Today I want to tell you a little about my book, a little about my journey to writing it, and a little bit about where we go from here.
I have long been a fan of fantasy fiction, even though I didn’t always know it by that name. They were just animal stories to me, like the Wind in the Willows, or the tales Mom told us: about the mice, Gus and Geraldine, when she combed through our hair to crunch the lice between her fingernails. And the fairy-tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm, and those of lands far afield, peopled with the likes Sinbad and Aladdin and a stepmother and, always always, three siblings.
My first classic fantasy was likely the Chronicles of Narnia. Our family read the Hobbit then later was given a copy of the Lord of the Rings. I was skeptical of Frodo at first, my attachment to Bilbo delaying my reading of this thick book, but I came round and soon after found Unfinished Tales. This intrigued me, tales gathered seemingly at random from a hitherto unknown ancient age of Middle earth. Not until I found the Silmarillion did all (or most) of the dots connect and heroes like Fingolfin, Hurin, Beren and Luthien rise in my mind alongside their distant kin Elrond and Aragorn.
But, lest this turn into an “I love Tolkien” speech, let me tell you of C. S. Lewis once more. For a time I thought him less than Tolkien, seeing his Narniad as a mere gateway into the vast architecture of Middle-earth, but I came round. Reading his nonfiction, I came to enjoy his writing all the more, writing which pleased both the poet and philosopher in me. I attempted his Out of the Silent Planet and, despite not knowing quite to make of it, stuck to it and my enjoyment increased with successive readings.
As I matured in my fantasy reading I tried to branch out. Reading Ender’s Game, The Man Who Was Thursday, Harry Potter, Eragon, the High King, A Wrinkle in Time, and many more. But often I circle back, treasuring the reading of a book the second, third, or fourth time. In one of these circle-backs I found Lewis had written another novel, vying with his Perelandra for the best novel in his critics’ minds, the beautifully crafted retelling of an old myth of Love, Till We Have Faces.
But enough about fantasy. Two Queens is in the genre, yes, but it is a story first. A story about a country boy and his kardja… well, I guess there’s one reason this is fantasy. I needed, wanted, imagined an animal halfway between an alpaca and a camel, and named it a kardja. There is a special bond between them, the boy and his kardja: master and pet, companions, teammates. Some of you know this.
So this boy Orion and his kardja—her name is Kerry—leave town. They need to travel. That’s why we need her. You see, I often wonder how travelers made it before motels and gas stations and interstate highways. In Two Queens, the technology is quite medieval, like it was in Bible times. Yes, there were inns, but not on the edge of the Wild, where this story starts.
I like traveling. But I don’t know if I like traveling the way Orion has to travel. It’s exciting to read but it would be hard to do. You know what makes it worthwhile? Where he’s going. He doesn’t know it, he’s just heard bits and pieces, but he’s going to a special place. A City of Queens.
It’s an old place, very old as the memory of the people serves, though not old compared to the sun above or the ground beneath. It is the very heart of the land the story covers. I like old things. I was in Rome this August and saw the Coliseum, almost 2000 years old.
Do you know what’s older than you, the Coliseum, and even the dirt? Truth. Love. Beauty. Wisdom. Honor. And that is why I love old things, for all the best things were here long ago.
Back to the story. Orion is orphaned, exiled, kidnapped, sold, arrested, accused, and made to undertake a task the best of the land has failed.
Deciding what to do is tough. Does he have enough wisdom to know the right? Honor, friends, his own safety—these are often at cross purposes. Can he find the courage to do it?
Perhaps, if all goes well, he will someday be a leader of others. He’s only a teen now, with no one under him. But many whose lives are changed because of him.
He faces fear. Uncertainty. Different reasons pulling him different ways as he tries to adapt to this last bastion of an older world, the City of Queens, Avallonë.
And that is why I love this book. I want to visit this City, live in it. Not as it is but as it could be. You see glimpses of its former beauty and grandeur and get to meet some of the people, Queens and Princesses and Lords, powerful in spirit and wisdom.
As I wrote this book, the pragmatist inside me chafed. Why not write a business book, an area I know something about, a how-to that might address a real problem? The last thing I want to do is write something that doesn’t serve a purpose, and publish a book in the over-crowded fantasy market, no less.
I couldn’t see the purpose clearly so writing this was, for me, an act of faith. I felt I should, I just didn’t know why.
I have gained significant personal benefit from the process. I can write better, faster, and I’ve picked up a few other tricks along the way. Technical skills, like using wordpress to put together Avgerini.com, and life skills, from completing a long-term goal of mine and entering a whole new world of possible. I look at books differently, now that I know what it takes to write one.
But that isn’t good enough. I don’t want to be distracted from the main thing or, worse yet, distract my readers from their main things. And I feel that God has answered my request.
Two Queens is all about two special women who strongly influence the hero, and his quest to understand what their influence means for him. But these are not just characters pulled out of a hat.
I have met women of queenly caliber. One of them I first saw, in the light of day, when I was rather young in a hospital on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. I have met many others since, as you all have, as well. But two is not enough, in their world or ours, so I put a whole family of them there.
And, as God empowers, I would like to build a family of them, here. I am not the only one that wants this. The world wants it, wants it in both the old and new meaning of that word, both lacking and desiring it.
Take the feminist movement. It is dead, not because chauvinists have run out of sins and men have become angels. It is dead because it lacks vision.
The feminist movement doesn’t know what it wants a woman to be. It is destroying woman in the image of man, marring womanhood more than many of the long-abolished transgressions ever did.
Since when did a woman’s worth depend on how a man treated her? The quest for meaning has degenerated in a quest for power, sadly climaxing in the ability of a woman, under certain situations, to unilaterally abort—kill—her own young.
Perhaps my perceptions of this tough, complex issue are my own fault. I am no expert. But any movement, no matter how principled in the beginning, must be cast off if it no longer serves its honorable purpose.
I think it’s time for a new vision, and new vision often needs new vocabulary.
I offer you queenship. Merriam-Webster defines this as the rank, dignity, or state of being a queen, or an equivalent regal quality.
For the Christian, the idea of royalty connects us back to the King of kings, which is where all our identity derives from, anyways.
For the non-Christian, remember William and Kate’s wedding? I don’t care how atheistic or democratic we get. Something inside us yearns for royalty.
Or take Disney Princesses. They are cute and fun and even (in some ways) beneficial for girls to look up to. And Disney has tried to grow them up, with the catchphrase line “be brave and be good” from the recent Cinderella movie.
But our post-modern world has given up on it—true love at first sight, happily ever after. And well they should give up on the Disney version of this fantasy, for it was never strong enough to lean on. Leastways, not for those who never brought with them their own foundation.
In Two Queens, you will meet Sophia, Ruling Queen of Avallonë, and her daughter Alexis, the Crown Princess. “Sophia” means wisdom, or wise, and “Alexis” means defender. From these emerge two pillars of queenship—wisdom and loyalty—things I see in the women around me, in a way uniquely different than I see in men. Things I would see more of.
Royalty is not mistreated. Royalty is sacred. And Royalty holds a sacred trust. For these reasons, and many more, I offer you queenship.
My goal, with this book, is to rebuild the imagination of a nation that has so long fed on lesser foods. To connect communities, perhaps previously isolated, where womanhood is cherished and honored, not reduced to adolescents chasing after popularity or boyfriends or their slighly older counterparts with even more tragic drama. And to provide a focal point, a lightning rod, to move past painful histories of power abuse and come to mutually-affirming relationships.
For me that ends in the ultimate royal expression of this relationship. Where the church of Christ becomes the Bride of Christ. Forever united to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
Maybe you want that, too. Maybe not. But I hope we can walk part of the path together.
This is serious stuff. Almost impossible. Possibly not my job. Maybe it’s your job.
What’s the game plan? The book tells of two queens, two reflections of the same archetype. Here on Avgerini.com we’ll hear real-life queens tell their story. And there will be room for everyone to speak on the Seven Heavens fan page.
What’s your story? Will you share it with me?
If in anyway the talents, passion, mission, or vision you have for your life overlaps with this, I need a thousand of you. I want your wisdom, I want your stories, I want you.
Avgerini.com. That’s home base right here. Avgerini is the plural-form, family name of the Queens, going back several generations to the first Queen, Artemis, who rebuilt the City after the War. Avgerini.com’s tag line is born a Princess, becoming a Queen.
And that’s what it’s all about. You were born royal. Nothing you do can erase that. But there is growth that’s needed to become all you were meant to be.
That’s what I’m here for, that’s what the book is for, that’s what the team I’m assembling is for, to encourage you in that path.
God has blessed me with an amazing family, as he has blessed many of you. But many more are those that have not had that family. Perhaps this can be a small step in the right direction.
If you are happy where you are in life, I don’t want to interrupt.
But if you want some encouragement, some support, or new passion; if you want to celebrate a new book and imagine what celebration will follow the story of your life; or if you want a team that’s devoted to you in the very core of your being, this is for you.
Open your eyes to the vision: a world of crowned womanhood. Join the mission to encourage those on their path to sacred royalty.
[Adapted from the Two Queens book launch keynote address.]