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 August 1, 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. 

A Few of My Favorite Things!

I understand that #ShopSmall is important to y’all! Guess what–me, too! So I decided to throw together a list of some of my favorite small businesses. I know these establishments personally, so you know they come with my stamp of approval.

All of these businesses can ship within the United States or otherwise get their product or service into your hands, wherever you are! Oh, except the one at the end that involves kittens… and puppies… You’ll see.

Old Bat Kitchens – jams, jellies, etc. 

Old Bat Kitchens - jams and jellies

From my hometown of Mandan, North Dakota, Nancy serves up some amazing jams, jellies, pickles, and other canned goods! Message her via Facebook to see what she has in stock. She will ship to your door!

Susie Q’s Craft Emporium – handmade crafts and gifts

Susie Q's Craft Emporium, Mandan, North Dakota

Another shop form my hometown! Sue carries all kinds of hand-crafted items, antiques, and edibles, and yes, my books! Brows her listings at her shop or get in touch with her via Facebook.

Ten Seven Acres – alpaca yarn and wool products

Ten Seven Acres - alpaca yarn and wool

If the guys behind Ten Seven Acres in North Dakota aren’t living the dream, I don’t know who is. Alpacas, horses, ducks–I lose track of all the animals they keep. If you’re the crafty sort, check out their all-natural alpaca yarns. Don’t know a knitting needle from a crochet hook? That’s okay! They also carry socks, hats, and rugs already-made!

Krystl Louwagie – artist

Krystl Louwagie, artist, portraits, portraitist

This girl be so artsy!  I mean, literally–if you meet her in person, she’s like a walking art piece. If you like creative, edgy stuff, check out her work. Her art is displayed in local Minnesota galleries all the time.

Carrie Lewis – artist

Carrie Lewis, artist. "Running Free."

If your taste runs more traditional, then visit my friend Carrie Lewis from Kansas. Specializing in portraits of horses (be they celebrated race horses or your horse!) she paints with a level of detail that absolutely stuns. Check out her artwork for sale or see if she’s currently taking commissions.

You can also take her online colored pencil classes and tutorials or subscribe to her colored pencil magazine, CP Magic!

Don & Stephanie Prichard – Christian suspense

Don & Stephanie Prichard - Stranded, Christian suspense novel

Fear not, bookworms! I haven’t forgotten that we’re all readers here. These authors from Indiana will keep you guessing what will happen next. If you need a new read to keep you breathless, check out Don and Stephanie Prichard’s (completed!) Christian suspense trilogy. A romantic cruise goes mass murder-levels of wrong, and Marine Corps reservist Jake Chalmers ends up washed ashore on a desert isle. One of the co-authors, Don, was himself a Marine, and his knowledge of survival skills definitely shows. And Steph? She’s the best not-my-actual-grandma a girl could have.

Adrian Ashwah – literary novelist

Audria by Adrian Ashwah

Christian fiction not your style? Fear not: My circle of writerly friends covers all territory–sometimes literally. From Egypt to Siberia to Montana, where has Adrian Ashwah not lived? And if you want a riveting (yes, riveting) literary novel that takes an excruciatingly honest look at all major religions, then check out his book. You will be fascinated by both the dystopian world–strange and familiar at the same time–and the brave heroine, a girl named Audria.

Central Dakota Humane Society – pets!

Danielle Lincoln Hanna and her dog Molly

Does a pet shelter count as a small business? Why not. I thought I’d include it anyway, just because CDHS is so important to me. Guys, I live in Montana now, but I still donate to my shelter back home in Mandan, North Dakota. Their motto is “Doing Great Things for Pets and People,” and I can testify that it’s true. They gave me my first dog (my beloved Molly, RIP), one of my first volunteering experiences, and one of my first jobs. They also helped rescue my life out of the dumpster the way they rescue any stray creature they run across. So if you’re in North Dakota and looking for a cat or dog–or if you’re just looking for a worthy cause to donate to–CDHS is worth your time.

Danielle Lincoln Hanna – The Mailboat Suspense Series

The Mailboat Suspense Series by Danielle Lincoln Hanna

Umm… I guess I may as well include me? If you couldn’t tell by the inordinate number of North Dakota businesses in this roundup, I’m originally from the that place with all the wind and snow. Nowdays, I live in Montana, which I’m finding far more amenable to human habitation–which means life here is far less exciting. I’m the author of the Mailboat Suspense Series, a story about a girl in foster care who only wants a home of her own. Instead, she finds a body at the end of a pier…

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this collection of some of my favorite small businesses. And I hope you find one you’d like to support! I have to say, it really warms my heart to look over my eclectic collection of friends and all the amazing things they do. I hope you’ll fall in love with them, too!


Today’s best-sellers:

 

Mystery Books to Feast on This Thanksgiving

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@oddityandgrace?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">hannah grace</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Bring on the turkey, the pumpkin pie, the cranberries, and… a good book. Let’s be real, we don’t feel like doing much besides reading after the dinner is done!

I managed to dig up a list of books you might like. I haven’t read these yet, but I liked the sound of them all! After each book, I’ve written why they caught my eye.

P.S., by clicking the links in this post, I might earn a little moolah. (Which I think is awesome, but you may feel differently. That’s okay.) 


At Death’s Door
Juniper Grove Cozy Mystery, Volume 3
by Karin Kaufman

Thanksgiving in Juniper Grove is a time for family, good friends, and good food. But at Nora Barberton’s home, Thanksgiving ends in tragedy when one of her dinner guests is murdered and a precious artifact disappears from her house—seemingly vanishing into thin air.

When Nora pleads for help, Rachel agrees to tackle the case. Soon she uncovers a web of deception wove by those Nora trusts most. In a race against time, and as her relationship with James Gilroy, the town’s police chief, takes a surprising turn, Rachel must solve the mystery before the killer strikes again.

This light, cozy mystery offers a clean read with a female amateur sleuth in a small-town setting. No foul language, sex, gore, or graphic scenes of any kind.

Danielle’s thoughts: I love cozy mystery! So light-hearted and fun. And what’s this? A murdered guest?! A missing artifact?! These remind me of classics like Agatha Christie. I love a mysterious artifact to find and explore! Also, I swear I read one of Karin Kaufman’s books before. I just don’t remember which one.. Maybe it’ll come to me… 


Cornucopia
Chloe Boston Cozy Mysteries Book 16
by Melanie Jackson

The sixteenth book in Melanie Jackson’s bestselling Chloe Boston Cozy Mystery Series is a 27k word collection of 5 holiday short stories.

“Melanie Jackson is a talent to watch.”
–WritersWrite.com

In “Mystery in the Footlights” someone is trying to sabotage the Hope Falls Halloween production of Macbeth. Fortunately Chloe is working on constructing the sets so she is available to apprehend the villain.

In “Over the River” Chloe and Alex must battle the local wildlife for their dinner when they decide to celebrate Thanksgiving in an aunt’s remote cabin in the woods.

In “The Dentist” Chloe has to make an emergency visit to the dentist to fix a cracked molar. While in the dentist’s chair she uncovers a mystery which could endanger more than her dental work.

In “A Christmas without Carol” Chloe, Alex, and her parents spend Christmas with Chloe’s uncle who is recently widowed. Through three encounters, past, present, and future, he learns the meaning of Christmas and changes his life forever.

In “For Whom the Bells Toll” Chloe and Alex spend New Years Eve solving a mystery in a secluded castle which has been redecorated for charity.

Come spend the holidays with Chloe this year. You’ll be happy you did.

Danielle’s thoughts: This is great if you’re not down for a full-length read! Maybe dipping in and out of some short stories while basting the turkey is what you need right now. I also love how this story collection spans the entire holiday season, from Halloween to New Year’s. The stories sound sweet, and yet intriguing. And c’mon! The final one takes place in a castle! What more do you need? 


Thanksgiving
by Michael Dibdin

Thanksgiving is a moving portrait of the profound effects of love when all that seems to remain is loss and grief. Unhinged by his wife’s unexpected death, Anthony, a middle-aged Seattle journalist, becomes obsessed with her past. He drives through the Nevada desert to locate her ex-husband looking for some unnamable solace. But, what awaits him is a bizarre and violent encounter with the past that entangles Anthony with his half-estranged stepchildren, the police, and his own disquieted mind and that only makes Lucy’s ghostly presence seem all the more real. The crisp dialogue, shadowy atmosphere, and sharp pacing of a master crime writer work to great effect in this arresting story that toys with the precipice of insanity and the extremes of passion and loss. This is a splendid shadow play on the enduring human mystery of love.

Danielle’s Thoughts: I thought we’d turn it daaaaark for this last one! My own books are somewhere halfway between cozy and dark, so I had to make sure to provide for whatever mood you were in! Bizarre encounters? A ghostly presence? I’m feeling that November chill in the air. Brrrrrr…


And that’s it! A list of books that might temp you this Thanksgiving more than a second slice of pie. If you read any of these, be sure to comment what you thought of them!

~ Danielle

Mystery Books to Feast on This Thanksgiving


Read Danielle’s Cozy Thrillers!