Monday, April 27, 2009

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem: Don't read it in a library

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem by Karina Fabian is not a good book to read in a library. Last week I read through the book in my library, receiving disapproving looks from the librarian with every snicker. I rarely laugh out loud when I am reading, but the antics of the characters in this book did it for me.

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem is part of a series of stories written by Fabian, featuring Vern, an immortal dragon cursed by St. George to do good works. Most recently, he has been doing those good works in New Mexico as a private detective specializing in crimes related to magic. A portal between our world and the world of Faerie opened up creating a commerce between the two worlds. Vern, along with Sister Grace of the Faerie Catholic Church, fights evil on both sides of the portal usually resulting in saving one of the two worlds.

Vern's most recent (nonpaying) job is to babysit a bunch of “magicals” on a trip to a Mensa convention. Riding herd on pixies, brownies, fairies, an Indian trickster named Coyote and a Valkyrie named Brunhilde, may be in Sis. Grace's words: “ the toughest job we've not gotten paid for.”

From there the romp includes averting a dozen crises from invisible brownies to averting an interdimensional war sparked a rivalry between two fairies.

The strength of Fabian's writing lies in creating memorable characters populating improbable plots that seem perfectly credible as you read them. She has the unique ability to wrap a parody around a strong believable plot.

The stories are written in such a way that they can be read and understood easily without having read any of the other books in the series. However, in some ways, this leads to the only flaw in the story. Fabian frequently interrupts the flow of a scene by a long aside about something which took place in a previous story. Sometimes this works, but many times it is not necessary to know that bit of the backstory to understand the current plot. This is a hard balance for the writer of a series to strike. I suspect that as more books and stories about Vern emerge, Fabian will find that balance.

I can recommend this book heartily, but be warned: Don't read it in a library!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Meet Karina Fabian: The Woman Behind the Dragon

Karina Fabian is the Author of Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, a glorious romp featuring a Dragon P.I., a Nun and a bunch of Magical creatures at a Mensa Convention. I'll be reviewing the novel tomorrow, but today, let's meet Karina:

1. Tell us a little about yourself? I know it is vague, but it gives the reader a chance to get to know the woman behind the dragon.

There's not that much to me, really. I had a happy childhood with loving parents and a terrific and beautiful sister. College was fun, then I did 4 years in the Air Force, where I met the love of my life, Rob, and we now have four terrific kids. We'll have been married 19 years in November, and I love him even more than when we first got married. I admire him even more, too. He's still in the Air Force--a Lt. Col. now--so we move every couple of years. I love the adventure. Most of my really good friends are online, which is wonderful since we do move so often.

I'm a Mensan and a notorious punner. I love to play with characters and clichés. I've been writing professionally for about 13 years, most of it non-fiction, but started concentrating on fiction in the last couple of years. I aspire toward getting that NYC publisher contract that will get my books on the shelves, but in the meantime, I enjoy the relationship I have with the publishers at the smaller presses I am working with now.

2. Give a short summary of the premise for MMM. (I know the dreaded elevator pitch)

I'm going to cheat and give you the Publisher's Weekly review because I think the author did such a great job of summarizing it: Religion and humor suffuse this well-imagined and densely plotted comedic mystery, based on a short story of the same title. Cursed by St. George to serve the Faerie Catholic Church, dragon detective Vern now sleuths in the mundane world. His latest (unpaid) assignment is to babysit a group of faeries attending a Mensa meeting. Vern quickly has his claws full juggling crises, from invisible brownies to two elves whose rivalry threatens to become interdimensional war. Distinctly memorable and occasionally silly supporting characters, from Brunhilde the Valkyrie to Native American trickster Coyote, steer the action. While the conclusion sticks perilously close to genre formula and the narrative is jumpy throughout, most readers will forgive the clichés (and Vern’s groan-worthy puns) and chuckle all the way through.

(Incidentally, the ending was supposed to stick close to genre--it's a parody, after all.  )

3. Give us a little background on the Vern stories.

Each one is a mystery, usually in the noir style of Sam Spade, but the cases involve magic and myth. Sometimes, some very disparate myths get combined. "Amateurs," which earned honorable mention in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008, mixed a legend about the fairies taking the form of insects to fight their war and the Biblical plaque of locusts. Another, "Christmas Spirits," (for sale on my website) is a play off A Christmas Carol. I also have a few fun vignettes with Vern dealing with humans, especially Mundane humans. The novels get a little more complex. After Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, I have Live and Let Fly, a super-spy spoof. All are told from Vern's POV, which I adore writing. I love indulging my snarky side--I don't let it out very often.

4. People are often interested in the writing process. Where did you get the idea for a Dragon PI?

I'd heard about an anthology called Firestorm of Dragons. I wanted a story in it, so I racked my brains for a unique take on dragons, running them past Rob. After a fruitless half an hour, we went to watch "Whose Line is it, Anyway?" with the kids. It's a silly comedy improv. While watching a parody of a film noir, the thought came to me that I could do that with a dragon. Vern was born.

I built the world around Vern, giving him the background to fit a down-and-out, cynical detective: losing a fight to St. George, being dragooned into service of the Church (thus unable to earn money), getting exiled to the Mundane side of the Gap... the usual with a fantasy twist. For the first story, I gave him a simple mystery that turned into a save-the-world thing. "Dragon Eye, PI" made it in Firestorm, and I have two more stories coming out in anthologies later this year: Book of Tentacles (Samsdot, July 2009) and Mother Goose Is Dead (DragonMoon, 2010)

A lot of my ideas come from prompts--a call for submissions to an anthology, a suggestion from a friend, or some movie I've seen or legend I've read. Since I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, I usually daydream about it, then just sit and write.

5. Have you faced any opposition from Christians related to the injection of magic into your stories? How do you respond to that?

No, I haven't. I must not run in that group. The closest I ever came was a woman at a booksigning who said I was writing about Satan. I told her, "He's not from Revelation. Not enough heads." She said all dragons are Satan. So I directed her to the other great books on my table instead.

I think if anyone had a problem with my books, I'd just direct them elsewhere. My stuff isn't for everyone, after all, and I'd be a fool to think otherwise.

6. What other writing/editing projects have you done other than the Dragon PI stories?

Infinite Space, Infinite God: Thought-provoking sci-fi with a Catholic twist (Twilight Times, 2007; available on Amazon). An anthology of 15 sci-fi stories with Catholic themes or characters; a 2007 EPPIE winner for best Sci-Fi

Leaps of Faith: Christian sci-fi...because God and science do co-exist (The Writers Cafe Press, 2008) 14 stories of science interacting with the Christian faith. 2004 EPPIE finalist for best anthology

I also have a trilogy under consideration, am working on the second Infinite Space, Infinite God, and am writing a Catholic Sci-fi novel.

7. What would you like to add about the book or yourself?

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem was a lark for me to write--something funny and silly and very low-key. I'm amazed and honored at the response it's gotten. I hope folks will like the subsequent books and stories. Vern is such fun and the world is so rich that I intend to write about it for a long time.

Incidentally, if you like Vern, please join the DragonEye, PI, website, You get a free copy of "Amateurs" plus a subscription to the DragonEye, PI, newsletter.