30 December 2017

Non-Vital Statistics: 2017 in Review

Can't believe this year's almost done. All things considered, I thought it was a good year for novels (The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille, Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips, Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith, Artemis by Andy Weir, among many others) and also for TV (Longmire's final season, Stranger Things's second season, and a FANTASTIC series called Godless), and a so-so year for movies (I liked Wonder Woman and The Last Jedi, and haven't yet seen Dunkirk or Three Billboards O. E. M.). Surrounded by all this external fiction, I continued to pound away at some of my own. And since short stories are the only thing I know much about, I've put together some writing stats for 2017.

The story board

According to my little three-ring binder, I've had 34 stories published this year. I've listed them below, and since we at this blog have been talking a lot about mystery markets lately, I've also listed the publications they appeared in:

"Unsigned, Sealed, and Delivered" -- Flash Bang Mysteries, Winter/Jan 2017 issue
"A Green Thumb" -- The Texas Gardener, Jan 4, 2017 issue
"Relative Strangers" -- Woman's World, Jan 16, 2017 issue
"Merrill's Run" -- Mystery Weekly, Jan 17, 2017 issue
"Gun Work" -- Coast to Coast: Private Eyes (Down & Out Books), Jan 30, 2017
"Elevator Music" -- Meet Cute, Feb 2017
"No Strings Attached" -- Woman's World, Feb 27, 2017 issue
"Movie Night" -- Woman's World, Mar 20, 2017 issue
"Flag Day" -- The Strand Magazine, Feb-May 2017 issue
"Doctor in the House" -- Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring/April 2017 issue
"Sand Hill" -- Gathering Storm Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 2, April 2017
"The Red-Eye to Boston" -- Horror Library, Vol. 6 (Cutting Block Books), April 2017
"Special Delivery" -- Woman's World, May 29, 2017 issue
"Vanity Case" -- Mysterical-E, Spring 2017 issue
"A Thousand Words" -- Kings River Life, May 27, 2017 issue
"Witness Protection" -- Woman's World, June 19, 2017 issue
"Crow Mountain" -- The Strand Magazine, June-Sep 2017 issue
"The Rare Book Case" -- Woman's World, July 3, 2017
"Ace in the Hole" -- Flash Bang Mysteries, Summer/July 2017 issue
"The Sandman" -- Noir at the Salad Bar (Level Best Books), July 18, 2017
"Trail's End" -- Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/Aug 2017 issue
"Mr. Unlucky" -- Woman's World, Aug 7, 2017 issue
"False Testimony" -- Woman's World, Sep 4, 2017 issue
"Rooster Creek" -- Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Sep 2017 issue
"High Anxiety" -- Kings River Life, Sep 9, 2017
"An Act of Deception" -- Woman's World, Sep 18, 2017 issue
"Travelers" -- Visions VII: Universe, Oct 2017
"Life Is Good" -- Passport to Murder (Down & Out Books), Oct 2017
"Knight Vision" -- Flash Bang Mysteries, Fall/Oct 2017 issue
"Charlotte in Charge" -- Woman's World, Oct 7, 2017 issue
"The Tenth Floor" -- CEA Greatest Anthology (Celenic Earth Publications), Oct 14, 2017
"Teacher's Pet," -- Woman's World, Oct 30, 2017 issue
"Three Suspects and a Murder" -- Woman's World, Nov 27, 2017 issue
"A Christmas Card" -- Woman's World, Dec 11, 2017 issue

NOTE: I didn't count the current issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, which appeared in December, because the date of that issue is Jan/Feb 2018. (It contains my story, "Scavenger Hunt," the second installment of a series I began with "Trail's End" in AHMM's July/Aug 2017 issue.)

More numbers

Of my stories that were published in 2017, 18 appeared in print magazines, 7 in print anthologies, and 9 in online publications. 30 of the 34 went to paying markets, 25 to repeat markets, and 9 to new markets. 28 of these stories were unsolicited submissions, and 6 were by invitation. Genrewise, one was a romance, one was humor, one was science fiction, and 31 were mysteries (although some were cross-genre--mystery/western, mystery/fantasy, etc.). 29 of these were original stories and 5 were reprints. As for settings, 21 took place in my home state of Mississippi, and 13 were set elsewhere. It surprised me a little that only 2 were first-person POV; 32 were third-person. 20 of the 34 were installments in a series (four different series, actually), and 14 were standalone stories. Lengthwise, 17 of the stories were less than 1000 words, 8 were between 1000 and 5000, and 9 were more than 5000.

At this moment, 13 more of my stories have been accepted and will be published shortly, 22 more have been submitted but have not yet received a response, and 30 have been selected by my publisher for a seventh collection of my short mystery stories, scheduled for release in hardcover next summer.

On the downside, I've also received 20 rejections this year, from 12 different markets. That's a lot of misfires, and yes, that means multiple rejections from some places. What can I say? Many of my friends assume that because I've been fortunate enough to sell regularly to certain publications, those places probably just accept everything I send them. I wish.

More wishful thinking

One would also suspect that I could digest all this information and make some kind of informed decision about which stories work and which don't, and where I should submit stories and where I shouldn't. But if one suspected that, one would be wrong. For the life of me I sometimes cannot seem to determine which stories should go where--the square peg doesn't always want to fit in the square slot--and even though I've come to know some of these editors well, I can't predict which stories I send them will be successful and which won't. I also don't seem to be able to foresee which markets will survive for generations and which will put all four feet in the air after a year or so. As the old saying goes, you spends your dollar (or, in this case, your time) and you takes your chances. Maybe I'll get smarter next year.


To all my writer friends out there, how was 2017 for you? Did you sell a novel or a collection or a story, or have one (or more) published? What great stories/novels did you read? What good movies/TV shows did you watch? Do you write an ongoing series, in either novels or stories? If so, do those seem to sell better than standalone works? Do you have specific writing projects in progress, or upcoming in 2018? If you're a short-story writer, did you try to target only paying markets?

Final question: Are the years passing faster now, or is it just because I'm getting old?

I think I know the answer to that one.


  1. Yes, the older wer get the quicker the years go by. Way to go with all those sales. Wow.

  2. Wow! 34 stories published in one year. Congratulations.

    I WROTE six this year, a personal best, and one has sold for next year. I'm still waiting to hear about 4 of the other 5 and I'll be looking at your list for more possible markets.

    Yes, the years are going faster now. I think you, O'Neil and I are about the same age (35, right?) and we've seen a lot.

    I published a collection of my earlier traditionally-pubbed short stories and another roller derby novel (Hit Somebody), and another Woody Guthrie novel will be out in early January. I'm almost through a first draft (most of which works) of the next Zach Barnes novel, too. I really want to write more short stories this year, too. Oh, and "Look What They've Done to My Song, Mom" appeared in Alfred Hitchcock MM as the tenth Black Orchid Novella Award winner.

    Best reads of the year: Lindsay Faye's Timothy Wilde trilogy and Jane Steele. I met Lindsay at a MWA workshop/panel in June and read one of her books as prep. It blew me away and I read everything else of hers I could get my hands on.

    I just finished the promotion copy of Tango Down by Chris Knopf, and that's very good. Chris is one of my favorite underknown writers and we've done several events together. I'm also a huge Louise Penny and Laura Lippman fan.

    I never noticed before, but I guess I read more works by women than by men. Not sure why that is...

    I just want to get better at this writing thing...and maybe play guitar like Richard Thompson...

    Happy New Year, everyone.

  3. This wasn't a great year for me as far as writing; our life kind of exploded up in Madison, we had to move - very suddenly - out of our apartment, and between the chaos, the search for a place, the finding of a place, the moving into the place, the settling in, and various health things with my husband... I didn't write much outside of my journal, this blog, and what seemed to be constant e-mails.

    On the other hand, I had 2 stories in AHMM this year ("Happy Families" and "Darkness Visible"), "Raising Bigfoot" at Tough Crime, and I have a bunch out waiting to see if they'll find homes.

    As far as media - great year. "The Meyerowitz Stories" on Netflix alone was worth the price (which made me revisit "Margot at the Wedding", and if that wasn't an inspiration for "Gone Girl"...), and if you haven't seen Patton Oswalt's "Annihilation" yet, sit down right now and prepare for a real roller-coaster experience. Finally started watching "Vera" on DVD; planning to go see "All the Money in the World" and "Phantom Thread", especially since we're sub zero right now and staying there until Epiphany.

    Happy New Year and stay warm, everyone!

  4. My year was similar to yours, John, with 35 stories published (33 original, 2 reprint), but it may be a while before I see another year like this. Mid-way through the year two of my primary markets (responsible between them for 21 of these publications) ceased operations.

    I've 11 stories in the pipeline that I expect to see published within the next 12 months and several more that were accepted so long ago that I've lost all hope of ever seeing them in print.

    I have 21 under submission and awaiting response, and a stack of finished but unsubmitted stories too tall to count this early in the morning. In that pile are stories that have never been seen by an editor because I can't figure out where to send them, several that have garnered a rejection or two before I ran out of places to send them, and some that were written specifically for the two dead markets.

  5. Congratulations on your many sales! Your total is always impressive.

    I had some short stories published in Coast to Coast PI and Hitchcock, plus others to come in Hitchcock, Sherlock and Ellery Queen but my main effort was the last of the Francis Bacon novels, Mornings in London, which, the market being what it is, I suspect will be my last novel, period.

  6. I forgot to mention that in spite of what I said above, this is the first year since 2014 I have not broken even for my writing. Usually, the bulk of my writing income is from conducting workshops, and the Connecticut State budget gutted library funding this year, where I hold most of those workshops. Last year, I did about one a month, but this year I only did two all year.

    A couple of new book stores have opened, and I take that as a good sign...

  7. Thanks, O'Neil. My "sales" continue to be mostly mysteries, but as Michael and I have said in the past, there are several non-mystery short-story markets that continue to accept mystery/crime/suspense stories, so that's been a lucky thing for me.

    Steve, our youngest child turned 35 this year. (THAT's a sobering thought.) As for statistics, I'm always impressed by your output of novels, and congrats again on the Black Orchid Award. BTW, I share your admiration of Lyndsay Faye, Laura Lippman, etc. Great writers all.

    Eve, I have always been impressed by your record with AHMM--as I've told you before, I knew your name from that magazine long before you and I e-met.

    Steve and Eve (sounds like a comedy team), I thank both of you for the recommendations. I'm especially looking forward to Phantom Thread--I've heard some great things about that one.

    Michael, I know you mourn the passing of those two markets. I think I've personally killed several markets--they vanished shortly after publishing some of my stories--and it's always sad to see them give up the ghost. Good luck with all of your yet-to-hear-from submissions!

    Janice, you and I have been featured together in several publications lately, and that's always an honor for me! I'm hoping for many more novels from you, by the way.

  8. Steve, I hope the new bookstores you mentioned will prove to be a help to your sales and your income.

    For the 24 years I've been writing for publication, I have somehow made more every year from my writing than the last, but I think part of that has been due to Woman's World. Word for word, they're probably the best-paying market out there for short mysteries. As always, I hope you fellow SleuthSayers will give them a try sometime--the 700-word limit and the unusual "puzzle" format makes those little stories a lot of fun to write.

  9. A very encouraging article!

  10. Hey Wendy! Thanks for stopping by.

    Hope you're continuing to write and submit your stories. Please keep me posted . . .

    1. I am hard at work! Will let you know how it all goes!

  11. Great year, John, congrats! I know you’ll do as well in the coming year.

    I’m almost embarrassed to say (almost) that I sold one story this year. That’s nothing in comparison, but it keeps me going. Personal goal: TWO in 2018 ;-)

  12. John, you continue to be an inspiration. My 2017 was okay but not great, pubwise: a collaborative story and a translation in EQMM, a story (and a poem) in the new Black Cat MM, a couple of reprints here and there. 2018 will be better, with a translation and at least two stories in EQ (they have another one in inventory, too, but I’m not sure it’ll come out in ‘18), one story each in AHMM and the SinC Chesapeake Chapter and Malice Domestic anthologies, and three anthologies I’ve either edited or co-edited on their way (with two more in the works). But you and Michael Bracken are my heroes!

  13. John, always impressed by your output and success. As for me, I have not been very productive lately, but managed four sales in 2017. Three to Flash Bang and one to Untreed Reads Thanksgiving anthology. Tried WW a few times, but the new editor has yet to buy any. Johnene, where have you gone? I have confined myself to writing "to spec". Search the markets for a requested type story. Works for me--(usually)

  14. cj Sez: WOW . . . that's all the breath I have left after reading about your writing production in 2017. Best wishes for a superb 2018 as well.

  15. Larry, I have no doubt you'll met that goal next year--and I know you have fun writing these stories. I also know you had a lot more things going on this past year, so maybe now you'll have more time. As you know, just keeping up market info takes a lot of time and effort. Keep up the good work!

    Josh, your track record at EQMM has always been impressive, and your resume at all the other magazines is also. And it sounds like you have the anthology market figured out for sure. Please keep me posted. And I hope to see you at Bouchercon this next year.

  16. Herschel, Flash Bang Mysteries has been good to us both. And please don't stop trying WW--you've sold plenty to them in the past, so I know you understand those short mysteries. I do miss Johnene--she was wonderful--but Patricia's a great editor as well.

    CJ, thanks so much! I hope you have a great 2018 also. Stay in touch!

  17. Love reading your posts, John, and getting a glimpse into your writing year. Congrats on 34 sales! My highlight this year was finally making it into a Bouchercon anthology. The excitement of that seems to have messed with my brain because, although I'm still writing, I keep forgetting to submit anything. Something I need to rectify in 2018. As for books, I'm currently reading and thoroughly enjoying Otto Penzler's big book of ghost stories. Wishing you much success and many more sales in 2018.

  18. John, compared to you, I must have an anchor tied to my tail, or maybe I'm just getting lazy in my older age. You're a writing machine with all that output.

    Like Herschel, I miss Johnene at WWm. Haven't been able to place anything with the new editor, so my 10 mini-mysteries that got published and my multitude of rejects will end up in an e-book for Kindle and Smashwords (for other e-readers) sometime in early 2018. And now that I've had 10 of my Holiday Burglar series pubbed in AHMM, nine of them will also be in an e-book in early 2018 (9 Holiday Burglar Mysteries).

    Looks like 2018 will be a good year. Last week, I got an e-mail acceptance from Linda (AHMM) for the 7th in my 1660's Paris Underworld series ("A Loaf of Bread"), so the e-contract will arrive sometime in January 2018. A new contract always starts the year out right.

    Since you mentioned Andy Weir, I recently read an excerpt of his sci-fi novel Artemis and will buy it as soon as some of my reading pile decreases. I've got to find out how the protagonist handles the situation she agreed to. If the rest of the book is as good as the excerpt, then I've found another good author to read.

    Best wishes to all, and keep on writing. I always need something good to read.

  19. Thank you, Su! Glad you mentioned Otto's book of ghost stories--I have NOT read that, and I intend to. Wishing you the best also, in 2018!

    RT, you are another who has always impressed me with your track record at AHMM. Congrats on all those series stories, and on this latest acceptance as well. As for WW, keep trying, there--you've already proven you can write those mini-mysteries.

    And you will love Artemis. For those of you who don't know, Andy Weir is also the author of The Martian, and his knowledge of all things space-related comes through in this new novel as well. A really good read.

  20. I'm amazed and dazzled by everyone's output, determination and successes!

    It's been a mixed year for me, too ... I won the Arizona Mystery Writers short story writing contest (the story is posted on their website, at arizonamysterywriters.com), and I just found out that another story has been accepted into an anthology that is being edited and supervised by our very own Michael Bracken. Woo Hoo!

    But living in southeast TX, the story of the year here was Hurricane Harvey. We didn't suffer damage personally, but we know plenty of people who did, and many of them are in still in "recovery mode." Our thoughts are with them this Holiday Season.

    And yes, I'll add my 2 cents of agreement to all the other "39-year-olds" ... the speed at which the year(s) go by is definitely increasing! LOL

    Chuck Brownman

  21. Chuck, many thanks for chiming in, here. Sincere congratulations to you on the AZ Mystery Writers contest win--well done! Congrats also on the anthology acceptance--I too am in that upcoming Texas antho of Michael's, so looking forward to that.

    Best to you and yours, for the new year!

  22. Good for you, Wendy! Yes, keep me informed. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous 2018!

  23. Dear Lord. Thirty-four stories published in one year. I don't think I've written that many total. And the rest of my stats for this year are as sigh-inducing. I just don't have enough time to write.

    So my stats:
    Stories written in 2017: One completed. One unfinished. (Wow. Didn't realize that till right now. Must write more. But at least Ellery Queen bought the story I finished.)

    Stories published in 2017: Three. One in 50 Shades of Cabernet ("Whose Wine Is It Anyway?") and one in Black Cat Mystery Magazine issue #1 ("Crazy Cat Lady"). And a reprint of "Evil Little Girl" appeared in Killing It Softly 2.

    Stories out on submission now: Two. Fingers crossed.

    Stories to be published in 2018: Two so far. The Ellery Queen story should appear in the November/December issue and a story will appear in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies in April. I also have an invitation for an anthology that I think will be out by the end of 2018, but I'm not counting this chicken until the story is written and accepted/hatched.

    Stories already written but needing revision: One.

    Stories already written and polished but homeless/not out on submission: One. (This is a story that I love, but I haven't found a home for it. YET.)

    And on that note, I must go edit for someone else, but I have set aside two weeks for writing in January. So excited!

  24. Hey Barb, if you write only one story a year and EQMM buys it, that ain't bad!! Turns out I've read two of the three you had published this year (in Cabernet and Black Cat) and loved 'em both.

    Keep on keepin' on, my friend. Have a great new year!

  25. John, and other fellow SleuthSayers, is The Strand still hard-copy submissions only?

  26. John, you're amazing. You've had a more productive year than my whole career.

    This year I've published only two stories: the fantasy story "Within the Fires of Rome" in Lovecraftiana and "Matricide and Ice Cream" included in the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour (Orenda Books) published in the UK in November. In addition to selling those two stories, I've sold in 2017 four more stories that are yet-to-be-published: two stories to EQMM, 1 story to AHMM, and a story to the anthology Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical which will be released in April. I also sold a reprint to Trigger Warning which is forthcoming. I presently have four more stories out for consideration. (including 1 to The Strand at your recommendation)

    And I thought that was a good year until I heard about you my friend.

    The entire year I have been focused working on a thriller novel called KGB Banker co-written with Russian-mob whistle-blower John Christmas. I hope to have that draft done and out to agents by March. I've also lined up my next project, a true-crime Western with former United States Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. I'll be working on that when KGB Banker is done.

    Happy New Year All!

  27. Hey, John, an e-toast to your 34 stories in 2017! Congratulations, that's truly impressive. Thanks for sharing about the rejections as well, that surprised me.

    My grand total of published stories or published anything for the year is zero. Sigh. But 2018 promises to be better. I'm releasing my first novel in a few weeks. And AHMM got in touch to let me know I'll have a story in the March/April issue.

    Happy writing and New Year!

  28. Well done, John. Those numbers are incredible! I sold my second children's novel, a mystery, to S&S. I'm in rewrites now. I also sold a picture book. I'll be sure to find your short stories. They sound wonderful. Wishing you continued success and all good things in 2018.

  29. John,
    Wow! I am very impressed by your output, success....and the fact that you are such a nice guy. I know I've benefited from your answers to questions and the webinar you did for the Atlanta SinC chapter. As for 2017 output -- 2 stories were rejected a few times, but rewritten and both sold to paying markets, five more were published from where they were first submitted, two have been accepted but won't come out until 2018 and 2019, five are in limbo waiting for a yay or nay. One novel was sold as part of a three book deal with Kensington (book one - One Taste Too Many will probably see daylight early 2019, maybe late 2018), and mass market rights for Should Have Played Poker (published in hardcover in 2016) sold to Harlequin Worldwide Mystery. Best of all, I can now lay claim to being a cover girl (which a middle-aged overweight woman rarely can claim) -- "The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie's Place" was my first submission to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and it was featured on the May/June 2017 cover; my story "Day After Thanksgiving Soup" made the November cover of Mystery Weekly. Wishing you ... and all the writers reflected in these comments ... the best for 2018.

  30. Both the post and the responses are all amazing to me! Congratulations to all of you who have written and sold stories or have just written them. I aspire to write. I’ve taken the courses, gotten the degrees, attended the workshops. But I’ve let too many years go by while I’ve waited for the “perfect” time, place, or inspiration. Then I realized — perhaps too late — that there are no such things. Writers don’t wait. They write. When they fail, they write some more.

    I wish you all much success in 2018.

  31. Eve, to the best of my knowledge, unsolicited submissions to The Strand are still snailmailed to Andrew F. Gulli, P.O. Box 1418, Birmingham, MI 48012-1418.

    Bill, your publications this year and the ones you have forthcoming sound pretty darn impressive to me. And best of luck to you on your novel-in-progress--sounds interesting!! Happy New Year to you also. Keep in touch!

    Thanks, Dara, for your kind words, and for stopping in at SleuthSayers! And I congratulate you on your upcoming story in AHMM--I look forward to reading it.

    Kristin, I wish you continued success as well. Glad to hear about the sale of your novel and your picture book. May 2018 be a great writing year for you.

    Debra, how kind of you! And thanks for the summary of your recent publications and your works-in-progress. You're a busy lady! Please keep me updated.

    Anonymous, it's NOT too late. I wish you the very best in 2018--keep at it!

    Thanks again, all, for the great comments.

  32. I'm chiming in here again, to once more congratulate all the commenters on their productivity.

    I work at a job that is "more than full-time", as they say ... so what I've had to learn over the years (and it hasn't been easy) is that it is the act of writing and submitting that is most important.

    Yes, being accepted and published is wonderful, and brings a smile to your face (if not dollars to your bank account). But being accepted is not within your control ... and as most of us have experienced, sometimes you write a really terrific short story but it's not chosen.

    So all you can do is keep working ... keep submitting ... and keep learning. And one day, you find that your material is being accepted. And at that point, you have arrived ... only to learn that you have more to learn! LOL

    In any event, some of us don't write as prolifically as others, and that's fine ... and some of us with fewer submissions still get accepted ... and some of us write a lot and get some stories accepted but not others. It's a smorgasbord of results.

    But the main thing -- and the only thing that you can control -- is to keep writing, keep nourishing the dream, and keep working and improving. I cannot speak for others, but that is MY resolution for 2018 (and beyond).

    Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, productive and prosperous New Year!

    Chuck Brownman

  33. Sounds like a good resolution to me, Chuck.

    Thanks again for the comments!

  34. Wow! Keep up the good work! And the years are passing faster, I think it's some kind of time warp; I've noticed it too! :) Happy New Year!

  35. Thanks, Jeff! Happy New Year to you too.

  36. And I actually published several stories (in markets) this year, including a couple between printed covers, as well as getting word that I (may) be published in a couple more! And I managed at least one flash fiction story a week via a couple of Facebook picture prompt sites (results on my blog.) the end result is I think I'm getting better at this!

  37. You definitely are, Jeff. Thanks for the update. Keep up the good work!

  38. John,

    Not only am I always impressed by your output, but also the high quality of your stories. Keep up the good work, old friend. I hope your 2018 numbers surpass 2017.

    As for me, I haven't written a short story in years, but I managed to write and self-publish six novels this year, with a seventh one nearly complete. That one will be published later this month. The first five were in one series and the last two were in a different series.

    I've been very blessed this year in my writing life. In this, my first full year of self-publishing, I sold nearly 40,000 eBooks, had nearly 30,000 eBooks downloaded and read through Kindle Unlimited, and I missed earning six figures by a little less that 20K. It's been a wild ride and I still have to punch myself to make sure it's real.

    Any who, here's to a better 2018 for all of us.


  39. Thank you, BJ, and sincere congratulations on your success, especially during this past year. Six novels (and most of a seventh) in one year!?!?! How in the world do you find the time to work a day job, publish an online magazine, and do the kind of writing you do? Obviously you love all three jobs.

    Also impressive is the money you're making through your writing. You're an inspiration to all of us.

    Best to you and family. Have a great year!

  40. Yay John--that is a great batch of creativity. xo Terrie

  41. Hey Terrie. Thanks a lot! Having fun.

    Wishing you a great 2018--keep in touch!


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