State of Writing in 2021

Maroon Pen across an open notebook.
Image Source:

So, one of my reasons for starting a blog was to talk about my writing. I’ve gained many new subscribers, mostly from my mini-movie reviews, it seems (as that is where I usually get one or two new blog readers per post according to the stats on Word Press). Yes, I do other things besides movie reviews, such as going through my bookcase and doing some book reviews, video game reviews and analysis of video game culture, and some films, this is largely because of my narrowing of focus for my school work.

I have a Master’s Degree in English: Rhetoric and Writing. While I’ll go more into detail about that in a later blog post (in comparison to what I’m doing now in my PhD work), I have two abiding loves: 1) reading and writing and 2) science fiction and fantasy (yeah, I know this is technically 4 items–hey, I’m an English major and not a Math major for a reason–but you get the idea. To me reading and writing are two sides of the same coin and the same goes for science fiction and fantasy).

This blog is an outgrowth of the first two and tend to cover topics of the second two. Of course, I do deviate from these quite often. Video games are a major part of my life (although it is what is read the least on the blog based on the stats), but I still cover them and trust that readers will either ignore the posts as necessary or skim some of the more Fantasy/Science Fiction orientated games when I do them. I’m also very interested in technology (I got this from my late uncle who was an audiophile and while I’m not an audiophile per se, I am an amateur videophile–who is a student on a budget and so must maximize my technology “budget”–unlike those who are able to spend massive amounts of time and money buying the highest tech available). I have neither the time nor the money to invest in the latest/greatest technology).

So, to cut this very long preamble short, creative writing is a key reason why I wanted to write this blog and discuss some of the things that I loved about creative writing. So this blog post is going to be about some of the writing “milestones” for 2020.

State of Writing 2020 According to Duotrope

So, I used to use a “pen & paper system” to track my submissions (reminder: one of these days, please remind me to discuss one of the worst interactions that I had with a library patron when I had the temerity to suggest a paper tracking system for keeping track of library books that had been checked out since our system–at the time–couldn’t handle that option–regardless of the fact that both my late uncle and myself kept a paper system for just that reason). Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled post: now I use Duotrope to track submissions.

For 2019, I managed four total submissions for the year. That’s right: 4. Now at the beginning of 2020, I really wanted to do better. Looking at Duotrope, I didn’t manage any submissions in the first two months of the year. I attribute this to the fact that I had two conferences to go to and so I focused on academic writing for those two months. However, because of the pandemic, which happened (for me) in the 2nd week of March, I started to revise and submit creative projects as I switched to “online teaching” for the remainder of the semester. My first submission of 2020 was in March and I managed sixteen (16) submissions for the year. That’s a massive improvement for the previous year. Anything above 10 submissions is probably good for me as I’m a slow writer, so 16 submissions is very good.

Not so good, however, was the Acceptance to Rejection ratio which stands at an abysmal 0 to 16. That’s right, I whiffed 16 times on ALL 16 markets. However, according to Thomas Edison, that’s not failing: it’s finding 16 places that didn’t want to publish those stories. Again, according to Edison, it’s about finding the one that does want the story, and so my quest continues into 2021. Right now, I seem to average 1-2 acceptances every two years or so, (last one was 1 in 2019), so this year will hopefully be my year should the average hold.

I wrote two (2) new stories in 2020: The Independent and Unhallowed (both of which are currently still under consideration at their respective markets). The Independent was a science fiction story about a space ship (my longtime story idea that I finally finished about “space truckers.”) Unhallowed was a “weird west” fantasy story with gunslingers and monsters and was written to explore the theme of “vengeance” vs. “justice.” Starlight, Starbright takes a similar theme, but it was a revision of an older story that dealt with the theme of injustice; I plan on a “revision pass” before submitting it again. I also brought HawkeMoon back out of “retirement” for a “Year’s Best” anthology for stories published in the previous year (2019), but that one fell apart as I just marked that as Lost/Never Responded (a bunch of stories were selected in July/August for the anthology according to Duotrope, but I never heard back from the anthology as to the fate of my submission so I withdrew it formally a few days ago).

State of Writing in 2021

So, this is where I’m going to be a little vague as I’m wanting to stick to my/get back to my love of doing things rather than talking about doing things.

As mentioned, I intend to send out Starlight, Starbright again, but I’m going to do a pass over it and revise it. I used to do that for ALL my stories, integrating any relevant feedback that I received from editors and generally, going through making changes to length, word choice, cutting/adding as necessary, all to try to make the story the best that it could be. I intend to do that this year for all 3 stories that I have until they sell, so I assume that my submissions will probably go down to about 10-12 this year (depending on how long it takes markets to respond–that’s really the hold-up. Most revision passes only take about a week or two to do).

I am working on other projects–some longer than I’ve attempted before, but I have no idea how long it will take me to complete them as I have school and school related responsibilities in addition to the primary project on my plate for this year: my dissertation. Dissertation comes first and any creative writing that I’m able to do comes second.

In Closing: State of Writing

So, to close, I feel the state of my writing is overall a middling grade. I would give it a 6 out of 10. I greatly improved on the number of submissions. I’m sitting at 199 total submissions tracked on Duotrope. This, in addition to the over 100 submissions tracked via my old “pen and paper” system gives me over 300 total submissions of stories. I have approximately 9 fiction publications (this doesn’t include my non-fiction article or my comic book story that was illustrated in 3 parts) nor any other non-fictional “published” writing that I’ve done.

I also was able to get two stories written. I usually struggle to get one story a year written, so to have two done was pretty impressive. While I’m proud of both The Independent and Unhallowed, I feel that Unhallowed really did a good job of characterization, world-building, setting, backstory, and theme integration, so I feel a bit disappointed that the story has not sold yet–I feel that it is my most mature and complex story to date.

I think the lack of Acceptances this year is the real failing for the year. I think I came close a couple of times, but in the end, no one wanted to buy any of my stories this past year and so, even though I put a lot more effort and energy into building my writing career, it was ultimately not fruitful and did not payoff. While that is largely out of my hands (only the quality of the writing and taking the chance to actually submit are variables that I can control), I did at least try, but the lack of Acceptances really kept this past year from being any higher than a 6 in terms of the state of my writing in my eyes.

Here’s hoping 2021 is an 8 or above!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

Currently Working On (January 2021):

  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Out to Market
  • Starlight, Starbright (Science Fiction Story)
    Out to Market
  • The Independent (Science Fiction Story)
    Out to Market
  • Project Seas (Fantasy Story)
    Planning: Completed, Rough Draft: Completed, First Draft: In Progress

On the (Writing) Road Again

A straight road with a white striped line down the center disappearing into the horizon.  There are brown fields of grass on either side with an azure blue sky above.

Sorry for stepping away from the blog, but college classes, under Covid, are something else entirely from what I’m used to as an instructor. I’ll save this rumination for another post, but basically, everything takes 5 to 6 times longer because everything has to be explained (in detail) in this environment and often, multiple times. A simple explanation at the end of class to clear up a misunderstanding often takes at least 1 email, sometimes 2 or 3. So, all that to say, I’m struggling to keep up with it all.

However, what I can say is that, after a two month unintentional hiatus, I am back on the writing path. Oh, I’ve been writing over these two months and while it hasn’t all been for school, most of it has. I even tried to work on other projects, but they’ve all fallen by the wayside until last weekend.

Project Wall

So, the obvious joke would be that I “hit the wall” with this project. That’s not true, however. The fact is, I still believe in this project and I still want to do it, but I don’t really have a strong character to help guide me through. I have a brother and sister duo here, and I’m an only child. I set it up so that the younger brother would try to save the older sister that he idolizes, but even in the very first scenes/paragraphs, I could muster much urgency for the character and his dilemma, even with a literal “clock” ticking in the background to increase the sense of tension with the story. And this isn’t some random bomb explosion, but a time-based story point actually woven into the story’s setting–and yet, I felt nothing as I was writing it. I may have to just make it the main character’s story instead of trying make it about saving his sister. Maybe the solution is to have him out and he has to struggle back before the time runs out. I’m not sure, but just writing those couple of sentences seems more tense than the draft I had been working on.

Project Ranger

The next project I’d been working on was one in which I can see the first scene and the last scene in my mind’s eye. I was able to get the entire first scene down, but without a middle, I don’t really have a narrative going. I have a thing that they are working towards, but it is a longer narrative that can’t easily be told as a short-story because of the number of characters involved and the way in which I want to tell the story.

Also, while I have a fairly distinctive character this time in terms of conflict, I don’t have a good sense of who that character is outside of his one defining trait: anger. Not only that, but I can’t “see” the character. I know he’s African American, but is he short or tall, bearded or clean shaven, bald or dreads down to he shoulder blades? I don’t know, I can’t tell you and it makes it hard when your protagonist is just one emotion: barely contained rage, and nothing else.

KnightWatch (Graphic Novel)

Which leads me to my final project, KnightWatch, and the one that I actually have worked on for the past two weeks in a row and the one that seems to be “the one.” It is a sequel to my long ago published story “Sister Knight.” This one is also going to take a while (probably all the way through Christmas) as it is a graphic novel. While not my first attempt at a graphic novel, it seems like it could be the first one I actually finish *fingers crossed* as it seems (right now) to be “flowing” where the other two projects did not.

This time, unlike my previous project (which I do hope to go back to at some point), I delved directly into the sequel. I think my beginning point is strong enough and evocative enough to capture the audience’s attention, but if I need to recap my short story as a “first” issue, my rationale is that I know how to do that well now from the previous project and right now, the story I want to tell is the one that I’m telling–a new story, with old characters in an “advisory”/”adjacent” position and new characters taking up the story. I can see the main protagonist of the story with my mind’s eye and the secondary characters are beginning to come into “focus.” I’m going to change my Signature file to reflect this new story. I’m giving myself a while (3 months) to get it done.

Well, that’s all that I have for now. Hopefully, more shortly!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

Currently Working On (10/2020):

  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Out to Market
  • Starlight, Starbright (Science Fiction Story)
    Out to Market
  • The Independent (Science Fiction Story)
    Out to Market
  • KnightWatch Graphic Novel (Fantasy Graphic Novel)
    Drafting: 1st Draft (Issue 1)

Writing Log Update: Interpreting Feedback

Man and woman sitting at a table, looking over a written draft.  They are in a university/writing center setting with mostly white walls and chairs.
Image Source:

So, I’m not sure how long this will last, but I’m writing during breakfast to try to make sure that I stick to a more consistent schedule. Today’s blog is going to be a sort of mid-writing log update on The Independent (a space-“trucker” type story that I finished a couple of months ago). I’ve sent it off to a couple of markets–I won’t name them–but I do want to touch on some of their feedback.that I’ve received so far.

Market #1 — Too Slow to Get to the Action

The first market that I sent the story to liked the beginning, felt that my characters were pretty well fleshed out and felt that I had a fairly well drawn out world. After reading that beginning statement, I felt pride in doing a good job on what I’d set out to do with the story — make my characters and my world-building a little more consistent and real. However, the market declined to publish my story (no animus here) because they felt that it took to long to get to the action. I believe the approximate wording was something like: “We, at X publication, believe the writer should start where the story begins and felt that the story took too long to get going.” Again, these are the approximate words as the market uses a submission manager and I’d have to go back and log in again to get the exact wording. Also, even though it seems like I’m being sarcastic, I’m actually not–this is what the business of writing is all about. I actually am “blessed” in that the story was good enough to get feedback–unless the market actually says you’ll get feedback, you know your story has promise when editors take time to comment on it. So, my takeaway for this market is that they liked the action in the 2nd half of the story, but felt that all the world-building and characterization that I did in the first half was too much. I slowed the story down too much for their tastes.

Market #2 — The Beginning Caught My Attention, but the Story Ultimately Ended Conventionally

This market had the exact opposite concerns. They highlighted the fact that the beginning really caught their attention and felt unique to them. However, they noted that the ending followed on a fairly conventional narrative structure that they felt hindered the story. In this case, the editor loved the slower, more character-based narrative with the extra attention to detail with both characterization and world-building. However, when I moved to the “action” part of the story, the narrative didn’t hold up for the editor and he ultimately decided to pass. Now, again, getting feedback from the editor was valuable and, even though it was a rejection, I still feel a sense of pride, in that, this market is a “major” market, and I don’t remember getting personal feedback from here before (that I can recall). I feel that I’m slowly moving in the right direction and I feel that this story has potential.

Interpreting Feedback

Okay, so I have two pieces of feedback that are exact opposites of each other. One says that I should start the action sooner and eliminate some of the characterization and the world-building at the beginning. The other seems to indicate that, no, the characterization and world-building are strong, so keep that and go with a more contemplative ending rather than one that is focused on action.

This is where writers get into trouble–who’s right? Which is the best path forward for the story. As a writer, I can see three solutions to this problem:

  • Revise the story and make the action the focus (cut part of the beginning and get the action going sooner)
  • Revise the story and make the character/world-building the focus (rewrite the conflict and the ending so that it matches the tone of the beginning)
  • Leave the story as is (Do nothing and continue to submit until you find an editor or market that loves both parts.

Now, as the writer I can do any or all of these things. I can choose one (action/character) over the other or I can do nothing at all. The thing is, I can’t tell you what you should choose as a writer–that choice depends upon your conception of the story and your own personal goals for the story. I want to have an action story, but I also want practice more with characterization. So for me, I’m considering a fourth option:

  • I’m either going to split the story into two (2) different stories–one where it is character-based and one action-based, or i’m going to do option 3 and leave it alone. I’m leaning towards splitting the stories and I’ve already started brainstorming possible conflicts for the character-based version of the story. Maybe the “action” story occurs when the protagonist is older and wiser? I’m still early in the process. I’ll probably still send it out to a couple more markets before Christmas, but if there are no takers, I’ll probably use Christmas Break to split it into two stories and see what happens then.

Writing, while having business considerations, is also an art. The artist has to know what his or her intentions are with the piece in order to better navigate the feedback given in regards to the business side of the craft.


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

Currently Working On (8/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Revising: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • KnightWatch Graphic Novel (Fantasy Graphic Novel)
    Drafting: 1st Draft (Issue 1)

Potpourri: A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That

White bowl of Potpourri on a wooden platter with four white lit candles..
Image Source:

So, I’ve not done one of these in a while. For more recent subscribers to the blog, I used to do a Potpourri blog post fairly often. Usually, I’d do them on the days when I didn’t have a set topic to work on or was too busy to do a full-on blog post (nowadays, I just usually miss a day when that happens–hey, not proud of the fact–just being honest–but these Potpourri posts used to cover several topics and would tide me over until the next day or the day after that, when I had something I felt was worth blogging about.

Potpourri (I’ll stop bolding it now) can mean a mixture of spices designed to act as an air freshener (more specifically), or more generally, as a mixture of things. This is how the TV show Jeopardy! uses it and this where I got both the term and the concept. Just a hodge-podge of various topics that I discuss that may or may not have any relationship to each other, but I don’t feel really warrant the time or energy to devote a full-on blog post to covering. While I’ll probably be doing more of these over the coming weeks/months as I prep for school, I will try to keep them to a minimum. Like anything else, it can lose its “specialness” when overused.

English Language Homophones

“Through” does not equal “throw.” To be honest, they aren’t even true homophones. And yet, that’s what I wrote in a previous blog post a day or two ago–and that’s not the only one I’ve caught this week. I do know the difference (I promise); I’m a English PhD Candidate, after all. However, I’ve noticed that quite a few of my posts recently have places where I’ve used the wrong word. So what’s going on?

Well, two things: 1) I’m writing these on my Chromebook now instead of Macbook Pro. Both Apple and Google have an auto-correct feature built into the OS. However, the last time I checked, the Apple auto-correct didn’t extend to the WordPress editor (or if it did, it wasn’t nearly as aggressive). Google’s auto-correct definitely does extend to the WordPress editor and it is very aggressive (except with obvious typos like teh–which it will underline and tell me it is spelled wrong, but it won’t actually correct those things) and 2) I’m writing these blog entries much faster than I ever used to in the past. I’ve said it multiple times, but most blog entries take anywhere from 45 mins (low side) to 90 mins (high side) to write. I (mostly) write them the day they are posted (although I’m trying to “bank” more of them to go up in the future). I usually have work (or something that needs to be done that day, so I can’t spend too much time on them. So after writing them (the most time), finding and image and sourcing it, going back to a previous blog to find my “Signature” and then putting the categories and tags in, I give the blog a final cursory glance, looking for any glaring errors, and then I publish it. However, homophones are not “glaring errors.” They stick out in context, when you read it, but when I do my scan, my mind just “skips” right over them. I try to fix them when I see them, but sometimes I see them when I’m reading over them later in the day if I see them, but sometimes I’m not in WordPresses’ “editor” mode and I forget to go back to them when I am writing the next post.

So, if you’re wondering how someone with pretty obvious mistakes can be a PhD Candidate in English, let me assure that I really do know the correct word in context. However, being the both writer and editor is really hard, and it’s even harder when you’re on a time limit.


As I mentioned a while back, I’m trying to spread out my weekly movie viewing throughout my various streaming services in order to maximize the value from them–I was finding that I was really only watching one or two services even though I’m paying for several (discounted because I’m a student, but still . . .). I’ve watched things from Tubi (free), Netfilix, and Amazon Prime Video recently, so I thought I’d give Akira on Hulu a watch.

I have to say . . . this is NOT looking promising. I’m familiar with Akira, but I’ve never actually seen the movie. I bought an issue of the manga when it was released here in the 1980s (I think for the futuristic bike on the cover), but as it was an issue that was well into the story, I had no clue who the characters were or what was going on, and so didn’t pick up any other issues. While everyone always raved about it in sci-fi magazines that I read at the time, I didn’t see the appeal and went back to other anime properties (Appleseed and the Japanese/American hybrid of Robotech).

However, Saturday night, I thought now might be a good time to take a look at the original, especially since there is a planned Hollywood live action movie (a la Ghost in the Shell) planned to be released in a couple of years (although Covid may have pushed that back).

I gotta’ say, for all the accolades, I’m not really all that impressed by what I’ve seen so far. I’m only 35 minutes in (it is a 2 hour and 5 minute movie), but even trying to look at it through my 1980s/1990s lens, I still have yet to see what all the fuss was about. Yes, it is one of the first cyberpunk movies (and an anime at that), but the ideas and the execution are, so far, subpar. Mad Max (and all of its future sequels) got the aesthetic down far better for a post-apocalyptic and we won’t even talk about how Bladerunner (so far) is superior in every way, even though it came out years earlier–in terms of Neo-futurism of the cityscape. So far, there’s a anarchy that is implying that the system has broken down and yet the system is still in place with the schools, the malls, the army, and the police. While I won’t judge it until after I finish it, the 35 minutes that I watched felt like it was an hour (not a good thing) and the last time that happened lead to me being mightily unimpressed by a little movie called The Dark Knight. And with me, that’s not a good trajectory to be on.

Not the Same Old Story, But A New Story

Okay, so while I’ve had success as a writer by getting published and by receiving payment, I’ve not had much success in getting my work “reprinted.” I’ve had zero success in having any of my stories reprinted. However, I was talking to a friend at the Writing Center and was indicating that I felt that just by the fact the stories were published, indicated that they had potential and something special that I felt I did right and I wanted to use those to write longer projects.

However, over the Covid break, I’ve learned that I simply can’t tell the same story over again in a different format. This is what I tried to do with Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel. I wrote half of the short story over again in issue 1 and issue 2 was supposed be the 2nd half, issue 3 & 4 would be new material, expanding out the story. While it was a good try, what I learned is after I’ve written the story, I don’t have any interest to revisit it again. The story has been told to my satisfaction, so I need to find a different story to tell–maybe at a different point in the lives of the characters or a different story with the characters coming back to interact in some way (cameos or the like).

Thinking back to some of my favorite movies and their sequels–I really love movies like Alien & Aliens and Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, & Return of the Jedi because it takes the story forward and advances the plot forward. The sequels that I hate are Karate Kid II, Jurassic Park The Lost World, and Home Alone 2, where take the same characters and situations and just transports them to a new setting. So, they’re essentially telling the same story–just in a different place. I think that’s why Alien 3 is one of my most hated movies–they wipe away all that Aliens worked to achieve, just so they could go back to the formula of the original Alien movie, but this time set on prison planet instead of a ship. Same basic story, different setting.

I’ve learned that I can’t do this. I have to advance the story or tell a new story with new characters or old characters returning in new roles. That’s what I’m working on now–instead of reprints–trying to make and market longer works based on new stories and ideas from my older published works.

This has a precedence that isn’t seen much in the publishing world anymore. Writers of sci-fi and fantasy novels, mostly sci-fi though, often cut their teeth on shorter works and developed them into their blockbuster series–Anne McCaffrey and her Dragonriders of Pern series was created this way, as was 2001 from Arthur C. Clarke, which came from a short tory (called “The Sentinel,” if I remember correctly). Now, however, this is considered “old fashioned” and most everyone, including those who probably shouldn’t, go straight to novels, graphic novels, and screenplays because we can’t have building the craft anymore–nope, thanks to Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, everyone wants the “big score.” Everyone wants the immediate “mega-success” and overnight stardom that the authors of those two series enjoyed–although, it should be noted that Martin was publishing mid tier books that weren’t “hits” in the 80s and 90s (Fevre Dream, anyone?). For me, the enjoyable part of the writing process is over once I’ve published my story–trying to duplicate it, just in a different form just doesn’t have an appeal for me apparently.

I’ll talk more about this later, but for now, work first, talk later. Have a great day!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)
  • I, Mage (Urban Fantasy Story)
    Drafting: 1st Revision

Why Deadlines Are Rough (Creative Writers Edition)

Man pointing to his forehead in a "thinking" position with the words in white lettering: You Can't Miss The Deadline If You Make The Deadline
Image Source:

Deadlines can be both a blessing and a curse. Deadlines are when things are required to be due. For me, I generally do well with deadlines and can appropriately apportion my time to work on said project and have it finished by the deadline. The blessing part is that there is a “fixed” end date. There’s none of this faffing about with a project that just goes on and on indeterminately–once the deadline is fixed, you have a goal to work towards in order to hit that target date. However, all is not “peachy” and rosy with deadlines. If I personally get behind, whether it is my fault or not, usually the quality of the work suffers in order to hit the deadline. And sometimes, world events also conspire to keep you from hitting your deadlines. A small digression here, but rush-hour traffic all across the world would probably be less aggressive and road-rage inducing if we had flexible hours for most jobs–where you could come in up to 15 minutes early/late for your job, but as long as you worked the correct number of hours, you wouldn’t be penalized for it. A little flexibility in deadlines would go a long way to mitigating life’s propensity to throw roadblocks in the way.

A Tale of Two Projects

Why this long rumination on deadlines? Well, I have two projects that I’m working on and one has a deadline and the other doesn’t. I’d planned to work on the 2nd draft of Unhallowed this month. Then I saw a market that wanted you to use a starter sentence about the “Simmons Public Library,” a fictional library (to my knowledge) and they’d like to see it by August 1st (next week). So, over the month, I’ve dutifully bounced between both projects–with a stopover at Project Wall, which only has 1 of its 3 sections done.

Essentially, in trying to work on 3 projects–the one for this market and two for myself, I’m probably not going to finish the one by its deadline of August 1, which means I’ll have to strip sections out–don’t want to be accused of plagiarism as many people will probably be using that same starter sentence. It also means that I probably won’t get my own projects in order by the beginning of next month–meaning that my nice new system is already going down the drain.

This is where deadlines become a curse for me as it means that I split my time between projects rather than focusing on 1 project and getting it done the best that I can and then moving on, As the deadline seemed more important, I spent a lot of time on this story rather than the story I really wanted to be focusing on–Unhallowed.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

And this may be the true downside of deadlines–when used as motivation for writing projects. I’ve already sunk so much time into my revision for the August 1st deadline that I don’t want to abandon it even though I only have a week left and I know I won’t be able to marshal the story that’s in my mind onto the page in a week’s time.

Do I accept a (sizable) dip in quality to get the story out on time or do I go back to working on Unhallowed, knowing that the time invested in the other story is just lost and I’ll have to spend extra time later removing the “story prompt” sentences and ideas?

The Writer and the Finite Time Conundrum

As a student and graduate teaching assistant, I know my time is finite. I know there’s only going to be a limited number of hours in a day and some of that is going to have be devoted to answering student emails, working on grading, working on assignments, working hybrid instruction methods due to Covid, working my own research and writing for school.

Creative writing, while getting a boon this summer, still is finite. And I still struggle with the trying to get all the ideas that I have out there. And it is frustrating to try for a deadline and to realize with a week left, that there’s not enough time and that I should I have just stuck with my original plan.

Deadlines are like Reading Fees

I’ll close this (fairly long) rumination with an epiphany that I’ve just had: deadlines are just like reading fees. Early in my college career, I had a professor who helped inspire my love of creative writing. Her advice was to not do any of the contests that charged reading fees. Now, in the early 90s, reading fees were still considered gauche, and very few places used them, although they were becoming more common. Nowadays, it is rare (and remarkable) when there’s a contest that doesn’t charge a reading fee. Her point was that, as students, your money was finite resource. It was a “better play” to use your money to improve yourself as a writer by buying books on the craft, or attending conferences, or that type of thing, rather than using your money to enter competitions (even if there was a substantial prize offered).

I think you see where I’m going with this: my time is also a finite resource. While it seems “easy” to revise a story for a “deadline,” there’s actually just as much work involved as if I was writing a whole new story. I need to be more cognizant of deadlines in terms of my own projects and my own finite time. I recognize now that, like the lure of a huge cash prize for “winning the contest,” themed deadlines offer the lure of getting publication (and money) if you could just successfully execute the theme by the appointed time. And just like contests, I need to be ultra selective for the deadlines I take on if I don’t want to be disappointed by not finishing the story (or other stories that I might be working on) on time.

Lesson learned! I’ll let you know next week on my formal Writing Log post just what writing projects (if any) I managed to salvage this month.

Have a good weekend!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)
  • I, Mage (Urban Fantasy Story)
    Drafting: 1st Revision

Writing Log: July 2020 (7/2020)

A Bullet Journal that shows a bar graph and a smaller set of boxes that indicate days/acts written with the boxes colored in when done.
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Wrap-up for June 2020 (6/2020)

Before I move into new projects for July 2020, I wanted to take a moment to wrap-up what I’ve done for June 2020 to both tell you, the reader, what I’ve accomplished on a monthly basis, but also to hold myself accountable for the goals that I’ve set for myself during this time-period with the hope of becoming more professional over time and finishing more (and longer) projects as time goes on.

The Independent: Finished my revision of the project for a goal of submitting it to a market by June 30th. I originally revised it with help from the MTSU University Writing Center, but then I saw a short segment by Neil Degrasse Tyson in which he explained what a “flatlander” in two dimensions might interpret someone like us who live in three dimensions if they tried to interact with them. I tried to do the same, but with time. We live in space (three dimensional space-height, width, depth), but there is also a time component that we aren’t privy to (except to note its passing). I tried to take that idea a little further–what if there was a race who lived in a “curled” up region that we can’t interact with because it is mostly a region of time–what would that look like, how would that act, etc.? The I tried to have my “space truckers interact with this “dimension” in the story briefly. I think it came off moderately well. I don’t feel that I necessarily hit it out of the park, but I don’t feel that it is particularly bad or without merit. I feel that if I had more time, I might have been able to handle it better, but the story (from seed to this revision) is already 3+ years in the making, so I really need to get it out there. Maybe feedback (if I get any) will help me push the story into a stronger position if it doesn’t sell.

Project Arizona: Although I started on this one late (well into the month of June), I still have almost finished the 1st Draft of the story. This is where the power of working on the story consistently has helped. This is the story I will be working on for July.

Project Wall: This is the one next story will be working on. While I won’t draft it until next month, I will be working on character sketches, world history, politics, and other “Bible” documents for it all through July.

Prospectus (School): Finished my prospectus (hurray!). Even though I need to get “official” approval from my graduate director and my graduate committee, I’m going to start putting together a tentative dissertation outline and begin preliminary work on the dissertation with the books that I have available to me. I probably won’t get to work on it “formally”/”officially” until September at the earliest, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still put together a draft so that it isn’t a burdensome to do in the Fall and Spring of next year.

What’s on tap for July 2020?

Well, there are several goals that I’m hoping to do, however I only want to talk about a couple of them in-depth here:

  • Work on 2nd Draft (and officially unveil the title) for Project Arizona. I don’t think I will dive right into a 2nd draft of this story immediately as I think I will do another project in the interim. Hopefully, though by the 2nd week of July I will be ready to start drafting a second draft. I actually like the way much of the 1st draft turned out, so I will try to begin turning those places where I’m “telling” the story into places where I’m “showing” the story (dramatizing). It will be a beginning to end look at the draft, where I rewrite as necessary. I also have a title in mind for the story and I intend to start using it once I unveil it officially.
  • Plan Project Wall: Now that I have a “rough draft” down on paper, I’m going to do what Hollywood would call “pre-production.” I’m going to try to nail down the elements of the story that may not necessarily appear in the story, but are crucial to the reason the story exists. Basically, answering a lot of What, Why, Where, When, and How questions that I still have about the story. It also has a title, but I’ll wait to unveil it.
  • Lastly, I really want to get back into the “graphic novel”/comic book writer mode. That’s a place where I feel I can grow. Eagle-eyed blog readers will notice that the “Ship of Shadows” line under What I’m Working On” hasn’t changed in a while. Now, whether the graphic novel actually is me working on that or another project altogether, I want to put together a script that I can try to market by the end of the year at the latest, so I’m planning on working on it starting this month.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope that this month will be a productive one as last month was. Have a great weekend, and if you’re in the U.S., have a safe and fun July 4th Holiday weekend!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Finished: Revision 1

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Rating: 1 out of 5.
  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Writing Log: May 15, 2020

A hand holding a pen and writing in blue ink in a journal.
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So, I’m still in the process of figuring out what I want for these “logs” in terms of content. Ideally, I’d like them to appear about 1 every four weeks (about a month apart) to give you (and myself) a monthly look at what I’ve been able to accomplish in terms of the major areas in my life that I feel are important: Reading, Writing, and Video Games. However, as you can see, I’m missing a fourth category. I could do media such as TV/Movies, but I already discuss them at length with mini-reviews and rewatch posts. I guess the point is that, for the time-being, these will probably be every three weeks until I can find a strong “fourth” category that would make a good “log” topic in order to appear on Fridays. And now without further ado, on to the writing:

Creative: “Project Arizona”

This is the project that I’ve been working on so far this month. I’ve finished the rough draft of the story. I’m working on the first draft now. I’ve decided to try to work in “stages” with this story. Basically, I’m trying to build my story from ideas into execution into a “story” in stages (drafts). We’ll see how well it works. So far, I’ve liked the fact that the story seems to be coming together fairly well. I’m consistently writing it out in long hand in my “notebook.” I’ve been less successful in transferring what I’ve written into my notebook on to the computer where the “magic” happens. I think I’m trying to “dramatize” what I’m writing too soon, and that I’m trying to put in character moments when I should be focused (in this draft) of just establishing and interesting and believable plot that makes sense and doesn’t have any “huh?” moments for the reader.

Creative: The Independent

I’ve been working on editing this story. I’ve managed, with the help of the MTSU Writing Center to edit the story. Max, the husband of my mentor professor, is also a short-story writer and has worked at the Writing Center this semester. We’ve gone through about two-thirds of the story. One of the things that I’ve realized by doing this is that I’m rushing through the editing process. Like writing, good editing takes time, so I’m slowing down and trying to spend a month on editing, just as I would on writing. Another thing that I’ve learned is that I’m getting stronger at characterization, but at the expense of world-building. The plot is there, the characters are (getting) there, but the world is suffering because I’m putting a lot of my focus on what’s happening and the character–and that’s something that I’m going to want to address going forward.

Academic: Prospectus “Outline”

One of the things that I was supposed to produce this semester was the prospectus that I would “defend.” Basically, the prospectus is a tentative outline of what you propose to write your dissertation about. It used to be very informal, and as long as your director signed off on it, you could begin writing your dissertation. However, a couple of semester ago, they put in a new rule at my school that the dissertation committee had to sign off on it and that you had to “defend” it in public (like a dissertation). So, in essence, the prospectus has become a “mock” dissertation — same basic accouterments (full committee, defense of it, etc.) of a dissertation, but not nearly as long or detailed.

Well, Covid-19 put this on hold, so my director suggested working on the prospectus in the summer and defending it in early Fall. So, I slowed down on trying to get one written. However, over the past few weeks I was able to get an outline down that I really liked. My mentor this semester, Dr. Meyers, helped me integrate the idea of “empathy” into the outline as well, and this is what I’m currently working towards now. I have a written a (very) crappy introduction that I intend to redo.. I think I’m going to start working first on the video game section as the two major video game projects this week discussed ways in which they were bringing in filmic techniques to gaming, which is a central thesis as to why I’m discussing them in relation to Afrofuturism.

Writing Time: Waking Up to Write

As I mentioned above, I’ve found great success over the past three weeks with writing consistently. I tend to wake up early, but my body doesn’t actually want to get up (not a coffee drinker–so even though I’m awake, I’m not really awake, if that makes sense–so now, I’ve taken to grabbing the notebook and either drafting the next section of the story or jotting down dreams/story “seeds”/character ideas that I’ve thought of over night. This has helped me really me move along on “Project Arizona.” I’ve been less successful, as I’ve noted, actually getting what’s in the notebook translated to the computer. The ideas just seem to flow easier and better writing in the notebook than on the computer. However, I really need to do this daily. I caught an interview with Stephen King on NPR and he writes for four (4) hours daily. In essence, King has made writing his “part-time” job (20 hours a week in America is considered part-time while 40 hours is considered a full time job). And I have to say, as much as I might fault some of his works individually, he is still one of the most consistent and successful authors out there (mainly because he puts in the work). Outside of these blog posts, I struggle with putting in more than an hour (1) daily at the keyboard daily. So while I’m finding a fair amount of success writing daily in my notebook, I still need to work on finding “keyboard” time as well (as NO ONE is going to pay for handwritten copy, no matter how good it is).

Well, that’s all I have time for today–hopefully, I will find that 4th category so that I can give you a proper update in about a month or so. Next week should be the return of the Reading Log, so until next moth, Happy Writing!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Editing Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft (Idea phase)
    Next: First Draft (Plot phase)

Blogging My Way to a Novel

A book cover showing a writer using a pen in a notebook/journal.  The book's title is How Blogging can help you Write Your Novel.
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One of the things that I noticed when I was looking over the stats for my blog posts is the amount of words that I’ve been averaging. I’m actually down overall in terms of words from the past couple of years because I’m not publishing posts as regularly even though the actual word count for the posts has gone way up.

However, when I looked at the word count for the year, I was astounded. Taking the overall yearly word count just for the blog into account, I’ve written enough words to have written a novel every year since 2016!

Yup, you read that right–just doing what I’ve been doing for the blog would have been enough for a novel for the past four years!

60,000 Words (2016)

So, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens in November has a goal of 50,000 words. In theory, while there is no set amount of words for a novel, 60,000 words has generally become the accepted length in practice–although some would argue that NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 word length could also be considered novel length.

Looking at the blog’s stats–I reached 60,000 words (and change) in 2016. I was fairly committed to blogging–but I didn’t do it every day. If you were to use the calendar function on an old 2016 post, you would see that there were long gaps in posting, although I did post routinely at 5-6 days out of the month (yes, I think there may be some 3-4 days in their, but I generally average 5-6, maybe more). As you can see, while not consistent, I at least wrote something on monthly basis, even if it wasn’t a lot (or daily).

Had I done the exact same with my creative writing as I did with my blog posts, I would have had enough for a (depending on the font choice) 200 – 225 page manuscript and would have completed my first novel.

117,000 Words (2018)

My high water mark (so far) for the blog came in 2018, where somewhere around April/May, I hit my stride and blogged pretty much consistently for rest of the year. I blogged much like I’m trying to get back to now and what works best for me: Mondays-Fridays, 5 days a week. I actually usually do one or two blog posts on the weekend (maybe 3, but usually not more than 3) and then fill out the rest of the week with blog posts either written on that day (or at most, a day earlier).

I managed 117,000 words (and change) that year. Enough for 2 full novels or 1 door-stopper epic fantasy novel. This is the stat that really floored me and set me thinking about my writing, my writing process, and that helped to inspire this post. Just think of all that could have been accomplished had I taken the time to do with my creative writing that I managed with my blog.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned two lessons from looking at my stats for the blog over the previous years of blogging:

  1. I need to be more consistent in my writing process if I want success. Even if I can’t find the “time,” I need to always be moving forward and to make sure I find time to write at least 5-6 days monthly. If I can also find a way to write daily (Monday-Friday) along with my blog, great–and that will put me in better stead–but at the bare minimum, I must be more consistent about writing.
  2. I should try to use the format of my blog to help me draft my longer works. This format works well for me–Introduction, 2-3 headings, and a paragraph or two for each heading. This is how I’m hoping to help myself become a better and more productive writer without “breaking my process.” That’s the key and I’m hoping that because I like this format–it will work for me.

Well, that’s all I have for today–nothing earth-shattering. Just a realization that I have the capabilities within me to make my dreams come true–if I can just find the consistency (and willpower) to get it done. And of course, not let it interfere with my dissertation for school.


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Editing Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft
    Next: First Draft

HawkeMoon Reviews Are In

Storyhack Issue 4 Cover
HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Has a scarecrow with hood and young red-haired lady in blue tunic with crescent blades.
Image Source:

I was cruising the internet yesterday, trying to see if I could find reviews on my latest published story, HawkeMoon which appeared in Storyhack #4 last year. There are couple of major sites that do short fiction reviews, but to the best of my knowledge (Tangent Online and Locus Magazine), but I guess neither reviewed Storyhack because I didn’t see the magazine listed for either site). However, the issue was reviewed by a couple of places. One, a fellow WordPress blogger and the 2nd was a market that I think I’ve submitted to once before. Both had interesting things to say, so I’ll link to their reviews.

Planetary Defense Command

The first review comes from Planetary Defense Command whose tagline reads: “Defending the planet from bad science fiction.” I’ve not read this blog before, but they do give a short review of Storyhack #4. While I’m not going to post their entire review (which you can read by clicking on the “short review” link in the previous sentence), I am going to repost their review of my story for commentary purposes.

They say: Hawkemoon by Sidney Blaylock.  A strange form of undead, an assassinated king, and animal magic sounds like too much to cram into one story, but it fits together nicely.”

This is a hopeful review for me. I read novels, but I write (at the moment) short-stories. I’m always trying to get a lot accomplished in the 5,000 or so words allotted to me by the short-story format. I do have a lot of elements going on in my stories–because I think of them as mini-novels (or maybe better, proto-novels). I just can’t be as grand in scope with the myriad of plots and subplots as I would like because I don’t have the space to go into that level of detail. I have just enough time to one major plot with a character arc and then I’m pretty much out of space. How can I expand my stories out more so that they can breathe and not feel like I’m putting too much in and making them too busy?

Now, the final statement of the review isn’t a criticism. As long as I can balance all the elements, like I did for this reader, then it will work fine. However, as you can tell from this blog entry, I tend to be quite detailed and meticulous and I often want to imitate the complexities that I read in my favorite authors (Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Moon, and Robert Jordan) in short form where as all of these writers are primarily long form writers.

My goal is to work on my stories to get them to where the reviewer would like to see them turned into novels as he/she does for the last two stories reviewed. That’s ultimately where I’m going anyway, so if the reviewer notes that that story could be the entry chapter in a novel (or expanded out into a novel), then I’ll know that I’m on the right track with getting my stories where I want them to be.

Broadswords and Blasters

The 2nd review is from an online market that I think I’ve submitted a story to in the past called Broadswords and Blasters. No, they didn’t take whatever story I sent them, but I don’t think it was HawkeMoon that was submitted (but I’d have to check my submissions via Duotrope to be sure). They had a much longer review (with criticism) of the issue as a whole, but I’ll just repost my review (again, for commentary purposes).

HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. A king has been assassinated, so the captain of the royal guard goes in search of the one master assassin who was responsible… only it turns out she wasn’t the one behind it. This story is memorable for its characters, but even more so for the ultimate villain of the piece, The Scarecrow King.” I wished the setting had been a bit more developed than it was, as it felt very much a cardboard backdrop against which the characters acted, as opposed to a fully developed world. I know, that’s a lot to ask for in a short story, but I still think the overall setting was too roughly sketched, and thus seemed fairly generic for my taste. This story is the cover story for the issue, and I can absolutely see why.”

Okay, so there’s a lot to dig into here. First off, the characters. It is gratifying to here that the reviewer responded to the characters. While I did focus on them, they weren’t completely my focus like with a couple of my stories. Yet, hearing that the characters were the most memorable parts of the story really heartens me and helps me think that when I focus on characterization (& not just the cool visuals/plots happening), I can create a story that is interesting and intriguing to the reader. Now the criticism–the reviewer did not like my world–he/she thought it was too “sketchy” and underdeveloped. It is a fair criticism. I did have a more detailed world in mind, but it didn’t get from my mind on to the page. The world was supposed to be a mix of traditional fantasy lands, kings, knights, guards, but with the beginning of the new (German) renaissance–burghers, merchants, mayors, etc., just beginning to come into play, with an Old Town (more like a medieval village) and a New Town (more like the early modern Germanic towns in which the “Kris Kringle” legend sprang up (without the guns/gunpowder of the period). However, I couldn’t figure out how to work that into the story without a great big exposition info dump. The best I could come up with was having New Town be where the castle and townspeople were located and Old Town being more like a rundown fishing village.

Still, this criticism is both valid and constructive and I can use it. I knew that the world I had in the story seemed generic, but chose to ignore that fact. Now what I plan to do is identify places where I think the story is weak and see if there is a solution that addresses the weakness in some small way to at least alleviate, if not fix, the problem area in the story.

Sure, as writers we’d like to have perfect feedback, but now I’m learning that world building, while not really a weakness, may be a bit sketchy for me as I focus on characters and characterization. It’s something that I know I need to be aware of going forward to make sure my stories are the best they can be and so I can get reviewers to want to say that they’d love to see my stories as novels (or as the beginning chapters) to a novel.


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Revising Section 3 (of 3)
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Recapturing the FUN of Writing

A picture of a bridge in London over the Thames river with Big Ben in the distance at night time with cars going over the bridge. A caption is at the top of the image.  The caption says: "I'm doing it MY WAY."
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So, I was able to publish one piece last year, HawkeMoon, and it was published in the magazine StoryHack. You can find the link to it in the signature field down below. I was only able to finish one other short story last year, Starlight, Starbright, and it is out to a publisher (and has been out for well over 3 months to that one publisher–this is looking more and more like a 5-6 month “monstrosity” of submission period).

Essentially then, my output consisted of 1 publication and 1 finished story/submission. Not great. Add that to my abysmal blogging record (especially the latter half of the year) and you can see that my writing output really took a nosedive. Why might that be you ask? Well, obviously school had a huge impact, along with work during the first 6 months of the year. Add to that, I was sicker in 2019 than I was in 2018 with various illnesses and you can easily see where a lot of my writing time went.

Or can you?

How One Set of Writing Guidelines Ruined My Love For Writing

Yes, it’s true. Reading just one set of (what I now know) dismissive guidelines really affected my writing last year and helped to produce a writing slump that I’ve not had in years. Yes, all the reasons above contributed, but when I think back to 2019, one set of writing guidelines that I read sticks out as the single most destructive thing that I’ve read that made me change the way I write (in a negative way).

The guidelines, from a market that will remain nameless, stated in unequivocal terms that this editor is seeing a distressing trend of writers of short fiction using scene headings for short stories in the same way novel writers use chapter headings and that he (yes, it was a he) found it a bad practice in general, and something that he would not publish in his magazine specifically.

But, I Like Scene Headings

No story that I’ve written (and that has been published) doesn’t have some sort of scene headings. I like them, but more importantly, it is the way that I tell my stories. It makes sense to me and helps me to organize my narrative in such a way that it helps me build the story structure that editors and readers want. To me, a “title” implies an image or theme, and then the actual draft/text/writing is just how I chose to articulate that image/theme. Without it, I tend to get lost or just meander and not actually tell a story. The title, scene headings, etc., are a “mental promise” that my prose/text fulfills.

That’s one of the reason why I’m having such issues finishing my “space truckers” story (Project Independence) for the Jan 31st, 2020 deadline. There are no “scene headings” in the story–because while I didn’t write it for this market–I did read the guidelines about the time I started the new draft and had the admonitions of this particular editor ringing in my mind.

Writing MY Way (& No One Else’s)

This is why I’m so resistant to following the crowd and other people’s ideas–when I do so, they tend to lead me down the primrose path to ruin. When I follow what I want to do, it doesn’t always work out, but at least I know that the work is something that is fun for me and represents the best that I was capable of at that particular time.

Project Independence isn’t fun–it’s a chore to slog through. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish it on time, I already feel that I’m going to have to go back in and revise it again (with scene headings) and more “connective tissue” to get it like I really want it. Had I ignored the editor’s snooty, holier-than-thou attitude about scene headings and written it the way I wanted to, then I would have enjoyed writing the story more and would have less revisions to do even once I finish it.

Will I ever submit to that editor again? I’m not sure–he’s already rejected every story that I’ve sent him (5-6), so that may mean that our tastes in speculative fiction aren’t compatible. However, I do know this: any story that I send to this editor in the future will be written with scene headings.

I’ll just create a “clean” copy without them expressly for his market. I’ve learned my lesson (I hope). From now on, I’m writing not only what I want, but the way I want to as well.


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 3 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Project Arizona (Fantasy Short Story–Weird West))
    Finished: Story Outline
    Next: Character Sketch
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • Ship of Shadows: Screenplay
    Finished: Script Outline (Rough Draft)
    Next: Script Outline (1st Draft)

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