Behind the Scenes – Dusk Runner

A cover for Melange Books. For this one, we focused on conveying the genre of the book, rather than particular characters. As such, people who like other fantasy books in a similar vein to this one can easily recognize another book they might enjoy. The author suggested covers similar to those of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which reminded me of the cover art for Game of Thrones. I merged the two styles, and this is the result:

SBibb - Dusk Runner - Book Cover

For the back cover, I flipped the background from the front cover with a few adjustments. Also, I saved the bow and arrow silhouette as a smart object so that it could easily be resized and added to the spine if the publisher chooses to do so.

SBibb - Dusk Runner - Back of Book Cover

Stock images from Dreamstime:

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Thoughts on Publishing – A Blurb for Magic’s Stealing

As I get closer to publishing Magic’s Stealing, I’ve been compiling the various elements meant to catch a reader’s attention. While a lot of emphasis is placed on the book cover (and I’ve realized the current version I’m considering may be better suited to the third book, so I’m debating what I might use instead for the first), after the cover, a reader inevitably sees the blurb. The blurb should show what the book is about and entice a reader to either buy the book, or at least take a look inside.

However, as a writer, we’re so close to our stories that it’s hard to see what will draw the reader’s attention. I’ve posted my current idea for a blurb on Absolute Write (which is a very useful source of information for authors), and I’ve come up with two slightly different versions. The question is… which works better? Short and snappy? Or more details about the world?

In order to get a little more insight on the subject, I read through a few articles that discussed what makes a good blurb (see the links below if you’re interested), and came up with a list of elements to consider:

  • A sense of the main character(s). Who and what kind of character are they? (For Magic’s Stealing: Toranih is a young noblewoman who would rather have a sword in her hand than use magic to heal or throw fireballs.)
  • Just enough detail to show the type of story and what makes this book different. (For Magic’s Stealing: there’s a kingdom, magical ribbons, mages, shadows who are impervious to mortal weapons… and this is where I start to wonder if I need to hone in on the description)
  • What the main conflict/plot will be. (For Magic’s Stealing: Almost all magic is stolen from the kingdom, leaving two young mages–one of whom doesn’t like magic–to protect their home.)
  • A question that entices the reader, or leaves them wanting more. (For Magic’s Stealing: Will Toranih successfully adopt the responsibilities of a mage so she can fight the shadows? Or will she fail and cause her home to perish?)
  • Offer a taste of the writing style. (Maybe I can include a tiny clip at the beginning of the description. You know, those story bites usually seen in italics?)

These are the current versions of the blurbs that I’m considering for Magic’s Stealing.

Short Version:

Toranih would rather have a sword in her hand than use her powers to heal or throw fireballs, and as a result, her magic skills are lacking. But when the kingdom’s magic is stolen, she’s one of the few whose powers remain. With former mages dying from magic withdrawal, and the looming threat of an army of shadows who are impervious to mortal weapons, she must either adopt her neglected responsibilities as a mage or watch her home perish.

Long Version:

For centuries, ribbons of magic have provided the kingdom of Cirena with light, healing, and protection. Then, in a span of minutes, those ribbons fly from their masters, stolen, save for the ribbons of two young mages. One of these mages is Toranih, a noblewoman who never liked magic to begin with. The other mage is her best friend, Daernan, a gifted shapechanger who uses his magical sight to track the vanishing ribbons. Toranih would rather have a sword in her hand than use her powers to heal or throw fireballs, and as a result, her skills are lacking. But with former mages dying from magic withdrawal, and the looming threat of an army of shadows who are impervious to mortal weapons, she must either adopt the responsibilities of a mage or watch their home perish.

So my question to you is this: Which blurb, if either, holds your attention, and do they entice you to ‘look inside?’ Why? Or if you neither holds your attention, why not?

I’m concerned that the shorter one may read too fast, but that the longer one may loose readers with unnecessary information. One solution I’m considering is that Smashwords offers both a short and long description for retailers, and as such, I could use both descriptions in their respective sections. Anyone who wanted more information could click to read the longer description. In the meantime, if whichever description I choose for Amazon doesn’t seem to be working, I can try switching it out for the other and see which one works better.

I hope you enjoyed the post. Are there any blurbs that worked well for you? Anything you’ve found that didn’t?

A few articles I found particularly helpful while researching the subject:


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Thoughts on Publishing – Book Trailers

Isaac and I have been considering ways to promote our books once they’re ready. I’ve got a cover in mind for Magic’s Stealing, along with a couple possible blurbs, but we both agree that having a few other promotional materials meant to pique the interest of readers would be handy. One promo piece we’re considering is that of a book trailer.

Love ’em or hate ’em, a good book trailer catches the eye of a potential reader and either gets them to investigate what the book is about, or get them to make that final step toward picking up a book they’ve been on the fence about.

In order to get a feel for what makes a good book trailer, we perused Youtube and watched various (mostly young adult) book trailers. The below is our subjective conclusions.

Elements of a Good Trailer:

  • Music that fits the tone of the book. Compare the kind of music found in movies to your genre. A suspense might have suspenseful music. Horror might have music that is jarring or creepy. Action might be fast paced. Use music (make sure you have the right licence) to help convey genre to the reader.
  • Use cliches to catch interest… sparingly. If your book turns a cliche on its head, such as having a gladiator woman instead of a man… you might want to focus on that. Or you can hint at similarities in your book to other stories. For example, I showed my husband the book trailer for Throne of Glass (Note: I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how well the trailer matches it), which starts off with a silhouetted version of the character on the cover. Isaac’s first reaction was ‘is this Assassin’s Creed?’ Since the book is about an assassin, then it makes sense that people who enjoyed Assassin’s Creed might enjoy a book about an assassin. Using similarities to other books, games, or movies allows the reader to consider that, if they enjoyed the other story, they might enjoy this one, too.
  • Set the theme. Convey the mood and tone of the book, and offer a sense of setting. This was often done using the imagery and/or animation shown. But also show what makes this book different from other books with similar themes… why readers should pick up this particular book.
  • If you already have a fan base from an existing prequel, touch on what excited them about the first book, but don’t leave new readers without a sense of what’s going on.
  • Include the name of the book and the author, along with when and where it will be available. Include buy links once available, and make it easy for a potential reader to buy your book. Don’t forget to include the cover of the book somewhere in your trailer, so readers can link the trailer to the book when it comes time to buy it.
  • Give readers something to remember. Granted, be careful not to use a cheesy gimmick unless the story calls for it, but if the reader remembers (and likes) the trailer, they may be more likely to pick up the book later, if they choose not to buy it immediately. If the reader doesn’t remember the trailer, they may not be as likely to pick up the book if they come across it later.
  • If writing non-fiction, give a sense of what the book will be about, introduce the author… maybe include a bit of humor, if you’re the kind of author who uses humor in your book.
  • Simplicity is your friend. You may not need a voice-over or a bunch of flashy images. Sometimes a simple ‘what if’ hook will catch a reader’s attention, as can using more ‘booky’ graphics. Words on the screen, skillfully placed, can be effective.
  • When comparing book trailers to movie trailers, Isaac and I noticed that the movie trailer showed the type of characters involved (such as a strong female protagonist and the rough-but-romantic guy). Movie trailers were typically faster paced, and those trailers focused on higher-budget graphics (something books often don’t have… the graphics or the budget). Movies that disappoint in theatres often show clips in the trailer that don’t deliver a consistent feel once you watch the movie.

Elements of a Bad Trailer:

  • Audio: Some trailers were obnoxiously loud or really quiet and hard to hear. Or the dialogue wasn’t clear. Be sure your potential reader can understand what is being said.
  • Too much telling, and/or a trailer that goes on too long. If you go on and on… and on… you may loose the reader. Worse, they may assume your book will drag, too.
  • Don’t quote your blurb verbatim. Readers will read that when they look at the book. Give the reader something new or expand on something that might interest them. You want a hook.
  • Cheesy lines. This can be hard to judge, because certain tropes are common, but make sure your dramatic pauses are actually dramatic… and don’t have you rolling on the floor in a fit of giggles.
    • Unless that’s the kind of story you’re trying to tell. If so, then by all means do so. I bought one book because the campy humor of the trailer was too entertaining to pass up.
  • Too distracting. If the trailer uses flashy elements and distracting colors, or elements that seem out of place, readers may be too distracted by those elements to remember what the actual book is about.
  • Don’t have ads on your book trailer. Seriously… the trailer is an ad. Readers don’t need to see unrelated Youtube ads popping up on the screen while we’re trying to watch it. Having other ads (when you can control them) impedes the message you’re trying to send out.

One thought I had during this whole process was to create a ‘teaser’ for the book rather than a ‘trailer.’ The idea would be to convey a small, interesting part of your story (For Magic’s Stealing, an example might be to voice over a section of the story where the antagonist, Shevanlagiy, is speaking to a rival. The teaser could therefore show what the protagonist is going up against. For example, there’s a line in the current draft of Magic’s Stealing where she say: “I’ll destroy everything,” she whispered, “if it gives me the power I need.” Granted, a little more context might be helpful.) For a trailer, you want to give a sense of the story as a whole. But for a teaser… one trailer we saw used a small bit of dialogue, a small scene that might have been directly from the book to show what the protagonist is dealing with. But it didn’t necessarily say a lot about the larger story.


I hope you enjoyed this post, and in the meantime, Isaac and I will be considering the above when we go to make a trailer for Magic’s Stealing. But what are your thoughts? Have you found any book trailers to be particularly effective (or ineffective)? :-)


If you want to read more about book trailers:


Example trailers, you be the judge of good or bad:

(Note, I haven’t read all of these. I just watched the trailer.)

Throne of Glass:

An Ember in the Ashes:



The One:


The Monstrumologist:

How to Catch a Russian Spy:

The Glass Arrow:

Divergent: vs.


Half Bad:




The Raven Boys:

The Young Elites:


The Friday Society:

Miriam Black:


The Flame Alphabet:


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Sneak Peek – Battle Decks

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you may know that my husband, Isaac, and I are starting a publishing company for our stories and games. Well, I’ve talked a lot about the stories, but today I’m going to give you a peek into one of our games-in-progress: Battle Decks.

I’m not going to give a whole lot of detail on the game just yet, but I will say this: it’s a fantasy pseudo-steampunk table-top card game, where there are two battling factions and your goal is to take out the opponent’s hero cards. We’re considering the catch-phrase of “Dragons, dinosaurs, and dirigibles, oh my!”SBibb - Battle Decks Sneek Peek

Anyway, at this point in time, we have the basic mechanics of the game, stand-in cards, and we’ve played it on and off between ourselves over the past couple years. Currently, we’re in the process of creating the art for the actual cards. For the typical card, Isaac creates the base image with pencil on sketchbook paper. Then I go in and add the details, smoothing out the line art in the process. We then scan the page onto the computer. I retouch the pencil art in Photoshop CS6. Isaac does the basic coloring. Then I do the final touch-ups to the coloring and shade the image. That completes the basic art, up to the point we add them to their actual cards.

We’ve already ordered one proof of the first few cards, and there are tweaks to be made for readability. But it’s coming along, slowly but surely. There might be a set of stories planned around this game, too…

Your sneak peek is one character from each faction. :-)

SBibb - Battle Decks Sneek Peek

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Thoughts on Writing – Aging Up Characters

I’ve been getting feedback from beta readers for Magic’s Stealing, and one of the comments that has been fairly consistent is that the characters (which I intended to be around twenty years old) feel like they’re twelve- to sixteen years old, effectively making the story sound like it’s aimed at a middle grade or the lower end of the YA audience. Which isn’t a bad thing… if I meant for my characters to be younger. However, I’m hoping to get them to sound like they’re at least eighteen, so it’s time to consider what’s making them sound younger, and what can be done to make them sound older. :-)

To start with, once I knew that their age was an issue, I sought feedback from the beta readers. I needed to know why these characters were sounding younger.

1. Their actual age isn’t mentioned until later in the story. This leaves their age open for interpretation, and by the time a reader gets to the point where their age is mentioned, readers already have a solid idea of the characters’ ages in mind. (As a side note, there’s a book I read recently, Renegade by J.A. Souders, in which a certain intimidating character is revealed to be a child. The story is told in first person by a character who is brainwashed into thinking nothing of this, so she’s not surprised, but it is a twist for the reader. As a reader, I personally loved that twist. However, it did take me a little while to hold the image of a child in my head, rather than that of an older teenager. In  my current manuscript, I don’t want this kind of surprise for the age of my main characters, so I may need to bring up their ages sooner).

2. The characters act younger. In the opening scene, my main character, Toranih, is nervous because she’s been hearing footsteps and thinks she’s being watched. As soon as she ‘turns out the light,’ she dives under the covers of her bed. Personally, I love the image. However… this isn’t what we typically picture an older person doing. Therefore, the first impression is that Toranih must be younger. An option to fix this may be to have her consider diving under the covers, but she forces herself to walk calmly to bed. Or she may walk calmly to bed but reference that she’s going to bed with a knife at her side. Or… some combination thereof. Haven’t decided yet.

Darkness flooded Toranih Covonilayno’s sleeping chambers as she mentally extinguished her magic crystal’s light. She dropped the crystal on her dresser and rushed to her bed, then dove under the covers.

Silly, she knew, but the last few nights had brought strange creaking noises from the attic, soft footsteps and the brushing of rough wool on the edges of the wooden floorboard above. She listened now, waiting to see if the footsteps returned.

3. Lack of romance. The current draft doesn’t show much in the way of a romantic interest between the main characters. Now, that’s not to say you must have romance in a story to make it YA or adult, but without romance, this story seems like a more likely candidate for an MG novella. When I go to edit, I plan to hint a little more at the (lack of) romance between the main characters. I’m toying with the idea of having Toranih and Daernan ‘technically’ courting (mostly so Toranih can keep her father from trying to point other suitors in her direction, since she’s not necessarily interested in Daernan romantically), while Daernan actually does like her. Increases tension in the story, and gives a better clue about their age.

4. Expectations for the type of fantasy. Especially in YA, we seem to get a lot of hints that the teenage main characters are either actively seeking (or avoiding) marriage. These worlds have their characters finding partners at a younger age. In Magic’s Stealing, I’m going with the idea that the characters live longer and have a tiny bit more ‘modern’ of a society (with magic taking the place of electricity, but in an older setting with kingdoms and lords and ladies). However, to pull this off, I’m going to have to show more of their world. We need to see older characters walking in the streets. Maybe a reference to food spoiling when their ‘magic refrigerator’ no longer has magic to keep food cold. Maybe a reference that going to an academy for magic, versus sticking around and getting married, is a common occurrence. I’m considering having Toranih’s sister, Siklana, already be accepted into an academy (think college), rather than expecting to be accepted at the end of the month. Maybe she’s back at the manor because she’s visiting, and she’s planning to oversee the festival that takes place at the beginning of the book. And maybe Toranih actually is studying swordsmanship, rather than dreaming about it, but her lessons are private since she can’t convince her father that being a guardsman is fitting for a lady of her status (but she can’t pass her magic exams, so… what else is she going to do?). There’s a lot of world building opportunities here, and the great thing is that these changes don’t have to be major alterations.

5. Lack of (graphic) violence. Though there are a couple battle scenes, we don’t really see much blood spilled, and nor do we get graphic depictions of the shadows who are burned. Now, this doesn’t mean it isn’t for older readers, but it makes it more open to an MG audience. That being said, I’m  considering adding a bit more detail to these scenes, partially for the impact they have on the main characters, and partially so that once we get to the second book, it doesn’t come as a surprise when we actually start seeing more violence coming into play. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be gratuitous. Just means that the MC is going to be distinctly aware of what’s going on around them.

Her friend had backed into a rocky cove, but he was using that to focus his attention on the growing force of shadows in front. He shifted back and forth, thrusting each hand separately and delivering a blast of air or a blast of fire, to which they ducked and dived away.

The shadows shied from the wind, but they hated fire. They scuttled aside when his magic seared their hands and scalded their weapons. They sent new shadows to fight while they nursed their burns. Those burns healed, but slowly. And one shadow lay dead on the floor, burned beyond recognition, and did not appear to be healing at all.

Toranih shuddered. If these were mortal men, Daernan wouldn’t be using fire like this.

But fire did hurt them, and they weren’t mortal men.

6. How other characters perceive them. The antagonist refers to the main characters as the ‘boy’ and the ‘girl.’ Granted, from a god-like character who can’t die, it makes sense that she’d view these characters as being childlike. But with this scene placed early in the novel, it doesn’t help the perception of the main characters’ ages as being younger. I’ll probably keep these kinds of references for the actual deities, but at that point, the actual ages for the MCs should be established, so the reference should hint more at the internal thoughts of the deities in question.

A cloaked figure knelt beside a sprawling sycamore near the girl’s window, her eyes trained on the two owls.

Finally, they’re gone, the figure thought to herself. She climbed up the tree, bark catching on the tips of her leather boots, then slipped inside the open window. The room was dark, but the light crystal glowed with residual energy and lit the bare essentials.

The girl had rearranged the furniture since the night before. No night table or pile of books, and her usual set of sparring knives didn’t hang from the wall. Probably locked in the chest at the foot of the bed, or buried under the mattress.

There’s a lot of little things that could affect the perceived age of the main characters, and with a few tweaks here and there, I think I can have them sounding like they’re at least eighteen. And it’s worth noting that I do read a lot of YA and the occasional MG book. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that my narrative voice would lean that direction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and now it’s your turn. Have you had any experiences with your writing or reading where characters don’t sound like the age that they’re supposed to?


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The Infinitas Publishing Site is now Live!

I’m happy to announce that Isaac and I now have our Infinitas Publishing site live. :-D

Took most of yesterday (including a couple photoshoots) and a few hours here and there to get it up and running, but after finally figuring out how to get the domain properly mapped, it’s now up. You can read about the behind the scenes process on our first blog (written by Isaac):

A few parts of the site aren’t quite working yet (the upper banner doesn’t want to resize for mobile devices), but I’ve sent an email to the web host to see if they can help.

Also, we have a new twitter account where we’ll be making announcements in regards to the books and games we’re publishing:

Not much up at the moment, but it’s a start. We hope you enjoy it, and we have more plans for it as we continue to move forward. :-)

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Thoughts on Publishing – Pricing the Novella

Today, let’s talk business: What are you willing to pay for a novella?

When I went to ConQuest, I knew full well that I planned to fork over twenty bucks for a hardback copy of a book that contained two of Brandon Sanderson’s novellas. Sure, they’re available for purchase in ebook format for considerably cheaper, but having the hardback is nice, and I’m a fan of his work. (A note here: I’m the kind of person who likes having a hard copy, be it paperback or hardback. I’ll happily read non-fiction pertaining to publishing on my Kindle, but I have a difficult time reading fiction.) Anyway, I got the book signed at the convention, and I’ve read one of the stories (Perfect State) thus far. Even though I haven’t read the second one yet, spending that twenty dollars was worth every penny.

But not everyone is going to feel that way, and not for every book.

From the business perspective, I’ve got to figure out what readers are willing to pay for each book. Do I want to come up with a single, standard price range, or price them individually, according to length, genre, and various other factors? I don’t have the advantage of hiring a super-awesome illustrator for the cover art, or a top-of-the-line editor to make sure there aren’t typos. Not to start with, anyway (though I’ll sure do my best to find as many typos and errors as I can before I hit ‘publish’). Can I  make sure that the stories are the best they can be? Can I make sure that they are worth a reader’s hard-earned money?

I’ve determined that The Wishing Blade will be a series of (probably three) novellas. I’ve got the first one written, and it’s going through the process of being beta-read. Now the question I’m pondering is this: What should I price this novella, once I’ve completed edits and created the cover art?

On one hand, it’s a novella, so it’s not as long as a novel. I’m not sure how much money readers will be willing to spend, especially for an unknown author. While I do have several free pieces of flash fiction available on Smashwords, the style of writing varies, so it is unclear how many readers who download the freebies will be interested in the paid stories. I can’t price the stories as high as someone who already has a fan base. On the other hand, I’m trying to start a business. Which means that I actually need to be making money. The joy of self-publishing is that I get to wear two hats. I’m the creator, the author, and I’m also the business woman. So… provided that the stories are of a decent quality: engaging, not many typos, decent formatting, and good cover art, what should a novella be priced at?

I’m mostly going to look at Kindle’s (non-Select) pricing strategy, but I intend to sell on Smashwords as well:

99 cents: Not necessarily a bad spot for a short story, and many authors offer their novels at 99 cents as a way to promote their other works. However, the 99 cent price range only offers 35% royalties (I think it’s closer to 50-60% royalties on Smashwords, given that my “Ashes” short story, priced 99 cents, earned 56 cents after a Smashwords 10 cent cut and 33 cents transaction fee). The downside of this range is that people may pick up a 99 cent book on a whim, then forget about it because of the “it’s only a dollar” mentality.

$1.99: Long considered “the dead zone” in ebook pricing. I read a Smashwords report showing a trend of $2.99 vastly outperforming $1.99, and 99 cents doing just a bit better than the $1.99 range. Also keep in mind that Kindle only offers 35% royalties here. Not a lot of incentive to try this range, though I’ve seen trade publishers discount higher priced books to $1.99 on Book Bub. However, without actually testing this price range, it’s hard to say how well it performs for a specific story.

$2.99: Seems a bit high for a novella, with so many novels selling for $2.99, but is it? (See below list of example novella prices). At 2.99, Kindle authors get 70% royalties.  That’s around $2.00, versus 70 cents from pricing at $1.99, or 35 cents from pricing at 99 cents. And technically, if you hope to sell your novel at $4.99 or $6.99, that’s not too bad.

Now, one catch here is that I’m currently looking at the US dollar pricing. I haven’t even started to look at the UK or other territories. I’ll have to decide whether to try the retailer’s automatic price comparisons, or take a look at what’s selling in those stores and price it directly. This could be a bit difficult, though, given that the Amazon sites for other territories doesn’t show much what price they’re selling at. (Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on pricing, regardless of what currency you buy books with).

Here’s a few examples of novella length ebook prices in USD, from both independent and trade published authors (Note: I haven’t read all of these, I just did some research):

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson sells for $2.99. I think it classifies as a novella. “Mitosis,” a short story from his Reckoners series, sells for $1.99.
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer sells for $9.99 (46,600 words per Renaissance Learning)
  • The Invasion (an Animorphs book) by K.A. Applegate  sells for $5.99  (33,000 words per Renaissance Learning). Novella length, though meant for a younger audience.
  • Out of the Storm by Jody Hedlung is offered for free on Amazon. (The description suggests this is an introduction to her Beacons of Hope series).
  • Icefall by David Wood sells for $2.99 (approximately 30,000 words per article about the novella, and per Smashwords).
  • Elixer by Jennifer L. Armentrout sells for 99 cents (part of The Covenant Series).
  • Peacemaker by Lindsay Buroker sells for $2.99 (40,000 words, per her blog post).
  • Better World by Autumn Kalquist sells for $2.99. (A prequel novella to a novel series).

By the way, Renaissance Learning is great for finding the word count of books, especially middle grade and young adult.

One of the textbooks I was reading recently, which focused on small business management (never mind that it’s from the earlier 90s), talked about the perception of value when marketing a product. There were two factors considered: quality and price.

A note on the chart below: an unknown indie author does not mean low quality, simply untested. Unfortunately, many people still perceive self-published books to be of low quality, whether they are or not.

High quality and high price: Serves clientele with expensive tastes. (Think of a Big 5 publisher selling an ebook for 13.99 from a big-name author).

Low quality and high price: No one buys the product, because the perception of value around it is muddled. (Think of an unknown author selling their ebook at $13.99).

Low quality and low price: “Cheap.” Not highly valued, but considered a decent price. (Think of how 99 cent indie novels are often perceived).

High quality and low price: “A good deal.” (Think of a Big 5 publisher running a $1.99 ad in Book Bub for a regularly $9.99 ebook).

So, at this point, I’m thinking of making Magic’s Stealing available for $2.99. It’s currently sitting at 30,000 words.

I hope you enjoyed this post. :-) What are your thoughts and experiences in the matter?

If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, these are a few of the articles I read while doing my research:

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