Yesterday we wrapped up the first (I hope) annual Athanatos Christian Arts Festival. Or, as I prefer to call it, Dragonfest. Here are some highlights.

ACM Authors Michael Pape, Joe Courtmanche, Anthony Horvath, and Greenbean holding the Mic

Incredible Content

The strength of the Festival was the high quality content offered. There was far more going on that I could personally attend, but I sat in on writing seminars, music seminars, art seminars, historical analysis, and theology. Needless to say, I had a blast. Joe Courtmanche’s seminar on global threats was sobering and riveting, Rob Cely’s theology of Zombies thrilled, Paul Benett’s first person narrative in costume, no less, of a civil war Johnny Reb was riveting, Hillary Ferrer’s seminar on art not only introduced my daughter to Potato Jesus but also encouraged me in my artistic endeavors, and John Ferrer’s tour de force presentation on the historical paradigms of holocaust lead to a challenging contemporary application. The nerdiest one, which might have been my favorite, was the science fiction seminar lead by Dylan Thompson, which could have been titled Jesus and Philip Dick.

And the music! We heard so much quality live music from Celtic to rock, but what I particularly liked was from classical guitarist Alyssa Caitlin and bass ukulele pop musician Alma, who reminded me a little of Erin Ivey.

This is just the stuff I was able to attend. So much more was going on. I hope some of it was recorded for the interwebs.

My Presentations

I wasn’t only a consumer at the festival, I was also able to share. The opening day I gave a talk on the nature of stories, and then I used the eight 2016 Oscar nominated films as a template to discuss the application of story. Then I pivoted to the Bible, and showed the Bible’s use of these classic story motifs. I finished the with three different takes on the Jesus story in church life today.

In the evening I gave a longer talk, but it was mostly about writers wants and needs–particularly the idea of needing to stretch ourselves in our craft and the importance of taking the reader into consideration. Friday I participated in two panel discussions, as well as a talk on my research about child sex trafficking for The Little Girl Waits.

Finally, I was privileged on Sunday to speak during our worship experience as we walked through the Stations Of The Cross.


The festival was in a field in Greenwood, Wisconsin. I have never been to Wisconsin before, so this was a genuine treat. We drove in on Wednesday from Eastern Minnesota and took the back roads. What a lovely place! It felt like we were driving through The Shire. This thought was reinforced with every Amish horse drawn buggy we encountered.

I ate cheese curds for the first time. They tasted like soggy mozzarella sticks.

There were lots of Green Bay Packer references.

The people were nice–not gregarious like home–not naturally talkative like back home, but they were polite, respectful, and helpful. They kept saying I sounded funny, but I told them I left my translator back home.

The Biggest Payoff

The biggest blessing, though, was spending time with other Athanatos authors–the other horses in the stable–so to speak. Hanging out with Tony Horvath wonderful. He is the mastermind behind the curtain pulling all the levers, the brains behind Athanatos publishing, and getting to spend quality time with him was worth it all.

Looking forward to next year.


Is there an artist, maybe a writer or a musician, that you really dig but you know they don’t have much visibility and a lot of people don’t know about them?  Wonder what you could do to help?  If so, I have good news for you.

A new title has just been released by my friend Anthony Horvath called Superfan.  It is essentially a manual written to those who are  fans of an indie artist.  It is only 10,000 words (very short) and reads even quicker than that.  I highly recommend it to people who either know an indie writer/musician/artist or to someone engaged in that venture and who is trying to break through the noise.  It is cheap on the Kindle and also available in paperback.

Click image to buy for only $2.99 on the Kindle.
Click image to buy for only $2.99 on the Kindle.

Horvath’s book is chock-full-o stuff, but I have included here three easy peasy things you can do to help your favorite writer/author out.

1.  Rate books and stories on Amazon,, and wherever else you can.  These things really really really matter.  Amazon uses these metrics in determining all kinds of stuff–not the least of which is the “you may also like…”  Don’t just rate it though, take the time to write a review–three or four sentences about what you liked in the book or story.  Caution–write it like you don’t now the author, even though you do.  If you write the review like you’ll be having lunch with the author tomorrow, then people will discredit your review.

2.  Share links to the author’s work on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  If you really like the artist and want good things for him or her, then do a little free and easy promo work.  I mean, after all, you passed along that funny picture of the cockatoo or the kitty cat so it is not like you’ll lose any professional cred by recommending some awesome literature.

3.  Okay, this one requires a little nuance, but it is still super easy peasy.  Mention this person you like in the same breadth that you mention other writers that everyone admires.  So if you’re talking to someone at work, say, about the newest zombie movie, mention something like, “Yeah, I read a story the other day by that cool Indie author Derek Elkins about Zombies.  It’s called The Driving Dead.  I just love zombie satire,” and then let it go.  A better one would be, “I read Jamie Greening’s science fiction story The Deep Cove Lineage the other day and I just kept thinking about how much it reminded me of Dean Koontz.”  Now be careful, because you could come across as pushy.  Don’t be pushy and don’t go on and on and on everyday.  That would do more harm than good.

I know this all sounds like shilling, but the truth is the deck is stacked so much against real writers (TV personalities who have books ghost written for them don’t count) that we need every edge we can get.  The best stuff ever is being published right now and it is out there for anyone to read and find, but no one knows about it.  You are doing the world a favor by making them aware of something they weren’t aware of before, and that is a noble task.


Recently I was invited by my super-cool publisher, Anthony Horvath to participate in his second internet apologetics conference.  I was a part of the line-up last year and had a great time talking about literary apologetics.  This year the theme is marriage.  While it is tempting to just show scenes from The Princess Bride as the material for my talk, I decided instead to actually try to say something.  Now, since I am a pastor who likes to give his opinion, and they invited me to talk, I assume they have a taste for pastoral opinions.  Therefore, this year I’m just letting it rip.  Below I have posted a brief section of material for your preview.

I see stress on families that goes deeper than are people staying married or getting married.  One of these is economic stress. 

Economic stress exists in several strains.  One is the stress of underemployed people having to cobble together multiple jobs, none of which are very fulfilling, in order to make ends meet.  This type of economic stress has destroyed many couples notions of time together, weekends away, or family vacations.  It is a shock to me how many families in our church never take a family vacation.  It is not so much that they can’t afford it, it is that they work in so many disparate places which are not professional in nature and there is no vacation allotment. 

A second aspect of economic stress is the pressure put on young people who want to get married by their Baby boomer parents to wait until they are ‘financially stable’ to do so.  I hate to break the news, but young couples who just get married are never financially stable.  It’s okay to be poor. 

Kim and I were so poor when we got married that a Methodist charity paid for the ICU bill of our first daughter while I was attending a Baptist seminary and all we ate for a year was waffles because someone gave us a waffle iron and the mix was cheap.  It’s okay to be poor and work your way through.  It creates gratitude and hard work.  But I will never eat a waffle again, but I am thankful for those waffles.

There is a third type of economic stress . . .

. . . a secondary stressor which is time.  I’ve already talked about multiple jobs, but now factor in such things as gymnastics, school plays, little league, church, and don’t forget soccer.  If I were king of the world, I would outlaw children’s soccer leagues.  I’ve seen more families fall away from the faith because they enroll their children in soccer leagues which practice three nights a week and then play games every Saturday and Sunday morning.  Curiously, many of these same families often end up in marital trouble or even divorce. 

There is a correlation.

One more time stressor, and I suppose this is the pastor inside of me speaking, but digital social networks are killing marriages.  I love Facebook and all my Facebook friends and I am trying to get used to Twitterfication and they can be powerful tools for connecting and ministry.  In fact, I often do a lot of pastoring on Facebook with the people in my church and with people I’m connected to in other ways.  But if a husband or a wife spends more time per day on Facebook than he or she does with his or her spouse, trouble is brewing.  It’s the age-old problem of emotional adultery . . .  

And that brings me to the last stress on marriage that I wish to share.  This is the sex and romance stressor.  Somewhere . . .

WANT TO SEE MORE?  You can by registering for the online conference right now, just click here