Rumbles in CBA

News broke late last week that key staff people in CBA (aka Christian Booksellers Association) are no longer working for the association. In what appears to be a purge, Curtis Riskey, president for 11 years, is no longer working there. Other key people are either no longer with the organization or are on their way out. In addition the chairman of the CBA board resigned last month.

According to an article posted Friday (click here for the entire thing) there has been no press release or news of succession. There are also reports of bills left unpaid.

Without more information, we can only speculate what this means. The only conclusion is there are rumblings of change afoot.  Hopefully, there will be an update shortly.

What Does This Mean for Authors?

The Christian retail market has had a difficult decade. Beginning with the economic downturn and recession in 2008 and following, plus the meteoric growth of online purchasing, the brick-and-mortar stores have suffered.

Within the bookselling industry, we’ve seen the recent bankruptcy (twice) of Family Christian stores, the demise of the Berean chain (with whom I worked for 11 years), and more. Earlier this year the Lifeway Christian Stores dismissed their chain’s buying team and have made moves to reduce their overall inventory.

This is nothing new. The entire retail industry is in turmoil, not only Christian bookstores. Despite this, publishers have learned, and are learning, to pivot and find new places to sell their books. Thus, trouble in the management of the association does not affect the day-to-day efforts of publishing. The stores are still out there and open for business.

It does cause me to reflect on the industry as a whole. For example, one major problem for the Christian industry is there have been relatively few breakout books for nearly a decade. (I define “breakout” as a title that rises to the top of the bestseller’s list and stays there for a long time, selling millions of copies.) A look at the recent bestseller’s list (click to view the September list) bears this out. Still in the top 10 are Jesus Calling, a devotional, published in 2004 and The Shack, a novel, published in 2007.

The list  includes other long-time bestsellers like The Five Love Languages, Boundaries, The Total Money Makeover, Love and Respect, The Purpose Driven Life, The Love Dare, The Case for Christ. In addition, the list is replete with authors who regularly appear: Max Lucado, John Maxwell, Karen Kingsbury, Wanda Brunstetter, Beth Moore, and Joyce Meyer.

This could suggest opportunity for authors. Finding the next big book is the constant work of editors and publishers. Could there be a gem waiting in the to-be-read pile on my desk or the desk of an editor? We can hope.

Meanwhile, a lot of books continue to be published and continue to affect people’s lives. It would be easy to frown and focus on the negative. Unfortunately, that leads to despair. Rather, believe in God’s sovereignty over all things. That tends to put it all in perspective.


59 Responses to Rumbles in CBA

  1. Loretta Eidson September 10, 2018 at 4:29 am #

    I believe God’s still in control regardless the turmoil around us.

  2. Shirlee Abbott September 10, 2018 at 4:44 am #

    Sounds more like a crumble than a rumble. Is no one talking, or is there no one to talk? Loretta’s right: God knows.

  3. Vicki Gordon September 10, 2018 at 5:23 am #

    I believe the door is wide open for that “right” book. I am with you-know-what keep looking!

  4. Rebekah Love Dorris September 10, 2018 at 5:26 am #

    I wonder if now is a good time for authors to look at the industry historically.

    We’re obviously no longer filling the need that sparked the genre in the first place. What did Janette Oke, Frank Peretti, and the Thoenes write in those early works that made everyone want more? Of course styles have changed, but holes in the human heart have not.

    As a reader, I’m hungry for a novelist who makes me pray like Peretti did in the Darkness books. Or makes me love Israel like the Thoenes. Or reminds me of the power of the gospel like Janette Oke in the Love Comes Softly BOOKS.

    There are so many page turners that leave me feeling empty. I think we need to remember our first love as an industry. It’s not about the thrill or the steam. It’s about the resurrection of the God man and what that means today.

    Just my two cents.

    • Kathy Nickerson September 10, 2018 at 6:49 am #

      I like your two cents. Those books came out not long after a writing instructor told me there was no room in the Christian market for fiction. And look at us now.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield September 10, 2018 at 9:13 am #

      AMEN and AMEN! I agree on all points, Rebekah!

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 9:27 am #


      For one thing, Oke, Peretti, and Thoene were all very early in the industry’s rise. (Oke ’79. Peretti ’85, and Thoene in the 80s)

      So what they were filling was a void. Faith-based fiction (however that is defined) basically did not exist. There are exceptions to every statement like that, but generally that was true.

      Thirty years later the marketplace has matured and grown. The competition is more intense. And the craft is so much better.

      I happen to believe that there are dozens upon dozens of writers who achieve what you’ve described. The problem is that they generally remain undiscovered.

      It is not for a lack of books. It is more a challenge of them being found.

      At least that is how I see it.

      • Rebekah Love Dorris September 10, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

        Thank you for clarifying that, Mr. Laube. I cringed later, considering how many excellent authors pour out their souls for the gospel’s sake. I did not mean to disparage all Christian fiction.

        I agree the craft has deepened, although the ability weave plots like the Thoenes did throughout their body of work reminds unparalleled.

        It just seems that Christian fiction *in general* focuses more on cleanliness and less on godliness. A sterile environment is fine for ER triage, but without a physician the guy bleeding out isn’t helped much.

        May the Great Physician resuscitate our nation and the industry, because it’s impossible without His help!

        Thank you for all you do to serve Him. It really is an honor to even comment so you can see this.

  5. DLE September 10, 2018 at 5:29 am #

    As someone interested in fixing problems within the church in America, the major failure of books that address this are that they are routinely fantastic at nailing the problems but exceptionally poor at providing practical and wise solutions. All seem to be caught up with aping whatever approach the modern business world is currently using to assist business owners. And that’s a perpetual means to failure, at least in the Church.

    When some wise author writes a counterintuitive fix-it book rooted in a Kingdom understanding, perhaps that will be the next bestseller. And here’s to praying it revives a lukewarm Church.

  6. Ruth Douthitt September 10, 2018 at 5:29 am #

    Is it because people, especially Christians, aren’t reading Christian lit? I am writing a women’s inspirational but would not consider it to be solely Christian lit. I rarely read Christian books. I prefer non-fiction and when I do read fiction, it tends to be a secular fantasy/adventure.

    A “break-out” book is sometimes not in line with biblical doctrine, but is emotionally based. Therefore, it becomes a best-seller because non-Christians are reading it.

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 9:34 am #

      If you like Fantasy/adventure may I suggest looking at the offerings from Enclave Publishing and some other authors who write in that category from a faith-based worldview?

      Take a look at these authors:
      Karen Hancock
      Jill Williamson
      Ronie Kendig
      Nadine Brandes
      Patrick Carr
      Morgan Busse
      S.D. Grimm
      Linsday Franklin
      Gillian Bronte Adams
      Sharon Hinck
      Joan Campbell
      Sarah E. Morin
      Chawna Schroeder
      Lisa Bergren

      Then look at

      All of these have written Fantasy (as opposed to science fiction, which is another list). And this list isn’t even comprehensive…I guarantee I’ve left out someone amazing as I rattle these off the top of my head.

      • Kerry Nietz September 10, 2018 at 10:52 am #

        That is an outstanding list of authors. (I almost said “fantastic” but that seemed too much. 🙂 ) I recommend everyone take Steve’s advice here.

      • Josephine Anne Griffiths September 10, 2018 at 11:14 pm #

        If I may, I’d like to add ton this list of fabulous fantasy authors.

        Please consider:

        Jeanette O’Hagan

        Anne Hamilton

        Both are talented Australian authors.

  7. DLE September 10, 2018 at 5:36 am #

    Will add that from a strictly retail perspective, until someone figures out how to get Christian men to read again, nothing will improve. You can’t fix a general market industry in which half the potential market has essentially dropped out entirely.

  8. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D September 10, 2018 at 6:05 am #

    Thanks for keeping us informed, Steve. I value your insight.

  9. Erica Wiggenhorn September 10, 2018 at 6:40 am #

    Love how you end everything post with a word of encouragement or inspiring call to keep moving forward! Thank you, Steve.

  10. Pamela Tracy September 10, 2018 at 7:34 am #

    Thanks for the info and insights. I loved going to the Berean store in Glendale. I go to a Family bookstore now, but it’s been over a year and I’m wondering if it’s still there. You’ve got me thinking.

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 9:36 am #

      Berean was bought by Lifeway in 2013.

      The Family Christian Stores went bankrupt a second time. All stores closed in February 2017.

  11. Abbey September 10, 2018 at 7:42 am #

    Steve, you so aptly put trusting in the Sovereignty of God over all things. I’m reminded daily that God opens the doors He wants to open for the books He wants published. We, as authors, must do our do diligence to get our manuscripts into the hands of those who might published them, and then WAIT on God’s timing and provision. Thanks for the update so we know how to pray!

  12. Michael Howell September 10, 2018 at 7:50 am #

    Steve, one of the many issues is that Christian publishers and agents are not willing to take chances. I know this because I had a conversation with a rather large firm and they said, “Everyone is looking for the next big thing, but no one is willing to take a chance.” Further, in terms of fiction speculative, fantasy etc… is largely overlooked in favor of safe non-fiction. It strikes me as sad that we are living on the great works of Lewis, Tolkien and others (those films have made millions) but little to no great fiction is coming out to speak of at present. The greatest fiction of our time “This Present Darkness” is hung up because Frank won’t budge on who the hero should be. It would be a huge box office hit. As a Christian who has worked in CCM for 14 years and now Christian film for 4 years I’m saddened by what I’m seeing. We make films that are pedantic and expected and aimed at the club and those in charge won’t budge…the gatekeepers need to be booted to the curb and new fresh blood brought in, save a few. Where are the scripts that should be coming from what there is of Christian fiction? Tosca is on her way I think and I had several conversations with her because I though she was one of the few who had the material to go to screen, but she is rare in terms of Christian books being made into movies or TV series. I have been working on a novel for six years and even my family is urging me not to go with a Christian publishing house and to be honest I’m considering other options. It is not all bad news in that Christian film is the hope for Christian fiction but the middle…the scripts from books must be strengthened. At every conference there should be a script writing class…I would suggest Dr. Ted Baehr with Movieguide. Movieguide even has a script writing contest for newbies and in attendance at the awards are many of the top Hollywood studios. Sorry to be venting, but I’m sick and tired of Christian gatekeepers being sticks in the mud and playing it safe. As Christians we should be the best in the arts and we are not and it frustrates me.

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 9:43 am #


      To respond to the comment about speculative fiction. See part of my answer above.

      Enclave Publishing ( was created specifically to publish books in the fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural genres but written by authors with a Christian world-view.

      There are almost 40 titles available with a program of releasing 10-12 new ones each year.

      As for film? You know how hard it is to find the combination of a story that works cinematically, can be competently converted to a screenplay, AND can receive the requisite millions of dollars in investment to produce. Your thoughts are not alone when it comes to quality film and television. The challenge is almost always related to money, in some way.

      • Michael Howell September 11, 2018 at 5:56 am #

        Hi Steve…I’m aware of Enclave and I’m very thankful for its existence. I remember when it was founded. In terms of TV and film I believe the material is there but there is a severe disconnect between Christian authors and scripts…how many conferences have you been too that had script writing classes or even a class in how to take your book to film? It will take only one great Christian fiction work to make it to film and the door will be opened. The same happened recently with Christian contemporary music. It was dying and I explained that the hope for CCM music was to get involved with film and it happened with I Can Only Imagine which did $80m at the box office. I personally hold many of the major Christian publishing houses responsible for the position Christian fiction is currently in…they are doing what is easy. The one bright spot is Enclave, but even there it will take a lot of work. I urge you to explore the film arena for your authors.
        The good news is we have seen that Christian fiction works and makes big dollars at the box office and at the bookstores.

  13. Martha Rogers September 10, 2018 at 7:52 am #

    Thank you for your very informative, insightful and encouraging post. It’s all about God’s timing and what He wants to see in us. Things change, grow, become better, maybe fail a bit, and then grow stronger. We can be assured God is in control despite misguided or hasty decisions made by man.

  14. Jennifer Rodewald September 10, 2018 at 8:08 am #

    I so appreciate your concluding remarks. If God is the one who “changes times and seasons, sets up kings and deposes them,” then he also manages the pulse of the book industry. Thanks for the upward word.

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 9:46 am #

      Thank you.

      A reminder to everyone. This news isn’t a commentary on the bookstores. As I said, they are still open for business today.

      This is the association. The entity which puts together the annual bookselling convention and creates a place where stores can band together to receive certain benefits as an association which they cannot necessarily receive individually (shipping rate discounts, some health benefit options, legal advice, etc.)

      The stores themselves are unaffected by this.

  15. Rebecca Krusee September 10, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    Nicely said. Thank you for sharing…

  16. Janine Rosche September 10, 2018 at 8:24 am #

    To me, this is a reminder to pray for the people in the publishing industry. Although we do not know what goes on behind closed doors, we do know that Christians are not immune to the problems, controversies, and sin that plague others. Maybe I’m naïve, but these decisions have certainly not been made lightly and lives have been flipped upside down, I’m sure. But God is sovereign and his word won’t be silenced and his reaching arm cannot be slapped away.

  17. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 10, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    First, many thanks to all who have been holding me up in prayer. Please don’t stop; these are painful and terrifying days for me.

    Steve, thank you for addressing the CBA crisis. My feeling is that it’s been a long time coming, because we’ve backed off from spreading the Gospel a long time ago.

    We live a kind of fairytale Christianity in our bubble, in which people don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t lust, and don’t really wrestle with the crushing doubts and mind-bending fears that roam a dark and deadly world. The Gospel’s a Happy Ending, but we’ve become addicted to temporal happy endings that come from compliance to a social Christianity that would have been unrecognizable to the Apostles.

    And what we offer the world is inconsistency. We want to give a message of love and compassion but it gets lost in the wake of Joel Osteen’s yacht. We want to offer salvation, but salvation becomes a ‘health and wealth’ machine you can only operate with the proper prayers, easily taught you on my $79.95 CD. Nonbelievers think were deluded, silly, and venal when we pretend not to be.

    We talk about bad choices, but are afraid of driving people away by mentioning sin.

    Our outreach has become an invitation to a country club for saints, and the church as a hospital for sinners has become passe.

    The whole purpose of CBA is evangelization; otherwise it may as well go away.

    Pursuant to all this, here’s an interesting study from Pew Research, as to why many young people leave the church and chose ‘none’ as their religious affiliation:

    To anyone who’s still reading this…how will YOU use the writing gift that God’s given you to reach them?

  18. Virginia Sue Graham September 10, 2018 at 9:27 am #

    Steve, thank you for sharing the business side of publishing, it’s an eye-opener to find many books published years ago on the current bestseller’s list. I’m hoping to soon take advantage of the opportunity that awaits writers!

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 9:59 am #


      The longevity of Christian books on the bestseller list is unique to our industry.

      When I was a fledgling bookstore clerk in the early 80s it was fascinating to note that the bestseller list had “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” in the top 10…every month. The same for “Hally’s Bible Handbook.” No kidding. C.S. Lewis was a bestelling author back then…and still shows up on the list.

      This has been the nature of our industry for quite some time.

      I was only trying to illustrate that there are has not been a new title that jumped in to take the industry by storm for quite some time.

      One could argue that “Heaven is for Real” did that. And that would be correct. Also Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now” (published in 2004). Recently “The Magnolia Story” by the Gaines has held a consistent sales trajectory.

      The general market has the same problem. Think about the lack of “phenomenon” titles that dominate the lists. Harry Potter is 20 years old and we still reference it as if it is a recent book. Twilight. Hunger Games. DaVinci Code.

      Or what about Marie Kondō “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” ?

      There could be a baseball metaphor here…

      We can all try for the big home run hitter. The one who is a game changer. But at the same time one home run hitter isn’t enough. If the other team has a large collection of hitters who produce singles and doubles at every at-bat, they win the game.

  19. Israel Wayne September 10, 2018 at 9:56 am #

    Your insights are always thoughtful, well-reasoned, balanced and even encouraging, in the face of great difficulty for our industry. Thanks for being a much-needed voice in our community.

  20. Jeanne Takenaka September 10, 2018 at 10:44 am #

    Such a thought-provoking post. I appreciate your optimism in the thought that there are books that are not yet discovered that can b game-changers in the industry.

    And your closing thought about remembering that, ultimately, God is sovereign. His plans cannot be thwarted. He places the stories on human hearts so they can be written. And He has a unique journey for each person who endeavors to glorify Him through their words. Thanks for the reminder not to focus so much on what appears to be the sky falling over Christian fiction/literature, but on the One who sees everything and loves us through the uncertainties.

  21. Kim Henson September 10, 2018 at 10:47 am #

    I love your spin on it. I always find Hope here. Our minister says, “Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle.” I hang onto this quote often, especially since I’m headed outside to do hurricane preparation.

    Thanks for keeping us informed without the drama.

  22. Janet McHenry September 10, 2018 at 10:51 am #

    Thank you, Steve.

  23. Carol Ashby September 10, 2018 at 11:13 am #

    I notice that many of the novels that are still bestsellers many years after their debut focus on the faithful lives of believers who boldly live the forgiveness and love that comes from their faith in Jesus The faith element is at the core of the story, not just decoration.

    I’ve read many blog posts claiming CBA publishers are not seeking that now. Is that what you see?it makes me wonder if that’s part of the reason new bestsellers with millions of copies being sold are so obviously missing in traditional CBA publishing.

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 11:25 am #


      In my opinion, that claim is unfounded.

      I’d rather the claim be followed with examples of books they say illustrate their point rather than a blanket “all Christian fiction is vapid.”

      And if there are novels that are “faith-lite” then it is likely easily countered by those that are “faith-heavy.”

      There is also the truth that fiction-reading is subjective. One person may hate any novel with an Amish theme and declare it as silly, thin, etc…WITHOUT READING it. Instead, read Bev Lewis’ THE SHUNNING or Cindy Woodsmall’s WHEN THE HEART CRIES and then, only then, level the criticism.

      Or someone may not like anything that has a military theme… WITHOUT READING. Instead read Ronie Kendig or Don Brown and then, only then level the criticism.

      If they level the criticism after their novel was rejected by publishers, it might be that the criticism is based on something else.

      In a perfect world everyone’s work would be a bestseller and everyone would be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

      But we don’t live in a perfect world.

  24. Tiffany Price September 10, 2018 at 11:22 am #

    Thanks for the encouragement provided at the end of this post. If we look at certain statistics and the overarching decline of this ministry, we can get irrevocably discouraged with the “doom and gloom” of it all. However, as you have so appropriately brought to our attention, we won’t let these details deter us!

    God is sovereign – He is in control! We can trust in Him through it all!

  25. claire o'sullivan September 10, 2018 at 11:26 am #

    Hi Steve,

    I agree with Andrew… Primarily I am discussing fiction. There is always a turn, one way then the other. The 80s seemed to come out of the Jesus Movement of the 70s. Then a fall off after the ‘Left Behind’ series wore people off. Then came the name it and claim it.

    I don’t read sci fi any longer I am so burnt out. I ‘ve read almost all authors of romance/ suspense (big names, small names, traditional, indie, SP) and the factor that has turned me off is the amount of preaching and the amount of Scripture in suspense/romance within the pages. Like, half the book Now add in the lack of any spiritual issues that aren’t resolved until the end or the characters are perfect.

    I have given up on the genre I like and moved into well-written Christian(like) intrigue, suspense, mystery that are not Christian or are clean Christian. If the entire Bible is put into fiction, that is beyond my ability to read it and I have seen theses comments: ‘Had I known this was a ‘C’ book I would have never purchased, as it was, I didn’t bother to finish. Waste of money.’

    Sure, Bethany House loves books with big names. They have been selling for a long time, and meet their strict expectations. These books have been good sellers. But many to me are DNF. When I look at a big name book with the lack of any editing, that is yet one more turn off.

    But who can relate? What about the Christian who backslides? What about turning off every Lutheran I’ve known who drinks beer? Or Catholics who drink wine (and I don’t mean to excess). What about the Christians who smoke? Swear a blue streak when they hammer their thumb? Are they damned? By these books they are at the very least chastised (and of course they stop that bad habit with a prayer). What about the real problems that plague non-Christians and Christians who do NOT become perfect as soon as they are saved? Mercy.

    And don’t get me wrong, but the mention of sin, salvation, sanctification are lost on non-believers. Discussion in terms that are understandable needs to be used, and yes, I have been guilty of Christianese. Even when I was on an evangelism team in the 80s, we used human terms. Analogies. That’s how people come to Christ (in my humble opinion).

    I understand the falling off of the CBA, and I also understand the draw of what I believe are watered down and not even close to theologically correct works. If these books draw millions and make it to the ‘big screen’ I am wary.

    Schmaltzy writing. I may sound harsh but good grief, stop putting half of the Bible into the work. Some? Okay.

    Did I mention I have a migraine today, thus my russa frussa?

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 11:32 am #


      One correction….

      Bethany House is known for launching debut authors on a regular basis. They don’t only publish big names. They turn their authors INTO big names.

      Not sure what “strict expectations” you mean.

      If by that you mean an avoidance of “vulgar or inappropriate language” / “overt sex scenes” / “splatter violence” / then I happen to agree.

      But that is a topic for another post, which has been addressed multiple times on this blog.

      A collection of them are linked here:

  26. claire o'sullivan September 10, 2018 at 11:51 am #

    Hi Steve,

    It’s been some time since I visited Bethany House, my recall is likely old. I agree, gratuitous violence is bad, but kinda gory scenes that belong in the context of the plot, those that are subplots to the spiritual battles, seem to be eschewed. By everyone.

    I agree, no sexual / swearing, however I think it’s more than human even as a Christian to be tempted to the point of at least, self-admission that the temptation could have been too great, and to swear (under their breath) or out loud without using the swear words i.e. “I hit my thumb with my best hammer, jumped about and swore a blue streak.”

    It’s good to know that Bethany House is actively looking for new authors.

    More than 1 beta reader (1 with 2 books made into Hallmark films) marked up my MS for under the breath swearing (I had none, just allusion!), the consequence of a glass of alcohol, the temptation between MC and love interest as totally unacceptable, and the fight, not spiritual.

    So when I read all about perfect characters who have one issue resolved within the first pages, I roll my eyes. I know people love this, but I don’t see it as realistic.

    • Steve Laube September 10, 2018 at 11:57 am #


      The recall about Bethany House isn’t old. It has been incomplete.

      The long list of novelists launched by Bethany House as debut authors, who are now household names, it far too long to enumerate.

      The list starts with Janette Oke in 1979 and has continued for the past 40 years.

      They have always been that type of publisher.

      • claire o'sullivan September 10, 2018 at 12:10 pm #

        very possibly. I became a Christian in ’79 and from ’76 on for near-bout 8 years, followed not long after, by another 5, in school. Too many textbooks, not conducive to reading fiction or pretty much anything other than instructions on bottles of cleaners, Dr. Seuss. <–those are completely exclusive, by the way.

  27. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm #

    Dragging myself – literally – of the floor, some random thoughts –

    What in William E. Barrett’s “Lilies of the Field” and “The left Hand Of God” attracted, and sometimes converted a secular audience?

    What in Andrew Greeley’s novels brought the secular reader to a point of comfort with faith…and comfort is the wedge in the door.

    What, in the viscerally violent ‘Boondock Saints’ films, made going to church cool? (These films have a USMC cult following, and have turned a LOT of young Marines into practicing Catholics.)

    CBA can’t serve a static audience and survive; it’s a shibboleth to look for the drug-dealing fornicating gangsta (whose inner despair is Jesus’ open door), but the hardest nut to crack is the happy and satisfied young professional who, in the midst of plenty and success, doesn’t see a need for God.

    If we can’t define WHY we follow Jesus, in terms that the smug unbeliever can understand, we’ve already lost.

    • claire o'sullivan September 10, 2018 at 12:26 pm #


      too true

      and please tell me why you are crawling on the floor!

      Praying for your strength.

      I like Crime and Punishment for the very reason of (agonizing) characterization of a murderer brought back to faith, yet suffering the consequences.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 10, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

        Claire, thank you…and I’m on the floor because of the pain from pancreatic cancer (right upper abdomen, under the rib-cage, extending to the back), and lymph node pain under the arms and in the groin and neck from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It’s kind of like being stabbed under each arm, and on either side of the lower part of the pelvic girdle, and garrotted. Fun it ain’t.

        And then there’s nausea. but we won’t go there. Skip the runs, as well.

        Dying like this, when you were originally in Olympic physical shape, take a long time, and it’s NOTHING like a Hallmark movie. Grace is implicit, amidst the pain, incontinence, and humiliation.

        But this is where I found God, for real, amidst the bleach needed in clean-up, and amidst the screams I could never make because my voice was gone.

        This is the God that says, hold on, and keep writing.

        • claire o'sullivan September 10, 2018 at 12:39 pm #


          do you have help at home?

          Where are you? I can come out and help, at least with some.

          • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 10, 2018 at 5:55 pm #

            Claire, thank you so much. We live on a rural New Mexico mesa, south of ABQ. Aside from Barbara, there’s no real help available, but I was well (and expensively) trained to push hard and overcome. As long as one accepts the fact that ‘this is gonna hurt’, one can go far, in life as well as in writing.

  28. claire o'sullivan September 10, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

    if you don’t have my email, and need my help let me know. I have no idea what ‘well and expensively trained’ means unless it was like special forces or something like that (have a kid like that). But my husband and I can continue prayers and come down if you need.


    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 10, 2018 at 6:13 pm #

      Claire, thank you so much’ it may yet come to needing physical help, and I am grateful beyond words. And yes, the training is as described, though obtained through another employer. Would have hated to have had to pay for it! 🙂

  29. Janice Garey September 11, 2018 at 11:22 am #

    Steve, thank you for your thoughtful and informative post. Your agency’s blog posts always have take away value.

    I am making an effort to visit the closest Christian bookstore on a regular basis. They are making a great effort through e-mail marketing to get people into the store for freebies, Bible study groups, and even food events. To me, this is making the store more relevant to the community. It gives reason to spend gas money to get there rather than to shop online. I hope others will be supportive of their local Christian bookstores. We need them as much as they need us.

  30. Sherry West September 11, 2018 at 1:32 pm #

    The popular Christian books I have read are not very intellectually challenging, so I tend to avoid most of them. They tend to be written to, and speak at, a lower educational level. I realize most media does this, as well, being aimed at the 4-8th grade levels, in general. As a teacher, I have to give my students material that challenges and educates them, giving them meat to chew on while they learn, yet is not too difficult for them to grasp. Maybe the material offered for public consumption needs to cause the reader to “play up” – a term we learned on our tennis team in college when we had to play an opponent with a good deal more skill. (You have to “play up” – playing a more talented and skilled opponent forces one to increase one’s effort and results in better performance.) This is common in churches, as well, with a good deal of milk being offered to the congregations rather than the meat needed for intellectual and spiritual development. Just a thought.

    • Steve Laube September 11, 2018 at 4:08 pm #


      If you want to be challenged I recommend reading our client’s book LOVE THY BODY by Nancy Pearcey. It is one of the most brilliant books of the year.

      • Sherry West September 11, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

        Thank you, Steve, for your response. I appreciate your suggestion. ?

    • claire o'sullivan September 11, 2018 at 4:27 pm #

      I tend to agree. Read a book called Spunk and Bite, a witty but biting review of Strunk and White. Though S&W remains ‘the backbone’ of writing style since sometime before the word ‘bubblegum’ or ‘car’ was invented (that last one was a joke I think), Spunk and Bite says bend don’t break rules, but why make your audience that stupid? Challenge them. Raise their understanding.

      Of course the problem with that is our readers really can’t read but 6th grade level. I don’t mean all, just within the bell curve.

      I would like to read the work Steve suggested, ‘Love Thy Body,’ though I worry it is a ‘hint-hint that it is why we have to have a photograph’ of ourselves on our website, paperwork, etc… Am sure it’s not.

      The works by Dale Amidei fall into Christian intrigue however there is much that would not fit into the Christian writing community. That said, I always learn something knew. I have to chew his words, sometimes look them up (which I love to do), and through all of his 14 or 15 books, have never once been dismayed at his ability to astound with his knowledge and grasp of language that outshines most I have read. And he is self-published.

      • Sherry West September 11, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

        Claire, Biting and witty is right up my alley. Thank you. Maybe those bell curve readers just need a good challenge… I’ll be foraging into the ancient classical Christian thinkers and writers soon, after completing some work, so that should be interesting and enlightening. I need a good challenge, too. ?

        • claire o'sullivan September 11, 2018 at 5:10 pm #


          my MCs tend to be snarky, snappy with comebacks and attitude. They don’t see themselves as better than the average Joe, often quite the opposite. But within the heel nips and the Ping-Pong banter, I add a word ‘here and there’ that hopefully raises something more than a yawn. I haven’t used ‘tocsin’ yet. Seemed a bit too pretentious for a thief to be turning off the tocsin’s alarm and it sounds poisonous (to the character and the reader) … 🙂

          yes, I was tempted. Thankfully, I stopped, and then I laughed at myself.

          • Sherry West September 11, 2018 at 5:17 pm #

            Claire, YOU are a WRITER. Nice to meet you. ?

            • claire o'sullivan September 11, 2018 at 5:26 pm #

              But.. yet to be an author, as in, published, unless you count newspaper articles on cooking. And in my somewhat slightly older world, the concept of cooking glam-not-slam is more fiction these days.

              Nice to meet you too! I meet the best people on the SLA site.

              Thanks to Steve and his cronies, I mean… cohorts… wait… well I believe I’ve already dug myself a pretty good hole so I am off to read Steve’s suggestion on ‘Love Thy Body.’

              Either very egocentric or churchy. Guess: churchy. Maybe both.

              -I go now.

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