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Keeping It Real–Very Real by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

a tangle of mangrove tree roots
Mangrove tree roots image courtesy of M W from Pixabay

Even though I primarily write children’s books, I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the declining population of Rock Iguanas on the Cayman Islands, and another about the Sonoran Desert’s Night-Blooming Cereus.

cover of book "Silent Rocks." white background, rock iguana pictured in natural habitat on island Cayman Brac
The population of the endemic Sister Island Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) on Cayman Brac is in serious decline. These vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. The reduction in population is the result of human activity on their habitat and the threats can only be eliminated by human action.

I also write murder mysteries and one is set in south Florida in a small coastal town. A lot of the action takes place in the mangroves. In fact, one scene regards a resort hotel being built within the mangroves. I thought I had included sufficient details with the tangle of roots and the wildlife flitting in and out. Recently, I had the opportunity to stay in a hotel actually built within the mangrove trees.

Who was it that thought this was a good idea?

Besides the senseless destruction of the protective trees, there are the people-consuming insects that consider the insect repellent to be seasoning. Guests slog through the muck to get to the steps of the hotel. The salt air seems to corrode everything metal instantaneously. The nesting and resting birds squabble day and night. And then there’s the smell–the omnipresent odor of hydrogen sulfide, which can be compared to odor of rotten eggs.

It’s time for me to edit the landscape descriptions in my story and really bring the location to life. In the case of a very strong setting like this one, it takes on importance equal to the charactersThis has taught me to be certain to use all the senses when writing the locationMy new motto: Get the details rights!

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What is it About the Ocean? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

turquoise and white ocean waves against an orange sunset
Image courtesy of Ruben Eduardo Ortiz Morales from Pixabay

What is it about the ocean that stimulates my muse? Sure, I can write at home in the desert, but I feel so much more creative with salty waves lapping at the shore, or crashing on the rocks. Maybe it’s the salty air blowing the cobwebs and dust of the mental doldrums from my mind. I have been noticing this more and more. I go to the ocean and I can’t write fast enough. There are times at home in Arizona where I have to fight for every word and then I throw most of it away.

Don’t get me wrong–I do love my desert home. Yet, somewhere in my soul, I need the ocean stimulus periodically. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, since my first book was inspired on an island while on a cruise. Curtis the curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells climbed onto my sneaker and stayed there for a couple of hours! I don’t know if his adventure tale really happened to him, or if it was his dream, but when I got back to my cabin, his story poured out of me.

I am a biologist who now has 23 books in print! Children’s books based in science–even the fun rhyming books, and adventure tales, and especially, my pleas to save endangered species. It’s been a wonderful adventure so far, and I’m looking forward to wherever the waves of the muse take me, because I never know who I’ll meet that will inspire my next story.

What fun!

Here is Curtis’ second adventure tale. His new friendship is tested when his home island’s ecosystem is threatened.

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding on the back of a Hutia, a rodent
Curtis Curly-tail and Horace Hutia become friends after the declining hutia population are brought to Warderick Wells Cay. But when the hutia damage the cay’s ecosystem, what will the scientists do? It’s a very difficult situation for the friends and the island. The reader puts him or herself in the shoes of the scientists and chooses the ending to the story.
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Today is National Hermit Day and We’re Including Hermit Crabs! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

All illustration of Old Soldier, a hermit crab on Cayman Brac
Old Soldier sends the lads on a special journey

I swear, when I first read this, I read it as National Hermit Crab Day. I guess that’s because I love hermit crabs–such fascinating members of the crustacean family!

A hermit is defined as someone living in seclusion, and don’t we all wish at one time or another that we could get away from it all? So, in honor of National Hermit Day, and the hermit in all of us, we’re celebrating the hermit crab, my favorite crab and hermit.

Hermit crabs can live on land or in the sea. If you’re not familiar with them, they are amazing crabs that resemble cartoon characters. How so? They are able to move their bodies from one shell to another. Because crabs are very tasty and many other animals like to eat them, they need a hard shell to house their soft, delicate bodies.

But, as the hermits grow, they need bigger and bigger shells. Sometimes, the demand for the proper-sized shell leads to battles between the hermits. The accumulation of litter means we now see crabs using plastic bottles and baby heads instead of crab shells.

I feature a hermit crab in the Lime Lizard Lads story, The Dragon of Nani Cave, which is set in Cayman Brac, where the land hermit crabs are called Soldier Crabs. I think it’s because they march to sea en masse for mating season.

In my story, Old Soldier sends the lads, Gene and Bony, curly-tailed lizards, on their mission to find the dragon of Nani Cave. They do find the dragon and many other interesting animals and plants along the way. It’s an adventure tale, in which the reader learns all about this special Caribbean island!

colorful children's book cover with illustrations of curly-tail lizardsThe Lime Lizard Lads, curly-tail lizards of Cayman Brac, seek an adventure up on the bluff. Their goal is to reach Nani Cave and meet the dragon that lives there. Gene and Bony soon realize how big and how dangerous the world really is. Leaving home is easy, but can the lads make it back?

Lyric Power Publishing offers comprehensive and fun workbooks and activity sheets to supplement your child’s education. The one below is based on the Dragon tale. It’s a great way to keep the fun going, while reinforcing reading skills.

a green and white book cover with the image of a book called The Dragon of Nani Cave

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A Writer’s Life By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Black bookshelf holding books on the Cayman Islands
It’s very satisfying to see your books on display in a store. So, don’t ever give up on your writing dreams!

I am often asked why I write books. Mostly, it’s due to the multitude of stories cluttering up my mind. I never thought I would publish any of them and create books, but you never know where life will lead you. I always hope people will enjoy my books, but I do derive a great deal of enjoyment from writing them.

So it is satisfying, and humbling, when I see my books prominently displayed in bookstores and gift shops. I have been very fortunate with the merchants of the Cayman Islands.

Not only it is exciting to see my books displayed for sale, but to see the company they keep! In Books and Books on Grand Cayman, they are hanging out with Pedro and Georgie. I like that they offer books on animals from around the world, but are generous with shelf space for books set in the Cayman Islands.

A glass case holding the books of author Elaine A. PowersDown the road at the gift shop of the National Trust of the Cayman Islands, my books are also featured, along with other children’s science-based books. I was able to stock them with the newest CI-themed release, The Lime Lizard Lads and the Ship of Sneakers. This book has proven to be very popular on Grand Cayman and it is challenge to keep them in stock. But my marketing agent, Bonnie Scott, and I accept the challenge!

book cover, with beach and ocean, a pair of sneakers, with curly-tail lizards in them
The Lime Lizards of Cayman Brac, Gene and Bony decide to see where the tourists come from. They set sail on their adventure in a ship of sneakers. Will they ever see the Brac again?

My books may also now be found in all the libraries of the Cayman Islands, through the Friends of the CI Libraries, who purchased the copies. Their support of books about the islands is very commendable and I appreciate their generosity.

At the CI Book Fair held at the Main Library in George Town, teachers and schools were enthusiastic about my books. I hope to work with them in developing lesson plans to enhance their STEM education efforts. Many of the fun and educational workbooks available on LyricPower.net incorporate the characters found in the storybooks.

a blue and turquoise book cover with an image of Cayman Islands passport cover

This passport craft is a fun way for students in grades 1-3 to learn about thirteen animals that live on the island of Cayman Brac in the Caribbean. Once the passport craft is put together, your students begin filling in their passports as they learn about the different animals! Assembly instructions included.

a white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoiseForty-seven pages of fun activities about tortoises. Includes a KWL chart, fact sheet and coloring page; label the parts or a tortoise; predators of the tortoise coloring page; color by multiplication and division, color by three-digit addition; reading comprehension, 3rd and 4th grade vocabulary; four vocabulary-in-context pages; dangers to tortoises; ecology short answer; fill-in-the blank reading comprehension; True-or-False; cut-and-paste life-cycle; cause-and-effect worksheet; project sheets for writing a fable; nouns, adjectives, and adverbs; ecology crossword puzzle and word search.

I am still writing science-based books that take place on three of my favorite islands in the world. I look forward to many more visits and whatever adventures come next!

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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