I was experimenting with a writing prompt for mysteries. The prompt was to write about a common object in a mysterious way. I looked at my pepper grinder, a device that pulverizes hard objects. All the multi-colored peppercorns are ground into indistinguishable pieces. How terrifying it must be for the peppercorn to be crushed and chopped into little pieces! Fortunately, they are no longer alive and can’t feel pain, but it does provide an example of how mundane objects can be turned into objects of malice. In addition, it got me wondering about how peppercorn grinders were invented.
I was surprised to find out that the grinder was invented by Peugeot back in 1842. Prior to its production, people used the mortar and pestle. The grinder was much less labor intensive! Stainless steel is the desired material, since it is durable and crack resistant (some of those peppercorns fight back!) Zinc alloy, ceramic and acrylic have also been used.
The instrument of destruction of the above peppercorns.
The results: releasing the delightful pepper flavors.
The next time you want to stimulate your creativity, look at some innocuous item in your house and make it into an object worthy of a murder mystery! I know I’ll never look at my peppercorn grinder the same way.
Book Note: I am a mystery lover and have several murder mysteries in progress. I have also written and published theater scripts in the mystery genre. You can see them all on my Theater Scripts page. Interested in the Performing Arts? Click on any of the book covers to buy them at Amazon–for your own practice as an actor, or for your performance group. They’ve been performed back East and are a lot of fun!
Until today, I didn’t know the collective noun for iguanas. I should have, since I’ve had more than one for around 30 years. I knew that a group of tortoises was a “creep,” and it’s a “bale” of turtles. The general term for lizards is “lounge.” I think some of my iguanas are willing to lounge around.
The collective noun for iguanas is a “mess.” Why, you and I might ask? Iguanas may intertwine in large groups, especially when they are gathered around a heat source. It’s hard to tell where one iguana ends, and another begins. They are ectotherms, or cold-blooded, so iguanas get their body heat from the environment or my body, as in this photo of Calliope and me. She is my writing muse, named after the Muse of Long Poetry.
One of my friends from the Southern US mentioned that “mess” refers to something else, as in a “mess of greens.” The greens she was referring to are collard, turnip and mustard greens, all of which are enjoyed by my reptilian family members, too. Of course, in my case, it may be accurate to say I do have a mess of greens: a mess of green iguanas.
How much or many is a mess? It is undefined, but in food, it is usually enough to feed a family.
I’d agree that my mess of greens is always exactly the right amount for my family.
Book Note: While I haven’t yet written a lot of books about iguanas, I have written one important one called Silent Rocks. It is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguanas of Cayman Brac, and teachers can use it to show how human activity endangers the lives of other species.
I’ve also written an adventure tale that includes an iguana, called The Dragon of Nani Cave. It features two lime lizards, Gene and Bony, who must do the bravest thing possible–find the dragon of Nani Cave, and survive!
With the pandemic, I’ve been dividing my time mostly between two activities: riding and writing. I’m either at the stables with my two horses or at home writing, surrounded by my reptiles. It’s working out well since I’m getting fresh air and exercise with Button and Exuma, which stimulates my health and well-being for the writing. My household full of reptiles provides the inspiration.
Currently, my young gelding, Exuma, pictured above, is having his first lessons carrying a rider, while I take lessons to be able to ride him. You see, my first horse, Button, is a Missouri Fox Trotter, a gaited horse. A gaited horse moves more smoothly than a non-gaited horse. This is due to a unique natural broken gait that allows at least one foot to be on the ground at any given time. Gaited horses are desired for pleasure riding which is what I want to do, trail riding around the Sonoran Desert. Non-gaited horses when trotting move a front foot and the opposite rear foot at the same time. This creates a jarring, bouncing-rider, motion.
Since I came to horseback riding late in life (a few years ago), I’ve only had lessons on a gaited horse. My new boy is a quarter horse, a non-gaited breed. Riding Button is not going to prepare me for riding Exuma. Therefore, I’m taking lessons on an amazing mustang named Napoleon. I’ve learned how to trot, both sitting and posting (which is when the rider rises from the saddle in time with the horse’s gait, which isn’t necessary on a gaited horse). Recently, I rode for my first free canter—which is faster than a trot—but unlike the trot, it is more of a scooping motion, sort of like riding a wave.
I was told I needed to scoop less, more like sliding a chair under a table. So while I sit writing, I roll my chair back and forth under my desk. I can improve my riding while writing! Back on Napoleon, when I scooped less, using the easy, chair-rolling motion, the cantering went much better. Every successful lesson takes me one day closer to riding both my horses.
Here is my mare, Button, a Missouri Fox Trotter.
At the top of the page is Exuma, a quarter horse. Quarter horses are so-called because of their sprinting ability. They can beat other horse breeds in distances of a quarter mile or less.
I’m glad I can work on both my activities, writing and riding, at the same time!
I have a music degree along with my science degrees. I’ve enjoyed singing and performing on stage throughout my life. People on stage or in concerts are often told to sing out, project to the audience. Singers are extolled for singing to the last row or to the balcony, so that everyone can hear them.
Today we have a new direction: Sing through your mask.
With the pandemic, in-person performances have been severely curtailed. But humans are a creative species who will adapt to changing circumstances. Even though the need for masks was apparent, singing in them was less than ideal. Every time I took a deep breath to sing, I’d inhale the cloth and the sound was somewhat muffled.
Today, clever designers have created “masks for singing.” These have sufficient space and stability for proper singing, enabling the singer to get good inhalation and to drop the jaw.
Of course, merely wearing a mask isn’t sufficient protection, so the chorus I sing with rehearses outside, maintaining six feet of distance. It’s nice for us to be able to hear the other singers and make harmony. Sometimes, the local wildlife even joins in, like Great Horned Owl and coyotes. Everyone deserves the opportunity to join in song.
Book Note: The musical side of my brain is also the side that loves poetry. The other side of my brain is where the scientist/educator in me lives. The two sides combine in my “Don’t Series” books, in which scientific information is woven into fun, rhyming stanzas. “Don’t Series” fans tell me the rhymes make learning fun and the knowledge sticks with them. So, if there is a person in your life who wants a fun and colorfully illustrated book about the differences between tortoises and turtles, or to learn all about the fascinating roadrunner bird, or the very interesting rattlesnake, I’ve got the book for you!
I’m publishing an author newsletter now, containing book announcements and specials. Please click here to go to my newsletter, where you can see the colorful, graphic format; click through to the book-birthday video; and subscribe to come along with me on my author journey as I continue my labor of love to make learning science fun.
I will be interviewed by Big Blend Radio on January 27th at 5:00 pm, Mountain Standard Time. The broadcast will available online at Big Blend Radio’s channel on BlogTalkRadio.com. It will also be available afterward as a podcast.
Big Blend Radio is hosted by Nancy J. Reid and Lisa D. Smith. They are the mother-daughter travel team on the Love Your Parks Tour and publishers of the digital Big Blend Radio and TV Magazine and Big Blend Parks and Travel Magazine. Big Blend has a cumulative monthly reading, listening, and viewing audience of over three million. Their audience spans all fifty states, and multiple countries worldwide.
All Big Blend Radio author interview podcasts will be featured in the Big Blend Radio and TV Magazine and on its website, BlendRadioandTV.com as well as on popular podcast sites such as Speaker, BlogTalkRadio, SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Castbox, YouTube, Podcast Addict, Player, Facebook, Stitcher, Tunein, ListenNotes, MixCloud, Overcast.fm, etc.
I hope you will tune in on January 27th at 5:00 pm MST at Big Blend Radio as I’m interviewed about my work in conservation and writing books that weave science into rhyme and adventure tales. A career in science is always interesting, even fascinating, and makes for a rewarding life. I love encouraging future scientists by making science education fun.
Writing a book is often the easiest part of “the book business.” Unfortunately, due to the hours lost to writing, the author then has to market her work, even, in our times, if she is traditionally published.
As scary as it is to go to bookstores and ask the manager or the book buyer to consider selling my books, I have met some very interesting people along the way. When I was searching for selling opportunities, many people suggested I contact Winn Bundy at Singing Wind Bookshop.
I was not familiar with Singing Wind Bookshop. It was located in Benson, AZ for many years. I knew where Benson was, so I got directions and headed out. Singing Wind was not in the city limits of Benson, but in the surrounding territory. Driving through the open spaces, I wondered where the directions were taking me. Finally, there appeared a sign on a dirt road: Headquarters for Books about the Southwest.
That dirt road took me to an amazing place. The Singing Wind Bookshop was located within Winn Bundy’s ranch house. And yes, it was a working ranch. As I entered the bookshop, I was greeted by a dog, and a gray-haired woman, who insisted on giving me a tour of the shop. That was a requirement – you had to have the tour.
I was used to book shops with organized sections: Fiction, Self-Help, Science, History, etc. Singing Wind was uniquely organized by Winn but it was organized. She could find any book that she stocked in the multitude of literary works contained in the rooms.
It was a magical place where you could spend hours among an unusual array of books, many I doubt I’d find anywhere else. She truly had the best collection of books about the Southwest. After I had selected several must-have books, I approached the manager about stocking my books. I first offered her Don’t Call Me Turtle!She was non-committal, saying Winn would have to approve it.
I was thrilled when Winn told me that she thought my book was great and wanted it for her bookshop. I knew then I was a success as an author. I had Winn Bundy’s approval.
I was amazed that this cattlewoman in the middle of the wide open spaces of Southern Arizona knew so many authors around the world. We were working on school programs together when Winn’s health deteriorated. It would have been such an honor to work with her and the students. She did incredible work to promote literacy from her ranch house bookshop. If you like to read more about this remarkable woman, here is a great article in The Arizona Daily Star.
Don’t forget to purchase your copy of the Winn-Bundy-approved Don’t Series by me!
I’ve had some success with my books. It all began when I was encouraged by boat-mates to publish my Curtis Curly-tail Lizard story. My graphic artist friend agreed to do the illustrations, although as he said, “I know nothing about lizards.” I had a story text and I had illustrations. How would I get those words and picture together? I had no clue.
By chance, I saw that the local editors’ society was holding an event called “speed-dating for editors.” A few authors would have the opportunity to tell their needs to a number of editors to see if they were a match. I met with all the other editors before Nora and they all said they couldn’t put my words on the illustrations. I was discouraged.
Then it was my turn with Nora Miller. Her response was, “Of course!” That started a six-year friendship that ended much too soon. Nora was an all-around editor. She edited the text, designed the text boxes on the book pages, formatted the words and illustrations for independent publishing, loaded the files, and built my first website. When that first book was translated into Spanish and French, she edited the words in those two languages, as well. A truly remarkable woman.
She was teacher as well to fledgling authors and illustrators. Always patient, she clearly explained what was needed to be done. When she learned her life was coming to an end, she made sure she found other editors to help me carry on.
Nora passed on with her family around her. Her many friends around the world were with her spiritually.
I will try to continue the high standards she set for my books. I know I will feel her with me as I write the next stories.
It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! How is everybody out there? I hope you are staying strong and well.
Are you familiar with collective nouns? I knew they existed. They’re the words that describe a specific group of animals, like a flock of birds or a school of fish. Lizards like me are found in a lounge, i.e., a lounge of lizards (like in the photo above). Other reptiles have fun collective nouns, too. Alligators are found in a congregation, while crocodiles collect in a bask. Cobras form a quiver, while rattlesnakes, a rhumba! That’s one of my favorites. One I have a hard time understanding, though, is an army of frogs. Where did that come from? How threatening would an army of frogs be? (Although, from a reptile point of view, it does sound a bit slimy.)
Mammals have some interesting collective nouns, like a leap of leopards, a horde of hamsters, or a sneak of weasels. That one made me laugh. Then, I learned a collective noun I had never heard of: Fluffle. What is a fluffle a group of, you may ask? I certainly did. A fluffle is a group of wild rabbits. A fluffle of wild rabbits. Can’t you just imagine a group of fluffy, jumping rabbits? I thought this was the perfect collective noun.
Well, it’s time for me to return to my lounge and pose for some pictures on the beach. I just love showing off my perfectly curled tail!
Until next time, take care and please, check out the Curtis Curly-tail seriesof books, especially my latest adventure when I was caught in a hurricane: Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away! I think you’re gonna love them. After all, the stories are about my adventures, andElaine A. Powers, my friend and the author, sneaks science into them. She always says, “Science is fun! Let’s show them!”
I say, “Sure! As long as it’s about me!” She just shakes her head and smiles.
The show must go on! And that reminds me, please come on over and watch me in my starring role on my YouTube page. Lots of fun and interesting things there to learn about really cool (literally) reptiles.
In my book Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, I described Curtis and his iguana friends being caught in a hurricane. I’ve had personal experience in hurricanes from living along the Gulf Coast. My first week at Florida State University was delayed by a hurricane. I had to go to class on Saturday to make up for the lost day. When I worked at the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, we were out checking islands in Tampa Bay when a hurricane passed by. We were in a 16-foot boat in 16-foot waves! Fortunately, we made it back safely.
But the hurricane that made the biggest impression on me was Hurricane Alicia in Houston. I was working as a bone marrow transplantation technician and a patient had been scheduled for the day of Alicia’s arrival. This was not a procedure that could be delayed. One of the team doctors had been trapped at the hospital due to the storm, but a technician was needed to prepare the cells. I was single and all the other techs had families, so I told them to stay home and I would go in. I had no doubt I could make it; after all I had a heavy-duty SUV.
The world was gray with rampaging rain and violent winds. Power lines snapped in front of me. Building pieces flew to the street, littering my route to work. I had to keep changing directions to get around the debris. The power of the winds threatened to push in my car windows. I eventually worked my way to the parking lot of the hospital. I was very thankful I had survived the trip.
Comforted by the thought I had arrived, I opened my car door and stepped out. The next thing I remember is catching the bumper of my car as I was blown away. I might have been able to drive through 105 mph winds, but I couldn’t stand in them! I was contemplating how I was going to pull myself up my car from the bumper to the open door, when my savior arrived. The shuttle bus driver had seen me and positioned his bus as a wind block. I was able to crawl up my car to his bus and get in. He then shuttled me to the hospital.
I can’t remember now if I told him the importance of why I was there. He not only saved me that day, but the patient who was successfully transplanted with bone marrow. I hope I did tell him. I’m grateful to this day, because I don’t know how much longer I could’ve held on. I was almost blown away that day by very powerful winds. I have a great deal of respect for the might of hurricanes. In the case of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, the writer was writing what she knew!
A friend sent me Tom Gauld’s cartoon about an autumn walk’s inspiration.
The poet thinks, “I’ll write a poem about the melancholy beauty of leaves falling in the autumn sun.”
The detective novelist thinks, “I’ll write a story about the autumn winds revealing a headless corpse hidden in a pile of leaves.”
I’m a member of a local poetry society, so I might briefly consider writing a poem about leaf loss. However, my poetry tends to the kind that ends up in science-based picture books. That’s because I believe picture books should rhyme.
However, I do like mysteries and horror stories, so yes, I would definitely write a story about a headless corpse being found in a pile of leaves! When I started writing books, I wanted to write murder mysteries. Even though most of my time is taken up with the children’s books, I am working on a couple of mystery series. Maybe one will include a headless corpse . . .
Are you familiar with the word entheogen? I wasn’t either until I heard it mentioned in a talk about the Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, Incilius alvarius.
You may have heard of this toad without knowing much else: It’s the toad made famous by claims that if you licked its back, you would experience a hallucinogenic effect, due to entheogen. Entheogen is a psychoactive substance that produces alterations in perception, mood, cognition or behavior for the purpose of enhancing spiritual development. The compound found specifically in this species of toad that causes this effect is 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine).
The toad only produces these toxins for defensive purposes, not for human use as an entheogen. You must harass the toad to get it to secrete its toxins and, for the record, harassing animals is just wrong. By the way, licking the toad will not get you high, or closer to your deity. And, if your dog tries to eat one of these toads, it could be fatal. Native predators have learned to avoid the toad’s back, grabbing its prey by the feet and eating the underbelly.
Sonoran Desert toads also produce the related toxin bufotenin (5-HO-DMT). These toxins are exudates from the parotoid gland behind the toad’s eyes.
Now you know what “entheogen” means. Try to include it your next conversation. I love the challenge of new words and try to inject them as often as I can. I guess that means I am a writer. Well, you can kind of tell that on My Books page, too. Still, to think a tiny curly-tail lizard could inspire me to write his story and that THAT would lead to all these science books that I’ve written to be FUN is really something! We just never know where life is going to take us.
One of my pet peeves, or maybe, as a person who loves her reptiles, I should say companion-animal peeves, is when animals in their natural environment are called an infestation just because they are predators and not cute, cuddly creatures.
The article that set me off this time is about a humpback whale that swam up an Australian river and got stuck. The native predators in this river include crocodiles.
Fortunately for the whale, it was able to swim out of the river during a high tide. However, it still bothers me that the crocodiles were referred to as an infestation in their own river! (Where else can they go?)
An “infestation” is defined as being invaded or overrun by pests or parasites. However, “infested” can be interpreted as living in or being overrun in a troublesome manner, which is how writers justify saying that the river was “infested” by crocodiles. Yet, the whale wasn’t attacked, so they can’t really say the river was overrun by crocs.
It would have been more accurate to say that the river is “croc-inhabited.” This acknowledges the right of the crocodiles to exist in their native habitat and that their presence is not unusual.
Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion on proper word usage. Words are very powerful, personally and professionally. They should be used to convey the truth and not send the wrong message.
As part of my writing business, I travel to numerous places, not only for inspiration but also for the marketing of my books. Most of the places I visit involve oceans and often islands, such as The Bahamasand theCayman Islands. I don’t get to spend much time on the beaches since I’m working but, whenever I can, I seize the chance to walk barefoot in the sand as waves lap on my feet.
Of course, due to the pandemic, I haven’t traveled anywhere this year. Fortunately, I enjoy living in the Sonoran Desert. However, the one thing the desert doesn’t have is a beach with ocean waves. In addition, the desert sand is made from rocks and I miss the sand made from seashells, which has a different texture.
Knowing I was missing the salty bodies of water, my friend, Pam, created a beautiful card for me. She said the sea called to her on my behalf. The card is from the seashells and sand grains on the beach! It brought me much joy.
Pam is an incredibly talented artist. I have several of her paper paintings in my home and have given her permission to share a few here.
She is also a skilled editor and a fabulous web mistress. And most importantly, she is a special friend.
~NOTE: Thanks, Elaine! I appreciate you very much. Pam~
Here, my youngest iguana, Twizzler Spiny-tail Iguana, is demonstrating that he is literally climbing the wall.
by Elaine A. Powers
If you’re like me, you’re spending more time at home than usual. Of course, this should help my writing output, but I often get distracted by the news of the world. Fortunately, I live with an assortment of animals who help me maintain my mental wellbeing.
At first my reptiles, many of whom free-roam my house, enjoyed having me around. They’d join in at my work area and sit at my feet, or wander by, walking over my feet or pushing my wheeled-chair. I liked the attention.
But over time, I noticed they weren’t around me as much. They had been accustomed to me traveling and having other caregivers while I was gone. Absence made their hearts grow fonder. Now, they have found favorite spots to hang out in in other rooms, especially the spare bedroom.
Was it something I said? Maybe I’m watching too much news or it’s been too long without me taking a trip. Well, we’ve all got our own space, so we should be content, right?
Nope! Today I realized that my reptiles may be experiencing enough stress to drive them “up the wall.” The phrase means being irritated or angry enough that one feels the need to escape, even if it means climbing up and over walls.
Twizzler was eventually able to relax and made his way back down and settled into the day’s activities.
As you can see above, iguanas can become quite large. So, when I wrote The Dragon of Nani Cave–well, the dragon isn’t really a dragon. It’s an iguana and only seems like a dragon to small Curly-tail lizards, the Lime Lizard Lads, who work up enough courage to go find the dragon (with a little help from their friends). While the lizards are having an adventure, young readers are learning all about ecosystems (and they don’t even know it). That’s what we do around here–make learning about science fun!
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go seethe Dragon of Nani Cave.
An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+ 48 pages
Fun and Colorful Illustrations of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon! By Anderson Atlas
Gene and Bony are bored. They go see Old Soldier Crab who tells them wondrous, dangerous creatures live up on the bluff. And, if they go, they must prove themselves worthy and return with a piece of Caymanite.
They must journey through Skull Cave and meet bats, and a cat with sharp teeth. Then they meet Kat, a fellow Curly-tail Lizard and she knows the way to Nani Cave. But she warns there might be more than one dragon.
Meeting one danger after another, they finally arrive at Nani Cave. There he is: the dragon! He’s HUGE! And look at all those teeth!
Hi, friends! It’s me—Curtis Curly-tail! Did you miss me? (Come on over and see me at my YouTube page.) I missed you, too!
Did you know there is more than one English? I was wondering about Elaine a few times when she didn’t understand something I said–I am from the Bahamas, a member of the British Commonwealth–but I’ve recently learned because of a blog post Elaine wrote that her English is actually different from my English. There’s a US English and a British English! Some of our words are even spelled differently. Elaine said in the post she will continue to write in US English, at least for now. (We will see about that.)
Elaine got me wondering about the other differences in the two Englishes. Brits and Americans also use different terms for the same objects. (That explains her confusion.) Some British words, like “boot” for the trunk of a car, make good sense. However, some involve animal terms and are a lot more fun.
What they call a ladybird in Great Britain, you call a ladybug in the US. A metal clip with long serrated jaws often attached to an electric cable is called an “alligator clip” in the US—but we call it a “crocodile clip” in the British Commonwealth. Did you just choose a similar reptile to be different? Personally, I’m glad both the gators and crocs have a metal clip named after them. Go, reptiles! I’m thinking someone should name something after Curly-tail lizards, too! Of course, it’s got to be curly. And the first one should obviously be a “Curtis.”
Another fun name in Great Britain is the term for crosswalks. Those stripes on the road where pedestrians walk across are called “zebra crossings!” Do real zebras cross there? I might have to take a trip to find out. Then Elaine could write another Curtis Curly-tail adventure: Curtis Curly-tail and the Crossing Zebra! I’m not sure how I’d get there by boat, but she will figure it out.
(Right, Elaine? Right? Okay, okay. The fourth book in the series just came out. You’re probably waiting for inspiration. But aren’t I always inspiring??)
That’s right, my compadres–the next book in the Curtis Curly-tail seriesjust came out. That’s four now–ALL ABOUT ME! What can I say? When you’re a star, you’re a star! I hope you’ll go over and grab a copy ofCurtis Curly-tail is Blown Away! by Elaine A. Powers. (I mean, you’ve GOT to find out if I make it back home after a hurricane that blows me away. Just pretend like you didn’t see this post until after you read it. It’s really good–lots of weather and environmental science woven into the story. Kids don’t even notice–they just learn the science. And that, my friends, is how Elaine rolls. I just love that!
This guy, Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, and his species inspired my book, Don’t Make Me Fly!
September 4 is National Wildlife Day. As a biologist, I love wildlife, whether it is in my backyard or at some distant exotic location. Wildlife Day was established to remind us about endangered animals, locally and around the world.
This is also the day to recognize the work being done on behalf of these animals, both in preservation and education about them. I do my part for conservation through my volunteering as a citizen scientist, talks I give, the books I write about animals, and supplemental, educational workbooks that teach about animals in a fun way.
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.
It’s not only animals that need protecting during hurricane season; people are also in danger. In this story, as in real life, people come together to help not only each other, but animals and the environment, as well. Along with the destruction caused by hurricanes, Elaine also discusses the positive effects in the book. (Yes, there are benefits from hurricanes. I’ll bet you didn’t know that!)
I have been very fortunate to have very talented webmistresses to create and maintain my websites. Yes, I could have worked on my websites myself, but I would rather be writing books. More importantly, they are much more visually creative and attentive to the many details. Like I said, I’d rather be writing my books.
Nora Miller, editor extraordinaire, developed my original author website here at ElaineAPowers.com. I was so thankful to be able to send her material and see it on the website, as if by magic. Pamela Bickell came along to add some color to my book publishing website, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, and when I needed to add my books to my author website, Pam redesigned my author site. She also adds my blog posts to the sites and Facebook.
As an author, I love writing books but, like many others, I enjoy the marketing of them less. I need my webmistresses. Not only are they knowledgeable about the inner workings of websites, they are both talented writers and editors. This is important, since my work might need tweaking now and then.
Today I honor my webmistresses and can highly recommend both of them. Should you want to contact either Nora or Pam for help, please use the contact page at either website and I will put you in touch. I am forever grateful to them. Happy Webmistress Day!
Today is National Radio Day. Way back before TV/streaming media as we know it and before today’s audio books, there was radio. Of course, there still is, but in the early part of the twentieth century, radio was our only source for news from around the world, and it provided wonderful entertainment. Radio shows were sponsored by businesses, so the shows had set running times, leaving airtime for advertisements.
Radio was available to everyone and we enjoyed being able to do other things while we were listening. There were comedic radio shows and dramatic storytelling, with sound effects, eliciting emotions. Several stories led to unfortunate circumstances, the most famous of which was Orson Welles’ broadcast of the H.G. Wells story, War of the Worlds. My mother, near the alleged site of the Martian landing, heard the broadcast and witnessed the panic.
Twenty years ago, radio shows had a renewed popularity with recreated “old-time” and modern “new-time” shows. These modern radio shows didn’t have the time constraints of earlier days. Some acting guilds today are performing what were radio shows on stage. Audio and radio theater provide listeners, whether in their homes, cars, or acted in a performance hall, a refreshing alternative to the usual standard fare of music, news and talk shows.
My first serious writing was in creating scripts for the Hunterdon Radio Theatre in New Jersey. My scripts have been performed on stage, as broadcasts, and recorded onto CDs.
Are you a performer–or a company manager? Need a break from those monotonous Zoom meetings? Why not take a look at my short audio/theater scripts, get a few co-workers together and perform a play for the wider audience? My scripts range from comedic to spooky and the purchase of a script comes with the performance rights. They can be performed by adults or children, are family appropriate, and you might even learn a little science! Break up the online-meeting monotony and have some fun today reading or acting a play! (Or two!)
I’m always learning new words. I thought someone who liked reptiles was a “herpephile.” I found out lately it is actually “herpetophile.” There really is a word for people like me who like reptiles and enjoy studying them.
Then I read about “ophidiofomophobia.” I had to look it up, but, unfortunately, it isn’t a real word, although it really should be. I know “Ophidiophobia” is a fear of snakes. Ophidiofomophobia would be the fear of NOT having snakes. I would definitely suffer from ophidiofomophobia. I can’t imagine not sharing my yard with a variety of snakes. They are all welcome, even those that rattle.
This examination of phobia words lead me to wondering about other phobias. Was there a word for people afraid of lizards? Not a specific one for lizards, but there is a general one for reptiles: Herpetophobia is a fear of reptiles, usually lizards and snakes, but also crocodilians. I guess lizards don’t get their own phobia.
I feel iguanas—the big lizards—deserve their own phobia, at least. Iguanaphobia has a nice rhythmic flow to it, don’t you think?
Seriously, phobias are serious issues that shouldn’t be joked about. One of the reasons I’m interested in writing science-based books is to help people learn about misunderstood animals and, hopefully, lessen their fears.
I’ve heard from many people staying at home now that lots of people want to write a book and writing creatively is a good use of time. I would even say it is a perfect use of time when the stories are about me–or even other reptiles, once in a while.
People often ask me for advice about publishing the stories they’ve written. After all, I’ve had several books written about me—I even inspired the first one! So, I do have some advice for potential book publishers.
My first suggestion is to have other people read your story. It’s impossible to proofread your own book. To make proper edits—to find gaps in the plot or missing dialog responses, or you might have a weak setting—you must have other eyes on your words. But be careful about who you choose to read your story. I could have Clive read anything I wrote, but he’s a friend and he would tell me it’s wonderful, whether it was or not. He might even think it’s wonderful just because I wrote it.
If you want to write, you start by putting words on a page, by typing, or handwriting, or using a dictation app, whatever suits your style. As you know, every journey begins with a single step. Writing starts with the writing of a single word. Don’t even worry about whether or not the writing is good. Just get the words out. You’ll be going back and editing when the chapter/section/story is done—again and again, after you have received critical, honest, and sometimes even brutal feedback from others. It does take a village to write a good book worth reading.
If you want to read books written about me, check out the Curtis Curly-tail Series. Elaine A. Powers, who wrote them because she loves making science books fun to read (inspired by my perfection, of course!) had many people read and help edit these books. You can read their names in the acknowledgments at the back of the books, as proof. (Actually, she’s the one who taught me about beta readers, but I’m sure she learned it from a writing expert and now I’m passing it on to you!)
So, write those words down and don’t worry about perfection—no one ever finds it the first few times through. And ask for beta readers and for honest feedback. You’ll be surprised by how much better a writer you’ll become.
I learned a new term today. It’s not a word to be used in daily conversation but interesting, nonetheless. The new term is saurophagy. Its means “the eating of lizards.”
I was a little sad to learn this word in a report about one iguana species, C. similis, eating its cousin,C. bakeri. Normally herbivores, iguanas can be opportunistic consumers. C. similisseem to take the opportunity to eat the hatchling C. bakeri heading to the mangroves.
Like most people with access to the Internet, the first thing I did was search saurophagy. It’s apparently a well-kept secret. Google offered me autophagy which is very different. Autophagy is the destruction of cells during normal physiological cycles.
It took a while to find anything on saurophagy. Most of what I found was lizards-eating-lizards research, which makes sense in places with high numbers of lizards. But of course, lizards have many predators. Those predators are usually just called carnivores, nothing fancy like saurophagy.
Saurophagy is a fun word to know. You just might need it someday for a trivia contest or Scrabble game. And don’t forget, there’s autophagy, too.
To learn more about iguanas, check out this wonderful downloadable resource at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. Nothing about saurophagy in it, but lots of other information about iguanas and wonderful activity sheets. Full description below.
Several animals have been associated with books, such as the book worm. In addition, many libraries have instituted “read to the dog” programs and they encourage children to read to their pets. I have neither worms nor dogs. Calliope is my book iguana. Her name means the “muse of long poetry.” My picture books are long poems. Yes, she is definitely a muse for me. Her first enclosure was located beside my writing table. Now, she roams freely around the house, but she still supervises my writing.
An important part of writing is reading, which improves your craft. Calliope decided I had been working on the writing part too much and needed to do some reading. She selected a book for us to relish. She selected Directing a Play by my neighbor and friend, Stuart Vaughan. Stuart and I shared a love of the theater. And this is where I plug my theater scripts. When you buy a copy of the scripts, you get performance rights, as well. It’s a fabulous deal.
If you’re familiar with the theater scene in New York City, you might be familiar with Stuart. He directed Joseph Papp’s “Shakespeare in the Park” shows, in the famous Central Park, in case you didn’t know. We shared a driveway in New Jersey. You couldn’t ask for better neighbors.
When I moved to Arizona, my life situation didn’t allow time for theater, so I spent my time writing fun science-based children’s books. Even though the genre of my writing has changed, I still love creating stories. I enjoy writing these blogs, as well. I hope to bring both enjoyment and factual science to the readers’ lives.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to “act out” again, but I hope you’ll grab some fun for yourself and act out my scripts.
Have you ever had to do something that you didn’t want to do or you just couldn’t get started?
It happens to all of us. It’s easy to find excuses not to start. Like when writing blog posts, I stare at the blank page and wonder what I should write. All that white space, staring back at me.
Today, I remembered when I was on Eleuthera, where the island’s artists had all come together to sell their work. As part of the event, a blank canvas was set up with paints. The idea was, artists and visitors would each add something to the painting.
The canvas was set up right behind my table. I saw the hesitancy to begin and I encouraged every artist that went by to start the painting, but none of them would. So I did. I was there celebrating the publication of my new book, Grow Home, Little Seeds, which is about plants finding their homes and sprouting, so I painted a plant sprouting as it pushed up out of the earth.
Amazingly, that’s all it took. The artists each added something and, as you can see, created an amazing piece of art.
You can still see my original sprout, too! So you see, just a little effort can get things going and you just might end up with a masterpiece.
The book I was selling is set in the Leon Levy Preserveon Eleuthera. It’s a tale of seed-friends, each finding their own perfect place to sprout.
When I lived in the Midwest and Northeast, I knew it was Spring when the crocus and daffodils raised their heads from the ground. Here in the Sonoran Desert, I know it is Spring when the round-tailed ground squirrels, Xerospermophilus tereticaudus, which dwell in the desert of the US Southwest and northwestern Mexico, raise their heads from the ground.
name for these small mammals is derived from their long round tail and long
fluffy hind feet. I think they look like small prairie dogs due to their
uniform sandy color.
Instead of running up and down large, lush trees found in the more temperate areas of the country, these squirrels burrow into ground beneath mesquite trees andcreosote bushes, plants tough enough to survive the harsh desert clime. They are active during hot summer days and stay underground during the winter, but they don’t hibernate.
people find the squirrels a bother because they are always digging holes in
their yards, driveways and even streets. I think they make a new tunnel each
day. I like to think of their efforts as aerating the soil and loosening the
rock-hard ground. Going underground, they are able to evade their many
predators: coyotes, badgers, hawks and snakes.
though they live in colonies, ground squirrels like their space. Males like to
be in charge during mating season, but the mothers dominate when they have
Why am I
writing about these delightful squirrels? I am starting to work on a picture
book about the local ground squirrels. This book was requested by an educator
at a local park. There are no books about area ground squirrels. Another fun,
science book waiting to be written in rhyme! Gosh, I love my work!
to get back now to my burrowing into the world of ground squirrels.
Thanks for visiting!
I’ve written many books about reptiles, and am excited about adding mammals to my book collection. Here is a workbook on mammalsfrom my publisher, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC, focused on making science fun. Their activity sheets and workbooks really help to pass the time in a fun way.
I do write my science books, of course, but I don’t create thebooks by myself. As the saying goes, it really does take a village. Where did I find Nora Miller, editor extraordinaire and designer of my books? At an editor speed-dating event! I had written, “Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers,” and my friend, Art Winstanley, had brought Curtis to life in the illustrations. But I had a problem: How would I get the text onto the pages with illustrations? That was beyond my technical capabilities.
As I was
contemplating this situation, I read an article in the newspaper. The local
editorial association was hosting an event to allow a limited number of authors
to meet with editors who provided a variety of services. Each author
could meet with an editor for five minutes, then move onto the next editor—just
like speed dating. If a connection was made, the parties exchanged information
for a follow-up meeting.
I thought my need was straightforward and that I would have to choose between several editors. However, when I asked the editors if they could put text onto an illustration, the repeated response was, “No.” I needed a graphic designer, too. I was getting discouraged. Then I got to Nora’s table and her answer was, “Of course.”
This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Not only does Nora compile my books, she tweaks the pictures, formats the files for the publishing types and she edits in at least three languages! She is truly versatile and indispensable in an industry requiring knowledgeable and thorough partners.
I’m often asked how long I’ve been writing books. I have been writing mostly children’s science books–which I like to make fun to read with fantastic illustrations or by writing in rhyme. I’ve been creating mystery stories, as well, for a total of about five years.
Before that, I wrote scripts. I was involved in several community theaters that often needed original scripts. I wrote a variety of them, many of which were performed locally. Performance rights are included when you purchase the scripts.
Then my employer transferred me to Tucson, Arizona, and my mother came to live with me. I no longer had time for theater, but the need to write had awakened in me. I met little Curtis Curly-tail lizard on a beach in the Bahamas and my book writing adventure began.
I am very happy in my unexpected, post-retirement second career.
Thanks for stopping by my website. This is the cover of one of my audio/theater book of scripts. You can see them all on the Theater Scripts page.
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