#SonOfAPitch – ENTRY #1 – THE QUESTER

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Title: THE QUESTER

Category and Genre: YA Science Fiction

Word Count: 73,000

Query:

Andrew and Christine’s first real date is going great-until they meet an energetic young woman and a brooding young man standing over glowing bomb. They cannot disarm it and God only knows what will happen should it go off. The strangers claim the teenagers are the only people who can stop it-by jumping through a portal made of fire.

Andrew finds himself inexplicably drawn to the strangers. They reveal themselves to be Keepers; Earth’s chosen guardians, given extraordinary powers by the planet itself. Curious to learn more, Andrew agrees to help and persuades Christine to join him.

The portal of fire leads to an alien world. While there, Andrew’s power to control plants begins to manifest. He is a Keeper. Joining the group means leaving his current life behind, but deep down he knows he must. Christine finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of an adventure she did not really want in the first place, but Earth insists on her involvement.

Now the Keepers need the help of Andrew and Christine. The universe is out of balance and the only way to correct it is to travel to other dimensions and collect ten dangerous artifacts called Quester Stones. The Stones are intelligent and resist efforts to find them, but without their energy, the universe will collapse in on itself.

First 250:

Andrew and Christine were at a small, roadside carnival that had come through town for the weekend of Halloween. The rides were questionable and looked as if they might fall apart at any moment. It was like they had magically appeared in empty parking lot a few hours ago. Then, right at nightfall, all the neon lights flipped on and spirited music began playing, attracting everyone to it. The food being sold was mostly puffed sugar, deep-fried, and then shoved on a stick, but it was cheap. Joyful screams occasionally rose over the crowd of people.

“What should we ride next?” Andrew adjusted the eye patch he was wearing and pushed his pirate hat down tighter on his head over his brown hair. The goofy plastic hat was constantly threatening to fall off his head. A giant skull and crossbones was painted on his shirt, completing his pirate outfit.

“The Twister!” Christine exclaimed. They had already been on the Twister three times. Their friends were lined up in front of the spinning ride, dressed in colorful costumes, from cartoon characters to superheroes.

Christine had black whiskers painted over her cheeks, a ball of white fluff pinned to her jeans, and a pair of pink and white ears over her short, chestnut hair. Andrew thought she looked great in the rabbit costume and he hoped his pirate outfit impressed her as well.

Andrew frowned as he waved his tickets in front of Christine. “We need four tickets for that and we’ve only got three.”

 

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22 thoughts on “#SonOfAPitch – ENTRY #1 – THE QUESTER

  1. Pingback: Son of a Pitch Contest – Week 2: My ten entries | Elsie Elmore

  2. I watched your query last week and I think your changes move you in the right direction. Your concept is interesting and worth a look… the query just needs a little more finessing.
    With that in mind, here are my thoughts…
    A stronger first sentence will pull the reader in more. Tinker with your words … And I would remove the descriptions of the strangers. Word use is at a premium, spend it all on the protags/conflict/stakes
    Examples:
    Sixteen-year-old Andrew wants his first date with Christine to be memorable. By choosing a sketchy roadside carnival, he hopes to keep the thrill factor high. But when Christine and Andrew stumble upon a couple attempting to diffuse a bomb, the first date …becomes ….? The strangers claim only Andrew and Christine can stop the bomb…. OR
    Andrew and Christine’s first date at a road side fair goes from fun to freaky/fantastic/? when they stumble upon a two strangers diffusing a bomb. The detonator refuses all efforts to shut it down. When the strangers turn to Andrew and Christine to help stop the Earth? (or area?) from exploding, the two teens are….

    Also, you could reveal a bit about the characters as they face dilemmas/decisions. For example: Andrew’s never said no to an adventure and refuses to start now, but jumping through a portal of fire …. (add response here). Drawn to the Keepers, Andrew is curious to learn more.

    Look for opportunities to trim little words:
    The strangers call themselves Keepers, Earth’s chosen guardians gifted with extraordinary powers. (You can reveal the source of the power at a later time – in the synopsis or story)

    Tinker to amplify the tension/stakes at the end:
    The Stones are intelligent and resist efforts to find them, but without their energy, the universe will collapse in on itself.
    Can Andrew and Christine find the stones to prevent the universe from collapsing?
    Are Andrew and Christine strong/smart/capable of not only saving Earth but the Universe? Add a bit more drama.

    Queries are tough cookies. Strip it down and then dress it back up. You got this 🙂

    For your first 250:

    Andrew and Christine were at a small, roadside carnival that had come through town for the weekend of Halloween. (This sentence needs more punch. If this is being told from Andrew’s POV, what does he think?) The rides were questionable and looked as if they might fall apart at any moment. They had magically(Watch this…) appeared in empty parking lot a few hours ago. (Add details to explain how they might fall apart: Workers twisted straps around the columns to support the rides. The metal wheels squeaked as carts teetered along their rails. Show the lack of structural integrity.)

    Then, right at nightfall, all the neon lights flipped on and spirited music began playing, attracting everyone to it. The food being sold was mostly puffed sugar, deep-fried, and then shoved on a stick, but it was cheap. Joyful screams occasionally rose over the crowd of people. (I like these descriptions. In your query you mention that this is a first date, I’d incorporate that early on. For example: At nightfall, the neon lights flipped on, spirited music began playing and the smell of cheap fried food filled the air. People packed in. Andrew knew bringing Christine here for their first date was the right choice.

    I’d allow your physical descriptions to ease out slowly and fill in a few characters thoughts/perceptions. A few examples:

    “What should we ride next?” Andrew lifted his pirate eye patch to get a better look at Christine. ..OR
    “I don’t know. How about the Twister?” She touched the skull and crossbones painted on the center of his shirt…. OR
    Andrew swallowed hard at her touch. (If this is a first date, is either nervous?) She caught his reaction and smiled. The black whiskers drawn on her cheeks wrinkled. He thumped one of her rabbit ears in response and then grabbed her hand to head over to the Twister.
    The Twister rose two stories into the air with swinging baskets? Dangling cages? (Describe the twister here). Their friends lined up in front of the spinning ride, dressed in colorful costumes, from cartoon characters to superheroes. Andrew thought everyone else’s costume, including his own, paled in comparison to Christine’s. She was the prettiest rabbit he’d ever seen.
    Andrew frowned as he waved his tickets in front of Christine. “We need four tickets for that. We’ve only got three.”

    As the story progresses, he can grab his plastic hat before it lifts off and/or he can compare her hair to a color he sees, etc.

    The pending adventure sounds awesome so grab the reader early on so they stay the course. Work your POV – even in third person – to bring the reader in.

    Best of luck! If you have questions, give me a yell.

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  3. Thanks a ton! This is great advice here and I’ll be taking it to heart. I’ll work on it over the next day or two here and see where I end up.

    (also noticed the missing ‘a’ in ‘a bomb’ from my original. Ty to Phoenixphyre who spotted that! – deleting and writing always seems to eat a word now and then).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thought I’d move my diversity post over to here too. These are the heroes from the book. The Keepers all have a power unique to themselves. No spoilers :). I try to craft basic personality outlines for characters and then allow them to take shape on their own. And this is what’s resulted over time.

    Something else I want to point out with the book and that I may need to make more clear in my query. Though I pick up some epic fantasy story telling elements (hero’s journey sort of stuff), there is no destiny in this universe. Andrew is not the most powerful Keeper. He won’t ever take over and while he’s being used to introduce the Keepers to an audience that doesn’t know them, he won’t always be the main character. In fact, in the Quester, I flip between 4 POV’s. Andrew’s, Venom’s (the main antagonist), Christine’s, and Raptor’s.

    Anyway, so here’s the list of Keepers (as a note, Christine is not a Keeper):

    Andrew – Origins: New Mexico – Keeper of plants. Able to control plants, make them grow, and gains instant knowledge from touching them. His powers will expand more as time goes on. His dad (as I mentioned in the tweet) is from Mexico. His mom is.. well, I need to get in there and decide.

    Bringer – Origins: Egypt – Keeper of fire. Dead currently, but I’m hitting very strongly at a relationship between him and Raptor. He was killed by Venom.

    Godlin – Origins: Nigeria, moved to England at a young age. Keeper of earth. He and Walker are an item, but they keep it to themselves, because both of them are very reserved. As far as Keepers go, he’s physically the strongest, though Dynamos comes in a close second.

    Tran – Origins: Germany – Keeper of Questers – a little harder power to explain. Basically, he’s able to become other people, assume their identity. His main power is to translate other languages, including most alien ones. He and Tech are best buddies to the point of maybe it being more, but I haven’t decided and wanted to see if that kind of a thing develops organically through storytelling rather than forcing it.

    Raptor – Origins: Central US (Irish ethnicity) – Keeper of animals. Leader of the Keepers. Able to shape-shift into other animals. She’s not the strongest or the most powerful Keeper, but she can fight. Her, Godlin, and Tech very often face off vs one another. Venom thinks she’s in love with him, but she’s not. She wants nothing to do with Venom. Her relationship with Bringer was going somewhere before he died, but they didn’t get much past good friends stage.

    Mouse – Origins: China (maybe North Korea – I need to do more research on this) – Keeper of computers/math. He’s the theoretical side of math. Where Gadget is the practical. They aren’t together, but they work together well.

    Venom – Origins: Norway – Former Keeper of plants. Currently the main villain in all this, he killed Bringer and thinks he’s in love with Raptor, but Raptor does not and will never return that. However, he will be putting together his own unique team of people to face off vs the Keepers. I’ve started crafting them, but not all of them are finalized and they too will pick up a diverse cast.

    Selena – Origins: Native American (I am leaving out exactly were from at this time until I am able to really do the research for this. I imagine her being from Canada). – Keeper of water. Probably the most powerful Keeper there is. Though she doesn’t get a lot of face time in this first book, I really want her to take on a key role later. She’s got a lot of backstory I don’t want to spoil.

    Dynamos – Origins: Samoan – Keeper of chemistry. He specializes in making bombs and is very careful with this power too. He and Gadget are good friends and often work together, but it’s not anything more than that. He’s almost as strong physically as Godlin, but doesn’t have the heart for violence. Precision is how he achieves destructive results without causing unintended harm.

    Tech – Origins: Western US (european ethnicity) – Keeper of weapons. Basically, he’s the gun expert. He’s from CA, probably from LA. He and Tran work together very well. They keep a balance on one another’s worst tendencies (Tran being a coward and Tech being cocky). And tend to bring out the better in each other. Tech has an overbearing personality, but he has to work on not being a bully and Tran helps with that.

    Gadget – Origins: Mexico – Keeper of mechanics/math. She’s the opposite of Mouse. The practical side of math and an inventor. She puts together and maintains all of the Keeper’s equipment, including their spaceplanes. She and Mouse are probably the smartest of the Keepers and often square off in battles of wit.

    Aerion – Origins: Spain – Keeper of Air. Formally from a rather wealthy family. Where Gadget builds the planes, Aerion can fly them. Her powers are varied with control of air, but she’s able to tip chance in her favor. She’s not really one for relationships.

    Walker – Origins: India – Keeper of dimensions. She’s able to jump to other dimension and can navigate them as well. Her powers allow her a lot of versatility, but she’s shy and reserved. Godlin and her are together, but like I said, they keep it to themselves.

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      • Oh, I’m obsessed with character/world development. I keep a huge notebook of short stories, back stories, world building stuff, aliens (I want to avoid planets of hats!), science stuff, ect. Most of it will never be used, but it makes me understand the world/characters better. I’ve gone as far as to build the Keeper HQ inside minecraft, just so I could get a sense of the layout. :). I will happily answer how and why questions about the characters/universe as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve made some great changes to the query. It’s a lot clearer for me. I know your MCs, their goals, and the stakes – the obstacles could use SOME sharpening IMHO – “the universe is out of balance”, so it’s their goal to rectify this…there could be obstacles inherent, but I’m getting no sense of them. Is there a true antagonist? I have books where there is no true embodied antagonist (other than, perhaps, the protagonist herself, in one case), but you still need to present the obstacles in the query.

    The 250 – I like them, they are better, but you can still make them hookier. I still feel like it’s too much description, not enough action. And some of the scene setting/description could be done better. Saying the rides were “questionable”, “might fall apart” and “magically appeared”…I’m getting a bit of an image, but not a vibe. Does that make sense? It’s more of a musician term…because you can still get all the notes right, and get the vibe wrong…and you can get half the notes wrong, and get the vibe right. The vibe is more important than the notes…or the exact words. I’ve made up words and deliberately misused them in order to create a vibe – see what I’m saying? The vibe is paramount, and in your first 250, it’s even more important. I think that’s your last obstacle here, is engrossing me in your “vibe”: presenting your characters and your world IMMEDIATELY in a compelling way, so that I feel like I’m there, and like I need to stay there. Make sense?

    Thank you for your entry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is an antagonist. But his appearance isn’t until chapter 3. I’ve added and removed him a few times in the query and still can’t seem to find a solid place for him. He and Andrew don’t even meet until well past halfway through. He’s important, but his motives aren’t fully revealed until the very end and part of the story is figuring out why the antagonist is doing what he’s doing. So, yeah, I’m going to have to work on that part.

      And the magically appeared not vibing, I get too. Getting some sleep and looking at it again, I’m not liking that line at all. I think going back and adding something like, the slightest gust of wind caused the top of the Ferris Wheel to shift back and forth, in a terrifying rocking motion… or, Andrew could have sworn he saw a stack of boards shoved up under the base of one ride. Nothing had collapsed, yet. He assumed it would hold together for another hour or two. Plenty of time to use up the last of their tickets. Maybe drink another blueberry slushie too.

      I think what I might have to do is pull in some of the fair’s description that happens a few lines later forward and shove some of the character descriptions down past the 250. Get the sense of where before the sense of who.

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      • I really like that description of the carnival, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It makes me see it, hear it, feel it. Add the smell – you already made me hungry with the food descriptions, but there’s also that carnival SMELL that smells gross but still good – and you’re golden. It’s amazing how much adding SMELL does for a book’s vibe…

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      • Oh yes, that special odor of boiling oil, sugared everything, with a sprinkling of sharp rusty iron and slathered over with way too many people shoved into a small area. :). I’ve got something to that extent a bit later, just need to pull it forward. I’ll be working on that for certain.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay, here’s a new attempt at the query! I will have to deal with the 250 later.

    Greetings,

    Sixteen-year-old Andrew and Christine’s first real date at a roadside carnival has been great. The rides were fun, the kiss…wonderful. However, fun quickly turns to frightening when they stumble upon a pair of strangers trying to diffuse a glowing bomb. The strangers turn to Andrew and Christine, insisting they are the only ones that can stop the bomb from destroying the carnival- by jumping through a portal made of fire.

    Andrew has never been one for adventures, but he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the strangers. They reveal themselves to be Keepers; Earth’s chosen guardians, gifted with extraordinary powers. Curious to learn more, he agrees to help and persuades Christine to join him.

    Andrew’s sudden desire for adventure is not an accident. He discovers he is a Keeper as his power to control plants begins to manifest. Joining the group means leaving his current life behind, but deep down he knows he must. Venom, the former Keeper of plants has returned from exile and he will not tolerate Andrew becoming his replacement. Andrew must master his powers before Venom finds and kills him.

    Venom’s timing could not be worse. The universe is out of balance and the only way to stop it is to collect ten dangerous artifacts called Quester Stones. The Stones are intelligent and resist efforts to find them, but without their energy, the universe will collapse in on itself. The Keepers cannot accomplish the task alone and will need the help of both teenagers to set things right. Can Andrew and Christine find the strength to master their hidden powers and the courage face a universe that does not care if they succeed or fail before it is too late?

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      • okay, so before I take a long peek, why don’t you delete and repost. but… before you do… I want you to take a long look at your first few lines. Your story is an epic adventure so it should hit the ground running. As soon as I pasted it into Word, I wanted to cut words. The fun in sixteen-year-old Andrew and Christine’s first real date quickly turns to frightening when they stumble upon a pair of strangers trying to diffuse a bomb. Think about strength of the hook. 😉 It’s maddening – this process – but it’s worth it. Hope that helps.

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      • I agree. I will eat through it again tonight when I can sit down and work. This is why the main antagonist keeps appearing and vanishing from the query. Trying to explain him really pushes out the words count. I am getting closer each time and I can see some places to cut now. Thanks for coming back to look at it again!

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  7. Alright, I’m posting up both now (this will be my last repost!). The newest, shorter query, and the new 250, with some fair descriptions to start and the more detailed characters descriptions pushed down until later in the chapter. Of course, now we lose the description of the Twister (it looks like an alien spaceship! Cause that’s how I like my foreshadowing 🙂 !). And dang it, now I want some cotton candy…

    Thanks so very much to everyone who’s worked so hard on this.

    Query:
    Greetings,

    Sixteen-year-old Andrew and Christine’s first real date quickly turns from fun to frightening when they stumble upon a pair of strangers trying to diffuse a glowing bomb. The strangers insist only Andrew and Christine can stop the bomb from destroying the neighborhood- by jumping through a portal made of fire.

    Andrew has never been one for adventures, but he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the strangers. They reveal themselves to be Keepers; Earth’s chosen guardians, gifted with extraordinary powers. Curious to learn more, he agrees to help and persuades Christine to join him.

    Andrew quickly discovers he is a Keeper as his power to control plants begins to manifest. Joining the group means leaving his current life behind, but deep down he knows he must. Venom, the former Keeper of plants, has returned from exile and he will not tolerate Andrew existence for long.

    However, the Keepers have an even bigger problem on their hands. The universe is out of balance and the only way to stop it is to collect ten dangerous artifacts called Quester Stones. The Stones are intelligent and resist efforts to find them, but without their energy, the universe will collapse in on itself. Can Andrew and Christine find the courage to face the perils of a dispassionate universe and set things right before it is too late?

    250:
    Andrew and Christine were at a small, roadside carnival that had come through town for the weekend of Halloween. The whole place had seemingly appeared in empty parking lot the previous day. Then, right at nightfall, all the neon lights flipped on and spirited music began playing. The food being sold was mostly puffed sugar, deep-fried, and then shoved on a stick, but it was cheap. Joyful screams occasionally rose over the crowd of people and the delicious smell of boiling oil permeated the air.

    The rides were a bit questionable. Andrew swore that he had seen a stack of boards shoved up under the base of one ride. But, everyone in the small town turned out anyway. Nothing has collapsed, yet. He figured it would hold together for another hour or two, plenty of time for him and Christine to finish their first date. Maybe drink another blueberry slushie too.

    “What should we ride next?” Andrew pushed his goofy plastic pirate hat down tighter on his head over his brown hair.

    “The Twister!” Christine exclaimed. Her face scrunched up into a bright grin and caused the black whiskers painted on her face to wrinkle.

    Like

  8. Okay, thanks to some massive help from another author, I’ve got another edit on this! This will probably be the last post, since I’m going to be consumed tomorrow and Friday with life stuff. Woot! Thanks again to all!

    Query
    Greetings,

    On their first real date, sixteen-year-olds Andrew and Christine’s night out at a carnival takes a sudden turn when they stumble upon a pair of strangers trying to defuse a glowing bomb. The strangers need Andrew and Christine to pass through a portal to another dimension, where an artifact of power that can nullify the bomb resides.

    Andrew has never been one for adventures, but he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the strangers. They reveal themselves to be Keepers- Earth’s chosen guardians, gifted with extraordinary powers. Curious to learn more, he follows the Keepers through the portal and persuades Christine to join him.

    While there, Andrew discovers he is a Keeper as his power to control plants begins to manifest. However, joining the group means angering a former Keeper with powers identical to his own. He sees Andrew as nothing but a usurper, taking his rightful place as the Keeper of plants.

    However, the Keepers have an even bigger problem on their hands. The universe is out of balance and the only way to stop it is to collect ten dangerous artifacts called Quester Stones. The Stones are intelligent and resist efforts to find them, but without their energy, the universe will collapse in on itself. Andrew and Christine must face the perils of the Stones to restore order to the universe before it is too late.

    250:
    The roadside carnival had seemingly appeared over night, right in time for Halloween. The rides looked questionable, as if they might fall apart at any moment. Yet, right at nightfall, all the neon lights flipped on and spirited music began playing, attracting everyone to the previously empty parking lot where an old car dealership once stood. The food being sold was mostly puffed sugar, deep-fried, and then shoved on a stick, but it was cheap. Joyful screams occasionally rose over the crowd of people and the delicious smell of boiling oil permeated the air.

    Andrew knew it was the perfect place to bring Christine for their first date.

    “What should we ride next?” Andrew pushed his goofy plastic pirate hat down tighter on his head over his brown hair.

    “The Twister!” Christine exclaimed. Her face scrunched up into a bright grin, causing the black whiskers painted on her face to wrinkle up.

    They had already been on the Twister three times. Andrew liked the ride because it did not leave the ground. The giant cylinder looked like a spaceship with a green alien sticking out the top. It spun around while everyone was strapped into the walls, making them dizzy. Their friends lined up in front of a glowing neon sign that flashed out the letters of TWISTER! waiting for another turn. They were dressed in colorful costumes, from cartoon characters to superheroes.

    Andrew frowned as he waved his tickets in front of Christine. “We need four tickets for that and we’ve only got three.”

    Like

  9. Woot. Okay, so here’s the fully updated version for the next part of #SonofaPitch.

    Query:
    Greetings,

    On their first date, sixteen-year-olds Andrew and Christine’s night out at a carnival takes a sudden turn when they stumble upon a pair of strangers trying to defuse a glowing bomb. The strangers need Andrew and Christine to pass through a portal to another dimension, where an artifact of power that can nullify the bomb resides.

    Andrew has never been one for adventures, but he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the strangers. They reveal themselves to be Keepers. They are Earth’s chosen guardians, gifted with extraordinary powers. Curious to learn more, he follows the Keepers through the portal and persuades Christine to join him.

    While there, Andrew discovers he is a Keeper when his power to control plants begins to manifest. However, joining the group means angering a former Keeper with abilities identical to his own named Venom. He sees Andrew as nothing but a usurper, taking his rightful place as the Keeper of plants. Christine finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of an adventure she did not want in the first place, but she soon realizes she has a bigger role to play than anyone realized.

    The Keepers have a dire problem on their hands. The universe is out of balance and the only way to stop it is to collect ten dangerous artifacts called Quester Stones. The Stones are intelligent and resist efforts to find them, but to save the world Andrew and Christine must face them and their guardians. Without the Stones’ energy, the universe will collapse in three days and take Earth with it.

    250:
    The roadside carnival had seemingly appeared over night in an empty parking lot were a car dealership once stood. The rides looked as if they might fall apart at any moment, yet, right at nightfall, all the neon lights flipped on and spirited music began playing. The smell of cheap food, most of it deep-fried, shoved on a stick, and smothered in sugar, drifted out over the town, drawing everyone to the carnival for Halloween.

    Andrew knew it was the perfect place to bring Christine for their first date.

    “What should we ride next?” Andrew pushed his goofy plastic pirate hat down tighter over his brown hair.

    “The Twister!” Christine exclaimed. Her face scrunched up into a bright grin, causing the black whiskers painted on her face to wrinkle up.

    They had already been on the Twister three times. Andrew liked the ride because it did not leave the ground. The giant cylinder looked like a spaceship with a green alien sticking out the top. It would spin around with everyone was strapped into the walls, making them dizzy. Their friends lined up in front of a glowing neon sign that flashed out the letters of TWISTER! waiting for another turn. They were dressed in colorful costumes, from cartoon characters to superheroes, complete with homemade capes and terrible paint jobs.

    Andrew frowned as he waved his tickets in front of Christine. “We need four tickets for that and we’ve only got three.”

    “Forgot about that,” Christine stared longingly at the ride.

    Like

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