31 May 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 25 comments

As a continuation of my rant from the other day, about my acquaintance who never got around to writing the book he’s got an idea for, I thought I’d discuss my take on the value of ideas.

Simply put, ideas don’t have a hell of a lot of value – they’re a dime a dozen.

What do I mean?

There’s an old saying in the venture capital world: ideas are worth, at most, 10% of the deal.


NEWS: JET – Ops Files is FREE for a limited time. If you don’t grab it while it is, you’re an ass clown. Don’t be one of those. Really.


In the business of writing, it’s probably even less. I can sit around with some drunk friends for an evening and come up with a plausible thriller. That’s the idea part. “The Federal Reserve can’t give back any of the gold it’s holding for foreign governments because it hypothecated it and sold it off over the last 40 years to keep the price depressed. One man learns the truth when he gets top secret internal Fed paperwork documenting the sales. And now the Fed’s owners will do anything to keep the secret.”

There’s the premise. Man on the run. A secret. A conspiracy (that’s actually probably 99% factual, as the NY Fed – a private bank, incidentally, contrary to what many people think – hasn’t been able to give Germany back its gold, and told it that it would take 7 years to give it back a fraction of what it’s “holding;” after refusing to allow Germany to see its own gold that the Fed says is “safe” in its vault, with a, “trust us, we’re the Fed!” Germany said, mmm, not so much, and demanded a portion of it back, you know, just for giggles. After stalling and posturing, the Fed delivered only half of what it committed to last year, and the bars it sent weren’t Germany’s – they were newly minted bars, absent the German government stamp). A cabal that will do anything to remain in power.

There. I just gave everyone a great, fact-based conspiracy to run with. Took me one minute. In a day or two I could flesh out a passable outline. You might be able to, too.

Now turn it into a page-turner. Oh. Not so easy. 100 people could write that story, and maybe one would be really good, a dozen would be competent but plodding, and the rest would vary from yawn to blech.

I’ve found that ideas are a very small part of being a successful writer. I’ve got enough of them to last me the next 100 years. Every time I read the news there are 20 ideas that occur to me. Malaysia Air crash? Sure – who or what was on board that made “them” need to take it down at all costs? Ukraine? Bam – the CIA has operatives posing as insurgents to destabilize the area as retribution for Russia blocking the US on Syria and Iran. 9-11? Don’t even get me started – not only are a slug of the supposed hijackers alive and well and working as pilots in Saudi Arabia to this day, but dust residue from an apartment across the way from the towers was tested and had significant levels of sulfur, the primary bi-product of thermite…as well as another ingredient that’s exclusively used in U.S. military thermite, for which there is zero explanation, and which is ignored by the media. Or perhaps less recent – America goes to war over the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which history now shows never happened (when it was reported, there were many claiming it didn’t, but the US press ignored the issue, toeing the party line). But at the time it was a CIA false flag attack to get the country into the conflict so that the small corporation whose largest shareholder was the President’s wife could become a centi-billion dollar conglomerate supplying infrastructure during the endless war effort (Halliburton). Or want to go back further? Try the Spanish American war, where the US claimed it was fired upon in Havana Harbor, which later turned out to be a boiler exploding on the ship. Corporate interests wanted the war, so they contrived an event to lead the country into it.

History gives us more good ideas than we can use in ten lifetimes. We just have to be able to read.

These are all good conspiracies based on fact. Go ahead and write em. Let’s see how you do.

That’s what people don’t get. Concept is good, but it’s execution that’s everything. You want concept? I’ll give you concept from the bestseller lists: Wool: Chick in a dystopian world bucks status quo to discover a better world. Da Vinci Code/Foucault’s Pedulum/The Voynich Cypher: Hero must solve puzzle to discover the dark secret powerful forces will do anything to keep hidden. Hunger Games/Harry Potter/The Matrix/Star Wars/The Hobbit/Dante’s Inferno/Jason and the Golden Fleece/Great Expectations/The Three Musketeers/Lord of the Rings/90% of adventure fiction: Hero who doesn’t realize his special qualities must overcome obstacles and ultimately his/her own fear to transform into new, more powerful/enlightened hero, seeing his former ordinary world in a new light.

You can come up with these ideas pretty easily. I could probably generate a widget to create them at the press of a button by combining various archetypes and tropes.

Making them into a book someone wants to read’s a little harder. And that’s where the art and magic lie. The telling of the tale, the particular perspective of the author that’s unique to his or her little noggin, the phrasing, cadence and word choice of that writer, vs. that of any other.

So the next time someone approaches you, upon discovering that you’re an author, and tells you what a great book idea they have, tell them what I do: “Super. I’ve got a million of ’em. My problem is there aren’t enough hours in the day to write ’em all!”

At least you’ll be telling the truth.

And now, given that I’ve been conspicuously remiss in self-promotion recently, here’s my gratuitous pitch for you cheapskates who can’t pay a lousy five bucks for some quality entertainment: Zero Sum, my Wall St conspiracy thriller, is on sale for .99 today on a countdown sale. Go buy it. Just do it. It’s like 140K or so words, some of them decent. Don’t be a miser. You can’t take it with you, and if you want to read the third novel I ever published, now you can do it for pennies.

Beyond that, I hope to finish first draft of Requiem for the Assassin by Thursday. It’s a good one, I think, and it’s going in unusual directions, which is always fun. Unless I can’t figure out what it all means. Then, maybe not so fun. Guess we’ll soon know for sure…



  1. Sat 31st May 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I agree about ideas. You could give me that gold idea and I could do some research and become knowledgeable and put something together, but it would be way different than your finished story, because you excel at writing those types of books. Just like if I gave you the premise for one of my women’s fiction plots. You could write it, but your novel would end up different than mine.

    One of the things I like about reading your books is I get to learn about topics that I sometimes find boring (like the Wall Street stuff) but since it’s mixed into a novel I enjoy it. I learned more about the financial world in Zero Sum than I have anywhere else. And it didn’t put me to sleep like the newspaper.

    That Federal Reserve gold plot sounds good. You should write it. Then readers can have fun while learning all about gold.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Exactly. It’s the execution that matters. Every romance novel, at heart, is boy meets girl. But look at the variation in execution.

      I literally have twenty solid plot ideas without the fed’s missing gold, which is front page news everywhere but in the U.S., where it isn’t even mentioned by the media (because their job is to reassure everyone that the system’s fine, not report the truth).

      The point is that a story idea is the cheap and easy bit. It’s the writing of it that determines whether it’s a stinker or not.

  2. Sat 31st May 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Yes, and what about the ones who want to split 50/50 for the idea? Lol.

    I explain, like you, I have notebooks full of ideas, and all I have to do is watch the news to get a dozen more. Shoot, I can watch clouds roll by overhead and get at least three or four.
    Did you see where some scientists just teleported quantuam data? (source: Live Science) Boom! Two more ideas.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I actually saw that a few years ago. But since I don’t write science fiction, I couldn’t think of an application that wouldn’t generate ten thousand angry comments from annoyed nerds correcting my extrapolation. I got into enough trouble with the cat in the box, fer chrissakes. Can you imagine the outcry trying to teleport him?

  3. Sat 31st May 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Hello Blake,

    Here’s a quote from Stephen King on the topic:

    “In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech. You may wonder where the plot is in all of this. The answer—my answer, anyway—is nowhere.”

  4. Sat 31st May 2014 at 4:23 pm

    You tell ’em, buddy. You wanna REALLY see the “I have an idea” phenomenon at work, try being an inventor for a few years. SHEESH.

  5. Sat 31st May 2014 at 4:34 pm

    For your sake, I am glad you are in Mexico. Because if you keep messing about with that “missing gold” stuff, we may have to look for you in Moscow. Not much fun, believe me. I’ve been there – although they let me out again.
    As always, I am enjoying your musings. On second thought, that gold debacle is really intriguing – to put it mildly from an economic point of view. How about it, Russell?

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Well, the problem with that is it isn’t fiction. Germany did demand 10% of its gold back, and after much dodging, the NY Federal Reserve admitted that it would take 7 years to get it back to them. Something most don’t understand about the way banks operate is that the assets you deposit in them aren’t yours any longer. They become an asset of the bank, and you become a creditor. So Germany and all the other countries that were talked into moving their gold to the U.S. for safekeeping during the cold war (because bad ol Russia could invade them at any moment) are basically screwed, because the gold clearly isn’t there, otherwise the Fed would, A) let them verify it’s there – which is why countries stamp their bars with their own stamp – to keep crooks from representing someone else’s bars as their own – and, B) give it back to them when asked. It can’t do it. It failed to even give back the fraction it promised last year, only delivering half of its promise.

      The reason is simple. For years the price of gold was artificially depressed after hitting $850 back in the early seventies, when America went off the gold standard. Then it “crashed,” which was in reality the banks working collectively to crater the price so that the asset appeared too volatile to own to an entire generation. But to do that they had to sell many tons and vastly oversaturate supply. Where to get the gold? Answer: customer deposits.

      The thorny part comes when someone with it on deposit demands their gold back. Which Germany did. So now thousands and thousands of IOUs need to be collected, without driving the price through the roof, because remember, each IOU requires the delivery of an ounce (or whatever) of physical gold, not another IOU, if the physical gold is to ultimately make it back into the vault. Put another way, the Fed tells the first person it loaned to, “we need it back.” That party then says to the party they loaned it to, and says the same thing. That goes on and on and on until somewhere, someone needs to buy physical gold to return, which corrects the pricing imbalance created by the bogus supply by driving the price up. Which the banks still don’t want (and neither does the government, which is wholly owned by the banks), because their fiat currency is more precarious than ever now.

      Anyhow, this is all well documented. It’s how the entire global commodities system has been corrupted and turned into a manipulation scheme by the privately-owned banks, who need to protect their worthless paper currencies from commodities accelerating to ever higher prices (sellers of the commodities requiring more pieces of paper for each ounce), which they call inflation, but in reality is the market sending honest price signals about what the paper money is worth as stated in commodities. The banks can’t afford anything approaching honest price signals, because their entire racket is predicated upon dishonest signals (as are the government’s), so they manipulate early and often.

      I could write ten novels on just these sorts of things but few would buy them, because most want escapism in their thrillers, not reminders of how absolutely rigged and fooked everyone is by a small coterie of crooks. So instead I write shoot em ups, and occasionally throw in a serious topic veiled as a fictional conspiracy, like Upon A Pale Horse, or Silver Justice, or Zero Sum, or The Geronimo Breach, or The Delphi Chronicle. BTW, those are my poorest selling titles, so the market has basically said, give us glittery vampires or superhero chick assassins in leather, not reality.

      Thus, I write what the market wants to read. So far so good.

      • Kim Cano  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:31 pm

        I loved Upon a Pale Horse and Zero Sum. I’m surprised those don’t sell as well.
        As I read the information you just posted about gold, I found it very informative, but kind of boring. (No offense.)
        Now if you put all that gold info into a conspiracy thriller and have a guy running for his life, as a reader I will have fun and learn all about gold without it feeling like a college lecture. A win win. Unless it doesn’t sell well. Then that’s not fun for you.

        • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:43 pm

          I’m not surprised they don’t sell well. Not at all, actually. And I understand why.

          Here’s what I’ve discovered: Most actual conspiracies are nothing more than very powerful interests colluding to create an advantage. Simple.

          That happens all the time. In the US, there are anti-trust laws against it, like those used against the Big 5 when they were price fixing with Apple. But many of the biggest conspiracies are right out in the open. Cartels have existed for centuries, where those with power agree to collude on prices or availability so they can earn inflated profits.

          What I described with gold is a cartel of private banks that got the government to make them a legal cartel (the federal reserve system) so they could make money by setting interest rates and creating boom and bust cycles, and kill their competitors (make it illegal not to be in the system, and enforcing price fixing within the cartel). Emboldened by how well that worked, thieves will always try to steal more, so it’s no surprise when they try to make a bunch of money lending out other people’s property for a profit.

          To put it into perspective, imagine you put your family heirloom, say, a gold ring with a special design on it, into a bank for safekeeping. You come back five years later and ask to see the ring, and the bank says you can’t, for security reasons. You demand to see it, and it stalls, and then eventually you get a completely different ring back, which weighs the same. That’s how the system works.

          Technically, every dollar, every item, you deposit in a bank, is the bank’s asset at that point, and you are a creditor. If the bank doesn’t have your item (usually your dollars, unless you’re stupid enough to put tons of gold in their vaults), or goes bust, there’s “deposit insurance” – which is insurance that will make good to the creditors of the bank – the depositors. Of course, that turns super ugly when there are hundreds of trillions on deposit, all insured by only $35 billion of FDIC reserves, but hey, don’t think about it, because otherwise nobody would put their money in the bank, and that would be bad for the consumer society, America, but mostly, the banks.

          Nobody wants to read fiction about the actual horrible state of affairs because it’s reasonably complex, super depressing, and yes, boring. The theft of a planet’s wealth has been achieved by boring gray men with forgettable faces, who spend considerable energy ensuring the population is only interested in shiny new things and can’t think its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.

          And the best part is it worked.

          I can’t fight it. So I pen my little ditties, and am grateful readers sop it up. There we have it. My business plan in a nutshell.

          • Kim Cano  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:54 pm

            What I meant is when you wrote about the topic in Zero Sum it wasn’t boring, because it was mixed with drama and romance and boats blowing up. But I guess if those topics don’t sell well, it’s not worth writing about them. Such a shame because it sounded like it would’ve been a good one.
            Maybe the Federal Reserve guys need to be sparkly. Add a couple cats and it will fly off the virtual shelves, all while people learn about gold. 🙂

          • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:58 pm

            A sparkly banker that love kitties. And perhaps a teen ingenue who falls for the black sheep rebel son. Yeah, I’m feeling it.

  6. Matt Ryan
    Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Another good post Russell.

    Ideas are the easy part. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration as they say.

    I’ll play along with the gold conspiracy story and throw in a twist! The people making and trading the gold started spreading these rumors, driving the price of gold up and lining their pockets in the process. Paranoia is very lucrative if you can use it in the right way.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Well, Matt, I’d encourage you to research it before trying that plot twist, because they aren’t rumors. Germany did in fact demand back their gold. The Fed couldn’t return it. It’s all over the European papers. It’s only in the U.S. that fact is confused with fiction or rumors because the media refuses to report the facts. Nothing new there, BTW.

      Although certainly they can take their foot off the brake whenever they like, make a fortune from the runup, and then make another fortune when they stomp on the gas again, dropping the price. That’s called the boom and bust cycle the Federal Reserve has presided over since its creation in 1913, in a bill sponsored by its owners, the largest NY and European banks of the time (and not surprisingly, still), and passed over Xmas break when Congress had left for the holidays. You saw it in the dot coms, you saw it in the Crash of 29, you saw it in the countless crashes since then, and recently, you saw it in the 2008 financial crisis. It’s why manipulation is basically bad – it steals from everyone not in on the manipulation.

  7. Matt Ryan
    Sat 31st May 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I’ve been following the gold drama for years. It’s fascinating to see it’s progression through the world.

    Germany has a Ron Paul, championing the return of their gold and not just from the US but from the world. And why? Because many Germans are in the firm belief the vaults are empty. These notions were started by rumors. It just so happens these rumors may turn out to be true.

    2008 financial crisis is one of those events where the truth is too crazy to believe. I’ll have to check out Zero Sum now.

    My twist was only for fiction. It’s fun to show the reader one path, letting they think they have it all figured out when later you show them a entirely different path actually happened the whole time.

    On a book question: I am finishing up the Assassin series(great books) and wanted to get into Jet next. Do you recommend Ops Files first or Jet book 1?

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 31st May 2014 at 7:05 pm

      I’d do JET first, then Ops Files, because there will be more significance to the protag if you read JET. Having said that, I wrote Ops Files as an introduction to the series, and it’s shorter, so it’s just a matter of taste. Either way, I think you’ll get the idea – not as gritty as the assassin books (glad you liked em), more over-the-top in a Kill Bill kinda way, but a whole lot of fun to read, with a few literary flairs you might find fun.

      I think the reason the Germans want their gold back is simpler – Russia has been a big buyer for the last decade and has called back all of its gold, and China, the largest manufacturer of gold in the world, hasn’t exported an ounce, and continues to accumulate massive amounts. If you’re cynical, you could view the EU troica bending Greece and Spain and Italy over on fiscal responsibility as nothing more than a pretense to demand that they sign over ownership of their gold, too, in order to get more play money. The writing is on the wall: the world needs a stable currency to trade in, not currency that’s being created by the trillions, reducing its value and creating gyrations in the exchange markets. The US is the reserve currency because it jammed Breton-Woods down the world’s throat in 44, and when it was caught violating the gold backing in 70 by the French, rightfully should have been chucked in favor of something else, or shortly thereafter. That didn’t happen, and for 40 something years savers have watched the value of the dollar erode by 90+%, making denominating contracts in that currency difficult or impossible for international trade. The BRICS countries, led by China and Russia, have already moved to chuck the dollar for settlement of trade, and as that trend continues, something new will emerge, and it will likely be gold-backed, at least at first, if history is any guide, because when a reserve currency bites it, nobody trusts fiat currency for a while, so whatever new standard emerges will have to be backed by gold to ensure confidence. I’d bet either a gold-backed ruble or yuan, although its debatable which.

      Try Silver Justice instead of Zero Sum (although ZS is on the countdown deal, so not a bad buy). The reasoning into the 2008 causes is pretty on point, I think you’ll find.

  8. Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 4:42 am

    Is it possible to put your special offers on amazon.co.uk as well as amazon.com?

    Another great post.

    Reading David Morrell Lessons from a lifetime of Writing and he makes some interesting observations about ideas from dreams and the subconscious. I realise in my own fiction writing I have had far less control over the creative aspects than I imagined.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 11:05 am

      Depends on the special offer. I change the price on the main Amazon dashboard, and then they adjust as they like, from what I can tell.

  9. Jack
    Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Oh man, tell me you’re not a Truther, Russell. I can divorce a person with their political views easily, especially when it comes to fiction authors, whose job it is to make stuff up (and do it in exciting ways). But man, I draw the line with Truthers. Tell me this is all just you brainstorming ideas and you don’t really subscribe to the Truther Movement… You gotta tell me, man.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 8:07 pm

      What’s the Truther movement? I’ve lived in Mexico for the last 12 years, so I’m not up on the jargon.

      I’m a reality-based skeptic. I am skeptical of all claims, regardless of provenance, and especially claims of governments, regardless of which ones, because they’ve been caught lying too many times to count throughout history, and I have no basis to hope that tendency’s stopped.

      There are too many inconsistencies in the official government descriptions of just about anything I can think of to take them seriously. That anyone does is really the wonder, not that anyone doesn’t.

      Outside of the US, everyone fully understands that their governments are populated by liars, cheats and crooks, and that you can’t believe a word of anything they say. I find that honest and refreshing. It’s a wise stance to take, given their track records.

      Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proofs. Regardless of who is making the claim. There can be no sacred cows, or it’s back to, “All pigs are created equal, only some are more equal.”

      All tyranny begins with barring the questioning of the official spin, regardless of what it is. Tyrants, despots and totalitarian/fascist regimes all depend on their account being the accepted one, or otherwise things become difficult for them. It’s been that way throughout history.

      I just don’t have to play along. I don’t live in the US, so if people there want to believe whatever oddities they are convinced are truth, it in no way diminishes me, and they’re entitled to do so, no matter how improbable. Knock yourself out, is my motto.

      • Jerry Hatchett  –  Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 8:37 pm

        Truthers are those who don’t buy the official story of what happened on 9/11.

        • Russell Blake  –  Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 9:11 pm

          Ah. I’m not sure I know enough about it.

          I mean, I know the official explanation involves the only time in history steel frame buildings dropped at the speed of gravity into their own footprints after aluminum planes went went through not only the towers, but also multiple sections of concrete and steel in the pentagon after executing turns only one out of thousands of fighter pilots might be able to pull off on their luckiest day, but piloted by guys who couldn’t pilot a prop plane.

          That per the government, jet fuel, which burns about 1200 degrees too cool (at its hottest) to damage structural steel, somehow did, in spite of footage of people standing in the areas where these planes hit after they did, and that heat traveled down that day, and not up, as it has all other times. That after the “heat damaged the frames” theory was discarded, a pancake theory was then advanced, which posited that even the building that wasn’t hit by the planes somehow was also affected by those too-cool-to-weaken-steel fires, and also fell into its own footprint at the speed of gravity or thereabouts due to pancaking (also the only time in history that’s happened – go figure), that an intact paper passport of one of the hijackers was found two blocks from where the planes literally vaporized into fireballs, that a number of the hijackers purported to have been involved are actually alive and well in Saudi Arabia, puzzled by their supposed deaths, and that the FBI, which struggles to find its ass with its own hands much of the time (I’ve researched for some of my books), and which took three years to identify the suspects in the 1996 (I think) attempt to blow up the WTC using a primitive fertilizer bomb, somehow managed to identify over a dozen responsible for 9-11 within three days.

          That the famous footage of Atta going through security wasn’t in NJ, but rather in Maine, where the islamic fundamentalists had been boozing and doing coke with hookers the night before the attack (as most islamic fundamentalists are wont to do immediately before going to meet their innumerable virgins and their maker), and who only allowed a half hour to make the connection (they had more faith in the ability of the American flight system’s punctuality than most travelers) to the planes in question, proving how savvy they were to anyone who’s ever navigated an american airport.

          That the photos from the pentagon showed one hole where the plane’s aluminum fuselage hit and penetrated the concrete and steel pentagon, and that the engines and wings somehow didn’t damage the building, instead vaporizing moments before impact for unknown reasons, and that there was virtually no wreckage in the photos taken immediately after impact, but later, some was discovered that had been overlooked for days if not weeks – things like engines the size of tanks.

          That 54 security cameras around the pentagon didn’t capture the event in the highest security airspace in the world, all of them malfunctioning at the same time the entire eastern seaboard’s air defense system also failed to work even after planes had gone into buildings, and the only camera that did shows a blinding flash and not much else. And that all of this was planned by Bin Laden only four months before Egypt’s largest paper announced his funeral after he ostensibly died of kidney disease, although he denied knowing anything about it immediately after the attacks, and the subsequent films of him used to incriminate him have been debunked as patently false, with a guy who has a completely different nose and most of his face than Bin Laden. That European papers have openly mocked these ludicrous explanations as propaganda of the silliest sort, probably because they hate our freedom or want our blondes or are jealous of our food or something.

          That’s the official explanation.

          No, I see nothing to question there. Seems all above board to me. Anyone questioning any element of that has to be insane. I’m quite sure that the impartial non-governmental third parties who have dug far deeper than my cursory glances at the data have verified the government spin as completely accurate, and there’s nothing to see here, so we should all move along.

          Truthers, huh? Next thing they’ll be saying is that the NSA, which for 20 years didn’t officially even exist and operated in complete secrecy with thousands of employees, is bugging everyone in the world, in violation of international law.

          Where do people get these notions?

          • Jerry Hatchett  –  Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 9:21 pm

            I almost think you’re being sarcastic, Russell. 😉

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 02nd Jun 2014 at 9:22 pm

            Like the willow, I bend.

            A cynic like me being sarcastic? The hell you say!

  10. Fri 20th Jun 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Blake, your ideas about *ideas* are spot on. i’ve stopped calling myself a writer and started calling myself a storyteller. The idea isn’t the story. Neither is the generation of thousands of words about the idea the story. If some reading has a hard time putting your writing down, then you’re telling a story. I try to remember this with every sentence I type.


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