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Story Conundrum by Elaine A. Powers, Author

What do you do when you have a conundrum about a story?

Why you stop and write a blog post about it, of course!

Before I started writing books, I wrote audio theatre scripts.  These scripts were intended to be broadcast over the radio or as audible stories. My first full-length script was recorded and published as a CD.  Shrine of the Seven Iguanas is a tale of good and evil and about protecting the environment. It’s an action-packed story that includes a were-iguana (not a werewolf!).

After I moved to Arizona, I changed to writing books.  I wanted to write murder mysteries but discovered the joy of writing science-based children’s books.  However, Shrine really wanted to be rewritten as a novel. My first attempt was to make it into an adult thriller, but a novel is very different from an audio script. Instead of using sound, I had to describe the settings and scenery. The story just didn’t turn out.

Then I heard about how there was a strong market for middle grade novels. So, I tried to convert the script into a story with a pre-teen antagonist.  I stumbled across how to change the minor character of the niece into the new protagonist, instead of the adult woman. But that was unsatisfactory, too.  So, the story sat and waited.

One of my friends has started trying to write romance novels, something I really had no interest in doing. But then again, romance novels are number one in fiction sales. Shrine would make an excellent romance! I’ve tried scripts, mysteries and children’s books. Maybe a romance is the next genre for me to try!

(I’ll let you know how this works out.)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­If you’d like to perform Shrine of the Seven Iguanas!, the use rights come along with the purchase of the two-part script, which is available at amazon.com.

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How Does the Rattlesnake Drink Water? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

A colorful, red and gold illustration of a rattlesnake
From the book “Don’t Make Me Rattle!”

With the start of the monsoon season, you may be wondering about the animals that live in this harsh desert environment. With an annual rainfall of only 12 inches, having water to drink is a significant issue. Rattler bodies are adapted to prevent unnecessary water loss: the scales are impermeable, the snakes don’t urinate and they can detect water with their incredible sense of smell and taste.

Rattlers take advantage of rain by drinking from puddles, of course.  But more impressive, is that they collect water on their skin to drink. This amazing behavior is shown in this illustration from Don’t Make Me Rattle!, a book I wrote in rhyme to make learning about rattlesnakes fun!

This image was created by the talented Tucsonan, Nick Thorpe.

 

 

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle

Lyric Power Publishing also publishes supplemental, educational and fun activity sheets and workbooks. Want to learn all about rattlesnakes while keeping busy this summer? Click below to see all that is inside these masterful workbooks.

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

A Book Cover, Colorful Dotted Border, Yellow Background, Orange letters My Book About United States Rattlesnakes, with an image of a Rock Rattlesnake and a list of US Rattlers

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Never Say Scoot to a Scute! By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Some words are just fun.  One of my favorites is SCUTE. It’s pronounced like scoot.  Try saying is slow: scoooooot or fast: scutescutescute! Fun, right? I have turtles and tortoises to thank for introducing me to the word scute.

The word scute is from the Latin word scutum, which means “shield.”

The segments of the carapace, or hard-shell, of a tortoise are called scutes. Scutes are made of keratin, like your fingernails. They cover the bone of the turtle or tortoise, like our skin. I confess, I didn’t look closely at the scutes until I wrote my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle. I had discovered how turtles shed their scutes from my painted turtle, Tommy. But tortoises add material between the scutes, creating the appearance of tree rings.

I was surprised to find out that they all have the same number of scutes. Look at the photos below and you’ll see what I mean. A turtle is on the right and a tortoise is on the left.

looking down on the shell of a turtle
See the separate pieces, or scutes, of the shell of the turtle?
looking down at the shell of a tortoise
These are the scutes of the tortoise’s hardshell

 

How many scutes are there? The five scutes in the center are called vertebral scutes. Next to them are 8 costal scutes. Creating a fringe around the carapace are the 24 marginal scutes.

Okay, now that I’ve said all hard-shells have the same number of scutes, I have to mention the exceptions. Loggerhead and Ridley Sea Turtles have 10-12 costal scutes. They make room for the additional scutes by having an elongated carapace.

I hope you now appreciate scutes, not only as a fun-sounding word, but for the important purpose they play in the lives of turtles and tortoises.

To learn more about tortoises and turtles, please click on the books below. They are an economical, fun and interesting way to keep children happily occupied, while learning, during the hot days of summer.

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

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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

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

There are MANY differences between tortoises and turtles! That’s why Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise asked me to write this book. It’s educational but written in rhyme and a lot of fun for both parents and kids.

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Why Does the Tortoise Go Out in the Rain? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

a tortoise on wet patio
Heading out to catch some rain drops!

It’s the start of monsoon season here in the Sonoran Desert. When the rain begins to fall, the tortoise comes out of her den. Why? Is it because she’s afraid the water will rush into her underground den and fill it up?

No, she comes out because it’s time to drink. The desert tortoise finds a depression in the ground where the water collects. Then she drinks and drinks and drinks until her bladder is full.

I’ve tried putting out dishes of water for my tortoise, but she won’t drink from a source where the water is still.  Sometimes, I pretend to be a storm and rain down water from my hose.

It’s a truly wonderful thing when it rains in the desert. We should all be more like the tortoise and go out and drink it in!

Here I am reading Don’t Call Me Turtle! to Myrtle.

If you’d like to know more about tortoises, check out my rhyming book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! My tortoise, Myrtle, asked me to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises because everyone kept calling her Myrtle the Turtle. She’d finally had enough! She likes her book a lot, perhaps just a smidge more than my young readers!

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

And check our our workbooks on tortoises and turtles at our Lyric Power Publishing Workbooks page. They are full of information, and have lots of fun activity sheets for kids (and adults like them, too, I’m told!) that help to pass the long summer days.

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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Trees That Are Not Loved by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Joyce Kilmer
wrote the poem
Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

However, not all trees are revered.  Today, I’m going to discuss two that I have met in my citizen scientist work in the Caribbean.  The first one is Poisonwood, Metopium toxiferum.  A character, Polly Poisonwood, based on the poisonwood tree, is featured in the adventure tale Grow Home, Little Seeds. You can probably guess from its common name, the poisonwood is not a tree to embrace. Poisonwood belongs to the cashew family, which includes poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak.  There seems to be a theme in the names. Poisonwood resin contains urushiol, which causes severe dermatitis. It is so potent that water dripping off leaves is enough to irritate.

So, why don’t we just get rid of all the poisonwood? Even though the tree is not useful to people, the fruit is a major food source for the endangered white-crowned pigeon and the Bahamas parrot, as well as many migratory and local birds. These trees really are “for the birds.”

The second unloved tree is the Manchineel tree, Hippomane mancinella, which I encountered in the Cayman Islands. It is considered to be one of the most deadly trees known to man. It is believed this tree was used to kill Juan Ponce de Leon.  The name is from the Spanish word for little apple, manzilla, due to its fruit that resemble apples.

Every part of the tree contains toxins, which cause strong contact dermatitis. A drop of rain washing over the tree will cause blistering. The sap will even damage the paint on cars.

Machineel is a member of the spurges, so named from “purge,” because of their toxic saps. Poinsettias are also members of this family.

Why do people keep such a dangerous tree around?  The fruit is deadly poisonous and toxic to birds and mammals.  Most plants want the fruits to be eaten, so the seeds can be dispersed during defecation. Why have a toxic fruit? One group of animals is immune to the toxins and enjoy eating the machineel fruit. It’s my favorite group of animals – iguanas! These large lizards eat and disperse the seeds for the birds.

So, remember: Even though we may not like certain trees, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important to the certain birds or animals in the environment. They do need to be preserved for them and their eco-systems.

The two trees above are characters in the delightful children’s book, Grow Home, Little Seeds, about  seeds that are raised together in a greenhouse and decide that when they are dispersed, they will all try to stay together. However, they learn along the way that they each need they own special place to put down roots, to grow up to be strong trees; but they remain good friends–as neighbors. 

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

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Ice Break Day in Tucson? Arizona? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Ice Floe jutting from the ocean
Image by Simon Matzinger from Pixabay

Here in Tucson, we recently celebrated Ice Break Day. It occurred on June 9, 2019 at 2:37 pm, as reported from the Tucson International Airport. Those of you up North know what ice break originally meant. During winter, rivers and bays have been known to freeze solid. Ships are unable to navigate the waters until spring when the ice breaks. Consequently, supplies are limited until the ships are able to push through.  Ice breaking ships were built to aid in hastening this release from being ice-bound. Many communities hold events to guess when ice break will occur in their waterways.

Here in the Desert Southwest, where we enjoy our dry heat, we also celebrate Ice Break. However, the only ice we have here is our freezers.  We frequently add it to beverages for cold refreshing drinks. So, what is Ice Break in Tucson? It’s the day and time we officially reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in a calendar year. Many TV station weather-people have contests with prizes for the person whose guess is closest to the actual time.

“Has Tucson ever failed to have a 100-degree day?” you ask.  Hah, you’re amusing.  Ever since temperature records have been kept, it has reached 100 degrees every year.

How does 2019 compare to previous years for the Ice Break?  The earliest date was April 19, 1989 and the latest was June 22, 1905.  May 26 is the average.  So we’re a bit later than average this year, although we had several near misses earlier.

So, just how hot does it get in Tucson?  The highest recorded temperature was 117 degrees on June 26, 1990. Even with the low humidity, that would be hot.

Many people head for cooler climes when the summer heats here in Tucson, but I enjoy the hot temperatures. I say, Don’t go! Make your plans now to be here for next year’s Ice Break in Tucson and get that chill out of your bones.

Elaine A. Powers is a true adventurer and the author of science-based children’s books, written in rhyme and adventure stories.

Lyric Power Publishing also publishes supplemental, educational workbooks with activity sheets to help keep the kids busy during the summer.  My Book on Directions and Place is packed with information to help your child understand directions, use maps, the Compass Rose, etc.

a green and white book cover with an image of a Compass Rose

 

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The Power of Coloring Books in Education by Elaine A. Powers, Author

An illustration of a green sea turtle with the letter "T"
From the PreK-Gr 1 Sea Turtles Workbook

I’ve always loved coloring, both as a child and an adult.  When I was in college, to help relieve stress, I colored big posters. I still have them.  They brought me many hours of relaxation and enjoyment between the many more hours of studying and practicing. I didn’t need to participate in drinking or other destructive activities.

When it comes to techniques for making science education entertaining, coloring books are very useful. The pages are a good way to “sneak in” information. Even though the image may be of a real plant or animal, the artist should be allowed to express their own creativity. Who cares if the child colors outside the lines or makes the iguana purple? Of course, pink iguanas were recently found in the Galapagos. (Yes, they are really pink in color.) Maybe the artistic rendering is a premonition of an undiscovered species.

Perhaps as the child grows older, she’ll want to get more precise in the coloring, leading to a search for more information on the animal, stimulating interest in not only this one animal, but others.  This could lead to learning about the environment where the animal lives: What other animals live there? What plants? Are there mountains or water or blowing sands?

Image of a roadrunner with the word "roadrunner" and lines to write the word
From our workbook about roadrunners

The act of coloring can stimulate the imagination, which is so very important today in this world of visual overload. Imagination can lead to interest, and interest can lead to a desire to explore the world.

The Lyric Power Publishing educator, Marilyn Buehrer, has created many wonderful coloring pages in our supplemental Workbooks, such as those pictured below. I hope you and the children in your life will enjoy them as you learn something new about our world.  And, don’t forget—coloring is not just for children. You just might be coloring your world if you follow where the picture leads you.

a light green and dark green book cover with the image of a duck in water

A Book Cover, Colorful Dotted Border, Yellow Background, Orange letters My Book About United States Rattlesnakes, with an image of a Rock Rattlesnake and a list of US Rattlers

a blue and turquoise book cover with an image of a truck on the road and a bulldozer on soil

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Writers are Introverts—But Selling Books is for Extroverts. Oh, the Contradictions! By Elaine A. Powers

 

 

small laptop on desk showing hands typing
Image courtesy of StockSnap from Pixabay

Writing is a solitary activity. Sure there are write-ins where authors gather to write en masse, and the absolutely essential critique groups where writers discuss what they’ve written, how to write, and bounce ideas off each other for story points.  Let’s not forget the valuable writers’ organizations like Sisters in Crime and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators).  All of these group activities are very important but, in reality, writing involves one person and a piece of equipment for recording the words.

How and where the writer writes is as varied as the individual. I like using my laptop but the where varies. I find I need a variety of inspiring locations, even if it is to change from the dining room table to standing at the counter, or sitting at my desk overlooking the desert. Of course, the solitary nature of writing is well known—definitely suited for the introvert.

But what about afterwards?  What about after your words have become a book and you have to . . . market it? This is the terrifying part of the book business. Many authors say they are content with just giving copies of their book to friends and family. That’s sufficient.

I admit to those same thoughts in the beginning. But as I progressed in the world of book writing, I was forced to be more extroverted. I don’t believe I will ever be a true extrovert, but I have learned to enjoy being more extroverted. I have met many amazing people in the world of books because I dared to open up.

Walking into a shop to ask the manager to consider selling your book has to be the most terrifying act ever for an introvert.  Yet, I have consistently found people to be receptive and willing to give an author consideration.

A little girl reads a book
A child reading one of my books.

Most rewarding, however, is when children show interest in the books you’ve written for them. I know there is hope for the future when kids want to read a book instead of being consumed by an electronic device.

Writing and the end result can be the metaphorical key that opens the door to meeting many wonderful and interesting people. It may be uncomfortable at first, but is so rewarding in the end.

Elaine a Powers‘ most recent book is a favorite in Southern Arizona, where The Queen of the Night–the Night-Blooming Cereus blooms only one night per year in June. This rhyming book is available at amazon.com.

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
A favorite in Southern Arizona where the Night-blooming Cereus blooms one night per year. It is available at Tohono Chul because Ms. Powers made contact with them.
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You Really Can Be Inspired by Anything! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Writers really can be inspired by any situation.  I’m a member of the Tucson Poetry Society. The best part of the meeting is the sharing of our poems and receiving friendly critique of our work. Everyone who attends is encouraged to participate.  I usually have at least a few stanzas to share, but at the May meeting, I had no work to submit.  After I admitted my lack of material with, “I ain’t got nothin,'” my creative juices began to flow. I had the poem below by the end of the meeting.

Yes, a meeting of poets can be inspiring. And the most amazing thing about the feedback, which was positive, was one comment that reptiles are not alluring. Hmmmm, another poem inspiration, perhaps?

stanzas of a poem on mottled green paper

No Title, Either 
Elaine A Powers

I ain’t got nothing,

I’ve nothing to read.

“Bring something to share,”

Were words I didn’t heed.

 

The muse, she wasn’t with me,

The words, they wouldn’t flow.

How would I create a poem?

I honestly didn’t know.

 

I listened to the others

Deep with insight and emotion,

There were frogs and bears

And fishes in the ocean.

 

Verses of faith and death,

And one about, What is still?

Which made me think of alcohol . . .

My mind does wander at will.

 

But I had nothing to offer,

I hadn’t had time to write.

I vowed that by next month’s meeting

I would accept the critique invite.

 

Oh, I have plenty of topics

Of that you can be sure.

Would a poem about iguanas

Convey their reptilian allure?

 

Perhaps something about impaction,

Since it had come up that day.

I could write about my iguana, Reggie,

And his foolish eating ways.

 

But listening to the others

My creative juices were squoze,

Maybe I will be inspired,

A worthy poem to compose!

Close up of teeth of Rhinoceros Iguana
Reginald, the Rhinoceros Iguana, smiles for me. How can they possibly think he isn’t alluring?

 

Lyric Power Publishings Supplemental Children’s Workbooks and Activity Sheets are used to dispel boredom during the long weeks of summer. Learn all about “alluring” reptiles such as iguanas, tortoises and turtles while completing the pages of the workbooks. 🙂