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Why I Wrote a Novel About Church Hurt

February 24, 2015


Why did I write a book about church hurt?

The honest answer is: it was an accident.

Really. It was. Five years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom, reading books to fill the void of a newly implemented no-television lifestyle, and I decided to try my hand at writing my own. Inspirational romance was my favorite aisle at the bookstore, so I sat down to write a story about a girl and a guy.

Well, since it was inspirational, the girl and guy ended up going to church, and suddenly there was church hurt, right there on the page, causing problems between my sweetheart and her hero. I had heard writers talk about characters taking over the story, and mine certainly did, but deep down inside, I realized the reason why.

Even though I had never been dramatically or publicly wounded by Christians, the issue of church hurt simmered deep in my soul.

And it bothered me.

But I got nervous. Should I write something like that? Would readers be offended? Would they judge me? And the most practical question: would any publisher touch it anyway?

I worried and fretted and sought advice from friends and family and industry professionals, and got…mixed opinions. Almost everyone agreed that church hurt is real, though a few stragglers insisted the things I was writing would never happen in a group of believers. (I’d like to find their congregation and join it.) But the more I discussed it, the less I worried because God seemed to grant me peace.

Then something unexpected happened. When people heard what I was writing, they started telling me their own stories:

  • A youth minister publicly humiliating a teenager
  • A family ostracized when their unwed daughter got pregnant
  • Countless stories of hurtful behavior aimed toward divorced Christians

It broke my heart, and at that point, I realized I had been asking the wrong questions. It wasn’t a matter of offending readers, or having my feelings hurt, or getting the book published. It all boiled down to whether or not the book could help those who have been injured.

That’s why I wrote a book about church hurt.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

What about you? If you were to write a book, what would you write?


In anticipation of Jaded‘s release, I’m giving away a paperback copy. I’ll draw the winner from my newsletter list, so sign-up for a chance to win!

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Click to Tweet: Why I Wrote a Novel About Church Hurt. Plus a giveaway! #JadedBook

A Day In The Life Of A Frazzled Writer Home School Mom

February 17, 2015

varinadenman happy familyA frazzled writer home school mom? I’m not sure that phrase is grammatically correct, yet it sums me up pretty well. Take a look at a typical day:

5:30 Rise and shine. Grab a protein bar and head upstairs to the office. Pause to kiss hubby as he leaves for work.

6:00 Bible reading followed by email check. Think to myself that I have lots of time to write this morning.

7:00 Start writing. Attempt to ignore social media. Scratch my head.

8:00 Decide I can’t focus on writing today. Remind myself I have no choice. Allow Pinterest to cross my mind but shove the thought away. Realize my productivity would improve if I took a teensy nap real quick. Take a phone call instead.

9:00 FINALLY get in the writing groove and start “feeling it.” Stop to help daughter #1 with her geometry. Throw in a load of laundry. Eat second breakfast. Notice the dirty kitchen floor and pretend it’s not there.

9:30 Start writing again even though the groove has evaporated. Post witty blurb on facebook. Scrutinize my calendar and wonder if I can meet all the deadlines. Remember I’m supposed to be writing. Cry a little.

10:00 Help daughter #2 with science fair project. Begin work on a different writing project in order to jump-start creativity. Pet the dog. Straighten my desk. Gaze out the window. Delete old files. Consider Pinterest again but maintain strength to refrain.

11:00 Head downstairs for “morning” devotional with the daughters. Treadmill while quizzing them over Bible Bowl questions. Laugh a lot. Feel a twinge of guilt for not getting more writing done.

12:00 Eat lunch. Walk through the living room and notice HGTV. Accidentally stand behind the couch for half an hour, staring dumbly at the television.

1:00 Tend to household business. Fill-out college paperwork. Make an orthodontist appointment. Work on income tax. Notice the kitchen floor again but divert gaze back to HGTV. Lie down to nap but wake up after ten stinking minutes.

2:00 Marvel at how rapidly time passes in the afternoon. Is it something to do with the moon and the tides?

3:00 Back upstairs to work for an hour and finally get some solid writing accomplished. Remember I have an appointment and/or phone call and don’t actually write anything.

4:00 Write a hurried blog post about the day in the life of a frazzled writer home school mom.

5:00 Search for a cool image to include in the blog post, but give-in to the hellacious temptation that is Pinterest.

6:00 Realize my family is hungry. Acknowledge they are in the habit of doing that every day, and still I forget to plan dinner.

7:00-10:00 Cook. Eat. Visit. Watch. Text. Fold. Clean. Read. Consult. Google. Walk. Laugh. Study.

11:00 Shake my head in wonder at the speed with which time passes in the evenings. It’s even faster than the afternoons. Like a blur. Or that button on the DVD remote that jerks the movie from scene to scene.

11:15-5:30 Sleep fitfully and dream about scenes I need to write.

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42 ESV

Image courtesy of photostock at

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Meet My Favorite Character in Jaded

February 10, 2015

varinadenman fave character

I know you haven’t read my book yet, (After all, it won’t be released for 19 days, but who’s counting?) But even then, you won’t guess my favorite character, so I’m going to introduce you.

His name is Ansel Pickett.

No, he’s not Ruthie’s love interest (the hunky single preacher). And he’s not her lanky and likeable cousin. He’s not the rapist who was just released from prison. And he’s not the church-leader-gone-bad.

Bless his heart, Ansel’s only a secondary character I squeezed into a handful of scenes, but he’s my favorite, just the same.

He’s Ruthie’s uncle. Uncle Ansel.

He moves slowly because he’s pushing seventy, but he still works on his ranch like a thirty-year-old. He uses few words and speaks softly. Often he has a wooden toothpick clamped between his teeth, and he tends to move it from side to side when he’s pondering something. And now that I think about it, he’s usually hiding a smile behind that toothpick.

As it turns out, he acts a lot like my real-life grandfather which, most likely, is the reason he’s my favorite. Here’s a picture of Granddaddy at his fiftieth wedding anniversary, but FYI… Ansel Pickett would NEVER wear a three piece suit!

I hope you enjoy reading Ansel Pickett as much as I enjoyed writing him!

varinadenman granddaddy

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The Roller-Coaster Emotions of a Soon-to-be-Author…Plus a Give-away!

February 1, 2015

varinadenman emotions

Whoa! It’s exactly one month until my debut novel releases into the big wide world, and my emotions are getting tossed around like I’m on the front car of a double-loop roller coaster. First of all I’m

Shocked. I keep expecting someone to notice a huge mistake has been made. “What? That book? Of course we can’t publish that silly thing.” But my shock doesn’t last long because I’m just so

Excited. They haven’t figured out their mistake yet, and I’m all like WOO HOO! I’M SOMEBODY NOW! And doing the happy dance in my house shoes and fuzzy red robe. But then I have to slow down and rest because, after all, I’m forty-seven years old, and I’m soooooooo

Stressed. Everyone told me things would get hairy around publication, but for real, people? All this stuff you’re asking me to do is INSANE. All good things . . . but my family doesn’t remember what I look like. Who am I kidding? I don’t remember what I look like, because who has time for mirrors? Still, I find myself feeling

Impatient. I’ve enjoyed the publishing journey, but I’d like to get this show on the road. I drafted Jaded in 2009, and even though I like this story a lot, I’m SUPER ready to stop thinking about it. Because it kind of makes me

Afraid. What started out as a light romance five years ago evolved into a painful story that rips at my heart, and I worry what people will think. What they’ll say. Will they call my mother and tell on me? Because then I’d feel

Exposed. The most intense feeling of all. Come March 1st, this soft-spoken introvert will have her name OUT THERE where people can see it. And I might have to talk to some of them. Eeek!


Join my monthly newsletter list for a chance to win a paperback copy of Into the Free, by Julie Cantrell!

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Update: The Winner of Into the Free is Jessica Jorns. I’ll be contacting you soon!

$100 Amazon Black Friday Give-away

November 21, 2014

Because Jaded releases 100 days from today,

I’m giving away a $100 Amazon gift card to one lucky fan.

Jaded gift card jpeg

I’ll draw from my newsletter subscribers,

so if you’d like to enter for a chance to win,

subscribe to my newsletter HERE.


FYI: I only have 36 subscribers, so the odds are in your favor.

And you can get multiple entries by sharing this blog post on social media websites

(but be sure to tag me so I’ll see them).

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.

Enter as many times as you like.


Update: Congratulations to the winner, hollyjmon!

Happy Black Friday shopping, Holly!

A Glimpse at What I Write and How I Write It

July 7, 2014

My friend and agency-mate, Amanda G. Stevens, tagged me in a writers’ blog hop. Amanda is the author of speculative fiction, and her first book, Seek and Hide, will be available in September. Thanks for the tag, Amanda, and here’s my input:


What am I currently working on?

Right now I’m editing book two in the Mended Hearts series. It’s titled Justified, and is the sequel to Jaded. The plot revolves around Fawn Blaylock, a pregnant college girl who gradually learns that God loves her in spite of her flaws.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My books fall solidly into the contemporary romance category, but the deep struggles of my characters are similar to those in Women’s Fiction. In fact, I had a difficult time deciding how to market my books, but as it turns out, they have much more romance than a typical women’s fiction read.

Why do I write what I do? 

Two reasons. First of all, I love a good love story and that tickly feeling I get behind my heart. Second, I hope to make a difference in the lives of readers by describing issues that many women face. Sometimes it’s encouraging just reading a made-up story where things work out in the end.

How does your writing process work?

Typically my stories start with a single scene that churns around in my brain until it grows into two scenes, then three, etc. Next, I think about my main characters: what motivates them? What kind of hang ups do they have? What do they need to overcome or learn? Once I know those things, I usually have enough fodder to complete the rest of the plot.

When I’m plotting the book, I staple a big sheet of paper above my desk and sit in front of it with a pad of sticky notes. I scribble scenes, character traits, and setting ideas and plop them all over the wall. Then I move them around until they make a story. This takes weeks, but it’s a lot of fun for me because this is where I begin to “see” the story like a movie in my mind.

Varina Denman story board

Next, I go to the keyboard and draft the story as fast as I can. I do it quickly because I don’t like this part. It’s icky. And my writing sounds like a fifth grader. And if I slow down, I’m likely to get distracted by Pinterest, or accidentally paint my office, or fall asleep on the couch next to my desk.

Once the manuscript is drafted, I’m home free because I enjoy the editing process. On the first edit, I change the story where needed, beef up the emotions, tweak the metaphors and sensory details, and generally re-write the whole thing so it reads like a book instead of a rambling journal entry.

Then I edit it again. And again. And again. And my agent edits it. And my friends read it. And I edit it again. And again. Then send it to the publisher. And they read it. And their editor hacks at it. And I edit it again. And again.

And again.

Then I take a long nap on the couch next to my desk.

Varina Denman nap couch


Next Monday, click through and read about the writing processes of three of my friends.

Amy Matayo is a graduate of John Brown University and holds a degree in Journalism. After graduation, she went to work at DaySpring Cards as Senior Writer and Editor. After the birth of her first child, she became a freelance writer for David C. Cook before pursuing novel writing full time. She is the author of The Wedding Game, which won the 2012 ACFW Genesis award for Romance, and its sequel, Love Gone Wild.

Linda Rodante has always loved reading—especially mysteries and romantic suspense novels. She speaks and works against human trafficking with the Tampa Bay area’s Task Force, and her blog highlights human trafficking, sexuality in America, and her mother’s missionary trips to Israel and Indonesia. She has been a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest two years in a row for her Christian Romantic Suspense novels.

Terrie Todd has been trying God’s patience since 1959. She is an award-winning author who has published seven stories with Chicken Soup for the Soul, two stage plays with Eldridge Plays and Musicals, and writes a weekly Faith and Humor column called Out of My Mind for the Central Plains Herald Leader. Terrie’s novel, The Silver Suitcase, was a finalist in the 2011 and 2012 Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. In 2010, she served on the editorial advisory board for Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada.

Photo Credit:, Gualberto107

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So This Is What It Feels Like To Have a Book Cover!

July 1, 2014

After spending so much energy writing a book,

I’ve sorta got nothing to show for it but a stack of paper.


If I had created a painting, I could stand back and admire it. If I had written a song, I could listen to it on my ipod.

But no.

It’s not like I can quickly read 300 pages for a warm-fuzzy at the start of each day.

But now I have a cover! Something I can SEE and ENJOY, even if I can’t listen to it.

Amy Konyndyk over at David C. Cook did an excellent job of portraying Ruthie Turner as sad, yet hopeful, reaching for the church.

What do you think?

Will people notice it in bookstores and  libraries?

varinadenman Jaded cover 3d cropped


Don’t be misled by this nifty 3-D image, the actual book won’t be printed for months yet. *sigh*


vvdenman newletter sneak peek


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