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Archive for March, 2011

Today we welcome JL Merrow to the blog. She says: “Hi, I’m JL (Jamie) Merrow. I’m that rare beast; an English person who refuses to drink tea. I started writing in 2007 and nobody has yet been able to stop me. Most of what I write is m/m romance.”

1. If I was coming to the UK on vacation, tell me one place I MUST visit?

The Isle of Wight. It’s like travelling back in time, but safe in the knowledge you are in no danger of killing/accidentally becoming your own grandfather.

2. Rolling hills and sleepy villages or fast paced city life?

Oh, hills and villages, definitely. A small town at a push. I’d hate living where I’d have to drive everywhere (and if you could see the dents on my car you would understand this) so village life is ideal for me.

3. Do you really drink tea all the time? How do you take it?

Tea? Ugh. *spits* Can’t stand the stuff. Gimme a nice cup of coffee any day.

4. Have you ever met (or seen up close) a member of the Royal Family? Share the details.

I once saw Prince Harry drive into Clarence House. It was supremely underwhelming. Oh, and I used to work with the son of someone who broke her legs skiing with Prince Charles. He was a jolly nice chap.

5. Who is your favourite British author/book (outside of your genre)?

Outside of m/m, it has to be Terry Pratchett. Anything I know about writing humour, I stole learned from the great Sir Terry.

A more appealing grimy underbelly?

6. Corontation Street or East Enders? Your favourite character?

All I can say about the soaps is that I loathe East Enders slightly less than I hate Corrie. If I want to wallow in the grimy underbelly of life—actually, on reflection, I NEVER want to wallow in the grimy underbelly of life.

7. Who is your favourite British actor or actress?

Currently, Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch. Although I used to have a bit of a thing for David Tennant. Helen Mirren, for showing you can be older and still sexy.

8. What was your first published story?

Good Company, a Torquere Sip which came out in June 2009 (and is still available) It’s about a young lad hitch-hiking from London to the North, who is picked up by an attractive older man. The working title, by the way, was Deep Fried Mars Bar, which will make perfect sense to anyone who’s read it!

9. I’m coming to your house for a traditional English meal (your choice from breakfast to midnight snack). What are you going to serve?

Me? Nothing. I don’t tend to cook for company, a fact for which company is on the whole rather grateful. My other half, however, will probably roast you a dead animal of some kind, served with boiled potatoes, several kinds of veg, and gravy. If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to eat meat again for a fortnight! Oh, and there will be pudding of some kind; the other half is quite inventive with those (I rarely eat them). My contribution will be plenty of red wine, followed by strong coffee in pretty little cups.

10. Who is your favourite British musical artist?

Franz Ferdinand

Er….are the Beatles still going? Okay, I’m not quite that out of date, but close! I tend to listen to old Franz Ferdinand, the Fratellis, Kaiser Chiefs, and the Zutons, with a dash of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse when I’m in the mood.

www.jlmerrow.com

Thanks so much Jamie. You can find a list of all of her books and other fun information at the link above. I think you do win the prize for seeing the best looking royal.

Jamie has a lot of new releases in the next few months, almost all of them set in the UK for those of us who love books set in exotic (I can say that because I’m Canadian) locales. 🙂

5 March: Tortoise Interruptus
1. April: Blazing June, in the Lesbian Cops anthology
17 May: Camwolf (novel)
1 June: The Prince and the Plumber, in the Handsome Prince anthology
19 July: Breaking Eggs (provisional title) – novella
date tba: Wight Mischief (novel)

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Title: Tortoise Interruptus
Author: JL Merrow
Length: 10,800 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m  Pararnormal
Rating: B+

Blurb:
Cursed by an impatient witch to turn into a tortoise at inopportune moments, Tip is horrified to find himself tortoise-napped by a customer at the cafe where he works.

Things start to look up when Tip ends up very literally in the capable hands of drop-dead gorgeous Steve — but Tip soon begins to wonder just how far he can trust Steve, who turns out to have a close connection with his kidnapper. Tip’s attempts at a normal life seem doomed to remain frustrated in more ways than one!

Review:
I’m not usually a huge fan of shifter stories but this lighthearted tale of poor Tip who, after annoying a bad-tempered witch, is cursed as a tortoise shapeshifter, was a real winner for me. It’s just the exact opposite of the highly emotion-laden usual shifter stories, and I found myself charmed by the hapless Tip who is resigned to his fate.

The setting of the Isle of Wight proved to be a backdrop to the story and managed to blend the busyness of a tourist island with the superstition that can linger in a small community of people. Thus it is that Tip and his family think it nothing unusual that every so often Tip has ‘one of his turns’ and ends up in the garden of the family run cafe, amusing the tourists with his tortoise behaviour and scrounging lettuce. Poor Tip. I did feel a little sorry for him, especially when he is tortoise napped. In fact I struggled a little to contain my laughter at his total indignation at being dropped into a handbag. When he meets Steve things suddenly seem to be on the upturn for Tip, but interfering old ladies, sisters and witches conspire against them at every turn.

As you can probably gather, this was not a book to be taken too seriously. I giggled along with various parts as the author’s witty one liners and comedic situations, coupled with Tip’s very dry sense of humour and narrative voice made this a very amusing read. Tip was a delight, full of very British self-depreciation. Steve is less well defined and my one niggle with the story was that things happened a little too quickly with these guys. Having said that the constraints of the word length meant that there wasn’t time for a lengthy courtship and I was still pleased by the ending which managed to combine a HFN with a last bit of humour.

Overall, this is a great little story. It’s ideal for those who like a healthy dose of humour and are looking for a shifter story which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Great stuff.

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I’d like to welcome Clare London to the blog today. Clare says: ”I’m an author of male/male romance and erotica, and have been publishing my work since 2007 in both print and ebook, from novels to short stories. My official bio says I enjoy both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters – and I believe that’s always going to be my way.”

1. If I was coming to the UK on vacation, tell me one place I MUST visit?

I’d take you on my hubby’s London Bridges Tour, where he drives us back and forth through London over every bridge over the Thames. That way you’d see the sights and the transport and the people, and be right in amongst it. Then supper at the George Inn in Southwark (near London Bridge), a 16th century coaching inn where Shakespeare used to pop in for a pint after a hard day at the Globe. Well, I’m using a little poetic licence there, but apparently both he and Charles Dickens really did visit.

2. Rolling hills and sleepy villages or fast paced city life?

Fast paced city life. Too much green makes me hyperventilate.

3. Do you really drink tea all the time? How do you take it?

Do you mean, how do I like my tea? Or how do I bear drinking it all the time? LOL. Actually, I’m one of those odd Brits who doesn’t drink it at all. I don’t like it and I’m a big coffee fan.

4. Have you ever met (or seen up close) a member of the Royal Family? Share the details.

I met the Queen once. Well, to be strictly accurate, I was standing outside Marks & Spencer in Exeter when she went past as part of her visit to the city. But I’m sure she would have said hello if she’d known I was there. I remember thinking how much younger she looked in real life, and how bright and cheerful her clothes were.

5. Who is your favourite British author/book (outside of your genre)?

I’ll have to say Lee Child (who’s British, even though he’s living in the US). But P.D. James and/or Ian Rankin run a close second.

6. Coronation Street or East Enders? Your favourite character?

If I have to choose – and I can’t say I follow either – it’d be Eastenders, and my favourite character would be the much-maligned Dot Cotton. EE never seems to be anything but relentlessly, fascinatingly depressing, but I haven’t watched Corrie for years. The character turnover there is too high, or maybe my attention span is too low? I mean, whatever happened to Bet Lynch?

7. Who is your favourite British actor or actress?

Ken Stott. Fantastic talent, fabulous voice. I’d watch him reading a cereal packet.

8. What was your first published story?

No relation to the story perhaps but too delicious to pass up.

A short called “Goes without Saying” in a local print anthology in 2005. It was an m/m original that I made more ambiguous before submitting, because I wasn’t sure if the antho editors would welcome m/m. That was both defeatist and dismissive of me, wasn’t it? My only excuse is, it was years ago, before I discovered the m/m publishing community. Plus they’re running the antho again this year and I’ve just had an unashamedly m/m story accepted into it! And you’ve reminded me to post that original story to my website, in case anyone’s interested.

9. I’m coming to your house for a traditional English meal (your choice from breakfast to midnight snack). What are you going to serve?

It must be a brunch. All those breakfast things that can satisfy at any time of the day, and incidentally *cough* one of the few things I can cook well. Fried egg, bacon, sausage, tomato, baked beans, fried bread, mushrooms, black pudding *g* etc.

10. Who is your favourite British musical artist?

David Bowie.

Thanks for sharing Clare. You can find lots of info about Clare and her list of books at the following sites:

Website: http://www.clarelondon.co.uk
Blog: http://clarelondon.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Twitter: http://twitter.com/clare_london
GLBT Bookshelf: http://bookworld.editme.com/clarelondonbooks
Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon

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Title: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Author: Clare London
Length: 16,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m Contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:
Garry’s definitely at the end of his tether. He’s waiting in an airport lounge to meet his friend Will, to go on holiday with mutual friends in a Scottish highlands hotel. Now there’s a ten-hour delay to incoming flights, the seat in the lounge is more like an instrument of torture, and he’s beyond tired of airport food.

What’s worse, he’s also dreading having to apologize for the pass he recently made at Will, under the influence of too many beers and a long-held crush. And the suddenly shocking realization that when Will accepts a new job offer on a continent thousands of miles away, it may be the end of their close friendship—let alone anything more.

To add to Garry’s stress, he’s treated to the company of Emily and Max, two young people who think he needs educating in the ways of the world—and his love life—whether he welcomes the interference or not. Struggling with their well-meaning help and the startling mess on his clothes from spilled ketchup and noxious-smelling sweets, he’s encouraged to re-examine how he feels about Will and to decide what kind of journey he’d really like them to take together…

Review:
I’ve been looking forward to reading this story for a while and having Clare visit us at BER gave me the perfect excuse to read it! It tells the story of Garry who’s waiting in the arrivals lounge at Glasgow airport for his friend Will whose plane has been delayed. Whilst waiting he is befriended by two children whose nosy questions give Garry an opportunity to think about his feelings for Will, especially the embarrassing drunken incident between them a few weeks ago.

This was certainly an interesting concept and quite a brave one too since the two heroes of the story only get to meet in the last few pages. The story relies quite heavily on you liking the characters of the two children who invade Garry’s space and ‘entertain’ him over the hours he’s waiting for Will’s plane to land. I have to admit, they were a bit hit and miss for me. I like Max a great deal and thought his affectionate amusement towards his sister was spot on. I didn’t like Emily so much and found her speech affectation and general stickiness a little grating on the nerves. This may well possibly be because I have two seven year olds of my own at the moment and thus have a lot of experience with them and their friends. Emily seemed much younger than seven and her behaviour (at least to me) seemed more like a five year old.

Garry was an absolute delight and I thought the way that his emotions develop over the course of the story was accurate and amusing. His utter bewilderment at being singled out by the children, his growing resignation that he’s stuck with them and his forbearance at getting gradually as sticky as Emily was all very cleverly done. He comes across as a good guy, despite his lack of motivation and I was happy to see him come to some definite decisions about his relationship with Will.

As I said earlier, there’s not much on page time between the men but its enough that I was satisfied that all was going to be well, and really the story is more about Garry’s emotional journey with the help of his ‘friends’ than about seeing too much of a HEA.

Overall, this was a great little short, full of Clare London’s wit and verve, and I’d recommend it. I may not have liked Emily too much but those who aren’t surrounded by seven year old kids on a day to day basis may find her more of a little treasure than I did, so don’t be too put off by that.

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Welcome to Mara Ismine, in her words: “I was born (quite a while back), and still live, in England. I use UK English, grammar and spelling because that is what I was taught. I can translate from US English and have internet friends who help me with some of the phrases. I have almost got past the stage of sniggering when US characters pull on their pants and walk out the door – something that is likely to get them arrested in the UK, walking around the streets in your underwear is not encouraged. I have been writing on and off for many years. I have many unfinished novels carefully hidden away dating back to my foolish youth. I have never wanted to be a pillar of English literary society. I just wanted to share my stories with those who would enjoy them.”

1. If I was coming to the UK on vacation, tell me one place I MUST visit?

Just one place? That’s a difficult one. It depends on what you are interested in. London has all the city things – art, entertainment, history, palaces and slums. Stonehenge is awesome just because it is thousands of years old. The Cotswolds has all those quaint villages and winding lanes. But for a truly British experience it would have to be a seaside resort – sit on the sea front , or pier if you can find one, and eat fish and chips out of the paper wrappings.

2. Rolling hills and sleepy villages or fast paced city life?

That’d be the rolling hills and sleepy villages – not that I’ve had much to do with hills I prefer nice flat places. I grew up in a sleepy village and live in a small town now.

3. Do you really drink tea all the time? How do you take it?

Of course I drink tea all the time. I don’t drink coffee if I can avoid it. My doctor thinks that a dozen or so mugs of tea a day is excessive so I’m drinking decaf tea now and trying to cut down; although the four or five mugs I’m supposed to aim for seems impossible. I take my tea with milk and two large sugars.

4. Have you ever met (or seen up close) a member of the Royal Family? Share the details.

My first job was in a brand new building and Princess Margaret (the Queen’s sister) was due to do the official opening ceremony shortly after I started work. She got a cold and cancelled. We all got to eat the posh buffet. When everything was rescheduled a memo went around asking for volunteers to be introduced to Princess Margaret followed up by managers asking everyone in their departments. They must have got enough volunteers in the end, although I wasn’t one of them. I intended to hide throughout the visit, but a friend persuaded me to go and watch the official ribbon-cutting so I did see Princess Margaret in person from about twenty feet away. The second buffet wasn’t a patch on the first one.

5. Who is your favourite British author/book (outside of your genre)?

Terry Pratchett without question.

6. Coronation Street or East Enders? Your favourite character?

Neither. I was forced to watch Coronation Street as a child because my mother was an addict. I have avoided soap operas ever since I left home. Apart from a brief addiction to the Australian ones when the kids were little, but I blame hormone imbalance and lack of sleep!

7. Who is your favourite British actor or actress?

Another difficult question. After staring blankly at the wall for a long time I’ll stick with the classic answer – Sean Connery.

8. What was your first published story?

This shouldn’t be a difficult question, but it is. My m/m sci-fi novel ‘Smoke’ was the first accepted for publishing as part of Torquere’s serial fiction subscription service. So it was the first thing published, in installments, to the subscribers from April 2009. It was released to their book catalogue last August. My first generally published story was part of the Torquere Taste Test collection Walk the Plank which was published in July 2009. Life on the Ocean Wave featured my Ninja Pirate Ballet Company, which is best described as ‘crackfic!’ rather than romance.

9. I’m coming to your house for a traditional English meal (your choice from breakfast to midnight snack).

What are you going to serve? You’d get beans on toast with a mug of tea; or maybe a roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings, and spotted dick and custard for dessert if I was feeling in a good mood. I think more people eat beans on toast than roast dinners.

10. Who is your favourite British musical artist?

That would be artists and Queen.

You can find Mara’s books and other tidbits of information at her website. Thanks so much Mara. Sean Connery is still oh so attractive even at his age. Or maybe it’s the voice. 🙂

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Title: Journey to Compromise
Author: Mara Ismine
Length: 16,900 words (70 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal (shifter)
Rating: B

Blurb:

Mitch has had a bad year: his long-term relationship ended, his firm went bust, and he’s been drifting since then. His luck hasn’t changed for the better when he gets off the bus in a small town a few days before Christmas hoping to find some work and wait out the holidays before moving on only to find that he has arrived in a werewolf controlled town on the night before full moon. Not the best place for a shape-shifting cougar to be. Finally, against his better judgment, he rescues a young boy being abused by four werewolves in human form…

Mitch is desperate for a change in his luck, but he still has a way to travel before he finds it.

Review:

The story begins as you meet Mitch, basically just drifting through life now, unable to settle anywhere for long. When he comes to the rescue of what he thinks is a young boy being beaten and near-raped, it changes his whole life. The “kid” is not such a kid,  he’s a cougar shifter as well, and both of them need to escape the wolf town. Despite knowing it’s probably a bad idea, and the kid’s apparent fear of him, they end up on the road finally coming to Assend, a small town, in search of gas.

They get side-tracked after helping the mechanic when he’s pinned beneath a car and before he knows it, Todd is happier than hell working on a car in the garage, and Mitch is stuck watching the gas pumps. It was quite amusing to see Mitch’s growing attraction to Todd and how he was jealous of the old car that had suddenly captivated Todd’s attention and taken it away from him. He appreciated that they were being helped by the garage owner, but I did enjoy watching the older loner turn a bit pouty when his younger “potential” lover ignored him in favour of a machine.

When offered a place to crash for a while free of charge, both Todd and Mitch want to, but they are a bit wary about saying so as they’ve only known each other a day or so, but once they admit it, they move forward fairly quickly in a relationship, both in human and cougar form. If I had any niggle about this story, it’s they are the cleanest damn men ever. They were cleaning the garage, cleaning the cabin, doing laundry. Wow. I need to find me a man like that. 🙂

Although this is technically a Christmas story, that plays a very small role in the book so you can easily read it in the heat of July and still enjoy it. I liked both men and also enjoyed that Todd didn’t always take the submissive role in the bedroom you would expect a younger smaller man to play in most shifter stories, which also seemed to be a shock to Mitch. It’s a fun read if you’re in the mood for some furry fun.

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Librarian by day, storyteller by night, Alex Draven writes queer romance, alternative love stories, and erotic tales from the shadows. A lot of the stories I write have an alternative twist – alternative in the sense of writing about goths and men who love metal or industrial music as well as loving men, and alternative in the sense of non-conventional relationships, unconventional definitions of attractive, and ways of expressing love and lust that maybe fall outside the norm.

1. If I was coming to the UK on vacation, tell me one place I MUST visit?

I may be biased, but I’d have to say London – whatever it is that you love and enjoy, I’m pretty confident that I can find you a site, event, or activity in London to tie into that and show off some aspect of this city that I love. Architecture ancient and modern, museums, galleries, theatres, clubs, gigs, parks, palaces, markets, restaurants, and all sorts of events – London has a lot to offer. It’s not necessarily super-representative of the country as a whole, though, so, if I can recommend a second place, for contrast, maybe Whitby, a small town in Yorkshire (on the east coast, not far from the narrow ‘neck’ of Scotland, if you’re imagining a map of the UK), ideally for the twice-yearly Whitby Goth Weekend festivities, or maybe for the annual Dracula weekend. As well as the Abbey and other historic sites in the area, the moors, and the coastal paths are stunning landscapes to explore, and Yorkshire folk have a justified reputation for hospitality. Plus, ff you’re looking for top-class traditional fish and chips, the Yorkshire coast is the place to be!

2. Rolling hills and sleepy villages or fast paced city life?

Rolling hills and sleepy villages are wonderful – to visit. To live, give me the city! Specifically, give me my city – London. Having seven and a half million people living on top of each other inevitable means there are down sides, but also so many positives – so many opportunities, so much energy, so many connections, so much variety. Also, so much convenience – ubiquitous public transport, including a 24 hour bus service to mention just one piece of the infrastructure that makes city life work for me. I can leave the club, pick up fresh-made take away sushi and get a bus home at 3am – seriously – what’s not to love?

3. Do you really drink tea all the time? How do you take it?

I really do. I love tea. Tea is not just a drink – tea is comfort, and love, and friendship, and conversation, and sometimes and essentialfive minutes to breath in the middle of a hectic day. How I take it depends on what I’m drinking – I have a whole cupboard of different teas and herbal teas. Earl Grey I take ideally with lemon, otherwise just black, whilst masala chai or regular black tea I take milk-no-sugar. So far this morning I’ve been drinking Amber Keemun, which is is a really light, smokey black tea, and Twining’s Rose Garden, which is black tea with rose oil, both taken without any additions. Closer to bed time, I’ll move on to the herbal caffeine-free ‘teas’ – I have a spiced redbush which was so worth breaking my ‘no new teas until I finish some boxes’ rule, and my other favourite at the moment is a cinnamon and clove tea that’s been dubbed ‘goth tea’ because of the cloves!

4. Have you ever met (or seen up close) a member of the Royal Family? Share the details.

I’m not a big royalist – my sister got me to accompany her to see the Queen go by in a big foofy gold coach during her Silver Jubilee celebrations a few years back, but other than that… I’m planning to lend my house to a friend who wants to come down to London for the Royal Wedding in April, while I get out of town to avoid the whole thing!

5. Who is your favourite British author/book (outside of your genre)?

*whimpers* – this is so hard! Luke Sutherland (Sweetmeat), Neil Bartlett (Skin Lane), China Miéville (The City & The City), Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Hal Duncan (Vellum)

6. Coronation Street or East Enders? Your favourite character?

Dr Who! I don’t really watch the soaps, but if forced to pick, EastEnders. I live in east London, and one of my past house-mates was a huge fan back in the day. I have no idea who’s even in it these days, though, so no favourites.

7. Who is your favourite British actor or actress?

Sir Ian McKellen, who is someone I really respect both as an actor and as a campaigner. I think I’d love to sit down and have a long conversation over dinner with him. Johnny Lee Miller is fantastic on both stage and screen – I was lucky enough to get to see him recently in the stage Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein – they’re both pretty impressive.

8. What was your first published story?

My first published story was Fall, a long shot story, which Torquere Press published in an anthology called ‘Myths’, back in 2004. Fall’s an urban fantasy story, about two centaurs – it’s also about pain and hope, scars, fresh starts and how sometimes you just have to take a chance. I really enjoyed making the horse-part of my centaurs as real as their human half, which I think pays off in making the story something a little bit different. The anthology has long since gone out of print, and you can now read Fall as a free read, in a range of ebook formats here: http://alexdraven.dreamwidth.org/tag/centaurs

9. I’m coming to your house for a traditional English meal (your choice from breakfast to midnight snack). What are you going to serve?

So many choices! If you’re coming in summer, then lettuce soup, which is an old, old English dish – onions, a head of lettuce per person, cream, stock – delicious. It’s amazing how much flavour lettuce has when it’s cooked. I’d serve that with some fresh baked bread, crisp Braeburn or Red Windsor apples, and a selection of British cheeses – a good Cheddar, some salty, crumbly Wensleydale, a soft Welsh goat’s cheese, some St Illtyd – another Welsh cheese, this time a mild cheddar enriched wine and herbs, and Gorau Glas, which is a Welsh blue cheese. For desert? I get the impression that rhubarb isn’t well known in the USA, and it’s one of my favourite fruits, so: if it’s not too much dairy, maybe a rhubarb and ginger fool – light and sweet – or a rhubarb cake, for something a little more solid – with a nice cup of tea, of course! If it’s a winter visit, then a good, rich vegetarian stew with herb and cider dumplings, soda bread and butter, and a blackberry apple crumble for pudding – solid, warming food for when it’s cold and wet and grey.

10. Who is your favourite British musical artist?

Another question that’s far too hard! At the risk of giving you musical whiplash: Deathboy, The King Blues, Modulate, The Holloways, My Dying Bride, for five favourites over the past five years, but to restrict my choices to bands that have been my personal sound track since I was a teenager and who are still with me – New Model Army and Depeche Mode. Two very different bands, but both have been part of the warp and weft of my life for as long as I can remember, and I love them still. Both are still touring and releasing new material – in fact all of them are!

http://alexdraven.org.uk
http://bookworld.editme.com/AlexDraven

You can find a list of Alex’s books and free reads at the links above. Thanks so much for sharing Alex. The lovely young men at the bottom are The Holloways and I am desperately craving a sharp cheddar cheese now.

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