RW – You have three children and two grandchildren in the house. How do you find a place for privacy to write, or perhaps a better question is how do you find the quiet time?
NORMA – My family and I live in a two bedroom house which will, likely, make you wonder how we manage to comfortably have six people sleeping in the house. The answer is that we gave up the living room a few years ago and turned it into an open-area bedroom, which used to be mine. I loved it! Except for the washroom and laundry facilities, everything I needed was in the same room; it felt like I had my own studio apartment.
As the family grew, with the same daily grind at the day job, I needed a space to call my own. I achieved it, for a while, because I moved into the smallest bedroom. When my grandson was born, I gave up a little of that space and allowed him to share my room with me since it was a much quieter environment. We formed an agreement: in the evenings, after unwinding a little when coming home from work, I could write to my heart’s content as long as I found a way to shield his eyes from the light surrounding my desk.
Having a fan set on a low speed helped because it shut out the noise from the kitchen and other areas of the house. If the noise got louder, the speed of the fan went up a notch. Though my grandson no longer shares a room with me, the same fan is still in operation.
I have gotten into having easy listening music playing in the background, sometimes, which helps drown out the sounds in the main part of the house, and helps me relax. One other enhancement has been installing a deadbolt on my bedroom door because sometimes I have to meet a deadline and, no matter how much I enjoy little visits from my kids and grandkids, it removes my focus, depending upon what I’m working on at the time. Does the deadbolt get locked very often? No, but it gives me peace of mind knowing it’s there.
RW – Describe your writer’s place.
NORMA – I write in my bedroom. Instead of hanging clothes in my open-area closet, I set a desk in there instead. To my immediate left is a window through which I see a few houses and can look onto the tundra. During summer, when the kids are playing outside, I can easily write and look through my window to make sure they’re in sight and okay.
In front of me is my 23” all-in-one Dell Inspiron computer which sits about 24 inches away from me as I write. There are photos of the kids and an inspirational quote sitting on my desk to the left of my computer. On the right is my little pen and stationery area which comes in handy more than one might think for a writer who primarily uses the computer.
On the wall behind my computer, to the left, are a couple of wall decorations. To the right is a piece of art made at school by my son the first year he was in school titled, Walk With Me, Anaana – Anaana being the Inuktitut word for Mom.
To the right of my desk is a filing cabinet – which comes in handy, but is rarely used.
RW – How does where you live influence what you write?
NORMA – Despite interest people have shown over the years, one thing I don’t do is write books about living in Arctic Canada. Whether I will, who knows, but my heart is stuck on writing fiction. That being said, I may be able to use the Arctic tundra as settings for fiction novels but, in all honesty, I like to escape the frigid temperatures outside as I can, and writing helps carry me to another place.
Since I began publishing e-books in 2011, I’ve noticed that I pay more attention to detail when traveling. My family and I enjoy extended road trips and, because I can’t find such settings and enjoy such experiences at home, I soak everything in so that my characters can enjoy the same towns, road trips and experiences.
RW – Tell our readers about If Only.
NORMA – I’ve written numerous storylines throughout my writing career but I can’t say any previous title I’ve published resonates within my soul the same way as If Only does. I’m so used to beginning a story with only one scene in my mind, but the scene calls to me. The more I try to ignore it, the louder it calls my name – to the point I just set everything else aside and begin to write.
When I began writing If Only, I thought of a mother searching for a baby girl she had put up for adoption several years earlier. At the time, I didn’t know that the biological mother was married. I just knew her heart was aching and she needed to find her child, no matter what. At the same time, I wondered how I could introduce a paranormal element into my story – something I’d be comfortable writing, something my fans would be willing to read. At the heart of the matter, I knew I wanted the story to appeal to peoples’ emotions because, of all the subjects people can study and understand, I understand emotions.
Without giving the story away, If Only takes readers on a journey into relationships and the ensuing emotions the characters feel because of the circumstances they find themselves in.
Demi loved David – the father of the daughter she put up for adoption 16-years-ago – but they moved on with their lives. When feeling desperate to find her firstborn child, Demi calls David and tells him the truth of the situation, that he had sired a daughter as a teen, that two detectives were unable to find her.
I don’t think either of them expected the events which followed, how tragedy would strike, how their lives would change forever. David certainly had no expectation that a young lady calling him, “Dad,” would begin appearing to him in the dead of night. Demi didn’t expect David to come to her with stories she couldn’t make herself believe.
In the midst of it all, we have a budding teen romance and four small children struggling with their emotions. All in all, it’s a story that stirs my soul because so many emotional elements of it are felt by people every day.
RW – What themes can the reader expect?
NORMA – Forgiveness brings healing; it is definitely one of the themes that readers should take away after reading, If Only. Of course, true love conquers all would be another. I’m sure there are others but I’d like to leave something for readers to discover on their own because I’ve already learned people interpret the story differently.
RW – Although the characters are works of fiction in If Only you must have pulled influences from various people in your life. Would you be willing to share some of them? I know where the name David Alexander came from and very likely his relationship with children but, as far as personality traits, where did those come from for some of your characters?
NORMA – I hadn’t thought about this until you asked but, in retrospect, I can see the character of Phillip, David’s father, as being a close resemblance to a pastor friend, John Dueck, of Saskatchewan, Canada. I met him when he was stationed in Arviat with his wife several years ago. In many ways the two of them were like parents to me; they would do anything for me and I could confide in them about anything. In the story, David could tell his father anything and his father would never cast judgment. Instead, he would offer sage advice – for David to be cautious in his steps, for example. This is the kind of advice John would have given me in such a situation. He might have his own thoughts and ideals, but he would never force me to bow to his wishes.
As for Demi, in some areas, she is similar to me. We share the same allergic reaction to tobacco smoke. Also, if I wanted to find someone, I would do everything in my power to make sure I found them, exhausting every possible tool at my disposal, if required. Also, Demi throws herself into her work and often feels inadequate as a parent because she has to work so many hours in a given week. I’m the same. I work between 45-50 hours outside of the home. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. I’d really like to kick my feet up and relax for a while, but I have this quirk about not wanting to eat after eight o’clock so must force myself to keep going so that, when I can sit down, I don’t need to get up again right away.
As for Riley, I imagined a boy similar to my son. He likes to dance and would be a little scared if he was put into a situation that made him uncomfortable. Wanting to hide would be something I could imagine him doing if he encountered the situation Riley did when with his father in PEI.
As for JD Phelps, his character is based upon an author friend, Michael Phelps, who has worn many hats; his retirement as Chief Investigator from a well-known Miami law firm was the last hat he wore before trying his hand at writing. I just had to have him help David find his daughter.
As for the other characters, they wrote themselves, but it doesn’t mean they are any less important. Caitlin and Jocelyn, for example, are two girls I wish I could meet so I might wrap my arms around them, even if they have David and Demi to comfort them. Those two girls tugged at my heartstrings unlike any other “child” character I’ve created.
RW – If Only seems to be a very personal story. I know you are a talented writer but there are elements here that are portrayed almost too perfectly for the imagination. How did the story develop?
NORMA – The story is pure imagination which started with an idea and grew. I wish I could say I had personal experience which enabled me to write the story as I did but, at the time I wrote If Only, I didn’t. It was months after the story was written that the bottom dropped out of my world from losing so many people I cared about. I guess you can say I threw myself into my characters’ lives so that I became each one of them and went with how I thought I might feel.
RW – There are young children in the book and they deal with some very big emotions. How did you go about writing those parts? I mean they are spot on.
NORMA – When I wrote If Only, I was living and breathing the story no matter what I was doing, where I was or whom I was with. It became my life, consuming every ounce of energy I possessed. I didn’t feel comfortable until I was in front of my computer, having settled in to write for the evening.
The issues the young children had to deal with surprised me because I didn’t see them coming. However, I’m a firm believer that, as something is written, so shall it be. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t review and polish a piece of writing; what I mean is that, for me, if a storyline begins to write itself, I have to go along for the ride and see how everything unfolds. As of yet, I’ve never written myself into a corner.
I threw myself into the character of Caitlin looking at her younger sister’s pain. It was as if Caitlin stepped inside of me and told me how she was feeling. As for Jocelyn, I imagined how I might feel if something I did hurt someone else. I know, without a doubt, I’d be blaming myself, no matter what anyone said. It would take time for me to heal completely.
As for Sophie and Riley, I tried imagining how I would feel if my hero let me down; it wasn’t a difficult thing to do, though I hated that they had grown scared of a person they had loved so much. It brought to mind an experience from my childhood, seeing a man I loved in a drunken state. When he called out to me, I was terrified. I remember hiding, not because I was afraid of the man, but because of the way my name sounded that particular time when he said it. Writing If Only, I went with the way I felt at that time in my life and used my feelings as a starting point for writing the scenes.
The emotions were painful to deal with as I wrote the various scenes but, in some peoples’ lives, those emotions and feelings of being afraid are faced on a daily basis – whether it’s because they lost a loved one or have grown afraid of a person who has been assigned to love and protect them.
RW – Again about the children in the book, I personally look at what you did as taking a lot of strength to do. Even as a work of fiction I know it’s difficult to write certain pieces. How did you handle those parts with the children? How did you not curl up and want to hide under a blanket in the bed?
NORMA – Let me tackle the easiest issue first: the fear that developed for Sophie and Riley soon after they went to PEI for vacation. I’ve been to PEI and I stayed at one of the cottages in Hampton mentioned in the story. I had to deal with my garbage the same way my characters did, having everything sorted depending upon what it was made from or whether it was organic waste. I had the same level of excitement as Sophie did, even if I was confused, at first.
The events that followed – their father taking up smoking and beginning to drink – unsettled Sophie and Riley. It was difficult to write those scenes because these two kids didn’t grow up in such an environment. Their mother was allergic to tobacco smoke so that was the first thing to instill fear into their young minds. When their father began drinking, shouting that they didn’t need their mother anymore, I wanted to knock him on his backside then kick him in the ribs a couple of times – which was shocking for me. I rarely want to bring pain to one of my characters but, in that moment, Robert Glenn was lucky I decided to let him live.
When Riley crawled from underneath the bed, my heart broke for this child who had lost a level of innocence he should never have lost, especially at such a young age. Up to the point when they left for their trip to PEI, he had already been trying, in his own way, to get his father’s attention in the way he craved. Yes, it was difficult to write such a scene. In my mind, Riley deserved the kind of father David was to his girls, a father whose world revolved around his children.
With Jocelyn and Caitlin, however, I could easily have curled up in bed and kissed the story goodbye because I didn’t want to deal with the emotions anymore. What good would that have done, though? In my mind, they would’ve been left in limbo. I would have left two little girls hurting when healing might have come their way, so I did the only thing I could do: I continued to write the story while sobbing like a baby sitting at my computer, reaching for tissues as I needed them. With the emotional scars I feared they’d have to deal with for the remainder of their lives, I had to try to come up with some type of happy ending for them. I owed them that much; after all, it was my writing which brought them so much pain so the least I could do was try to repair the damage.
RW – How important is the seat belt rule in your family?
NORMA – I live in Arctic Canada where seat belts are rarely, if ever, used – at least in the areas where I live. There is no law that states we have to use them, but I can’t speak for the remainder of the territory. We don’t have a vehicle to drive, anyway – except an ATV during summer – so it’s a moot point.
Because I am typically the only adult traveling with the kids, in the distant past, sometimes I’ve encountered situations in which it seemed safest to take one of the little ones in the front with me than leave them crying in the back.
For example, my girls and I were traveling in one of the states several years ago when they were young, before my son was born. My girls were not used to trees since we live above the treeline in Arctic Canada. This particular night, it was dark – though not late – and we were surrounded by trees with little traffic on the lonely road we were driving. The hotel room was booked but we still had about an hour or so to drive before we got there. My youngest daughter, a baby at the time, woke to the darkness outside and started crying. I don’t know how long she cried but I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I pulled over quickly, unstrapped my seat belt and turned around in my seat. I took her out of the car seat and put her on my lap closest to the door, strapped the seat belt the best I could over both of us and continued driving. In all honesty, had it not been such a dark, deserted road, or if I had another adult in the vehicle with me, I likely would have stayed pulled over until she drifted back to sleep but, given the circumstances, it felt safest to make the decision I made.
In general, though, from the time I board a plane with my family, the seat belt is fastened. Like David, I will not move a car unless every seat belt is fastened, even if we are driving outside of the country and enter a state where the seat belt law is not in effect.
Imagine my surprise (in 2011) when stopping at a drive-through in Ohio and seeing a baby sitting on a man’s lap in the back seat. I was astonished! A lady at a restaurant later told me that seat belts were not required in Ohio and, as long as a baby is sitting in the back seat, it’s okay.
Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel comfortable driving unless I’m wearing my seat belt. To me, sitting in a moving vehicle without using my seat belt would be similar to a cop going on duty and failing to take his weapon. It just doesn’t make sense.
A side note: driving in the dark is at a minimum over recent years yet, strangely, my children now miss it. Since they are older, I may begin resuming my old habits because I miss driving at night, too.
RW – Your writing, and I am including your previous books, have a great deal about families in them, even if they are families of friends. How much does your own family influence your writing?
NORMA – Off the top of my head, I can’t see a correlation between my family and the subjects I write. However, family is important and, with a larger number of parents working and having less time to spend with their kids, I like to write stories which brings the family unit to the forefront of readers’ minds, even in their down time.
RW – Tell us about a food court at a mall and how important that is to your writing career?
NORMA – I knew the minute I read this question that you did some extensive homework in preparing your interview. I’ve been searching the recesses of my mind to remember where you might have come across something I wrote that led up to this question, but I’m drawing a blank.
To answer your question, though, I started writing poetry when I was a teenager. I was going through a rough situation and needed an outlet for my thoughts. I worked at a Laura Secord location in St. John’s, Newfoundland, at the time. During lunch breaks, I would quickly grab a bite to eat in the food court and then put pen to paper and write.
I wrote poems and songs about my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I imagined a situation and how I might feel if I was in that situation and wrote about it. Other times, I looked at people – studied them – and wrote poems or songs about what I thought they might be feeling.
At any rate, it was a starting point. Over the years, I went on to write several novels and short stories – some of which I’ve published – and I’m proud to say I have an ever-growing fan base.
RW – About your writing process. If Only was a ‘let my imagination run its course’ book written during November of 2013, perhaps NaNoWriMo. It’s been over a year later. Is that your normal process? Is that your normal length of time from beginning to being published?
NORMA – From the time I finish writing a book to the time it is published depends entirely upon what is going on in my life. I try not to box myself in too much, in terms of announcing deadlines, since I have no way of knowing what will arise on any given day.
Sometimes I intend to work on publishing a title but another story idea comes to mind and I need to start writing immediately. I follow my gut a lot in everything I do so, sometimes, writing projects get put on hold for a while.
To give you an idea of time lines, I published the first book of my Freedom in Love Series, An Affair to Remember, in September of 2011. The second book of the series, When Love Abides, was published three months later. I was on a roll with thoughts for the third book, Soul Confessions, to be written and published soon afterwards. However, life happened. My grandson came along and I started writing shorter stories because I didn’t have as much writing time.
I went on to publish two short stories and two novellas by September, 2012. By that time, life had settled into a routine and I started working on Soul Confessions. It came to an abrupt halt when I felt prompted in my spirit to write, Coming Unglued: A Mother’s Journey into Hell. The story would not let me go so I had no choice but to follow through; it was published in November of 2012.
Just when I thought, again, I’d be able to focus on writing more of my series, my granddaughter came along. I knew I was in trouble where my writing was concerned. What made matters worse was that I had readers wanting to read the third book of the series and had to put them on hold.
That being said, after writing If Only in November of 2013, I knew I would let the story sit for a while. I had to finish writing Soul Confessions and, because there was going to be such a lengthy time between the publication of the second book and the third, I didn’t feel it was right to publish Soul Confessions until the fourth book (Divided Loyalties) was written.
Months passed. Little writing would be done until June, 2014, when I resumed writing and finished Soul Confessions then, without taking a break, started writing Divided Loyalties.
Sunday, July 20, 2014, would see me at David Alexander Vetra’s apartment where I was house-sitting until he got back in town. I decided to cook dinner so he wouldn’t need to fool around with preparing a meal. It was just a quick weekend trip so, while waiting for the next several hours to pass, I took the opportunity to finish writing Divided Loyalties.
At one point in the early afternoon, I was writing a scene and suddenly stopped, then started sobbing like a baby. I noted the time; it’s another quirk of mine. I wanted to stop writing but I felt in my spirit that I had to finish the story, so I got my out-of-the-blue emotions under control and finished it. I was on such a natural high after writing two books in a matter of six weeks that I thought nothing could bring me down.
Just a short while – I’m talking about a couple of hours – after penning the last words of Divided Loyalties, I received news that David was killed in an accident. He was a dear friend of my family and we continue to miss his presence in our lives. I later learned that the time of his death had occurred around the same time I had started sobbing for no apparent reason.
Let me tell you, an emotional high followed by such a devastating low, in such a short span of time, left me feeling absolutely numb. I couldn’t imagine working on publishing a book. I could barely bring myself to think. Thank God I still had a few days of vacation remaining so I could get my head together before returning to work.
Even weeks after, I still couldn’t write. It felt like something had died within me; I feared I’d never feel normal again. Then came Michael Phelps of Miami, Florida – friend of the late David Jannsen and a dear friend of mine – asking if I might consider editing and formatting his two volume book titled, David Janssen: Our Conversations. In retrospect, I believe God took that opportunity to provide a healing balm to my wounded soul.
After I finished with his book, I figured I’d better get Soul Confessions published. Finally, in October, 2014 – three years after the second book of the series was published – the third title was available to my readers. In November, 2014, I took part in another NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote the fifth book of my series, The Promise, which left me free to work on publishing Divided Loyalties.
However, I felt urged within my spirit to publish If Only first, felt the time was right, and here I am promoting this title as much as possible. By the beginning of March, 2015, I will be working on finalizing Divided Loyalties.
RW – I know you are just releasing this book but what are you working on now for your readers to enjoy next?
NORMA – After Divided Loyalties and The Promise are published in 2015, I intend to write another stand-alone book titled, A Lost Mind. In this story, I’ll be writing about a man who had an accident, whose memory was wiped clean, a man who wakes every morning since the accident with no memory of the day before. I intend to build upon his life before the accident and how his life, and the lives of those he loves, has forever changed after the accident. It will be an uplifting story and, amazingly, I already know what the last words will be – but I can’t ruin the surprise so I will keep them to myself. They are written upon my heart and I shall not forget.
RW – Is there a genre that you would like to explore and if so why?
NORMA – Unlike many writers who would like to become known for writing a certain genre, I don’t want to box myself in. I guess I’m much like an actor who doesn’t want to become known for only being able to act in certain types of roles. That being said, there are subjects I won’t write but every subject I write about will have emotional depth.
RW – One of your interests is writing poetry. Would you write a poem to share with our readers that you believe fits If Only?
Happiness lingers all around,
Smiles and laughter everywhere,
Until, one day, the phone did ring,
Bringing news one couldn’t bear.
An anchor comes from a past life,
Calms the stormy, raging sea,
Spreading her arms of love around,
Falls in love, but it can’t be.
Yearning to know what is the truth,
A voice whispers in the night,
One man can hear and he believes.
His mission is to set things right.
Copyright 2015 Norma Budden
RW – You are very prolific in your writing. I also know you do some editing. Where do you find time for it all?
NORMA – I rarely watch television which gives me a lot of time to get extra things done, even though I spend a large portion of each week day outside of the home. Also, writing is as relaxing for me as reading so, sometimes, I choose to write – instead of read – before going to bed. Typically, if I take on an editing project, I don’t write and do very little reading, so it becomes a balancing act. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in two to three hours each night.
RW – You edited Michael Phelps’ books David Janssen-Our Conversations. I’ve read the unedited versions. How does one go about acquiring your services?
NORMA – I haven’t advertised my editorial services, as such. Editing Mike’s book came along because he read some of my e-books and asked me who prepared them for publication. When I told him I passed my book to an editor but did all of the formatting myself, he was impressed and sent his files to me.
Of course, I can’t attach my name to something unless I feel it’s as perfect as it can be so I took on the editing as well as the formatting, setting up the files for publication and so on. I’ve had other assignments, even turned some down, but it is largely dependent on my schedule.
RW – You’re self-published but reading If Only I would think if you wanted to be you would be signed by someone by now. What is the appeal of self-publishing to you? What is your biggest advice to those looking at self-publishing?
NORMA – The biggest appeal of self-publishing is that I get to keep my story how I want it told. I can retain my rights to it and set my own deadlines. I’m a professional in wanting my books released properly the first time they are out the door and, thankfully, there are many tasks involved with self-publishing that I can do myself. Also, in self-publishing, if I was to read one of my books and find a mistake, there would only be myself to blame and I could fix the mistake rather quickly; if I sent my book to a mainstream publisher and saw typos or less than ideal formatting, I’d be upset.
It takes a lot of time preparing a book for publication. I read it over several times to be sure it’s perfect, even after receiving it back from my editor. If I find mistakes, I polish the book and read it again. Yes, it’s a time consuming process and I haven’t even touched on marketing my books. However, I couldn’t imagine sending my book to anyone and having them tell me a scene has to go, especially if I feel that scene is critical to the story.
On the subject of marketing, though, I enjoy interacting with my readers and people who blog about my books. I enjoy forming friendships which would be missing, to a large degree, if I was to go mainstream – and, with mainstream publishing, unless my books were best sellers, they wouldn’t have a long shelf life.
As for advice to those wanting to self-publish, the most important advice I can give you is to be a professional and give yourself time. Don’t publish a work that isn’t edited or formatted properly. Whether your book is in an e-book or printed format, make your book look the same inside as a book you would see in a bookstore. This means your book needs to have front matter. It needs to have a copyright page and it needs to have a title page. Dedication and acknowledgment pages are optional but the other two aren’t.
If you are not inclined to learn how to master the steps of self-publishing and don’t want to take on the marketing aspects of publishing a book, pay a professional to do those things for you. It will be worth it.
RW – How do you define success?
NORMA – I could write a book on how I would define success, and I’m willing to bet it would turn out to be an emotional story.
I’m alive. I’m healthy and my children are healthy. I have a job, clothes on my back, food on my table each day and a roof over my head which isn’t threatened. To me, these are the basics of being successful because, without any of these, one would define true success as attaining all of these.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention money, any more than what one needs to comfortably meet their basic needs each day. A wise man once told me that money is a tool, that it should never be a god. I’ve taken those words to heart and, in the process, I’ve learned that by giving to others, I become richer in spirit. This is success to me.
However, if I could reach a point in my life in which I could devote most of my day to writing and promoting my stories, it would be the ultimate form of success, especially if I can write from an office with a wall of windows overlooking a large body of water.
RW – I have one question I always ask my authors: what is your favorite word and why?
NORMA – I never thought about this, but the first word which comes to mind is forgiveness. It is the only word I know which completely sets a person free. For example, you can love one person and hate another but, unless you release the hatred, the love you feel will never be as full as it can be because hatred will hold you prisoner. It will keep you from living the life you were meant to live.
RW – What is one book, that you were not involved in any way with, that you would recommend for people to read?
NORMA – It’s interesting that I was thinking about this last night before going to sleep. I read a book by Dean Mayes a couple of years ago called, The Hambledown Dream. The story has forever stayed with me, likely because it was so different.
The author had a passing thought which led him to wonder what might happen if a dying man’s soul inhabited the body of another who had led an undesirable life but would walk away from the emergency room, his body unscathed. The Hambledown Dream has overtones of reincarnation, which I’ve never read before nor since, but this story gripped me. The writing was some of the best I’ve ever read and to say the story carried me away would be an understatement.
There are many great books out there and I’ll never get to them all but some of the books I’ve enjoyed most over the past three years can be found at Budden Book Reviews.
RW – Where can everyone find you online?
I can also be found at several places but the most popular social networks I frequent are:
Sometimes I’m asked, “Ronovan, how short should my answers be?” when I ask interview questions. My answer is always, “As long as they need to be.” Today I could have cut down and edited some of what Norma Budden said, but you know what? Don’t you know who she is now and what drives her? Can you feel how much writing is such an integral part of her life? It’s more than a passion. I have grown to know Norma during the interview process, reading If Only for review and giving her feedback. When she says she is a perfectionist, let me tell you, she means it. She cares about the scenes being just right. I reviewed If Only. I called it the most personal review I’ve ever done. I came close to not reviewing books after doing this one. Not because the book was bad. You’ll need to read the review to see the answer. Buy If Only today. Don’t waste time in thinking, “Oh, I’ll do it later.” No, do it now by clicking here now.
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