Danielle Hanna

Hearth & Homicide Fiction

A Walk Through the Hills with One of My Characters

The following is an excerpt from my book, Journaling to Become a Better Writer. New Zealand historical romance author Jude Knight summed the book up nicely for me in her review:

Hanna has written a ‘how to’ book, and illustrated it with compelling excerpts from her own life. The book can be read on several levels: as her personal story, as a guide to writers on how to improve their craft through journalling, and as a guide to everyone on how to use writing skills in their journal to improve their self-awareness and get a better handle on their personal journey.

Chapter 1:

Pages from My Journal

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“The Hills,” where Molly and I loved to walk every day.

Gorgeous morning. Thick fog, heavy frost. Took my dog Molly for a walk in the Hills, better known as Sunset Park. Perched between the edge of town and pastures full of grazing cattle, it’s more of a wilderness area than a city park. The fog was so thick this morning, you couldn’t see the horizon. Eventually the sun came out, and then everything was dazzlingly white—every tree branch, every blade of grass.

I felt a presence hovering in the void between worlds—my world and Story World. As a rule, the characters from my stories rarely visit me in my world. Except for one.

I stopped and called out to the hills. “C’mon, it’s a beautiful morning in North Dakota, and are you going to miss it?”

I felt Ian step into my world. With his forest green parka and his silver-white hair, he could have been birthed from the landscape itself. He was smiling. No, he said, he wouldn’t miss it for anything.

DSC02580 (640x480)We stood in silence a moment and gazed over the winterscape.

“What a clean, bright start to a new year,” Ian commented.

“Mmm,” I agreed. Sentimental, maybe. But Ian rarely spoke. Only when he really felt like saying something.

“You’d be proud of me,” I said. “I prayed this morning.”

God and I really haven’t been talking much lately. Most of the time, I’m just yelling at Him. Really, the only time I talk with Him at all is after a walk through the Hills with Ian, and only then because Ian nudges me.

Sometimes I wonder why the only person I have to talk to has to be so Christian.

We started walking.

“I was proud of you,” Ian replied. “What did He say?”

Ian already knew the answer. How? I’m not sure. Because he’s Ian. Because he spent most of his career in law enforcement, and you couldn’t sneak a paper clip past him. Then again, I should already have known God’s answer, too. This morning, I closed my eyes and asked God the question that had been on my mind these past two days: When Nancy goes part-time at the humane society, what do I tell our boss? Should I take on more hours, or ask for less, like I’d been planning? Much as I love my job there, I don’t see how I can make a living off it. With the oil boom in North Dakota, housing is just too expensive.

“He said, ‘Just write.’”

Ian nodded. “Then I guess you better.”

“I guess so.”

It wasn’t until recently that I’d discovered some writing careers could actually turn a good profit. Freelance writing. Copywriting. Grant writing. Ghost writing. Why had no one ever mentioned this to me before? Clearly this was the answer.

Even though the deepest nook of my heart was still with stories. I lived stories.

Ian was evidence of that.

DSC02581 (480x640)He took a deep breath, as if he found the winter air vitalizing. “Well. Your road’s laid out for you. God’s giving you everything you asked for, and more. An income. A job you love.” He gave me that stare—that unnerving Ian Hunter stare that cuts straight to your soul and reads all your secrets. The stare that turns back the clock and makes him twenty years younger and a chief of police again. “But there’s something else on your mind.”

I nodded. I turned on my heel and walked backwards to watch my dog. She was sniffing a tuft of grass that stuck out of the snow. “This one’s all about her. Where on earth are we gonna go?”

Ninety-pound dog. Half German Shepherd and half Rottweiler. Best-behaved dog in the world. But you’re lucky to find an apartment that allows a thirty-pound dog. A trailer park might be the next option, but they sometimes limit dog size, too. And what about Juliean, the brown tabby back at the shelter? She hates her life out there, but she’s so crabby, no one would ever think of adopting her. Except me.

“Adopting Molly was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,” I said. Then I smiled and shook my head at my dog fondly. “And the smartest.” Despite all, I would never—never—want a life without her. About the same time I began to recognize the level of my parents’ dominance over me, Molly had walked into my life. She gives me a reason to keep on going. Her life is bound to mine and mine to hers. All my dreams are about a future for me and her. She’s the only thing I love.

Ian fell silent, his bright green eyes searching the horizon with a depth and intensity I knew well. With no outward indication that he’d latched onto the thought he was looking for, he suddenly spoke.

“A freelance career is the answer to all your prayers,” he reminded me. Then he nodded at Molly, now trotting past us toward the next interesting smell. “So was she.” He looked at me. The corners of his mouth were twitching and his eyes twinkling.

Of course. How could I have forgotten? My mother had been firm against me bringing home a 90-pound dog. She was afraid of dogs. I had spent an entire summer loving Molly … and knowing that she would eventually be adopted by someone else.

In a flash, I knew the entirety of Ian’s object lesson. A warmth like hope wafted up in me, starting in my feet and climbing all the way to my face.

“What was it you used to pray?” Ian asked.

I remembered now. “‘Either give me Molly, or patch my broken heart when she’s adopted.’”

Ian looked again at my girl-o. “And He gave you Molly. Against all odds … your mother changed her mind and God gave you Molly. She’s been a part of His plan all along. He won’t forget her now. Just keep listening to His voice. He’ll tell you where to go.”

I’d been so focused on the problems Molly had generated for me, I’d forgotten about the miracle that had made her mine at all. Why on earth had God given me a dog? Such a pathetic thing to ask for. And yet, He had. Knowing full well that she would not only fill in the love that felt lacking, but also be the final barrier between me and my freedom. The only conclusion I could draw was that He was eliminating all the obvious housing situations in order to bring me someplace special. God was up to something.

I smiled at Ian and slitted my eyes. “So, can you tell me one more thing? Is this the year I move out?”

He chuckled. “Only God knows that. But now your goals and your dreams are in your hands. Your future is closer now than it’s ever been. Just keep listening to God.”

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About the Book

Book Cover: Journaling to Become a Better WriterWhat do your novel-in-progress and your journal have in common? Maybe more than you think. Your life, after all, is a story. The tools you need to take your craft to the next level may be hiding right under your nose.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow! That was great! Wood ducks are here:)

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