So, You Want to Write a Book? by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

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.

Image courtesy of Anne Karakash of Pixabay

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.

You need honest feedback. Allison Andros Iguana (who was kidnapped and later escaped with me) would be a good choice, because she would give me a straightforward critique. Remember, honest feedback helps improve your writing and is not an attack on you personally. Many humans ask for “beta” readers, who enjoy helping authors polish their work before it is published.

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!)

a blue and white children's book cover with curly-tail lizards illustrated
I met Allison Andros Iguana in this story. She is very brave and strong and I know she would be a good beta reader for me.

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.

Looking for More than Sky Rain

Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t really think about rain. It rained all year long, although in the winter it could fall as ice, or if we were lucky, snow. The only time rain was newsworthy was during tornado season, when nature used it as a weapon, or mid-summer when the corn and soybean crops needed timely rains for optimum growth.

But then I moved to the diverse and complex Sonoran Desert, where rain is not only newsworthy but fascinating. Every time it rains, it’s like I’ve never seen it before. I run to the window to watch the water falling from the clouds. The Tucson area only gets about 12 inches of rain each year, most during the summer monsoons. In my hometown, we were used to around 37 inches a year.

When I first moved to Arizona, I worked on the second floor. One day, I was delighted to see raindrops on the windows. I ran downstairs to stand in the rain, only to discover the rain was not reaching the ground.  I looked up and could see the rain stopping about three feet above my head. Yes, sometimes the ground is so hot and the humidity so low that the raindrops evaporate before reaching the ground. Thus, I call it sky rain.

Sky Rain: Rain that doesn’t reach the ground

This year, in the weeks before monsoon, when it was very hot and rain clouds started to form, I watched sky rain right in front of me. If you look closely at the pictures, you will see that the rain is not reaching the ground. The ends even look slightly curved upward as the water is being warmed by the hot earth.

When it rains at your house, be glad when it reaches the ground, providing moisture to plants and animals. Sky rain, while fascinating, just doesn’t get that job done.

If you’d like to learn more about the Sonoran Desert, please see my Don’t Series books, which are vividly illustrated children’s book, where the science is written into rhyming stanzas, making learning science fun!

book covers Dont Series
These best sellers are colorful and written in rhyme, making learning science fun!

“That’s MY Bed!”

Among the many reptiles I share my home with is a rhinoceros rock iguana who usually free roams my house. She basks under the heat lamps with the tortoises, shares the plates of veggies and finds sunbeams to relax in. Mid-afternoon, it’s time to head under some rocks for a nap. 

No, I don’t have rocks in my house, but I do have pillows on the sofa, which is her designated sleeping place. Recently, however, she has discovered my bed. It, too, has pillows. And it has a blanket where she can stretch out her entire body. She’s over four feet long.

I head to bed late in the evening, looking forward to laying my head on my pillows, all four of them, only to discover my bed is already occupied.

“Hey, Rango, that’s my bed!”  So, I picked up the sleeping lizard and carried her to the sofa.

Then, things came to an interesting point. I needed a nap this afternoon, so I got into bed. I hear the tick-tick-tick of approaching iguana feet – they have nails on the ends on their toes which click on the tile floor.

“Uh, oh, will someone be joining me in bed?” 

I feel a body knock against the frame. A body impact with the mattress. But no one comes up—I think. Later I turn over to see me being watched by a very confused iguana.

What in the world was I doing in her bed!

Note: You might be able to tell how much I enjoy sharing my home with iguanas. To learn more about these intelligent and interesting reptiles, see My Unit Study on Iguanas at Lyric Power Publishing’s Workbook page.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

And one of my fun children’s science books (written in the form of an adventure tale) features The Dragon of Nani Cave which, when you’re a small curly-tail lizard, is an iguana!

 The Lime Lizard Lads,
Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring
their island home, where the bravest
thing possible is to go see
the 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!
What will Gene and Bony do now?
KEEP THE FUN GOING!

It’s Get to Know Your Customers Day!

Get to Know Your Customers Day is a day that is of interest to me every day. I want to know my customers. Do they like my books? How can my books be better? What should I write about in the ones to come? How can I improve the workbooks and activity sheets sold at Lyric Power? Would any of my customers be interested in theater scripts—because I am also an actor and scriptwriter.

cover of workbook all about rocks

I do try to write books that fill a specific need in scientific information—as in Don’t Call Me Turtle, which tells the differences between turtles and tortoises. I’d also like the workbooks and activity sheets published by Lyric Power Publishing, LLC to be useful to teachers and families in their educational activities. 

infographic for children's book Don't Call Me Turtle!

So, please, drop me a line. Let me know how my science books, which I work to make fun so that learning is fun, could better serve you. Reach out about your educational needs, etc. Or, maybe you already own one of my books and you’d be willing to write a review at Amazon? It would be a great help to me and sincerely appreciated.

I’m hoping you get to know me a bit more every time I post at the blog, Tales and Tails, but I would like to learn more about you, too, and not just today. I’d truly love it if you reached out to me to introduce yourself, so here’s a link to my contact form. Let’s talk about science and how I can help. Thank you for stopping by at my website today.

Who Protects Your Home?

Many homeowners have security systems to protect the premises.  There are many choices: Ring, ADT, Vivint, etc., all of which involve people.

My security system involves reptiles. I have free roaming tortoises that are adept at tripping. They utilize the carpets that camouflage them well. Yes, even I have face-planted! I also have large roaming lizards with razor sharp teeth and an intense dislike of people they don’t know.

photo of tortoise nibbling on iguana's tail
Members of my Home Protection Team

Recently, I discovered that the household reptiles have recruited some of the locals to participate in guarding the house.

This Desert Spiny Lizard, Sceloporus magister, is doing surveillance from the front door. From her spot, she can watch the front of the house and the road. She seems to be doing a good job.

She does a good job from here.

I haven’t written any books including the Desert Spiny, but I do enjoy writing about lizards. Visit my books page here; and check out the workbooks and activity sheets at Lyric Power Publishing, which all make science education fun!

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category
Collage of Science Education Workbooks
Click on Workbooks to see all 23 workbooks, making science education fun!

Ouch! Cactus Exposed By Curtis Curly-tail Lizard!

It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail lizard!

Perhaps you’ve read my stories about reptile meals in my blog posts and on my YouTube Channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks!

I like helping my human friends prepare the meals for my reptilian companions. This morning I was collecting pads from the prickly pear cactus for the desert tortoises. I only harvest the young pads due to my size. Locally the pad is called a nopal. People also eat them.

Prickly Pear Cactus

The problem is, prickly pear cactus have spines, really big spines. That’s why they’re called prickly. But my human friends are smart like me and many planted the “spineless” prickly pear, Opuntia stricta. Cactus spines are very sharp and difficult to remove because they have hooks to keep them in the skin. They also come in different sizes. You may avoid the obvious, big spines but then be impaled by smaller ones.

Since I was asked to collect young pads from the spineless prickly pear cactus, I wasn’t worried about injuries. Using my perfect hands, I snapped off a pad – and they do snap off easily. But, when I snapped off the second one, I realized I had pain in my perfect little fingers. I looked down to see tiny spines stuck between my scales.

What?!

Why did I have spines from a spineless prickly pear cactus in my fingers? Well, they have fewer spines than the regular prickly pears, but they aren’t really totally, perfectly spineless. I kept going, though, adding more spines to my collection until I had enough pads for their tortoise meals. 

The tortoises enjoyed their meal, while I spent the rest of the day picking out spineless prickly pear cactus spines and contemplating these not-totally-spineless cactus plants. So, here it is—Be careful out there among the cacti!

Stop by and say hi at my YouTube Page. And check out the fun books my good friend, Elaine, a human, has written about tortoises and turtles!

There are LOTS of differences between tortoises and turtles! Learn all about them here, in this fun, rhyming book loved by little ones and their parents alike!

Why Flake When You Can Shed?

Reptile skin is really interesting.  Instead of flaking off like human skin does, reptiles shed their skin in strips. Snakes shed one complete body skin at a time. Lizards might shed their skin in sections of the body.

The scales that make up the skin are made by the epidermis of the protein keratin. The skin provides an external covering provides protection and helps retain moisture. 

The skin on the left is being shed, and the colorful new layer underneath is on the right.  You can surely see why they are called Red Tegus.

Rascal is getting ready to shed his old skin, so it appears white.

My friend Rascal, a Red Tegu, offered to help me show shedding lizard skin. He has thick beaded scales, that appear to be a lovely dark red.  However, when it’s time to get rid of his old epidermis, the skin looks white. That’s because the tegu’s color is not in the outer epidermal layer, but underneath.

By the way, keratin is what you humans use to make your skin, hair and nails with.  Don’t you wish you could shed your skin like us reptiles?


This is a piece of the shed skin.  Notice there is no color except for a little black or melanin pigment.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Lyric Power Publishing LLC offers fun and educational science workbooks and activity sheets. Looking to supplement science at home? Make it fun with economical and fun activity sheets!

One example is the workbook above. Learn all about iguanas in this 30-page workbook that is only $2.95. and you buy it once and print as many times as you’d like!

Comfortable in Her Own Skin

There’s a saying about being comfortable in one’s own on skin.  Recently, this saying took on a new meaning for me.  Last year, I became the delighted owner of a Missouri Fox Trotter named Button.  She was born in Missouri, so every winter she grows a coat worthy of the cold cruel Midwest winter winds; she is quite cozy here in Tucson’s cool winter weather.

Button, before her stylist arrived

Come spring, Button would shed the massive amount of hair down to her more comfortable summer thin coat.  This spring, however, she didn’t shed sufficiently. Temperatures were in the 80s with 90s being forecast. Our workouts left her “sopping” wet with sweat.  Action needed to be taken.

I noticed that one of the other horses had been shaved by a local groomer.  She’d done a lovely job, leaving the horse’s coat smooth. No razor ridges like I would create. I gave her a call, scheduled Button’s hair appointment and off the thick winter coat came. It was like watching a sheep being sheared! I expected her to be a bright shiny copper penny color underneath but she looks more bronze to me. She is now much more comfortable temperature-wise, but I wondered if she would miss her hair.

After a day of multiple rolls in the dirt, I think Button is now truly comfortable in her own skin.

And now, being comfortable in my own skin, it’s back to to stories I go! To see my science-based and fun adventure tales and rhyming stories, please go to the My Books page.

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

It’s National Pet Parents Day!

When I became the owner and BFF of a horse, I was surprised and amused that the vet always refers to me as “Mom.” (Yes, she does know my name.) I do think of Button as a friend but as her mother—not so much.

The last Sunday in April is said to recognize pet parents who go the extra mile to care for their fur babies.  Wait! Only fur babies?  What about those of us who have scale babies? Or people who have feather babies? I think all pet parents should be recognized.

Even though they don’t have fur, my pets are members of my family.  A bunch of them, or more accurately a creep of them, roam my house and sleep in my bedroom at night. Not with me on the bed, but in the corners.

If you visit my house, you may wonder why I have cardboard boxes in many of the corners. Now you know why—well, if you know how “creep” is used as a collective animal-noun, you know. If you don’t know what “creep,” means, may I suggest my book, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!”? It’s full of fun, scientific and rhyming facts, beloved by little ones and their parents alike!

So, let’s celebrate our non-human family members. Give them an extra treat or cuddle or a few minutes of quality time. They bring so much affection and contentment into our lives.

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!

Tabby Sure Has My Attention! How About Yours? by Curtis Curly-tail

I like to think of author Elaine A. Powers’s You Tube channel as MY channel. It does, after all, say at the top of the page, “Curtis Curly-tail Speaks!”

But, I’m like, “Whoo, hoo! Look at that girl go!” I mean, have you seen and heard Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy on You Tube?

I’d read her books, of course–but I think I’m in love! Click the picture and see for yourself!

And remember, I’m here in The Bahamas with Tabby and you’re really far away! While I’m working on the girl, please check out her new video–and her books so important for The Bahamas!

Thanks from all your Bahamian Friends!

a book cover about Tabby the five finger fairy and Cleo a bahamian boa
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, who comes from the Five-Finger Tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, loves the native plants, animals and people of The Bahamas. She makes friends wherever she goes!
A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, is a good friend to everyone she meets. After Cleo, a Bahamian Boa, rescues her in their first book, Tabby & Cleo: Unexpected Friends, Tabby tells us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.

He’s NOT a Tortoise! by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, everyone! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail, at your service! Well, actually, I’m here today for my friend, Trevor. He asked me to share his rant with you. 

Trevor is a Box Turtle. He recently posted a selfie at the beginning of a literacy school event on social media. Numerous comments were added about what an attractive tortoise he was.  Tortoise! 

Trevor isn’t a tortoise–he’s a turtle!  He was incensed, upset, incredulous, even! He obviously has red eyes. Don’t people know that all tortoises have black eyes?

And, Trevor says, he’d sure like to see ANY tortoise try his trick below! Only turtles with lightweight shells and webbed feet can climb screen doors!

Trevor has stomped his little feet (with turtle-webbing between his toes) and insisted that Elaine Powers, his caretaker and author of fun science books, write a book entitled Don’t Call Me Tortoise! Elaine wrote Don’t Call Me Turtle! for Trevor’s roommate, Myrtle the Red-foot tortoise, because everyone kept calling her Myrtle the Turtle, driving her nuts!

I have to back Trevor on this one. Personally, I think Elaine should’ve written Trevor’s book long ago. Am I going to have to push Trevor onto her foot, so he can transmit the turtle-poem to her, like I transmitted my story?

Nah! She’s got this! Right, Elaine? Right?

Below is the fun, rhyming book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!, that tells about the many differences between turtles and tortoises. Geez, the little ones love that book! (Learning with fun rhymes helps with keeping busy.)

P.S. — It’s only right for all the Trevor’s in the world that Don’t Call Me Tortoise! is on its way, too.

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!

And, because a lot of kids are unexpectedly home from school, check out the fun turtle and tortoise activity sheets and workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing!

The Marshmallow: Not Merely Fluffy Sugar

In a previous blog, I related a story how even in my early years, I was working to keep wild alligators away from people food with stale, very hard, marshmallows. This occurred on Sanibel Island, FL. 

Have you ever thought about where marshmallows come from? My marshmallow story took place on Sanibel Island, FL, where you can find the marsh mallow growing. Yes, the marsh mallow is a plant. I learned about it while I was working at the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. On Sanibel the species is called Kosteletzkya virginica.

Did you think marshmallows were merely fluffy sugar? Well, they’re not. Marshmallows have been around since ancient Egypt. They used the mallow, Althaea officinalis, which grew in salty marshes. The sweet sap was made into a candy that was dedicated to their gods.

The ancient Greeks valued the medicinal properties of the mallow. Many cultures have used mallow to treat wounds, inflammation, toothaches and sore throats.

In the 1800s, the French created a candy for adult consumption, in addition to its previous medicinal uses. The mallow sap was whipped with egg whites and corn syrup into an easily moldable substance and the modern marshmallow was created. The next time you enjoy a marshmallow, think of the plant from which it came:  the mallow growing in salty marshes.

Botanical illustration of the Marsh Mallow Plant

A botanical drawing of the marshmallow plant, featuring the plant as well as close-ups of the flower and seed.

FRANZ EUGEN KOHLER, KOHLERS MEDIZINAL-PFLANZEN

NOTE: Every now and then, I divert from writing about animals to do a bit of plant investigation. To see some of my work on plants, check out The Queen of the Night about the fascinating Night-Blooming Cereus, plants that bloom magnificently only one night per year—and they wait for each other to bloom all at the same time. EAP

book cover for the Night-Blooming Cereus
All about the mysterious plant that blooms only one night per year–all at the same time!

Using Children’s Books for Science Education–at a Bar!

Last February, I had the honor of giving a science talk at a local bar.  Yes, a bar! But it’s a very different bar–it specializes in astronomy and holds weekly science trivia contests with March for Science Southern Arizona.

My talk was about using entertaining children’s books in science education.  It was kind of fun that I had multi-colored spotlights instead of plain white. I spoke from a platform and looking down and around the room, I wondered if my talk was appropriate for such an audience. I couldn’t gesticulate as I usually do, because I had to hold the microphone to my mouth (eat the mic) and the slide clicker in the other hand. I felt constrained, but carried on with my assignment.

This is me with my Blue-iguana hybrid, named Blue, of course!

Even though I watched people drinking and talking through my entire talk and the background noise level was high – it was a bar, after all – some of the audience actually listened. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by that response and there were even a few questions afterward about book publishing and children’s science books. All in all, it was a great experience. 

My thanks to the March for Science organization for letting me present during Brains and Brews at Sky Bar in Tucson, Az.

Balloon Curtis created by artist Jeremy Twister.

And to the wonderful artist, Jeremy Twister, for creating the balloon version of the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells in The Bahamas: Curtis Curly-tail.

Alligator vs. the Marshmallow

As a science book writer, I am asked to speak at schools and libraries about my favorite subject: reptiles. I often use props to help people visualize the facts I present. For instance, an iguana egg is about the size of a marshmallow. So, I bring a bag of marshmallows to use and, when allowed, for the kids to eat. The last time I spoke, one bag didn’t get used and the soft puffs got hard. These hard marshmallows brought back a memory from my childhood involving alligators on Sanibel Island, FL.

When I was a child, people in the park gathered at a bridge to feed marshmallows to the local gators. It was not well understood then how we were affecting the local alligators’ behavior. We know now how bad it is to feed wild animals. Not only is the food not good for them, they lose their fear of people and become “problem” animals. Simply relocating them doesn’t usually work, because they are plopped down in the middle of another’s territory and a moved individual can be killed by its own kind already there.

But back to my story about feeding marshmallows to alligators. The only marshmallows Mom could find in the trailer was a forgotten bag way back on a shelf. The usually fluffy confections were rock hard. But we were going to throw them in the water and gators have a bite strength of 2125 pounds per square inch, so a hard marshmallow should be no problem, right? I soon joined the other feeders tossing the treats into the water. Their marshmallows bobbed until a gator stealthily approached, snatched it rapidly, submerged, and re-emerged a short distance away, waiting for the next one. Several gators took turns gobbling down the sugary snacks.

Until they got to my marshmallows. A gator approached, quickly bit down on one and submerged.  Suddenly, the water erupted with thrashing. The marshmallow was released . . . unscathed. The gator swam away. This happened again and again until all the gators failed at damaging my marshmallows and swam away in disgust. The other people looked at me angrily. I had driven all the alligators away, leaving only my hardened marshmallows bobbing in the gently moving water.

I like to think that in my unintentional way, my disgusting marshmallows helped prevent a few alligators from becoming “problem” animals.

I guess I was a conservationist even back then.

a collage of books about conservation

I hope you will check out my books on the subject of Conservation. I love to make science books fun–it is a part of who I am–but conservation is a subject deserving of both our respect and action. Saving endangered species and looking out for all life on the only planet we and they have is up to all of us.

Come and Say Hello at The Tucson Festival of Books!

EVENT CANCELED

On March 14-15, 2020, Tucson will host the third largest book festival in the US, the Tucson Festival of Books. Over 130,000 people come to enjoy this world-of-books every year.

All aspects of the book business are included, with several hundred authors in attendance, many who are involved in panels open to the public. Special programs for children and teens and about science are presented. This event is known for its cultural diversity and promoting literacy among children and adults in Southern Arizona. Millions of dollars have been donated to literacy programs because of this focus.

I participate in this event by having a booth from which I sell my books. It’s wonderful how much people like buying books directly from authors and I love meeting them, as well, and personalizing and signing the books. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of being an author.

We will be at Booth 324 in the Children’s Section

I share the booth with my friend and author/illustrator, Anderson Atlas. Between the two of us, we have books that cover all the children’s book age groups, and some for adult readers, too.

Stop by and say hello on the weekend of March 14-15, Booth 324. I’ve included a TFOB map of the location of the Children’s Area at U of A below.

Tucson Festival of Books
March 14-15, 2020   9:30 – 5:30
University of Arizona
Children’s Section
Booth 324
Grab an Adventure by the Tail
Elaine A. Powers, Author
Anderson Atlas, Author/Illustrator
BOOKS FOR ALL AGES OF CHILDREN

The Tortoise and the Chair by Elaine A. Powers

Note: This post was inspired by my friend, Don Fialkowski. I had complained about my tortoise, Myrtle, pushing on my chair.
My apologies to Aesop and his fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.

A tortoise was recently pushing on my chair to move it away from the table, over to where she wanted it, by the door.

“I’ll take you away from there,” she said with a mocking tortoise laugh.

“No,” I replied to the tortoise, “I’m going to sit here and write science books on my laptop. But I will lift my feet, so that you can push away.”

The tortoise was so amused by my idea that my weight would hold the chair in place that she agreed to the challenge. The iguana in the room, who had consented to act as judge, took her position as observer and told the tortoise, “Push!”

The tortoise braced herself between the spokes of the rolling wheels. I couldn’t see her beneath my seat, but I felt her shell hit the metal. She pushed and pushed, and I felt very deeply how ridiculous it was for her to try to push my chair away from the table. Confident, I returned to my typing.

The tortoise, meanwhile, kept steadily moving, and, after a time, pushed the chair slightly away from the table. I quite peacefully continued to type until I had to stretch so the tips of my fingers could reach the keyboard. It was too late then. I realized I couldn’t stop her progress. The next push and I couldn’t reach keyboard anymore.

The tortoise had won the battle of the chair, proving the old adage that perseverance pays off.

Below is the book Myrtle asked me to write: Don’t Call Me Turtle! It tells about the differences between tortoises and turtles and there are many! A favorite of preschoolers and their grandparents!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!

Adventure I Must! says Curtis Curly-tail

Living on a Caribbean island beach is wonderful (except for dive-bombing seagulls looking for a snack) but some days I do get bored. I love watching people come ashore from their boats, but when they leave, I wonder where the boat is going. Where do those tourists come from? Do they have an island, too?

Illustration of a green curly-tail lizard on yellow beach
“Shoes on the beach! Now’s my chance!”

One day my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to find out for myself. I crept into a sneaker on the beach and traveled with its owner to the big city, delighting in the many sights and sounds a small cay doesn’t have.

Eventually, though, I wanted to go home. It didn’t take me long to realize that getting onto a tourist boat from my beach was much easier than catching a ride home would be. How would I find a boat going to Warderick Wells Cay and get on it? And I had no idea how I would cross the water between the boat and my beach again. I had acted without thinking–but I also knew I had to try to find my way home.

You can find out what happened in Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, which is Elaine’s first book (inspired by me), published by Lyric Power Publishing and available at Amazon.com.

60 Tried and True Iguana Foods

Ever since I operated a reptile rescue center, I’ve had a good number of iguanas. Over ninety percent of newly purchased iguanas die within the first year, so their good health is very important to me. Fresh vegetables and fruits are important to their survival.

I use a potato peeler to make long slices of zucchini and carrots and chop the other veggies into small pieces.

Here is a list of basic vegetable and fruits and the special treats that can be given on an occasional basis.

Their basic salad in the morning includes Collard Greens, Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Carrots, and Bananas or Grapes.

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see the 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas
at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

Which Iguana is Which?

Iguanas are an important part of my life. They are featured in the children’s book I wrote called The Dragon of Nani Cave, which is an adventure tale starring curly-tail lizards ,Gene and Bony, who live on Cayman Brac. I weave the science of the island into the story, because science can be fun!

I am also the author of the book Silent Rocks, which is for all ages, and is about how to save the endangered Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac.

Most iguanas are found in the Americas and on Caribbean islands. They are grouped into three types: iguanas like the common green iguana, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas. Each has evolved to thrive in their native environment. Unfortunately, through international commerce, the green iguana, Iguana iguana, has been introduced into ecosystems where they don’t belong.

Have you ever wondered how to tell iguanas apart? Being able to accurately identify iguana species is important to telling the difference between native iguanas and the invasive green iguanas. I have nothing against green iguanas. I’ve known many through the years as pets and when I operated an iguana rescue. Unfortunately, they are damaging the ecosystems and out-competing the native species.

Green iguanas live in an environment with many predators. So, greens lay many eggs and adapt to many foods. They have that in common with rock iguanas, who are also opportunistic eaters. (Sadly, they’ll even eat human food.)

But back to the telling iguanas apart. There are now booklets that show the physical differences. Rock iguanas don’t have the gorgeous subtympanic scale–that’s the big scale under the ear–that the green iguanas have. My mother called it the ‘jewel.’ It is lovely, in many pretty colors. No other iguanas have that scale. Greens also have little points on their dewlaps. A dewlap is the piece of skin under the chin. ( Oooh, that rhymes.) The greens have smooth, striped tails. Other iguanas have less striped tails.  Rock iguanas have that nice ribbing along the tail, while spiny-tails have keeled scales on their tail giving them a rough appearance.

I wanted to produce an item that would aid people in correctly identifying iguanas, something that was convenient to carry and interesting to look at. I was asked to make the text rhyme because this helps in memorizing the facts.  Anderson Atlas, John Binns and I have prepared these conveniently-sized booklets that people can carry around with them.

Check them out –they’re free. Please use the contact form on the Contact Page to request copies of these brochures for iguana identification.

Welcome to Tales and Tails!

“Welcome! I’m Elaine A. Powers, the biologist and author of the science books on this website. Welcome to Tales and Tails–a blog written by two adventurers, one human–me–and one small lizard.”

“Hold up! Why are you calling me small?” Curtis asked. “And let’s not forget where your first book came from!”

“Curtis, look at the picture of you on my shoe–you are pretty small, my friend. You’re not an iguana, after all.”

two feet in sneakers, on a beach, with a Bahamian curly-tail lizard on left shoe
The day Curtis and I met on a beach in The Bahamas.

“I may not be an iguana, but I am perfect!”

“I would have to agree! If they removed the word perfect from the dictionary, they would replace it with your picture.”

“Why, Elaine, thank you.”

“You do have a point about the first book, though. Should I tell the readers how it happened?”

“No—I should!” he said. “I tell it much better than you do.”

“Once again, Curtis, you’re right. Let me, instead, welcome and thank our readers for stopping by our new blog, Tales and Tails.”

Curtis and I both hope you enjoy your time here and that you will look around the website. These days, there are fun science books for just about everyone. And, please hop on over to Curtis’s post and he will tell you about how the first book, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, came to be.

A second career as a science book author was certainly not on my radar, but when you follow the muse, you never where she will lead you. May your journey be a fun-filled adventure, too!

From both Curtis and me:
Welcome to TALES AND TAILS!

A Visit from Elaine Powers at LEARN Lab/Superior Court Probation

By Dave Reynolds and Joanne Pope

We were visited by Elaine Powers, the author who donated a stack of her picture book Don’t Make Me Fly, which presents facts about one of Arizona’s most iconic birds – the roadrunner. Along with writing picture books about animals native to southern Arizona, she’s a conservationist and retired biologist. Elaine brought several rescued friends: turtles and tortoises of varying sizes, including a 100-pound tortoise named Duke who roamed the Lab. She also brought Blue, a five-foot blue iguana (who broke out of his box to say hi), and Krinkle, a three-foot spiny iguana who was saved and bears a deformed body. The students learned ecology, biology, the importance of conservation, proper animal care, and the steps needed to map out a story.

illustration of a desert roadrunner
Strong. Fast and Courageous, Roadrunner Doesn’t Need To Fly

Students who are normally silent and impassive came alive as they held reptiles and learned in a way that videos and lectures could never emulate. One student in particular, who rarely smiles, sat for nearly half an hour with a grin as Krinkle was content to nap in his arms.

The LEARN literacy program is growing and evolving, and the effects are tangible. Through it all, with the correct books, students feel validated, seen, and know that their lives and experiences matter. It increases their comfort and trust in our program and allows them to open up and learn in a way they haven’t before. These days, if you ask a South LEARN student about their favorite book, you just might get an answer. And, though they may not realize it, they’re a step further from that jail cell.

Krinkle was kept in a small container and his body couldn’t grow. Elaine adopted him away from the family that made his body like an accordion. He could never really be an iguana, but he did eventually learn to walk under Elaine’s care.