HSW December 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday, December 12 at 10 am via Zoom. 

As is becoming the norm, our December meeting will be via Zoom. We appreciate everyone who is logging on and joining in. You don’t have to be on camera to be part of the meeting. Contact information for the meeting will be sent by Thursday, December 10th. 

We have a few topics for the next meeting, such as what’s next after writing your NaNoWriMo novel, or any novel for that matter. Let’s talk about everything that has to be done before that novel is ready to publish or be sent to an agent. Then let’s talk about publishing options. Bring any questions you have about the process, whether it is Big Five– oops, now Four–publishing or do it yourself. 

We’ll also talk about our critique groups and how they are working for you. As you can see from these topics, Matt and Rene are going to be looking for participation from all of you. 

We’ll also announce the winner of the HSW Writing Contest for 2020. Overall, the contest committee is pleased with the number of entries and plan to do a 2021 contest as well.


Agenda for the December Meeting:

  1.  Announcements and Shameless Self-Promotion
  2. Winners of the Writing Contest Announcement
  3. Discuss Post-NaNo Activities
  4. Discussion of Traditional Publishing Versus Self-Publishing
  5. Status of Critique Groups
  6. First Pages



Matt will be doing First Pages at this meeting.  If you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday October 9th at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre. 


This month we’ll be discussing several topics about getting from A to Z.

Since we’re just coming off NANO, some of you may have very raw finished or close to finished first drafts. What now? If this is your first book, the road ahead may seem daunting. Well, it is. Even if it’s your third book.

Think of it as a sculptor. You just bought a five-ton slab of marble and had it delivered to your studio. You stare at it for a while and ask yourself if you just made a big mistake.

The reality is that a first draft is total crap. Doesn’t matter who you are. It’s no better than a five-ton slab of marble. The hard work is beating the thing into shape.

This will take proofreading, rewrites, and/or feedback from a critique group or trusted beta readers. If you think on your third draft, you’re finished, think again. Just look at some of the crap that’s on Amazon, flooding the market and making it ever more difficult to breakthrough. Most of those books are second or third drafts.

 “I need to get it out there.” That phrase, that desire will enter your mind at some point. Resist it. If later you’re going to spend time and money marketing your book or querying agents, give yourself the best chance of success by at least having a quality product.


As we come to the end of the year, it means your membership is expiring unless you’ve already renewed it. In case you’re not sure, here’s your name and expiration date:
If you’re due to renew, you can do it online using PayPal. You don’t need to have an account and you can use your credit card. HSW PayPal Link  If you prefer to pay by check, you can mail it to High Sierra Writers PO Box 12241 Reno, NV 89510. Please let Rene know so she can follow up. 


If you’re planning to self-publish a book over the holidays, you might not be aware that some companies have holiday hours. Thanks to Draft2Digital, Rene had a list of them this morning:
Amazon Support will be closed on December 25 and January 1. To ensure against potential delays in file review and other processing, submit your books prior to December 11. Preorders scheduled during these periods will go live as expected, provided final manuscripts are in and approved before the cutoff date of December 11. 
Apple’s publishing systems will experience delays from mid-December through early January. To help you in planning release dates around this period you may use the following schedule:
  • Release dates from December 18 have a delivery deadline of Friday, December 4.
  • Release dates from December 25 have a delivery deadline of Friday, December 11.
All submissions must be submitted prior to midnight (PST) on the dates above.

Due to the high volume of deliveries and updates they receive during this time of year, Apple does not recommend making changes between December 20 and December 27.

B&N will be closed December 25 and January 1 with limited support in between. No files will process and there will be no direct support on days when closed. Also during this time you may experience review slowdowns, and slowdowns following those dates as B&N deals with backlog. However, automated delivery will continue 24/7 through the holiday period.

Kobo offices will be closed December 25 and January 1. Additionally, they will have limited support from December 20 thru January 6. Metadata and digital files will be loaded 24/7 over the holidays however there will be a lot of data flowing through their system which may cause updates to take longer.

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HSW November 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday, November 14, at 10 am via Zoom. 

Our next HSW meeting will continue with a Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video.  We hope to see you there.

Program: Why Do I Write – A Discussion with Jacci Turner

Why Do I write? This is the fundamental question every author must answer. Is it to entertain, encourage, instruct, or something else?

Come prepared to write. We will be creating a tagline, writing a blog about what motivates us, and reading to each other. Knowing your why creates your author voice, which should be noticeable in all your writing. And, it’ll be fun.

Using Kindle Create to Format Your Print Novel – Rene Averett

Third time’s a charm. This was held over from the past two meetings, and we’ll do our best to get to it this month. Rene will walk you through the features of Amazon’s formatting program. The program will help you do the layout for your print book as well as your e-book. 

First Pages – Matt Bayan

Matt will be doing First Pages at this meeting, so if you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday, November 13, to MattBayan@aol.com.  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the title and genre if you wish.


SHOW vs TELL – How Much Detail is Enough?

I want to talk about a coincidence that brought into focus an issue near and dear: showing vs. telling and how much detail is enough.

I read two books published in the past few years: Camino Island by John Grisham and A Legacy of Spies by John LeCarre’. The subject matter couldn’t be farther apart. The former is about the theft of valuable literary manuscripts, and the latter is a spy novel.

I hated Camino Island and loved A Legacy of Spies. Why? The coincidence I mentioned is that both books have a substantial amount of telling. Why does one work and the other doesn’t? Le Carre’ provides detail that at first seems unconnected. Imagine a bowl of alphabet soup with letters randomly appearing. But at some point, the letters begin to form into important information.

With the Grisham book, we look at the same bowl of alphabet soup and realize we’re just looking at soup. Even when he appears to be showing, such as in dialogue, Grisham’s characters are still telling. And telling.

Apart from a lackluster plot, Camino Island has unimportant characters of which we learn too much. We get page after page of meaningless dialogue or summary or description. I got the sense that Grisham had a 50-page story, but he needed 300 pages, so he backed up the dump truck and dropped a lot of fill dirt.

The contrast with Le Carre’ is that each piece of dialogue, each back story, slowly weaves into a tighter and tighter net, and seemingly unrelated information begins to form a picture.

As an editor, I try to get my clients to avoid too much detail. But in these two contrasting books, we see Le Carre’ push beyond the limits of what I would normally feel comfortable with, yet he pulls it off with skill. Why? Because his details have meaning. Grisham, on the other hand, needs to get taken to the woodshed by his editor.

The lesson here is to make sure every detail drives toward a plot point. Details that do this will eventually satisfy the reader. Details that don’t will only aggravate. The former have purpose; the latter are bloat.

HSW Writing Contest

As of midnight yesterday, the HSW Writing Contest for 2020 has closed for entries. We received a great response of first chapters and flash fiction stories, with a smaller amount of short stories. Thank you to everyone who submitted entries. The stories will now be prepared and sent to the judges for evaluation. The winners will be announced at the December HSW meeting. 

Our judges for this contest are all published writers. Ellen Hopkins is an best-selling author of young adult and adult fiction. She also published 20 non-fiction books for children. Her most recent book is People Kill People. Jenny Mackay writes educational books and has recently completed her master’s degree in creative writing. Suzanne Morgan Williams writes both fiction and non-fiction books for middle-grade children as well as writing historical books. She has won many awards for her writing.

Thank you to everyone for contributing and good luck to all.

November is NaNoWriMo 

For anyone who doesn’t already know, NaNaWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a world-wide effort to encourage creatives to write 50,000 words on a novel during the month. If you break it down that is 1667 words a day if you write every day. To spur writers on, writing groups are formed locally where the participants can get encouragement, challenges, and other support throughout the month.

Normally, Reno’s group has write-ins once or twice a week at various coffee shops or libraries. With Covid restrictions, this is not happening this year. We do have a Facebook page where Rene Averett hangs out and runs several sprints each day to challenge others to write for an hour at a time. This year, we will try a virtual write-in each week using Facebook’s group meeting feature. That will be on Wednesday nights from 7 pm to 10 pm. 

For more information or to join the Facebook group, go to:


High Sierra Writers has quite a few published writers in the group. We have a page featuring the various books grouped by author under genre. These are under HSW Writers link. As our authors release new books, we’ll feature them here each month. We have three members published in the last few months to check out. 

 Bill Kuechler published his most recent novel, Lethal Angel, at the end of September. From Bill’s cover blurb, “The Angel lurks on suicide blogs, recruiting destitute, elderly Americans for suicide bombings. The only person who suspects a pattern behind the seemingly random tragedies is Kern Hendley, a savant-smart Medicare computer-fraud analyst with the Secret Service.” That should hook you into this book. Check it out at

In August, Kelli Heitstumanko Tomko published the third in her Johnny Lister mystery series. The Incident at Grove, Idaho takes Idaho State Police investigator Johnny Lister on a quest to learn what happened to a mother and her children. She soon believes the missing people are the victims of foul play. “But the investigation takes a shocking turn Johnny never saw coming. As she finds herself locked in a complex cross-jurisdiction case, Johnny must learn who in her little town has secrets they would kill to protect.” Want o read it? Go to her Amazon link.

Once again, Leanna Falconer had a short story finish in the top 10 of a short story competition. The Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition selected her story, Best Kept Secret among the top stories received and included it in their just released anthology, which is on sale now at Amazon. 
     From the book description: “This year’s participants were given two choices: the opening and closing lines of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, or Beloved by Toni Morrison. 34 STORIES contains the Huxley finalists; 124 BELOVED contains the Morrison finalists–but both anthologies have been bundled together into this single omnibus collection called 34 STORIES / 124 BELOVED.”  The challenge was to craft a story using the same opening and closing lines. Leanna entered the Morrison competition.

Support your fellow High Sierra Writers. Read and review their books and recommend to others when you can. 

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October 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting

Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 10 a.m. 

Since large gatherings of more than 6 people do not appear to be feasible in the foreseeable future, we will continue to meet via Zoom. Details will be sent out before the meeting and will be posted to the web site and on Facebook.

The program includes the continuation of How to Upload a Book to Amazon and set up the rest of the options. We apologize for the abrupt interruption to this at the last meeting. Matt’s entire computer system crashed and he needed to reboot the router. Since he is the host, Zoom closed the meeting shortly after he left.

Want to know more about Kindle Create? We will also look at this Amazon provided program and how to use it to format a novel or any book with photos or illustrations. Since Rene has used it to format her cookbooks, she can show you the good points about it.

We may have a guest speaker, but we don’t have details at this time. 

First Pages

Matt will be doing first pages, so if you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday October 9 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre.


15 Days Left!

We are coming down to the wire to get your contest entry or entries submitted. The deadline for receiving the entry forms and submissions is October 15th. You may email these to contest@highsierrawriters.org. Full details are on the website. Please remember to use a cover sheet with the name of the submission and your name on it along with your email address. Do NOT include your name on the story or chapter pages, just the title and word count.

Winners in each category will be announced and prizes awarded in December. 

We do have three judges lined up, all writers. More details will be revealed at the next meeting. 

If you have any questions or have problems submitting your entry, contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com

Revised By-Laws Passed

At the September meeting, the attending members voted to accept the revised By-laws, which removed unnecessary wording and simplified them. They are posted on the website for your reference. 

Useful Links Page

If you missed the presentation on ISBN numbers, the slide show and Rene’s notes are on the website in the Useful Links section. You will find other links to handouts and articles at the same place.


High Sierra Writers has quite a few published writers in the group. We have a page featuring the various books grouped by author under genre. These are under HSW Writers link. As our authors release new books, we’ll feature them here each month. This time, our featured writer is L.F. Falconer. She doesn’t have a book out, but has two short stories published in two magazines.

Check out her story, “Lucien Greyshire and the Ghost from Applebee’s” in Weirdbook Magazine #43 (Wildside Press) published on September 3rd. The link is to the magazine on Amazon. It is available in Kindle and paperback.

Her 2nd story was published September 16 in Shallow Waters Vol 6: A Flash Fiction Anthology (Crystal Lake Publishing). That one is called “Neighborhood Watch.” The issue is not yet available on Amazon, but they do carry the anthologies from this publisher.

Please support our High Sierra writers by reading and giving an honest review of their books on the platform where you downloaded or purchased it. Your reviews help bring the attention of the book to other readers and helps the author to gain more visibility on the sales platform. We’re all here to help each other, aren’t we?

Membership Renewals and New Memberships

If your membership has been expired since the beginning of the year, your membership renewal is still $25 for 2020, but if you renew in November or December, we will throw in those two months and renew you for all of 2021. 

If you are a new member joining in October, your membership will be valid through December, 2021. 

To renew via PayPal, go to this link.  To mail, send to HSW, PO Box 12241, Reno, NV, 89510. Please let Rene or Matt know if you send it to the mailbox. Thanks!


By Rene Averett

Now and then, HSW members will ask about websites, how to set them up, and what should be included on one. Keep in mind that even if you are writing as a hobby, your website represents you and your business. Yes, I said business. Whether it’s a hobby or what you hope to turn into a full-time income, the moment you put a book out for sale, it becomes a business. So, your website needs to look professional, not stuffy, but something that includes all the information that a reader, a reviewer, an agent, or a publisher wants to know about you.

A recent article from Book Bub discussed the five key elements that need to be on your website. Each of these is important and should be kept current. Your website is part of your brand as an author, so pay attention to it.

The five crucial elements you should have are:
1) A page with your books listed on it. If you have one or more series books, group them together. When someone reads a book and likes it, they will often go to the writer’s webpage to see what else they have written or if there are more books in the series. Make sure you have purchase links to your books.

2) Your author biography, written in the third person. Many authors have a short and a long version. This makes it easy for a reviewer or an agent to pull the author’s bio when they need it. Keep it up to date. 

3) Author Headshot. This should be a professionally-taken, high quality photograph that a reviewer or a book publisher can use to promote your book. I see many author photos that are casual photos, taken outside or in a comfortable setting. With high quality cameras, you can often get a good shot with a friend who has a steady hand taking the picture. Again, change it now and then. How many times have you seen a photo of an author from when they were thirty and they’re now seventy?

4)  A way for readers to get updates. Provide a mailing list or some kind of notification. At the very least, have a way for them to subscribe to your page. This is a plug-in you can used on your Word Press site. If you want to be able to send them a regular newsletter or let them know via email that you are releasing a new book, then you need to set up a mailing list.

To read the whole article and see examples, you can go here.

5) A way to send an email to you or your publisher. Fans want to communicate with their favorite authors, but other sometimes want to contact you for business reasons. If you want all that to go through your publisher, then you need a contact email or snail mail address for them to do that. If your prefer your fan communication to be through social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, then let them know how to reach you. 

If you a not yet a published author or are just starting your first book, it’s not too soon to begin building your website. You need to begin building a mailing list as soon as you can, so that you’ll have people interested in your book before you’re ready to release it. 

The easiest way to set a website up is using Word Press. The majority of author websites are on some version of this program. For a small fee, the Word Press site will host your website on their server. If you have another server you can use, then you can download the program to it. Many templates designed for this program help you to set up your page. If you aren’t comfortable with using computers, you can hire someone to design it and set up so it is easy for you to maintain.

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HSW Contest Deadline Extended


With a promotional opportunity set for October 12, the Contest Committee voted to extend the deadline for the contest entries to October 31st at midnight. This provides the opportunity to anyone who hasn’t heard about the contest or who is running late on their entry to submit it. 

So, if you are running a little behind on getting your entry polished, you have an additional two weeks to get it done. Entries should be sent via email no later than midnight on October 31st. If you are mailing the entry, please contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com for instructions on mailing either your entry or your entry fee. We have an issue with the post office box, and it is currently suspended. 

Troy Becker announced our three judges at the last HSW meeting. They are writers Ellen Hopkins, Jenny MacKay, and Suzanne Morgan Williams. None of our judges are HSW members.

Please refer to the Contest Information on the HSW website for any other details regarding submissions. 

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September 2020 Newsletter


Saturday September 12 at 10 am via Zoom. 

Our next HSW meeting will be another Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post, and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video. We hope to see more of you this next meeting.

We will be voting on the revised By-Laws for our organization at the September meeting. You may read these on the HSW web site at:  http://highsierrawriters.org/about-us/high-sierra-writers-by-laws/

Our program for the meeting will be on How to Upload a Book to Amazon. We’ve done this one before, but we have quite a few people who either don’t know how to do it or would like to run through it again.  We didn’t get to the presentation on ISBNs at the last meeting, so Rene will cover it at this meeting.

We will also be doing First Pages so if you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday September 11 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre.

Hope to see you there!



Last month in part 1, the focus was on the inciting incident that kicks off a novel or movie and how not to clutter it with a prologue or some other “telling.” In part 2, we look at another potentially dangerous form of telling: the Flashback.

I know some agents and editors who are death on flashbacks. But I think their reason is that flashbacks are generally handled poorly. Used sparingly, a flashback can be an effective tool for illuminating a character’s motivation, weakness, strength, etc.

But how to do that? Unless it’s a very small piece of information, avoid having one character “telling” about something that happened off-stage. The simplest way is to start a new chapter and stay in immediate scene. Show the information as it happens, make your plot point, then jet back to the present.

Always ask if the information in the flashback is SO important that it can’t be avoided, or presented some other way.

Movies tend to be a bit more flashbacky than books, largely because, as a visual medium, all parts of a movie involve “showing.”

Photo from GladiatorA good example of a flashback is in the movie Gladiator. The Russell Crowe character, Maximus, thinks back to memories of his family, now dead. We get the sense that he’s done all he can in his life and wants to join them. In this case, the short visual clips of an idyllic time offer the audience a sense of the loss he has suffered, while also explaining his state of mind near the end of the film.

So, make a flashback relevant, keep it short, and keep it in immediate scene and you can avoid running afoul of antsy readers and even antsier agents.

Need a Critique Group?

Linda Enos is the Critique Group Wrangler, and she would be happy to help you find or start a group. For any writer, the feedback you can get from a group of your peers is valuable. They help you find problems in your story, plot holes, bad phrasing, and much more. So, if you want to bring up the level of your writing, contact Linda at linda.r.enos@gmail.com

Do You Know Your Adjective Word Order?

Have you ever read a line with three or more adjectives describing a noun and thought that it just didn’t sound right? For instance, if you read, “the yellow, limping, big dog”, would it bother you? Our internal logic expects this to read “the big, limping, yellow dog.” You may wonder why that should be. 

Somewhere along the lines of developing language, a word order for adjectives evolved, possibly based on the way the brain processes words. No one knows exactly how it came about, but generally all linguists agree a specific order for adjectives exist. The cool thing is that instinctively, we use these rules and normally, recognize an anomaly when these words are in the wrong order.

That doesn’t mean we don’t write them wrong every now and then, but most times you will catch them when you read your work back, or someone in your critique group might notice them. Or, if you have Grammarly, it will note them and suggest a change.

The order for using adjectives is a determiner, such as thea, or an is first, followed by opinion (unusual, lovely, ugly), size (giant, enormous, tiny), physical quality (thick, heavy, rough), shape (oblong, triangular, square), age (young, ancient, old), color (blue, reddish, gray), origin (French, Turkish, Danish), material (metal, wood, plastic), type (general-purpose, needle-nose, U-shaped), purpose (cleaning, hammering, cooking), and finally the noun all these words describe. 

For the long list of these alone, a writer would be wise to not string more than three adjectives to describe a noun. 

Note also, that all the adjectives are separated by commas. If the word is describing the noun, you separate the  words from each other. If the word is acting on the word next to it and the two together describe the noun, you don’t separate it with a comma. Usually, words acting together are hyphenated, such as reddish-brown or bread-like. 

To help you check the adjective word order, here’s a handy chart you can save to your computer for reference. You can learn more about this subject from this article.

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August 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday August 8 at 10 am via Zoom. 

Our next HSW meeting will be a Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast by the Thursday before the meeting.

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video. Our meetings are going well. We hope to see more of you this next meeting.

Guest Alexanne Stone

Photo: Alexanne Stone
Our guest speaker this month will be Alexanne Stone, whom we affectionately call The Body Language Lady. She visited us last year and gave us the basics on the clues and codes that reveal people’s intentions. In the August meeting, she’ll do a quick review of the previous session and then build on that.

Why is this important? It opens a lot of territory for character development. What characters say may not be as important as how they say it. As writers, if we have a better understanding of the tics and signals, vocal intonations, nervous movements, etc. of our characters, we can add dimension to characters and the scenes they move through.

A simple example: You’ve probably heard of a “tell.” This is some action or lack of action by which a poker player unknowingly reveals whether he’s bluffing or has a strong hand. John tugs at his left earlobe when he has a strong hand, but under-bets to keep more players in the hand. Bob’s face becomes immobile as stone when he is bluffing.

We can all add to character depth and the intensity of scenes by using body language to reveal and hide character thoughts and intentions. 

For more about Ms. Stone, see her website at https://alexannestone.com/

What is an ISBN and Why Do We Need Them?

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly the numbers of an ISBN provide and why each new edition of the book needs a separate one, then check this out. In a short presentation, Rene Averett will cover this essential number added to the front matter of your book. She’ll also talk about how to get an ISBN, how much they cost, and why Amazon doesn’t use the standard one for eBooks. 

First Pages

Matt will be doing First Pages at this meeting.  If you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday August 7 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre. 




“Act first, explain later.” – James Scott Bell

I saw this on a blog and immediately thought, “Simple and brilliant.” James Scott Bell is a bestselling author of help-me books for writers. He brings up the classic issue of Showing vs. Telling, as well as the ongoing argument between writers and agents/editors about Prologues.

As an editor, I usually have this argument (sorry, debate) with first-time writers. “The reader needs to understand the context,” they say.

Let’s be clear. World-building is important. But you don’t need to build the world first and then populate it. The only book where that makes sense is the Bible. Whether you’re writing a spy novel in Berlin or a futuristic sci-fi opus, the rules are the same.


Prologues are telling. ‘Nuff said?

If you still cling to your prologue, consider this:

A classic example which most people can relate to is Star Wars. I happen to be of an age that I saw the first Star Wars movie (now dubbed A New Hope as the 4th in the series). This movie starts by telling us it happens long ago in a galaxy far, far away. We see a view of space then a huge star ship firing on a smaller ship. Cut to interior of the smaller ship and we see chaos and some woman named Princess Leia and two robots. Some big guy in black with a cape enters the ship, and the princess is captured and the robots eject from the ship in some sort of lifeboat.

Do we know who the princess is or how important she is? No. Do we know how the big guy fits into the overarching story? No. Are the robots important? We don’t know. In fact, we don’t know anything other than the princess is being pursued by the big guy in a high-tech universe.

Over the course of the next half-hour, the background begins to fill in. The world-building slowly unfolds as we begin to understand who the main characters are, how they relate to each other, and what conflicts they’re involved in. But note that the movie starts with people, not their world. We see action before we know context.

This is a perfect example of act first, explain later.

The main characters and their conflicts are what’s important. Not the scenery.

In Part 2 of this article, I’ll discuss the related issue of flashbacks and how to use them.

HSW Writing Contest Logo

2020 Contest Is Underway

On July 1st, we announced the 2020 writing contest. This features three different categories of writing with prizes for Flash Fiction (up to 500 words), Short Story (2,000 to 3,000 words), and First Novel Chapter (maximum of 3,000 words.) The contest is open to anyone. You do not have to be a member of HSW to enter. 

PayPal buttons to pay the entry fees online are now available along with an email address to send your WORD formatted entry.

Flash Fiction – $50 first prize, $25 second
Short Story – $100 first prize, $50 second
First Chapter – $100 first prize, $50 second

Winners will also receive certificates and professional feedback!

For full information, entry fees, rules, and guidelines, go to the contest information page. If you have any questions about the contest or rules, please send them to board@highsierrawriters.org


If you’re looking for critique partners, contact Linda Enos at linda.r.enos@gmail.com

Thinking of entering the HSW Writing Contest? Your critique group can give you essential support in reading, analyzing, and providing feedback on your entries. 

New Book Releases by High Sierra Writers

In support of our own writers, we encourage you to read and review our members’ novels. Honest reviews provide feedback to the author and also help other readers to find them. Reviews are critically important to each of us. 

To this end, we are featuring new releases each month. A full list of HSW authors’ books are on the HSW website. If you are a member and have books published that are not listed, please contact Rene at:  RPAverett@gmail.com.

The Marijuana Murders by Mark S. Bacon

Book Cover

Nostalgia City executive Kate Sorensen finds the body of a mechanic crushed under an automobile hoist in the theme park’s garage. Accident or murder? Will it impact Kate’s decision to join one of two competing statewide campaigns to legalize marijuana in Arizona?

When the death is ruled a homicide and the DEA stages a surprise raid, park cab driver Lyle Deming is recruited to help solve the murder and find out if the park’s garage is being used to smuggle drugs. The anxiety-ridden ex-cop is soon poking around a Mexican border town looking for a park contractor who might be a drug mule. Or he might be dead.

Book 3 of Bacon’s Nostalgia City series.

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July 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting Saturday July 11 at 10 am via Zoom

Enjoy the comfort of your own home and lounging clothes while you attend the next HSW meeting on Zoom! It sure cuts down on commute time although we don’t have as much interaction as we do at meetings! But Scheels meeting room is still in closed status and will not be available yet. 

How would you feel about an outdoor meeting? Would you be likely to attend if we met in a park? Let us know via email (board@highsierrawriters.org) or at the July Zoom meeting.

Meanwhile, the July HSW meeting will be another Zoom meeting. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will provide and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video. We had over 20 members at the last meeting and we hope to see more on July 11th. 

The program is still being planned for the meeting, but it will include First Pages so if you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday July 10 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre.

We will also be providing more details on the High Sierra Writers’ Contest for 2020 at this meeting. See below for the official announcement.

Full details and guidelines are being finalized and will be available in a few days. We will send a news blast with the updated information and it will be posted on the High Sierra web site along with entry forms, judging criteria, and examples or links to examples. The contest will run from July 1st to October 15th, 2020. Judging will take place between October 15 and November 30th. The winners will be announced at the December 12th meeting. 

So, if you’ve wanted to see how you stack up against other writers or want to try an entry in a category you haven’t tried before, here’s your chance. If you have the first chapter of a novel or two tucked away in a file folder, pull one out and rework it, then enter to see if it makes an impression. All entries reviewed by the judges will receive their rating forms back. 

Thank you to everyone who replied to the survey. We went with the top 3 categories, but hope to get the other options in another contest later. The more interest and participation we have in the contests, the easier it will be to continue to do them.

Have you finished your book, but don’t quite feel it’s ready to send to an agent or editor? How about participating in a “finished manuscript” group?

The way it works is 3-6 writers, who’ve completed their projects, get together and take a month to read each manuscript. At the end of the 30 days, comments/suggestions are given to the author. The advantage to such a group is the entire flow of the story can be seen by the readers versus the start/stop approach of a regular critique group. So, if you’re interested in a “finished manuscript” group, email  Linda Enos at linda.r.enos@gmail.com.

Seeking new members for established group: Rene Averett is sad to say we need to replace two members of our critique group. The lovely Nicole is moving in July, so we need more people. We prefer writers in fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, and light science fiction. If you write in those genres and want to join a group, then call (775-852-1756) or email Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com

What is Flash Fiction?

If you’ve never written a short piece of fiction, you may not be familiar with the concept of flash fiction. It is brief and contained stories. The average word count varies depending on the style of flash fiction you are writing. For our contest, it is micro-fiction, using 100 to 500 words to tell a brief story. The emphasis isn’t on plot or characters, although it should have both. But the focus is on movement as each sentence needs to peel back a new layer of the tale. If a line or word doesn’t move the story forward or reveal more about a character, then it isn’t needed in the story. 

This means that every line and word in the story must be considered and chosen to move the story to its conclusion. In short, if it doesn’t bring something to the party, get rid of it. This doesn’t imply that it can’t be descriptive, but it must have a purpose, whether to clarify or to set a tone.

Rephrased from an article on the Reedsy blog; Read the full article to learn more about flash fiction and how to write it;
Click here

For other helpful articles on writing flash fiction, check out:

To read examples of flash fiction, check out this web site that lists over 20 examples.

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June 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday June 13 at 10 am via Zoom

Our next HSW meeting will be another Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post. It will take you to the Zoom web site where you can quickly download the application. You do not need to be on video. The meeting last month went well. We hope to see more of you this next meeting.


Michael will join us on June 13 via Zoom to discuss the changing landscape of Amazon marketing: what has worked, what no longer works, and what may be strategies for the future. We’ll also have Q&A with him, so bring your questions about book launching and ongoing marketing. Michael is one of the top 20 bestselling authors on Amazon and has self-published all of his books.


We’re pushing back the dates of the short story contest. We’re having a planning meeting for the contest on June 2 to nail down the timing and rules and we’ll announce the results at the June 13 meeting.


When we write in first person, we’re limited to the character’s voice, but in third person how much of the author’s voice should creep through? When does the author’s editorializing break the reader’s flow? How do we navigate POV and what effect does POV have on narration? Join the discussion as we navigate the wide spectrum of ideas on the topic.


We’ll have the usual session. Please send the Word version of your first page to mattbayan@aol.com no later than June 12. We’ll display the pages on the Zoom screen. Please include title and genre. Your submission can be from either a novel or short story. For easy reading, use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page.

From the President

The gym of which I’m a member just went under. One of my favorite restaurants won’t be re-opening.

I just realized that High Sierra Writers is also a small business. We’re incorporated. We have a tax ID number. We file a tax return.

Will High Sierra Writers make it through this pandemic? Or will it wither away?

The businesses that are failing right now are doing so because they don’t have the financial resources to weather the storm. Are we in that situation? No. We have financial resources. For us, the challenge is more about will. Can we hold together as an organization or will members get distracted after months of not meeting?

The HSW board of directors is just as motivated as before. We hope our members will hang in through the next few months as we figure out how to navigate the changing health landscape.

Encouraging signs: critique groups are meeting with Zoom; our request for a volunteer to become the corporate secretary has been successful; our May meeting – the first on Zoom – had twenty members participating.

We’ll hold our June meeting via Zoom. July may be different, but we’ll have to play it by ear. If you know of a large venue – a very large venue – where we can socially distance up to 40 people, please send us an email to board@highsierrawriters.org with info. For the near future, Scheels may be too small to allow us to spread out.

If you have suggestions for meeting topics, or know of guest speakers you’d like to see in our monthly meetings, please send your ideas to board@highsierrawriters.org as soon as possible.

Please keep checking the HSW web site for updates of the June 13 agenda. www.highsierrawriters.org 

See you June 13th.


New Secretary on Board

With our elected secretary, Nicole Frens, leaving the area soon, Troy Becker has agreed to fill the position, and the Board is pleased to approve the change. We welcome Troy to the HSW Board. Thank you to Nicole for her contributions as both secretary and critique wrangler to our group. We wish her the best of luck.



Linda Enos (who writes as Lynda Bailey) here. I’m the Critique Group Wrangler for HSW and also the leader of the after-the-regular-meeting (ATRM) critique group.
I wanted to share something one of the ATRM members said to me. (Please note, to spare this individual any possible embarrassment, I won’t reveal his/her gender or the genre he/she writes.)
This person wrote in an email, “I feel like I have a professional editor when I read your comments.”
While the sentiment is terribly sweet, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not a professional editor – nor would I ever claim to be. I simply have fresh eyes.
As authors, we fight and struggle to do revision after revision in the hopes of perfecting our manuscripts. As a result, it’s easy for us to have tunnel vision when it comes to our stories. We know everything about the plot and characters. And since we know everything, we sometimes fail to actually put pertinent information on the page. We leapfrog over important motivations for a character or miss a crucial plot point altogether. This is why critique groups/partners are a vital component for any author, whether newbie or an old hat. We all need fresh eyes on our manuscripts.
So, if you’ve been kicking around the idea of joining a group, why wait? Contact me today … linda.r.enos@gmail.com … with your name, the genre you write and your writing experience. If I can’t match up with a group (which, with the pandemic, is kinda tough right now) you can always join the ATRM group to get your feet wet. Obviously with the pandemic ATRM hasn’t had a face-to-face meeting, but we do exchange pages via email. The general guidelines for critique groups as well as the guidelines for ATRM are listed on our website. www.highsierrawriters.org.
Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Stay safe and stay well!

Has your creativity flourished or floundered under the quarantine?

By Rene Averett

I’ve seen that many writers have had trouble getting their thoughts focused on any story line while being confined at home, while for others, it was business as usual. Have the worries of the situation stifled your creativity? Or is privacy to write harder to find than it was? Conversely, are you someone who likes to sit in a coffee shop surrounded by chatter and other people? 

Either way, it’s time to stimulate your creative juices.  Here’s one way to do it.

If you need some encouragement to get back into the swing of things, you might consider the summer session of Camp NaNoWriMo. It begins on July 1st and runs the entire month. Like the spring version, the goal is up to you. If you want to write 30,000 or 50,000 words over the month or choose to edit an already completed piece, hat’s your choice.

The main objective is to get people working on a project with others doing likewise. With the limitations of the quarantine, we might be relying more on Zoom meetings and online writing sprints more than physical get-togethers, but it’s still a great way to bounce ideas off fellow writers and get the competitive spirit that encourages you to keep going.

If you are interested, join Rene and the NaNoWriMo Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/NaNoReno
To learn more about Camp NaNoWriMo go to: https://nanowrimo.org/what-is-camp-nanowrimo

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April 2020 Newsletter

April Meeting Information


No meeting in April due to stay-at-home order. 

With the COVID-19 threat still alive and very real, everyone who isn’t essential is staying home and trying to avoid any contact with the virus. At this time, Scheels’ meeting room is closed indefinitely, so we are not meeting until it is safe for people to get together again. This is a challenging time, but we hope everyone comes through it okay. 

In the meantime, use this time to start a new project, read, or learn more about your craft. In this issue of our newsletter, we have a few suggestions. Stay well, fellow writers.

From the HSW President

Now that we all have time to write and edit, here’s an article I did a year and a half ago. If you check my blog, you can read more articles I’ve written about editing and the writing process.

Here’s the direct link: https://mattbayan.wixsite.com/mysite-1

Wash your hands and stay untouchable!

How To Describe Without Describing

As an editor, one of my pet peeves is the writer who thinks he needs to put every last detail on paper. It might be a place or a person. It might be a room. Whatever it is, the description becomes exhausting. “I want them to see it,” the writer usually says.

I’ve red-penned entire pages written to describe a room; two or three pages to describe how a character looks and what she is wearing.

You’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That doesn’t mean that when you describe a picture – some visual element – that you need to use a thousand words. Hemingway said, “We’re not interior decorators.” Good advice. Now, how do we use it?

Let’s look at this from the point of view of the reader. With a description, you have the choice of involving the reader in building an image in the mind or of spoon-feeding that image. Which do you think is more effective in holding the reader’s attention?

For example, have you ever listened to a radio drama? Or listened to a talk-show? Don’t you imagine what the people in the show look like? Does it matter that you “see” a person as middle-aged and heavy while someone else builds a mental image of a thirty-something who is tall and thin?

The point here is that the radio show involves the listener in building a mental image. That exercise gets the listener invested in the show. Without realizing it, the listener is filling in the blanks regarding what characters look like, where they are, and what they are doing.

Conversely, if the show spent minutes describing what each of the show’s participants looked like or their setting, the listener would get bored. Spoon-feeding details does not create a participative experience.

Same with readers.

The simple solution is to focus on a very specific aspect of a setting, a thing, or a character and let the reader build the rest in his or her mind.

Example of over-describing: The knife had a stout wooden handle of what looked like oak or maybe maple and was about five inches long. From one end a short, curved blade protruded about three inches. It looked sharp. The blade was rusted, but the edge shone like it had just been drawn across a whetstone. The whole blade was sharply curved like an eagle’s talon. It was the kind of knife you could slip into a pocket.

Example of specific focusing: The knife had a wicked little blade, curved like an eagle’s talon; not a stabbing weapon, but rather designed to open you up.

In the shortened example, the reader is presented more with the function of the knife, rather than its physical attributes. Maybe the reader views it as a linoleum knife, or the kind of knife used to shuck oysters. Whatever the reader visualizes is fine. The reader is building an image, participating in the process.

When faced with the task of describing, less information is better than a data-dump. Be specific and let the reader help with the lifting rather than turning the reader into a mental couch-potato.

Matt Bayan

Camp NaNo is starting on April 1st. 

By Rene Averett

For those who don’t know, this is another writing initiative of NaNoWriMo. Two Camp NaNos happen each year; one in April and one in July. While the November main write-in encourages 50,000 words in the month, the April and July ones allow the writers to set their own goals for the month. You can choose to write a 10,000-word short story, a 30,000-word novella, a script, or to edit a novel. 

To join in, you can go to Nanowrimo.org and sign up, create your project, then select a camp if you’d like to be part of a group working on projects. In Reno, our Reno Nano Facebook group is already geared up and ready to go. We have a Camp Reno group on NaNoWriMo and will be doing regular sprints on Facebook. I am one of the co-municipal liaisons for our area. To join the Facebook group, go to:

Why join the group? Mainly for incentive and company, albeit distant, while writing. The sprints encourage you to write two or three times a day for an hour each time with others. It gives you a burst of adrenaline when you know you’re trying to get as many words as possible in an hour against other writers. No matter how many you get during the month, you’re a winner. It’s also a boost if you’re in edit mode. That’s what I plan to be doing for the month. My November NaNo novel has loitered long enough, and it’s time for it to be whipped into shape. Virus be damned, this novel needs to get done.

So, if you need incentive, inspiration, and others to spur you along, join us for the April Camp Nano.

(This a reprint of a previously published article. A reminder now and then is good, plus we have several new members. – Editor)

The Golden Ticket

By Linda Enos

As authors, we know writing is hard. Real hard. Brutal even. It’s beyond tough to get the story points right, create compelling characters and avoid the dreaded “mushy middle.” But as the saying goes, if writing was easy, everybody would do it.

Still, it’s in our nature as humans to try to find ways to turn what’s difficult into something less so. In short, we’re looking for a Golden Ticket – a way to make the arduous task of writing easy. That’s why we buy books on characterizations and attend workshops on plotting. But news flash…such a golden ticket doesn’t exist. Why? Because, as with so many things in writing, an author’s process is subjective.

That’s right. Subjective. The concept we all love to hate. A writing method which works for Author A, probably won’t work for Author B. Or for you. Does this mean you should stop trying to better your craft? Absolutely not!! It just means you can’t take everything that anyone says as gospel. You need to glean the tidbits which work for you because – and here’s the kicker –you have a writing process too. One unique to you, and you alone. So read those books and attend those workshops on writing, but remember…there’s no golden ticket. Just a lot of hard work.

HSW Short Story Writing Competition 

HSW is sponsoring another short story writing competition this year. We are delayed in getting this going and hope to have the details for the next newsletter.

At the moment, we are seeking any of you who would like to be on the contest committee. This does not bar you from entering the contest. So, if you would like to be part of the planning, please send an email to RPAverett@gmail.com 

The committee will be determining the rules, goals, fees, and seeking judges for it. None of them will be part of the actual judging. We hope to have qualified folks outside our group doing the honors.

For now, our meetings will be online via email or possibly a chat program.

Your Mailing List

by Rene Averett

For any writer, a mailing list is considered an essential part of your marketing tools. If you’re self-published, it can be the most important part of it. But how do you set up and grow your list?

The main things you need to create a successful list are:
1) A way to gather and store the email addresses of potential readers. 
2) A way to be able to safely send emails to everyone on your list.
3) A way to attract readers to sign up or opt-in to your emails.

1) Beginning with a way to gather and store the information, you need a mailing list marketing provider, such as MailChimp, MailerLite, and Hubspot, to name a few. You can find more with a brief description at:

Consider this: If you are using a Word Press site for your author website, you can include a sign-up form that will store your subscribers on the site. When you want to send a notification of a new book or a press release, you can do it through Word Press. No need for a separate mailing program.

The advantage of a mailing program versus Word Press’s mailing list? You can target your email. If you write in more than one genre or with pen names, you can set up your opt-in to include a tick box indicating genre or pen name preferences. When you send out a new release for that particular genre, you can select only those people on your list who are interested. 

2) Safely sending emails. When you ask people to subscribe, you’re also taking responsibility for their email addresses. If you don’t have a mailer program that sends to individual addresses rather than a group of emails, then you aren’t keeping that email secure.

So, you could store your addresses in Excel or another database, but unless you want to send an individual email to each person, you would be sending group emails that display the address to everyone on the list. This is time-consuming when it can be automated. Both MailChimp and MailerLite are free to use up to 1,000 subscribers, then the cost is reasonably low. 

3) A way to attract readers is called a magnet. The most frequently used attractions are free stories, books, or information pieces of writing offered to readers when they come to your web site. You’ll have a short teaser with a flashy image, then an opt-in box to your mailing list. To get the free item, the reader signs up, and an auto-responder sends the reader the link to the free item. This may require a paid subscription at some mailing services to set up a free response page. 

You can direct readers to your site for a free download by including the information in a blog post or by adding it at the end of your book. This is particularly effective if you have a short story that expands on your novel or a character with more information that isn’t in the book. 

A good way to handle the free downloads is to use Prolific Works or Book Funnel to direct your readers to get the download of your magnet in the correct format for their e-readers. Prolific Works costs $20 a month for a single user while Book Funnel has a $10 a month plan for new users for an individual user. If you use more than one pen name, the cost goes up. Both of these services cater to the readers with Prolific Works and offer free books or partial books in promotions. That can be another whole article, so if you want to know more, I’ll cover that another time.
Words of warning: If you use the free options other than as a download for a magnet, advance reader copies, or reviews, and you have the book enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, it violates Amazon’s terms of service. So don’t make the book publicly available on either PW of BF if you’re in KU. 

The HSW Newsletter is seeking craft or marketing articles from anyone in the group who has knowledge to share. If you would like to write an article for us, please contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com with a short description of the subject. Articles should not be more than 800 words.


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March 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting

Saturday March 14 at 10 a.m.
Location: Scheels at Legends in Sparks
     Meeting room is on the second floor to the left of the restrooms. 

Alexanne Stone, who is an expert in body language, will be our guest at this meeting. See Matt’s article below for more details. The morning meeting is free to attend. The workshop will extend to the afternoon, which is a paid workshop for two hours. The cost is $10. You may pay online via PayPal at: 

Or you may pay by check or cash at the meeting. See Rene, the treasurer, to pay. 

The meeting will include First Pages. If you wish to participate, please bring only the first page of your work printed in 12 point, double-spaced type. Do not include your name, but the title is okay and the genre is helpful.


 Think of an actor who impresses you. Now think of some characteristic gesture or dramatic moment for that actor. Examples: (Leonard Nimoy) Mr. Spock’s lifted eyebrow; (Marlon Brando) Don Corleone’s dismissive hand gesture; Kate Hepburn’s smile in Philadelphia Story; Humphrey Bogart flicking away a cigarette; (Anthony Hopkins) Hannibal Lecter’s chilling stare.
juliet o'hara eye roll GIF

Not one of these gestures involves talking. These actions are what actors call “business.” With the greats, pieces of business become iconic moments. Certain roles become classics.

The one underlying idea that holds all of these different acting moments together is that they differentiate the characters. Add dialogue and the distinctions between characters become even more pronounced.

What kinds of business are you giving your characters? What kind of dialogue? Subtle gestures worked into your scenes can reinforce the reader’s sense of a character or undercut it. Body language can inform the reader of things unsaid. It can also make characters instantly recognizable. How many times in a review have your read someone lauding that “the characters jumped off the page?” Assuming a reviewer was not on an acid trip and this didn’t really happen, isn’t that the kind of response you want readers to feel about your characters?

Our Body Language Workshop will explore ways to differentiate characters, to make them deeper and more interesting, to give hints and foreshadowing through expressions and gestures.

Alexanne Stone, an expert consultant on body language, will conduct our workshop after the regular meeting on March 14. She held a shorter session with us a few months ago and the response was so positive, we’ve invited her back for an entire workshop.

The session will run all afternoon, so we suggest bringing lunch for the break between the meeting and the workshop. The price is $10 which can be paid directly on our web site before 3/14. Alexanne will conduct a teaser session during our regular meeting from 11 AM to noon, so if you then decide to stay for the workshop, you can pay the fee on-site. Help us out by bringing a check or cash unless you’ll have the ability to go online and pay with your phone or computer.

Critique Group Meeting

Since the regular HSW meeting is extended to the afternoon on Saturday, March 14, Linda Enos’s critique group meeting has been moved to Sunday, March 15 at 11 a.m. at Scheels. This will be in the upstairs meeting rooms.

If you are looking to join or start a critique group, please email Linda at: linda.r.enos@gmail.com She will try to connect you with others in your genre. Also if you are looking for a finish group, one that will read and critique on the finished novel, also let Linda know. These tend to form when we have four or five writers ready to do it.

Membership Renewal

If you were an HSW member in 2019 and have not yet renewed, it’s time to do it. After this newsletter, the HSW newsletter will no longer be emailed to you until you renew. In order to enjoy all the privileges of being a member, please renew now. If you have already renewed, thank you.
If you are uncertain if your membership is current, this is the record for your current status showing expiration date:
<< Test Display Name >> << Test Expiration >>

If you believe this is incorrect, please contact Rene at ruamor@sbcglobal.net so she can check on it.

Volunteers Needed!

We are currently looking for members to step up to be on the Contest Committee. These members will set up the rules for the next HSW writing contest, administer the contest to include deadlines, judges, prizes, and any other related items. The next planned contest is for a short story. So far, the details have not been set, so that will be the first task. If you are interested, please contact Rene at ruamor@sbcglobal.net


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