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Anne E. Johnson meditates on the universe of fiction-writing
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1. The Most Profound Gaseous Emission in Literary History: #AnthonyBurgess' First Line

Some thoughts about a great novel's opening 

by Anne E. Johnson


So runs the first line of Anthony Burgess’ 1963 novel, Inside Mr Enderby. The onomatopoeic coinage
represents flatulence, of course. It becomes even funnier when one reads the second line: “And a very happy New Year to you too, Mr Enderby!” That’s the narrator, out of sleeping Enderby’s earshot, inviting the reader to observe the novel’s subject.

Mr. Enderby (or Mr without the period, since he’s British) is a poet. He’s also middle-aged, slovenly, and constipated of bowel and pen. His tale, the first in a series of four novels about him, begins in the second section of Chapter 1. The opening section the one starting with the airish effluvia is an introduction to the character in second person, as if the reader were being guided through a writers’ zoo, gawping at a curious creature labeled Poet:

Yes, remark again the scant hair, the toothless jaw, the ample folds of flesh rising and falling. But what has prettiness to do with greatness, eh?

Although Enderby does not consciously hear the commentary we read, he is at one point described as giving a “posterior riposte.”

In fact, Burgess draws a constant connect between Enderby’s intestinal plumbing and his verse output. His work station, or “poetic seat,” as Burgess calls it, is the porcelain throne itself. The choice is both meaningful and efficient: It is meaningful as a metaphor for the often painful struggle of the writer to actually produce anything. It is efficient because, although Enderby the man can rarely “go” successfully, Enderby the writer makes use of the bowl beyond its traditional function. In one passage, his failed drafts are “crumpled into the wastebasket on which he sat.”

Burgess, it should be noted, is the poster-child for preferring strict metaphor to simile. Although it creates more work for the reader, who sometimes has to puzzle out what is meant, the mental toil pays off. That quoted phrase above about the wastebasket would have been mundane if Burgess had written that Enderby tossed the draft “into the toilet as if it were a wastebasket.” Because Burgess lets the toilet simply be a wastebasket, the image is more powerful.

Do not think, however, that this approach of bathroom fixture re-identity is in the interest of delicacy. Remember, the novel does start with a fart. 


Anthony Burgess
Burgess’ first line could not be more appropriate for the story of a writer seeking recognition. Enderby struggles to produce what he thinks of as worthy writing. When he writes at all, he scrawls on toilet paper. His current project is a huge epic poem, which he amasses by collecting non-execrable lines (those he deems worth saving from a swirling, watery grave) in a mournful heap of TP squares in this bathtub. As a result of this unique editorial method, Enderby also cannot bathe, and so the cycle of self-loathing is reinforced.

Another reason the first line works is that flatulence is funny and gross. Enderby himself is funny and gross. This book is funny and gross. And it’s all an analogy to a writer’s life which often is, by turns, funny and gross.

Flatulence also drives people away. Just as Enderby is alone and lonely, writing is a solitary job. The obsessive practice of it, like the overconsumption of pinto beans or garlic, can render the writer socially toxic.

Inside Mr Enderbyis not only a hilarious and bittersweet portrait of a fictional character. It is also a truthful, humbling reminder to all of us writers: from Shakespeare on down, our words are nothing but flatulence of mind and spirit. Only some do not, shall we say, smell as sweet as others.

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2. Cover reveal: RED SPAWN DELIVERY #funny #scifi #novel

It's here! The cover for book 3 in the Webrid Chronicles series!

How can a picnic go so wrong?

Ganpril Webrid’s  grandfather always told him not to use his cart unless he was getting paid for it. But this huge, hairy carter on the planet Bexilla let a friend talk him into carting beers and grub to a picnic with her old college roommate. 

Worst mistake he ever made. Before he can even burp up his first sandwich, the ol’ roomie stretches out her ten shiny legs, and out pop a hundred spawn. And before Webrid can settle his churning stomach, fifty of those spawn have been kidnapped.

Like it or not, Webrid finds himself on another planet-hopping adventure with snarky, brainy pals Zatell and Stravin and a host of wacky aliens. This time, Webrid’s cart is a playpen -- or it will be, if he can only find those blasted spawn.       

Watch for the release of RED SPAWN DELIVERY in Spring 2017.

If you'd like to be notified by email, please sign up here.

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3. Excerpt: Blue Diamond Delivery, funny #scifi

Webrid is excited about the 2017 release of a third book about him. (Who am I kidding? Webrid couldn't care less.) RED SPAWN DELIVERY will be available in a few months. For

now, enjoy an excerpt from the second book in the Webrid Chronicles series...

Blue Diamond Delivery
by Anne E. Johnson

Ganpril Webrid woke up in midair.

“What the…?” He landed with a painful crunch, his wide shoulder wiping out his shelf of commemorative Valestin Hundred-Proof bottles (“Collect all twelve!”).

“Oof!” He pulled a shard of broken glass from his matted fur. That’s when he noticed he was naked.
“I guess it wasn’t a bar fight,” he slurred, as surprised as his muzzy mind would allow. At least he was at home. But something was seriously wrong. Looking around, he saw that most of his meager belongings were capsized or shifted. “Damn. How much did I drink?”

Webrid figured that, since he was on the floor anyway, he could think better if he stretched out on his back. That’s when he noticed the naked Entra lady suction-cupped to the ceiling. “Drarra, honey? Is that you? What you doin’ up there?”

With a resounding pop! pop! Webrid’s favorite paid companion loosened her head from the metal ceiling plates and bent backward to face the floor. “Oh. You still alive?” She didn’t sound thrilled. “What the hell happened?”

Webrid tried to do the gentlemanly thing and look at her face while he spoke to her. He wasn’t having much luck, so he closed his eyes. “Were we attacked by Blennf initiates, or what?”

“Nice one, Web. Mocking people of faith. Very classy.” Her sigh seemed rooted in her lower guts, in that way Webrid had heard from so many whores in his time.

“Seriously, though, what went on here?” he asked again.

Drarra pointed across the room. “I went flying off the bed, same as you. Only I’m lighter and stickier, so I grabbed the ceiling. Help me down,” she ordered, pushing a long, flexible limb toward him.

Webrid stood up in stages, fighting through aches in his hip and shoulder. “Grab hold, babe.” He reached up to get a firm grip on her appendage. “Here we go.” With gentle yanks, he unstuck her, cup by cup, pop! pop! pop!, until she was draped over his arms. “Flew off the bed, huh?” Webrid racked the one dusty corner of his brain that seemed to be working. “You’d think I’d remember sex that good.”

“Oh, please. What sex? You couldn’t manage anything but passing out when we got home last night.”

Webrid was hurt. “You gonna tell me how come we flew off the bed, or do I gotta read it in the paper?”

“It was a quake, I guess.”

Webrid picked some wax out of his ear. “You say quake?”

“Yeah, you know. Ground shaking? People flying off beds? Buildings collapsing, too, probably.”

Webrid rubbed his bruised shoulder. “Quake. Weird. And listen to that.”  


“Outside.” Webrid was used to the sounds of downtown Bargival. He loved the wailing sirens and the vendors shouting at the honking commuters. The revving of engines was like a lullaby to him. But this morning sounded different. A whole new level of chaos.The screeching machinery sounded a lot bigger than usual, some of it hovering in the air. And more people were screaming louder. He’d have looked out the window of his tiny apartment had one. “Sounds crazy out there.” He let Drarra drip onto the bed and started searching for his pants.

“Never been a quake my whole life. And then, boom, there’s a quake? What’s that about?”

“How do I know? Something makes the rocks in the ground shift.”

Webrid, bending over painfully to look under a haphazard sculpture of piled-up furniture, turned his aching neck. “Why would the rocks in the ground shift?”

“What am I, ascientist now? It shakes, is all I know. Just look around you. This mess isyour scientific proof.” Drarra slid off the bed. “I’m hittin’ the Ladies’. Don’t bother me in there.”

Webrid dragged his gaze around his four dingy walls. “Too bad about my building.”

“What about it?” Drarra called from the bathroom. “It’s still standing.”

“Yeah. That’s my point. This lousy building stays upright, but I lose my Val-Hundred bottle collection. Where’s the justice, man?”

“Ha! You drink enough, you’ll have a whole new collection in half a moon.”

Webrid shook his head and pulled a glass shard from between two calloused toes. No point trying to explain to her that those were commemorative bottles. He’d have to deal with black market types to replace that set. Those Akardian salesmen made him cringe, skins covered in floppy lobes and tongues dripping with sweet lies.
Webrid sighed. A quake. Whoever heard of a quake in Bargival?

*   *   *

Want more Webrid? Buy BLUE DIAMOND DELIVERY directly from the publisher, on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and at other online retailers.

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4. Excerpt: Green Light Delivery, funny #scifi

We're gearing up for the release of the third Webrid Chronicles novel, RED SPAWN DELIVERY, in 2017. The style of these books has been described as a cross between

Douglas Adams and Raymond Chandler.

In anticipation, it seemed appropriate to acquaint (or re-acquaint) readers with the ridiculous but lovable mess that is Ganpril Webrid, carter of the city of Bargival on the planet Bexilla in the Raralt Planetary Circle. And so, let us start at the beginning...

Green Light Delivery
by Anne E. Johnson

Ganpril Webrid, carter for the Bargival district, handed a clod of jamboro cake to the blue-skinned businessman.
He took a dendiac note in payment. “You stayin’ here?” Webrid asked, “or can I bring my cart into your space?”
Obviously pretending that he hadn’t heard, the fellow closed his window and sucked the cake down whole through a slimy blue mouth.
Webrid hated these commuter types. Somehow, they never learned the basic courtesies of urban interaction. And they were always in Webrid’s way. So he tried again, louder this time. “Can I use your space, mate?” He enunciated clearly. “How long you stayin’?”
“Bivisher! Braaap!” came the reply, the first word being an expletive, the second a burp.
“Fine. I’ll go somewhere else.” Webrid knew when he’d been licked. But he couldn’t just keep rolling along. He needed to get off the street for a while, after several hours of selling cakes to commuters, pushing his cart through the hotafternoon smog.
As he thought about how tired he was, Webrid realized that someone was standing next to him. “Yeah? I got cakes today, friend,” was his automatic response. Then he turned his head and focused his eyes.
This guy did not want a jamboro cake; he could tell that much for sure. For one thing, this “guy” didn’t appear to be biologically based. Webrid could see the wires at its joints. A great metal head lowered itself on a slender tube of a neck. A brace of digital cameras absorbed the features of Webrid’s face, which made him squirm.
“Like what you see, sailor?” he joked, but only to hide his fear. This wasn’t a Vox police robot. Not one like he’d ever seen, and he’d seen them all, what with parking tickets and contraband searches every few days. The Vox, always watching and listening, seemed to be after him constantly for one thing or another.
The robot’s head came closer to his face. Webrid pulled back. Maybe it was a cop bot after all. “I ain’t parked wrong. I’m on the move, in search of a legal space, officer.”
The robot responded with a mechanical buzz and a series of clicks. A door retracted into its central chamber, revealing a speaker. Somebody—somebody biological—spoke. “Ganpril Webrid, Second-State Licensed Carter,” it announced.
That voice! Icy snakes of déjà vu scuttled up Webrid’s spine. Clear as the bot hovering before him, he pictured the squalid back alley where he used to play with his cousins when he was a kid. Webrid huffed and shook his head, chasing away the random vision.
“Ganpril Webrid,” the voice repeated. “You have been called.”
“Eh?” Webrid had just spoken this syllable when a delicate feeler came flying out of the robot’s head and wiped across his forehead. It stung. “Hey, now, what’s the idea?”
But the thing was gone. Upward. Out of sight.
Webrid felt a headache coming on, and a strange green light pattern was starting to flicker in one eye. The light coalesced into a shape. It was not a very familiar shape, but after a moment of painful concentration, Webrid thought he recognized it. A tree? There weren’t any trees in Bargival, or on the entire planet of Bexilla. Webrid had only seen trees in pictures at school years ago. But now there was one floating in front of him, made of a green cloud. Then its particles dispersed, and there was nothing to see but the comforting grunge of the Bargival streets.

Webrid decided he needed a drink.

* * *

Like Webrid so far? You can buy Green Light Delivery  directly from the publisher, on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and at other online retailers.

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5. Facebook is a Party Town! Meet great authors August 11 and 16 @BroadUniverse @dreaming_robot

Hey, readers. I'm gettin' all social these days. Social media, that is. Two parties coming up soon:

On Thursday, August 11, I'll be joining the brilliant women of Broad Universe to talk about my YA novel, Space Surfers. My slot is 2:30 pm Eastern, but you'll want to hang around all day to see all the exciting spec fic writers. There will be giveaways, contests, and generally good conversation about all things science fiction and fantasy.

Here's the event link. Please join us!

And then there's the...

Dreaming Robot Press is about to launch the Kickstarter for its third annual Young Explorer's Adventure Guide. On Tuesday, August 16, I'll be joining a host of other current and past contributors to that terrific anthology series to talk about writing speculative fiction for kids and teens. I'm scheduled for 12:30 Eastern. You won't believe the lineup of talent before and after me, so stick around.

Here's the event link. Look forward to seeing you there!

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6. Acquisition Announcement: Candlemark & Gleam welcomes a new Webrid novel

Hey, Webrid fans!

You helped everyone's favorite snarky carter figure out where that laser in his forehead came from in GREEN LIGHT DELIVERY.

You watched Webrid and friends keep their solar system from cracking apart in BLUE DIAMOND DELIVERY.

And now I am thrilled to report that Candlemark & Gleam Publishing has officially announced the acquisition of RED SPAWN DELIVERY. Poor Webrid, who just wants to sit around guzzling booze, has to hop from planet to planet, chasing down fifty kidnapped alien spider babies. This was not what he had planned for the week.

And if you have not yet been introduced to Webrid or the other madcap characters in the Raralt Planetary Circle, I promised you'll be tickled. These novels have been described as a cross between Douglas Adams and Raymond Chandler, so you know you won't be bored!

See the official announcement on the Candlemark & Gleam blog. The novel is scheduled for release in early 2017.

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7. It's launch day! #middlegrade #historicalfiction #musichistory FRANNI AND THE DUKE

Hello! I'm thrilled to share launch day with you. 

Franni and the Duke is here! This is a historical mystery novel about a 12-year-old girl in the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. It takes place in 1608, while famed composer Claudio Monteverdi is rehearsing his new opera, Arianna.

The missing duke of a neighboring town may be hiding out in Mantua as an opera singer. Franni thinks she knows the truth, but she dare not tell...

Buy Franni and the Duke on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, or directly from the publisher, Sunbury Press.

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8. Launch Day! BEYOND RAINBOW: 6 Tales of the Fantastical #fantasy #shortstories

I'm delighted to present Beyond Rainbow: 6 Tales of the Fantastical, my latest e-book collection for adults.

From neo-folklore to urban fantasy, from ancient villages to modern suburbs, award-winning author Anne E. Johnson explores a wide range of fantastical fiction in this collection.

A man becomes fascinated by a child who saves lives in Connecticut; two sibling gemstones compete for the attention of the humans who use them for magic; an institutionalized patient hears hostile beings in the radiator...

These six little stories will by turns disturb, challenge, and mesmerize you.

You can purchase Beyond Rainbow at

Amazon    Barnes&Noble     Kobo     iTunes

and elsewhere, for the crazy-low price of 99 cents. Enjoy. And please remember to leave a review.



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9. Upcoming reading in NYC: Rough&Ready Chapter One (novel openings) @RoughnReadyRep

I'll be there, reading from a middle-grade fantasy novel. (The "rough" means works-in-progress.) These Rough & Ready events are always great fun!

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10. Cover reveal now! FRANNI AND THE DUKE middle grade historical novel from @SunburyPress

In May of 1608, the Duke of Mantua will throw the most spectacular wedding extravaganza in history. But it will all be ruined unless twelve-year-old Franni can keep a very big secret.

Franni and the Duke, coming soon from Sunbury Press, takes place during rehearsals for Arianna, an opera by the great composer Claudio Monteverdi. When Franni and her older sister Alli run away to Mantua, they both find work in Monteverdi's company. 

A messenger from the north announces that the next duke of the town of Bergamo is missing, and he may well be in Mantua. Alli notices that Luca, a singer she's in love with, fits the missing Duke's description. 

Although Franni thinks Luca is a pompous idiot, she promises for Alli's sake to keep Luca's secret safe and protect him from bounty hunters and Bergamo's rival family. She does this with the help of the company's set designer, a worldly wise and world-weary dwarf named Edgardo, who is not exactly what he seems. 

Here's a look at the beautiful cover of Franni and the Duke:

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11. #Fantasy Cover reveal: BEYOND RAINBOW 6 Stories of the Fantastical July 1 release!

Keep your eye peeled for this lovely thing, hitting the e-stores July 1, 2016:

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12. J.L. Gribble's Adventures in Outlining Her Novel STEEL VICTORY

In March I had the pleasure of being a guest author at Cleveland ConCoction. On the last day of the con, as I sat in the book room, I started a conversation with my neighbor. J.L. Gribble was selling her novel Steel Victory, the first in her Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books. She kindly agreed to stop by Jester Harley's Manuscript Page to tell us her outlining secrets. Listen up!

*   *   *

Adventures in Outlining
By J.L. Gribble

Though I didn’t write my debut novel, Steel Victory, with the intention of turning it into a series, I jumped at the chance to do so at the invitation of my publisher. Unfortunately, that means actually writing the series! After a brief moment of panic, I got into the swing of things and committed to publishing a novel a year for what is now known as the Steel Empire series. While Steel Victory was published in summer of 2015, and its sequel, Steel Magic, is set to be released this upcoming July, I’ve also already completed a full draft of book 3 and a full scene-by-scene outline of book 4.

Writing a book is pretty much, well, writing a book, but one part of the process I’ve managed to do completely differently every single time is the outline stage. Two terms often used for writers are those who are “plotters” (who have the entire story down before they begin the first draft) and “pantsers” (who make everything up as they go along). Time to do some compare and contrast!

Book 1
Steel Victory was written during the course of a two-year graduate program. I knew what sort of book I wanted to write—urban fantasy, alternate history, nontraditional vampires, strong family bonds—but the actual plot was a different matter. I knew where I was going a few scenes in advance, but once I wrote those few scenes, it was back to square one until I came up with what happened next. This is pretty much the definition of pantsing.

It is very easy to switch directions using this method because you’re not locked into anything if genius strikes while you’re out for a walk or driving somewhere. Or in my case, in the shower.

I had a ton of clean-up work to do on the book afterward. Some scenes needed to be restructured and I ended up cutting over 10k words from the final version because a few more scenes were ultimately useless because I hadn’t quite nailed down where I was going at that point.

Book 2
Because I was on more of a time crunch to draft and revise my second novel (one year versus two), I knew that I needed to find a better method. For Steel Magic, I started with a full road map (the plotter method). Before I wrote one word of the novel, I had almost 5k words of a detailed outline. I knew what was going to happen in every scene, down to the locations and minor characters involved.

There was never a break in the action. This was especially helpful during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), when I wrote a full 50k words of the novel in 30 days. I never had to sit back and wonder what was going to happen next.

Sometimes I did come up with a few tweaks or a better way to handle the story, and when that happened, I had to go back to my outline and make sure I wasn’t going to write myself into a corner or cause any major plot holes down the line.

Book 3
With another book to write in a single year, I knew I had to stay with the full plotting method. This book I switched it up once again, because I had set myself the goal of a traditional Romeo & Juliet plot (with bonus feminism) set in my world, with my characters. So my scene-by-scene outline was a direct scene-by-scene retelling of Shakespeare’s play. As a former English major, this was both a challenge and a blast.

Because I was basing my story on such a classic tale, I had a blast figuring out my twist on it. It’s not that most of the work was done for me, especially considering my version has a few more epic battles between weredragons and vampires, but having a solid jumping off point certainly made things a bit easier.

Outlining book 4 using the Three Act Structure template.
The narrative structure of a stage play written hundreds of years ago is a tad different from a popular fiction novel of today. I have many more major revisions still in progress for this book based on some critiques from beta readers, in which some scenes need more conflict and at least one needs to be cut completely.

Book 4
At a writing retreat a few months ago, I learned about another outline method called the Three Act Structure used in conjunction with lots of note cards. (For more information on Three Act Structure, click here.) I decided to use this one for my latest book, which involved figuring out all of the major themes and plot points and then filling them out into individual scenes. For me, this involved lots of colorful post-it notes and poster board in for office for my cats to knock over.

The template provides a great list of things that should be included in a novel, like character goals and the dark moment before the act. This was a helpful guide for really digging into the meat of the story I was trying to tell.

I ended up with a lot of major events and nothing in between. Figuring out the smaller conflicts while maintaining a good pace was more difficult than I expected it to be.

What I Learned
This is probably where you expect me to tell you what the best method is, right? Absolutely not. One of my favorite things about the art of writing is that there is no one, true way. Through trial and error, I’ve learned which way works the best for me. The book 2 method: organically outlining in chronological order, by the way. Since I’m not planning anymore rewrites of long-dead playwrights, I think I’ll stick with this for the rest of the series. And to be honest, when I read other novels, I can almost never tell what sort of method the author started out with anyway!

The last few years have been an adventure, but now that I’ve found what works for me, I can’t wait to jump into future projects. After I actually write book 4, of course.

*   *   *

Learn more about J.L. Gribble on her website, Facebook, and on Twitter/Instagram @hannaedits.

Purchase Steel Victory on Amazon.

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13. Launch Day Joy: MOSAICS Vol 2 Indie Women Authors #IAmAMosaic

It's time! Volume 2 of the Mosaics anthology series is out. Stories and poems by and about strong women.

One of the editors, Kim Wells, made this gorgeous promo card for my story, "No One's Land."

And here's a video featuring everybody's story cards:

Oh, and you're welcome to stop by the Facebook party tonight (May 1) from 5:00pm to 7:00pm Central time.

But most important, please pop over to Amazon and buy this wonderful book.

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14. Planet of the Eggs #Comicbook Series Publishes a New Issue!

Coolness alert! My guests today are the writer and illustrator team who create Planet of the Eggs, a dinosaur-themed comic book series. Peggy Bechko and Charlene Sorensen stopped by to discuss their process.

*   *   *
Welcome to Eggland!
by Peggy Bechko and Charlene Sorensen

Peggy Bechko, frequently published author (genres including Romance, SciFi and Western) and optioned screenwriter teamed up with long time friend and former health insurance industry denizen, Charlene Sorensen to bring the world a new world...Eggland.

Friends for many years, Peggy was ready to embark on a whole new venture - comics!

And Charlene was ready to stretch her creative wings.

Together they created the new Planet Of The Eggs Comic Book series. The first in this 'eggciting' adventure across time, space and who-knows-what, Cracked Open, introduced the Six Eggs of Legend and was followed by the second Grimoire: Book of spells, the third, Mummified Egg and the fourth Eruption (the first of a two part adventure).  There are many adventures yet left to tell.

The writing/illustrating team, living in the foothills of the high mountains just five minutes apart, is geared up, creating the second in the two part adventure Eruption and Saving Dot. and have reached a point where one can read the other's mind. Even artistic disagreements are arrived at simultaneously. They spend two to three days a week together, creating jointly and time apart creating illustrations, working on their newsletter and pondering what might come next for the well-armed eggs.

For Peggy, an author who’d always created alone previously, what happens when things change? When the career takes yet another turn (most careers have many of those turns) and life hands this writer a new direction and simultaneously a writing partner?

With a great writing partner, things pop and sizzle as never before. We end each other’s sentences and marvel at one another’s ideas. Effortless. Satisfying. Fun! It gives us chills!

And I guess one would call what we do, creating more than simply writing. We created our own project, a new comic series called Planet Of The Eggs. We learned new software, created story lines, wrote scripts, designed characters from scratch and pulled the whole thing together in an ‘indy’ published comic es, not to mention creating designs for our Café Press Planet Of The Eggs Shop. It was a learning curve the size of Mt. Everest, but it was a great climb. We work side-by-side two days a week and separately the rest of the time sending ideas, created comic characters and other bits and pieces back and forth via email. We’ve learned much about getting our work out there for people to enjoy. It’s a wonder we actually sleep. Actually it’s not clear that Charlene does.

Peggy and Charlene envision a long life for the Six Eggs of Legend as they move between the worlds, superpowers evolving, and fight the forces of evil to save Eggland. And a long and happy partnership in the creation.

*   *   *
Learn more about Peggy, Charlene, and Planet of the Eggs on the official website or subscribe to their newsletter.

Purchase Planet of the Eggs: CRACKED OPEN on Amazon
Purchase Planet of the Eggs: ERUPTION on Amazon.

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15. Book Tour #Giveaway: Terri Bruce's New Novel, WHEREAFTER

I know Terri Bruce as a fellow member of Broad Universe, a society that supports women authors of speculative fiction. As a comrade in literary arms, I was delighted to host Terri's blog tour for her new novel, Whereafter.

And be sure to scroll down to the giveaway!

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Making Believable Ghosts
by Terri Bruce

I’m so thrilled to be here today, celebrating the release of my third novel, Whereafter (Afterlife #3). This is the third book in my Afterlife series, which tells the story of a woman named Irene Dunphy who dies and must learn to navigate the afterlife as a ghost.

I love mythology and the origins of myths, and one day while driving to work, I started thinking about afterlife mythology. I wondered why there were so many different and disparate descriptions of the afterlife if they were all describing the same thing. I mean, realistically, if there is an afterlife, we’re probably all going to the same place. So why is it described so differently by different cultures? I started thinking maybe it was like “The Blind Men and the Elephant”—that is, that all the stories were only describing a part of it. So I tried to imagine what the afterlife would like if all the afterlife stories were true. How would all these very different and sometimes competing places exist together? When I read one myth that said the dead travel to the afterlife via a tunnel of light but another that said it was via a bridge, I tried to imagine a way in which that was possible. Well… maybe different people saw different things—maybe it’s all based on perception. Maybe they weren’t all crossing at the same place. After all, having lived on the North Shore of Massachusetts for many years, I can tell you that sometimes I traveled to work in Boston via a bridge (the Tobin Bridge) and sometimes by tunnel (the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels). It depended on which road/route I was traveling. It was also dependent on my mode of transportation—when I drove, I took the bridge and when I took the bus/public transportation, we went through the tunnel. So maybe that’s how it is for the dead.

When it came to reconciling the many different descriptions of the physical landscape—especially the more strange/outlandish elements—I realized that this could be explained as being different places within the same world and also through the idea of higher planes of consciousness. This is where I borrowed heavily from the Buddhist state of Bardo—an intermediate stage between the physical realm and enlightenment where the person wrestles with demons and visions that are a manifestation of the person’s subconscious. As the person learns and becomes wiser/more enlightened, he/she is able to see through the outward appearance of the demons to their true meaning. If we thought of the afterlife as a place where people gain enlightenment, then things might appear confusing or unexplainable at first. But as the person gains more knowledge and insight—and ascends to a higher and higher planes of being—then they can see more clearly. So, for instance, in the second book of the series, Irene meets a cat that seems to be leading her through the afterlife. To her, it looks like a cat, even though she’s pretty sure it’s not an ordinary cat. Because she isn’t enlightened enough/ascended to a high enough level, she can’t see its true form.

While I was trying to find a way to make all of the various descriptions of the physical landscape work together, I also wanted to write a world that was believable. I didn’t want it to be fantastical fantasy; I wanted the mechanics—the physical rules of it—to be realistic, or, at least, plausible. So I set out to also create realistic explanations for various beliefs and folklore elements. If there really is an afterlife, why do people travel to it through a tunnel of light? Why is it far away and not right here? And why a tunnel of light? What is the function of the light in helping move spirits from the physical realm to the afterlife? Or how about, why do some ghosts see a tunnel, some seem to instantly be transported to the other side, and some get stuck here and can’t cross over? What is the mechanics of that and why it happens?

Another example: how is it that ghosts can walk through walls and yet also move objects? To walk through walls they’d have to have no mass and/or be pure energy. But if they move objects, they have to have mass, right? So how can they both? At times, I began to feel like a physicist trying to describe quantum mechanics (and honestly, after reading all the various mythology, I’m starting to think it could all be plausible at a quantum level!).

I’ve tried very hard to make sure that my world building is realistic and consistent—this has often led to problems that were hard to solve. If ghosts have mass (because they can move things) then how come we can’t see them? But how come we can see them sometimes and other times they are invisible? It’s been really difficult at times being consistent in the world building when the stories are so inconsistent! But once I started thinking of the afterlife as different planes/levels all stacked together and started thinking in terms of different scales – the way that sub-atomic particles and planets exist in the same space—then things began to make more sense… or, at least, be more easily explained

Part of why I’ve loved writing this series is the world-building challenge. Because I created these self-imposed rules (use ALL of the stories and myths and make it all plausible) that I had to adhere to, it really forced me to stretch and grow as a writer. It turns out, coming up with realistic explanations for fantastical things requires MORE creativity than just coming up with the fantastical things themselves. I always thought all of the imagination and fun was in imagining new things, but then getting those things to adhere to a set of rules requires a lot of ingenuity as well. And it’s helped me to develop discipline as well. I could have given up on making the world-building adhere to a strict set of rules (it certainly would have been easier) but I don’t think the books would have been as good. Many readers of the series like how the books feel like they could be real/how the world-building is believable. So, developing that discipline has been a good thing for both me and my readers.

For anyone that loves afterlife mythology or wants to learn more about the Afterlife series, during the month of April I will be participating in the “A to Z Blogging Challenge,” and every day, I will be posting a video blog (at http://www.terribruce.net) in which I reveal all of the hidden references to afterlife mythology and “Easter Eggs” in the series. I encourage everyone to stop by each day and check out the videos! You can also sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date with all my latest news. In addition, I love interacting with readers, so please feel free to email me or connect with me on Twitter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt from Whereafter:

Andras grunted, the sound filled with suspicion. Irene bent down to tie her shoelace, as much to avoid eye contact as anything. When she straightened up, something in the distance caught her eye, shimmering like a mirage. She squinted, not sure she was really seeing what she thought she saw.
“You know, now might be a good time for you to tell me what it was like to live in a castle,” she said.
Andras shook his head, sadly, as if Irene had disappointed him. “You cling too much to the past. Forget the trappings of life. Free your mind from these longings, and so, free your soul. Only then will we be able to escape these shackles and enter Heaven to rest at the side of God.”
Why did he always have to argue about everything? “For God’s sake,” she said, exasperated, “just answer the question!”
Irene pointed to the hulking structure in the distance. “Because,” she said as Andras whirled around to see what she was pointing at, “correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks like a castle.”
“Wow!” Irene said, her eyes roving over the dark, crenellated structure hulking in the far distance. It gleamed dully, the color of burnt blood in a fading afternoon sun. “What the hell do you think that is?”
Andras grunted. “As you said—Hell.”
Irene frowned at him, but her lips quirked in amusement. “Why do you have to be so negative? It could just as easily be Heaven. God is supposed to live in a palace, right—the whole ‘my father’s house has many rooms’ thing? A castle is just a type of palace.”
Andras gave her a dry look. “Does that look like Heaven?”
Irene was on the verge of agreeing that the castle did not in any way look how she imagined Heaven when it shimmered, as if the fading sunlight had been redirected by mirrors. Light rippled across the castle’s surface and the dull, dark, burnt-blood color transformed into gleaming, bright, silver-white. Crisp white pennants flapped from the corners as if whipped by wind. Irene thought she could hear them snapping crisply.
Irene looked at Andras, and he looked at her. His expression made it clear that he had seen the same transformation she had. It was as if the building was trying to trick them into coming closer.

*   *   *
Learn more about Terri Bruce on her website and Goodreads.
Purchase Whereafter at Amazon and other retailers.

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16. Enter the SPACE SURFERS #YAlit #scifi adventure novel giveaway on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Space Surfers by Anne E. Johnson

Space Surfers

by Anne E. Johnson

Giveaway ends April 26, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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17. Launch and #Giveaway! Mosaics Vol. 1: A Collection of Independent Women #feminism #womenwriters

Today's the day! Mosaics is out in the world. I would be excited about this anthology no matter what, but I'm delighted to say that I will have a story in volume 2. Let's give volume 1 a hearty launch!

All the excitement, all the anticipation, and now it's finally here. And don't forget to enter the mega giveaway, including a Kindle Fire, a $50 gift card, and a paperback library, at the end of this post!
A project focused on bringing women's voices to readers and celebrating the stories they have to tell. Including stories by Keyan BowesCarol CaoChelo Diaz-LuddenSarina DorieNaomi ElsterJordanne FullerAri Harradine​Karen HeulerL.S. JohnsonTonya LiburdKelsey MakiJulia RayPatty SomloP.K. TylerDeborah WalkerKeira Michelle Telford​Kim WellsElizabeth Wolf, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women Vol 1

Buy Your Copy Now! 

Mosaic CoverMosaics: A Collection of Independent Women will inspire and shock you with its multi-faceted look at the history and culture surrounding femininity. If gender is a construct, this anthology is the house it built. Look through its many rooms, some bright and airy, some terrifying- with monsters lurking in the shadows.
Mosaics Volume One features twenty self-identified female authors writing about Intersectionality, including women of color, and members of the disability, trans, and GLB/ GSD* (Gender and Sexual Diversities) communities. We have curated amazing short fiction, flash fiction, poetry, essays, and art. It’s personal, political, and a great read.
This collection includes Hugo Award Nominees, Tiptree Shortlists, Pushcart Prize Winners, USA Today Bestsellers, indie superstars and traditionally published talents alike. The anthology combines leading and new voices all proclaiming their identity as Women, and their ability to Roar.

Buy Your Copy Now! 

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18. Cover Reveal: #YALit #scifi #sciencefiction novel SPACE SURFERS

Coming soon from Alban Lake Publishing:

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19. My reading and panel schedule for #PhilCon2015

Next stop Cherry Hill, NJ! If you're going to PhilCon on Nov. 20-22, you'll probably run into me at some point. Please do say hello. Here's my schedule of appearances:

Friday, Nov. 20

5:00 pm
Plaza III (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Diane Weinstein (mod), Darrell Schweitzer, Anne E.
    Johnson, Bernie Mojzes]

    Rachel Swirsky's Nebula-winning and Hugo-nominated “If You Were a
    Dinosaur, My Love” caused considerable controversy because some
    people thought it wasn't a story. What do we mean by a “story”

8:00 pm
Plaza V (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Christine Norris (mod), Anne E. Johnson, Aaron
    Rosenberg, Jack Hillman, Ty Drago]

    Far more than just dystopian dictatorships and magical boarding
    schools, young adult literature has a lot to offer. Let's take a
    look at some of the less-visible categories in the field

Saturday, Nov. 21

1:00 pm
Room TBA
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading

2:00 pm
Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Anne E. Johnson (mod), Robert C Roman]

    Join author Anne E. Johnson as she reads from her new collection of
    short stories, "Things From Other Worlds," and Robert C. Roman with
    a reading from his novel, the space opera "Blank."

5:00 pm
Plaza IV (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Jim Stratton (mod), D.H. Aire, Christine Norris, Anne E.
    Johnson, Dina Leacock, Gary Feldbaum]

    Creating SF&F aimed at kids and teens presents a different set of
    problems from writing for adults. The majority of science fiction is
    serious and brainy, and much of it is quite complex. Children
    respond better to simpler ideas presented with a sense of fun, while
    teens are easily bored, overcome by hormones, and desperate to fit
    in with their peers. This panel explores tricks to writing SF&F that
    appeals to kids and teens, as well as analyzing outstanding examples
    of books, films, and TV shows that draw in younger generations

Sunday, Nov. 22

2:00 pm
Plaza V (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Diane Weinstein (mod), Anne E. Johnson, Barbara A.

    A panel discussing the value of scary stories and how reading about
    fighting monsters can prepare young minds for facing conflicts in
    the real world

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20. Launch Day for YOUNG ADVENTURERS #YAlit Anthology

You know what makes a great holiday gift for a teen?

A book!

(I bet you already knew that.)

Here's a nice new one to consider:

Intrigue Publishing presents YOUNG ADVENTURERS: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers, a collection of exciting YA stories in a variety of genres.

I'm delighted to say that my science fiction story, "Toori's Constellation," is included in these pages.

Find it on Amazon, BN, and other major online retailers. Enjoy!

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21. The intensive research behind J.S. Dunn's BENDING THE BOYNE

May I just say how much I love the term "archaeofiction," which I learned from this essay by J.S. Dunn? This author is all about research and historical fiction, two other things I love.

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Bending The Boyne, set in ancient Eire at 2200 BCE, emulates Jean Auel’s carefully researched series 21stcentury archaeology and reveals a compelling story of change. Bending The Boyne is the first novel of Bronze Age Ireland to explore what might well have happened underlying the mythology. It can be read as archaeofiction, a tale of a largely forgotten culture.
in 'prehistory'. This work has no druid/esses, no time travel, no leprechauns; in short, no fantasy elements. What could possibly inspire a first-time author to spend ten years researching and writing such a work? The answer lies in western Europe’s oldest mythology and its largest concentration of prehistoric rock art. The Boyne mounds, older than the pyramids and Stonehenge, fell out of use around the end of the third millennium BCE as did megaliths along much of the north Atlantic coasts, from the Pyrenees in northern Spain, to Brittany, and into the Isles. The great passage mounds and their carved rocks are now acknowledged to be intricately engineered observatories for movements of sun, moon, and constellations. So what happened?
            To show the cultural clash between astronomy-loving natives and the metal-using newcomers proved no small task. Academics don't agree on all issues but gradually the pattern emerged, that the Beaker People of ca. 2200 BCE disrupted the native culture wherever they arrived. Fortunately, the author enjoyed reading numerous archaeology, archaeogenetics, and astonomy volumes and journals. RyanAir's cheap fares facilitated travel from Ireland, where the author had a country stone house, to the coasts of Wales, Orkney, Brittany, and Spain. 
            Boann’s impassioned struggle to hold on to her people’s astronomy and their values forms the central conflict, when marauders with long bronze knives seek to plunder the Boyne for gold. Boann is associated with the river Boyne and with the white river in the sky, the Milky Way. She appears briefly in the earliest myths and then she literally disappears. Her son Aengus is strongly associated with the passage mound now called Newgrange, his origin a prehistoric version of Who’s Your Daddy? The myths are not clear on just who is his father. It is clear that Boann is the mother of Aengus. In this novel, she is also an apprentice learning her people’s astronomy.
            She faces the choice of duty as against personal desires. Boann’s lover Cian, another sketchy figure from the earliest mythology, is banished overseas. From there he figures out how to help Boann and his people survive the incoming warriors in a profound way.
            The discord surrounding Aengus’ paternity haunts him into adulthood and leads to the shocking result when Aengus finally confronts Elcmar, the invader who married Boann for his own purposes.
            Aengus knows that “all of time is made up of night and day.” He intends to hold onto the Boyne forever, newcomers or not. Truth is stranger than fiction. Even today, winter solstice sunrise warms the inner chamber after more than 4,000 years. So it is that Aengus, the young son of Boann, returns at solstice to shine upon Eire. The Bru na Boinn complex in Ireland is now a UN World Heritage site that has tens of thousands of visitors annually. Perhaps the builders knew this structure could last forever.
            The hidden gold of Eire is not metal, it is the myths themselves and the rich heritage of Irish literature from the likes of Yeats, Synge, Joyce, Flann O’Brien, and others. The astute reader will catch echoes of these in Bending The Boyne.
            One last thing, about the precise location of gold in Ireland: that is still a secret.

More about Bending the Boyne:

Circa 2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age when marauders invade seeking copper and gold. The astronomer Boann and her lover the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, as long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Banished to far coasts, Cian discovers how to outwit the invaders at their own game. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.

This story appeals to fans of solid historical fiction, myth and fantasy, archaeo-astronomy, and Bronze Age Europe. Bending The Boyne received first place, historical fiction, 2011 Next Generation Awards.

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Purchase Bending the Boyne on Amazon.

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22. Launch Day! THE ORPHEUS FACTOR: 6 Dark #ScienceFiction Stories #Scifi

More than half of what I write is for kids, but sometimes I take great delight in writing stories just for grown-ups. Welcome to my newest collection:


Maybe the aliens are already here.

These six works of short science fiction by award-winning author Anne E. Johnson range from Earth-bound cyberpunk to a space-opera retelling of an ancient Greek myth. All-in-all, the collection will leave you ... unsettled.

Purchase THE ORPHEUS FACTOR as an ebook at major online retailers:

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23. Two cover reveals to start 2016

Happy New Year! Here's what's cooking, pictorially speaking:

My cyberpunk story "Dreamwire" will appear soon in Futuristica Vol. 1 from Metasagas Press.

My choose-your-ending story "Space Dust Smoothies," for middle grade readers, will appear on the Epi-Fiction site.

More details soon!

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24. One for Every Taste: My Three Novels Coming Out in 2016

The year 2015 saw a lot of short publications by Anne E. Johnson, but nothing longer than five thousand words. And not for lack of trying. The fact is, when you deal with small publishers, you learn to expect various things not to go as planned.

Giving details would be gauche, so suffice it to say that I lived through a bookless 2015 and now look forward to the 2016 release of three novels, in three genres, from three different publishers. To wit:


SPACE SURFERS (Alban Lake Publishing) 
This YA far-future science fiction adventure takes place on a planet called Soranen and features a pair of twins whose ancestry is a mixture of the Ellarisor and Human species. The teens' secret, illegal jet flights above the planet's atmosphere uncover a great mystery that inspires them to figure out the origins of their Human blood.


FRANNI AND THE DUKE (Sunbury Press) 
Going back to my roots as a musicologist, I wrote this middle-grade historical novel as a celebration of one of my favorite composers, Claudio Monteverdi. It's May of 1608 when a 12-year-old girl named Franni and her older sister enter the glorious city of Mantua. Soon they find themselves working on Monteverdi's new opera in the Duke's impossibly glamorous Palazzo. But when the Duke of a nearby town goes missing and Franni's sister also seems to be in danger, Franni must piece together a puzzle even more complicated than the maestro's music.

FALL 2016

RED SPAWN DELIVERY (Book 3 of the Webrid Chronicles; Candlemark & Gleam) 
Webrid is back, and it's chaos as usual in the Raralt Planetary Circle. The every-alien who just wants to be left alone to belch beer is once again forced into an adventure. This time a whole litter of babies get stolen from under their mother's nose. And just because the mom went to college with Webrid's friend Zatell, Webrid has to help find the blasted things.

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25. Celebrating a Neighborhood Bookstore: Home at Word Up, a #picturebook by Becky Fullan

This blog has featured writers from all over the world, but today I'm keeping it local. Becky Fullan is a friend and fellow writer who volunteers at Word Up, a wonderful bookstore in NYC. She's also the author of their newest publication, a picture book called Home at Word Up.

*   *   *

Bookstore as Community
by Becky Fullan

In June of 2011, I discovered Word Up Community Bookshop in my neighborhood of Washington
Heights. It was only intended to exist for a month, as a pop-up bookstore and community arts space in an abandoned storefront. The first event I attended at Word Up, which at the time was hosting multiple events each day, featured a group of teenagers presenting passionate, funny, deeply engaging monologues and dialogues about their experiences living in Washington Heights. It was clear to me very quickly that Word Up was a space that was radically local, practically communal and horizontal in its organization, and rooted in books, words, and the arts. The only thing I hated about it was that it was supposed to go away so soon.

It turned out a lot of other people felt the same way, and so we worked to stay, month after month, for a whole year. Then, when we lost our original space, we continued to meet weekly and launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to open a new, more permanent home. In 2013, we reopened in our current location at 2113 Amsterdam, and we have been selling books, offering manifold events, promoting the work of local authors and artists, and otherwise building and contributing to our neighborhood’s communities ever since.

As part of our Indiegogo campaign, we promised to create a picture book telling a story of this unique space. Every piece of the project was dreamed and created by Word Up volunteers. I came into the process after Mary Ann Wincorkowski had created a basic structure and plan for the story, about a little girl who comes to Word Up and discovers the community and possibilities there. I had an incredibly fun job, which was to find the story in this plan, develop the particular characters of this little girl and her aunt, who cared for her, and shape their quest to find a home and a sense of connection in Washington Heights. This was a joy, particularly in attending deeply to the question of what makes a home, and trying to express that as beautifully and succinctly as possible.

Sandy Jimenez did the art for the book, and seeing his art interpret and delightfully expand the concepts in my writing has been an incredibly rewarding part of this process. My favorite piece of art in the book is the very last page, because of the way that it subtly continues the story and artistically enacts our desire to turn this pop-up shop into something that lasts forever.

Becky Fullan, left, perfecting a display at
Word Up Community Bookshop.  (Photo: Emmanuel Abreu) 
The editing, design, and publishing was also expertly orchestrated by Mary Ann Wincorkowski and Veronica Liu, while a team of translators, Daniella Gitlin, Lucy Gitlin, and Mariel Escalante, rendered my prose into gorgeous Spanish. I tend to write with a lot of poetic, figurative language, even (or perhaps especially) in this concise format, and being able to read this skillful translation, done with loving attention to my words and my meanings, has been an extraordinary pleasure. Working with both a visual artist and the team of translators added layers of artistic collaboration to a process that was fundamentally rooted in collaboration and community expression.

We’ll be having a launch party this Saturday, Feb. 5th, at 2 PM, featuring music by Gio Andollo, a reading of the book, and a discussion of its creation. Here's the event page on Facebook. If you are a long-standing friend of Word Up, or if you have never heard of us or been able to visit before, I would be delighted to welcome you to my home at Word Up.

*   *   *

You can follow Word Up on Twitter and Facebook.
Learn more about Becky Fullan on her blog

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