The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for the ‘A to Z Blog Fest’ Category

M is for Manuscript

Okay, it’s getting late and I’m getting tired so I think this will be the last catch-up post for the day.

I love  illustrated manuscripts. This is an illustration from an old Arabic manuscript. I love Arab script. I used to be able to write it, but not calligraphically. The calligraphers spend a lifetime learning to do that. But look at that angel, with the head at the tip of his wing. Beautiful.

This illustration reminds me of three diverse books. One is My Name is Red by Orham Pamuk. Pamuk is Turkish and I read the book after returning from several weeks in Turkey. The book is about the calligraphers who do this amazing art.

The second book is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. A classic of science fiction, this book was written in 1960 about a post-apocalyptic world where a group of monks set out to preserve knowledge and solve the mystery of an ancient grocery list. Okay, it’s much more than that. But I’ll never forget the grocery list. I think of it often.

The third is Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, a book set in a library. And what a library. Manuscripts! An embarrassment of manuscripts. Another great read. In fact, I think I have to head for Barnes and Noble right now and put some of these books on my Nook.

This post brought to you by the words magpie, mandible, manilla, and mandrake, and by the number million.

L is for Lichen

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. That there to the left is a lichen. Our book, Kidnapping the Lorax, is written by a woman named Patricia K. Lichen. She was not born a lichen. She wasn’t even born a fungus. She was born something perfectly mundane, like Harrison or Hardware or some such. That’s her pirate name, and the name Greenpeace folks would know her by.

But at some point, she decided to take on the name of a lichen. It takes all kinds. Then she had a kid, and the kid has the last name Lichen, and now they’re both stuck with it. Well, I guess they could change it. But it scares me to think of what she might change it to this time.

This post brought to you by the words land, licentious, loopy, and lamp. Also by the Roman numeral L.

PS. You can buy her book at Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords. It’s a great book. Written by a lichen. About treating the earth the way it should be treated.

K is for Kidnapping

I did not write this book. But I’ve been there since it was conceived and this year I had the privilege of publishing it.

This is an amazing book about three idealistic environmentalists who kidnap the Secretary of the Interior, code named Lorax, to teach her to love the forests as much as she does.

The author, Patricia Lichen, is a long-time friend, and a real-life pirate. When my partner and I headed off to Peru to meet Wonder Babe’s other grandparents, Pat took me aside and told me that if I needed a good criminal attorney in Lima, she knew one. Not something I’d ever considered when traveling  before.

Seems Pat did a stint with Greenpeace back  in the day, and was arrested twice for chaining herself to the harpoons on whaling vessels. Hence the charges of piracy on the high seas. And the criminal lawyer in Peru.

Pat is a naturalist and writes a great blog at where she will tell you weird things about opossum penises and dandelions and other such things. She also wrote some other books which Puddletown will be publishing in e-book form. You can find out more at her blog.

This week, in honor of Earth Day, we will be dropping the price of Pat’s book to $.99. Please buy a copy. You’ll be glad you did. It’s a great read and you’ll learn to REAL way to poop in the woods.

This post brought to you by kitchens, kitch, kittens, and killjoys everwhere. And by the numerical concept, kilo.

J is for Justice

Justice may seems like an odd topic for a post on writing, but I firmly believe that writers have a responsibility to always work for justice in their writing. Writing is more than just scribbling some words on paper, or selling those words to pay the electricity bill. Writing is a larger calling, a call to produce something that is true, that is good, that is beautiful.

As writers, I believe we have several obligations to the larger community:

  1. To bear in mind that among those reading our words there will be some who are hurting, some who are filled with joy, some who are searching, and some who are devastated. We have a responsibility to be aware of all of them.
  2. The language we use must be just. That doesn’t mean we can’t swear if it’s appropriate, or talk about difficult subjects. But we need to remember that not every person reading our work is white, middle class, educated, Christian, or anything else that fits the hypothetical American norm. Is it just to hurt our readers by inappropriate and archaic language used to describe ethnic, religious, sexual minorities, or any other group that is still smarting from decades or centuries of abuse.
  3. I believe that we should make our words strive toward justice. Does our story work for the greater good? Are we stretching ourselves to learn new ways of being in the world and new ways to learn with our neighbors? And are we incorporating that in our work?

There’s probably more, but I’m tired. More later. Maybe.

This post brought to you by the words jam, junko, joy, and jambalaya. And by the author James Joyce. And the month January.

1, 2 Skip a Few….Miss a Bunch of Letters

I have an excuse. I was out of town, playing with Wonder Babe. She’s almost 8 months now, crawling, sitting up, playing with beach balls, and generally being delightful. But spending time with her is a full time job. So I missed J, K, L, M, and probably some others. I will catch up. I will.

I is for Independence

That beautiful creature to the left is my youngest daughter, Meg, on the Spanish web. Basically, she’s hanging by her wrist from a rope way too high above the floor for her mothers’ comfort.

But we wanted our daughters to have more independence than we had growing up in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Our three girls are children of the 80s and 90s, and they are fiercely independent.

So independent that one is a circus performer and two are bank managers. Never career paths I would have chosen for any of them, but they are all very good at what they do.

I was raised by a mother who had my life all mapped out for me. I vowed I would not do that to my girls and I succeeded, with a vengeance. They’re all powerful, decisive, strong, and above all, independent.

I’m not an outliner when I write. I used to try to map out books and never got one started. Finally, I just decided to start writing. That’s when I was finally able to get something done.

I spent 20 years in journalism, writing ledes in my head on the way back to the office and spilling it out on paper as soon as I was done. A professor of mine calls it “committing journalism” and it is sort of a sin for those who see writing as pure art.

But it taught me a lot, gave me some great material, and taught me how to write in tight confines of column inches, word counts, AP style. So maybe that’s why when I write creatively, I can’t know what’s going to happen. I just have to let my story tell me. That’s my independence.

And, for your viewing pleasure, a person doing something no person should be able to do. Yes, she is my daughter. And this is just the warm up. You should see her on stage.



This blog post brought to you by the words igneous, indolent, iota, implacable, and ingenious. Also by the Japanese number ichi.

H is for Handicap

Right off, let me acknowledge that “handicap” is an archaic and politically incorrect term unless you’re talking golf or horse racing. But I wanted to talk about my character, Liz Gearhart, who is a person with a disability. And I already did “D.”

I used to think disabilities happened to “them” until I woke up in a hospital bed with a brain injury after a brief encounter with death. While most folks would never notice the disability now, almost 10 years out, it’s still very much there. Just ask my partner about last night. I was a beast.

No, that’s not my disability. I do not turn into a monster by the light of the moon. But if I get tired, or my brain gets overstimulated, or I push myself too far (which I do way too often), I become cranky, I pull to the left when I walk, I trip, stumble, and fall, and I whine. Oh, do I whine. I also set things down in thin air, usually things filled with liquid, and I close my eyes to shut out the environment.  Not a good thing if you’re driving. And, yes, I have done this while driving. So, in the last 10 years, I’ve had to learn a lot about living with a disability.

I chose Liz’s disability because it is visible. She’s blind. I’ve had several friends over the years who were blind, deaf, paraplegic, or otherwise visibly disabled. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with them, and as a former reporter I tend to ask LOTS of questions. And, invariably, I’ve been impressed with how, well, “normal” they all are. Well, except my blind friend who once drove from Moscow, ID to Pullman, WA with a bunch of drunks yelling “A little to the left.” “A little to the right.” He justified this behavior as being sober and therefore the designated driver. He’s just crazy.

Having a disability does not suddenly make you stupid, incapable, or somehow less than. That’s hard for me to remember when I’m feeling my worst. But, despite a disabling condition, I manage to work more than full time, travel, play, preach, write, and generally enjoy life. Yes, I do sleep more than I’d wish. My brain gets tired and knocks me flat on my back.

But back to Liz. I wanted to write about a person with an acquired disability who manages to keep doing the things she’d done before, albeit modified or in a different way, and who is not some sort of fictional “Wonder Woman” with hyper senses to compensate, able to see better than sighted people. I wanted a complex, multifaceted, sometimes angry, sometimes brave, sometimes quirky, often intelligent, sometimes stupid, and mostly just plain “normal” person. Who just happens to be blind.

And I wanted to explore the reactions and feelings of the so-called “normal” woman who falls in love with her. Hence, Erik.  A strong, capable, neurotic woman who has to wrestle with her feelings for a) this particular woman and b) the fact that this particular woman is blind.

I guess it gave me a chance to explore more of my own feelings, about being disabled and about how we all treat folks with disabilities. And I’ll be exploring it even more in coming books about the duo. Stayed tuned.

Blind Leading the Blind is available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords for the low price of just $4.99.


This post brought to you by the words handful, hurricane, heart, hell hound, and heavenly. Also by the numbers….hm, are there numbers that start with “h”? Maybe in Japanese, but I can’t remember. Please advise.


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