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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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The Green Iguana Must Leave the Cayman Islands by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a bright green iguana on a tree in Grand Cayman

I was recently on the island of Grand Cayman. This island located south of Cuba has its own native rock iguana, the blue iguana, (Cyclura lewisi). Unfortunately, the invasive green iguana (Iguana iguana) was introduced by humans and their population exploded. In 2018, the estimated green iguana population was about 1.3 million on the 76 square miles of the island. That’s about 18,000 per square mile!

The Cayman Island Department of the Environment initiated a culling program, paying $5 for every green iguana caught and turned in to the DoE. In September 2019, the DoE reported that 925,000 had been removed from the environment.

Last year, when I visited Grand Cayman, greens were everywhere. So I was thrilled this year that I only saw one. The young green was hanging out in the parking lot of the hotel. Despite my affection for green iguanas, they don’t belong in the Cayman Islands and need to be removed. It’s unfortunate that we humans introduced them in the first place. Now, this is the only way to save the native ecology.

Keep up the good work, Caymanians.

If you’re interested in learning the differences between the native rock iguanas and green iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing produced booklets to help the people of the Cayman Islands differentiate the lizards. Contact Elaine Powers at iginspired@gmail.com to make arrangements to receive some copies.

And, if you’d like to learn more about these fascinating reptiles, click on the workbook below, My Unit Study on Iguanas. It has all kinds of information on iguanas, and pages to Label the Parts, Cut and Paste, True or False, Compare Traits, Cut and Classify, Mean, Mode & Median, and much more! It’s a veritable workbook delight!
a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's headTo see all of our comprehensive, educational, and fun workbooks, go to LPP Workbooks.

 

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The Call of the Ocean May Not Be Denied by Elaine A. Poweres, Author

ocean off of Cayman BarcI live in Arizona, a landlocked state. I, like many other Arizonans, feel the need to visit an ocean now and then. Many Tucsonan’s head south to Rocky Point. I usually go a bit farther. The photo above is of ocean off the coast of Cayman Brac. This brings peace to my being.

The need to visit the ocean has been captured by a variety of poets. The one that most often comes to mind is Sea Fever by John Masefield. I find the second stanza the most appropriate to me.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

Watching the ocean always stimulates my creativity and I often wish I could spend more time there. As Helen Keller wrote: “I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.”

So I’m sharing this image with you so that you, too, might have cool, quieting thoughts.

However, in order to write the books inspired by the water, I have to go indoors. The salt in the island air is not good for a laptop. When I need a recharge of my muse, I’ll pull this photo out and hear that “clear call that may not be denied.”

I’ve written a couple of adventure tales about Curly-tail lizards called the Lime Lizards Lads. Their stories are set on Cayman Brac. You can enjoy a bit of this special place by going along on their adventures.

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?

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?

 

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Ahhh, the Mysteries! Such as, How Many Tortoises Can You Stack in a Corner? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

several tortoises fighting for space in a corner of a roomThere are many mysteries in life, questions that we need to know the answers to.

Like this one: How many tortoises can fit in a corner?

And the follow-up question: how many tortoises can you stack on top of each other before they topple?

I don’t know the answer to these inquiries, but these girls are well on their way to solving these mysteries.

 

 

 

 

 

Rain forest tortoise eating nectarineMeanwhile the smaller, smarter one, is off enjoying a bit of nectarine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you know the differences between turtles and tortoises? And did you know the typical answer: “Turtles live in the water, and tortoises live on land,” is not that simple? If you want to find the answers to the question, How are turtles and tortoises different, you will certainly enjoy, Don’t Call Me Turtle! (That’s one mystery that’s easy to solve.)

It’s a fun, rhyming book and a favorite among the little ones–I get the most fan mail with their pictures about this book, along with notes from their parents telling me that they learned a lot, too, while reading Don’t Call Me Turtle!

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

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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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A Lizards’ Take on the “Cremation of Sam McGee” by Elaine A. Powers

Book cover, lavendar, turquoise and black for Cremation of Sam McGeeIn this episode of Conversations with Dudley Dewlap, I combine my love of theater with the work of one of my favorite poets, Robert Service. Service is famous for his work while in the gold rush fields in the Yukon Territory in Canada.

One poem often quoted is The Cremation of Sam McGee. Dudley Dewlap and Miles Monitor decide to perform this classic piece on their radio show in “Service.”

Things get out of hand as they often do with reptiles.

(SFX: WIND)

DUDLEY: There are strange things done in the midnight sun by men who moil for gold…

MILES: Uh, Dudley, what does moil mean?

DUDLEY: You know, grub, pan for gold enthusiastically.

MILES: Thanks.

DUDLEY: The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.

MILES: Dudley we’re lizards. It’s not good for our blood to run cold.

DUDLEY: The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.

(SFX: WIND)

DUDLEY: On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail. Talk of your cold! Through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail. If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see; it wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

MILES: Whimper? OK, this is just silly, we’re lizards, we wouldn’t be in Alaska and we certainly wouldn’t be in Alaska in the winter. And if we were in Alaska during the winter we wouldn’t be mushing our way over the Dawson Trail, because we would have frozen to death!

DUDLEY: It’s just a poem Miles. Now, please get into the story:
And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow and the dogs were fed,

MILES: Dogs! There are dogs, too? Don’t you know that they’re predators? And what did we feed them, other reptiles who have succumbed to the cold?

DUDLEY: And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low,

MILES: That’s because you’re in the Yukon, a place not known for its year round growing season.

DUDLEY: The trail was bad,

MILES: You chose it.

DUDLEY: And I felt half mad, don’t say it Miles, but I swore I would not give in; and I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

MILES: Actually that’s a grimace. They look a lot alike.

DUDLEY: Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay; it was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.” And I looked at it and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum; then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

MILES: Hey, let’s discuss this, shall we?

DUDLEY: And I lit the boiler fire;

(SFX: WHOOSH OF FIRE STARTING, FOLLOWED BY SMOKE ALARM GOING OFF FOR A FEW SECONDS)

DUDLEY: Some coal I found that was lying around and I heaped the fuel higher; the flames just soared, and the furnace roared – such a blaze you seldom see; and I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

(Pause, then as if struggling) And I stuffed in Sam McGee,

(Pause)

and I stuffed–Miles, you’ve got to let go of the edge of the door. I’ve got to stuff you in.

MILES: There ain’t no way you’re shoving me into a fire, no matter how hard you stuff.

DUDLEY: It’s a fake fire! This is theater!

MILES: Sure, that‘s what you say, but I don’t see you leaping in there!

DUDLEY: You’ll spoil the whole scene if I can’t stuff you in and triumphantly close the door!

MILES: What do you mean? This is radio – no one can see us!

DUDLEY: Miles, you don’t understand drama.

MILES: Drama, I’ll show you drama! Here, this is the acting bug biting you!

DUDLEY: Aaaagggg. Miles, stop biting my tail, Miiiiiiileeeeeees . . . (FADES OFF)

NARRATOR: (MYSTERIOUSLY) And so concludes another exciting episode of Conversations with Dudley Dewlap. Tune in next time when we hear Dudley say…

DUDLEY: I’m ready for my close up, Mr. Demille.

NARRATOR: You’ve been listening to a rendition of Robert Service’s Cremation of Sam McGee. Doing the disservice was ___________ as Dudley and ____________ as Miles. Directed by__________.

Elaine A. Powers is responsible for this crime against literature.

Gray book cover, illustrated with two iguanas standing in front of microphones
Funny and educational audio scripts ranging from five to 20 minutes in length

 

Conversations with Dudley Dewlap: The World from a Lizard Point
of View is a collection of short comedy, small cast, audio scripts. Most
roles are gender neutral. The primary characters are talk show hosts who
discuss various amusing topics. The scripts can be combined or used
individually. Additional cast can be used for the sound effects. Along
with being entertaining and family friendly, many of the scripts are also
educational. The scripts are amenable to radio theater, readers theater,
or may be adapted for stage. Approximate running times vary with each
script, ranging from 5-20 minutes.

 

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Chatting with Dudley Dewlap About a Hex at the World Soccer Championships by Elaine A. Powers, Author

photo of the profile of a carbbean iguana
Image courtesy of Jolyne D from Pixabay

One of my favorite stories for an episode in the Audio Theater Script Series, Conversations with Dudley Dewlap, by Yours Truly, is called The Hex. It is about the use of witchcraft at the annual World Soccer Championships. When I first heard about it, I thought it was an exaggeration, but apparently not. I bet it’s still going on.

Gray book cover, illustrated with two iguanas standing in front of microphones
Funny and educational audio scripts ranging from five to 20 minutes in length

Here, Dudley and Miles discuss Loa, the voodoo-practicing Lizard; and, as usual, Dudley turns the conversation to himself.

“DUDLEY: I was chatting with my pal Loa Lizard last night and he was telling me about soccer. I confess I’ve become obsessed. Listeners, Loa is an iguana from the Caribbean and an expert in voodoo. His name, Loa, means Voodoo guardian spirits.

LOA: Now there be lots of misconceptions about voodoo around and I tries to educate people.

DUDLEY: He’s in town for a big human soccer tournament and was hired to find out if the soccer field had been tampered with, if any curses or hexes had been put upon it.

MILES: The humans couldn’t do this for themselves?

LOA: No, the team advisers, or witch-doctors as they be known, were banned by the soccer ruling body.

DUDLEY: So they turned to Loa. Some teams will climb fences into the stadium rather than use the main gate, fearing a spell may have been put upon it.

MILES: You’ve got be making this up.

DUDLEY: I’m not that creative.

Interestingly, Dudley decides he wants to try out for the soccer team.

DUDLEY: Have you seen the game? The players aren’t allowed to use their hands.

MILES: Yes. So?

DUDLEY: Not only do I have powerful legs…

MILES: (BITE CUE) Yes, you can outrun any human.

DUDLEY: But the pièce de résistance is my tail! With my powerful tail, its incredible accuracy, I could be the entire team!

ANNOUNCER: Once again, today’s topic was directly from the news. The issue of witchcraft was discussed at the 2002 soccer World Cup. Really, Elaine couldn’t make this stuff up!”

NOTE: Conversations with Dudley Dewlap: The World from a Lizard Point of View is a collection of short comedy, small cast, audio scripts. Most roles are gender neutral. The primary characters are talk show hosts who discuss various amusing topics. The scripts can be combined or used
individually. Additional cast can be used for the sound effects. Along with being entertaining and family friendly, many of the scripts are also educational. The scripts are amenable to radio theater, readers theater, or may be adapted for stage. Approximate running times vary with each script, ranging from 5-20 minutes. The purchase of the scripts includes performance rights.

Please see all Elaine A. Powers theater audio scripts at Amazon here.

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Another Conversation About Dudley Dewlap and a Famous Eel by Elaine A. Powers, Author

The episodes I wrote from Conversations with Dudley Dewlap are based on real-life events. The “Pet Psychic” episode in the Dudley Dewlap audio script was inspired by real pet psychics. In listening to one of their episodes, I found out that green iguanas want to take over the world. The way green iguanas are spreading around the world as an invasive species, they just might succeed.

two hands extended, holding two small eels
Image of eels courtesy of PENEBAR from Pixabay

People often comment on my unusual pets, so I’ve decided to share the story of an even more unusual pet who lives with a family in Germany (as reported by Reuters). This family has kept a pet eel named Aalfred in their bathtub for 33 years. Yes, I said 33 years.

Pet activists complained Aalfred was being held under unnatural circumstances and asked authorities to release the eel into the wild. However, after examination by a vet, the eel was found to be in excellent health and well cared for. (I’m sure an animal psychic could’ve told the authorities how happy the eel was.)

This story has a happy ending: Aalfred the eel was allowed to stay with his family if they installed an arm-length pipe so he could rest more comfortably. The eel’s family stated, “This was the only reasonable outcome – in any case, we would have protected Aalfred.”

Truth is stranger than fiction.

And, for some truth from the lizard point of view in a comedic audio script, please click on Conversations with Dudley Dewlap.

Gray book cover, illustrated with two iguanas standing in front of microphones
Funny and educational audio scripts ranging from five to 20 minutes in length

Click the book above to check out these audio scripts for your school or theater group. Purchase of any of the audio script books includes performance rights.

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Today is Math Storytelling Day! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

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.

Math was not my favorite, nor my best, topic, but I did like the math used to solve real-world problems. I enjoyed using geometry to determine how tall a tree is. Discovering the unknown variables in algebra fascinated me; it was like a secret code that had to be deciphered. I eventually came to understand how to use statistics and calculus in measuring aspects of ecosystems and in animal behavior. It turned out that I did like math–if it applied to my interests in science!

When master educator Marilyn Buehrer designed the Lyric Power Publishing workbooks and activity sheets based on my children’s storybooks, I was thrilled that she included some of my favorite animals in her math problems. I particularly like the one where she has the students measure the iguanas to determine average and median sizes in the workbook My Unit Study on Iguanas. I could use that in my citizen scientist work out in the field with the rock iguanas of Cayman Brac!

If you’re curious at all about the Sister Isle Rock Iguanas on Cayman Brac, check out my poignant book, Silent Rocks, pictured above. The population of Cyclura nubila caymanensis on Cayman Brac is in serious decline and these vegetarian lizards are an important part of the island’s ecosystem. Their reduction is the result of human activity on their habitat, and the threats can only be eliminated by human action. I am hopeful the people of Cayman Brac will turn this sad situation around.

colorful children's book cover with illustrations of curly-tail lizards

In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the 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. (The dragon is a Rock Iguana, but when you’re a small lizard, an iguana is a dragon!) Gene and Bony soon realize how big and how dangerous the world beyond their beach really is. Leaving home is easy, but what if they do find the dragon? And how will the lads make it back?

a green and white book cover with the image of a book called The Dragon of Nani CaveFor educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers a 30-page coordinating workbook designed for grades 3-6. Fourteen pages are taken directly from The Dragon of Nani Cave, with 14 pages of corresponding questions. Teachers and parents read the book aloud to students, then hand out the reading and question pages. Students reread pages from the book and answer the questions for each page; they also color in the black and white pictures on every page.

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