Fine Tuning Your Novel

You’ve read through your novel for the umpteenth time and can barely look at it anymore. Then your advance reading copy or final pdf file arrives, and it’s time for a last glance before sending your baby into the world. Will you still find changes to make? Undoubtedly. Sometimes these are conversion errors. Or you may notice typos or word choices that need a tweak.

Fine Tuning

Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, is set to debut on Sept. 25. Check out the latest changes I’ve made and you’ll gain some insight into the mind of a writer. Caution – There may be spoilers.

p. 74 – bustled … bustle.

A few minutes later, Janet bustled down the stairs along with her housekeeper. After giving the woman an order and watching her bustle off toward another part of the house, Janet turned to Marla.

Change “bustle” to “scurry” so it reads …watching her scurry off…

p. 78 – “get involved” x 2

Janet clapped her hands. “It sounds wonderful. I’d love to get involved. Tony, you could ask Tristan to donate some of his desserts. You cross paths on occasion.” She turned to Marla. “His restaurant buys vegetables from our farm. They like to advertise how their dishes contain ingredients from sustainable food sources.”

“That would be amazing if his restaurant would get involved in our charity event. They’d benefit from the publicity as well.”

Change “I’d love to get involved” to “be included.” So it should say, I’d love to be included.

p. 103 –Marla winced. “I know what you mean. I’m wondering if you knew Francine Dodger, publisher of Eat Well Now magazine.

Delete “Marla winced” on this line. I use “wince” too many times.

p. 125 – “It says, ‘Meet me at midnight by the Living Tree. All hail Osiris.’ “

Last quote mark is reversed.

p. 148 – “You can tell, huh? Your dad called with bad news. Another woman is his case was found dead.” Change “is” to “in”

p. 154 – “Why are you so afraid, Janet?

Add quote mark at end of sentence

p. 161 – “Actually, I came to order lunch. Can get you get me a turkey delight to go?”

Can get you get me. Delete first “get”

p. 165 – “Lynette theorized that Francine would have made an effort to buy the magazine from the conglomerate that owns it.

Made an offer, not made an effort. Change effort to offer.

p. 170 – “I’ll give you a taste of our olive oil varieties after we return.”

Marla’s jaw dropped as she noticed the variety of goods for sale.

Varieties … variety. Change “variety” of goods to “range” of goods

p. 178 – Used “message” x 3.

Chills ran up Marla’s spine as she scanned the message. Mind your own business or you’ll be next.

[Chapter Break]

“It looks as though the message was printed on a sheet of white computer paper.” Marla snapped a photo and messaged it to Dalton.

Change “messaged” to “sent” in this last sentence.

p. 180 – The word “property” is used too many times.

“Without color of title means we’ve been paying property taxes and any liens on the property, as well as meeting the other conditions. Besides occupying the property for a minimum of seven years, we have to be in open use of the property, essentially acting as the sole owner.”

Change “occupying the property” to “occupying the place”

p. 199 – Used “man” x 3.

“If his column is losing readers, it’s because the man has lost his edge.”

“Could he have wanted to get her out of the way?” Dalton studied the other man’s face.

“Are you kidding? Man, that guy couldn’t hurt a fly. He doesn’t have it in him.”

Remove this “Man” and just say, “That guy couldn’t hurt a fly.

p. 204 – She could have quite a list of personal indiscretions hidden away. Change to: She could have had quite a … Add “had” in this sentence. This refers to the victim.

p. 231 – Used “took” x 2

The camera wasn’t in Francine’s purse and hasn’t been turned in by anyone.”

“Do you believe the killer took it?”

“It’s possible. The pictures Francine took could be useful to the case.”

Change to, Do you believe the killer kept it?

p. 249 – Referencing Marla’s stepdaughter in this paragraph:

Meanwhile, it promised to be a bumpy ride. Dalton likely wouldn’t approve of any guy she brought home for them to meet until he’d done a thorough background check and conducted a personal interview. She couldn’t blame the girl for being guarded about her love life and had to trust her to make the right decisions.

Change “she” to “Marla” in the beginning of this sentence to clarify: Marla couldn’t blame the girl for being guarded about her love life and had to trust her to make the right decisions.

Recipes:

p. 274: spice cake mix is not capitalized

p. 275: Yellow Cake Mix is capitalized

Choose one or the other for consistency

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It is not easy to scrutinize your work line-by-line and word-for-word, but this is part of the writing process. You want your book to be the best it can be, and this is the way. Positive feedback from readers makes it all worthwhile.   CLICK TO TWEET

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Where Do You Write?

“Where do you write?” is a common question for writers during book talks. Readers might imagine us toiling away on an old typewriter in some attic with a tiny window. Or perhaps they see us working on a sleek laptop while enjoying the breeze from a seaside veranda. We could be creating our masterpiece in solitude while viewing a lake and sipping tea on a screened patio as crickets drone in the nearby woods. Or maybe we pound away on our keyboards while drinking coffee at the local Starbucks. Don’t you see folks there working on their laptops and wonder if they are aspiring writers?

My work environment is more mundane. I work at home. I have a dedicated home office. I am surrounded by things I love, such as books and memorabilia and gifts I’ve bought myself to commemorate my published works.

I love my corner desk so much that I don’t ever want to leave this house. As I sit here now, straight ahead is my Dell computer monitor. I use an ergonomic keyboard by Adesso that has saved my wrists. On shelves above, I have writer-related gifts from my kids and others, and a collection of trolls to represent the Trolleks who are the bad guys in my Drift Lords series.

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Looking to my left, down below are lots of drawers. One extension to my desk serves as a printer stand. Above this are my latest plotting notebooks, some books on writing, and proofs for my latest works in print. On the very top are a collection of novelty pens and a train locomotive from a fan painted with the cover from Murder by Manicure. Most treasured behind a glass door are my Flamingo Award from MWA Florida Chapter and a Lifetime Service Award from Florida Romance Writers. Behind these awards is a signed photograph from Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes.

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To my right are how-to writing books in the crime fiction field, copies of all my books in various print formats, a jeweled calculator, a world clock, and a pencil holder from Area 51. Flashlights, emergency radios, and portable lanterns stand at the ready on every surface in case we have a power blackout during hurricane season.

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Bored yet? We’re not done! I have a separate mahogany desk for correspondence, and this is where I pay bills and do the household accounts. Above this is a bulletin board and various medals and framed certificates for accolades I have earned.

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The closet in this former bedroom had been converted into bookshelves before we moved in and was one reason why we loved the house. The shelves are totally full. Besides my reference books on all subjects and more books on writing, I have a paperweight collection, an onyx chess set, a sword I bought in Spain, and other tchotchkes.

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The room is completed by three more sets of plastic drawers from office supply stores, mailing supplies, two tall bookcases, and more reference materials.

I spend all day in this room. It’s my home within a home. Can I work elsewhere? I’ll dabble at marketing and revisions when away from home, but I can only create in this environment with silence for company. No background music or coffee house chatter for me. I need quiet.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my work space. Now for those stacks of papers that need filing…. Until next time!

 

Body Wave Audiobook

Are you an #audiobook fan? I’m excited to announce the release of Body Wave Audiobook, #4 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries! Join my Book Launch Party on Thursday, May 17 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT for Fun & Giveaways at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty

BODY WAVE AUDIOBOOK

Narrated by Mary Ann Jacobs. Published May 11, 2018 by Orange Grove Press

Stylist Marla Shore goes undercover in a hair-brained scheme to catch a killer in her latest South Florida adventure. In a story braided with unexpected twists and curls, she takes on a role as nurse’s aide for wealthy Miriam Pearl. While Marla snoops into the elderly matriarch’s affairs, her boyfriend, Detective Dalton Vail, is afraid that the only affair she’ll snag is with her ex-spouse, Stan. Juggling work at her salon, crime solving, and two amorously inclined males, Marla fights a race against time to save Stan before the dashing detective nails him for murder.

Listen to a Sample: https://soundcloud.com/mysterygal/body-wave

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Excerpt from Body Wave

Marla tried to fathom the dynamics of their conversation. Florence seemed to be attacking Kimberly’s values while Stella was defending them. Why was the elderly aunt coming down so hard on the dead girl? Did it have anything to do with Florence having been in love with Kim’s father?

She wheeled Miriam away to a discrete distance, on a slight rise where the driveway curved toward a tree-lined avenue leading to the obscured entrance beyond the woods. It was far enough that she wouldn’t appear to be eavesdropping yet could still hear their faint voices.

“Morons,” Miriam muttered. “The poor thing is gone. Why won’t they let her rest in peace?”

Marla didn’t respond, too intent on listening. Her hands placed lightly on the wheelchair handlebars, she inclined her head.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get those albums if Stanley won’t cooperate,” Stella said, wringing her hands. “I should have gone myself. Maybe he’d have listened to me.”

“You tried at the funeral, and he ignored you,” her sister sneered. “Can you blame him, when you came right out and accused him of murdering his wife?”

“He knew what Kim was planning. You, of all people, should understand how it would cause him to react the way he did.”

“By killing her?” Florence said in an incredulous tone.

“Who else could have done it? You?”

“Don’t be absurd.”

“You always resented my daughter. I know how jealous you were that she wasn’t your child.”

“Stop screaming. I hate it when you get hysterical.”

“Did you do it?”

“Hell, no.” Florence shook her elegant head. “If you want to know, Kimberly was messing in things she didn’t understand. She should have minded her own business.” Leaning forward, she spoke in such a low tone that Marla couldn’t catch what she was saying.

Damn, she needed to be closer. Frustrated, Marla took a few steps forward. Suddenly, she heard a shriek. Whipping around, she let a cry erupt from her lips at the sight that greeted her.

Miriam’s wheelchair coasted down the hill at an increasingly perilous speed.

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“Ms. Cohen’s plot has more twists than a French braid, and Marla is a shear delight.” Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries

“In Nancy J. Cohen’s fourth bubbly Bad Hair Day mystery, Florida hairdresser Marla Shore agrees to help her snake of an ex‑husband, Stan Kaufman, who’s been arrested for the murder of his third wife, Kimberly, find the real killer.” Publishers Weekly

“In Body Wave, Marla faces more shades of guilt and malice than she has colors of nail polish in her salon ‑‑ and exposes herself to a hidden killer who may decide that eliminating Marla is a permanent solution for getting away with murder.” Barnes & Noble Ransom Notes

“You will find it all within the pages of Body Wave: a touch of romance, laugh out loud moments, hilarious characters, and a puzzling mystery.” Romance Readers Connection

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This title is also available in ebook and trade paperback formats. Body Wave was originally published by Kensington. This audiobook and related versions are the revised Author’s Edition. For more details, visit https://nancyjcohen.com/body-wave/

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The In-Between Game

What do you do when you’re in between books but you have too much going on to start the next novel? You might be waiting to hear back from your editor or beta readers or cover designer if the book is done.

Between Books

I’m in this situation now. I have four projects pending release but am in a holding pattern until I hear back from various sources. As I write this piece, Body Wave Audiobook is complete and waiting publication by Audible. Trimmed to Death is awaiting feedback from beta readers and a mockup design from my cover artist. Hairball Hijinks, a short story that includes an epilogue to Hair Brained, will include a teaser chapter from Trimmed to Death, so this one has to wait until there’s a pre-order link for that title. And Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition uses examples from Trimmed to Death so is best to come after that title is published.

In the meantime, I don’t want to get involved in plotting the next project. Instead, I am spending time on some of the following activities. Here are suggestions for what you can do when you’re in a similar holding pattern before a new release and you don’t want to work on another book:

· Prepare your book launch announcement

· Write all the blogs for a blog tour

· Do an optional book trailer as a bonus for your readers

· Start a Pinterest storyboard for your new release

· Prepare for speaker engagements with handouts and PowerPoint presentations

· Update your reviewer list by marking which people reviewed your last title

· Review your front and back materials for each indie book project

· Determine if you’ll have an online launch party and plan ahead for this event

· Update your mailing list and work on your next newsletter

· Create memes relating to your new book

· Write a Reader Discussion Guide for book clubs

· Update your bio on all social media sites

If you’d rather engage in brainless activities for a break, you can always clean out old files, update your blog index, rearrange your online photos, or go through the stack of papers in your to-do pile. As soon as your book is ready to go, you’ll be plenty busy. So take advantage of this lull while you can.

What else do you do in between book projects, besides doing preliminary research and jotting down plot ideas for the next story?

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Inconsistent Characters

Revisions for our novels should include a complete read-through for repetitions and inconsistencies. What do we mean by the latter? You’ll want to take a look at your characters to see if they are behaving in a manner consistent with their personality. As a writer, this should be an essential part of your self-editing process. Below are some examples.

Inconsistent Characters

What’s wrong with this passage?

Dalton went for his gun, but Marla slapped his hand away. “Don’t risk it. You don’t know what we’re up against yet. And they won’t know you’re armed.”

Marla would never slap Dalton’s hand away. He’s a police officer. He knows his business. He’s allowed her to come along on a night mission, which she shouldn’t jeopardize this way.

Often it’s my critique group that catches these kinds of mistakes. In this case, I read those sentences and frowned. Wait a minute. Marla would never do this. I went back and changed it.

Ditto for Marla acting dumb. My editor has caught me on this one more than a few times. “Marla is too smart not to figure this out when everyone else knows what’s going on.” She isn’t acting in character when she’s too dense. Same goes for Dalton. Should he let Marla accompany him to interview suspects without protesting or finding an important reason for her to come along?

This also goes for mannerisms of speech. Your rough-around-the-edges hero isn’t going to suddenly say, “Oh, good heavens.” His dialogue should be consistent with his personality.

Here are more examples from my current work-in-progress. Marla and Dalton are talking about the victim.

“That would have given someone plenty of time to whack her on the head and get away,” Dalton said.

“Do you truly believe another person did this to her?” Marla’s glance darted to the rows of strawberry plants, the water-lined canal, and the tall sugar cane. Was the culprit watching them from some hidden viewpoint? Should they be worried he might return?

My editor said, It’s obvious another person did this to her. Could the woman whack herself on the back of her head?

“This injury is indicative of a blow to the back of the head,” Dalton replied. “The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, though.”

Would he say this to Marla when the gash is evident? Not according to my editor, who wrote, “This is another dumb remark. Of course matted blood to the back of the head is “indicative” of a blow to the back of the head!!!”

I’m lucky my editor isn’t afraid to call the shots as she sees them. She’s always right. Here is my rewrite. See what you think:

“So that would have given someone plenty of time to whack her on the head and get away.”

“Are you certain the blow is what killed her?” Marla’s glance darted to the rows of strawberry plants, the water-lined canal, and the tall sugar cane. Was the culprit watching them from some hidden viewpoint? Should they be worried he might return?

“That’s not for me to say, but it would be my best guess. The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death.”

We hope to catch these errors during the revision process. What we write during the heat of the story-making process doesn’t always pass muster when examined under the editorial microscope.

 

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12 Steps for Revising Your Novel

Revisions on your novel can seem like a never-ending task. This seems especially true when you get a letter from a reader years later to tell you about a misspelled word. We’re never going to get it absolutely perfect, but we can do our best.

revision steps for your novel

In an earlier post, I’d mentioned the Five Stages of Writing. I’ve also talked in other posts about line editing and other techniques for improving your work. What comes next after you’ve sent the book in to your editor? Here’s a list of suggestions:

1. Make the corrections advised by your editor when she sends your story back with comments.

2. Check your formatting throughout the manuscript after making a series of changes. Be sure all chapter headings are consistent. Turn on the paragraph symbol in Word and look for misplaced sentences or extra spaces. Do a search for [space]^p and replace with ^p. Then do a search for ^p[space] and replace with ^p. This gets rid of extra spaces before and after a paragraph.

3. Review your editor’s comments to make sure you haven’t skipped anything.

4. Revise the synopsis and chapter outlines to reflect any changes to the story or the timeline.

5. Do a thorough read-through to make sure everything reads smoothly and to see if you caught all the changes. One change may lead to another, and you might miss some if they’re one or two lines here and there.

6. Do another read-through if these second round of changes were significant.

7. Consider using a software program like Smart-Edit to check for redundancies, repetitions, or clichés that your editor might have missed. (Or do this step before you turn in your manuscript for the first time.)

8. Send the book to beta readers for another round of critiques from the readers’ viewpoint and for proofreading. If you are traditionally published, this is when you send the book in for copy edits.

9. Follow-up with another round of revisions and a complete read-through again.

10. Send in the finalized book to your editorial house or to your formatter for production.

11. Read through the entire ARC (advance reading copy) for conversion errors and final tweaks.

12. Approve the final version.

What else do you do during the Revisions Stage?

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SleuthFest – Day 4

Sunday, March 4, 2018

On Sunday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference, some brave souls pitched their books to all the editors and agents at Flamingo Pitch Tank. Dirk Wyle held his Reader’s Corner where people could read aloud from their works in progress. I went to a panel on “From Crime to Conviction” with Judge Frederic Block, Retired Police Major Doug Giacobbe, former FBI Special Agent Steven K. Brown, and retired Police Captain Lou Ann Williams. Don Bruns moderated.

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Brunch included a buffet breakfast while we watched certified hypnotist Glenn Miller demonstrate his skills with a group of audience volunteers. Thereafter, he and forensic guest of honor Dr. Katherine Ramsland discussed “Hypnosis as a Tool for Your Sleuth.”

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With all this information overloading our brains, we said goodbye until next year. Save the Date for SleuthFest 2019: March 14 -17 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Boca Raton. In the meantime, sign up HERE for monthly meetings of Florida Chapter, Mystery Writers of America.

 

SleuthFest – Day 3

Saturday, March 3, 2018

On Saturday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference, I listened to Gregg E. Brickman talk about book interior design for indie authors.

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Then I hung around chatting with friends until lunch. Here is literary agent Evan Marshall from The Evan Marshall Agency with myself and historical mystery author Alyssa Maxwell.

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The Saturday luncheon had Guest of Honor Andrew Gross give his inspirational speech on “Career Transitions: Meeting the Challenge of Change.”

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Following the GOH’s talk, our chapter’s winner of the prestigious Flamingo Award was announced. Guess what? It was ME!!!!! I was thrilled and excited to receive this honored service award.

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In the afternoon, I heard Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Al Hallonquist, Dirk Wyle, and Richard Wymer discuss the Natalie Wood case and all the conflicting theories about what happened that fateful night.

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Next, book reviewer Oline Cogdill interviewed all of the guest authors. Then it was time to party at cocktail hour with a buffet food line and cash bar. We mixed and mingled and relaxed with our friends, both old and new. The FlaMANgo award nominees were announced and the men donned their boas. Bestselling author P.J. Parrish is in these photos along with Joanne Sinchuk and Sue Wilder from Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore. Patrick, our recording expert, is in the middle photo.

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You can view more pictures on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.

 

SleuthFest – Day 2

Friday,  March 2, 2018

Friday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference offered a choice of three workshops. I attended the talk on “Why Marketing Can Sometimes Yield Little to No Results” given by Maryglenn McCombs. See my workshop recap below. After this talk, I gave my own presentation on “Audiobooks with Amazon’s ACX.”

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Lunch came next with guest forensic specialist Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D, who spoke to us about serial killers. It was a chilling topic to hear during a meal.

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Friday afternoon, we had to choose from four workshop tracks. I went to the talk by Patrick Kendrick, thriller author and Fire Rescue Training Consultant. He spoke on USAR or Urban Search and Rescue as part of the nation’s disaster preparedness. The goal is to train the armed forces in fire-fighting and rescue techniques.

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Topics covered include technical rescue skills, site surveys and recon, mass decontamination procedures, personal protective equipment, atmospheric monitoring, and incident command organization. What do we expect in terms of domestic terrorism? CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive. Patrick defined each one and made us glad we have people working to keep us safe.

The formal dinner this evening included the Freddie Awards Banquet. The winner in the Mystery category was Laura Brennan for The End of All Things. The winner in the Thriller category was Howard T. Konig for The Serial Killer’s Brother. Our infamous author auction followed until the evening’s conclusion.

You can view more photos on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.

 

 

SleuthFest – Day 1

SleuthFest 2018 began on March 1, 2018 with “Third Degree” Thursday and a full day of writing workshops at this premier mystery writers’ conference held in Boca Raton, Florida. I arrived in time to give my presentation on “Developing a Mystery Series.” It was well attended and attendees asked a lot of good questions. That afternoon, I did my stint at the registration desk while greeting old friends and making new ones. In the middle photo is Steve Brown and Jeffrey Philips. Then to the right is Marty Ambrose with me and Michael L. Joy.

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Panelists from earlier that day had a booksigning in front of the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach. We had the chance to buy raffle tickets from the boa ladies. Here I am with James R. Benn and Hallie Ephron.

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After a welcome speech by conference co-chairs Michael L. Joy and Victoria Landis, we heard guest publisher Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons give his presentation on “Myths and Truths, Part IV.”

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Thursday evening provided an occasion to eat dinner in the lobby for those of us not attending the SleuthFest 101 banquet dinner. A mystery trivia game followed. On the left are Ann Meier, Vincent H. O’Neill, and Susan Brandt. To the right with me are Kell Levendorf  and Dr. Chris Jackson.

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 You can view more photos on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.

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