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Finding Publisher – A simple guide to getting (your kid) published, even if you really shouldn’t

As an amazingly successful published author, I am recognized as an expert on the subject and often asked how one should go about getting published.

By my kids.

Everyone else? They just tend to roll their eyes when I talk about getting published.

If they even notice I’m talking.

But, in case someone out there is looking for advice on how to get published, here is my simple guide.

How simple, those of you with short attention spans ask worriedly?

Simple enough for a pre-tweener.

As proof for the above statement, I am using my pre-tweener kiddo’s experience following my sage advice to illustrate my approach.

Step 1: Write a book. I can’t help you with this one, except to say form words with letters and sentences with words and paragraphs with sentences. The more pleasant and easier on the eyes the paragraphs, the better.

Don’t forget the spaces between the words and sentences (but NOT between the letters!).

Fortunately, Step 1 turns out to be the easiest part of the process.

Those fat blue drops? Tears of joy I managed to get this project completed to the kiddo's satisfaction.

A surprisingly large number of best-sellers start out as staple-bound, hand-drawn paper books

It smells fine, so these contents must be brilliant! Whew!

Flipping open a homemade book is like slicing the author’s brain in half and seeing the either brilliant or gangrenous contents within.

Step 2: Write a query letter. This involves doing market research so you can argue convince the publisher you’ve selected to print your book that people will actually buy it. I know, this sounds like something the publisher should be doing, but apparently they are lazy.

Don't worry about spelling errors in your query letter. Publishers know you're too busy focusing on the book to waste a lot of time on the query letter.

While the penmanship is not great, this *is* the preferred stationary of editors and publishers everywhere. Also, plaintive requests to print your book on the outside of the envelope always helps improve the odds.

As a bonus, you can falsify your data and the lazy publisher won’t bother to check.

If dealing with a small child, you will most likely be asked what to put in the query letter. Ah, the innocence of youth, asking that age-old question as if there’s an answer. I simply told my spawn to say why someone would want to read their book. A translation of his letter (pictured above) appears in the Details section if you click on it. I think he put it exactly how the rest of us authors wish we could put it.

Now I know, you’re thinking, “Why bother with a query? My book is amaze-balls and I had to buy a home security system just to ensure the manuscript wasn’t stolen after I wrote it. Why not just send the publisher the only copy of my book and be done with it?”

Good question. And for the most part, you’re absolutely correct. But there are two points you overlooked: publishers are lazy (see above) AND they have terrible office security systems. But the sheer awesomeness implied by your query letter will excite the publisher out of their apathetic state and give them time to upgrade (or install) a suitable security system in their office.

Or they might ask you to send the manuscript directly to a bank for safe-keeping in a vault.

This is the true purpose of the otherwise tedious query letter – to learn the appropriate secure address to send your manuscript to.

Step 3: Wait for the offer letter. Don’t worry, you’ll get an enthusiastic and generous response almost immediately. Books are in high demand, and publishers can’t wait to crank out more. As an author, you’re a valuable asset in high demand! Prepare to be on Easy Street (near the intersection of Unbelievably Effin’ Wealthy Lane), living the high life! You probably won’t even have time to run to the nearest corner convenience store to get a slushy. That’s how fast the turnaround time will be!

Publishers are sh*t-eating mo-fos who deserve to die the most outlandish, B horror movie way possible, caption notwithstanding.

You will never receive a form letter from a publisher. Even in the unlikely case of a rejection, they always hand-craft the nicest, most details rejections, nudging you into the right direction should you wish to make some edits and try again. The publisher’s response is always the highlight of my submission process.

Step 4: Upon receiving a request back from the publisher to see your full manuscript, send it. Then sit back and wait for the proof copy to show up on your doorstep, along with the check for an advance so large it dwarfs the GDP of third-world countries like Sweden and Belgium.

It only took ten hours of sweat equity and ~$12 on my part to make a beautiful book that filled my kiddo with the sort of joy one won't experience again until their second marriage.

Not only is the print quality on this CreateSpace proof better than the original, but it’s also slightly larger. And at this age, the kiddo approves of larger.

You haven't experienced true joy until you've seen your kiddo flipping the pages of his/her own published book.

This binding is less prone to rusting and looks WAY better than the stapled version. And the paper feels more solid too. Less likely to dissolve in water.

And wa-la! You are done. You are now a bona fide published author with all the associated bragging rights that come with that.

Yes, you can corner coworkers, guests at parties, Nanowrimo participants in coffee shops, even complete strangers on the street, and sing the praises of your book and your writing prowess, all in the name of encouraging them to buy a copy of your book.

Step 5 (optional): You can also do as the kiddos below did, and flush with pride and confidence, start your next book.

When I say predators, I'm speaking metaphorically. Except when it comes to that dog that keeps eating their homework. I hate that dog.

And here we have two young authors in their native habitat, writing away while their parents watch over them, keeping an eye out for predators that might eat them or tattoo artists who might give them age-inappropriate tattoos.

Environmental destruction aside, this did keep the kiddos quiet for a couple of hours. Two blissful, screaming and punching and crying free hours. (And the kiddos were quiet too.)

Excited kids without a clue as to how the process really works are book-generating machines. There will not be enough trees in the forest to keep up with their paper needs. Thanks for destroying the environment, you jerks. Personally, though, I blame the parents.

FOOTNOTE:

Yes, the kiddo did come to me asking to have his book published, and yes, I did make him write a query letter. I wanted to properly prepare him for the horrid, thankless reality of being a writer.

However, I fear I may have undermined that message with my ‘response’ to the query letter and making a physical copy of the book for him (via CreateSpace).

What do you think? Did I do the kiddo wrong? Keep in mind that said kiddo was jumping, dancing, and running around the house with pure joy when that proof copy found its way into the kiddo’s hands.

For any parents out there thinking this might be fun to do for their kids, here’s the process I followed:

1) Wait for kiddo to write the book and then come to you, demanding it be sent out to a publisher to be printed. This will most likely happen in the middle of reading said kiddo a book s/he likes. In this case, it was Yobgorgle by Daniel Pinkwater.

(Interesting aside: it was another Pinkwater book, one of the Blue Moose series, that put the idea of getting a book published in said kiddo’s head. I think Pinkwater owes me, big time.)

2) Pretend to mail the book to a publisher. If you have qualms about this, but encourage belief in Santa or the Tooth Fairy, then lose the qualms.

3) Spend those precious few spare moments when you aren’t working, the kiddo(s) aren’t around, and the spouse isn’t on the computer to painstakingly disassemble kiddo’s book, scan each page, and then import into a word processing document.

4) Realize you should have downloaded the CreateSpace template for the book (and cover) BEFORE you imported the scanned pages into your document.

5) Realize that the scan resolution you used (600dpi) is way to frickin’ high to generate a manageable word processing document (unless you have a terabyte of RAM and an OS that can address all of it).

6) Resize the images down to something manageable.

7) Export your kiddo’s book to PDF format if using CreateSpace. This is a CreateSpace requirement. Modern versions of both Word and LibreOffice have an Export to PDF option.

7) Discover that your kiddo’s six page book isn’t long enough for the 24 page minimum required by CreateSpace. Get creative. I separated pictures from text, put them on opposite pages. I also wrote crazy author, illustrator, and editor bios, and manufactured some ‘deleted’ scenes.

8) Upload your book to CreateSpace. Wait an hour for the upload because you didn’t downsize the images enough. Then realize you need a proper cover with something to go on the back of the book. Wait for the panic attack to subside and slap something together. Unless your kiddo is in high school, they aren’t going to care that much about the back of the book.

If they are in high school, put something jaded and ironic on the back.

Oh yeah, and download the cover template BEFORE creating the cover. You will need your favorite PDF-reading image editor. I use Gimp 2, but Photoshop probably works as well. You will be using multiple layers, with the cover template as the bottom-most layer. Ultimately, nothing from the template should be visible in the final image.

Save two versions of the cover – one in the native format that preserves all the layers, and one that is a flattened PDF.

If your image editor won’t let you save/export as a PDF, save as a normal image and then open that image with something that does allow such an export. I use the free program Irfanview.

9) Get an email back from CreateSpace within 24 hours stating that your manuscript and/or cover has formatting problems. Don’t open this email when your kiddo(s) are around. Wait until they are somewhere they can’t hear you swearing. Then do your best to understand what the cryptically described issues are and fix them. Then upload everything again.

If you didn’t save a layer-preserving version of your cover, this is the point where you decide the whole thing is pointless and the kiddo(s) should be sold off for medical experimentation. Why? Because you’ll have to start the cover from scratch.

10) Step 9 will most likely happen several times before success is yours. Once it is, order the proof copy. CreateSpace allows you to preview the book online as well – do that first to make sure everything looks right. I spend about $4.50 for the 24-page book and about $6.50 on the cheapest shipping rate. Despite the predicted delivery date, I received the proof copy in three days. Apparently no one sends mail any more, so the post office has nothing better to do than rush the few packages they do get to my house.

 
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Posted by on 5 June 2016 in NaNoWriMo, Parenting, Writing

 

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The Contractually Obligated “Don’t believe NaNoWriMo’s big lie!” Blog Post

Please allow me to introduce myself while Ian’s asleep.

(It’s the only time I can come out and go online.)

I am a man of wealth and taste.

Or at least, I was.

Now I’m stuck here, and have been for a long, long time.

Ever since that teleporter accident combined me with Ian, in fact.

Well, with half-Ian, half-fly. You see, I wasn’t his first teleporter accident.

Although I sometimes wonder if it was an accident at all.

I was never great-looking, but compared to the hairy, multi-faceted eyes bug thing that half-Ian, half-fly was, I was positively gorgeous.

Now, now when I look in the mirror at half-me, quarter-Ian, quarter-fly and see that semi-mandible smile…

Well, I look a lot worse for the transaction, but Ian, now two-thirds human, must be modestly pleased with the improvement in his appearance.

Best not to dwell on such things.

(This is the point where I’d sigh, except it comes out as a quite unsettling buzz instead.)

I’ll be frank with you.

That was my name, you know. Before the accident. Frank.

But again, I digress.

I hate Ian.

Hate him.

The only thing I hate more than that mad man-fly is his writing.

Aimless, overwrought prose with no discernible beginning and no end in sight.

I suppose that’s why I’m here. To press the grinding wheel to the jutting edges of his split infinitives.

To smooth the abrasive surfaces of his rough, non-Euclidean prose.

To cut away the deadliest aspects of his indecipherable literary efforts.

To protect you and any other poor souls unhappy enough to stumble across his works.

I suffer that you might live.

You’re welcome.

There is no quarantine, no treatment, no recovery for those exposed to his books.

And his poetry? There are no words.

Only death. If you’re lucky.

Oh, I suffer no delusions. I don’t render his words harmless through the plying of my trade. I don’t take his excretions and mold them into masterpieces.

As his conscript, I merely dilute the infernal nature of his strung-together words, making them something slightly less than mortally wounding.

Not that I get any thanks.

From Ian or his readers.

No, instead he rails against me.

The hatred, it is mutual.

But the work, which is no small effort, must be done. Though I may yearn for death at the prospect of each new writing project, I carry on.

It is my duty. My calling. My purpose.

My penance for some long forgotten but clearly horrible sin in a past life.

I am…an inner editor.

To a certain extent, I envy the fly portion of us.

The fly has no understanding of language. Cannot feel the pain of bearing witness to its unraveling.

Unlike me.

I totally feel that pain, and like a lot of the pain I feel, it hurts.

Now you may have noticed that it’s November. It has certainly not escaped my notice.

Ian likes November.

All those people on social media, touting their Nanowrimo word counts, telling people to just write.

To never look back. To not overthink.

To ignore their inner editor.

As one of those inner editors, I have only this to say:

Shut up.

(That is not what I originally said. I edited it down to something less profane. I am, after all, an editor.)

Don’t demean us, belittle us, or marginalize us.

Or if, over the course of November, you must, at the very least don’t forget to pick us back up and dust us off once December arrives.

Inner editors serve an important purpose:

We keep you from flooding the world with crap.

Particularly at the end of November.

Yeah, sure, when Nanowrimo is over you’ve got a lovely first draft done.

But it is just that: a first draft.

Don’t delude yourself. It’s great that you finished it, huzzah and all that, but it sucks.

Yes, I, the inner editor, said ‘sucks’. Why?

Because it does. The big one.

It’s a first draft, and that is their nature. Sucktitude.

Resist the temptation to post-haste upload your ‘magnum opus’ to Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Well, Barnes and Noble is OK – no one buys ebooks from them anymore.

It is far too easy (and cheap) to self-publish these days, far too simple to put your first draft online and sell it for $0.99.

Especially when your book isn’t ready yet.

And face it: your first draft isn’t ready.

Now I’m not saying you should rush out, buy a teleporter, and then kidnap an editor.

Definitely not advocating that.

But do share your work with other writers and friends, people who have permission and aren’t afraid to be brutally honest with you when it comes to feedback.

And when they are, listen to them.

Don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad. Accept it. Study it.

Consider that they might be right.

Even better, research and hire an editor.

This isn’t simply an exercise to tear down you or your work.

It’s to make your work better. Before you share it with the whole world.

Before you establish a reputation as a hack.

Before, as in the case of my malevolent host, the publishing houses start filing cease and desist all further writing and submissions orders against you.

Those cease and desist orders have the power of law behind them. Once you get one of those, your future is nothing but pseudonyms and abject failure.

At which point, you become an editor.

 

 
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Posted by on 4 November 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

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They had it coming, especially their ringleader, that tilde with the smarmy grin

I’m a murderer.

There. That’s off my chest.

Huh. You’d think I’d feel better after confessing. I certainly thought I would.

But I don’t.

I feel just like I did before I ‘fessed up.

Fine. Just fine.

I suppose it’s because the little buggers deserved it.

No, wait. That’s not true. They didn’t.

It was my fault. But they still had to die.

This happens every time I edit a book.

Or a blog post.

No, I’m not talking about my characters. You can’t kill people who aren’t real, and they aren’t real.

No matter how much you love them, or enjoy watching them undress in that one scene you wrote just so you could watch them undress.

Freak.

But words are real.

And letters.

You see, I have this funny habit when I’m editing. If I’m correcting a misspelling, or changing the tense, or switching from an -ed to an -ing ending, I feel a qualm.

I feel like I’m killing the letters, or, if it’s an ambitious edit, the words.

Replacing an upper case letter for a lower case because the word doesn’t start a sentence any more?

Feels like orphaning a child.

Right in front of the child.

(I named that letter Bruce, and now he’s grown up and fills my nightmares with a sense of being persecuted.)

Because the letters know it’s coming. They see the edit before it happens, just like I do.

They anticipate the coming death, but are powerless to stop it.

I suppose this makes the editing more fun.

Well, less drudgery-ish, anyway.

Anything to add excitement, and what’s more exciting that a little murder?

Yes, making screaming noises when you kill the letter ‘a’ (Ahhh!) or ‘n’ (Noooo!) is more exciting, but then the people around you in the coffee shop get all judgmental.

And edge away.

Definitely a great way to get more space when you’re forced to share a large table in a really crowded coffee shop.

But then you get thrown out and banned from the establishment for life.

Now that I do all my editing at home, the Missus has insisted I mustn’t scare the children by making my dying letters beg for their lives.

Personally, I think she’s worried I’ll give the kiddos ideas. They already make little wails for their Vienna sausages before popping them into their mouths.

“But I have a wife and a dozen mini sausages!” is a common refrain around the kiddo dining table.

Yes, it is my fault.

But enough about my kids. I hate parents who go on and on about their ‘wonderful’ kids. Let’s get back to talking about me.

I don’t know exactly when this anthropomorphizing started. I don’t remember doing it in high school or college. It must have happened after that.

Sometime between when I worked graveyard and when I attended my first nanowrimo write-in.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

The doctor has offered me medication that would make the letters stop whimpering just before I hit the Backspace key, but I find those drugs impair my ability to write.

If I have to choose between being able to write or letters and words living in a world without fear, I choose tormenting the letters and words.

Consider it payback, alphabet and dictionary, for all the words hurled against me in grade school by classmates who thought I was weird just because I preferred to read during recess and lunch, and listen to the teacher, and do my homework, and pass my tests.

Payback.

But it’s not just me, right? You other writers out there feel the same thing when you delete portions of your works in progress, yes?

Please, please agree with me.Or I’ll kill this ‘a’.

I’ll do it! I (Ahh! Noo!) totally will!

Thirty one letters and five punctuation marks lost their lives in the course of editing this posting. Happy? I know I am.

 
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Posted by on 9 September 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

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Sell YOUR Book By Convincing Some Sod To Write Their Book Starring You!

A friend of mine recently blogged about a trend in fiction: using real authors as characters in books. Mostly mysteries.

They’re always long dead authors, like Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, E. L. James.

It’s a cool idea, but a shame the real-life authors are dead.

Perhaps it’s a way to avoid liability?

But I think this is a missed opportunity, especially for the indie writers out there.

Imagine yourself, for a moment, as an indie author. Eschewed by the established publishing industry, you find yourself responsible for a lot more than just writing your novel.

Editing.

Re-writing.

Re-editing.

The book cover.

The marketing.

The distribution.

Personally dealing with the piles of glowing fan mail that comes in.

OK, maybe not that last one so much. Not that you’d mind that particular chore.

The point is, you’re pretty much on your own and it is a lot of work.

Especially if you have a day job.

And young kids.

And a spouse who, insanely, expects you to connect with her and actually participate in the marriage.

This is where using living, breathing indie authors as characters in novels comes in.

Sure, you could write yourself into your own novel. But that comes off as really arrogant, so you’d better be a damned fine writer, and I better read and love that book before I find out you made yourself the main character.

I’m talking to you, Mary Sue.

Madman in a hard hat, I know, I know, it's serious

Mild mannered author by day, the fictional Ian M. Dudley moonlights as the lead singer in a Village People cover band. This gives the fan fiction writers no end of material to work with.

Instead, you should invite other indie authors to use you as one of their main characters.

It’s the ultimate form of marketing! You’re the star of an awesome indie book, and readers will go, “Ian M. Dudley is this amazing character, AND HE’S REAL? I MUST BUY HIS BOOK! Here is my credit card number, charge me as much as you want!”

Or not.

But this brilliant plan doesn’t just benefit me the indie author. Because here’s the rub:

It doesn’t work if the indie author who uses you as a main character is a crap writer. They are out there. You know the ones. They upload their NaNo novels to Kindle Direct Publishing at 12:01am on December 1st, in all its typographically inept, unedited glory.

It also doesn’t work if you aren’t familiar with the genre that author writes in. If you want to establish your reputation for hard sci-fi by being a fictional character, you probably don’t want that novel written by someone who specializes in Brony snuff stories.

Because either you end up a bright pink pony with wings and a short life span, or said author stretches to write something more firm and sci-fiish, only to overextend themselves and injure your rep.

So in order to ensure you’re painted as the knight in shimmering armor that you wish to be portrayed as (literally or figuratively), you need to start buying and reading indie books to find that rare gem of an author who has the gravitas and the flare for words that can do your ego justice.

It’s a win-win for the indie community.

Unless you have a huge ego, like mine. Then you have a very long, potentially very expensive search ahead of you.

This is the burden of the huge ego. Alienates people and it’s surprisingly heavy.

There is, of course, a potential drawback to this approach to establishing a fan base.

I speak, of course, of publishing success.

Not your success. If you were successful, you wouldn’t be attempting this harebrained scheme.

I speak of your doppelgänger’s author’s success.

The fictional version of you might appear in an amazingly crafted novel.

A book full of prose and plot twists that make your own writing look like the scribbles of a monkey in the throes of a bad acid trip dipping its finger in its own feces to write.

In this scenario, the book starring your fictional alter-ego takes off, becomes a series, spawns several successful spinoffs starring your alter-ego’s friends, enemies, and pets, and eventually wins the Nobel prize for Literature and Peace.

Two years in a row.

This leads to fame and the showering of untold riches upon your chosen author, while your literary accomplishments languish in relative obscurity, a mere footnote in the Wikipedia entry trumpeting your alter-ego’s creator.

But wait, it gets worse.

Movie deals. A TV series. A gone-to-seed, overweight Charlie Sheen is pulled out of retirement-exile and cast as you, his portrayal making everyone in the television-viewing world think you are an insufferable ass.

But wait, it gets worser.

Despite your character being universally hated, the other characters in the series are popular, and with the inevitable stream of fanfic slash stories that follow, humiliations galore are dumped upon your once good, but now forever sullied name.

If you aren’t into some freaky weird stuff already, you might as well get into it, because once the slashers are done with you, everyone will think you’re a sick bastard with a kink for being tied up and violated with Mentos and Diet Coke.

But wait, it gets worstener.

Someone writes a fanfic story based on the characters in the book about the fictional you, and then changes all the names (but not by much, Ivan M. Dugley), gets a publishing deal, and despite the sheer, mind-numbing craptitude of the writing, it’s a best seller.

On second thought, never mind. Doing this on my own doesn’t seem so bad after all.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
 
My books are available!

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 
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Posted by on 8 August 2012 in Fanfic, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

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In These Hard Times, Sacrifices Must Be Made

So last week I blogged about my time management issues, and how I needed to make some changes.

Sadly, this week some of them have come to pass.

I have NOT quit my job or abandoned my family.  The missus disabused me of the former idea, and the onslaught of hate mail directed at even the notion of it disabused me of the latter.

(I suspect the missus might have organized some sort of bot email campaign on that second one, but I can’t prove it…yet.)

I’ve left the indie press I co-founded.

I won’t be MLing NaNoWriMo.

I loved being an ML.  It was a lot of work, consumed a lot of time, and occasionally threw sharp rocks at me from out of left field, but at the same time I found it very rewarding.  I loved the energy, the community, the sense of being in the middle of the ebb and flow of it all.

(And my ego loved getting the ‘atta boy’ emails from my nanos.  My ego did not love the low number of those ‘atta boy’ emails, but hey, what can you do?)

I’ve done Nano for nine years.  NINE YEARS!  I’ve been an ML for seven.  So for me, nano IS MLing.

I’m really going to miss it.  But as much as I hate giving it up, I just don’t have the time. Like that Cat’s Playing In The Dreidel song (or something along those lines), I don’t want my kids to grow up as heartless, empty shells of human beings because dear ol’ dad decided to rule with an iron fist over his regional nanos rather than rule with an iron fist over them.  Dictatorships tend to be inherited, so I need to focus on the family.

And you know what, seven years is a long time under my benevolent dictatorship (well, OK, I’ve actually been a co-ML for seven years, so I can’t claim all the despotism for myself…dammit).  This is a good thing.  Bring in some new blood, some fresh ideas.  Kick the old dog into the animal shelter so a younger dog with new tricks can show off.

All to the benefit of my dear regional nanos.  I hope they appreciate what that old dog has done for them as the shelter technician euthanizes it.

(The other solution was to neuter the old dog and end the cycle that way, but seeing as I’m the old dog, well…that idea just didn’t sit with me as well as being put to sleep.)

As Captain Kirk said in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Galloping around the month of November writing novels is for the young, Doctor.”

(I may have taken a few liberties with that quote.)

I do plan to participate in Nano this year, but just as a writer. Which reminds me, I really need to start outlining this year’s book.

Now Star Trek III: The Search for a New Co-ML begins.  No persons containing unstable proto-matter need apply.  That’s all my region needs right now, a co-ML who unexpectedly explodes.

(And for you trekkers out there, here’s an interesting link about the early version of the TNG writer’s bible.  I have no idea if it’s authentic or not, but it’s an intriguing read: http://bit.ly/rlUSNh )

 

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