Staying Curious

2021-01-20 Staying Curios


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This blog post is going live during Black History Month 2021. Last year saw a great deal of social unrest and the rekindling of the Black Lives Matter protests. By coincidence, the book I’m currently writing (Mailboat IV) features a person of color in a major role. (Not a black person, but a member of a minority group which also suffers discrimination, and so the parallels were hard for me to ignore.) 

With all these events coming together, my thoughts turn to the problem of racial discrimination in my country. The unrest, demonstrations, and riots we saw in the past year struck me very hard. And so, I’ve gone on a mission to try to sort out my thoughts and feelings about racial discrimination.

I write positively about police in my novels. I have friends who work in law enforcement. And I also have friends who are people of color.

As protests around the country turned to riots, my stomach churned. I literally felt as if I were sitting in the corner of a room, watching my friends having a screaming match.

Understanding racism, and sorting out my own thoughts and feelings on the matter, may be a life-long pursuit. But I wanted to jot down my thoughts so far, and share them in hopes it’ll help someone else on their own journey.

Why Do People of Color Suffer So Much Police Violence?

After Michael Brown was shot and killed in 2014, it came to light that there was no national database tracking lethal shootings by police. The Washington Post went about to rectify that problem, and you can see their ongoing project here: Fatal Force.

You can see in their findings that, while more white people have died overall, people of color have died at a disproportionate rate.

“[Black Americans] account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans.” ~ Fatal Force, by The Washington Post

I’ll admit, beyond looking at the numbers, I haven’t yet researched the question of why this is happening. It’s something I do plan to educate myself about.

But one likely root of racial tension is feelings of “other” and “them versus us,” both in terms of “they are against us” and “they are not one of us.”

And for that, I think I have at least one answer:

Curiosity.

Stay Curious

I have always been an intensely curious person–especially when it comes to people who are different from me. I grew up in an extremely homogenous environment, but instead of getting comfortable with sameness, I became curious about different-ness.

Your skin is a different color than mine. I want to learn more about you.

You speak with an accent. I want to know where you’re from and learn about your culture.

You wear a gun and a uniform and a bullet-proof vest. What on earth is that like?

You date someone of the same sex. I want to watch your relationship and see how it’s different from–and the same as–my relationship with my boyfriend.

You were assigned male at birth, but now you’ve come out as female. I want to watch your transition and see how you interact with life in a new way.

You grew up in a religion much different from mine. I want to understand what you believe and how it affects the way you live.

Your political views aren’t the same as mine. I want to try to understand where you’re coming from.

I have to say, curiosity this vast has been a great boon as an author. So long as I stay curious and humble and ask questions, I can create a vast array of characters.

And by staying curious, I get to meet all kinds of people–so that my fiction keeps benefiting the variety of my relationships. The more people I meet for research purposes, the more people I count as my friends, and thus the more diverse my circle of acquaintances.

Stop Talking; Start Listening

Like anyone, I sometimes see something different from what I’m used to and I want to reject it out of hand. It’s just too unfamiliar. Maybe I’ve even got notions already swimming around in my head about what this person is supposed to be like, because of some narrative I’ve heard from… somewhere.

This, of course, is called bias, and the experts claim we all have it, whether we realize it or not.

But then I breathe and remind myself that we’re all just people. I remind myself not to judge until I’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. I remind myself to stay curious instead of shutting people out.

Whether I’m spending time with a cop or with a person of color or literally anyone else, I’ve found that accepting them just the way they are helps them open up and be themselves. I feel absolutely privileged when people who were strangers a moment ago start telling me their life stories. Start trusting me with thoughts they would only tell a close friend. I’ve had it happen again and again, with people of literally every description. I’ve seen people’s hearts, and that matters to me.

Only once you truly understand people, on both sides of a given conflict, can you identify the problems that may exist. Only once you truly understand those problems can you fix them. Until then, it’s only a shouting match.

Be quiet. Listen. Understand. Stay curious. You’ll probably find you have far more in common with “different” people than you thought. I keep returning to the words of a very dear friend of mine, an African-American woman. We were discussing racism, and her comment was simply this: “At the end of the day, people are pretty much the same.”

Recommended Reading

As I write this, I’m reading a book called 13 Days in Ferguson. The author is Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. He is also an African-American. During the Ferguson riots of 2014, the governor of Missouri put Captain Johnson in charge of returning peace to the city.

As I read his memoir, I find that Captain Johnson models exactly what I’m talking about when I say to stay curious. When people were yelling in the streets, he was reaching out to as many of them as he could. He showed them he was listening. And they responded. All they wanted was for someone to hear them out.

If you’re looking for a riveting read that straddles both sides of the line–the experience of a black man, and the experience of a cop–this is a fantastic book. You can shop for it here on Amazon.

Over to You

The comments are open to discussion, but I want to remind you to be kind. (Inappropriate comments will be deleted!) This is a space for coming together as brothers and sisters. To practice that curiosity and openness I was talking about.

As another suggestion, go ahead and leave a prayer, a positive intention, or words of kindness. Let’s spread a little love and inspiration.


Mailboat IV, Releasing June 5, 2021, features a person of color as a key character. I had such a great time getting to know someone from that community in order to write this character as best I could. 

Book Club Questions: The Girl on the Boat

2021-01-27 Book Club Questions, The Girl on the Boat

Let’s do something fun today! I’ve had requests for book club questions to go along with my books, and I would love to make such a thing available. (Let me know in the comments if you want me to include it in my books or as a separately available download!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d include some book club questions here! It’s been almost a year since I released The Girl on the Boat, and it continues to be one of my best-sellers, so I thought we’d start there. (Plus, it’s a quick read if you want to brush up or try it out in order to participate!)

To make it more fun, let’s include a giveaway! Answer any one of these questions in the comments below (or leave any comment!), and you could be chosen to win a free copy of any one book in the series (your choice!), in either paperback or ebook.

Warning: If you haven’t read The Girl on the Boat yet, there may be spoilers in this post and in the comments!

Okay, let’s go!

* * *

1 Which character did you like best? Why? Here are a few to choose from: Bailey, Tommy, Monica, Stan Lehman, Baron Hackett. 

2 Did the characters feel believable to you? Did they remind you of anyone you already know?

3 Have you ever wanted something as badly as Bailey wanted to be a mail jumper? What was it? Why was it important to you?

4 Have you ever been afraid of getting someone in trouble, like Bailey was? Have you ever doubted your own mind because a person you disagreed with was popular or powerful?

5 Do you think Tommy should have pushed Bailey to report the break-in suspect, even when he didn’t know who it was? Why or why not?

6 Baron is smart and popular and apparently has many secrets! How did you feel about him in the beginning of the story? The middle? The end? Who’s side do you think he’s actually on?

7 Do you think Monica was justified in jumping to conclusions about who broke into the police station and why? Or should she have waited until more facts were available?

8 At the end of the story, what questions do you still have? What do you wish the author had gone into more detail about?

Contest Rules

    • In the comments, answer at least one of the questions above. (For clarity, go ahead and include the question number!) Or leave a comment of your choice.
    • The contest will remain open until Feb. 3rd, 2021 at 11:59pm Central Time.
    • Danielle will randomly choose one winner from the people who answered a question. She will get in touch with them to let them know they won. The winner will also be announced in the comments.
    • The winner can choose one copy of any of Danielle’s books–even Mailboat IV! (Releasing June 5, 2021.) The winner can choose to receive their book as an ebook (for any device) or as a paperback. If the winner chooses a paperback, they can also have it autographed for free.

Okay, people, this book club is open for discussion! Start commenting for your chance at a free book!


Need copies of any of my books for your book club? Get them here!

Staying Flexible When Life Is Uncertain

2021-01-13 Staying Flexible When Life Is Uncertain

As I write this in early in 2021, I can say that I used to have a writing schedule. It was heavily dependent on getting out of my own house to work. And then a pandemic came along, and both my routines and my schedule were torn to bits. (I know many of you can sympathize!)

But I’m big into trying to make lemonade out of lemons. (Or better, yet, lemon bars, lemon merengue pie, or even lemon cookies. Of course with powdered sugar! What kind of question is that?)

So what did my writing schedule used to look like? What’s it like now? And what have I learned from having life turned upside down?

My Ideal Writing Schedule

Before a new virus upheaved everything, my schedule was both simple and effective. Every morning, I walked to my coffee shop (the same one where I met Charles!), bought a latte, and claimed my favorite chair in front of the fire. (Sometimes I staked it out until an unwitting usurper finally left.)

Chair and fire secured, I sipped my coffee, sank down into my story world, and started to write.

I’d generally write for three or four hours, then pack up and walk home. In the afternoons, I’d transfer to my co-working space, where I would address various admin tasks such as marketing my books, answering emails, etc.

And then rumors started trickling in. A new virus had been detected in China. It was spreading at an alarming rate. It was only a matter of time until it came to the US…

My Pandemic Writing Schedule

Covid-19 arrived in Montana in March 2020. The governor ordered a state-wide shutdown. If we weren’t essential workers, we all went home.

I’ve tried working from home before. I already knew I was terrible at it! That’s why I have my coffee shops and my co-working space! It took me the better part of 2020 to refigure all my routines into something that worked again.

One of the biggest changes I made was choosing two days to be my “write-a-thon” days. These were my days to shut out all the admin tasks screaming at me and simply focus on my words.

But the other major change I made was hiring a book coach. (Yes, I’m that terrible at working from home! You can meet Jacquelyn in the blog post I wrote about her.)

Now on my writing days, Jacquelyn helps keep me on track to make sure the words get written.

What I’ve Learned

2020 was a year that challenged us all, in many different ways. (Can we even feel gratitude for such a year? I wrote a post about that during Thanksgiving 2020.)

I hated losing my schedule and routines. But 2020 really challenged my problem-solving capabilities, and in great news, I was the one who came out on top.

  • I had to learn to stay flexible and be creative. I can’t go to my coffee shop anymore? What can I do instead that would be just as effective?
  • I had to adopt new routines. My tried-and-true routines were gone. It was devastating. I had to keep innovating to find my way through.
  • I had to iterate and optimize. It was frustrating. I already knew what worked for me. (I.e., getting out of the house!) But I just kept trying different things until I found something that worked.

In great news, I feel ready for the next event of near-apocalyptic magnitude. (Because we all know life can never be boring.) 2020 tested my skills, but I came out equal to the challenge. And you know what? I’m proud of me.

Over to You!

How did 2020 challenge you? What new skills did you learn?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below! I love hearing from you.


Hey, at least we had plenty to read in 2020! Here are today’s best-sellers from my online shop: