Tag Archives: doubt

Hello, Writing Cabin

I tromped into the writing cabin and caught Lisa unprepared.

“I thought you were reading and stuff. Let me just tidy up real fast.”

The office looked emaculate and I told her so. “What kind of mess can one robot girl make while I'm out? You don't even have to cook.”

“Dust, there's still dust even if I'm completely gone.”

“Suit yourself. I finished my backlog of projects, and decided to try a bit of writing today. You know, just to see if I remember how.”

Lisa broke into action, making coffee with one hand while she took out the Swiffer and went over the floor with the other one. She took a dust cloth and ran ahead of me to my writing desk.

The raven of Doubt glared at me from his perch. He bobbed up and down a few times in excitement.

“Not yet, dude. I'm not doing any editing today. It's time to move the Yak Guy ahead.” He knows The Enhanced League is ready to start editing, but I don't feel rushed to dive in yet.

I started by rereading my last few chapters. I made a small correction or two, and Doubt gave me the stink eye. Lisa showed up with coffee about the time I started writing.

I wrote one short chapter and it was kind of draining. It came in slightly over 3000 words. I don't know if it's because I hadn't written in a while, or because of the content. This chapter involved the end of the yak. He's been such a central character to the story it was hard to see him go.

“I'm really going to miss him,” Lisa said. “He's been at the cabin for a long time.”

“He has, and the next go round maybe we'll see the end of yak guy, Ted.”

“Then what?”

“Then, you probably have to pose for more posters and plan for a worldwide blog tour – or two.”

“That's always fun, then I'm going to use some vacation time.” She opened the window and let in some fresh air. Doubt took the opportunity to stretch his wings at the same time. She sighed as the yak crossed the meadow and headed for the snowy peaks. “He played a mean game of chess, you know.”

“Really, how did he move the pieces?”

“He told me the moves, and I moved them for him.”

“Kind of like he was playing against the computer then?”

“Not kind of, he was playing against me, my processors, and memory. He won more than a few too.”

“Maybe you can get him to come back for your radio show someday. Did you put his data in your Rolodex?”

Please, I'm completely electronic, you should know that by now, and yeah, I have his contact data.”

I checked email, and answered blog comments while she stared out the window.

“So what happens next?”

“Yak guy has to finish his journey. After that, I have a couple of novellas I want to try. That's how it will work out in a perfect world. They could be long short stories or short novels depending on the experiment.”

“What are we talking here? I might need to buy some new outfits for these stories.”

“One is a kind of paranormal superhero origin story.”

“Is that the one with all the hats?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“So you'll want the paranormal office then.”

“Absolutely. The other one is a spin on the lifeboat story. It has a science fiction background, but they're stuck in an underground bunker for a specific amount of time. The problem is they can't leave, and the antagonist is in there with them.”

“Got it, I already earmarked a bunch of hats and can get them ordered. I wonder what scream queens are wearing this season?”

“I'm sure you'll figure it out before we start. We have to give yak guy some closure first.”

The enchanted beer horns sounded off and came running. They curled around my ankles like a pair of cats.

“Hi guys, I missed you too.”

Lisa said, “I got a nice doppelbock from McCall Brewing for you to try. It's called Dunce Cap.”

“Huh! Did you pick that specifically for me?”

“Of course, I know doppelbock is your favorite.”

Woosh!”

“Don't woosh me, I know what you meant. Do you want the beer or not?”

“Of course, besides, these guys won't stop honking unless we fill them up.”

***

For those of you so inclined, I opened a Pinterest account earlier this year. I started a couple of boards called The Hat and Estivation that relate to my upcoming projects. You can check them out here.

 

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That was a little bit different.

Getting any amount of writing done with Otto around is going to be a challenge. It starts out with, “Look at my pumpkin ball.” Then I get out of bed. “Throw my pumpkin ball, squeak my plush moose toy, check out my kong, I have a piece of fluff in my mouth Smack smack smack, you'd better get it before I swallow it. I want out, I want in, oh wait… out again.” Recycle and repeat as necessary.

I bought myself a few minutes by filling his kong with peanut butter. That wasn't distracting at all, “Slurp, smack, slurp…” It was kind of funny, so I posted a tiny video on the Entertaining Stories Facebook page.

I managed to get to the writing cabin later than I liked. Lisa, my robotic assistant, was dressed like an old Olivia Newton John video.

“Are you working out today?” I asked.

“Lorelei is coming over. She wants to exercise, so I looked up what to wear and ordered this outfit. What do you think?”

“Yeah, very cute.”

“Thanks.”

I moved into my office and turned on my iPad. All I really needed was some solitude. Lorelei, my Muse, stormed in wearing some kind of hideous mumu thing. I may have winced a little bit.

“Where is she?” Lorelei asked.

“I don't know, maybe in the front or the kitchen.”

She turned to go, but looked back. “Don't even look at it. I'll be back to Greek Goddess form in no time. Give me a month or so.”

I admit to not writing much over the past few months. Lorelei let herself go in that time. Between a cranky Muse and a robot who's contemplating the afterlife, it's been a little strange around here. It seems like I'm going to have to force my way through this first bout of writing.

I opened up The Yak Guy Project, and re-re-read my last chapter. I wound up correcting some of the language. There is a character that sounds too much like another character, and I'm trying to adjust him a bit.

The next chapter is a transition chapter, and some traveling is involved. I hate those kind because they slog along. It isn't like the characters can pop in and out of interesting situations, and some of these are necessary. I added some scenery and intrigue to my world building and charged forward.

The girls came downstairs, this time Lorelei was in a bodysuit over a leotard. Quite frankly, it looked like it was a little bit stressed. “We decided to go jogging,” Lisa said.

Thank the Gods, I thought.

“You're welcome,” Lorelei said.

They were laughing as they headed away from the cabin. I opened the window for the raven of Doubt. “You too. Get out of here, and lay off Lisa. She doesn't need your mumbo jumbo any more than I do.” To my surprise, he flew off.

Yak Guy Ted got involved with a minor skirmish and saw what happens in war. He even went on a stressful mission of his own that seems to have helped the situation for his people. Remember, he's a spoiled city kid who's been plunked in another world, so this is a big step for him. He just needed the right inspiration. (Spoiler: It's a girl.)

I reached the end of that chapter, and added a first line to the next one. This is the point where I usually force something if I'm really feeling it. I admit to being a little out of writing shape myself. Still, 3100 words of new material isn't a bad day.

I decided to turn to baseball. More specifically, my short stories that I'm calling The Enhanced League. I left a couple of spies in a stadium in Japan that needed to move their story ahead. This one has a little to do with world building, and will have a bit of tension in it too. By the time the girls returned, I added 1500 words to that.

That was about my limit today. As I'm typing this out, I'm alternating words with throwing the ball for Otto. I won't complain about it, because I forged ahead with new fiction. In fact, this post is slightly over 700 words itself.

  • 3100+
  • 1500+
  • 700=

Pretty nice, or at least nothing to sneeze at.

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The end of my working vacation

He glares at me through two oily black eyes, taking my confidence and all joy from the things I've created. Everything I've ever written, or ever will write becomes utter crap under his gaze.

This raven doesn't need three eyes, like a popular fantasy series and television show. He does just fine with two hateful shining orbs. His name is Doubt, and I am his bitch for the next few weeks.

The walls of the writing office close in around me, and nothing matters beyond my collection of short stories, and Doubt.

He kawed raucously over the fact that I miscounted the number of vampires in a coven. There were six, then seven, then six again. He pecked at my hand until I changed it to seven in every instance. Seven is a classic fairy-tale number, and will resonate better in the story.

That seemed to be his only complaint with the story. I set it in Baltimore, and Doubt is a huge Ravens fan. Is he manipulating me to support some kind of cause?

He paces back and forth across my desk muttering one of the few words he mimics, “crap, crap, crap.” Maybe he speaks with purpose, he is no ordinary raven. This one is from Mt. Olympus and is nearly treble the size of an ordinary raven. He was a gift from my Muse, but he seems more like a punishment.

Lorelei, the Muse, told me I must learn to overcome Doubt if I ever want to succeed as a writer. I've taken this to heart for seven different books now, but it never gets any easier. Real authors get something to market. I don't want to put out crap, crap, crap, so I edit to the best of my ability. Always under the watchful eye of my gift, my foe.

He doesn't like my attempt at an epistolary style tale. This is the one he thinks is crap, crap, crap. I breezed through it quickly, and will have to return later. My bloody hands couldn't take it any longer.

I drank coffee, so I know Lisa the robot brought it to me. I just can't remember her being there. Such is the power of Doubt during our editing sessions.

He didn't have much to offer in the story I called Magpies. There is a raven in the story, and I wonder if he has some ulterior motives. I'm tempted to replace the raven in the story with another kind of carrion bird just to spite him. I'm afraid he'll peck my eyes out. The raven remains out of fear.

He didn't offer much in the story about the girl with a fever. This concerns me too. No story is perfect. Maybe I should change it somehow, but how? Is he quiet because it's good, or so bad it's beneath his contempt?

I stopped just before the only fantasy in the collection. There is a battle in this story, and I'm afraid he'll make me add ravens to the scene.

There is more editing to come, and I need to break it up into smaller pieces. My mind is full of doubt right now, and I don't want it to get overwhelming. I need to watch some cartoons or something to change the mood.

I left the writing cabin around 1:00. My working vacation is over. It was productive for what it is worth. I added new words to my novel, finished up my short stories, and assembled them into one long manuscript. I need to edit them, and create a table of contents. Maybe I should look into a book formatter this time. That way my italics will come out correctly. Does anybody have one they would recommend? I'd hire them for the table of contents and an Amazon ready file that I could add a cover to.

I think I'll spend the afternoon playing with Otto, or seeing if the coyote will catch the roadrunner. Maybe Pinky and the Brain can actually take over the world.

I hope everyone had a great weekend, and I'm serious about a reasonable formatter.

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Saturday recovery

It's been a long week. I not only put in my 40 hours, I have a book release going on. (As if you hadn't noticed.)

I've been returning to all the sites to play in the comments, but beyond that, I've been pretty slow. I got a comment today that made me think. There might be someone out there who doesn't know this stuff, so I'll address it.

Amazon comes up with things they think will benefit us. Some do, some don't. The pre-order isn't some kind of thing authors invented. Amazon came up with this, but here's how it shakes out at my level. The book sales are all tallied on the day they deliver. This is important to me as an author, and here's why. If my book registers a large enough pile of sales, I may get into some of the lists. This means more visibility, and the possibility of more sales when someone is shopping using the top 100 in that genre. Maybe they shop the top 100 new releases, that kind of thing.

The point is, if you want to add it to your reading pile, buying it during the pe-release helps me out. You don't have to read it immediately, it will be ready when you are. I'm not jacking the price later or anything. It's just that simple. Many of my followers are authors, but many of you aren't so that's why the whole pre-order thing is set up.

The email arrived at about 10:00 this morning:

I'm in New York stumping for your new book, and dropping off posters. Decided to get some retail therapy. Please look in on Bunny, I'll be home late. — L

I decided I'd better get out to the writing cabin. Lisa* works hard, and deserves a little time to herself. I flew out and went in the kitchen.

A large Baggie of rabbit pellets sat on the counter with a note. I counted out precisely 748 pellets for Bunny. Please give them to him, then put his dish in the sink. His treats are in the refrigerator. –L

The apple slices and small carrots were all lined up with small notes telling me what time to give them out. I swear, her methods are robotic sometimes. Heaven forbid she just scoop the bowl full of rabbit chow and walk away.

After I got Bunny all tended and on schedule, I decided to write. I managed a little over 600 words on a new short story. To be real honest, Doubt the raven impeded me. This is first draft material, and the idea is to get it on paper. He can start his complaining when I start editing the damned thing.

I'm kind of jazzed about this story, because it's written for a subsequent Experimental Notebook. Many of the stories are just for fun. Some of them are written to try new things out. This one is intended for publication from the beginning. I had a lot of requests for the return of Jason Fogg, and I'm trying to deliver. There is some mileage left in a guy who can turn into fog and slip under doors unseen.

Jason has some serious flaws to deal with too. He's done some shady things when nobody knows he's around, and I can't completely abandon that either. This time, I'm treating it more like a recovering addict, he wants to be a pervert, but he has been good.

Jason can have several thousand words, and that's fine. I started out in third person and wrote a couple of pages before it dawned on me that his origin story was all first person. I want that to carry through. I discarded and started over. Maybe Doubt has some value after all. At least I didn't write the whole thing.

Today isn't Jason's day though, and it might not be mine either. I need to show that life moved on for Jason and Riley, the girl he rescued. This puts the curse of backstory into play. Right now, I'm looking at this material as test material. It may take me some time to get completely back into Jason and Riley.

I'd better go. It's time to give Bunny his apple slice. I hope Lisa gets home before I have to cuddle him for exactly 32 minutes. Maybe on Easter, but today is still Saturday.

I also promised my wife we would have date night tonight. We are moving ahead after the death of our old dog, and it's time to get on with life.

Note: There are a lot of new followers lately. For your benefit, Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories. She is actually a robot, and is out stumping for my new book, The Playground. Bunny is her pet rabbit. Doubt is a huge raven. He was a gift from my Muse, and is supposed to help me with my editing.

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Shifting gears

Other than a few days of an Amazon promotion, and the occasional tweet, my promotions have all run out. I really should post an update about how it all went, but I'll wait until everything concludes.

I got to the writing cabin early this morning. Frost covered the field out my window as I landed. Lisa* already had the coffee made and a fire burning in my office. She wore her Daisy May top, tight jeans, and calf high boots.

I poured a cup and went to work.

Doubt** the raven paced across my desk. He new what the next phase was before I even got to the cabin. It was time for editing.

I opened The Playground on my iPad and started reading.

Kaw!

“Oh yeah. I'd better capitalize the Professor. It's a title, but also a nickname.” I made the change and forged ahead.

Kaw Kaw kaw!

“I missed a few, but they're all fixed. Happy?”

He paced back across my desk. Crick crick blork.

Yes, there are multiple point of view characters. This one is like three short stories that weave together to tell a bigger story. Remember when we watched Pulp Fiction together? This is my personal challenge for this story.”

Doubt paced back and forth across my desk, waving his head side to side. Everyone is a critic it seems.

My own doubts increased as we worked through seven chapters. The raven pecked my hand when I allowed a typo to slide past.

Blork blork!

“You have to look at the whole novel. Each character has a story, but they reveal a bigger story. I don't know, maybe this was a bad idea.”

I banged my head against the desk. “Why did I use a nickname again?”

The sound of banging brought Lisa to check on me. Doubt flew over to his perch.

“Maybe it's time for a break,” she said.

“I like this story, but it's driving me crazy. Does each character get enough development? Am I going to miss one of the Professor's capital letters? Maybe I should just finish it and trunk it. There's room in the cave for another trunk novel.”

“Why don't you just do a word search and check the capitalization that way?”

“That seems like a good idea, but I've already done my word searches. Now I'm reading through, and don't want to lose my place.”

“Just make a note and search it after you read through. You could mark your place, search, then go back to reading.”

“Maybe I should just chuck the whole thing in the fireplace.”

“It's an electronic file.”

“Maybe there's an app for that. Some kind of e-fireplace.”

“There isn't, but I know what might help. Remember your editing jacket? It always helps you sort through the rough places. You wear it for a while, think things through, and come back for round two later.”

“This is round two. That would be round three.”

“Stick out your arms.”

You're jealous of my editing jacket.

Lisa placed her hands on her hips. “There, all better now. I'll make you some soup, and you can work on it later.”

*Lisa Burton is my personal assistant, and a robot. She is also the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories.

**Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse to help me work through the editing process.

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Happy Halloween

I finished my word search on The Playground, rubbed my eyes, and put down my iPad. Doubt, the Raven bobbed his head up and down, excited to move into real editing. He was about to be disappointed.

“Lisa*, let’s have some fun today. It’s Halloween after all.”

Lisa came into my office. “I have bowls of candy ready for tonight. When the spaceships land, and the brooms fly in, we’re all set.”

“That’s tonight, I want to do something today. I can’t work all the time.”

“We could bake some Halloween cookies.”

“Nope, we’re going to build a creature.”

“You don’t know how to build a creature.”

“I’m an author.” I leaned back in my chair and locked my fingers behind my head. “We can build a creature.”

She turned toward the stairs. “I’ll put on my witch’s outfit.”

“Good idea. I’ll pull on my lab coat and a pair of old goggles. We should use the paranormal office.”

We parted to change and met up in the hallway.

“So do I need to clear off the couch, or what? How big is this thing going to be?” Lisa asked.

“Maybe we should start small. Let’s try a cookie sheet. We need something to make the body, and there’s no time to dig up graves.”

“You should have planned ahead. There’s a bunch of hamburger in the refrigerator.”

I snapped my fingers. “Perfect. That way we can shape it any way we like. We need to figure out how to automate it somehow.”

“I’m an automation. Does that mean you want electronic parts in it?”

“I hadn’t though about it. We need something small.”

“There’s an old iPod in the basement, I’ll get that.”

“We’d better double down. Did any of my characters leave any magical herbs in the pantry?”

“There might be some sage and a few drops of iron water left.”

“Is there any more Macabre Macaroni?”

“You served it all to your friends.”

“Too bad. That stuff’s potent.”

Lisa gathered the ingredients, and I placed the hamburger on the pan, made a dent in the middle and held out my hand. “Sage.”

“Sage.”

I shook liberally over the hamburger. “Iron water.”

“Iron water.”

There were only about three drops left in the vial. “We need something for the soul. Eggs symbolize the spirit in many ancient cultures.”

She turned toward the door. “There are only two left, I hope that’s enough.”

Lisa returned with the eggs and I cracked them in the creature, massaging them in with my hands. “Turn the retorts and burners on. I know it’s just artwork, but it helps set the right mood.”

I massaged the creature and heard the bubbling start.

A deep baritone voice sounded “Mwa ha ha.”

I cringed and froze. “What the hell was that?”

“It’s me silly. I downloaded a creepy laugh, because I thought it would help.”

I stood straight and paused. “Great idea. Keep doing it.”

“Mwa ha ha.”

I worked on the creature, but it wouldn’t keep its shape. “We need something to make it stick together. I think it has a bit too much soul. Do we have any flour?”

“I’ll check, Master. Mwa ha ha.”

She returned with a box of salad croutons, a bottle of catsup, and an onion. She reached in the box and crushed a handful of croutons into crumbs.

“That’ll have to do. Sprinkle it over the creature while I knead it in. What’s the other stuff for?”

“I don’t know. I was looking for stuff that might bind it up.”

“Better use it all.” She added a pinch at a time until the creature wanted to hold a form. “Okay. Do you want tentacles or a creepy baby.”

“Creepy babies freak me out, let’s do tentacles.”

I used my palms to make ten tentacles and a bulbous head in the center. Lisa started poking the tentacles. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“It needs suckers on its tentacles, Master.”

“Great idea.”

“Mwa ha ha.”

Lisa finished putting suckers on the tentacles, and I sculpted one big eye on the creature’s face. “It’s beautiful.”

“Yes, Master.” She stuck the remaining wedge of onion into the eye and it looked perfect.

“Okay. The standard is to strike it with lightning.”

“Oh Hell no. You know electric shock is my big weakness. I’ll bring up a generator and jumper cables from the basement, but you’re doing this part by yourself.”

“I can respect that.”

Lisa went downstairs and retrieved the equipment. She opened the enchanted window before starting the generator. The enchanted image was Baron Frankenstein himself, munching popcorn and staring into the paranormal office.

I touched the clamps together and they sparked. Lisa scurried into the hallway and shut the door.

I pointed the jumper cables toward the ceiling and looked toward the heavens. Frankenstein pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head.

“All right, killjoy. I won’t say your lines.” I jammed the cable clamps into the creature and the generator engine bogged down.

The smaller tentacles recoiled and slowly curled.

The head leaned to the side, the larger tentacles twisted and sizzled.

I left the electricity coursing through the creature’s body. It changed colors from raw meat to a mottled grey-brown.

The image of Frankensten leaned forward and popped another kernel in his mouth.

The top of the creature’s head bubbled and gave off steam.

I pulled the cables away and the engine revved back up. I turned the generator off with my foot.

Lisa ran back inside and clamped her hands together. “Did it work?”

“Don’t know. It kind of moved around, but it isn’t doing anything right now.”

We watched for a few minutes, but nothing happened.

“What went wrong?” Lisa asked.

“This is what happens when authors don’t do their research. People think speculative authors can make everything up, but our work has to have some grounding in history, science, or beliefs.”

The image of Frankenstein leaned back in his chair and polished his nails on his jacket.

“It smells kind of nice,” Lisa said.

I snapped off one of the small tentacles and sniffed it. It smelled good enough to eat, so I tasted it. “Congratulations, Ms. Burton, it’s a meatloaf… with iron water. Needs salt though.”

She hung her head. “I’ll bring you a plate and some salt. Don’t chip a tooth on that old iPod.”

“I’ll be careful, and I’ll save a tentacle for Doubt.”

***O°O***

Have a safe and fun Halloween everyone, and always do your research.

* Lisa Burton is my personal assistant. She is also a robot, and the main character in my first novel.

The raven’s name is Doubt, and he tries to help me in the editing phase.

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Back to work

My visitors got away at a decent hour. It's time for me to walk the talk. I jumped in the tiny gyro-copter and headed for the writing cabin.

Lisa* called me almost immediately. “I didn't expect you to come out today.”

“I need to get some things done. If you made other plans, it's okay. I'm sure I can manage for a day.”

“It'll all be fine. I'll put your coffee on.”

The snow was gone from the landing strip. Weather this year has been crazy. Thank God everything was frozen, and landing was smooth. I pulled onto the elevator and went into the basement. I had to wait for the army ants to march past. They were featured in Panama, and relegated to the basement like most other story elements.

I tromped up the stairs and headed for the paranormal office. When I threw the switch the bone chandalier lit up the room. Lisa had placed sheets over the furniture. I hung my old fedora on the stone gargoyle and pulled the sheets away. This was quite the room, and I'd done some of my best writing here.

I opened the roll top desk and sat out the bell jar containing the Will O' the Wisp. I set it free once more and watched it careen around the room like a glowing green Pong ball.

“What's the plan today?” Lisa startled me. She was dressed in her best Jessica Rabbit outfit.

“Look, you obviously had plans today. You can take off, I'll be fine.”

“My only plan was to spend the afternoon watching the red carpet shows with Bunny. I wasn't going anywhere.”

“Oh, um, well, I'm just going to make the international version of Will O' the Wisp. Then I need to do one more pass over it all.”

“That's editing, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Be right back then.”

I opened the file and copied it into another document I simply called International. This is because I have a license to quote specific song lyrics, but only in North America. It shouldn't be hard to fix, and I decided that surf music was appropriate to the era for the international version.

“Don't forget your friend,” Lisa said. “You never edit without Doubt.”

The Raven of Doubt was a gift from my Muse. He's supposed to help me, but mostly he's annoying.

Doubt leapt from Lisa's arm and flew into the open mouth of the huge hippo head on the wall. Cobwebs caught my eye as his wing beats stirred the air.

“Looks like I'd better take a toothbrush to the hippo.” She went around the room and took inventory of chores. Finally, she turned on the glass alchemy set of retorts and tubes that served as art. It gave off a pleasant odor of Hoppes #9.

I worked backwards and forwards through the section that had to change. Doubt croaked at me more than a few times as I changed some repetitive words. For a stupid bird he sure has a lot of opinions.

“If I promise to do a complete read through will you get off my ass?”

Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha.

Stupid bird. Then it dawned on me. If I had done the final pass first, then copied the international version, I would have saved myself some work.

Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Quoth the raven, etc.

I batted the Wisp and it rattled around inside the fireplace before careening across the room into the gargoyle.

I'm counting today as progress. I probably could have been more efficient, but it's still progress. Right???

*Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept, and is a robot. Since her story ended she helps me around the writing cabin.

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