therefore thought it would be useful to write a blog post on the subject in the hope that the information I’ve provided may help victims.

Domestic violence doesn’t just relate to women in heterosexual relationships. Men can become victims of domestic violence as can people in homosexual relationships and sometimes children can be involved too.

The Facts

  • A 2013/4 crime survey for England and Wales revealed that one in four women in England and Wales will become victims of domestic violence during their lifetime.

 

  • In 2001/2 81% of domestic violence victims were women and 19% were men.

 

  • A 2015 report revealed that one in three women worldwide experiences domestic violence from a male partner.

 

  • Reports from 2000 and 2002 show that the police received a call a minute relating to domestic violence yet only 35% of the incidents were reported to the police.

 

  • A 2011 report by the NSPCC stated that in the UK 20% of children have been exposed to domestic abuse.

Getting Help

If you are a woman suffering from domestic violence you can get lots of help and advice from Women’s Aid, including advice on legal action and housing. The website: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/  has further information on the types of help available.

Women’s Aid can also give you details of solicitors who specialise in domestic violence and, depending on your income, you may qualify for legal aid. You can find out more about legal aid from the Citizens Advice website.

Advice and information relating to domestic abuse is available to both women and men on the Citizens Advice website by following the link: advice.

Reporting Domestic Violence

Many people are afraid to report domestic violence because of potential repercussions. However, most police stations have specially trained officers who deal with domestic abuse. Often, domestic violence is a criminal offence and the person committing the offence can be arrested, cautioned or charged.

If the perpetrator is released on bail, the police will usually attach conditions to the granting of bail in order to protect the victim. You will be given a crime reference number which you will need to give to other agencies when you ask for further help.

You will also need to consider your future living arrangements but agencies such as Women’s Aid can provide advice with this. You can also find more information on reporting domestic violence on UK police service websites. Go to www.police.uk to find your local police service.

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Born Bad is the first book in a new gritty crime trilogy. It will be published on 1st July but you can pre-order your Kindle copy now by following the link: Born Bad.

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‘Born Bad’ now Available for Pre-order

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XGY9YHG, priced at only £2.48. It has changed its title from the working title of ‘Bad Brother and I’ to ‘Born Bad’. The novel will also be available to purchase from other eBook retailers.

I’m really pleased with the cover that my publishers, Aria Fiction, have produced. The image of my protagonist, Adele, is just how I pictured her in my mind, and I love the tagline that Aria have added. Here is the cover:

The book blurb has changed too and I’m really happy with the new blurb that my publishers have written. Here it is:

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. Afterall, blood is thicker than water…

I hope you agree that it really pulls readers in and makes them want to find out more.

Big thanks to Aria fiction for a sterling job so far. My publication date for ‘Born Bad’ is 1st July and as the date draws nearer I’ll be taking part in my first blog tour, organised by Aria. I’ll keep you up-to-date with links to blog posts, interviews etc. once I have the details.

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Announcing my Latest Novel – Danger by Association

I can now announce that my latest novel ‘Danger by Association’, book 3 in the Riverhill Trilogy, is available for pre-order on the Amazon Kindle. Here are the links:

UK: http:/www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FE2A2BU.

US: http:/www.amazon.com/dp/B01FE2A2BU.

I am also thrilled to reveal the cover for ‘Danger by Association’. It is the work of talented book cover designer, Chris Howard, and I think it is his best one yet.

The image captures the exact mood I was looking for, and features our feisty heroine, Rita, complete with fiery red hair to match her temperament. Also, the colouring conveys the theme of danger, even in a thumbnail size. When you view the book cover in full size, you can see that bullets form a lot of the background image.

If you are interested in Chris’s work, he can be contacted at: blondesign@gmail.com.

Here is the cover image with the book blurb below:

Danger

Book Blurb

Rita has been avoiding Manchester; it brings back too many bad memories. She still has harrowing flashbacks of ruthless gangster, Leroy, and the death of a loved one. It takes the wedding of her brother, John, to persuade her to return. She agrees, on the condition that she steers clear of the Riverhill estate and Leroy’s family.

When her son, Daniel, is placed in danger, Rita is lured back to the Riverhill where she confronts those she believes responsible. She receives support from an unlikely source who promises information subject to terms. Realising that she needs help to act on that information, Rita turns to her brother, John.

But John works for the law. And he will have to go against everything he believes in if he agrees to embark on a maverick mission to help save his sister’s son.

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‘Danger by Association’ is scheduled for publication on 24th June. I will be making further announcements regarding promotions and other activities via this blog as we draw nearer to publication date.

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What is a Sink Estate?

The two housing estates, which form the main settings for my Riverhill Trilogy, are what are often described as sink estates. These are the Riverhill Estate and the Buckthorn Estate. In the lead up to the release of the third book in the trilogy, ‘Danger by Association’, I thought I would give some background relating to sink estates and describe how they earned the label.

Sink

The name sink estate is usually given to British council housing estates in deprived, urban areas. This type of estate often has high levels of crime although this isn’t necessarily a characteristic of such estates.

There are various theories as to how the name sink estates originated, and it is believed that it was probably a label given by the media. It came into use in the 1980s although this type of estate existed before then. Tony Blair famously used the term sink estates in a 1998 speech when he referred to ‘so-called sink estates’.

One of the theories is that the tag relates to the term, ‘behavioural sink’, which was used by ethologist John B Calhoun to describe the breakdown in behaviour resulting from overcrowding. He used rats and mice to conduct experiments on overcrowding and published a report in the Scientific American weekly newspaper in 1962 based on his findings.

Estate

There is a belief that sink estates were created by the right to buy scheme that existed under Margaret’s Thatcher’s conservative government of the 1980s and 1990s. Residents on the more popular council estates were most likely to take advantage of the scheme, and also most likely to qualify for mortgages.

On the other hand, in areas with high levels of unemployment and high crime rates, residents were unlikely or unable to purchase their council properties. At that time, there were cutbacks on council spending for housing improvements. Therefore, the less popular areas became increasingly run-down, and their residents became more isolated from the rest of society.

On the worst estates, crime is a way of life. It happens openly and residents are often frightened of reporting it to the police because of reprisals. Many also turn to crime to boost their income as a result of a lack of employment opportunities.

The word ‘sink’ itself also has various other negative connotations:Down

  • Sink or swim
  • To descend or plunge as in sinking to lower depths
  • To decline in value
  • To submerge or go under
  • To deteriorate in health

It is often difficult for residents of these estates to break away as behaviour patterns pass from generation to generation. Moreover, residents may have difficulty finding work because of employer pre-conceptions relating to certain areas.

I am making good progress with ‘Danger by Association’ and should be on schedule for a June launch. More news will follow.

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Book Launch Update – ‘A Gangster’s Grip’

It’s been a busy couple of days since the launch of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ and there’s still a lot happening. Here’s an update:

‘Slur’ Free Promotion – Although I originally planned to offer ‘Slur’ for free a few weeks after the launch of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, I made an impromptu, last minute decision to offer it free at the same time as the launch. ‘Slur’ is therefore currently available to download to the Kindle FREE until Sunday. Here’s the link if you want to grab a copy before the offer expires: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

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Author Interview – Fellow author Georgia Rose has published a fabulous interview on her website at: Georgia Rose, in which we discuss some of the background behind ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ amongst other topics. Georgia is a busy lady who is a member of Rosie’s book review team as well as a talented author. You can find lots of great book reviews, author interviews and details of Georgia’s own riveting trilogy on her website. It’s well worth a visit.

First Reviews – ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ has received its first reviews, one of which is from the lovely Kath at Ignite Books. Kath only features 5 star reviews on her blog so I was extremely chuffed to get a mention. It’s also good to hear that Kath feels ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ is a better book than ‘Slur’ because, like all writers, I aim to improve with each novel.

‘About Manchester’ Feature – The launch of ‘A Gangster’s Grip was also featured in the ‘About Manchester’ online magazine so here’s another link to check out: About Manchester.

Gangster's Grip V4

I still have plenty of activities lined up so I’ll keep you updated as events take place. Right, now I’m off to post a print copy of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to my daughter – she’s first in the queue otherwise I’m in big trouble. 🙂

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“A Gangster’s Grip” – Launch Date Announcement and Chapter One Preview

I am pleased to announce that I have now fixed a launch date of 7th October for my forthcoming crime thriller, “A Gangster’s Grip”.
To give you a taster, I have included the first chapter below:
Gangster's Grip V4

Chapter 1

Saturday 9th March 1991 – early afternoon

Rita couldn’t wait to get to her parents’ house, and had been discussing it with her husband, Yansis, during the taxi ride from the airport. It had been so long since she’d been back from Greece, and she had missed everyone, despite their shortcomings. She got out of the cab, and waited for the driver to take their cases out of the boot.
Once the cases were on the pavement, Yansis carried them to the front door while Rita settled the cab fare. She had no sooner taken her purse out of her handbag than she spotted something in her peripheral vision, causing her to look up.
Too late!
Before she knew what was happening, a youth swung by on a bike. Maintaining his speed while riding one-handed, he snatched her purse and zoomed past.
She gave chase, yelling and screaming. Yansis joined her when he realised she had been robbed. But it was no use. They couldn’t keep up with a bike, especially Rita in her high heels, and the youth was soon out of sight.
“Fine bloody start that is!” she cursed. Walking back to the taxi driver, she continued her rant, “And a lot of help you were.”
“Don’t blame me, love. If you think I’m leaving my cab round here, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Oh, come off it! Just because my purse has been snatched, doesn’t mean your cab’s gonna be robbed.”
“Doesn’t it? You don’t know what it’s like! How long is it since you’ve been back, love?”
“A few years. Why?”
“I think you’ll find it’s changed, and not for the better either.”
Rita shrugged off his comments, anxious to get inside the house, while Yansis paid the cab fare.
Her mother, Joan, answered the door. “Hiya love, how are you? Where’s that lovely husband of yours?” she asked, hugging Rita.
“I’ve just been robbed, Mam. Some bugger’s just whipped my purse out of my hands while I was trying to pay for the taxi.”
“You’re joking! The bloody swines! What happened? Where are they?” her mother replied and, within seconds, her parents were both outside, searching up and down the street.
“You’re too late; he’ll be long gone. There was only one of them; some kid on a bike. He was off like lighting.”
“Well, what did he look like?” asked Joan. “We might be able to find out who he is.”
“I don’t know. I only saw the back of him. Young, a teenager, I think. He had a dark hoody on, navy or black, and jeans. That’s about all I saw. It all happened so fast.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Reet. That’s all you need when you’ve only just got here!”
“I know,” Rita replied, her voice shaking. “It’s gonna be loads of hassle … I’ll have to cancel all my cards … I’ll need to find out the bank’s phone number …”
“Can’t trust no-one these days,” interrupted her father, Ged, who was hovering behind her mother looking shifty. That wasn’t unusual for him, but he looked even more shifty than usual. Rita released her mother and gave him a tentative hug while her mother greeted Yansis.
When they had spent a few minutes in the hallway discussing the theft, Joan said to Rita and Yansis, “Come on you two, I’ll make you a cuppa; I bet you could do with one after that. Let’s get in and have a sit down.”
Although tiny at 5ft 1, Rita had a big presence. Her towering heels increased her height, and her liberal application of make-up enhanced her moderately attractive features. She had dark brown hair, which she wore in a fashionable textured bob, and was dressed casual but smart.
Leaving their cases in the hallway, they headed towards the living room. Rita was the first to step into the room and stopped short at the sight of a large, mean-looking black man sprawled across the sofa. Spliff in one hand, can of lager in the other, he was resting against some cushions with his legs stretched out across the coffee table. As Rita entered the room, he took a long hard drag on the spliff as though challenging her. Then he slowly exhaled the smoke, his face forming a sneer, as he examined her in minute detail.
Rita noted the scar that cut across his forehead, the primed muscles and the abundance of tattoos. She saw the letters H-A-T-E tattooed across the fingers of his right hand. ‘Why did these self-professed hard men always have to make a statement with this LOVE and HATE tattoo thing? It was so corny and pathetic,’ she thought.
When he lifted his can of lager, she glimpsed the tattoo spread across the fingers of his other hand, expecting to see the letters L-O-V-E. However, disconcertingly, that also bore the letters H-A-T-E.
There was a break in the tension as Rita’s father dashed to her side, “This is Leroy, Jenny’s boyfriend,” he gushed.
Rita already knew that her sister, Jenny, had a boyfriend, but she didn’t know much about him. Despite her automatic reservations, she tried to appear friendly as she said, “Hello, Leroy, pleased to meet you.”
Leroy briefly nodded his head in response then continued to take drags of his spliff while Rita’s mother, Joan, and Yansis entered the room. When Joan introduced Yansis, he received the same cool appraisal. During this time Leroy remained seated and didn’t attempt to converse with them.
Rita suspected that her parents were equally aware of the uncomfortable atmosphere created by Leroy. This was borne out by her mother’s waffling, “Rita and Yansis have got a restaurant in Greece but they’ve come back to stay for a while, haven’t you love? It’s alright though; Yansis has got a big family so there’s plenty of people to look after the place for them while they’re over here. You’re looking well our Rita. You’ve got a lovely tan and I love that leather jacket. Was the flight alright? You two must be shattered. Let me make you that cup of tea …”
“Where’s Jenny?” asked Rita.
“She’s just nipped to the loo. She’ll be down in a minute,” said Joan. “Oh, here she is now.”
Rita turned round and rushed towards her sister, but stopped when she noticed Jenny’s swollen stomach, “Jesus, when did that happen? You might have bloody well told me!”
“How about congratulations?” said Jenny.
“Sorry, it’s just … it’s a lot to take in. There’s been a lot of changes since I was home. Yeah, congratulations. I’m pleased for you; you look well.”
Rita gave Jenny’s arm a gentle squeeze, attempting to hide her mounting levels of unease, and surreptitiously flashing Yansis a concerned look. Apart from the pregnancy, Jenny had changed in other ways in the few years since Rita had last seen her.
Like Rita, she was tiny, although taller than Rita at 5ft 2, but there was now a maturity about her. She was an attractive girl and pregnancy suited her, bringing with it a radiant glow.
“I’m sorry, Reet,” said Joan. “We were going to tell you, but it didn’t sound right in a letter and I never seemed to find time on the phone. You know how it is phoning there. It costs a bloody fortune, and I’ve no sooner said hiya than the pips are going. Anyway, I knew you’d be coming home soon so I thought I’d tell you face to face.”
“Soon! She’s about five bloody months gone.”
“Twenty two weeks actually,” verified Jenny.
“What’s the big deal?” asked Leroy.
Rita turned to see a look of undisguised aggression cross Leroy’s face, and decided not to pursue the matter.
“Anyway, are we having that cuppa, Mam, or what?” she asked.
While Joan went to make the drinks, everybody else sat down on the three piece suite. Her father, Ged, took an armchair and Jenny settled herself next to Leroy. Rita felt uncomfortable sitting next to them, so she sat on the remaining armchair and invited Yansis to sit on the arm. They told Jenny about the theft of Rita’s purse, and she seemed concerned, but Leroy showed no emotion.
Apart from the discomfort of sharing her parents’ living room with the hostile Leroy, Rita was bothered about the sleeping arrangements. Her parents’ house was a three bedroom modern terraced on a council housing estate. It had two decent sized bedrooms and a further bedroom that was only big enough for a single bed. She had hoped that she and Yansis could share one of the large bedrooms, and that Jenny wouldn’t mind staying in the single room temporarily. In fact, as her parents had been aware of her imminent arrival, she hoped they had already arranged this. Rita therefore broached the subject when her mother returned carrying a tray of drinks.
“You have a seat here, Mam. Me and Yansis will take our cases up and, if you want, we can fetch a couple of chairs from the kitchen. Are we in the front bedroom?”
“The front bedroom’s already taken by me and Jenny,” growled Leroy, with an air of menace, which took Rita by surprise.
She turned to her mother, “Are we in the small bedroom then?”
Rita was trying to visualise how she and Yansis would manage with a single bed in a room that measured no more than 10 foot by 6 foot, but she figured it would have to do. After all, her sister was pregnant so it was only fair that she and Leroy had more space.
As she was mulling over the possibilities, Joan replied, “Ooh, that’s something I need to have a word with you about, Rita. There isn’t a bed in that room anymore. We didn’t see a need for one after you’d left. It’s been such a long time since you’ve been home so we use it for storage now. You’re welcome to the settee, though, and I can fix you up with a sleeping bag, if you like, so Yansis can kip down next to you.”
“You’re joking! We could be here for months. How can we manage for months on the settee and the floor? And where will we put our stuff?”
“You ought to be bloody grateful we’re putting you up. We’ve not seen hide nor hair of you for donkey’s years,” Ged chipped in.
Rita was about to retaliate; she and her father hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but Yansis changed the subject in order to defuse the situation.
“It’s no problem. We can find somewhere to stay, Rita. Manchester is a big city. There must be lots of hotels.”
“That’ll cost us a bloody fortune,” Rita replied before a thought occurred to her. “Oh don’t worry, we’ll find somewhere.”
A few minutes of uncomfortable silence followed before the phone rang in the dining room and Joan went to answer it.
“Leroy’s expecting an important business call,” boasted Ged.
“Oh, what is your business?” asked Yansis.
“A bit of everything, this and that,” came the guarded reply.
“Leroy, it’s for you,” announced Joan, on returning to the living room.
At last, Leroy prised himself from the sofa to take the call.
“So what exactly is ‘this and that’?” asked Rita, once Leroy had left the room.
“Leroy’s a business man, and a well-respected one too. He deals a lot in imports and, before you go sounding your mouth off, he’s been very good to us,” said Ged.
“I haven’t said anything,” Rita snapped back.
It was obvious she wouldn’t gain anything by continuing to probe, so Rita cleared the finished cups from the living room instead. Although it gave her an excuse to get away from her father’s goading, she was also curious about Leroy’s ‘important business call’.
The kitchen of her parents’ home was next to the dining room, and while she carried the cups through to the kitchen and placed them in the sink, Rita strained to hear Leroy’s conversation. He seemed angry about something, and his voice was becoming louder. She was glad she wasn’t the person on the other end of the phone. As Leroy became increasingly agitated, she stopped what she was doing, realising that it might be best if he didn’t realise she was there. She crept towards the dining room where she could overhear what he was saying more clearly.
“I want the fuckin’ goods. They should have been here yesterday. I’ve got customers waiting, and if I stop supplying, they’ll get them from someone else. I can’t afford to have them taking over my turf.”
There was then a brief pause while Leroy listened to the person on the other end of the line, before adding, “No, the usual, H.”
The call ended abruptly and Rita panicked. If Leroy saw her in the kitchen, he would surmise that she had overheard his conversation. Then she heard him make another call. He had calmed down a little by now so she couldn’t hear everything he was saying, just brief snippets … “It’s sorted … promised tomorrow … It’s sweet … should be a few days … be sorted then … somewhere to store them.”
Rita could sense that the call was ending, so she ran quietly from the kitchen to the living room, on the pretext of checking for more cups. She made sure she was still there when Leroy returned to the living room. Once she was satisfied that he had noted her presence in the living room, she made her way back to the kitchen to finish what she had been doing.
When Rita walked in the living room again, the atmosphere hadn’t improved much. While her mother was asking Yansis about life in Greece, her father was discussing some sort of business deal with Leroy. Rita couldn’t hear everything because of her mother’s chatter, but she got the impression that Leroy was providing goods for her father to sell somewhere. From the tone of the conversation, she could tell that her father held Leroy in high regard. Meanwhile, Jenny stayed silent, snuggled up to Leroy while passively observing.
There was something about the whole scene that didn’t feel right to Rita and, after a short while, she made her excuses and prepared to leave. While she and Yansis were in the hallway saying their goodbyes, her mother announced, “I hope you get fixed up love.”
“We’ll sort something out,” said Rita.
“Well let me know if you don’t. Our Jenny will be getting her council house next week, and Leroy will be moving in with her, so we should have some room then.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Ooh, sorry love. I forgot with all the excitement.”
“Good luck with it, Jenny. I hope it all goes well.”
“Thanks,” Jenny replied.
Rita hugged her mother and sister, said goodbye to her father and shouted goodbye through to the living room for the benefit of Leroy, who remained seated. Although she assured her mother that they would be back if they didn’t find somewhere to stay, she noticed the look that flashed across her father’s face. She knew that as long as Leroy was around, she and Yansis would be about as welcome as a dose of flu.
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“A Gangster’s Grip” is the second book in The Riverhill Trilogy. The first book, “Slur” is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. I will be publishing further details of how to obtain a copy of “A Gangster’s Grip” once it becomes available.
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