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Magic, Mensa & Mayhem Paperback – March 4, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep
"The Elemental Assassins Series"
Book fourteen in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series RT Book Reviews calls unbeatable entertainment!. Learn more | See series page
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Editorial Reviews


"...Well-imagined and densely plotted comedic mystery (with) distinctly memorable and occasionally silly characters...." --Publisher's Weekly

From the Author

From the Introduction:
It all started with an idea.

Yeah, right. Actually, it all started with the lack of an idea. I'd heard about an anthology, Firestorm of Dragons. They wanted--duh--dragon stories. I wanted to write them one, but first, I needed a dragon. Not just any dragon. Something unique. Something a dragon had not done.

Well, I thought about it, then discussed it with my husband, who in college read the entire USAF Academy library of Fantasy/SF and had done a fair job of keeping up with the market even to that day. Needless to say, every idea we had, he'd seen. So I gave up, let the ideas rattle in my mind, and went to watch Whose Line is it, Anyway? with the kids.

You have to see this show. You will not stop laughing. Drew Carey hosts, leading a team of four comedians through improvisational skits according to the directions on a card. That night Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles were instructed to do a film noir skit. I think it had to do with a dead parrot, but that didn't matter.  There was something about the clichéd lines delivered in mildly sarcastic tones, the first person narration that followed the beat of moody jazz. The fun they had. I wanted to jump in the skit with them. I could do it.

Hey, I could do it. With a dragon!

Thus came Vern, a cynical dragon on the wrong side of the tracks (or in this case, the Interdimensional Gap), working off a geas by St. George by being a professional problem solver for the particularly desperate. Lost treasures found. Virginity verified. Wisdom of the Ages, Knowledge of Eternity. Rides extra.

"DragonEye, PI" appears in Firestorm of Dragons by Dragon Moon Press.

Vern was too much fun to write, so as I heard about anthologies (which inspire me), I started writing other stories and making up more adventures than I could write. Vern has solved the mystery of a murderous crop of chili peppers, defeated a C'Thulu-wanna-be and has even had a horrifying experience as a human. He picked up a partner, Sister Grace McCarthy, a nun and mage for the Faerie Catholic Church. I've built a brave new world--or at least a sarcastic but fun new world, developed with clichés stretched to the limit and legends old and new getting shoehorned into a noir style and Vern's own special point of view.

When an anthology based on the Ten Plagues of Egypt came along, I decided to play on a Gaelic legend of the fairies having a war in the form of insects. "War of insects" sounds phenomenally stupid, however, so I decided to dress it up by changing it to Gaelic. A friend from the Catholic Writers Online ("Deal Matthews") introduced me to Shirley Stark, a Mensan in North Dakota and an expert in ancient Gaelic. She gave me the translation; I sent her "Amateurs" as thanks. And as it turned out, she was editor of her regional Mensa Magazine, The Prairie Dawg, and asked if she could publish it.

Since I'd planned "Amateurs" for the Ten Plagues anthology, I declined, but the idea was so fun, I suggested we make up another mystery--a serial with Mensans. Florida hosted the Mensa World Gathering that year; what better place for magical mayhem than the Magic Kingdom itself?  "Magic, Mensa and Mayhem," a fantasy noir comedy, made its debut in The Prairie Dawg in June 2006.

In October that year, I attended the Muse Online Conference, where Dindy, publisher of Swimming Kangaroo, offered to critique first chapters and stories. I sent her "Amateurs" to see if she had any ideas for improving it. She liked the story and asked if I had a book's worth. Alas, I didn't--but I did have this rather funny serial that would novelize easily....

And it did, for the most part. The not-most part gave me fits, however. Suddenly, characters from other stories wanted to make an appearance: Cambridge Ramada, a private investigator specializing in rare objects who nearly cost Grace her life in "Greater Treasures."  And Coyote! How did he become a Mensan? (Well, OK. He cheated on the test, but only because he could.) Then characters started doing un-characteristic things. Brunhilde the Valkyrie, in frilly lingerie? The dwarf wants to be an actor?  And Rhoda Dakota? She came out of the blue. (Or maybe not; my kids were watching Hannah Montana at the time.) Oh, what fun to write though--once my characters told me what was going on!

A lot of other things came up--like what was this weird tension between Vern and Sister Grace? I've also planted the seeds of at least a half-dozen other past cases. Hope that's not bad. I'll write them, promise!

When I'd finished, I passed it around for critique. Most folks were too busy laughing to say anything--music to my ears--but my best friend and writing partner, Ann Lewis, zeroed in on the fatal flaw. I'd flown to New York City to meet her and another writing friend for the very first time. Heading down the interstate to our friend's crit group, AAA Writers of Huntington, she told me, "It's very funny, but nothing happens to make me care. The crisis only concerns the Faerie. What danger is there to humans?"

Well, oops!

We took the problem to the crit group, and after letting me take more than my fair share of time explaining the Faerie world and all the crazy creatures in it, they helped me discover a crisis that made you care, was topical and fun. I won't spoil it except to apologize to the State of Florida in advance.

Oh, what happened to "Amateurs"? Ten Plagues rejected it, but The Sword Review published it in October 2007. I've got two Dragon Eye, PI story lines running--serious cases like the short stories and farces like MM&M.  The second DragonEye novel, Live and Let Fly, is in production. (Gonna mine those 007 movies like a dwarf does faeriemet!)

In the meantime, Vern has a website, dragoneyepi.net, and a newsletter: A Dragon's Eye View.

Karina Fabian
February 2009

Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Swimming Kangaroo Books (March 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934041785
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934041789
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.5 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,043,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Short Bio

After being a straight-A student, Karina now cultivates Fs: Family, Faith, Fiction and Fun. From an order of nuns working in space to a down-and-out faerie dragon working off a geas from St. George, her stories surprise with their twists of clichés and incorporation of modern day foibles in an otherworld setting. Her quirky twists and crazy characters have won awards, including the INDIE book award for best fantasy (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem), an EPPIE award for best sci-fi (Infinite Space, Infinite God) and a Mensa Owl for best fiction (World Gathering), and top placer in the Preditor and Editor polls. In May 2010, her writing took a right turn with a devotional, Why God Matters, which she co-wrote with her father. Mrs. Fabian is former President of the Catholic Writer's Guild and also teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

Her personal marketing efforts have built her a reputation for writing faith-filled fiction and gotten her writing contracts as well as book sales. She recently started a business mentoring authors in marking. You can find her business, Kickstart Marketing, at http://karinafabian.com/index.php?name=Content&pid=24.

Long Bio

"Zaphod--he's just this guy, you know?" Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

You'd think a writer who not only does fiction but also monthly personality features on total strangers would be able to write her own biography. What subject would she know better, right? But frankly, I don't enjoy writing my bio. My books speak for themselves, and as far as my family life, we're pretty ordinary. Karina--she's just this gal, you know?

I was what seems to be one of those unusually blessed kids who had a stable home with parents who obviously loved each other and my sister and me. We had dogs, cats, hamsters, and fish (never cared much for the fish). We took long family vacations in the camper, where we got to lay on the bed part that hangs over the cab and watch the road go by as my father's wanderlust meant our "Colorado vacation" ended up in Disneyland. I was the class brain, had some but not a lot of friends and a couple of boyfriends. It bothered me in high school; now I know better.

I applied for Harvard, but despite a 4.3 gpa and a dozen extra-curriculars that I was often a leader in, I didn't get accepted. I'm kind of glad for that now. I attended Colorado State University, majored in math, minored in history, joined ROTC, had lots of boyfriends and some friends and graduated with honors and a commission in the Air Force. I loved college. I also wrote my first novel in college, mainly out of spite because the honors SF teacher misunderstood an essay I wrote and gave me a B.

I met the love of my life, Rob, while in Signals Intelligence Officer training in San Angelo, TX. Rob was a space operations officer at the tenant base. Ten days later, I knew I was in love. A month later, we were engaged. A month after that, I got orders to Italy. I decided I would not lose the opportunity of a lifetime (and a dream of living overseas). Rob completely agreed. In June, six months after we met, I boarded a plane to San Vito, Italy. In November, I came back to the US, married Rob, then went back to Italy. We call the first two years of our marriage the "extended honeymoon."

We finagled to get stationed together in Japan. There we had our first two kids, Steven and Amber. When Steven was born, I got out of active duty Air Force and joined the Reserves. I loved the Reserves. I also started writing again.

When we returned to the US, I began writing more seriously, mostly nonfiction, but some fiction. We had two more kids, Alex and Liam. I quit the Reserves while pregnant with Alex because I didn't want to risk getting sent on deployment with little kids at home. It was the right decision, though I kind of miss the work. In 2000, I decided to homeschool the kids. We had some wonderful years doing projects, going places and learning together.

Writing-wise, during that time, I wrote for local newspapers, diocese magazines, national "slicks." I wrote story treatments for the radio. However, right about the time Rob made Lieutenant Colonel, I was getting burned out. My articles were getting sloppy and I wasn't motivated to do them. (I was also trying to balance deadlines with homeschooling.) I decided to quit and concentrate on fiction. I found that old college novel, re-read it, gagged, and re-wrote it into a trilogy. (I should have a contract for that one coming soon.)

I also started Rescue Sisters stories. (Back when the first kids were toddlers, Rob and I decided we didn't want to spend date nights hashing out family and finances. We knew each others' dreams, so we started crafting stories. Together, we created a near-future world in which Man had colonized the solar system, and a group of nuns performed search and rescue operations--the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue, or Rescue Sisters.) The Rescue Sisters stories led to our editing three anthologies: Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II and Leaps of Faith. I'm writing their first novel, Discovery, now.

I learned about a fun anthology called Firestorm of Dragons, and with the help of my family (and the comedy show Whose Line Is It, Anyway?), I dreamed up a cynical noir-style dragon detective. Vern is still my favorite character to write about. I not only have stories in anthologies and for sale on www.dragoneyepi.net, but also have one novel out (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem) and another I'm shopping around.

Although homeschooling was a great experience and helped our family grow closer, it also made me want to tear my hair out. The kids are now attending public school and while I miss all the hours together studying and learning, I also think we're less stressed. It also gives me time for writing and marketing.

Kids get older, lifestyles change and I find we're in need of a little extra spending cash, so I teach classes on marketing books. I also have a newsletter of marketing tasks. You can learn about those by clicking on the Marketing Mentor in the main menu.

Last, but by no means least: Around 2004, I became involved with a group of Catholic authors who wanted to band together and make a group to support to each other, not only in crafting our work, but getting it published and selling it. We created the Catholic Writers' Guild, and somehow I ended up President. I don't know, maybe my high school club leadership days got the best of me. Anyway, I keep getting re-elected. Go figure.

On a more serious note, I am incredibly proud of the Guild and what it has accomplished. In five years, we've incorporated and will be a non-profit soon. We have an active forum where we share news, advice, crits, etc. We have a member newsletter and a marketing newsletter for stores. We attend the Catholic Marketing Network trade show. AND we have two conferences a year: the online conference which is free and the live conference (in conjunction with the CMN trade show.) We have so many ideas for the future--only money and volunteers are slowing us down. It's pretty exciting!

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I knew from the first page that I was going to love this book. Well...to be honest, I knew it before that, from all I'd been hearing about it all over the place, but let's not split hairs, all right? One of the main characters having the same name as me is pretty darn cool, too. Doesn't happen as often as you might think. And while fantasy's not usually my thing, this is definitely not your usual fantasy.

Okay, so we have the dragon and the nun, working together as private investigators. The bishop sends them to accompany a bunch of faeries to a convention, a prospect that doesn't exactly thrill Vern - though Grace is unruffled. But not long after their flying circus leaves the ground, mischievous magicals are already causing trouble. Minor incidents escalate until one of the head elves decides to conquer the state of Florida while his sense of proper oratory etiquette is impaired by a chemical high.

In true intellectual style, many topics are sideswiped, considered, and passed by on the helter-skelter ride to the climax - issues such as temporal philosophy, interspecies morality, the Inner Child, and even semi-professional counselling as Vern comforts a failed wannabe actor. Other gems include quips from TV and movies, a talking purse, respectful nods to Doctor Who and Star Trek (among others), enchanted dancing, dodging the paparazzi, naiads eliminating a case of littering, obsessively tidy brownies, artificial sweeteners, and multifaceted cultural misunderstandings.

Vern the dragon detective is a magnetic character despite his demonstrative cynicism. He made me laugh just about every time he opened his mouth. His partner the nun is almost as funny again, and the two of them make sport of bouncing puns off each other and anyone who happens to be in earshot.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
When my copy of Magic, Mensa & Mayhem arrived, I was excited. I've read Karina's work before, and I hoped to be delighted. I figured this would be the kind of book that would have me laughing and thinking and enjoying myself.

Oh, the satisfaction of being SO right!

MM&M gives us our first full-length novel featuring Vern, the private eye dragon from the world of Faerie. Did I mention that Vern's Catholic? Well, he is now. You'll have to read for yourself to find out how he, uh, converted. Did I mention parallel universes? Did I mention Vern works with a nun? Did I mention laughing out loud at a rate that had my husband asking me to consider reading in another room? (OK, I'm exaggerating. He never actually said anything.)

That all seems unlikely to me too. But MM&M is unlikely, just the way that all your favorite novels are. You can't guess what's going to happen next, even if you excel at that and regularly throw books over your shoulder in disgust. Is it Fabian's wit? Is it her storytelling? Is it the world she's created that has you looking around your house a little closer, hoping for a chink in the plaster that makes it all real?

I don't know. I'm a busy mom who doesn't read as much as I'd like. I've already passed one of my copies on to a friend, and I think I'll keep it in circulation -- I can think of a few people who can use a good novel. The other copy...well, I think I'll be rereading it sometime in the future, perhaps to a budding reader in my house, perhaps on an evening when I just need something, well, good.
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