Category Archives: Paffooney

My Bookish Journey (Part IV)

Once I settled into a publishing plan where I was basically in control of the whole process, the center of my world became the execution of my overall plan to commit acts of actual literature. I had to decide what I wanted to write and the reasons why I was going to write it.

Surrealist Reasons for the Season.

I began the most serious part of my journey into authorship once I was fully retired from my last teaching job. And the darkest part of that truth is that if I weren’t ill enough to be forced to leave teaching, I would still be doing that. It is what God made me for, if there is a God. But since I am stuck in this retirement reality, I really have to use fiction for what fiction-writing is for.

And let me assure you, I know what writing fiction needs to mean for me. I need to rewrite the story of my life in the surreal reality of perceived truth. And what does that mean in simple words? I have to lie a lot. Because fiction is lying in order to reveal the truth.

Two of the most important books I wrote tell the same story for the same purpose.

The Two Stories are really One Story.

I had a childhood full of monsters. And who I became in adult life was not done in spite of what those monsters did to me, but because of it. I was sexually assaulted as a ten-year-old. What he did to me was not pleasurable in any way. He tortured me because causing pain turned him on. I was severely traumatized by the experience. So much so that I experienced PTSD-induced amnesia for a while. These two books are about my fear of monsters and evil, and the deeply embedded fear that when directly faced with evil, I would not know what it really was.

Things in the two novels are not exactly what they seem.

Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf, is not a monster. He is a boy who suffers from a genetic hair disorder called hypertrichosis, the same disorder that caused the star of Barnum’s freak show, Jojo the dog-faced boy, to have excessive hair growth.

He looks like a monster, but he is really the sweetest, most innocent character in the story.

..

..

..

The Cobble Sisters, both Sherry and Shelly, are nudists. That is a detail that was both kinda true about the real twin girls that inspired the characters, and true enough about these characters in the story to make fans of my fiction from real nudists I befriended on Twitter.

The nudism, however, symbolizes innocence and truthfulness. Sherry labors in both books to get the other members of the Pirates’ Liars’ Club to accept nudism and try it for themselves. Sherry tells them repeatedly that nudists are more honest than other people because they don’t hide anything about themselves.

The ultimate villain of both novels is, ironically, one who hides everything and manipulates from the shadows.

Grandma Gretel is the main character of Recipes for Gingerbread Children. She is a story-teller that has to come to terms with her own monsters from the past. She is a survivor of the Holocaust during WWII. She lost her entire family to the monsters of the Third Reich.

Ironically, she is the one who, through stories and her own keen perceptions, reveals the ultimate villain and his evil. She also, through stories, is coming to terms with her own trauma and loss.

So, what I am saying about my bookish journey at this point is that I have to write the novels I am writing because they allow me to rewrite the world I live in and the facts of my past life in it. I am rewriting myself. I am becoming the me I need to be by writing.

Of course, I am not yet done talking about my bookish journey. Keep an eye out for Part V.

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My Bookish Journey (Part III)

As I indicated in Part II, I killed PDMI Publishing with my first contest novel, Snow Babies. Not because it was that bad of a novel. Rather, it was the endless compounding of my bad luck over time, caused by the Publishing Gods’ keen desires to keep my stories from being generally read and enjoyed. Fickle and cruel are the Publishing Gods.

I took some of the most memorable events in my time as a teacher, put them in a cook-pot and added a batter made of characters based on real teachers I have taught with, learned from, and copied their methods, mixed it with a wooden whisk made of fairy tales, and then baked it with the high heat of the love of teaching to make the next manuscript I would submit to the same YA Novel contest, the Rossetti Awards.

I thought it was an excellent novel. And, like Snow Babies before it, it made the final round of the judging. And there was a range of prizes for the best in about five categories of YA novel for which Magical Miss Morgan qualified for two of them. If it had taken any of those prizes, it would’ve gained me the attention of major publishers looking for new talent.

Alas, there were more novels in competition in that second contest, and I only won the placement in the final round of judging. The Publishing Gods are powerful and implacable.

I submitted it to another publisher that I meant to kill, and they promptly rejected it. They could not handle many novels, got an avalanche of mostly terrible novels, and rejected mine after the first page didn’t dazzle them enough. My consolation had to be that, even though they didn’t give me a contract, they did die shortly after, being closed the next time I checked on them.

Mike Murphy and Blueberry Bates, two of Miss Morgan’s students

So, I gritted my teeth and tried the pay-to-publish publishers one more time. I chose Page Publishing because they only cost a third of what I-Universe did. I could, at that time, barely still afford it with my partially-restored credit rating.

Unfortunately, as a Publisher, Page was worth only one one-hundredth of the value of I-Universe. They didn’t actually have editors. I basically edited the whole thing myself. Their “editor” only communicated to me once with a proof-read copy that I basically had to re-edit and change everything back to being correct English usage. The major editorial contribution? They tried to change every instance of my use of Miss Morgan to Ms. Morgan. Even in the title. The young bozo-editor didn’t understand that even married female teachers are addressed as “Miss.”

As hard as they tried to mess up the novel for me, almost as badly as Publish America did to AeroQuest, I was pleased with the final outcome and the ten copies they sent me. However, I had already vowed to myself that I would never again trust my work to fly-by-night small publishers. And, of course, no major publisher was accepting unsolicited manuscripts. So, I began my relationship with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

That, then, will be the topic of Part IV.

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Another Saturday, Another Art Day

“The Island Girl”

The picture called “Dorothy Gale” is an example of today’s theme. “What Mickey thinks girls look like.”

“Leopard Girl and Dilsey Murphy”
“Grandma Gretel holding General Swift”

“Rihanna”

“Journalist of the Future”

“The Wolf Girl”

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My Bookish Journey (Part II)

It is possible, I suppose, that after my unlooked-for hiatus from teaching, and the subsequent employment as an ESL teacher for the Garland, Texas School District in 2007. I might never have tried picking up the magic pencil again.

I loved teaching. And I was seriously considering doing it until the day I dropped dead.

But, God, of course, usually has other ideas for everybody. My last three years as a Texas public school teacher were my hardest health-wise. I had the H1N1 flu twice in one year. Both strains, one time each. I spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia. I reached a point where I was sick more days every semester than I had sick days to cover. My paychecks began to shrink. And it got harder to make it through the day standing in front of classrooms holding the big pencil of lesson delivery.

As I contemplated the inevitable dropping into deadness that happens even to English teachers, I began to realize that I couldn’t just let my stories disappear when I did. I needed to actually get serious about publishing them. I wrote another. I took an old manuscript called Nobody’s Babies and rewrote it as Snow Babies. I submitted it in manuscript form to a writing contest. I entered it into Chanticleer Book Reviews’ YA novel-writing contest called the Dante Rossetti Awards. https://www.chantireviews.com/contests/ I made it through to the final round of judging, one of twelve books. I didn’t win, and I couldn’t legally put on the eventual cover of the book that it was a finalist, but it was. So, it was time to find a new publisher. Preferably one that didn’t require my indentured servitude to Mastercard and Discover for the rest of my life.

I found a publisher that loved my book. PDMI Publishing was a business operated as an Indie publisher by a poet and his wife and supported by all the writers and editors and artists whose work he put into print. They were expanding when I signed a contract with them. I was given a brand new book editor who joined them shortly after I did. Jessie Cornwell was her name.

My book was humming along towards publication for two years. Then, rather suddenly, the business collapsed and they released me from my contract. Being the next book in line to be published, I believe it was my incredible luck as an author trying to get published and actually make money from writing that killed the publisher. I didn’t get the final draft of my novel back, so, now I give credit as Editor to Jessie, but the only changes she made to it are the ones I remembered and agreed with.

I would make one more stab at working with an actual publisher for the next book I wanted to publish, Magical Miss Morgan. But that debacle is the subject of Part Three.

But I would go on to self-publish Snow Babies on Amazon, and, to date, it is the book I consider to be the best thing I have ever written.

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My Bookish Journey

My journey as a writer actually began in grade school. I was writing Star Trek-like comics from the time I was in the fourth and fifth grade, ten and eleven years old. I called my comics Zebra Fleet, about the last fleet in the Star League on the distant, far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy.

I started writing book-length stories in college, at Iowa State University. They weren’t all science fiction. They began to be more and more about the time and place where I grew up, Rowan, Iowa in the 1960s and 1970s They involved the people I knew there and then. My family, my friends, the people of Rowan, and random Iowegians. I based important characters on people I actually knew, mostly those I knew quite well. But I changed and swapped character details to hide their identities a little bit, and I gave them names that were mixed and matched and borrowed from the 1977 Ames, Iowa phone book. Dettbarn, Efram, Sumpter, Bircher, Clarke, MacMillan, White, and Murphy all came from there. Niland came from a famous alumni of the University of Iowa who played for the Dallas Cowboys.

In order to have food to eat and money to spend as an adult, I had to take my BA in English and add to it an MA in Education to get a job as a teacher. I took my closet full of nascent novels and moved to Texas where my dad’s job took my parents before I graduated college. There I added hundreds of characters who were perfect for Young Adult novels as I got to know real kids and learned about their real lives. I changed their names, details, and often cultures as I added them to my stories.

Other than a couple of shots in the dark as submissions of cartoons and manuscripts to publishers, I mostly kept my stories in the closet and focused more on teaching (which, to be fair, is also a form of story-telling.) I put my handful of rejection letters in the closet too.

But then, I got laid off for two years due to health and a wicked witch as a principal, and I spent my non-job-hunting time writing a novel about my science-fiction role-playing games with former students. It was called AeroQuest.

I managed to find a publisher for that book. But it was a bogus sort of experience. They paid me an advance of one dollar. Then they had me sign a seven-year contract in 2007. No editor or proofreader even worked for them. I basically had to edit and format the book myself. All they did is intentionally flub-up some titles and sections of text in the printed form. This was part of the master plan to get me to pay for an extensive fix to the mistakes they made. The only marketing they did was to send a notice for my over-priced paperback to the list of friends and relatives that they required me to make for them. Publish America is no longer in business. They were closed down by a class-action lawsuit from the authors they had tricked into paying them thousands of dollars for totally defective publishing services. Since I didn’t pay them any scam pennies, I didn’t get any of the money from the lawsuit. I only got my publishing rights back.

So, I went back to whole-heartedly teaching. Then, in 2012 I completed another manuscript that I thought was the best work that I had ever done. I submitted it to I-Universe publishers. They read it and loved it. As it turned out, they were in the process of being acquired by Penguin Books. They were the closest thing to a mainstream publisher that would entertain submissions by new and unproven authors like me.

They, of course, were offering a publishing package that included working with real editors and marketing personnel. But I had to go a bit into debt to swing the price. So, I was still paying someone to publish my book correctly. But, as a step in my author’s journey, it was invaluable. I got to work closely with an experienced editor who had previously worked for both MacMillan and Harcourt, two mainstream traditional publishers.

My book was given the stock cover you see here despite the cover requests I made and got approved. My original ask was apparently too expensive to print. There is no girl flying a kite in the story at all, let alone at night. It is a story about incompetent aliens trying to invade a small town in Iowa. I had requested a flying saucer with a kite flying behind it.

That first real publisher, though, made me into a real writer. The I-Universe marketeers got me listed as a winner of the Editor’s Choice Award. And they put that award and the Rising Star award on every paperback copy they printed. Everyone who read the book seemed to really like it. They set me up with this blog, space on their website for my book and bio, and they put me in touch with Barnes and Noble to talk about “meet the author” sessions to promote getting the book on their shelves. But a trip to the hospital with pneumonia and the end of the room on my Discover Card caused me to bring an end to my marketing campaign. I ended up with two five-star reviews and sixteen dollars-worth of royalties.

At this point in the story, temporarily stalled, I must start touting the part two of my essay for today. I should warn you, I have a lot more negative things to say about publishing next time.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 123

Canto 123 – Who Can We Trust?

Jadalaqstbr, more often called Jackie because Zaranian names are hard with no vowels at the end, was impressed by the way Alec had taken charge of the situation.  She knew no one really liked or trusted Alec.  He was abrasive and often not worthy of trust.  But he had seduced her more than once by using his telepathy to invade her mind… more than three times already actually.  And she liked it.  There was something both sweet and sad about boys who were that pathetic and secretly needy.  She had always had a soft spot for guys like that.  Her own father had been like that before he died.

  And she could teleport him to five hundred feet in the air and drop him on his head if he did anything really bad.

Jackie noticed Taffy was the one who retrieved the

fallen helmet.

“Do not touch the inside of that!” said Shen Ming-sensei with a frightening suddenness.

“Um, okay…” said Taffy, holding it gingerly.  “Why?”

“Ah, so you see… I remember all of this now… when I could not recall any of it before…  The Avenger helmet was created over 400 years ago to have an intelligence of its own.  I overdid the wisdom circuits, however, and it blew out a morality capacitor.  So, instead of using it to make our commanders smarter in battle, it simply went insane.  We locked it away for four hundred years.  It grew more and more insane with each passing year.  Not only that, it can absorb the skills of those who wear it and amplify them.  So, not only does it have Jai Chaing’s superior bow skill, it has Hassan Parker’s Psionic telepathy.”

“Oh!  You mean it could take over my mind?”  Horrified, Taffy dropped the helmet.

“Ah, this is better.  So, perhaps a telepath should be the one to take this thing back to Mistress Li in the storage basement.”

“Right now, only Hassan and Alec are here with telepathy,” said Mai Ling.

“Ah, yes.  Perhaps giving it back to Hassan is not the best of ideas.  It did have him under its evil spell just moments ago.”  Shen Ming smiled crazily as he shook his head no.

“Um, okay…  I will take it to the storage basement,” Alec said rather hesitantly.

Jackie decided that if Alec was going to take such a risk, she was going with him to teleport him away the instant the evil thing showed the least sign of doing something bad.

Shen Ming and others walked towards the infirmary with Hassan while Alec and Jackie, with the helmet, started towards the stair to the palace basement.

Jackie was admiring Alec’s handsome face and not really paying attention to what Alec was looking it.  He turned the helmet over and over in his hands, peering inside at the neural contact points.

“I wonder how this thing makes people put it on their heads?”

Jackie suddenly turned and looked directly at the former Black Spider student ninja.

“Hassan is the second strongest telepath on Gaijin.  It must have a special power of its own,” she said.

No sooner had she said it than the helmet began to vibrate and glow.  A powerful, dominating voice blasted through her head, probably doing the same to Alec. 

“Put me on your head!  You are in my power!” the voice directed at Alec.  “Jackie, take off all your clothes!  I am your master!” It directed at her.

She could see Alec struggling to disobey the voice, but the helmet slowly raised his hands above his head and slipped it into place on him, the fifth most powerful telepath on Gaijin.

And her own hands no longer obeyed her.  She watched with horror as she completely undressed herself.

“We must escape to the Black Spider Castle!” the helmet said.  The helmet did not sound like Alec.  It seemed to have a voice of its own.

As much as it terrified her to see herself obeying the helmet, Jackie flung her clothing away and started to run.  Alec, wearing the horrid, three-horned helmet ran after her. Where was she going?  She didn’t know where the Black Spider Castle was, but apparently her bare legs did.  She was headed to the last place in the universe where she wanted to be.  And she was going there at high speed.

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Write Like You Mean It

I am guilty of writing satire and parody. Many of the things I have said in this blog are written as firmly tongue-in-cheek. But people will often take you seriously… literally… misinterpreting everything you say. They will, via comment, reach into your mouth, pull out that tongue, and wrap it three times around your neck in order to strangle you with it. (I dare you to take that one literally, all you non-humor appreciators.)

Obviously it helps, when talking about satire and parody, that you define the terms so that your reader has at least a little bit of a sense that the idiot writer actually knows what he or she is talking about and not merely flinging big words and obscure ideas around the room. (And, of course, when I refer to myself as an idiot writer, I am hoping that the reader gets the sense that I am being ironic about the fact that truly wise people are the ones who realize how little they know in comparison to what the universe has available for them to know.)

Parody is when you really love a piece of culture, literature, or art and you then imitate it in a humorous way. In my novel AeroQuest (which has now become 3 novels, and I am writing 4 & 5 too) I make fun of Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, and numerous other science-fiction and adventure-fiction things. The humor tends to come from exaggeration, ridiculous situations, extreme irony, and wry observations about our world embedded in the story. And they are written as a homage, not as an attempt to tear those things down.

Satire, on the other hand, is comedy created where you don’t like a thing and you write highly critical commentary about it disguised as the very thing you are criticizing. My narrator in AeroQuest, Googol Marou, is mostly satire. He is a know-it-all, pompous gasser who often holds forth about what people are really like, how their institutions really work, and how the primary purpose of life in the universe is to blow things up.

So, both kinds of writing, I am obviously saying, are in direct opposition to what my title suggests this post is about. Don’t immediately try to pull my tongue out of my cheek. I told you before that was not literal. It is a joke. The tongue-thing, not my title.

I am completely serious when I say that a writer must write about the things he or she already knows. It also needs to be about things you really care about.

My parody novels, then, obviously show how much I care about the novel tropes and movie-serial action/adventure stories that I am reverently imitating, mostly for laughs.

And I mean it also when my stories refute the ideas that blowing up high-population planets is a good thing, done for fun and sometimes profit. We are, after all, busily destroying this planet to make the living Koch Brother insanely richer.

There you have it, then. The mewling excuses for my egregious attempts at committing acts of both parody and satire. I actually mean what I say, even though you may have to use your brain a little bit in order to understand what I am saying.

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Art Day at the End of the World

I have a few more Science Fiction stories to tell. This one will be called AeroQuest 6 : Galactic Fire,
If I live long enough, I may use the characters of Farbick and Davalon again. They have been in both Catch a Falling Star and Stardusters and Space Lizards.
This picture is from an unnamed story about Earth Humans attending the native Dions’ school on the jungle planet Dionysus. The primitive peoples of the planet are sauroids rather humanoids, but they are connected to the stars thanks to Earther colonists.
This is merely a fantasy picture starring Buster Crabbe (the human on the left who would grow up to play Flash Gordon)
And finally, pirates on a distant planet with two suns (one of which is a red dwarf)

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Taking the Path Ahead of Me

From where I now stand, looking towards the future, I can clearly see I do not have very many more steps on my personal path forward. Good thing. My legs are almost ready to give out. I walk with a cane.

More importantly, as a school teacher, the only classes I will be able to teach are the fictional ones in my books. In fact, if my work in progress is the last one I will be able to finish (hopefully), then the dojo pictured above is the last one. At the moment they are learning social justice lessons fighting sentient vegetables on the planet Cornucopea.

There are many things I can take solace in as I near the end of the road. I outlasted the Trump Administration. (At least, technically, because I am still alive today in spite of feeling ill, while Trump’s run has officially reached its end with the electoral college acceptance ceremony in spite of the insurrection.)

There are many, many former students that still fondly remember the year or two (in some cases three) that they spent in my class.

Mai Ling in the picture with the Japanese Castle is an example. Even though the telekinetic ninja girl from the planet Gaijin is entirely fictional, I base all of her dialogue and reactions on a very quiet but extremely effective girl that I taught for two straight years in the seventh and eighth grades. She listened, learned, and then solved any problem I put in front of her. The last I knew she was thriving in a junior college in Laredo, planning on a nursing career. She will have succeeded by now, and would have even if I had never met her. But she told me she liked my class.

I can be grateful too that I have lived long enough to write most of the stories I really wanted to write. Sure, there are nudists in some of my stories, but there are nudists in real life, and in my personal past as well. Maybe they turn off some people that would like my books better without them. But I have some pretty good stories with no nudists in them too. And the nudists I know are some pretty good people. So, I have a right to be grateful for them. My stories, I mean. Though I am grateful for nudists too. I tend to write like I’m baring my soul. And I am proud of my naked truths.

Tiki Astro is a robot boy, built to be practically indistinguishable from a human boy..

Whatever the near future holds in store, I feel ready. I got my $600 relief check. 2020 taxes will probably cost more than that this year, but I actually have some money to hopefully pay for them. I am ill today. But that’s more often the case than not now. I deserve to rest a bit, grow stronger, and get on with whatever’s left to me.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 122

Canto 122 – The Hidden Powers of the Avenger

In the central courtyard of the Palace of a Thousand Years, the Avenger made its reappearance atop a young, completely nude boy.  He ran into the courtyard full throttle, and suddenly pulling up in front of the animal handler, six of his young apprentices, and six mardenschmauz six-legged riding beasts.    The Avenger then hit them with a mind-blast, proving that whoever was under the helmet was a powerful telepath.  He did not, however, kill them.  He merely put all seven people and six hexipedal riding beasts into a deep and restful involuntary slumber.

Of course, it was obvious that it wasn’t Alec under the helmet.  Alec was especially aware that it wasn’t him, as he rushed to the scene of the attack knowing it had to be stopped, and most likely only by another telepath.

Besides Alec knowing that he wasn’t the telepath in the Avenger helmet, he knew it wasn’t Sara or Junir, because the naked body wasn’t a girl, and it definitely wasn’t blue.  Besides, he was beginning to know and befriend the only Space Nudist among the students of the White Spider, and he now recognized Hassan Parker’s skinny butt and tiny penis.

Alec’s own telepathy was at least strong enough to protect him from any attack against him that naked Hassan could muster, in spite of Hassan’s telepathic superiority.

“Halt, Hassan!  You must take that evil helmet off.  You don’t want to hurt anyone.”  Alec stood in Hassan’s way.

“I do not know this Hassan you speak of.  I am the mighty Avenger!  I have returned because of the foul crimes of Shen Ming.  The wronged ones must be avenged!”

Others gathered around the scene of the Avenger’s sleep attack.  Taffy King and Mai Ling arrived from across the courtyard.  Jadalaqstbr teleported to Alec’s side and slipped her soft hand into his.  And Shen Ming-sensei hustled across the green, lifting the skirts of his orange ceremonial robe with both hands.

“Bow before me, infidels!  Or be destroyed in the name of Shen Ming!”

“I did not ask for any destruction in my name,” muttered Shen Ming, low enough that Alec almost didn’t hear him say it.

“So, Shen-sensei, the Avenger has now become Hassan?” Alec asked.

“Of course!  Why didn’t I remember?  It’s the stupid helmet!” Shen Ming said with a chuckle.

“You mean, it’s controlling his mind?” Alec asked.

“Undoubtedly.  It is what it was designed for.”

Alec looked at Taffy and Mai Ling, both of whom had fearsome Psionic powers of telekinesis and no telepathic mind shields.  If Hassan took over their minds… Oy!  Everyone could die a horrible death.

Not willing to take chances, Alec ran towards Hassan the Avenger and forcefully applied his best roundhouse kick to the side of Hassan’s head, then reversed direction and kicked him in the midsection with the other leg.  The helmet, once dislodged, flew through the air and landed in the grass more than two meters away from anyone.

Hassan was lying on the ground, still as death.

His heart in his throat, Alec leapt to Hassan’s aide.  His own telepathy was healing-centered, and though Fangwoman of the Black Spiders had only taught Alec how to use it to inflict pain, he knew only too well that it could be reversed the way Sara Smith did it to heal instead of harm.

The green healing energy radiated from Alec’s hands.  He poured his power into Hassan’s potentially damaged skull.

Slowly, Hassan opened his eyes again and came back to life.

“Alec, you freed me!  That evil helmet takes over your mind.  No matter how hard I fought it, it made me do things I did not want to do.”

“You have always been nice to me and helped me, even when I was horrible to you,” Alec admitted.  “I couldn’t just let the Avenger thing do harm to my only male friend.”

“Alec, you have definitely changed,” said Taffy King, smiling at him.

“Yeah, maybe so… But please don’t tell Phoenix.  I don’t want him to lose respect for me.”

“Oh, no worries there,” Taffy said about their old Black Spider classmate, “He doesn’t respect you, and probably never will.”

“Well, good then…” Alec muttered, though the disappointment from realizing the truth of that stung him deeply.

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