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Magic, Mensa & Mayhem Paperback – March 4, 2009
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The Amazon Book Review
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"...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?"
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.
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At any rate, Karina Fabian's Magic, Mensa & Mayhem definitely falls in the above-mentioned "crack" category. A dragon and a nun from an alternate magical Earth team up to solve mysteries and occasionally save the universe? You had me at "nun." In my opinion, virtually every story can be made 3000% better by inserting a nun. Nuns are awesome -- and Grace, one of Karina's main characters, is certainly no exception. She reminds me of the orthodox but sassy Franciscan sister who heads our diocese's Respect Life Office -- especially when, in this novel, she gets into a fight with one of the muses. Yes -- sometimes putting someone in her place is worth a trip to Confession. (Just kidding, Lord. Sort of.)
Really, this whole book was a cute, refreshing read. I enjoyed the Catholic jokes, the light jabs at environmentalists and modern "arteests," and the suggestion that diet cola is the elven version of crystal meth. It takes a while for the whole plot to come together, but when it finally does, it's satisfying -- and each little episode along the way contains at least one line or incident that makes you smile. Honestly, I respect any author brave enough to tackle humor and talented enough to do it right. Kudos to you, Karina! I definitely look forward to reading the rest of the stories in this series!
It doesn't help Vern to blend in that he's a Dragon, while not full-sized, he's still pretty scary to humans or he's a confused with an amusement park ride, so he has many challenges already. Then when Brownies start cleaning up rooms and the long-winded dwarves start speaking in sentences that take less than half an hour, Vern will have to move quickly to prevent a true catastrophe.
Fabian has done a remarkable job building her fantasy world with its own unique set of rules, and some very real, very fun characters. Her light-hearted tone and the relative lack of violent mayhem make this the coziest of fantasy mysteries you'll find.
With all the strange characters and odd incidents thrown in, it can be easily to lose sight of the mystery. There's a lot of information relating to previous cases and explaining how the whole world works that in the hands of another write could become copious, but Fabian manages to keep everything entertaining and fun.
So whether, you've ever had a hankering to read a story of a dragon working for the Catholic church in an alternate universe or not, if you enjoy a light and fun read, this book is for you.
This is a fun, fast romp through a refreshing blend of mundane 21st century and ancient Faerie cautiously putting a toe over the line into the real world. While the plot is leisurely it is fun, mostly because of Vern's reactions to the people around him (and theirs to him). From pixies drunk on helium to elves with a bad soda reaction, the perils of the mortal world look way different cast through the faerie mix. There is infinite room for this series to grow. Long may it do so.