Afterwords Acquisitions

Much like I never tire of hearing how people meet one another, I could sit for hours and listen to how one comes across a good book to read.  A Brownie and Book Club Babe mom, Miss Toni, and I were discussing books via email.  She mentioned The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I purchased this book last summer at Afterwords Bookstore for my teen neighbor with the understanding I could borrow said book, but as to date, I am still waiting.  So, I felt a visit to the local bookstore, Afterwords Bookstore, needed to be added to my to-do list (any excuse works for me).

Post-Its in Place after a Late Night of Reading
English 111 Student with the Highest Average Wins a Copy in My Class

Although I had a purchase in mind as well as a book to pick up, Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street (which I inquired about through e-mail and received a response the same day from LuAnn, the owner- customer service at its finest), I like to walk on the wooden floors and roam between the rooms of books.  

Some of my discoveries . . .

My Youngest Daughter’s Namesake 
Included Are Beautiful Illustrations and a Brief Background of the Reading                
Ideal Reference Book for the Emergent Reader

Shop local.  Visit Afterwords Books at 232 S. Buchanan St. in Edwardsville, IL.  You will be glad you did.

Book Club Babes: Let’s Talk Books

Personally, I love to discuss books, analyze books, and write about books.  For many years, I was a book hoarder refusing to share my love of reading by passing a book along for fear of never seeing said book again.  This unreturned phenomena happened many times to me, by the way, before I decided to put an end to the lending process.  Instead, I chose to alphabetize my books, color-code my books, and stack them in piles by my bed instead of deal with the frustration.

Then, one day I decided not to lend the books, but give them away by stuffing them into friends’ mailboxes or hanging them on their doors, and this felt good. . . right.  I was sharing my love of reading and decluttering my house at the same time.  The likelihood of my rereading a book is slim to none due to the vast assortment of reading materials out there, and I want to read them all.  In truth, I reread books now simply because I have forgotten I have read them at all (until about halfway in) or if a character named Ranger or Morelli is involved. 

So, this morning, my eldest daughter talked books with me, and I was like a kiddo in the candy store.  Scout’s honor, I did not prompt the discussion.  Instead, she admitted to starting Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab (our third book club selection courtesy of Book Club Babe Colleen) last night after we told her for the third time to return to bed.  Sneaky!  She told me her book club buddy, Ava, had been reading it, so my squirt guesstimated Ava was nearly finished with the book (as she is a voracious reader).  

I asked my daughter, “When did you discuss Nick and Tesla with Ava?”  

She responded, “When I was at her house for the slumber party . . ..”  

I took a brief intermission, ran to my room, popped another Benicar due to my excitement, and then returned to our literacy . . . yes, literacy discussion.  

She continued with, “It’s weird how their names are Nick and Tesla, but are referred to as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ in the book.”  

She then loaded Nick and Tesla into her backpack with “I’m going to take this to school,” and off she went.

When this same reader returned from school, she took off her backpack and told me she found “older” was mispelled in Nick and Tesla.  

I asked how it was spelled, and she said, “E-l-d-e-r”  (13).

Aha!  I explained the meaning of “elder,” but then asked where she found the word in the book.  She went right to the page as she had asked her teacher for a post-it note (what I use to mark passages in my book).  Happy Mother’s Day to me.  We reread the passage together, and I explained how “elder” was, in fact, the correct spelling in this particular sentence.  Learning vocabulary through context . . . an English teacher’s dream.

Furthermore, she said, “There was a funny line in the book, ‘IF YOU’RE SELLING GIRL SCOUT COOKIES, I’M NOT HOME'” (14).  We giggled together as we are both registered Girl Scouts (adult and child) and have sold and eaten our fair share of cookies.

She then continued the conversation by telling me how another book club buddy, Emma “. . . talks about book club all the time.”  

I asked, “When?”  

She said, “When we’re at recess, and she uses Bink and Gollie to answer questions.”  

I asked, “How does she use Bink and Gollie to answer questions?”  

My squirt thought about it for a minute before responding, “Like she’ll say, ‘I read this book Bink and Gollie, and one girl wanted a pancake, and the other wanted her to take her sock off, so the one girl shared the pancake, and the other girl took her sock off.'”

“Cool!” I said trying to mask my near hyperventilation.

The conversation ended with, “Emma said she started Ivy and Bean and is reading Chewy and Chica.”  

Feigning an eye itch, I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye.

Love Words

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My first love blossomed in the form of words hurriedly written on a torn-out piece of notepaper with shaggy edges. This paper was then folded multiple times into a paper football and launched with a skilled flick of my finger from my seventh grade side of the parochial classroom to the eighth grade side near the desk of Bryan, a blond boy with a middle part, glasses, and a faint mustache. Written on this paper were such romantic greetings and closings as, “Hi. How are you?” and “TTYL.” I think our love lasted the entire last month of school with promises of frequent pen pal exchanges since I was staying with my dad for the summer. However, Bryan as muse quickly fizzled due to my booked schedule of swimming, softball playing, and slumber parties.

The depth of my writing advanced a smidgen in my teen years to include nearly developed paragraphs describing my boredom in dissecting a splayed frog or conjugating French verbs and then concluding with a subject-less phrase such as “Miss you,” which seemed to accurately encompass the angst of teenage love in regards to physical separation. These notes were passed from my hand to his during anticipated rendevous in the hallways.

For what my immature early twenties’ mind thought was “the one,” I wrote a letter of introduction on an extra long yellow legal pad after a chance meeting with a friend’s boyfriend’s friend. To my surprise, he replied to said letter with three-quarters of a page of minuscule young adult male writing on notebook paper, narrow ruled at that. These long-distance words were the gateway to seven tumultuous years of written words due to his affiliation with the navy. When, at last, we were able to coexist without the written word, the spoken words failed us. Thus, our mutual agreement to toss without regret, or any emotion for that matter, the scads of correspondence expressing our forever love should have been a sure sign of the words written on the wall, doomed relationship.

With the advent of the computer, inevitably came meetings via instant, or rather dial-up, communication. A two-week trial stint on a dating site in my thirties proved a lesson in what I truly longed for in a man, beautiful grammar. Instead, what I found were numerous misspellings or wrong word choices, red flags for an English teacher seeking love. The brief introductions of name and occupation written in fragments were overlooked, but when the written conversation continued with all lower-case letters and absence of any form of ending punctuation, I considered singles groups at churches.

As my probationary period online was coming to a close, an e-mail appeared in my inbox with an actual subject in the heading. After opening this message, I think I whimpered at the presence of a salutation with my name spelled correctly. Furthermore, commas appeared after introductory phrases of more than three words. This author at the other end of this cyber connection seemed to be too good to be true, so I immediately replied. The next two days were spent constantly monitoring my e-mail, not an easy task considering my modem speed. To my delight, second-order writing ensued on my screen, and on the third day, a date was solidified. Six months later this sexy scribe handed me a card on our wedding eve with the message, “Love is a verb.” Twelve years, two children, and a double mastectomy later, he remains my muse, and we have yet to have a shortage of love words for each other.

Learn More about Author Seth Keomanivane

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . . 
The Last Samurai

Describe your first kiss.

I was in the 6th grade and I had this girlfriend similar to my height with long brunette hair. The both of us are sitting next to another couple and that couple told us to kiss so we ventured towards each other and it was just a little peck on the lips.


Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .

Captain Underpants because it was comical that this hero had underwear above things that underwear should not be.
A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
Helping others when they feel that nobody can. Especially my family.
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
I would choose to be Seth Keomanivane in my own novel because I feel as if I’m trying to be someone else. I have not really shown you who I truly was.
Explain the worst job that you’ve held. 

There has not been one job I had not liked. Just for the fact that I was making money to support myself. Thus any job I had actually made me happy rather than complaining about a job I had no interest in.
A quote that motivates you . . .  
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee.

He is an inspirational speaker and full of wisdom.
Three Wishes . . .
Wish for a map that could find anything ever lost.

Wish for the power to touch any comic book magazine and get that superhero’s power.

Wish for a phone that could talk to people from the past, present, and the future.

I have had plenty of time to figure these things out!


The title of that one song you would take with you on that deserted island. . .

Who Let the Dogs Out


Favorite game you played as a child . . .

Bike Soccer
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
To see my creativity and the ideas I have as a person. I want them to relate to the picture I’m trying to portray into their minds.

Awaited Return of the First Morning

It is January 13th, 2014, and it is Seth Keomanivane’s first day back at McKendree. He will be returning to serve his first second term ever at McKendree University. In his return to McKendree, the weather had changed the tone of this eventful day with its gloomy demeanor and its drizzle of tears that poured down on him as he made his way to classes. Not only did this rain provide a barrier to his being, but on his way to his first class, he remembered he had forgotten to eat a replenishing breakfast. Therefore, with such a start to his day, Seth was able to overcome the depressing climate and the lack of nourishment.

       Awaiting for this day to arrive, Seth was joyous because he wanted to see his friends and discuss how his winter break went. But this exciting and joyful part of him was not present the day of January 13th. The life was drained right out of Seth, and his happiness slowly dissipated. The cause of this was the depressing weather. The ground lay cold, hard and wet, and even the grey-white sky induced a sort of separation from the rest of the world. Seth, taking in all these emotions and distractions slowly foot by foot, splash after splash, made it past the Aims Cafeteria.

            Following along this journey to overcome the atrocities were his sense of smell. In each step past Aims in his dampened shoes, he could smell the aroma of food. For Seth’s first sensory senses were the smells of a sautéed sausage in grease, combined with an over-easy egg with the p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; direction: ltr; line-height: 120%; text-align: left; widows: 2; orphans: 2; yolk pouring thick. Enough flowing for a rush of his taste buds within his mouth, he could not stop for he knew that being punctual on the first day of school was appropriate . But the taunts would never stop there for he could see within the clear cut glassed windows the long buffet line of breakfast goods. Yellow eggs, brown sausages, triangular breakfast pizza and, yes, hash browns down to the crisps.
            Coming up past Aims Cafeteria was a long winding sidewalk that headed right to a massive two- story brick building called Clark and adjacent to the right was 1828, another cafeteria. Making his way to the stairs, Seth tripped on a crack rising up from the sidewalk just adding to his frustrations of the morning. Now making his way to the door, Seth opened it with no struggle. Venturing his way upstairs, he looked to his right to an empty classroom with the lights off. While to his left were a medium-sized class of students just staring at him as if he felt they were judging him. Already affected by the bad climates, Seth felt a sense of discouragement. However, in front of his face was room 203, and after a glance at the schedule for reassurance, he knew had the correct room. In room 203 there was a long table extending from one wall to the other. Similar to a conference room for prestigious businesses. Sitting around the table were his new classmates, but it was as silent as space itself. The one female in the classroom sat with her head in her phone and her legs cramped together from feeling uncomfortably close to all the other students in the room. Angered by this, Seth was now in a mood not acceptable for a first day at school. The class dragged on about the syllabus which made for a long and boring hour for Seth.
            In short, everyone will have a day such as this. There will be times one may forget a meal or items such as waterproof shoes. For Seth, this was a learning curve and a lesson that life will knock one down, but it is the mentality one uses to cope. His day was intended for excitement to see friends and in detail, describe his crazy stories of break. Instead, Seth believed plans never go as expected, and he wanted to make that clear to his peers. However according to Seth, “Tomorrow’s another day, and there will be more first days to come.”
By Seth Keomanivane
I am an understanding and outgoing individual who enjoys leaving an impression with everyone I meet. 

M.J. Rose’s Seduction Book Club

Wondering if those eerie feelings of deja vu could possibly mean anything?  Then, M.J. Rose’s Seduction is the novel for you.  With portions based on the biography of one of the famous literary figures in France, Victor Hugo, one may never look at a Ouija Board the same way again after navigating through this complex storyline of connected characters spanning various timeframes.  Thus, a reader of this fiction may find a quiet escape, by the sea no less, the perfect setting in which to read.

Interestingly enough this piece of fiction was written entirely in chirography which did not hamper her manipulation of words for the purpose of vivid descriptions one scintilla:

I’d only seen you two or three times but had been acutely aware of your sadness.  You wore it like a frock.  It clouded your eyes, turning the blue sky to gray.  Even the scent that lingered in a room after you’d left it reminded me of grief.  It was the fragrance of flowers past bloom in their death throes (52) . . .

These giant hulking rocks have stood here for all time, seen all things, watched silently as men used them for shelter, religious rituals, burials, for crimes, trysts, for hiding places.  (218)

Simile and personification at its finest . . .

For the purposes of book club, Rose offers recipes as well as suggested background music here.  Furthermore, your club may even wish to invite Rose to your discussion virtually via Skype, a reader’s dream come true.

Learn More about Author Taraya Turner

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . . 
My Sister’s Keeper

Describe your first kiss.

My first kiss was with my cousin’s friend. I was eating cheeto puffs when I was 7 years old and his friend’s name was Tony. Tony flipped me on the couch and gave me a peck on the lips.


Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .

My favorite childhood book was Green Eggs and Ham because I used to love to read it out loud. I read it with such enthusiasm that everyone wanted me to read it to them. It was like I was putting on a show.
A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
Cancer is the saddest disease in the world to me. It takes innocent lives every day which is sad. My grandmother is a breast cancer surviver.
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
I would be Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. I say Ginny because she’s a excellent wizard and she lives in this fantasy world. Ginny is surrounded by her wizard family which would be cool.
Explain the worst job that you’ve held. 

I worked at a packaging company for one day. It was terrible we only had three breaks, two of those are five minutes for the bathroom and thirty minutes for lunch. Also I was in the assembly line there standing for nine hours.
A quote that motivates you . . .  
“No Regrets, Just Lessons Learned” that is the saying I live by. I make plenty of mistakes but I cannot take them back. I just live with it and learn from it.
Three Wishes . . .
I wish I were rich, married to Leonardo Dicaprio, and lived in Japan.


The title of that one song you would take with you on that deserted island. . .



Favorite game you played as a child . . .

Hide and seek in the dark
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
Take that I am a different individual with an amazing personality. My writing reflects the person I am, and all I can be is me.

When I Thought It Was Love

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Sometimes I wish I could take back experiences I had in the past. For example, my first shot at love. My first love (or so I thought) was an affair I wish I had never engaged. I may not remember the fights, but I still remember the bruises. I cannot think of the arguments, but I still have the scars. What he left me with I remembered the most is a valuable lesson, not to trust a man simply because of a  reunion with an ex boyfriend.
It is finally happening, my first love is coming back to me, or so I thought. I would have never dreamed I could have had the chance to see him again. Of course I have always wanted to; I mean he was my first after all. He seems so different yet still the same boy from three years ago. My ex was short, dark skinned, with an overly large nose. His lips at the top had the perfect crease in the middle. That smile of his used to always make me forget any of my worries, and it was now approaching me. I am sure I could never forget that walk; he strutted with such cockiness it won me over. Now looking back I realized he was never my type, yet as I stand waiting for him my smile does not fade.
My ex-lover walks up and hugs me as if I just arose from the dead. I have planned out this date perfectly as I always do. Our date was an outing to the theater; we watched a movie about a man on a building of some sort. As I was sitting next to him, I could smell the scent of that expensive cologne I used to love so much. Throughout the show I had many flashbacks of times like this. Did I honestly miss being around him? At the beginning I do believe I missed his company. That was before I learned what he actually was.
Now it has been four months since my reuniting with my ex. At first all was going well until he found out about “The Instance.” This particular instance was just three months before we made up our relationship. “The Instance,” is what I call the short period of time me and the close friend of my ex were on a romantic level with each other. I often regret this because it was at first only out of spite. My ex and his friend Dee were extremely close once upon a time. That was until Dee finally found his way to me. I admit that I was tempted when I saw that he cut his locks off. One part of a male I adore is a low fade haircut. It did not take long for me and Dee to have relations. Looking back the instance was the biggest regret of my life. I regret the instance that turned a boy I thought I loved into someone I never knew.
My innocent mind thought the worst was over, but there would be more to come. After my ex learned about me and Dee, our relationship decreased dramatically. He told me he would never trust me again. Every other day we were arguing about what I did. I knew it was wrong, but I did not know it would drive him insane. If I had known, I would have ended it sooner. Still till this day I cannot believe I did not see the signs.
For a long time, I could not admit to anyone I was in an abusive relationship. The first time I experienced his abusive side was on the Fourth of July. We were at a barbeque together, and as usual we were arguing about “The Instance.” Note that I was always crying throughout our relationship due to our arguments. This time I just wanted to ignore him and have a good holiday. He made sure for the rest of our time being together that I would not have joy if he did not authorize it. My natural reflex was just to walk away from the argument, that was until he pushed me. After he laid hands on me, he proceeded to threaten me. Take to heart I was not a weak individual, but I did once love him. That is the only reason I did not involve anyone else in my predicament. My family would have raised hell on him if they ever found out about his abuse. By raise hell I mean he would not be in the living world, he would be dead. I never told them; I just waited for my chance to escape the madness.
The fighting between us went on about four whole months without anyone having a clue of what was happening. Now I saw what it was like to be hurt by someone who claimed to love me. Then I came to the conclusion that this was not love at all. People who claim to love each other would never put their loved one in a position like this. Since my ex was such a danger to me, himself, and my family, I just waited for the day to be out of this position. Soon enough the day came where we had an argument about a case of him cheating. I personally was happy he cheated because that led him to believe I was hurt and needed time to myself. Honestly I was not hurt at all. My ex and I broke up, and this might have been the happiest day of my life. This was the day that he finally left my bed, my home, and most of all my life. My dark cloud had finally moved past me.
After we broke up, my life was going well. My job was going well so I bought all the necessities for college. On one particular day, my ex called trying to make his way back into my life. I was not willing to hear him out at that moment; I had a flashback. This flashback showcased like it was yesterday. There I am sitting on the couch while he comes to join me. I tell him “No I will not give you any more money.” That is when he hits me so hard on the side of my face that my ear started to ring. In a flash I am back to reality. What I had to endure over the past five months was not love, and I learned the hard way. I told him to never call me again, then I hung up the phone.
An important lesson was learned from reuniting with my ex was that people change. Once upon a time I had this guy whom I thought was sweet, who turned out to be anything but sweet. Where did that guy go, the one who I was just so happy to see a couple of months ago? He was gone with the wind, never to be seen again. Now I cannot bring myself to trust a man. Since I cannot trust a man I do not feel the need to look for one. There is no point in finding a spouse anymore, or merely having a new relationship. The fact is I used to think I knew what love felt like. Now it has been a year and a half since the last time I saw my ex’s face. I am currently still not ready to commit to anyone. This is fine with me because at least now I know what love does not feel like which was this.
By Taraya Turner
An Individualist . . . The Weird Girl on Campus

Cym Lowell’s Jaspar’s War Book Club

If women dressed as nuns disrobing and then running through the streets in order to detract attention from the bad guys whets your appetite, then Cym Lowell’s Jaspar’s War is the novel for you.  This manly man’s thriller topped with some testosterone and a side of C 19 H 28 O 2 has male written all over it with characters such as Henre Tremont, “world-famous grand prix driver . . . who moved like a leopard, the result, perhaps, of Olympic quality gymnastics routines” (40-41), Nulandi, whose “life as a commando started at about age 12”  (37), and Jason Brontus, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and “active Tae-Kwon-Do black-belt”  (19).  Hey, no complaints here.  Even Lowell’s visual imagery in the form of simile definitely connotes a male perspective, “In the silence the burp of a mouse would have sounded like a lion’s roar in the jungle”  (223).  Kudos for originality  . ..

The problems for me lie in the feminine presence in this read;  Jaspar, an upper class housewife and mother in a short amount of time is transformed into a physically agile killer with an insatiable sexual appetite for the purposes of the mission despite the misfortunes surrounding her husband and children.  I have difficulty believing this scenario despite my hub’s objections.  Furthermore, I feel she was too slow in her connecting the pieces of the metaphorical puzzle.  

In regards to grammatical errors, a comma splice on page 40, a split infinitive on page 136 missing the “to,” and awkward wording, “though with a new a cold set” (161) makes my toes curl and not in a good way.  

For the purposes of book club, a visit to Chief Bearstrike through gustatory perception with roasted trout filets, baked cornbread, “sliced vegetables, hummus, and pita”  (194) are sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Book Giveaway:  Interested in a FREE copy of Cym Lowell’s Jaspar’s War?  Describe your ideal macho man in the comments section below.  The hunkiest description wins.  Post by April 13, 2014. 

The FIVE Minute Writing Lesson: Bad Words

As a teacher of Composition 101, I have attempted to take the lean approach to teaching writing.  What this means to me is that in my early years of teaching Composition 101, I made the mistake of reviewing the various parts of speech, drilling the various comma rules, and testing on active versus passive voices in writing.  Yes, as you are yawning right now, you can only imagine what my students were doing . . .  anything but improving their writing.  So, without a doubt, age and practice comes wisdom.  Thus, on the first day of class of the semester after skimming over the syllabus, the signing of a contract (to assure understanding of the syllabus), and the fondling of required texts, I ask students to retrieve a piece of “scratch” paper.  As if a grade school spelling exam, I have the students write the following words which I recite:

a contraction of his/her choosing

Then, I direct students to crumble up their papers and throw them in the trash can on their way out of class in the hopes they will eliminate these vocabulary choices from their formal writing with the exception of using kid to refer to a “baby goat” and old to refer to “dilapidated” or “geriatric,” but not “former.”

Thus, in my imagined utopia of specific, descriptive writing, a student would use . . .

I handed her the utensil.  
I got her the utensil.

He is striking when he wears his black jacket.
He is very striking when he wears his black jacket.

I need to call Erma, gather my research articles, and pick up Sam before tonight.
There are many things I need to do before tonight.
We enjoy swimming laps together.
We enjoy having fun together.
I ran into my former roommate at the mall.
I ran into my old roommate at the mall.
My friend’s younger sister is competing this weekend.
My friend’s kid sister is competing this weekend.
We read a suspenseful short story from an eco-horror anthology.
We read a good story.
I cannot make it to the meeting on time.
I can’t make it to the meeting on time.