Nothing Like a Challenge 5/7/2021

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by Staci Stallings

Nothing Like a ChallengeOkay, so you might not know this as a reader.  It’s one of those first obstacles most writers have. It goes something like this:

“There’s this song I want to use in my book.  It’s a really popular song, and it will fit really well with this story. So, what do I need to do to get permission to use it?”

The short answer is:  Good luck.

Because of copyright laws and the way things are now, it is very difficult to get permission to use songs (or practically speaking anything else) in a book.  What this effectively means is that when you write a novel that has songs in it, the easiest thing to do is write original songs yourself.

Now, I say “easiest” but I do not mean that is easy at all.  It is NOT.

Ask me how I know.

The current series I’m working on features a set of young people who have formed a band. One of them writes the songs they sing. (Do you see where this is going?) Because I literally can’t have them cover any songs and actually write out the lyrics… There is one song they “sing” that is a cover, but all I did was give the reader the song title. Then I had to hope that the reader both knows the song and can pick it out in their head as the characters are singing it because I can’t give you any lyrics.

Anyway… What all of this basically means is, I’ve gotten to write a LOT of music for this series.  Add to the challenge of writing the music trying to convey how it is sung to my readers. Add to THAT challenge that this talented group of musicians never does the same song the same way twice.  So one time one of them will do the melody and one the harmonies and echoes, and the next time that’s flipped completely.

AND… it’s important who sings which line and how!  UGH.

                Click the Cover to Read MORE!

So, here’s just a snippet of my current challenge (bit of backstory on this piece:  Paige went with Greg at one point, but now she’s going with Nelson).  See what you think…

Melting back and down into the guitar strings, Nelson let himself fall into just making the most of the intertwining of the melody he knew like his own heartbeat.

“Hopeless,” Greg sang, leaning to the microphone by the keyboard. “Hopelessly devoted… to you. This is my anthem. This is my song. This will be my melody my whole life long.”

“You’re my fascination,” Paige joined in.

“My every temptation,” Greg sang with a timid smile at her, which she returned.

“You’re my solid ground.”

“My bluest sky.”

“My peace of mind.”

“My wings to fly,” Greg sang, and it was as if the longer they went, the less awkward it became between them. “And I’m hopeless…”

Wes and Nelson added the harmonies. “Hopeless.”

“Hopelessly devoted,” Paige sang, and Nelson couldn’t help but feel how truly beautiful her voice was. It was softer than Taylor’s, breathier and far less confident. Of course, he had sung Only Together and even a couple of other songs with Paige, but honestly, he’d never really thought of her doing more than filling in a few parts here and there. Now, seeing her like this, stepping so far out of her comfort zone, singing with Greg, hearing how her voice blended in with his so nicely, Nelson wondered why he’d never made it a point to have her sing with them before.

“To you,” Greg sang.

“And I’m hopeless…” she sang back to him.

“Hopeless,” Nelson sang the harmony of the repeat with Wes as he smiled and nodded at the feeling that he could get used to this. His song, her voice melding with theirs in raw perfection in real life. It was a dream he’d never thought to dream before.

“Hopelessly devoted,” she sang before Greg joined her, “To you.”

What do you think? Did I pull it off so that you can “hear” the song, how it’s sung and who is singing it, and get the thoughts and feelings behind it?

Welcome to one small piece of my current greatest challenge ever!

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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CrossReads Book Spotlight: Sterling Orphans

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CrossReads Book Spotlight

CrossReads Book Spotlight

Sterling Orphans

(Cactus Creek Book 2)

by Janice Cole Hopkins

Sterling Orphans

Needing to leave Sterling Orphan House at eighteen, Rose Sterling is to take toddler, Katie Hudson, to her father who works on the King Ranch in New Mexico Territory. She thought her biggest adventure would be getting there on the wagon train, but she was wrong.

Will Hudson can’t believe he has a daughter. His wife had left him for a gambler, and he’d been trying to cope ever since. He doesn’t make the best impression on Rose Hudson at first, but he sees how much his little daughter loves and depends on her. Can he adjust to fatherhood, or will he always be a disappointment to the women in his life?

Letty Sawyer is terrified of Indians since they killed her adoptive parents. When she ends up on the King Ranch, can Gray Fox show her that all Indians aren’t alike, and he would protect her with his life?


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CrossReads Short Takes: Mountain of Peril & Dying to Meet Jesus

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CrossReads Short Takes

Mountain of Peril

Christian romantic suspense

(Faith in the Parks Book 1)

by J. Carol Nemeth

Mountain of Peril

When Molly Walker graduated from college, she was thrilled to be hired on as a ranger at Deep Creek Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She arrived ready to begin her career and to enjoy all the aspects of her new job, but the one thing she hadn’t counted on was the local poachers and their illegal shenanigans. Molly and fellow ranger Jake Stuart try to put a stop to the escalating poaching problem while protecting the animals. In the meantime, Molly finds that the handsome ranger, who is also a local, is a great partner to have on her side. She also finds that she’s losing her heart to him when she’d planned to stay focused on her career. Can she give her heart and have a career? She and Jake find themselves in a battle against a group of men with a hidden agenda far more sinister than poaching. Can they be stopped before Molly’s life is snuffed out?

Fans of Christy Barritt, Dani Pettrey, Susan Sleeman, and Irene Hannon will enjoy this romantic suspense set in one of America’s National Parks.





Dying to Meet Jesus

How Encountering Heaven Changed My Life

by Randy Kay

Dying to Meet Jesus

Where is God when my suffering seems never-ending? Can I really find joy in this fallen world? This powerful book confronts these questions with stories of the author’s near-death experience, a daughter’s suicide attempt, mental illness, and numerous other gripping stories that demonstrate not only that God is present when we need him, but that through our trials we can find true intimacy with him.

Author Randy Kay recounts how, as a former devout agnostic, he survived a near-fatal accident while searching for the truth–and when he met the One he sought to disprove, his journey changed from a life of extreme trials into one of genuine joy. In these pages, Kay offers his testimony to show readers how God uses suffering and brokenness to build an intimate and indestructible relationship with him, while breaking down barriers and ushering the reader into an authentic relationship with the Author of love.


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Gems from Pastor Jim 5/4/2021

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by Jim Hughes

CrossMatt. 1:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).”

God is with us. GOD is with us. God is WITH us. God is with US. No matter how you say it, this is the grandest news man has ever heard!

GOD is with us. The designer, creator, and sustainer of all that is, is with us. The beginning and end of all things is with us. The giver of all life and the hope of all ages is with us. He who knows all things knows us for He became one of us. He who cannot be contained for all heaven is His footstool, became flesh and dwelt for awhile amongst us.

God IS with us. No matter how distant God may at times seem to be, He IS with us. How can we know for sure it is true? He said it is so. He has declared that He is with us, that He will never leave or forsake us, even unto the end of the earth. He is seen and found by anyone who sincerely looks for Him, even in the worst of life’s circumstances.

God is WITH us. God did not create us and leave us to fend for ourselves. He does not reside in heaven and leave us alone. God is with us. He is with us in whatever we go through in life. He is with us to help us when we lose our way. He is with us when we are confused and frustrated. He is with us all the days of our lives, both now and forever.

God is with US. God is with us, His children. God is with all who come to Him for the forgiveness of their sins and choose to live under His authority over their lives. He has chosen US to be His children and live holy lives. Do not fear what comes your way, God is with US.

Immanuel, God with us, is heaven’s story. Embrace it. Live it and heaven will come down and glory will fill your soul.

About the Author:

Jim Hughes

Spending his formative years in Ft. Wayne, IN, Jim followed the love of his life to southeast Iowa where they married and have spent the majority of their lives. Jim has pastored several churches throughout his life and has worked many years in local factories to help support his family. The father of two married adult children and one son still at home, Jim is a first-time author.

C Through Marriage came into being through many years of pastoral and life experiences. The book first took on a life of its own over 20 years ago when I sought to address the much publicized moral failures of prominent leaders in the church. In the chaper on Chasity, I include the guideliness that I developed then to protect one’s self from such failures.

I am a firm believer in order to make sense out of life you have to use much common sense. We need to get back to the basics of what has worked for many, many generations. If is isn’t broke, why try to fix it? I strive to return to the basics of what really works in all my writings.

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CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Guided Piety 5/3/2021

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by Precarious Yates

The last album that Christian artist Rich Mullins made before he passed away was a demo he recorded ten days before he died (The Jesus Record, demo, 1997). One of those songs, Nothing Is Beyond You, which is based on Psalm 139, has these lyrics: “You stand beyond the reach of … our misguided piety…” This line got me thinking while I was meditating on scripture and how to respond to a certain situation.

There was someone who asked for monetary help. While I wanted to see this person achieve his goal, I knew that helping this person would cause serious issues. I also knew that if I asked two trusted counselors for advice, I would receive opposite feedback. That would put me right back where I started. I decided to ask God directly what the godly behavior is in this situation.

I could tell you the answer the Holy Spirit gave, but that would defeat what I sense the Holy Spirit was teaching me and wants to share through this circumstance. The Holy Spirit wanted me to hear directly instead of rely on what people say.

There are so many instances in the Bible where people could have guessed what to do by the scriptures that were handed to them, but instead they spoke directly to the Author of both these scriptures their faith. In Nehemiah 2, the king asked Nehemiah why he was so forlorn. He could have spoken with his compatriots before he responded. I know I would have needed some good counsel if a king asked me a question like that and I was in Nehemiah’s position, living as an exile. Sometimes when you are in a different country, you can guess the culture wrong. I’ve done this more than once, having visited multiple countries, continents and cultures. But Nehemiah stopped and prayed. When he prayed, Nehemiah listened for the response. Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what God said to Nehemiah, but it tells us that Nehemiah found favor with the king.

It’s difficult to discern what might be the right and pious thing to do in every situation. God knows we cannot find the answer on our own. But we can find the answer in Him. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we all are called into this kind of relationship with the Lord. The writer of Hebrews drew this quote from Jeremiah about the same subject:

Hebrews 8:11

   “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor

        and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

    for they shall all know me,

        from the least of them to the greatest.”

We can all find the wisdom we need exactly when we need it. Reach out today and ask! James 1:5 says:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

He won’t chastise you for not knowing what to do. He knows us and delights to help us.

Have a blessed month of May!

Precarious Yates

About the Author:

Precarious YatesPrecarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their big dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms, praying and reading. She holds a Masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.


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What’s Your Superpower? 4/30/2021

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by: Staci Stallings

What is your SuperpowerI’m elbow-deep in The Imagination Series—writing Book 8 now.  Book 7 is on preorder.  Book 6 just released. So I’ve been thinking a lot about superpowers.

In the series, there are six main-ish characters. They are friends from high school. Each one has a superpower, and the idea of the series is how they each learn to use the gifts and talents that God gave them–their individual superpowers.

Now, by “superpower,” I don’t mean flying or running fast or being able to flip cars over for fun. What I mean is more mundane “powers” like writing songs and poetry, fixing up cars and doing spreadsheets. I think too many of us don’t give full credence to the things we can do that are truly special.

Sure, other people might be able to do them too. Some people might even be better at “our” thing than we are.  But I think it’s important to recognize and support each other’s best qualities. To champion them. To cheer them. To encourage them.

So it’s interesting to me that what I thought the main idea of The Imagination Series would be—that we should work to use our superpower has really taken a backseat to the theme of learning to support and encourage each other’s superpowers.

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Recently through a crazy turn of events, my niece came to live with us as she started to teach at my son’s school. She’s not teaching any of his classes, but she has some students who are in his class. When she comes home, we often talk about how things are going at the school, things we’ve noticed, or things that we see that need to be fixed. So every day we are discussing how to do the education system better. We also talk about how we can best encourage others and how too often students who have real superpowers are not encouraged in what makes them most special and so they lose that or never develop it.

Add to this that my middle daughter is now a senior in college. She is taking Sports and Exercise Science, which is heavily physical-oriented. She’s done Anatomy & Physiology I and II, Kinesiology and now Bio-Mechanics.  She will come to study a couple of times a week, and she will talk forever about getting adequate sleep or how to do an effective stretch or how to use nutrition to gain optimal health.

Then we have her boyfriend who is also in college learning music production. So he’ll be here playing beats on the midi-board and bending sound in crazy ways.

Of course, my son is the light show king, so he’s always doing some insane project like cutting 300 milk jugs and putting lights in them or reconfiguring Falcon boards to run sets of pixel lights that he’s designing.

You probably already have guessed that one of my superpowers is writing, and my husband does carpentry.

The other day my niece, who is also an artist, said, “I’ve decided I want to live in a house with geniuses. Not necessarily smart people like book smart, but people who are being creative and working together to help each other become even better at what they are good at.”

I was telling my daughter’s boyfriend about that one night, and he said, “That is so cool because that’s what your house is. Everybody comes and works on their stuff and we can go, ‘Hey, listen to this.’ Or ‘what do you think of this’ or ‘how would you say this,’ and we all are interested in what the other ones are doing.”  Then he said, “Hey, you should write a book about that, about how to do that. You could call it…. ‘Become Me.’”  HAHAHHAH!  That’s when I told him the first book in this series is literally called “Becoming Me”!

He was floored.  I thought it was funny.

Maybe life really does mirror art, or is it art mirroring life?

So I’m curious. What is your superpower?  What things do you do really well?  What do you love to do so much that you could just get lost in doing it for hours?

I’m making a list for my life class, and I’d love to include your superpower on it too! Please feel free to share and continue the conversation…

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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CrossReads Book Spotlight: Moonlight, Murder, and Small Town Secrets

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CrossReads Book Spotlight

CrossReads Book Spotlight

Moonlight, Murder, and Small Town Secrets

(A Katy Cross Cozy Mystery Book 1)

by K.C. Hart

Moonlight, Murder, and Small Town Secrets

Katy Cross is more than Skeeterville’s favorite home health nurse, she’s also the lead guitarist for her weekend band, The Moonlighters. Katy and the band land their biggest gig yet at the annual Peanut Patch Festival, but things hit a sour note when she stumbles across a body during mic check. When the investigation strikes the wrong chord, Katy is determined to find the real killer before anyone else is forced to join the heavenly choir.

Katy Cross is perfectly content to live her life and mind her own business, which is sometimes harder than you’d think in the small town of Skeeterville, where gossip and sweet tea are town staples. But when she finds the body of Jessa Williams, a newcomer to the area with the reputation of a troublemaking flirt, under the Peanut Patch Festival stage, she’s compelled to step out of her comfort zone and snoop around.

Since a murder has not occurred in their town in over three decades, the local sheriff is more accustomed to catching jaywalkers than killers. His arrest of a local easy-going, hard-working neighbor sets tongues a-wagging. Will Katy’s sharp eye, keen wit, and a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time help the sheriff and his bumbling, good-natured deputy catch the real culprit before more lives are lost?

This humorous cozy mystery has no graphic gore, bad language or sexual content, but is filled with lots of laughs, intrigue, and heart. Perfect for fans of amateur sleuths and small towns!


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CrossReads Short Takes: This Little Light of Mine & Brief Study of the Ten Commandments

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CrossReads Short Takes

This Little Light of Mine

by Pacer Blevins

This Little Light of Mine

Christians are called upon to be salt and light in the world we live in. In today’s world that can be a daunting task. Jesus uses the metaphor of light to describe the affect his people have on the world. He expects us to shine. He expects us to demonstrate a better way. He expects us to light the path to Him. This book shares ideas that will help the every day Christian think about how they can improve their influence and example and be a servant, no matter what position or place they are in.





Brief Study of the Ten Commandments

by Martin Murphy

Brief Study of the Ten Commandments

This book will help Christians discover or re-discover the meaning of the Ten Commandments, based on the study of the Bible. Also, the author devotes one chapter to “Natural Law” so Christians will understand the extent of God’s moral law. This Brief Study of the Ten Commandments is an excellent tool for individual and group Bible study, Sunday School, and sermon preparation.


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God First 4/27/2021

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by Suzanne D. Williams

When I was young, I discovered that what I thought about before bedtime would stick with me all night. I’d watched a particularly awful scifi movie that gave me nightmares for days afterward. I refused to watch certain things after dark, following that.

This behavior expanded over the years. I stopped listening to some types of music because I couldn’t stop singing it. I stopped reading certain books because they influenced my behavior. Recently, I stopped watching TV. I watch almost no TV at all now, and I never watch the news or read the news or like for others to tell me the news. What the news says makes no difference to me when I know what God has said.

Music, television, social networks, all muddy my spiritual vision. If I want to HEAR GOD regularly, then I must MAKE GOD FIRST PRIORITY. The less I take in from the OUTSIDE, the more sensitive I am to God’s Voice INSIDE.

I learned to write devotionals by asking God what He wanted to write. Contrary to what you might think, I cannot write anything at all without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Many times, I’ve had great ideas but no idea how to put them into the right order. Done under my own power, they make no sense at all.

“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” (Job 32:8)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16)

When God inspires me, however, what I write, because it comes from Him, says things I am not capable of even thinking up. Often, it doesn’t all come at once, though. I hear a few sentences, but not until I write them down, do I hear more.

We must take the first step before God gives us the second one.

Sometimes, I forget portions of what He’s said, especially if it’s at 2 a.m. I am human. But He knows what He’s said, and if I forget it, He will remind me. This was Jesus’ promise. I find it confirming. The fact He brings it back to me means it was Him speaking and did not come from me.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

I also “sit on” what I hear. If the Holy Spirit speaks it, it will not leave me alone but replays constantly. This is another way to BE SURE it is not from my thoughts or feelings about a matter. There are also moments of confirmation where someone else, or several people sometimes, will say the same thing God spoke. Most of these confirmations I tell no one. They are only for me.

But at their heart is my desire for every word to be GOD’S and not mine. I gave up caring about man’s opinions long ago when writing fiction. You would be amazed (or horrified) what people in the church will say about a book they did not like. I no longer need people’s affirmation if I have GOD’S.

Here is my faith, in His Word alone. Because what He speaks will never return void but will accomplish that which He sends it to do whether I was the one to release or someone else. (Is 55:11) We are not in competition but in unity. We both seek God’s heart, His message, above all else, and He gets the glory for the great things He has done. 

Passionate Church

About the Author: 

Suzanne D. WilliamsBest-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE. 

Facebook – suzannedwilliamsauthor 

Twitter – @SDWAuthor. 


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CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Keeping the Sabbath 4/26/2021

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by Ruth O’Neil

I read the Little House on the Prairie series of books more times than I can recall as a child. One part that always got me was how Sundays were to be a day of complete rest. Even the children were to sit and do nothing, except maybe read quietly. As a child, I believe it would have made me crazy, but now I crave that rest and relaxation.  

Growing up, my family didn’t do any shopping on Sunday. I remember one Sunday when I was playing with a friend and she asked if I wanted to go with her to sell candy bars for a fundraiser at her school. With nothing else to do, I agreed. We went to the few houses within walking distance. I didn’t do any talking; I just stood there. 

Later on, my mom found out and she was a little upset with me. Sundays were not for buying and selling. Sundays needed to be different. A day to rest, relax, recharge, and worship. Now as an adult, I see the benefits.  

The Ten Commandments even address this issue. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20 8-11 KJV). Most of the commandments take up one verse. This one takes up four. It’s that important! 

Today, I try to obey that command and make Sunday a day of rest. I make a point of not doing any writing or housework. Those are my jobs that I have six other days to accomplish. 

Take your Sunday and make it a fun day. Spend time with your family. Take a walk. Go on a bike ride. Play games. Read a book out loud.  

Don’t let downtime drive you insane. Take advantage of it. One day of rest with your family will benefit your relationships and make you more productive the rest of the week. 

Give your Sunday back to God and allow it to be what He intended it to be.

About the Author:

Ruth OneilRuth O’Neil has been writing for over 20 years. She has published hundreds of articles in numerous publications. She loves to touch the emotions when she writes. “If I can make one person laugh or cry, I’ll consider myself successful.” Her first novel “Come Eat at My Table” has just come out in ebook form and can be purchased on her website. She homeschools her three children (well, one now, as two have graduated). She and her husband have been married for 20-plus years. In her spare time she enjoys quilting, crafting, and reading. You can visit her on her blog at ruths-real-life (dot) or her website at ruthoneil (dot)

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