Posted on Leave a comment

May I Have Some Privacy Please? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

roadrunner in sonoran desert wings spread

GREATER ROADRUNNER

I’m always trying to get an interesting view of the animals and plants I write about in my books and blog post. Roadrunners move very quickly, so I was having trouble getting a good photo. Then I came across this roadie at the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center near Tucson, Az. The roadie was hurrying along the sidewalk when I joined the bird.  Roadie tucked behind some rocks and an agave cactus, but I was still in sight.

Finally, the roadie decided it was safe behind a grouping of boulders and a large prickly pear cactus. Conveniently, the cactus left a window where I could observe the roadie as it spread its wings to expose its dark back to bask in the sun. I was honored by this opportunity to observe and share the bird’s behavior. I think the roadie got nice and warm.

You can read about this behavior and many others in the rhyming book I wrote, Don’t Make Me Fly!

A copper colored book cover featuring an illustration of a Roadrunner bird
“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
Posted on Leave a comment

January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a gray and brown squireel sitting on a tree branch
An Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis in Corkscrew Swamp

I think squirrels are often maligned unjustly. People spend a lot of time and money trying to thwart them, but have you ever stopped to consider their ingenuity at overcoming the obstacles we put in their way? After all, they are just doing what they need to do to survive.

Squirrels are small to medium-sized rodents. They are native to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa. They live in almost every habitat, from tropical rain forests to semiarid deserts. They are predominantly herbivores, eating seeds and nuts, but many will eat insects and even small vertebrates, as well.

Many of us interact with local tree squirrels, trying to prevent them from getting into our bird feeders. It’s amazing how much effort we put into attempting to out think these rodents—and then failing. The industry producing supposedly squirrel-proof bird feeders in quite sizable.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, I enjoy my ground squirrels, as well as tree squirrels. I think of their extensive digging as aerating my soil. I often head into my yard when I take breaks from writing. The little ones sitting up on their hind legs to greet me always makes me smile. I don’t discourage them from sharing in the feeders’ contents. I simply add a bit more for them.

I’ve written books about turtles and fish and tortoises and lizards and snakes and birds and plants—and even a fairy!—but not any mammals. No, wait! There is a mammal, a hutia, in Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia, but I can’t think of any others. (A hutia is an endangered rodent native to the Bahamas that has endangered the local ecosystem. Readers of this Curtis-tale tag along on his adventure and then must decide how to solve this conundrum.)

Tomorrow, please join me in appreciating squirrels, those adorable, ingenious rodents. And consider picking up a copy of Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia for the budding scientist in your family.

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 declining hutia are brought to Warderick Wells. But when the hutia damage the cay’s ecosystem, what will the scientists do? You, the reader, help them decide.
Posted on Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW of Queen of the Night by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
A favorite in the desert, where ALL of the Night-blooming Cereus bloom together on one night per year

BOOK REVIEW BY HELENE WOODHAMS
at the ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Queen of the Night: The Night-Blooming Cereus   $14.95
by Elaine A. Powers

Illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe 

A perk of Sonoran-desert living is the one-night-only appearance of the Night-Blooming Cereus, a much-anticipated summer event for Tucsonans who rely on predictions from experts to know precisely when the tiny window of opportunity will open on the floral extravaganza. How in the world do the experts know? And what causes a cactus to behave this way?

With this picture book, Elaine Powers demystifies the mysterious bloom, explaining – in rhyming couplets no less – the life cycle of the plant, how to predict its flowering (when the buds reach 170-230 millimeters, stand back!), why they all flower simultaneously, and other bits of botanical lore about this intriguing plant, which spends most of the year looking like an undistinguished stick. Written for children, Powers’ book will charm and edify cactus lovers of any age.
Lush illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe are a splendid accompaniment: Look for his very stern javelina on page 12 – he’s delightful.

A former laboratory biologist, Powers, who makes her home in Tucson, now writes science-based children’s books.

– Helene Woodhams

Helene Woodhams retired from Pima County Public Library, where she was literary arts librarian and coordinator of Southwest Books of the Year, the library’s annual literature review.

Posted on Leave a comment

Cute as a Button and by the way, Dec. 13 is National Day Of The Horse by Elaine A. Powers, Author

woman stands by brown horse, MIssouri Foxtrotter
Button is a wonderful Missouri Foxtrotter

Earlier this year, I wouldn’t have written about the national day of the horse. But this past summer, I did something inconceivable: I had never wanted a horse, yet I became a horse owner.

I just wanted to be comfortable riding around the Sonoran Desert. I was having trouble with stirrups, so some equestrian friends suggested I take bareback lessons. The daughter of an author friend became my trainer. I loved riding bareback. The connection between the horse and me was wonderful. We could feel each other as we moved.

My lessons involved two horses, easy-going Lady and stubborn Button. I always liked riding Button the best. I fit nicely on her (she’s only 14.2 hands) and I enjoyed the challenge. As the saying goes, “Calm seas do not a skilled sailor make.” She was stubborn, and I was determined.  I guess that comes from handling large, muscular lizards.

A couple of years into our lessons, we realized Button had chosen me as her human. I was honored. After that realization, I knew that if something happened and Button needed a new home, I’d be willing to take her. The next morning, my trainer asked me if I would take Button. She was getting married and couldn’t keep Button at her new home. Of course, I said yes . . .without even thinking. I am happy with my decision.

Future posts will feature my developing relationship with my special horse. As you can see, she really is as cute as a Button.

If you’d enjoy learning about the Sonoran Desert, and laughing as you do so, this fun story is for you:

Colorful book cover illustrated with Anna's Hummingbird in The Sonoran Desert
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!
Posted on Leave a comment

Claiming Who I Am by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A collage of 12 colorful children's book coversLyric Power Publishing represents three authors at this time, though my books make up the largest quantity of LPP’s published works. Perhaps the parents and grandparents reading this will consider giving one or two of our wonderful children’s books (that are enjoyed by adults, too) this Christmas. With these books, kids learn that science is fun!~~EAP

I recently traveled to a foreign country (a pretty common event for me).  On the immigration form, countries often ask for your profession. During my life’s work, I put biologist. I was a laboratory researcher. On one trip to Africa, I think that admission got me thoroughly searched. Upon my return, I declared I had purchased some sine wood carvings. Every item and the suitcases themselves were thoroughly searched. They suspected I had brought back some illegal samples of something. Nope, just a few nice carvings done by a local craftsman.

After I took early retirement, I put down “retired” as my profession, even though I was actively writing and trying to build my book business.

The author Elaine A. Powers head shot against a green background
(Made by the author’s proud website staff for her. She is also a wonderful employer.)

So, for the first time, on this last trip, I put down “Author” as my profession. I don’t know why it’s been so hard for me to consider myself a professional writer. I have always loved science, and I recently realized that the enjoyment I get from writing and sharing about science has made my book business into a real business. I really, truly am an author.

Come join me in my adventure. Share your thoughts with me in a comment below and on Facebook here and here and here. Read my books that weave science into poetry and adventure tales, making science fun. Science should be fun! Check out Lyric Power Publishing’s workbooks, which tie into LPP’s books, and are so well made by a teacher’s teacher. We are very proud of them here. They are extensive, multi-subject with a focus–like iguanas! We say, “Why not do math counting iguanas?

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 light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
Biologist and Author Elaine A. Powers includes both scientific facts and the magic of this Southwestern Desert plant in her book, QUEEN OF THE NIGHT: THE NIGHT-BLOOMING CEREUS. Powers says being a musician helped her to weave into poetry the plant parts, the blooming cycle, the plant’s growing conditions, and its pollinators. This wonderful book about a very special plant in the Sonoran Desert is for all ages.

Posted on Leave a comment

Take a Hike! It’s Almost Nov. 17th by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Southern Arizona desert with mountains in background
Hiking in Catalina State Park, Southern Arizona

When I came across this national day, I confess two different things came to my mind. The first and most obvious meaning is to go outside and walk in a patch or expanse of nature. That is, in fact, the purpose of November 17 as a national holiday. You can take a short hike around your neighborhood, a day hike through a local wooded area, or enjoy a challenging hike, such as traversing to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Hiking doesn’t have to be fast. I think hiking is better as a stroll. This allows getting in touch with plants and wild animals. Even seeing a little squirrel brings peace to a person’s mind. Nature is often referred to Vitamin N. Richard Louv wrote a book about it.

Of course, there is also the figurative use of the phrase. When two people have a disagreement, one might say, “Take a hike!”, meaning go away, leave, get out of here. Maybe this use wouldn’t happen as much if we got out in nature and took more hikes. Get your Vitamin N!

Posted on Leave a comment

Does a Dead Scorpion Glow? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

image of a dead scorpion glowing in moonlight
Photo by Terry. Incredibly, even fossilized scorpions glow under UV light!

I was asked if dead scorpions glow by a friend who found a dead scorpion on his patio. I confess, I didn’t know. My guess was that the scorpion wouldn’t glow after death because, I hypothesized, the fluorescent chemicals were actively produced by the living animal.

The part of the scorpion’s body that glows is located in the exoskeleton, the hard, protective covering. Within the cuticle of the exoskeleton is the hyaline layer, which reacts to black light or moonlight. Interestingly, scorpions don’t glow right after molting. The cuticle must harden first. So, is the glowing material part of the hardening process; or is it incorporated into the cuticle during the hardening?

Not much is known about the glowing material.

What is it made of?

Why do scorpions have it?

Several hypotheses have been put forth:

  • Detection of UV light and visible light, so they know when and where to hide.
  • Sunblock.
  • Prey attraction and confusion so they are easier to catch.
  • Communication with other scorpions.

But, back to that original question: Does a dead scorpion glow? Surprisingly, it does!

Lyric Power Publishing is proud of its comprehensive, educational and fun workbooks, like the one below, My Book About the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, a fellow desert dweller of the scorpion;

image of children's workbook cover, with picture of western diamondback rattler and a listing of the activity sheets insideActivity sheets and coloring pages include the rattlesnake description, lifecycle, parts, facts, traits, and diet; cut and paste, compare and contrast, learning about graphs and charts, word search, and a crossword puzzle. It’s a jam-packed rattlesnake workbook!

and it’s science-based children’s books written in rhyme. Learn everything you need to know about rattlesnakes in this fun-to-read book with vibrant, exciting illustrations.

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me RattlePeople fear rattlesnakes because they don’t understand them. Come inside and learn about these amazing snakes, how they help people, and why the rattlesnake should be respected, not exterminated.

Posted on Leave a comment

Marketing Books and Meeting Interesting Folks in Tucson by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Image of Empire Ranch signEven though I would love to have someone else do the marketing of my books, doing it myself allows me to discover interesting sites in the Tucson area.  One such place is the Empire Ranch. I met some of the volunteers at the Western Writers of America conference and they thought my books would be a good fit for their gift shop.

The Empire Ranch is located on the road to Sonoita in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The mission of the Empire Ranch Foundation is, “Acting in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The purpose of the Foundation is to protect, restore and sustain the Empire Ranch historical buildings and landscape as an outstanding western heritage and education center.” The combine two interests of mine, conservation and historical preservation.  Back in New Jersey, I was part of the Union Forge Heritage Association. The ranch was established in the 1860’s. 

The gift shop is looking to expand to include more items about animal and plant conservation. I’m honored to be included. They’ll be selling the Don’t series and Queen of the Night: the Night-blooming Cereus.

*Learn about the Night-blooming Cereus, Peniocereus greggii, the mysterious cacti
that bloom all together only one night per year
*An Amazon #1 Book in Children’s Botany Section
*See the Desert Southwest in a new, fun way
*Scientific facts written in rhyme are easy to remember
*Enjoy spectacular illustrations of Cereus, the Sonoran Desert and its wildlife

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
Biologist and Author Elaine A. Powers includes both scientific facts and the magic of this Southwestern Desert plant in her book, QUEEN OF THE NIGHT: THE NIGHT-BLOOMING CEREUS. Powers says being a musician helped her to weave into poetry the plant parts, the blooming cycle, the plant’s growing conditions, and its pollinators.
Posted on Leave a comment

Floating on My Back, I Watch the Sky by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Sky at dusk, so arizonaYes, there really is a bat in this photo.

You might have heard people say that in the Sonoran Desert, “It’s a dry heat.” Yes, there is very low humidity in Tucson, which makes the high afternoon temperatures comfortable–okay, tolerable. However, this also makes the overnight temps surprisingly cool. I enjoy swimming and am fortunate to have a nice pool. But I am a wimp when it comes to water temperature. The pool must be at least 88 degrees before I can comfortably swim at night. When those magical nights come, I enjoy watching the night creatures emerge, as the daytime inhabitants head to bed.

At dusk, I float on my back and watch the sky. The first to appear are the nighthawks with their distinctive wings crisscrossing in pursuit of insects. They are the Lesser Nighthawks, Chordeiles acutipennis.

A few minutes later, the animals I’ve been waiting for arrive: my favorite mammal, bats. As I quietly float, they swirl, swoop and circle around me . . . at a very high rate of speed. They are gulping insects. I wonder if I’m attracting some of the insects and that is why the bats speed around me. Occasionally, a bat touches the water–perhaps catching a quick drink?

I believe these are big brown bats. The “big” part is in comparison to other North American bats. I like them because they eat insects, especially around my house. I don’t have to put up bat houses to entice them, since they roost in my trees. I do have one that likes the side of my chimney. I am always delighted to see my bat neighbors.

I’m told I should include photographs of my blog subjects. I want you to know I tried, I really did. But, do you know how fast bats fly? According to the Desert Museum’s website, it is up to 40 mph. And they don’t fly in straight lines! I took about 30 pictures to get this one shot.

sky at dusk, so arizona, with bat circledThat gray smudge is a bat.

But I’m not disappointed. I get to enjoy them in person, every night, sometimes, floating on my back in my pool.

Now, that’s life!

For more information about bats, please see Lyric Power Publishing’s supplemental, educational workbook, My Book About Bats and Rats, Grades K-3.

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a fruit bat and a common rat