30 DAYS ON MARS, By Which I Mean “About” Mars. Because I’m Sneaky Like That.


Welcome to 30 Days of cool pictures, thoughtful articles, and intriguing facts related to the Red Planet. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for daily updates on my Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts!

Hopefully, by now you’ve had a chance to see THE MARTIAN (review here) and you’re excited about the possibility of sending humans to Mars. Did you know there are people practicing for this right now? Here on Earth? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

In writing the SAVING MARS books, I was intrigued by the idea of having two world cultures which had solved their “how do we get along” issues in very different ways. The Rebody Program on Earth was meant to ensure a level of stability while incentivizing humanity to be on their best behavior so as to earn a better “rebody” when the time came. In contrast, the harsh realities of life on Mars would incentivize humans to be on their best behavior because it wouldn’t do to offend the neighbor who might save your backside during the next dust storm, power outage, and so on. While I was writing, I worried often that I was making my Marsians “too good” to be true. While I had no problem believing an individual like Secretary General Mei Lo would behave selflessly on a regular basis, it seemed to me I might be stretching the truth about humanity by positing an entire culture where “we need one another” was a byword. Imagine my delight when I came upon a post written by a participant in a simulated long duration Mars mission which addressed the issue of getting along in the tight quarters of a Mars Analog Habitat.


There have been some pretty cool Mars Analog Habitats in the past twenty years, but none has been more ambitious than one happening right now called HI-SEAS, an acronym for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. Six men and women are currently simulating a one year, long-duration Mars mission on Mauna Loa in Hawaii. You can find their blogs here, including one in German and one in French in case any English speakers want to get some language practice in while learning about life on sMars (simulated Mars).

I started reading Sheyna Gifford’s blog posts about a month ago, and this stood out to me: “In this dome, not a single one of us is replaceable. From dawn to dusk, and at all points in between, the reminders are continual. Every time I turn to a computer to do a task, I fleetingly recall that I can’t run the habitat computer network by myself. I could be trained to, any of us could, but we don’t have to, nor do we have any time to, in light of our other tasks.”

When I was imagining the social structure of my Mars colony in the SAVING MARS series, there came a point where I had to stop worrying about how realistic it was for a group of colonists on a hostile world to get along and just write the darned story. Still, I’ve fretted over this decision for four years. Was I being overly optimistic or were my assumptions plausible? I can tell you this much: Imma sleep a lot better now that Sheyna Gifford set the record straight for me! (You can download SAVING MARS here.)

Gifford continues, “If you just can’t imagine living in harmony in a 1000 square foot dome with five other people, think about it this way: No matter how much someone may vex you, if you need them to eat, drink, and breathe you are going to find a way to get along with them.” Wow. That. I’d encourage you to read the article in its entirety to see what else Gifford has to say about life on Mars. Er, sMars. And after you make your way through Gifford’s blog, there are five more crew blogs to enjoy!

What do you think? Are Gifford and I too optimistic or about right? Comment for an entry to win a signed paperback! (US only, Int’l entries eligible for signable eBook.)


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Coming Soon: 30 Days on Mars! For now, please enjoy: 7 Admittedly Peculiar Reasons I Loved THE MARTIAN

I can neither confirm nor deny that I read Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN four times once I finished writing the SAVING MARS series. Hey, I was … homesick. Having (almost) admitted to massive exposure to Weir’s novel, you can bet I had high expectations for Ridley Scott’s movie version.


tl/dnr version: I LOVED IT. 

(Super Minor Spoilers Ahead)

Peculiar Reason 1: EYE CANDY

Nope, I’m not talking about any of the (quite attractive) actors cast in the movie. I’m talking about Mars. Mars—sighhhhhhhh. From the opening shots to the final farewell, Mars is lookin’ good. Real good. A few of my fave moments? The starry night shot, the shots of dust devils and their trails, and of course the moment Astronaut Mark Watney wakes to the sound of his O2 alarm going ballistic because: CO2 poisoning!

Peculiar Reason 2: INSPIRATIONAL


Seriously. I dare you to not want to hit rewind and change your life so you, too, can work at NASA or JPL. Weir’s self-published version ended with Watney on a park bench munching pizza. The Crown/Random House published version ended with Watney on the Hermes, musing about the cost of saving one dorky botanist. The movie version ends with Watney teaching a classroom of hopeful astronauts. AND YOU TOTALLY WANT TO BE ONE OF THEM!

Peculiar Reason 3: THE HUMOR

One of the best parts of the book THE MARTIAN is the humor. From Watney’s self-effacing gallows humor to Annie Montrose’s outrageous swear-fests, this book is funny. LOL funny. Snorting diet coke out your nose funny. I would love to know the percentage of new dialogue vs. book dialogue. I would guesstimate maybe 15% of the original dialogue was preserved? (Oooo! Reason to watch it repeatedly until I can actually speak with authority!) But even with the deletion of soooooo much great stuff, the screenwriter preserved the humor. (Yay, Drew Goddard—you done good, kid!)


You cannot simultaneously inspire young engineers and astronautlings and reproduce the original language of the book. The language is funny as youtube cat videos, but it isn’t kid-friendly. I counted one actual f-bomb (which I’m presuming earned the movie its PG-13 rating—or maybe that was the grizzly self-surgery….) and several absolutely genius ways of conveying the same sentiment in a less offensive way. These made me sit up and take notice as a writer. Now, if I could just find a non-visual equivalent way to reproduce Watney’s (movie version) response to hearing his crewmates don’t know he’s alive.

Also, for those of you who recall Watney’s response to NASA’s request that he keep his language family friendly because THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING, well, I’ll just say  there’s a wee moment for all of us in-the-know to recognize what NASA is seeing on the screen when Watney answers.


I think it was very smart to release a family-friendly version of this story. You can, you know, take your family to see this. Plus, ’tweens and teens have a high tolerance for repeat viewings of fave movies. (My son, then 17, went to movie screenings of the first Hunger Games movie seven times.) Such a smart marketing decision. My takeaway? Go thou and do likewise.

Family-friendliness, incidentally, played into my decision to have original swearing language (aka, fake swears) in the SAVING MARS series. I wanted moms and dads to be able to read it with their future astronautling kiddos. Okay, aaaaaand I loved the conceit I used to explain the reason there wasn’t any traditional swearing on the Mars colony. (… by common consent, it was agreed that the use of curses which gave grave offense to the person who might save your hide in the next dust storm was probably inadvisable.)



Okay, not sexy-sexy, but you know what I mean. It would be hard to watch this film and not get a little excited about sending astronauts to Mars. Go on. I double dog dare you. And we all know how Cidney feels about encouraging future generations to get excited about space, si?

Peculiar Reason 7: THE GIRL SAVES THE DAY


I loved that the Hermes/Ares 3 mission was captained by a woman. I loved that Mindy Parks was the one to figure out Mark was alive. And I just plain loved Annie Montrose, potty-mouth and all. My point? There are interesting, smart, savvy women in aerospace careers in THE MARTIAN. What I would have given to read a story like this when I was a kid! I grew up on re-runs of Kirk and Spock. Lieutenant Uhura was my total idol. (A girl! In space! Who did important stuff!) Now, I watch those old re-runs and get angry Uhura wasn’t given More Important Stuff to Do, but I digress….

In THE MARTIAN, the movie, Commander Lewis literally saves Watney’s, erm, derrière. This is a departure from the novel, and I liked it. Thanks, Hollywood! Even though I grew up watching Apollo launches and hearing school talks by a astronauts, I never considered I *could* grow up and work at NASA. It was all dudes, dudes, dudes in my day. (I Dream of Jeannie, anyone?) Women (and non-whites, although I wish there had been a major character non-white female in the movie—sadface) were everywhere in this movie. If I were still a kid, I would be able to look at the gender distribution and say, “Look: a place I could belong!”)

So there you have it: my 7 highly personal reasons for loving this movie enough that I will probably return to see it another 7 times.

What did you like about THE MARTIAN?

The It’s About Time Post

I admit it’s been awhile since I’ve visited le blog. Okay. A very long while. It’s been one of those years, you know? Where there are entirely too many weddings, graduations, and writing deadlines. But I’ve been meaning to squee over showcase a few of my favorite things, and now that they’re out in the world, I figured it was time.

Before too much longer, the rest of the books will be available in paperback, too! Meanwhile, happy viewing!

(Special note: Amazon doesn’t make these covers in paperback easy to find. Boo! They tell me that they display the most popular item first, and since the old covers have been ordered WAY more times than the new, guess what they display? To order these covers and not the older covers, you have to click through a few levels! I’ll make it easy and direct link you here: Saving Mars AND Defying Mars.)

Both of these gorgeous pieces of art are by the fabulous Nathalia Suellen, who knows how to make dreams come true. Wondering about the locations for each image?Okay, okay, I’ll tell you!

So, the second one’s pretty easy: it’s the Crystal Pavilion in New Houston. The first one is trickier. Remember the Awards Banquet? There were trees inside and some of the students were picking the fruit and tossing ’em after one bite. Nathalia’s image is inspired by that moment in the trees. I would happily walk into either of those locations in a heartbeat. Well, maybe not if Lucca Brezhnaya’s nearby….

What location would you visit from the Mars series, given the chance?

Welcome to the Spring 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Pink Team

I’m Cidney Swanson and I love Pie, Sunshine, and Big Fat Books! I write YA novels about kick-butt heroines and the boys they kiss (Oops! Spoiler!)

This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck to give readers access to exclusive bonus material from new authors and to win awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of thePINK TEAM–but there are seven other teams!If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Directions: Below, you’ll find my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the Pink Team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Today, I am hosting Angela Myron on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Angela Myron was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1973. She grew up in the piney forests of southern British Columbia, studying tiny blue bells, dodging hidden cacti, and creating fantasy worlds in her back yard.  Angela studied biology and professional writing at the University of Victoria in Canada and San Francisco State University. She wrote grant proposals for nonprofits, technical manuals for software, and freelance journalism before writing fiction.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!
Myron cover

When strange accidents start happening around thirteen year-old necromancer Ennara and her friends, she must search for the mysterious stolen artifacts causing the attacks while learning the highest form of magic—the spells that could prevent the fruition of a terrible prophecy.

From Book Three: Ennara and the Silver Throne
Ennara glanced at the night sky as their horses rode to the lake. The stars were familiar, same as the ones back home. She exhaled deeply. For a moment, at least, she could pretend she was back in Hogin. The air bought her back immediately. Thin, crisp, mountain air. Not the air of home.
The procession slowed. Attendants drew close to the King’s steed, fixing his trail and smoothing the horse’s mane. His majesty brushed them off.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” he said in a rough tone. “It’s only a carnival, not a pageant.”
Before them, lining the eastern shore of a dark mountain lake, stretched the bright-lit tents of a gypsy caravan. Strange shapes moved between them—tall, squat and round, and curious shapes. As they drew closer, the torchlit circus revealed bears, lions, and monkeys dressed as humans, a man walking on stilts, and another, small and round, dressed in a jester’s costume. Townspeople filtered in and around the tents, and the air was filled with a din of laughter, speeches, applause, and an occasional squeal of delight.
Ennara and Kithe walked close to the King, followed by his court. Slowly, pairs drifted away, until the monarch and two foreigners were alone with three guards. The king turned to them and smiled.
“The finest carnival in the land, this is. And one of the few opportunities my court has to become engaged with something other than me.” He chuckled. His voice was warm, deep, and proud, but his eyes held a sadness that even the fair could not touch, Ennara thought.
One of his advisers, the elderly, balding gentleman, emerged from a tent nearby. “Your Majesty, you must come see. They have a young dragon from Tzu, and an egg!”
The King’s eyes brightened. “A dragon!” He and the guards disappeared into the tent.
Ennara and Kithe turned to follow. A bony hand caught Ennara’s wrist.
“A fortune, perhaps, for the young couple?” A hunched, old woman with long gray hair and thick dark eyebrows tugged at her. She wore the flowing black dress of a gypsy widow. Her dark eyes flashed behind the creases of the long life.
Ennara turned to Kithe and blushed. The young man, now a foot taller than her, smirked and shrugged.
“Why not?” his deep voice asked. He mocked a bow and held out his arm to hers.
Ennara bit her bottom lip. She could think of a few why nots. She placed her hand on his arm and nodded demurely. They would not need to pretend to be royals long. And if the fortuneteller actually saw anything about who they really were, Ennara would hypnotize the woman and make her forget.
They entered a small tent covered in thick carpet and large pillows. The woman toddled over to a maid in a green shift and mumbled some instructions to her, then sat on a low upholstered chair before a short wooden table.
“Come, sit.” She motioned to some pillows before her.
Thick, fragrant smoke billowed up before their eyes as the attendant placed new incense in brass urns flanking the table. Kithe coughed. Ennara’s eyes burned.
“Okay,” Kithe objected, “can we lay off the smoke?”
“Ah, the young hero.” The old woman laughed. “And the girl who cannot see.”
Kithe gripped her hand. “Ennara, something isn’t right. You’re fading…”
Ennara’s mind felt heavy, as if her thoughts were slogging through a swamp. Or was she? Everything seemed so confused. Smells of the swamp at Cottonwood Lake filled her nose. She thought she heard birds in the distance. Her legs immobile, she struggled to wade through the mud. Branches whipped her arms. Images flashed before her. A stone room overlooking a high mountain ascent. A wraith gripping her mind, squeezing life and love from her.
She gasped. There she stood, in Ardewynn’s chambers again. A full moon flooded the chamber, casting it in a silvery pall.
Footsteps sounded behind her. Ennara spun and choked on a scream.
“Oh, my dear.” A crackling voice came from the darkened hood of a tall cloaked figure. “So kind of you to come. Now, let’s see about having a longer stay this time, shall we?”
A mummified hand lifted a silver manacle from the interior of the robe. It was decorated with a purple gem with green flecks in it.
Ennara stumbled back. The lich grabbed her. Her hand sizzled, and she looked down to see a small gold and green dragon crouching on her hand, bellowing flames at the undead sorcerer. Her eyes grew wide as the tiny creature unwrapped its tail from her wrist and took flight, stretching golden wings. It screeched and breathed flames onto the undead sorcerer again.
In the distance, Ennara heard a sweet ringing of bells. Was she awake, or in a dream? The dragon perched on her shoulder and whispered, ”Rocen, ghergo vorastrixiv.”
Ennara blinked. She was in the old woman’s tent again, smoke stinging her eyes and making her mind heavy. Crashes came from the side of the room where Kithe struggled with the attendant.
He pushed the woman away and glanced around the room. His eyebrows knotted as he looked into the basin perching on the table between the mystic and Ennara.
“Ennara!” he shouted as he crossed the room to the basin. “We need to get out of here!”
The attendant rose from the floor behind him, her eyes blazing with fury. She pulled a knife from her belt.
Kithe knotted his brows once more at the basin, then plunged his hand in. The fortune teller screamed, and the attendant rushed at Kithe, knife raised. He withdrew his hand, gripping the Sword of Gisilfrid.
“Kithe?” Ennara shook her head. “What…?”
Kithe spun around, the sword flashed through the darkness. The young woman screamed and crumpled onto the floor beside him.
A wild cackle penetrated the smoke. Kithe bent to take Ennara’s arm and lift her to her feet.
“We need to go, now,” he said.
The old woman straightened to a towering height, her visage taking on a skeletal profile. She held up a finger.
A man’s voice, familiar, dark, and brooding came through the mask, “Play well, young sorceress, and bide your sunny days in your false harmony. They end soon.”
Ardewynn’s laughter filled the tent.
“Die, fiend!” Kithe swung the sword at the lich, but sliced through smoke. The fortuneteller was gone.
And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Angela Myron, and more! To enter, you need to know my favorite number is 5! Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the PINK TEAM and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author!

Does Life Imitate Art or What?

Apparently it does. At least, NASA is hoping to take a page from an important bit of the SAVING MARS story.


If you’re my age or even a bit younger, you probably remember when Halley’s Comet last came to call. At the time, there was a mania for sending a craft into the tail of the comet to find out what we could of its composition. The US, rather than missing out, chose to divert an existing satellite (used to observe solar phenomenon) into the tail of both Halley’s and the Giacobini-Zinner Comet. However, the scientist who “stole” the satellite promised to try to return it in the future.

Fast forward thirty-one years to the present day. Apparently, the sun and the earth and the satellite formerly grabbing comet data are now in positions such that the satellite can be returned to its original task.


No one working in the space industry today knows how to talk to the aged satellite. Even the hardware required has been dumped in favor of upgraded equipment.
Sound familiar?

I was so tickled to hear about this, and of course I am hoping they can pull an Ethan Jaarda and get that satellite back where they’d like it to go! Check out the article here (especially the diagram showing the orbital maneuvers necessary to get the equipment out to the comets!)

Anybody else have a “life imitates art” moment to share? I’d love to hear it!

Happy St Patrick’s Day: Kindle Fire HD Giveaway

A giveaway of 2 Kindles!!

The first one is available via the rafflecopter below. The 2nd is available only to bloggers who post about this giveaway. You can find info on how to enter in the rafflecopter.

Kindle Fire HDX March

Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)

Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HDX 7″.

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7″ Kindle Fire HDX (US Only – $229 Value)


Or $229 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)


Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)



Giveaway Sponsors:

I Am A Reader
Feed Your Reader
Inspired Kathy
Ripple Effect Romance Series
Author M.A. George
The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something year Old Girl
Meredith & Jennifer’s Musings
Owl Always Be Reading
Author Jennifer Laurens
Bonnie Blythe’s Pure Romance
Bella Street’s Weird Romance
Author Jennifer Faye
Good Choice Reading
Reviews from a Bookworm
Barbara Silkstone
Rae Z. Ryans, Author
The Stubby Pencil
Author David Pandolfe
Hallowed Ink Press
Author Louise Caiola
The Reporter and The Girl
More Than a Review
Kathryn Jones
Once Upon a Twilight
Author Jason Parent
Author Amanda Tru
Author Cidney Swanson
Paige W. Pendleton
Claudia Burgoa
P.M. Richter – author
RoAnna Sylver
Tigris Eden
The Bloggers Nest
J.L. Weil
The Cheap Ebook
Luthando Coeur
Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke
Author Alecia Stone
Rebecca Talley
Author Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Simple Wyrdings
Tressa’s Wishful Endings
Paranormal book Club (PBC)
Author Stephanie Faris
Author Inger Iversen
Author Theresa DaLayne
Where The Broken Lie by Derek Rempfer
Bound 4 Escape
Author Laura Diamond


Sign up to sponsor the next Kindle Giveaway here:



Giveaway Details

1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7″ HDX (US Only – $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International).

There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7″.

Ends 3/31/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Do You Write Stories or Observations or Both?

This past weekend, I was a presenter at the first annual Wordcrafters in Eugene conference where we were very focused on craft. (Where I also got the Best Swag Ever: a spa robe!)


When I prepare for workshops or intensives, I often find myself revisiting some of my old writing, which leads me to ponder my writer-ly habits and traits.

When I was a kid, I wrote stories.  Lots of stories. They had inciting incidents, escalating events, a climax, and a resolution. I didn’t know these terms back then, but I read lots of books, and reading taught me this particular order of events was a satisfying one for readers.

Then, when I grew older and took creative writing classes and joined critique groups, I wrote description. Carefully, lovingly observed descriptions of the natural world, anatomies of conversations as they really happened, observations involving all five senses.

I don’t want to make it sound like either of these types of writing was more important than the other. In fact, it strikes me that both are valuable. For a teller of tales, it’s critical that you learn how to accurately describe the world around you or the world you imagine. And it takes lots of practice. Maybe this is the equivalent of practicing scales for a pianist or vocalist? On the other hand, most of us who want to hear someone playing piano won’t listen to a skillful demonstration of scales.

So, as a writer, I have to get really good at description. I have to practice it. I have to understand it. But, in the end, I have to tell a story, too. 100,000 words of description does not a novel make.

So that got me curious: Anyone else have this experience of having written stories first and then switching to writing description?

VISIBLE Now For Sale at All E-tailers


Just a quick post to let you know Apple and Kobo have joined Amazon and Barnes and Noble in making VISIBLE, Book Four in the Ripple Series, available as an eBook. If you are waiting on the paperback, that should be coming in about four weeks. (Hopefully by St Patty’s Day!)

VISIBLE picks up where Unfurl left off, so you should read books one, two, and three of the Ripple Series before diving in.




New Ripple Title Coming (Very) Soon!

If you have read about my writing habits, you know I like lots and lots of revision. I also find it super helpful to step away from my stories in between drafts. Over the course of a year and a half, I have a lot of “down time” during which I set my manuscripts aside to age.

This year (and a half), I did something fantabulous with all that downtime: I wrote a whole ‘nother book! I am so very pleased to announce that the Ripple Trilogy now has a companion title. Okay, it’s a read-after title.  But it is full length and it is publishing just in time for Valentine’s Day.  *Squee!*

visible ms

VISIBLE, A Ripple Novel, tells the story of Gwyn and Christian in the days after Unfurl ends. If you aren’t already on the New Release List, you might want to sign up now!  I can’t tell you how excited I am about this story, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. (Yes, that is the actual first page from one of the late revisions of VISIBLE.)

Next week: Cover Reveal!

Are we excited yet???

**Mars fans who are holding your breath: so am I. Actually, I’m working like crazy to get it finalized for release this Spring.**

RIPPLER News I’m Excited About!

This is just a quick post (and giveaway!) to let you know 2 things:


1) Rippler has been included in a 6 e-book Box Set for just .99 including best-selling authors SM Reine and Sarra Cannon! Woohoo! (And yes, they still pay us authors!) If you like your fantasy heroines edgy, you can pick up copies at these e-tailers:


Barnes & Noble


2) Rippler, Chameleon, and Unfurl have received paperback face lifts! I love the new matte covers.


To celebrate these two things, I’m giving away a signed copy of RIPPLER (US only) in all its matte-cover glory!
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