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Keeping it Real When Writing “Setting” by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a brown horse, saddled, by fence in desertHeather, an excellent mare
While taking a horseback ride in the Tonto National Forest recently, my thoughts turned to storytelling and the importance of accuracy in portraying a location.
In all the Western-themed movies and TV shows I’ve watched over the years, not once did I see a trail like the one I was just on. The scene of the man riding over the edge of the mountain in The Man from Snowy River comes the closest. You always see the cowboys on horses riding nice, flat trails, instead of the reality of mountain riding: piles of loose stones altered with each monsoon rain; steep, smooth, sand-covered boulders where the hooves slide; sharp, jagged upthrusts around which the horses must carefully place each foot as they head straight up and down the mountainsides. I watched the horse in front of me fight for every step. It was a hard walk even without a person on his back. Fortunately, my mare was very solid and I did my part, keeping the reins loose so she could concentrate on where she stepped.
Southern Arizona desert mountainsLoose stones, sand-covered boulders, sharp, jagged upthrusts
I couldn’t help but wonder if this is the tourist-level trail, what did the advanced trail look like? Sorry for lack of photos of the real-life trail, but I was busy holding on. However, the views were spectacular.
People like reading about places they know. I recently read a mystery set in Tucson that included a scene up by my house. Great fun. Yes, the author got her description correct.
colorful children's book cover with illustrations of curly-tail lizardsSo, when I write about a real place, I work hard to get the descriptions right. For instance, when I wrote my book, The Dragon of Nani Cave, set on Cayman Brac,  I confirmed that the route the Lime Lizard Lads took around the island was accurate. I wanted to be certain the book was believable, so that the children reading it would enjoy recognizing island locations and take seriously the science information included.

Here are a few of my “models” for the first Lime Lizard Lads story.
soldier crab cayman islands

Old Soldier (Crab) sends the Lime Lizard Lads on their adventure to find the Dragon of Nani Cave

Sister Isle Rock Iguana Cayman IslandsThe “Dragon,” in my story, a Sister Isle Rock Iguana. (She looks very much like a dragon to the tiny curly-tail lizards)

So, remember, when writing your stories, do your research and get the facts of the setting right. Your readers will appreciate it, and you will hear about it if you don’t!

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Visiting with Friends on Cayman Brac by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Usually when I travel, if I’ve been to a place once, that’s good for me. Time to move on to the next location on my “to-visit” list. But I have a few favorite places I don’t mind visiting each year. It’s convenient when I write books about those places, because I have to then deliver books to stores there, or I go for inspiration and research for the next book. One such place is Cayman Brac, one of the Sister Islands in the Cayman Islands.

To get to the Brac, I usually fly into Grand Cayman, which is a very nice place to visit as well. My favorite places are Books and Books, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens to see the Grand’s blue iguanas, and Pampered Ponies, where you can take a swim with a horse. But then it is off to the Brac, a short plane ride away. It’s only about 98 miles.

image of Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis
Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis

Even though the purpose of my last trip was to market and restock the stores with my books, my personal reason was to visit with the locals, such as the beautiful lady above. She is a Sister Isle Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanensis. I was part of the team that caught her last year and watched as she dug a nest for her eggs. Her egg chamber was part of the research project for the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment. She is looking great.

Of course, when I asked her if she remembered me, she ran off into the brush!

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's headFor educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page workbook called My Unit Study on Iguanas designed for students in grades 2-4. It’s filled with fun and educational pages and puzzles, all about the iguana.

a blue and turquoise book cover with an image of Cayman Islands passport coverAnd your favorite first – third grader(s) might love to make a Passport to the Cayman Islands while learning about these truly beautiful islands.

illustration of head of cyclura nubila iguanaIf you have any interest in the identification booklets that Lyric Power Publishing has created on how to tell the differences between the invasive green iguanas and the native rock iguanas, please contact Elaine Powers at iginspired@gmail.com.

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Remember Clarissa Catfish and White Thunder? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Two catfish in an aquarium

Clarissa Catfish and White Thunder are characters in the storybook, Clarissa Catfish Visits the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

I was back in my hometown of Peoria, IL., so I stopped by to visit a couple of old friends and a couple of inspirations. Clarissa Catfish and White Thunder from my story, Clarissa Catfish Visits the Peoria Riverfront Museum, are featured in the photo above. You can see why I didn’t want Clarissa to be kidnapped and eaten!

I was delighted to see they are still swimming about in the Illinois River Exhibit. Even though they look similar, Clarissa and WT are different kinds of catfish in my book, Channel and Bullhead. The book is an exciting tale of friendship and danger, plus you will learn a lot of fun facts about Channel cats.

Clarissa’s adventures will continue. The ending of her first book was left open ended. You’ll want to see where she goes next!

an illustrated children's book cover, blue water with a catfish swmming and a bu9ilding in the background
A flooding river takes Clarissa Catfish to the Peoria Riverfront Museum. She had thought exploring the Illinois River was exciting, but once she is taken inside the museum, the real adventure begins. Clarissa explores the exhibits and makes new friends–but will she escape the man who has dinner plans for her?
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There are Scientific Names and there are Common Names by Elaine A. Powers, Author

In this blog post, I’d like to chat about scientific names versus obvious common names and tell you about a new one I’ve just learned.

The scientific community has organized our plants and animals with Latin names. An easy one is the green iguana, Iguana iguana. Most living things also have common names. I find it easier to remember common names than scientific names, but sometimes people use different common names for the same thing.

For instance, the tree I know as the Gumbo Limbo in Florida is the Gammalamee in the Bahamas and the Red Birch in the Cayman Islands. I used these different terms in my book Grow Home, Little Seeds, which is a wonderfully illustrated story of a graduating bundle of mixed seeds at the Leon Levy Preserve. The story is about seed-friends who vow to stay together and form their own forest, but their natures lead them in different directions, for they each must find what they need to survive, to germinate and to put down roots. You’ll meet the Gumbo Limbo/Gammalamee/Red Birch tree and many others as these Bahamian natives each seek their own place to call home. The characters are named for their common names, but their scientific names are listed, with details about each tree, in a glossary in the back of the book. The illustrations are a joy. Both children and adults alike enjoy thtale of friendship and finding a place to call home.

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters

My very first children’s book character is a commonly named Curly-tail lizard called Curtis. He is based on lizards found on the Caribbean islands, where I met him. And yes, they do curl their tails up and over their backs. Of course, they aren’t the only lizards who curl their tails, but they’re the ones that got that name first.

black and white illustration of a curly-tail lizardThis is a good illustration of a Curly-tail lizard. And here is another, on the cover of my book, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers.

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding the waves in a red sneaker
Curtis, the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells, decides to see where tourists come from. He sets sail on his adventure in a ship of sneakers and then has to figure out how to get home.

 

I just love the appropriate common names of plants and animals and I recently came across another. I was in the Corkscrew Swamp and saw this intriguing fruit. It was noon on a hot July day and I was rather hungry.

It was an apple! Was it my favorite apple, a yellow delicious, in the swamp?

No, it was on a plant called . . . you might be able to guess from my mention of descriptive common names . . . the Pond Apple (Annona glabra). This is a native tree and it has a second common name, the Alligator Apple, because alligators often eat the fruit. The leaves also add to the naming because they smell like green apples.

green leaves of a Pond Apple tree in a swamp

Amazingly, this tree cannot grow in dry soil, but thrives in both fresh and brackish water. The fruit disperses by floating, releasing its 100 or more 1-cm long seeds. The pulp is eaten by people as well; the flavor is similar not to apples, but to honeydew melons! However, the Pond Apple is not as popular with humans as its relative, Soursop.

I was delighted to learn the descriptive common names of this interesting plant. They’re obvious enough that I should be able to remember them. Because the tree was in a protected environment, I didn’t get to taste it. Maybe someday I’ll get to eat an appropriately named Pond Apple. I look forward to that day.

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You Know it’s Hot When Your Tree Melts by Elaine A. Powers, Author

tree trunk growing on fenceAs trees grow, they can get taller and their trunks generally grow wider. Since they can’t move out of the way, the trees have to deal with any impediments. When trees run into obstacles, plant tissue often grows around and may even engulf foreign objects.

I saw this tree in the Corkscrew Swamp in southwest Florida at noon in late July. It was very hot.

I don’t think this tree grew into the boardwalk railing – I think it melted!

Stay cool and enjoy your weekend!

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Is this Owl Dead? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

barred owl on cypress tree in swamp

Is this owl dead or just dead to the world?

I was enjoying a walk on the boardwalk of the Corkscrew Swamp outside Naples, Florida recently. A variety of animals were heard and a few seen, although activity was low due to heat of midday in late July.

I came across this Barred Owl, Strix varia, on a branch of a Cypress tree beside the boardwalk. The owl’s wings hung down and its head drooped below the branch. Was it dead?

No, merely sound asleep—dead to the world—obviously unconcerned with the nearness of people. After taking our photos, a group of us who had gathered at this amazing sight quietly walked off, not wanting to disturb the owl’s slumber.

A few minutes later, the barred owl’s distinctive call was heard across the swamp. Someone or something had awakened the owl. Was it expressing its displeasure or telling us it had enjoyed us enjoying the show?

Birds are also known as Aves or avian dinosaurs and are beloved by me. I hope to write about more birds in the future, but here are my offerings thus far to this group of wonderful creatures inhabiting this beautiful planet. EAP

Brian Brown Booby, a young resident of Cayman Brac, finds himself stranded on a beach on Grand Cayman. It’s too far back for a booby to travel, even if Brian could fly, which he can’t. Does Brian make it back to the Brac? What happens to a booby that can’t fly? Based on a true story.

 

This colorful picture book for all ages teaches about the Sonoran Desert—with a sense of humor. It pits one bumbling human against the desert as he carelessly attempts to photograph an Anna’s Hummingbird. Enjoy the chase as the photographer is tripped up by a rock, stabbed by a Mesquite tree and rattled by a Western Diamondback. Then use the glossary to teach about the rich variety of life in the Sonoran Desert. Humor makes learning fun and easy!

 

“With vibrant illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe, this picture book is jam-packed with scientific facts about roadrunners, delivered in verse form to keep the narrative lively. Roadrunners “…grab their victim/behind its head/And bash it on/the ground until it is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star

 

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The Sanibel Snakes Are Gone by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I have spent a lot of time in South Florida, nearly every year since I was born. I remember seeing massive Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes crossing the road. All the cars would stop and we’d get out and watch as the magnificent snakes slithered across, unconcerned by the humans nearby.

Curled rattlesnake
Image by Usman Khaleel (Moe) from Pixabay

My father, a physician, correctly diagnosed a bite a neighbor had received while working under his trailer at the RV park we stayed in. The man thought he had been bitten by a spider, but my father told him to proceed immediately to the ER, since he had been in fact been bitten by a Pygmy Rattler. This correct diagnosis saved the man’s hand. When I worked at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, I was privileged to see several Eastern Coral Snakes. These shy snakes were rarely seen.

Consequently, I thought Ft. Myers and Sanibel would be good places to peddle my book about rattlesnakes. I was surprised and saddened to learn that the native venomous snakes are no longer found in the area. Sadly, Eastern Coral Snakes have not been documented since 2002.

What a tremendous loss to the ecosystems.

Would a book like Don’t Me Rattle! have made a difference? Maybe if people had been educated, they would have worked to preserve these species. We’ll never know now.

But you can help educate people about the value of rattlesnakes, which eat insects and rodents we humans don’t like. And tell them their venom is actually a digestive aid and their only defense if something tries to hurt them. The rattle-sound is meant to warn, not to scare—just step away and avoid a meeting.

Not only is Don’t Make Rattle! filled with educational and entertaining information, you’ll find a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake workbook and a U.S. Rattlesnake coloring pages book on the LyricPower.net website.

A book cover, with a Native American 'feel,' and a painting of a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

a white and light blue book cover with an image of a western diamondback rattlesnake

yellow book cover with rattlesnake image and list of workbook pages

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A Special Encounter by Elaine A. Powers, Author

manatee swimming in turquoise ocean waterI find taking short trips to a different location help freshens my creativity and enlivens the muse. I recently took a quick trip to my late mother’s house in Fort Myers, Florida, where I typically start the day with a sunrise walk on the beach. But this time, a friend and I decided to take a kayak trip around the seaside mangroves. The coastal mammal manatees are known in the area, usually found in the deeper lagoons and canals. Back in the mangrove swamps, it’s too shallow, right? Not on this day.

As we went to launch our kayaks, we discovered an impediment. A manatee was at the base of the ramp! We watched as the lovely animal sauntered about in the water. Eventually, he drifted off to the side and we launched. Off we went on our paddle through the mangrove, out to the bay, along the shore and back to the boat launch . . where we were prevented from landing by our friend, the manatee. He swam around our kayaks and at one point actually swam under me. I was so excited! The rental man said the manatee had disappeared when we left and only returned with us. That manatee will inspire me for a long time.

Sadly, like so many other creatures, the manatees are endangered by man’s activities. From running them over and hurting them with boat propellers, to toxic run-off from development and farming, and destructive algal blooms causing “red tide,” the manatee population is decreasing. Many people are working to save the manatees, but others feel that no-wake zones are intrusive on their desired water-lifestyle.

Surely, we can spare a few minutes to slow down and help a fellow mammal, this peaceful, gentle giant.

To learn about a fellow ocean-dweller, see our 29-page workbook, My Book About Sea Turtles.

A seafoam green book cover about seaturtles, with an image of a Green Sea Turtle

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August 1st is National Girlfriend’s Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

August 1st is a day to celebrate your girlfriends. I’m certain they meant for it to be a day to celebrate your HUMAN girlfriends–please do celebrate your friendships and don’t let them become neglected. However, I’m celebrating my other girlfriends on this day.  Let me introduce a few.

closeup of a green iguana

This is Calliope, named for the muse of long poetry.  She is my inspiration for my writing, looking over my shoulder.  She is a green iguana.

This is one of my newest girlfriends, Button.  We’ve been building a very special relationship for two years now.  She lets me ride her bareback, so we have a physical connection to go with our spiritual one. She is a Missouri Fox Trotter.

woman sits with tortoise on her lap, reading a book

And last, but never least, this is Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise. She made me write my very first picture book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!, when she’d been called a turtle one too many times. This picture book explores the differences between tortoises and turtles in rhyme and is a fun-favorite among little ones and their parents. Of course, Myrtle never tires of me reading it to her!

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

For more fun and educational information about iguanas and tortoises, please see our workbooks and activity sheets.

 

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's head

a white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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Photographers on the Beach by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Must I share my beach?

Ocean Florida coast with two birds where waves lap

I’m a morning person and I’m a beach person. I enjoy being on the beach, walking in the gently lapping waves as the sun rises. Sunrise also means I might have a chance at being alone on the beach with the birds and sea creatures.

Ocean, beach, photographer on knees with camera and huge lens on tripod

However, I often have to settle for an almost-empty beach. Invariably, there are photographers on my beach, taking photos of birds, waves, whatever. Most of the time you can tell they are serious photographers–their cameras sport huge lens and their backpacks are full of other lenses.  They wear vests with lots of pockets and hats to protect their gear and heads. I try to give them a wide berth.

ocean, beach, man in swimsuit squatted, photographing water, while a bird creeps up behind him

But then you have photographers like this guy.  Same huge lens, obviously dressed for a day at the beach. That’s more my style! And look, he’s walking in the waves, just  like me—well, kind of. I and that magnificent bird creeping up behind him as he intently photographs something else (oblivious to what’s going on right behind him) are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. LOL.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of the Curtis the Curly-tail Lizard Children’s adventure stories, which take place in the Bahamas, and of Fly Back to the Brac, Brian Brown Booby, which is based on a true story.

Brian Brown Booby, a young resident of Cayman Brac, finds himself stranded on a beach on Grand Cayman. It’s too far back for a booby to travel, even if Brian could fly, which he can’t. Does Brian make it back to the Brac? What happens to a booby that can’t fly? Based on a true story.