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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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Do Lizards Scurry, Skitter or Scamper? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

a children's book cover, blue and white, with several curly-tail lizards on the cover
Captured by poachers, Curtis Curly-tail finds himself on a boat full of native animals being smuggled out of The Bahamas. As he struggles to help the other animals escape, he realizes he may not be able to save himself.

Writers are continually encouraged to use active verbs. A verb is a word that shows action.  A verb can be either active or passive. A verb is active when the subject of the sentence is doing a specific action. For example, ‘The iguana ate the leaves.’  The passive voice of the same sentence is, ‘The leaves were eaten by the iguana.’

Verbs should also convey information about the action. Did the iguana walk over to the leaves or did she run or leap? So, choosing the correct word is important. Which brings me to the topic of this blog:  When describing the movement of a lizard, does she scurry or skitter?  I always thought a lizard scurried, as you will read in my books, like Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped pictured above, but a friend suggested that a lizard skitters. What’s the difference between the verbs?

To scurry is defined as moving in a brisk pace. To skitter also means to move rapidly, but with frequent changes in direction.  So maybe my friend is right in saying that the characters in my books are skittering.

But wait, what about the verb, to scamper? A lizard could scamper with quick, light steps from fear or excitement.

There are so many interesting verbs I should be using in my books.  This was an interesting language study lesson for me.

Check my future books to see how my lizards move! Will they scurry, skitter or scamper?  

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Were They Scribbling in My Books? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

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?

In a previous blog, I wrote about the writer’s life and how satisfying it is to see your books on display in stores. I’d like to add to that a story of something very special that happened to me regarding one of my books set on Cayman Brac, The Dragon of Nani Cave. The story takes place on the island as the two lead characters, curly-tail lizards called the Lime Lizard Lads, have an adventure searching for ‘the dragon.’  I always enjoy books set in real locations and I love it when the author gets it right. The illustrations in Dragon were drawn from photos I had taken on my visits.

Children's books in a glass display caseThe merchants on Cayman Brac have been very gracious in putting my books out for sale, including a gift shop at the Brac Airport. I was chatting with owner at the counter where my books were on display, when two couples came up, looking for souvenirs for their grandchildren and children. They ended up buying my books, which, of course, I personalized for them. We chatted for a while and then we settled in to wait for our flight to be called.

I noticed each of them was reading one of my books. I glanced over, hoping they were enjoying the books, but I didn’t want to openly stare. Then they were writing on the illustrations on the books! What was going on?

One of them exclaimed, “That’s exactly what the lighthouse looked like!” They all agreed with her conclusion as they passed the book around. It turned out that they were adding their memories to the illustrations.  What wonderful gifts for their family members! I was so honored to be part of their trip to the Brac.

So, go ahead and write about your travels in my books! I’ll be delighted.

For educators and homeschooling parents, LPP offers workbooks jam-packed with fun activity sheets,  designed for students in grades K-5.  The following workbook coordinates with the above children’s book, The Dragon of Nani Cave.

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

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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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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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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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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.

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Looking for a Funny Audio Script? By Elaine A. Powers, Scriptwriter

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

I’m a retired biologist and I enjoy teaching children and consequently, adults, about science. Science education doesn’t have to be dry and tedious. I like to be creative, so I write rhyming picture books and adventure tales, in the hopes of slipping in facts while the reader enjoys the story.

However, my writing career didn’t start with the books for sale on this website. It actually started with radio/audio theatre scripts and a couple of talkative lizards.

Have you met Dudley or Didi Dewlap? Or Miles or Molly Monitor?

Dudley and Didi are green iguanas, known for being rather self-absorbed but energetic talk-show hosts.

Miles and Molly are water monitors, much more down-to-earth lizards, the perfect sidekick for an iguana. Did you know that green iguanas are arrogant and according to a pet psychic, that they want to take over the world? Not sure how they intend to do this, but it will be interesting to see them try.

In the meantime, Dewlap and Monitor discuss the world from the lizard point of view, and they include the pet psychic, witchcraft and the soccer World Cup in their musings.

The scripts in this book are written in talk-show style and they provide a great deal of information in a very humorous fashion. Not only is the news of the day discussed, but classic works of literature are discussed . . . by lizards. And by the way, they’re “political activists,” too. Reptilian politics, that is.

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 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 the scripts ranging from five to 20 minutes. Performance rights are included with the sale of the book–as many times as you’d like!

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The Horror of Hurricane Dorian by Elaine A. Powers, Author

map of bahamian islands
Image courtesy of bahamas-travel.info

My writing career started after meeting Curtis Curly-tail lizard in the Bahamas, a very special country off of Florida. It is a nation of islands at the mercy of Atlantic hurricanes.

The official definition of hurricane is: A rapidly rotating storm that has a low pressure center or eye, a low level spiraling thunderstorm, and very strong winds with heavy rains. The warm waters that I enjoy swimming in so much provide the energy for these storms, which are categorized by the speed of their winds, using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. A Category One hurricane has winds of 74-95 mph; Two 96-110 mph; Three 111-129 mph; Four 130-156 mph, and Five 157 mph and higher.

I love the Bahamas and am still writing books based there. I was on Grand Bahamas (which was devastated by Dorian with 185 mph winds for nearly two days) in March 2019 to do research. I spent many wonderful hours at the Bahamas National Trust’s Rand Nature Center and the Lucayan National Park. It will be a while before we learn what remains.

effects of hurricane winds on beach, palm trees
Image courtesy of David Mark from Pixabay

My next Curtis Curly-tail book is about the danger to the iguana populations on the Bahamian islands. Storm surges easily cover these low-lying places. But the danger to the people of the Bahamas is just as real, as seen when Hurricane Dorian hit early this month. As of this writing, 43 people are known dead and over 70,000 Bahamians are homeless.

Bahamian woman in parade garb playing a trumpet
Image of Bahamian woman courtesy of jcdonelson from Pixabay

Sadly, along with two feet of rain, Dorian generated a storm surge 23 feet high. I fear the loss of life of these beautiful people, the amazing animals and the native plants will be immense and it will take many years for this lovely island to recover.

bahamian turtle
Bahamian Turtle by Elaine Powers
Bahamian iguana
Image of Bahamian Iguana by David Schopper from Pixabay
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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.