Weaving History into Contemporary Fiction—RRBC Tour Stop

RRBC Springtime Book and Blog Party Hi! Welcome to Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spring Book & Block Party. (For all the stops and oodles of chances to win a myriad of prizes, check out all the RRBC posts throughout the month-long tour.)

This stop? Staci Troilo’s site currently hosted in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.

Today I’m Giving Prizes to Two Lucky Winners:

First Prize: $15 Amazon Gift Card
Second Prize: Medici Protectorate SWAG Pack

Medici Protectorate SWAG

SWAG Pack Contains: 1 Pen, 1 Magnet, 1 Bookmark, & 1 Sticky Note Pad

Prizes awarded to US commenters only.

Today I want to talk about weaving history into contemporary stories. I like a good historical tale every once in a while, but I tend to read contemporary fiction a lot more often. That doesn’t mean history has to be abandoned, though.

One of my favorite things to do is research. I used to love writing research papers in school. Sure, I know that makes me sound weird, and maybe I am. But I find it satisfying to learn about ancient cultures—their mythologies, technological advances, beliefs, governing style, etc. (That’s probably why I watch the History Channel so much.)

The Internet has made this research not only easy, but virtually instantaneous. Curious about spear size and shape in the Roman Empire? Recipes in Colonial America? Ascending to the throne in Ancient Egypt? A few keystrokes, a few clicks of the mouse, and boom—there’s your answer(s).

When I write, I might start with some preliminary fact-finding, but I tend to do the majority of my research as I go. It’s just too easy to look things up as questions present themselves, so I don’t have to do all the legwork in advance—legwork that may prove to be a waste of time, because I don’t know what information I’ll need and what is just interesting trivia. (Although, I have to admit, I kind of miss trips to the library and the smell of all the old books spread out on the table in front of me. Nothing quite like that. Ah, the good ol’ days.)

When you’re incorporating your research into your stories, you might be tempted to include all of it. I mean, it’s fascinating stuff, right? That’s why you saved so many posts and articles and stayed online for three hours longer than you needed to (but time management is another topic altogether).

Please don’t include all that information in your story.

Bleeding Heart blurbAs much as you love research (I know I can’t be the only one), this isn’t a report. It’s a story. While it may fascinate you to know that Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity was influenced by his study of alchemy, you really should leave that detail out.

Unless it’s germane to the plot.

If your contemporary (or even futuristic) story happens to deal with gravitational forces—manipulating them, overcoming them, whatever—then that history might be applicable. But it still doesn’t mean you can write the story like a book report. (Sorry, research paper enthusiasts. You know who you are. Or is it still just me?)

When you’re weaving your research into your story, it’s best done if the information is revealed organically. There are a few ways to do it.

  • Through conversation.
  • Through flashbacks.
  • Through exposition.

I know, that doesn’t sound revolutionary. That’s pretty much how we reveal all information. But let me explain.


We’ve all seen those dreadful conversation snippets:

“Well, as you know, Bob, Isaac Newton used his alchemical knowledge to refine his gravitational theories.”

That’s a great example of what not to do. When characters are discussing something, they can reveal new information to each other. Key word there? NEW. Don’t have one character tell another something he should already know just to relay the information to your readers. It comes off as forced, and it takes the reader out of the story.

In the Medici Protectorate series, the heroes of the story are four men who have been tasked with guarding the four heroines. The women have no idea that they are secret descendants of the Medici. When it’s clear they are in danger, the men reveal their history to them in a group meeting. This isn’t the “As you know, Bob” type of dialogue. This information is new to both the readers and the characters, so the conversation isn’t stilted or awkward.


Mind Control blurbThis is a great way to impart historical information. Granted, a girl born in 1971 isn’t going to be able to remember Atlantis before it fell into the sea, but she can remember learning about Plato’s Socratic tale of the mythical empire.

In the Medici Protectorate series, I use an immortal to pass knowledge down to characters. (Back to that alchemy-thing again.) Having mastered the powers of the Philosopher’s Stone, my character conquered death and has been alive since the 1500s. He reveals important details to the characters through his direct memories.


Finally, the fastest way to tell the characters something is to actually tell them. This goes against the standard show-don’t-tell philosophy, but sometimes that’s okay. You want to show important information through your characters interacting, but sometimes you need to just give the reader some details without smelling lilacs on the breeze or tasting every flavor nuance of a gourmet meal.

This fast and easy information reveal is best done through exposition.

Be careful with this tool, though. Used too frequently or lasting too long, and it becomes an information dump. You don’t want that.

In the Medici Protectorate series, the four leading women own a building and design business. Franki, the architect, is working on designs for a corporate campus whose exterior will blend in with old world Italian architecture while the interior will sport all the modern conveniences and state-of-the-art advancements. As she’s working on the project, she reflects on Italian architecture and design (this design is actually pertinent to the plot, so it’s not extraneous information). This is knowledge she has from her education as well as from a visit to Italy, so while she’s thinking about this information, reflecting on these details makes sense. She’d sound professorial if she talked about it with other characters, and there’s really not much for her to think back on, so exposition is the best way to reveal this information to the reader.

I’m really enjoying writing the Medici Protectorate series. It started because of my heritage, but through extensive research, it’s morphed into a contemporary romantic suspense saga with a lot of fascinating historical relevance. I’ve learned about and incorporated Italian political information, Medici family histories, ancient Roman architecture and mythology, alchemical properties, and martial arts battle tactics into this series. That’s a lot of history for a modern tale, but the research was fun and the details add a richness to the work.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found a strategy you can use in your own work, and maybe some of my examples will entice you to look at the Medici Protectorate series. It really has a little something for everyone in it.

Remember, leave a comment for a chance to win one of my prizes, and don’t forget to visit the other blogs today and all month long.

Medici Protectorate Series Premise: The four Notaro sisters are the secret legacy of the Medici, famed rulers of Italy. Michelangelo promised his Medician benefactor that he’d always watch over the family, and as such, he formed the Medici Protectorate to guard them throughout the generations. Now, Italy is in political turmoil and revolution is imminent. The people are calling for new rulers, and the Notaros are poised to assume control. But a nefarious opposing faction wants the power for themselves. Never was the family in more jeopardy. The four sisters are protected by the Brotherhood—four elite warriors of the Medici Protectorate prophesied to keep the family safe until they fulfill their destinies. They journey around the world in an effort to keep the family safe and the future of Italy secure.

Book One, Bleeding Heart: Gianni, a warrior destined to defend the secret legacy of the Medici, protects his charge Francesca from a prophesied assassin. Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and he must conquer her fears and his demons in time to save them both. Released August 2015.

Book Two, Mind Control: Vinnie copes with his own identity issues while he struggles to protect the one prophesized Medici descendant, Jo, who refuses to embrace her heritage. With lives in peril, can they find the strength to overcome their tragic pasts, or is it too late? Released June 2016.

Book Three, Body Armor: Nico works to increase his powers and save the Notaro family matriarch, but his private agendas put his charge Donni’s life at risk. When secrets and lies result in three abductions, the group will need to place their trust him to save them all. Coming Summer 2017.

132 thoughts on “Weaving History into Contemporary Fiction—RRBC Tour Stop

  1. Pingback: Weaving History into Contemporary Fiction—RRBC Tour Stop | GeezWriter Blog

  2. Thanks for a terrific post, Traci! Me, I’m an outliner, so I like to do my research up front during the outlining stage. That way the research can affect, maybe even infuse, the plot. I don’t like going the wrong direction, only to find out later I had my underlying facts or assumptions wrong. If I try to get all the right during early development, I find that my burgeoning understanding suggests unexpected but exciting new dimensions for the story and/or its characters. I’d like to add one to you list of ways to reveal historical (or -ish) info: Use props. What you put in the scene, along with how you paint the place from a character’s POV, can surreptitiously convey a lot of information. Thanks again, Traci. I’m just a few hours back from a long vacation, so this post was a great way to get back into the art and business of writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m with you, Staci. I do much of my research as I go along. I’ll search out the basics, but as the story takes shape, situations arise, and that’s when I’ll go into full research mode. Great post. Wishing you the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Staci. It sure was fun stopping by your site. I hate research, and try to avoid it at all costs. Lol Therefore, I have great respect for anyone who takes the time to research facts for their work. Your books sound absolutely awesome! I hope you’re having a great day on the tour. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rhani, you made me smile. I love a person with strong convictions. You don’t like to research? Then don’t. Create your own story world and rules for that time and place. Maybe you’ll create something better than reality has to offer!

      I’m glad you stopped by. 🙂


  5. Very interesting. When I’m writing, I find the areas that need researching as I go, but I tag it to research after I finish the first draft, perhaps with a ** to search and find. This keeps me from losing my flow and focus. If I stop, I may lose my train of thought. I tend to really focus on whatever I’m doing and I’m not that good a multi-tasking.

    Do you find that sometimes the information found when researching is overwhelming? I mean there’s just so much stuff to sift through on the Internet.

    Your series sounds wonderful. I plan to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I envy your ability to use placeholders when you write. I can’t do it. If I’m in the middle of a good roll, I’ll leave myself a few notes, but then I go research what I need and come back to my document, add the new data, then start writing again. Usually the notes are enough if I was on a roll, because I’m excited about that section and it stays in my mind until I can compose it.

      I do find research can be overwhelming. I told an earlier commenter that not only can I lose myself for hours when I research, I can also save way too many pages of data. Sometimes that’s a happy surprise, though, because I’ve discovered something I can use that I never even considered. It’s a trade off, but I really should manage my time a little better.

      Thanks for posting!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Staci, I love research as well but lately I find I get different info from different sources and never know which to believe. I love research books but wonder about their reliability too. Your work sound fascinating and I look forward to sampling some. Have a great tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You raise a very good point regarding reliability.

      When I was a writing professor, I told my students they could only use Wikipedia as a source for other links (they couldn’t site it as a reference). I always steered them toward scholastic and professional sources or government or corporate sites (knowing those aren’t perfect but are more reliable than an online encyclopedia anyone can edit).

      With respect to trustworthiness, I think it’s probably more important in nonfiction than fiction. By the time I’ve worked history into my stories, I’ve usually put my spin on it, anyway. You can’t do that in nonfiction.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s such a great idea… scheduling library time once a week. If my schedule ever calms down, I’d like to do that. (I know; if it’s important I should make the time. Yikes!)

      Thanks for commenting.


  7. Really enjoyed this post, Staci! I love doing research as well. I just said to my hubby the other day that it’s a real shame that today’s students miss this experience. I love that I can “Goggle it” and have an instant response, but I remember the archive days fondly. I guess we’re lucky to experience both. Thanks for sharing this with us today. I’m looking forward to this series. Cheers! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Natalie.

      I often think about the wonderful things I had growing up that my kids will never understand. Like a rotary phone that you had to wait for a whole second to dial a zero or nine (taught patience), or phone cords that kept you stuck in one room (made you appreciate privacy). Televisions without remotes that only had a few channels and our parents always picked the programming (taught us how to entertain ourselves). Albums, and the staticky crackle that came from the speakers when they played (talk about love of music!). So many things are different today, and not necessarily for the better. My grandmother is going to be 99 on the 26th, but she still has her mental faculties. My kids love to sit and listen to her stories of simpler times and better days. (For that matter, so do I!)

      You’re right; we’re very lucky to have a foot in each world.


  8. I too love research and old libraries. Thank you for your well written post and it can be a fine line between needed facts and interesting facts that scream, “use me.” We are so lucky to have the internet to discover what we don’t know. I also research as I write, but when I’m writing a scene in a real place (city or establishment) I like to learn about it ahead of my writing. Happy blog hopping. Now on to another!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurie, I would love to visit places that I set my novels in. Right now, I know all about the Western PA sites because I grew up there, but I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Italy yet. Someday, I hope! But you raise a great point. Library research and Internet research are great, but nothing beats first-hand knowledge. Thanks for stopping by!


  9. I have always loved doing research. In the 1950’s we wrote term papers complete with flash cards, bibliography, and resource list. That experience provided the outline and careful research I have done for articles, my non-fiction book about cancer, and my most recent novel, Davida: Model & Mistress.
    I am anxious to read your most recent writings. Thank you for a great blog party!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Karen. I remember the flash cards for research papers! Such fond memories of that. And so nice that you were able to extrapolate your research experience and put it toward other writing.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  10. Hi Staci, I just wrote a long post and as soon as I hit “post comment” it went away and took me to an error page. That’s happened before on another site, but the last one made a double post. You’re important enough me to try to recall everything I wrote in case it doesn’t. Again >> I’m glad someone likes research. That was never my strong suit, but I do need to do some from time to time. Most of my writings pour out of my brain through experiences and memories. If I do make mistakes, which I do often, my brain corrects the problems during the night while I’m trying to sleep and the problems are solved in the morning when I wake up. For example, last night I woke up four times with my brain churning about my books. It’s tough on sleep, but this morning when I woke up, the problem with the ending to book 3 of my Four Seasons Series was solved as was the beginning to book 4 of the series. I had a minor in History while I was in college, so I guess I do like history some, but preferred Literature more. You can learn a lot of history through literature too. Thank you for sharing your book and a little about yourself, Staci. I am enjoying the Party immensely and that is thanks to wonderful people like yourself who take the time to share. Thank you; good writing and research; and Party On!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Larry, I’m honored that you took the time to write such a thoughtful response not once, but twice! Thank you, and I’m sorry about the error. People who know me well know I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it when it works, but it hates me enough to only work about half the time.

      I know just what you mean about restless sleep. My story ideas/problems/solutions don’t tend to wake me, but they do seem to keep me from falling asleep to begin with. On a good night, I get maybe three hours. Two is more my average. (That’s why I have time to read so much—I read in the middle of the night!) It’s a shame you’re probably tired today, but it’s great that you got your ending and new beginning sorted out.

      I’m thrilled that you’re making your rounds on the party circuit and having a good time. I’m really enjoying myself, too. Thank you for stopping by today!


    • Thank you for the reblog, Patricia. I’d already seen it and commented on your site, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank you here, as well.

      Thanks also for the kind words about the post and the series. I do hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I had to do research for my first non-fiction biography. I was such a procrastinator. I didn’t want to do it. But once I got into all that wonderful information, it was just mesmerizing. Being able to immortalize people was even more exciting. But like you said Staci you have to be careful not to make a story out of all that information. My bibliographies had to be cut down too. Love your topic which is timely. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mesmerizing. That’s the perfect word for it.

      I can procrastinate, too, when the task is something I dread. (Who isn’t, in that case?) I’m glad to hear you actually got into it, though, once you dove in. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this discussion Staci! I use similar strategies for my time travel fiction and don’t do a ton of research ahead of time. I’m an on the fly guy and google makes it so easy to just read what you need and incorporate it into the section I’m writing. Best of luck with your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Like you, I love research. With the advent of the internet, so much is accessible via computer…but it’s a much different experience than using the library resources. I live in a little town now and miss university libraries…. Hope your blog tour is a huge success!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Large metropolitan libraries are indeed a wonder, but little town libraries have their perks, too. Sometimes they have old gems tucked away that the big libraries discarded as unimportant or not useful (or never had at all). And they almost always have a warmer, darker, cozier feel. I have both a university library near me and a large city library, but I find I miss my little hometown library. Funny… it seems we always want what we don’t have.

      Glad to have found another happy researcher, Gwen!


  14. Excellent advice re weaving historical fact into your story. If it’s done correctly, the reader will never even notice that he/she is learning some history through your characters. All the best on your blog block party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great point. IF IT’S DONE RIGHT, readers will learn something and not even notice it. I really hope I’m one of the word-weavers who does this correctly.

      Thanks for dropping by!


  15. I hate research. lol! History was my worst subject in school. Names and dates never stuck with me (they still don’t…lol!). That being said, I do love a backstory. When I started writing my novel, I knew that I would have to merge my version of the past with the biblical version to make it as believable as possible. That was fun for me, but it was more my imagination than real research. Despite hating history, your novels sound really interesting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Math is the bane of my existence. (Don’t get me started on how illogical imaginary numbers are.) History, though? I enjoyed it. Memorizing facts (especially names and dates) can get tedious, but the overall concepts were fascinating. I especially liked European history (clearly), American history through colonial times, and Pennsylvania history (that’s where I grew up).

      Merging your version with biblical history sounds really cool. I’d love to hear more about that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I created a new being called the Diasodz. They were created by the Goddess when God threw Lucifer out of Heaven. Lucifer tried to kill Adam and Eve, and an angel stepped in the way. As she was dying, she asked Archangel Raphael to protect the humans. He went to the Goddess with her request, and the Diasodz were born. They spend their first 18 years as humans and then transition into Diasodz through their “death day”. They then have the powers to heal and protect humans from Lucifer and his group of Raizyns (Diasodz who have turned against the Goddess). So, I had to mesh my Diasodz into Lucifer’s fallout with God while also throwing a Goddess into the mix. It was fun. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Staci, I appreciate your tips on research. I’ve discovered a few research time-savers myself, just by virtue of necessity. Your books are very, very interesting and I will be adding Bk.1 of the Medici Protectorate series to my queue! Have a great party day!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for asking Staci. I’m sure my ideas aren’t new to RRBC members, but sometimes I research ideas and places before I begin writing. I visit a location on You Tube to visualize it and that will sometimes spark an idea for the conflict. Another tip is to color-code places in the writing where I need to come back and fill from research. If I’m “in the zone” I like to stay there so I can keep the story flowing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Everyone says to leave a marker when there’s something you can’t write, and then come back to it. I can’t do it; my brain doesn’t work that way. I’m always afraid that what I omit will be the lynchpin moving forward, and I’ll have to do a massive rewrite when I finally add the missing details in. I envy writers who can work with placeholders.

        The YouTube idea is a great one. I never even considered taking a virtual tour of a place. And to let that be your inspiration rather than an answer to an already existing question? What a great idea! Thanks for sharing these tips, Linda.


  17. I enjoy the research, and also tend to do it on the fly. I’ve gotten carried away more times than I want to admit. I also agree that all of it doesn’t belong in the finished product. Wonderful post. Enjoy your party day.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a fab post about weaving history into your writing, Traci. I have your first two books in the Medici Protectorate Series on my iPad, and can’t wait to read them. Having read your Cathedral Lake Trilogy, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed! Best of luck with everything 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Very interesting exposition, Staci! I love research too. I too came from writing scholarly papers as a university teacher, where you write or perish. 😀 But I had to go back to school to learn writing for stories. Have a great party, and have fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was a professor for a couple of years, too, so I understand. I really enjoyed it, but then we moved to a different state, and my writing took a different turn. I miss teaching and I miss my students (in fact, some have kept in touch all these years later), but I love writing and editing fiction now. I wouldn’t want to trade it!


  20. Excellent post, Staci. I miss going to a big city library and combing the stacks for information. Always felt it was a worthwhile thing to do. Now I cover extensive ground on the internet but miss the ambiance of it all. Best wishes on your party today.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think the Medici Protectorate series has been on my TBR too long – consider it bumped to ‘must read next’ status! 😀
    Seriously, great post, Staci. I’ve used those methods in several of my books now and totally agree with your reasoning here. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks, Jan. That means a lot. I hope you enjoy it.

      Honestly, if I did a lot of research before I wrote, I’d never get past the research stage. It’s all so fascinating to me! The worst part is knowing there’s so much out there I’ll never have a chance to learn. But I’m trying!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Research is always fascinating – and, with a series, you may well find a place for some really obscure gem of knowledge that sits just right. I think along the lines that it’s time well wasted if it eventually comes in useful! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • That obscure-fact thing actually happened to me with both the Medici Protectorate series and the Cathedral Lake series. In the former, it was a tidbit about a mirror. In the latter, it was a crazy birth anomaly that the medical world doesn’t even have statistics on. In both instances, the weird facts became an important part of the plot of their respective stories.

        “Time well wasted.” I like that.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. What if I told you I hate doing research? Odd of a chemist, right? That’s probably due to my lab work: short time to achieve the result with minimum expenses, so I’m used to scroll down a lot of material and go straight to the piece of information I need.
    In my WIP, which is science fiction, my characters move in a future world and I have to impart a lot of “past” information to the readers. Some I try to make clear through action, dialogues and reflection but I also like to include pieces if documents (diaries, newspapers) to cover some of the details from the time nit covered in the story.
    I think they can also be great material for blog posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That does surprise me that you hate research, but now that you’ve explained your lab-mentality, I get it.

      You raise a great point about documents (letters, diaries, articles, etc.). They do enrich the story, and they make great blog posts.

      Thanks for commenting, Irene.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Stacie. I’m like you, I do research as I go. As you’ve said why waste that time but also it can be a rabbit hole that god only knows where it will end. 🙂 Congratulations on your novels. Your series sounds fabulous. Will add to my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m such a dweeb (is that still a word?) when it comes to research. I can lose myself in it, especially when the subject fascinates me. I have tablets full of notes I made while writing from my Mothman series, but had to carefully pick and choose what to use and what to leave out. I didn’t want it to turn into a history lesson.

    I love how quick and easy it is to look something up online as I’m writing, but I do miss the days of immersing myself in research at the library. Occasionally, when I have a good deal of online research to do, I pack up my Surface Pro 3, visit my local library and hop on their wifi. There’s something about the setting that keeps me more focused on what I’m doing, and doesn’t allow for distractions. Kind of like the best of both worlds (library and internet), and the surroundings inspire me.

    A fabulous party stop, Staci. You know how much I love your Medici Protectorate series. I hope many others discover it too!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. No surprise that I also love history. But you’re right, no need to include everything in a novel. And yes, there are times when its better to tell and not show – read an article about that just last week. Best of luck on the tour today!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Staci, your series sounds absolutely fabulous. Adding to that: your background is just fascinating. My family comes from Umbria, specifically Terni. We visited them last year and walking the streets among ancient buildings and seeing history right around you, are things which lift the soul and definitely fires the imagination. I hope your tour is very successful today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a wonderful experience for you. I’m sure it does lift the soul.

      My husband’s father (also from Italy) had the chance to visit family on his first trip to Italy. He was with his father (who we’ve since lost) and his brother. My father-in-law has been back several times with my mother-in-law and with one of his kids, and he still speaks of the family visit as one of his fondest memories. There’s just something about that bond, and experiencing it where your ancestors once trod… Amazing. My husband, kids, and I were supposed to go back in 2001, but with 9-11, we canceled the plans. I never thought it would be 2017 and we still wouldn’t have gone. But it’s on the list!


  27. What a great post! I am a huge fan of researching! I’m with you, I miss the days of sitting in the library and taking notes. Using the microfilm was rather fun and ordering books from another library was empowering! Yet, the internet has certainly made it a one stop place to get most of the information. We have a local historical library I want to dig into one of these days! Good advice for how to add in all this information! I am looking forward to reading “Bleeding Hearts”. It has been sitting on my kindle waiting patiently. Enjoy your day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nothing quite compares to being in a library, but I have to admit, I do love the convenience of the Internet. I can research in my jammies while drinking a cup of coffee. Couldn’t do that at my hometown library. The library in the town I live in now? They do let you have food and drink with you (they even have a little cafe), but I don’t think they’d be happy to see me in sleepwear!


      Liked by 1 person

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