SONORA -- The Rev. Wolfgang Krismanits clearly remembers the first time he thought about writing a fantasy novel. He was walking on the beach near San Diego with his oldest son, then 2, when the boy ran after a group of seagulls, crying out "Dak, Dak" (his word for duck).
"I thought I'd like to write a children's book about a seagull," said Krismanits, the Anglican priest at the historic Red Church in Sonora.
Although it's taken him 25 years to revise his original concept and complete his quest, Krismanits' "The Seven Scrolls: Sword of Pantok" finally made it to print, released in May by Tate Publishing.
In the genre made popular by C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" series and J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," the novel includes talking animals and humans interacting with strange creatures in a made-up world.
"It makes you feel kind of like God, creating your own world," Krismanits laughed. "It was fun; it really was."
The plot pits some unlikely allies an abused boy, a cursed king, a seagull named Dak, a mammoth whale-like creature against some disgustingly evil creatures. Pantok is the Greek word for God; Whorkh is Krismanits' made-up name for the equivalent of Satan. The seven scrolls contain the truth of Pantok, and the allies must fight some gruesome battles to extricate them from Whorkh's hiding places.
In his preface, Krismanits said some of his inspiration for the book came from the struggle his own church has faced with the national Episcopal denomination. His diocese was the first in the country to leave the theologically liberal Episcopal church to align with the more conservative Anglican branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Lawsuits against most parishes in the San Joaquin Diocese resulted; his own parish, St. James, is in a tug-of-war legal fight that could lead to his congregation forced out of its historic building.
"The whole battle between us and the Episcopal church is over the word of God," Krismanits said. "The battle is not over homosexuality; it's over the Bible. Is it God's true word? Obviously, the Episcopal church doesn't believe it is. They think it's been tainted by the men who wrote it, so they say, 'We can believe this part, and we can't believe that.' Without the (inerrancy of the) Bible, anything goes."
Similarly, in his book "the whole idea is that the scrolls are worth fighting for. The authenticity, the word of God is so important. When we don't have the word in front of us, then we cannot live true lives, because that is God speaking to us, his letter to us."
In "Seven Scrolls," a brother and sister, separated at birth, lead two of Pantok's teams to recover the divine scrolls, which were taken by Whorkh five centuries earlier. One group, helped by an angel, goes mainly by sea while the other fights its battles on land, led with a dagger-sword that glows brightly and grows longer with each encounter.
The conclusion of the story will be told in the second book, "The Seven Scrolls: Pantok's Key," which Krismanits recently delivered to the publisher. He said it should be out next spring.
The first book, available at Mountain Book Shop and Mountain Home Gifts in Sonora, as well as from online bookstores, the church's thrift store and as a Kindle e-book, is not suitable for children 10 and under, Krismanits said, but should be fine for ages 11 and up.
Reading during childhood and adolescence was not important in his own life, he said.
"I was not into books growing up," he admitted. "It wasn't until I started college that I really started enjoying reading. I started devouring books, even like 'Les Miserables' and 'Moby Dick,' which were not easy to read."
But, he said, he consistently read books to his own four children and wrote this one, in part, because of his work before and after he became a priest at St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nev.
"That's really where Aquila in the book comes in," he said of one of 'Seven Scrolls' main characters. "I worked for three years with abused kids. They had no parents helping them through schooling, and most of them didn't like to read. My hope is that this book would stimulate reading on that level."
Krismanits said the feedback he's received has been positive.
"I've had some great book reports done on my book already by kids in the Christian school up here," he said. "I've had parents and adults who have really enjoyed it, as well. I had someone who wrote on Facebook that he loved the book. It's a blessing to know that people I don't even know are reading it."
Although the basic plot involves good and God vs. evil and a satanic antagonist, Krismanits believes people of all ages and spiritual beliefs would like it.
"What I hope is that people first of all just have a fun read," he said. "Second, it can be used as a tool to dig deeper into important questions. I wrote out questions with Scripture in the back of the book for every chapter because I want people to understand deeper things. What's the difference between miracles and magic? Why do some people receive healing while others do not? There are questions about life and death, or how you handle fear."
Beyond the lessons, Krismanits writes in his preface, "I only hope and pray that 'The Seven Scrolls' will bring the reader some joy and wholesome entertainment at a time in which we could all use some light-hearted adventure and a hope for a better world filled with courage and faith."
For more information about the book and a sneak peak at the opening chapter in the sequel, "The Seven Scrolls: Pantok's Key," visit thesevenscrolls.com
Excerpts from "The Seven Scrolls: Sword of Pantok":
There before him ... an oversized dagger, with silver blade and a hilt of solid gold, studded with jewels beyond belief rubies and emeralds and diamonds, sunlight dancing brillliantly in their perfectly cut facets. And that was not all. The blade was not bare. It only seemed so. Its shiny surface was all the more made lustrous by a sheath of clear crystal. It was a dagger fit only for a king, if even for a king of this world. No, fit for the King of the heavens above!
Tears of joy flooded Aquila's eyes. With his newly found friend (Dak) cradled in his arms, he sank to his knees and gave thanks. Pantok had once more smiled upon him. For Aquila, a new life had begun.
(Queen Yona) turned to Netu, who added, "The reality is that none of us will be safe. Those of us who will be sailing on this quest should know that we will be in grave peril throughout our journey. Stealing back the scrolls from Whorkh will not be easy, and he will do his best to spoil our efforts. He hates Pantok, and that means he hates us. But we must never forget that although those who hate may inflict wounds, they can never enjoy the final victory.... we shall not fail with Pantok on our side!"
Should all seven scrolls end up in our hands, in the hands of Pantok's children," Isdor said with a renewed strength, "it will mark the beginning of the end for Whorkh. His powers will fade as the Word of Pantok takes hold in the hearts of those he has called to be his."
"Now listen," (Whorkh) commanded. "The queen and her rabble of idiots are on the move. She's on the open sea, heading north, just as I have expected. I will deal with them. Just make sure that Pantok's disgusting little trio of patriots doesn't make a fool of me. The race is on, Kom. Take Demonsway to the mainland, and quickly. Find them and follow. Find out what and where that Key is, Kom, or you will become fodder for the saurod. You do like to feed him, don't you, Kom?" Whorkh cried out a chilling laugh that filled the chamber and froze Kom's heart.