Preparation for the Supreme Ordeal


For someone who hates plotting, I know a lot of plot terms. In Julian Woolford’s How Musicals Work, I learned about the 12 plot stages–Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, etc. Well, I don’t think plot stages with fancy names ever helped me write a novel. But one of them does provide me with a great way to describe how I’m feeling as I get ready to head to the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference in 3 days. Preparation for the Supreme Ordeal. 

The Supreme Ordeal is the Hero’s biggest challenge so far. The Supreme Ordeal may threaten the Hero’s life and will result in some kind of transformation or rebirth. And before that, we have the Preparation for the Supreme Ordeal. Also known as the Approach to the Cave. (Scary, I know. I’ve never been so nervous about going camping up at Estes Park with my family.)

Thankfully, preparation is going well. I’ve got my business cards, pitch sheets, and synopses all printed and neatly stowed in my folder. I’ve got conference info, agent info, marked-up drafts, notebooks, and folder itself strewn in a delightful mess across my desk, along with letters, writer’s magazines, and The Writer’s Guide to Weapons (which I have been finding very helpful 🙂 ).  Okay, so I guess I’m not ready to jump up and go. But with God’s blessing, by Wednesday, I will be. And with God’s blessing the Supreme Ordeal will not threaten my life, or that of any of my characters.

Please be in prayer for me as I seek to go to my very first writer’s conference (!) with a humble heart, ears ready to listen, and a mind ready to learn new things. Your prayers mean a lot to me, guys! Some specific requests would be getting good sleep before the conference, nice weather for my family so they can swim while I sit in workshops ( 😀 ), and God’s will to be done as I present Marty’s Kid to the agents and editors I’ll meet with.

Thanks for listening! Have you ever been to a writer’s conference? If so, I’d love some advice, and if not, would you enjoy going to one? Meet me up in the Rockies, guys!


(You can see the pitch sheet (sort of like a book flyer) that I will be using at the conference, here: Pitch Sheet2)


Sneak Peak Photos

Hey Everyone!

I have to give credit to God first–it seems he’s been putting all kinds of perfect pieces in place lately! I never would have dreamed that we’d get to do a photo shoot for Marty’s Kid last night, or that it would have turned out so perfectly.  Only a month ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my siblings saying, I’d really like to do a photo shoot before the conference, but the only person I know who’d fit the part is Matthew, and I haven’t seen him for years, I don’t even know what he’s doing lately. Guess what? A week later I’m at an Easter outreach, and Matthew shows up, I talk to him and he says yes he’d love to help me with a shoot. Another couple weeks, after planning and gathering props and discussing shots with my wonderful photographer Caleb (he did most of the work!)–here we are!

Wow. I’m so excited to share a few of the 600 photos we got last night, so here we go.

Connor Cavalier, Marty’s kid–IMG_9084-small




Oh, and Connor can smile too…


(Especially when people behind the camera keep cracking jokes.)


Yes, we had a lot of fun! And I’m so thankful to everyone who helped out (it was definitely a team effort), but I really can’t stop thanking God because I know it was him who really put everything together, and that’s the exciting part.

So today me and my team are working hard going through photos, cropping and color correcting, and designing business cards and book flyers for me to use at the conference. For some reason having these photos, after almost eight months of working hard at this book, is so thrilling to me. I finally see things moving, shifting–my idea is growing into something bigger than just an idea. It’s the first time this has happened to me, and it’s amazing.

Thank you so much for all your comments and prayers and e-mail encouragements! I want to try to keep you updated more regularly, especially with things happening so fast. What do you think? Which picture is your favorite? Let me know what you think–Connor and I both love hearing from you!



This news comes a little late! But I was thrilled to have a short paragraph that I wrote published in the February issue of Writer’s Digest. The article, called “Put Your Workday To Work”, included comments from many different people about how their day job influences and inspires their writing. The pictures here are pretty poor, so here’s the text of what was published–

Every morning I serve as an assistant brain therapist for my 11-year-old brother. Pre-adoption trauma plus developmental delays plus attention deficit disorder plus reactive attachment disorder plus oppositional defiant disorder equals a difficult job, but one that gives me constant inspiration, especially as my stories often center around at-risk, challenged kids. What must it be like to be a traumatized child, blinded to logic by fear, a slave to your own contradictory emotions? That begs to be explored on paper.

And speaking of stories about traumatized children… I am excited to tell you that I finished the third draft of Marty’s Kid this week, and finally feel like I can move forward with seeking publication. Lord willing, I will be attending the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference in May, pitch the book to agents and editors, and see if there is any interest. I’ve been working on my synopsis and first 12 pages to send in for two paid critiques. Of course there are the ups and downs of emotions as I wonder, Is this any good? Is my writing immature? Are my hopes for this book too high? I’m hoping God gives me the grace to accept whatever may come of it, and no matter what, to keep glorifying him with my writing and everything else I do!

Here is the short description of the book:

At 14 years old, Connor has already had years of experience working with gangs–his uncle Marty is a gang underboss. But on Christmas Eve, Connor finds a scrap of paper in his lap telling him that Jesus loves him, and through it he begins a difficult journey of searching for something he has never had, something he doesn’t even understand. He wants someone to look at him, listen to him, treat him like he exists–if he can’t get that he doesn’t want to live anymore. But he’s still a gangster’s kid. And an underworld enemy stalking not only his uncle, but him, is sucking him deeper into a darkness of fear and hatred.

My very talented sister Elisabeth agreed to craft a drawing of the main character, Connor!
In the works…


And the finished drawing! (the best the scanner can do)


Thanks everyone for reading and encouraging me! What do you think of Marty’s Kid? And how about that artist?! When I lament over my own stick figures, I have to remind myself that I draw my people with words.

Many Drafts Produce Patience…

My long disappearance was caused mainly by the fact that I have no updates to give you. In August I found that I had made it to the national level in the National Bible Bee, and a couple weeks later I began another novel, set in an entirely different place and time. I needed it, because I was becoming very frustrated with editing Paris of London, and feeling like I’d lost my vision for the book. At the same time, I was learning so many helpful things from Stephen James’ book Story Trumps Structure, and I was eager to put them to practice, but it was difficult trying to implement new writing/plot techniques with an already-finished manuscript. So I started a new book, Marty’s Kid, with hopes of experimenting with what I was learning. Paris waited patiently, as I memorized verses and wrote, and studied the Bible and wrote, and flew to Nationals and wrote. I finished the first draft of the new novel yesterday–45,000 words in 4 months, a little neater than last time.

I thought yesterday of James 1:2-4, rendered below in the HWV (Hannah’s Writer’s Version):

“My writers, count it all joy when you slog through many drafts, knowing this, that many drafts produce patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that your book may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
(Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

I guess that’s all I have for you for now! Feel free to comment, and encouragement is always welcome too! John Hall Wheelock said, “Most writers are in a state of gloom a good deal of the time; they need perpetual reassurance.” I wouldn’t say I’m a gloomy person, but I agree with him about needing reassurance! Like those days when I think, Hmm…I’m not so sure about this novel-writing thing…


This Book!

I guess only a writer knows what heights of excitement and depths of despair a book can throw you to… This poem, which I just drafted up while working on my ‘mess of a novel’, Paris of London, is a lyrical version of what I’m feeling.

This book!
I think I will tear my hair out.
He does everything I want
And when I don’t know what that is
He sits there and grins at me:

‘Hannah, Hannah, you are not troubled
About many things.
You are troubled
About me, and that makes me happy.’

This book!
I think I haven’t slept for two years.
He is a precious gem
And I know it, but sometimes I forget,
And he sticks his tongue out at me:

‘Hannah, Hannah, pitch me in the trash—
I dare you to.
What’s five hundred thousand
Hours of work to you anyway?’

This book!
I think I will die quite young.
He is like a mother’s son—
Over him I smile, I laugh, I weep in the night.
He cocks his tousled head and dashes away.

He thrills my soul
He feeds my imagination
He dampens my hope
He breaks my heart

I kiss him once again, and he smiles.
My thrilled, trampled, broken heart melts.
What is my health, my sleep, my life?
This book!
This book!
He is mine.


Never in the world did I imagine I would be telling you this right now, but by God’s grace, it is true. I went to London! No, really, I spent two whole days in the world of Paris (only slightly modernized 😉 ) and that of all my fictional friends. This was big, for me, because London is not on my side of the world, to say the least, and I didn’t know if I would ever make it there. Thus, I feel incredibly blessed God gave me the chance to visit, so early in my life and at the perfect juncture for my book writing. That being said, here’s the overview of the London excursion…

Good news (well, great news): I had an awesome time, and I learned a TON of things that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. I got to see the real docks where Paris used to work. I got to go to the Museum of London Docklands (don’t laugh, it was my dream). I got to hear wonderful accents. I got to eat pie and mash. And my wonderful hosts gave me lots of historical info and even some books to take home.

Bad news: I discovered that some of the facts in my book are not correct, some shady at best, and some of these ‘inaccuracies’ affect the main plot. So I have MORE rewriting to do. Being in London also gave me a better perspective of a lot of things, so I will be changing (mostly minor) details and the general feel of some parts.

Please do not despair of Paris of London because I am so slow. You may be saying, “For all this three years of working, this book better be good.” And believe me, I am thinking the same thing. Hopefully my visit to London (which pretty much sucked up the rest of my savings) proves my sincerity and my loyalty to Paris.

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We’ve Come A Long Way

A lot has happened since I wrote last. Slowly, but things have happened. I just finished my detailed editing/re-writing of Part 1. Yay! Since Part 1 is 50% of the book, and I feel very happy with the changes that I have made. Another ‘yay’ moment–when I realized that, half-way through the editing process, I’ve reduced a 600 page manuscript to 359 pages, and 220,000 words has been trimmed down to 145,000 words. My goal so far has been 150,000 words, and now that I’ve passed that (with the help of a little creative inspiration), my new goal is 100,000 to 110,000 words. This is because it is usually hard for a first-time author to get a contract on a book longer than 120,000 words, especially in the genre I hope to be published in (YA Fiction). If you’re one of those authors who struggle to write a 50,000 word book, please write me, I will be glad to give you some words. 🙂

Another school week tomorrow, more opportunities to write! Don’t get impatient… I am working hard!

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

A Little Cleanup

My desk was getting a little distracting, so I decided to do some much-needed redesigning…

After about two weeks:


Now the idea is to keep it that way!
The ABC’s are the ‘A to Z’s’ of novel writing, from Writer’s Digest. The photos are WWI propaganda posters and era photos that I’ve been using for setting, character inspiration, and historical accurateness. The verses are some of the theme verses for the book. I got the “Paris” and “London” three-wick candles from B&B Works for my birthday. They are my ‘hope’ candles, which means, of course, that they won’t be lighted until my book is published. 🙂 My favorite ‘A to Z’ is letter Q:
Don’t Quit.
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle,” says George Orwell, “Like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by [something] whom one can neither resist nor understand.”


Well, I guess that means it’s time to get back to work!

My Favorite Docker


I never had admired a particular brand of men’s clothing until I met Paris. In the book, Paris gets a job as a dock worker/longshoreman (UK: docker) as soon as he can honestly say he thinks he’s 16 years old. Paris’ occupation was a key part of the musical, and is now a fairly important aspect of the book as well. Why did I make Paris a docker? Well, he had to do something manual–something that paid very little and made him dog tired, but strong. At the time, I didn’t really know what lower-class Londoners did for a living at the turn of the century. But I knew there was a river, and a little research showed me there were ships too. 🙂 Now, after much more extensive research, I’ve found I picked a good career for my hero. London was a huge shipping port, there were thousands of dockers, and, although conditions improved with the advent of steamships, the job still wasn’t all that enviable. Dockers worked hard, were poor, and were always going on strikes in hopes of better conditions.

Of course, I didn’t think much of dockers until I made Paris one, and I think Paris is the best docker that ever was. 😉 But you know that (or you will, hopefully, when you read the book). And, no, Paris isn’t fancy, but he’s far from ordinary!