Monday, February 20, 2017

2. The Bookshop: YA Fantasy

2.
Title: The Bookshop
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 70,000

Query:
Alex's last year of school isn't going too well. Finding an infinite bookshop down a London alleyway was one thing, but being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far.

Then Hunter, the mysterious supplier of books and other sundry, appears on the scene, and things go from bad to worse. Hunter doesn't seem to understand that the door will open for anyone but Alex - and no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn't want to let Alex go.

Meanwhile, in another world, Breeze discovers that having sunlight-enhanced strength is no match for a man hell-bent on saving his city - and using whoever it takes in the process. But when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, powerless and close to death, he sees a door that doesn't belong. Then when Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional deal gone sour, suddenly a locked front door isn’t Alex’s only problem, and she's forced to make a choice: continue the fight to return home, or leave the Bookshop in the hands of a madman?

It's not much of a choice.

First 250 Words:

One last story, I suppose. I’m sorry in advance if it isn’t exactly the one you want to hear. But you must understand: back then, I didn’t realise the boy was important.


Two croissants have appeared in the cupboard overnight.
Literally appeared.
I’m trying not to think about it too much.
The window seat not being the most ideal place to sleep, overnight I have become Alex, the Human Cramp. Not the greatest way to wake up. So I stretch, nice and slow. Tie my hair up in a         messy bun. Cup of tea. Jam, cream, croissant.
I sip from my mug, trying not to spill too much as I step around a smattering of discarded novels and over to the pile of unlabelled records on the other side of the room. Butter-yellow sunlight streams into the Cottage, snuggling up to the darkest corners, and for just a moment the whole place feels almost... normal. I ignore that several records appear to be carved out of thinly sliced stone – and that the dull red glow of the one in the corner is slightly more ominous than it was yesterday – and choose one at random.
The needle locks into place.
A few seconds of silence, then soft pops and clicks as the familiar voice of Freddie Mercury rings out.
“Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time…”
I curl up on the window seat once more, ignoring my creaky limbs, and watch the world outside slowly pass me by. Men in suits, heading off to work. Cyclists narrowly missing both people and their dogs as they wind their way down cobblestone paths under the swooping shadows of –
Ignore the dragons, for the love of God, ignore the dragons

27 comments:

  1. Whenever I give feedback, I’m not telling you what to do with your story or query. I’m only offering suggestions for how I would change it if it were mine. In the end, no one knows their story as well as the writer, and as such, it is up to the writer how to take any suggestions. Good luck, and it was a privilege having all of you on my blog!

    Query:
    This sounds like a very interesting story. The query wanders a bit, and I’d like to see it focus more on the main conflict in the story. You have three separate threads and it’s really hard to see where this is going. Right now, it feels like three vignettes, but I don’t think that’s what you’ve got. The bookshop is really neat, but it is a setting, the conflict has to come from somewhere else, and I’d like to see that brought forward in the query.

    A side note on the magic shop motif: There are a lot of magic shop stories. There’s a whole TV tropes page for them (don’t go, you’ll only get lost in the links). I bring this up because it can make it hard to market your work if you don’t know how it fits in with things like it. I don’t tell you this to discourage, but to help you know what’s going on in your lane. You will want to bring out the differences in your story compared to the other stories, because the awesome part isn’t the shop, it’s your story.

    First 250:

    I really wanted to read more. I was very sad to reach the end of this. The only real comment I have is that it seems like she focuses a lot on how creaky her limbs are.

    Good work and thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Rena, thanks for your crit! I hadn't thought of the magic shop trope (totally not going to TV tropes today, I've got too many things to do to be lost in that quagmire again...) so I appreciate you bringing it up. I've got to make sure I'm showing what makes the Bookshop so different from others in the category. There are two different timelines/POVs in the book and I found it tricky to weave the two together - any suggestions for that?

      Delete
    2. In general, anytime you are wondering where to go with a query, look for the conflict and the stakes of your story. They must cross or their wouldn't be a story with a different timeline. At some point they must be aware of the other, and you can use that connection to guide how you put them together in the query.

      Delete
  2. These comments are posted on behalf of Elsie:

    There are a lot of fun parts and details to the query but it feels a bit big and covers too much right now. Try to streamline the focus, (I love all that you cover and think the story sound great – but give less)
    Query:
    Alex's last year of school isn't going too well. Finding an infinite bookshop down a London alleyway was one thing, but being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. (Farther than what? I think you could tinker her a bit to clarify. Was this supposed to be a part time gig? Is she missing school to work in the book store? It’s the only mention of school so is school necessary. Alex's job at the infinite bookshop down a London alleyway was supposed to be part time/for one season. But she’s now locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor.

    Then Hunter, the mysterious supplier of books and other sundry, appears on the scene, and things go from bad to worse. (what was the bad to worse. )Hunter doesn't seem to understand that the door will open for anyone but Alex - and no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn't want to let Alex go. ( I love that the door wont let her out J

    Meanwhile, in another world, Breeze discovers that having sunlight-enhanced strength is no match for a man hell-bent on saving his city –(whose city?) and using whoever it takes in the process. Whoa. But when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, powerless and close to death, he sees a door that doesn't belong. The door that Alex can’t leave through? Is this a new door? Can Alex leave through this one? Then when Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional deal gone sour (is it a book deal?), suddenly a locked front door isn’t Alex’s only problem, and she's forced to make a choice: continue the fight to return home, or leave the Bookshop in the hands of a madman? Who is the madman – Breeze of hunter?)

    It's not much of a choice.

    I’m a bit confused after the last paragraph, but I think the story is about Alex being kept in a bookstore until she’s deemed worthy but when things start going down hill, and she can leave, she doesn’t want to because she’s worried about the bookstore being safe? Maybe she’s worthy after all? Tinker to clarify. You’ve got all the parts there J Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for this, Elsie. I find it tricky streamlining the query because there's so much there, but will definitely have a fiddle around with it tonight!!

      Delete
  3. These comments are posted on behalf of Elsie:

    First 250 Words:

    One last story, I suppose. I’m sorry in advance if it isn’t exactly the one you want to hear. But you must understand: back then, I didn’t realise the boy was important. (This intro bit is fun and mysterious and I love it.)

    Chapter One: ALEX

    Two croissants have appeared in the cupboard overnight.
    Literally appeared.
    I’m trying not to think about it too much. (why not?)
    The window seat not being the most ideal place to sleep overnight has transformed me into Alex, the Human Cramp. Not the greatest way to wake up. So I stretch, nice and slow. Tie my hair up in a messy bun. Cup of tea. Jam, cream, croissant.
    I sip from my mug, trying not to spill too much as I step around a smattering of discarded novels and over to the pile of unlabeled records (on the other side of the room. – if they are n the other side, did she cross the room or how is she stepping over them) Butter-yellow sunlight streams into the Cottage, snuggling up to the darkest corners, and for just a moment the whole place feels almost... normal. I ignore that several records appear to be carved out of thinly sliced stone – and that the dull red glow of the one in the corner is slightly more ominous than it was yesterday – and choose one at random.
    The needle locks into place.
    A few seconds of silence, then soft pops and clicks as the familiar voice of Freddie Mercury rings out.
    “Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time…” (pretty sure using part of lyrics does not jive with fair trade use – unless you have permission to do so. This song appears to be copyrighted . I’d omit the lyrics but keep his name)
    I curl up on the window seat once more, ignoring my creaky limbs, and watch the world outside slowly pass me by. Men in suits, heading off to work. Cyclists narrowly missing both people and their dogs as they wind their way down cobblestone paths under the swooping shadows of –
    Ignore the dragons, for the love of God, ignore the dragons (Love the close here!!)

    I think your 250 reads well and offers a bit of fun. I like the magical aspect (and the details suggesting this) and would have kept on reading. Good job!

    All suggestions/opinions/observations are humbly offered. Thanks for sharing your work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fellow writer, I offer my opinions. Please take what helps and forget the rest.
    Query:
    Alex's last year of school isn't going too well. Finding an infinite bookshop down a London alleyway was one thing, but being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. (Ooooooh! Feels a bit long. The first line doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the query. The bookshop is the interesting part! What does Alex want?)


    Then Hunter, the mysterious supplier of books and other sundry, appears on the scene, and things go from bad to worse. Hunter doesn't seem to understand that the door will open for anyone but Alex - and no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn't want to let Alex go. ("appears on the scene" don't need it. "Go from bad to worse"? A bit vague... Bookshop won't let Alex go, but what does Alex want and what will she do to get it?)

    Meanwhile, in another world, Breeze discovers that having sunlight-enhanced strength is no match for a man hell-bent on saving his city - and using whoever it takes in the process. But when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, powerless and close to death, he sees a door that doesn't belong. Then when Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional deal gone sour, suddenly a locked front door isn’t Alex’s only problem, and she's forced to make a choice: continue the fight to return home, or leave the Bookshop in the hands of a madman?

    It's not much of a choice.
    (You lose me with this last para...Too much going on. This must be dual POV with Alex and Breeze. What do they want? What is in their way? What is the final moment that forces them to make a choice? Is Hunter involved in that, if not, he's interesting, but might not need to be in the query. Instead of asking us a question, tell us what could happen. Continue the fight to get home, well, I haven't heard that she wants that. Show us her desire to get home, then that choice of leaving and letting, I assume Hunter, have the bookstore would be bad, is more of a terrible choice for her. And Breeze...how does he fit? And this door that doesn't belong? Has he been in the shop before and it wasn't there? I am intrigued by so many elements, but a bit confused as to the main story line.)

    ReplyDelete
  5. First 250 Words:

    One last story, I suppose. I’m sorry in advance if it isn’t exactly the one you want to hear. But you must understand: back then, I didn’t realise the boy was important. (I'm all...WHAT? Who is this? What is going on? Though I am intrigued...)

    Chapter One: ALEX

    Two croissants have appeared in the cupboard overnight.
    Literally appeared.
    I’m trying not to think about it too much.
    The window seat not being the most ideal place to sleep, overnight I have become Alex, the Human Cramp. Not the greatest way to wake up. So I stretch, nice and slow. Tie my hair up in a messy bun. Cup of tea. Jam, cream, croissant. (what is she wearing? Crumpled clothes? Been wearing them for...how long?)
    I sip from my mug, trying not to spill too much as I step around a smattering of discarded novels and over to the pile of unlabelled records on the other side of the room. Butter-yellow sunlight streams into the Cottage, snuggling up to the darkest corners, and for just a moment the whole place feels almost... normal. I ignore that several records appear to be carved out of thinly sliced stone – and that the dull red glow of the one in the corner is slightly more ominous than it was yesterday – and choose one at random.
    The needle locks into place.
    A few seconds of silence, then soft pops and clicks as the familiar voice of Freddie Mercury rings out.
    “Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time…”
    I curl up on the window seat once more, ignoring my creaky limbs, and watch the world outside slowly pass me by. Men in suits, heading off to work. Cyclists narrowly missing both people and their dogs as they wind their way down cobblestone paths under the swooping shadows of –
    (I like the shop...so many strange things...I am wondering why she is there...also want to know how long she has been there...how does she feel about the place? Then the final para...she's watching the people outside...how does she feel watching...I really get pulled in right there. Does she ever think of when she was out there with them or has she been stuck inside forever? Does she think of home? Then...)
    Ignore the dragons, for the love of God, ignore the dragons (And I DIED! I love the premise. I'm not exaclty sure of the story, but am very willing to keep reading!)

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  7. Thanks so much for your suggestions! I was really struggling to get the multiple viewpoints idea in and found myself getting tangled into knots towards the end of the query. I've updated it and fiddled around quite a bit - what do you think? I'm trying to make it tighter and more focused on the conflict. I know it's quite different!


    Enter query stage left:

    For Alex, sheltering from the London rain inside an infinite bookshop was one thing. Being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. And when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, stripped of unbelievable power and close to death, Alex's search for a way home takes an unwelcome detour.

    Then there’s Hunter. The mysterious supplier of books and sundry doesn’t seem to understand that the front door will open for anyone but Alex. And no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn’t want to let Alex go.

    When Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional plot gone murder-levels of sour, the very existence of the Bookshop is at risk. Alex must make a choice: save the Bookshop, losing any chance of returning home, or give in to Hunter’s demands and leave the universe-hopping to an increasingly madder man.

    Then Breeze finds another way out - and suddenly, the choice isn’t as clear.

    ReplyDelete
  8. For Alex, sheltering from the London rain inside an infinite bookshop was one thing. Being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. (And she wants out, right? Wants to go home?Then she decided to help Breeze and give up the search...) And when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, stripped of unbelievable power (How does she know he's been stripped of the power?) and close to death, Alex's search for a way home takes an unwelcome detour. (better set up!)

    Then there’s Hunter. The mysterious supplier of books and sundry doesn’t seem to understand that the front door will open for anyone but Alex. (And no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn’t want to let Alex go.< Don't know if you need this...it's been established she can't leave and it's not needed for further set up of Hunter.)

    When Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional plot gone murder-levels of sour, the very existence of the Bookshop is at risk.(OH! How? And is the Bookshop important? If it's gone what will happen?) Alex must (make a choice:)<Don't need save the Bookshop, losing any chance of returning home, or give in to Hunter’s demands and leave the universe-hopping to an increasingly madder man. (The bookshop allows universe hopping? Not just people from all over come and go back to where they came? I LIKE THIS!)

    Then Breeze finds another way out - and suddenly, the choice isn’t as clear. (Wait...can you do that? Can you spring this on me? Tell me the choices. Put Breeze in the final para...let us know what this other choice is...This is because of that door that wasn't supposed to be there...from the first query...isn't it? This is much clearer! I really like this premise.)

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  9. I loved reading your query yesterday. I’ve taking the revised one and tweaked it slightly. As we all say – accept/ignore. Hopefully this will help though.

    For Alex, sheltering from the London rain inside an infinite bookshop was one thing. Being locked inside against her will, prevented from returning home, and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. But when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, close to death, mumbling about being stripped of his powers, Alex's search for a way home takes an unwelcome detour.

    Then there’s Hunter. The mysterious supplier of books and sundry doesn’t seem to understand that the front door will open for anyone but Alex. But when Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional plot gone murder-levels of sour, the very existence of the Bookshop is at risk.(explain how/why is it so important that it needs to exist?) Alex must save the Bookshop, losing any chance of returning home, or give in to Hunter’s demands (which are what?) and leave the universe-hopping to an increasingly madder man.

    When Breeze finds another way out, (which is what) the choice isn’t as clear. (this is sprung on us at the last minute and needs expanding)

    Two (crisply baked) croissants have appeared in the cupboard overnight.
    Literally appeared.
    I’m trying not to think about it too much. (why not? Does the thought of them magically appearing frighten her, bother her, or is she used to things appearing in the cupboard? We could do with a bit more info here.))
    The window seat not being the most ideal place to sleep overnight has transformed me into Alex, the Human Cramp. Not the greatest way to wake up. So I stretch, nice and slow. Tie my hair up in a messy bun. Cup of tea. Jam, cream, croissant. (Was everything else in the cupboard as well? Or did she have the rest of the food? Where was the cream kept if not magically appearing – need a fridge for cream and milk – sorry, my mind wanders about things like this  )
    I sip from my mug, trying not to spill too much as I step around a smattering of discarded novels and over to the pile of unlabeled records on the other side of the room. (step around – could do with a better way to describe her journey across the room, - tip-toeing/stretching with each step to find a gap of the original scuffed/polished wooden flooring.) Butter-yellow sunlight streams into the Cottage, snuggling up to the darkest corners, and for just a moment the whole place feels almost... normal. I ignore that several records appear to be carved out of thinly sliced stone – and that the dull red glow of the one in the corner is slightly more ominous than it was yesterday – and choose one at random.
    The needle locks into place.
    A few seconds of silence, then soft pops and clicks as the familiar voice of Freddie Mercury rings out.
    “Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time…” (Delete - As someone else has said. You need to delete lyrics unless you have attained permission to write them – very costly!)
    I curl up on the window seat once more, (lying down, or knees pulled up to her chin with her arms wrapped around them? Also a chance to give us a few details about what she’s wearing – holes in clothes/dirty/smelly/ how long has she been there?) ignoring my creaky limbs, and watch the world outside slowly pass me by. Men in suits, heading off to work. Cyclists narrowly missing both people and their dogs as they wind their way down cobblestone paths under the swooping shadows of –
    Ignore the dragons, for the love of God, ignore the dragons. (I hope we have a few other mythical beasts hanging around as you move deeper into the MS.)

    Absolutely love this query and the first 250 words. This was one of the querys I read and couldn’t get out of my head for the rest of the day! Great work, and if you like the comments I made and are looking for someone to read through and critique the rest of the MS, give me a buzz 

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eek, thank you so much Melody! I really appreciate the feedback :) I think you're definitely right re. adding in WHY things matter - I need to up the stakes in the query so a reader knows why they should care about the characters and what they're going through. Will have a play around and see what I can do!

      Also, thanks for the offer of crit - I'll definitely hit you up at some point! :)

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  11. Oops, my posting doesn't seem to be going on properly! Here's attempt number two. It's very tricky to include stakes without sounding like a click bait article, huh!

    Query, Episode III:

    For Alex, sheltering from the London rain inside an infinite bookshop is one thing. Being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. Becoming the proprietor of a Bookshop full of unlimited knowledge and doors to new universes might well give a certain level of indomitability to the right person -- but Alex knows that's definitely not her. She’s determined to get home, universe-hopping be damned.

    Then there’s Hunter. Desperate to take the power of the Bookshop for himself, the mysterious supplier of books and sundry will stop at nothing -- taking the last teabag, finishing the milk, or threatening death and disaster -- to get what he wants. Then Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional plot gone murder-levels of sour, and both Alex’s life and the very existence of the Bookshop are in danger of going up in flames. If Alex wants any chance of saving the Bookshop from Hunter and his enemies, she must give up her hope of returning home and accept a new life inside its infinite walls.

    But when a stranger from another world stumbles into the Bookshop, close to death and raving madly, Alex’s decision isn’t as clear as it once was. The moment the man arrives, an entirely new door unlocks -- and suddenly, escape is just a choice away.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is sooooooo much better. The stakes are clear and all the characters have a place and purpose :)

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  13. I like that! Taking Breeze out of the query helped. Though I miss him. And I love doors to other universes. This whole concept is fabulous.

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  14. Here is your critique I promised! My thoughts. I am no agent, but I have seen my fair share of queries while reading subs for one of my publishers and while querying my own works. So, I hope this is of some benefit to you.

    Query:

    For Alex, sheltering from the London rain inside an infinite bookshop is one thing. Being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far. Becoming the proprietor of a Bookshop full of unlimited knowledge and doors to new universes might well give a certain level of indomitability to the right person -- but Alex knows that's definitely not her. She’s determined to get home, universe-hopping be damned.

    ***I have nothing to add. Maybe somehow giving it a little more voice somehow, but that's super hard in queries, so if you can do it, great, if not, it's all good!***

    Then there’s Hunter. Desperate to take the power of the Bookshop for himself, the mysterious supplier of books and sundry will stop at nothing -- taking the last teabag, finishing the milk, or threatening death and disaster -- to get what he wants. Then Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional plot gone murder-levels of sour, and both Alex’s life and the very existence of the Bookshop are in danger of going up in flames. If Alex wants any chance of saving the Bookshop from Hunter and his enemies, she must give up her hope of returning home and accept a new life inside its infinite walls.

    **There's the voice!***

    But when a stranger from another world stumbles into the Bookshop, close to death and raving madly, Alex’s decision isn’t as clear as it once was. The moment the man arrives, an entirely new door unlocks -- and suddenly, escape is just a choice away.

    **It looks to me like all the others have served you well! This is right on track for a successful querying journey. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Query:
    Alex's last year of school isn't going too well. (Wording feels weak. Would drop the ‘too.’) Finding an infinite bookshop down a London alleyway was one thing, but being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? (THIS IS AWESOME.) Well, that's just one step too far. (Again, the wording is wishy-washy.)

    Then Hunter, the mysterious supplier of books and other sundry, appears on the scene, and things go from bad to worse. Hunter doesn't seem to understand that the door will open for anyone but Alex - and no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn't want to let Alex go. (This paragraph is great. Presents Hunter as a strong character with a distinct personality. Should sundry be plural?)


    Meanwhile, in another world, Breeze discovers that having sunlight-enhanced strength is no match for a man hell-bent on saving his city - and using whoever it takes in the process. (Aaaaand I’m lost. This jolted me right out of the story.) But when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, powerless and close to death, he sees a door that doesn't belong. Then when Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional deal gone sour, suddenly a locked front door isn’t Alex’s only problem, and she's forced to make a choice: continue the fight to return home, or leave the Bookshop in the hands of a madman? (Wait, who’s the madman? I thought she couldn’t leave the Bookshop?)

    It's not much of a choice. (How does she have a choice? The door won’t open for her, right? She can’t leave?)

    I love the premise of this. Your word choices tell me you’re either British or really good at faking it, which is good for a story set in London. I haven’t gotten a feel at all for Alex’s character, but you’ve built Hunter’s character enough that I suspect Alex is probably well written.

    250 words: I’m officially dying to read this story. The scene is well-crafted and descriptive. Alex is SO British, with a strong voice. And I have to know more about the dragons!

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  16. Replies
    1. This makes me want to have a like button for comments on blogger!!!

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    2. I can't even use a thumbs up emoji, but imagine there's one here!

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  17. Hi, this obviously has one of my votes!

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