Monday, February 28, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Nuns in Outer Space???

NOW PICTURE THIS under the category Catholic fiction: nuns doing search and rescue missions in outer space, a zombie exterminator, and a dragon-nun partnership! No, I’m not kidding … those stories are not only in print, they were written by an award winning Catholic author who uses her writing to promote her faith.

Karina Fabian’s writing motto is “Fiction, Faith and Fun” and all of her works fall into at least two of those categories. A character-driven writer who tends to let her characters dictate the stories, she has written about a cynical dragon working off a spell by the Faerie St. George, the convent of nuns who do search and rescue operations in outer space, a psychic who’s telepathic abilities drove him insane, and the zombie exterminator. Known for her cutting humor Karina has a serious side and has also written nonfiction, from magazine articles on parenting to the devotional Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life, which she wrote with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert.

As mentioned above, Karina brings her faith into her writing; she believes that religion is part of the human experience, and as such, authors should not feel afraid to incorporate it into their stories as needed. Besides, she finds it very interesting! She lives with her husband, Colonel Robert Fabian, wherever the Air Force sends them. They have four terrific kids, a dog with a perpetual wag, and a cat who likes to sit on her while she writes.

Today we’re going to wear a bit of Catholicism on our sleeve – I’ll explain why at the end of the column.

Mike: Karina, I want to welcome you to my blog today. You have an impressive list of writing credits, so I’d like to start out by asking how you got started writing.

Karina: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I got serious as a Lenten sacrifice. In 1995, we’d just moved back to the United States. I was out of the Air Force and home with two toddlers, and getting a little stir crazy. I remember reading a Harry Turtledove book—not one of his better ones, and I was so annoyed that I was reading that when I had my own stories I wanted to write. So I decided to give up fiction for Lent and take up writing; then, I asked God to lead me. A couple of weeks later, I got a job writing for the diocesan newspaper.

M: I know what it is like to write for the diocesan newspaper. Writing for the paper is one thing, getting book-length manuscripts published is another. So tell me, how did you get your books published?

K: Each time has been a little different, so let me give you some examples:

Infinite Space, Infinite God I (Twilight Times) was the result of sending out the manuscript to publishers for two years. Infinite Space, Infinite God II, however, was compiled at the request of my publisher Lida Quillen. My husband, Rob, and I had a lot of fun putting together the first book and were so honored that they wanted another!

Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life (Tribute) came as a result of my answering a call for writers in a Yahoo Group I belong to. Nicole Langan was looking for someone to write a short devotional to fill an unexpected hole in her publishing schedule. I co-wrote it with my dad, Deacon Steve Lumbert, and it’s been a blessing in so many ways!

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (Swimming Kangaroo) resulted from a conference. Dindy Robinson, a small press publisher, critiqued stories at a conference and liked my characters so much she asked me if I had a novel with them. I happened to have a serial story I’d been writing for a friend’s magazine, which I novelized. This book won the 2010 INDIE award for best fantasy.

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator (Damnation Books) stars a character from my story “Wokking Dead” in the anthology The Zombie Cookbook (Damnation Books). I wrote the story as a lark because I know the publisher, Kim Richards, but people liked the story and asked her when they’d see a novel. We meet each Wednesday in The Writers’ Chat Room, and she asked me about it one day when we were talking about reality TV and great first lines, and the idea jumped into my head. I’m working the second one now.

So, it’s really a combination to some degree or another of: work, perseverance, connections, and God’s hand.

M: Can you give me a short summary of your works?

K: Infinite Space, Infinite God I features fifteen stories about the future Catholic Church: its struggles evangelize aliens and lost human colonies and to determine the soul-status of genetically modified humans, genetically-designed chimeras, and clones made from the Martian sand; the adventures of religious orders devoted to protecting interstellar travelers or inner-city priests; and how technical advances allow monks to live in solitude on the Moon and help one criminal learn the true meaning of Confession. But it's more than just a great read. With introductions exploring the issues at hand and current Church thinking, Infinite Space, Infinite God is bound to spark discussion and make people think – just as good science fiction should. It won the 2007 EPPIE Award—Best Science Fiction and was in the Preditors and Editors Top Ten Poll.

Infinite Space, Infinite God II: By popular demand comes the second anthology of the Catholic Church and its brethren in space and time. It features twelve science fiction stories featuring Catholic heroes. Meet a time traveler who sacrifices his life to give a man a sip of water, and the nun who faces venomous snakes to save a friend. Share the adventures of priests who battle aliens and machines in order serve the greater good. Infinite Space, Infinite God II spans the gamut of science fiction, from near-future dystopias to time travel to space opera, puzzles of logic to laugh-out-loud humor and against-the-clock suspense. Another P&E Polls Top Ten and recipient of the Catholic Writers’ Guild Seal of Approval.

Leaps Of Faith An Anthology of Christian Science Fiction: Tired of science fiction that ignores our spirituality, or religious fiction that's weak on science? Leaps of Faith is an answer to a prayer! Each of its stories examines the interrelationship of faith and science in the development of human kind:

• Can androids have souls--what is sentience?

• How can we evangelize on alien worlds?

• What role will the true Creator play when humans try to "play God" with time travel?

• Can we reach the stars without that leap of faith?

Critically acclaimed, a 2004 EPPIE Awards finalist, and P&E Top 10 Best SF, it received highest praise even from an atheist critic who usually hates SF!

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem: Vern is a cynical dragon living on the wrong side of the Interdimensional Gap and working off a geas by St. George as a professional problem solver and agent of the Faerie Catholic Church. In this case, he and his partner, Sister Grace, a High Mage of the Faerie Catholic Church, have been asked by the Church to chaperone a few dozen Faerie citizens at a Mensa convention. Should be a cushy job, right? Not when pixies start pranking, Valkyries start vamping and a dwarf goes to the equivalent of Disneyworld hoping to be "discovered." Environmentalists protest Vern's "disrupting the ecosystem," while clueless tourists think he's animatronic. When the elves get high on artificial flavorings and declare war on Florida, it turns into the toughest case they'd not get paid for. Magic, Mensa and Mayhem is based loosely on the award-winning serial "mystery" in the North Dakota Prairie Dawg. It won the 2010 INDIE Award for Best Fantasy; and another P&E Poll Top Ten

A Zombie*
Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator: By the 2040s, the shambling dead have become an international problem. While governments and special interest groups vie for the most environmentally-friendly way to rid the world of zombies, a new breed of exterminator has risen: The Zombie Exterminator. When zombie exterminator Neeta Lyffe gets sued because a zombie she set afire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch, she needs money fast. So she agrees to train apprentice exterminators in a reality TV show that makes Survivor look like a child's tag game. But that's nothing compared to having to deal with crazy directors, bickering contestants and paparazzi. Can she keep her ratings up, her bills paid and her apprentices alive and still keep her sanity? Based on characters from "Wokking Dead" in The Zombie Cookbook.


Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life: Far too often, we expect God to show Himself in grand ways yet ignore when He makes His presence known in the day to day.  Written with my father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, this is about finding God in the day-to-day. With thought-provoking quotes, heartwarming stories, Bible verses, passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and simple exercises the reader can fit into his or her daily routine, they help others recognize God's presence. Great for the casual or converting Catholic longing for something more in their relationship with God, or the "advanced" Catholic wanting light spiritual exercise; another recipient of the Catholic Writers’ Guild Seal of Approval.

M: Do you have anything upcoming?

K: Yes, Mind Over Mind: Psychic powers, including the ability to communicate with aliens, overwhelm Deryl Stephens, driving him insane and robbing him of any hope of a normal life. Psychiatric intern Joshua Lawson refuses to let him give up hope. Although he himself doesn't believe in the paranormal, he plays along, teaching Deryl ways to "control his power" and lead a more normal life. When Deryl's powers flourish under his new control, bringing him under attack by the aliens, Joshua has to believe and help him to save their lives. Estimated Publishing Date: September 2011 from DragonMoon Press

M: I’m always interested in how writers market their books.

K: Mostly online. I have my websites and Facebook, of course, and I do a lot of virtual book tours. I make trailer videos for all my books, which are a lot of fun. I was a member of a lot of groups on Ning and Yahoo, but those are becoming more of writer-to-writer so this year, I’m planning on exploring some other venues in Amazon and Goodreads.

M: Okay, with four kids, a dog, cat and husband, how and when do you find time to write?

Col. Robert Fabian, USAF
K: I write whenever and however I can and it’s always changing. I’ve written stories on my cell phone in the car waiting for kids to come home from school, and I’ve spent hours in my study pounding out a novel. I sometimes write by hand, but mostly, I type now. My handwriting is getting really illegible! When I get ideas, I put them in a program called Storylines. I use this a lot because often I’ll be talking to a friend on IM or via e-mail about a particular story, and I’ll come up with a scene or a great bit of dialogue. The program makes it easy to copy and paste it in until I can develop it properly.

M: Besides writing, do you have any hobbies?

K: I’m not much of a hobby person, but I do have projects. For example, in February, my parents came to visit and we reupholstered my chairs, then made new napkins, valance, table runner, etc. for the dining room. We’re military, so we move a lot, so each home is a new adventure—it’s like being an artist with a blank canvas. However, I tend to get things done fast so I can return to writing.

M: Where can someone find your books?

K: Rather than list them all, let me give you the main ones: has everything. There’s a big list of my books, along with the descriptions and purchase links from the publisher or Amazon. I also have lists split up by genre, in case you’re interested in a particular kind of book. In addition, I have a big section for writers with goodies from how to organize a virtual book tour to places to get your books reviewed. is my blog. On Mondays, I blog about whatever: book reviews, home repairs, interesting bits of news. On Thursdays, I blog about whatever I’m writing, usually with some kind of lesson. is the easiest way to find me and read about my day-to-day

M: Thank you Karina, and good luck with your writing.

K: Thank you, too, Mike.

M: I’m also including links to Karina’s book trailers that you might like to view:

I should also note that all of Karina’s books are available as e-books. Finally, as many of you know, I am also an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church and on March 8 at 7:30 I will be interviewed on KWKY Radio (AM 1150) on the subject of Catholic Fiction. To facilitate that discussion, I’m including the links to several blog interviews I’ve done with other writers of Catholic fiction. Most are purely secular stories with no overt religious message, but some do have subtle and some not-so subtle Christian messages:

My review of John Desjarlias’ new book Viper.

Author and musician Alex Basile

Thriller author Brett Dougherty

Murder in the Vatican author Ann Lewis

Mystery author John Desjarlias

Also, for anyone interested, there is an on-line Catholic Writers Conference; you can find out more by following this link.

Finally, some have asked me how to access my monthly column in the Catholic Mirror. Simply follow this link.

*Hitchhiker Zombie from ‘The Reunion’ Directed by Jeff Stewart, Photo and SPFX Makeup by Doug Sakmann.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Surrendering to the e-book revolution

OKAY, OKAY, OKAY … if you’ve been following the discussion here you know there has been a lot of talk about e-books. Last October I interviewed Jackie Vick about her e-book, The Grooms Cake, then my friend Robyn Gioia began her series on ending e-book snobbery, and that was followed by last week’s interview with Stephen Brayton about is two new e-books, Night Shadows and Beta. And during this whole e-book fascination I attended the annual Love Is Murder Mystery Conference in Chicago where much of the topic of discussion was the new e-book revolution.

Now add to that several readers who have chimed in about their e-book experiences. I have heard from readers – not writers – who swear by their e-book readers. Books are cheaper, they say; its more convenient to carry a Kindle than a bag of books on vacation, they claim; and my favorite: you can read a book while you eat since the reader lays flat or can be propped up against the gravy boat!

Okay, enough already. I’m going to take the plunge. I ordered a Kindle! Yup, just like that; I went to Amazon, ordered the Kindle 3G and just received the e-mail that it is on its way, and, for my reading enjoyment, it has already been registered to my Amazon account so I can order books immediately. In fact, I don’t even need to wait to get it; I can start ordering right now. It seems that Amazon has something called Amazon Whipernet that will auto-deliver anything I order now to my new Kindle.

Alright, it should come this week and as soon as I have a chance to check it out I report back on what I find. In the mean time, let me hear from you about you experiences with e-book readers and I’ll be back with another author interview next Monday.

By the way, if you are in the Central Iowa next week, I’ll be at the Ankeny Public Library 9:30 next Saturday (February 26) for a discussion on plot, outlining, and character development.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Paranormal-mystery author Stephen Brayton

THIS WEEK WILL mark the publication of the first paranormal-mystery novel for my friend Stephen L. Brayton. He has two books that will be published as e-books by Echelon Press and will be available in Kindle and other formats. The first, Night Shadows, will be available this week, and the second, Beta, will be available in July. In addition to writing, he is a 5th Degree Black belt in taekwondo and owns Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. I’ve known him for several years and am happy to have the chance to include him in my blog. This is also a good time to be discussing e-books, since my friend Robyn Gioia has been discussing them in her column for the past two months, and much of the recent Love Is Murder mystery conference in Chicago dealt with the recent e-book phenomenon.

Mike: First, let me congratulate you on the forthcoming release of your two books with Echelon. Can you give us a short synopsis of each, starting with Night Shadows?

Stephen: Thank you. Night Shadows is my first novel coming out only as an e-book. Here is the quick plot: Des Moines Homicide detective Harry Reznik teams with F.B.I. agent Lori Campisi to investigate a series of gruesome murders. While dealing with personal problems, the unlikely pair find themselves battling malevolent creatures from another dimension.

Reznik is a homicide investigator whose wife is pregnant. He's dealing with a series of murders in the Des Moines Metro. Campisi, along with her regular Bureau duties, is sometimes called to investigate paranormal or supernatural occurrences. She is battling a personal problem of amnesia: she cannot remember her childhood before age twelve.

A power hungry fanatic has released killer shadow creatures from another dimension via a spell from an ancient book. It is up to Reznik and Campisi to work together to end the horror.

M: And Beta?

S: The second book, Beta, concerning a Des Moines private investigator-martial arts instructor, comes out as an e-book in July. Mallory Petersen is a young P.I. with her own martial arts school in Des Moines. While she is a success at taekwondo, her P.I. business tends to attract the nuttier side of society. However, when she is hired by Cheryl McGee to find her eight year old kidnapped daughter, Cindy, Mallory finds herself entering the world of child pornography. Using her martial arts skills against constant enemies, she tracks Cindy from Des Moines to the Quad Cities [Davenport- Bettendorf, Iowa – Rock Island-Moline, Illinois].

M: How much of that martial arts instructor is you?

S: Well, you know the familiar saying about write what you know. I’ve taken my years of training in martial arts and put them into the story. However, her techniques are a lot smoother than mine. She’s also more spontaneous and willing to jump into a challenge than I might be. Lol. However, I hope I’ve also shown her human side. She has a problem with keeping a hold on her emotions. However, knowing the subject matter and the people she’s fighting against, it’s sometimes understandable.

M: How did you get started in writing?

S: I've written short stories ever since I was a child. I read a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and horror novels and thought, "I want to write something people will enjoy." I didn't get really serious until about 1998 when working for a radio station in Kewanee I wrote a superhero introductory trilogy comic book, ironically titled Nightshadow. During the slow times at work, I wrote a fantasy/paranormal type story regarding my high school classmates. After moving to Oskaloosa and beginning taekwondo I wrote the first story with the P.I. who also taught martial arts. Then the plot for Beta hit me hard and I completed it. Night Shadows was conceived after listening to a radio show discussing reported experiences of shadow creatures.

M: Can you tell us about your road to getting published?

S: I attended the 2007 Love is Murder conference where I pitched both Beta and Night Shadows. Unfortunately, both were rejected. I spent a couple of years editing and polishing and at the 2009 Killer Nashville conference met Mary Welk [see my interview with Mary] of Echelon Press, who was actually there seeking short stories. I had written several and after discussing with her Echelon's requirements pitched the novels. In October of 2009, I received an e-mail from Echelon accepting both Night Shadows and Beta. In late 2010, Echelon also accepted three of my short stories and one short story I wrote with another author. In 2010, while waiting for my books to be edited, I inquired about assisting Echlon Press and soon became both an editor and marketing director for Echelon Shorts.

M: What do you do as marketing director for Echelon Shorts? And do you have any voice in what shorts are selected?

S: I help promote authors and their work. I’ll promote their covers on various websites. Plus, I’ve done a number of author interviews on my blog. As an editor, I looked at a few submissions and made recommendations for either acceptance or rejection. However, recently, I’ve been asked to step back from the editing to focus on my writing.

M: It is always interesting to know how writers write. Can you tell us something of your writing style: When do you write, what goals you have at a sitting, etc.?

S: Usually I write during the slow periods at work. Since I work overnights, I have several hours of quiet downtime usually listening to classical music. But I will sometimes write on a summer afternoon overlooking the river or enjoying the light breeze at the city park. Normally, I'll scribble down several ideas for stories and maybe some accompanying notes. I wait until one idea won't leave me alone then I'll start on an outline. Usually, I'll have several scenes I'd like to include and work those in. Then I'll start researching the unknowns, usually by visiting certain sites for descriptions or speaking with various people who can provide me with the information I need.

For a long time I wrote stories longhand, filling up five or six notebooks. I follow the outline, but I'm not a servant to it. Usually, as I go along, I'll either want to add in something else or else decide the particular timeline in the story isn't working and will have to make adjustments. Then I'd transfer the pages to computer, basically, getting in my first edit. Then I'll read it over, correcting spelling, grammar, etc., as well as strengthening up weak points. I may delete or add scenes as necessary. I've attended several writers' critique groups and found them invaluable. They will tell you where your stories need help.

Maybe I've just matured in my writing, but since I've owned a laptop, I've discovered I can write about as easily on the machine as I did with pen and paper.

M: Marketing for e-books is different than for paper books; how do you plan on marketing your e-books?

S: Since my books are e-books, I have to market on the Internet. I'm on several author sites, including Crimespace, MurderMustAdvertise, plus several others, and of course Facebook. Of course I have my website, as well as the weekly blog. I've also attended speaking engagements for local Rotary clubs, colleges, as well as an internet radio show discussing the paranormal. I hope to have an opportunity for further media interviews.

M: Do you know if there are any plans to bring either book out in trade paper?

S: I’m not going to criticize e-books because I think they’re the new wave and they have their advantages. They’re better for the publishers since they won’t have so much overhead. In a lot of cases they’ll be a little less costly for the consumer, plus, with the book readers, you can have hundreds of stories at your fingertips. However, I’m a little old school and there’s nothing like holding onto a book, smelling the pages and the ink. Although I haven’t heard anything about printing any of my books, I hope to someday have one. Maybe if I sell enough e-books? Lol.

M: What upcoming projects do you have on the drawing board?

S: I'm working on the rewrite of the next Mallory Petersen story, Alpha, and plotting the third. I’m also working on the next two Reznik/Campisi sequels.

M: Do you have any hobbies other than writing?

S: As mentioned, I'm heavily involved with taekwondo, attending a few tournaments per year. I've also dabbled in some graphic design projects from time to time.

M: And if someone wants to contact you, how can they do so?

S: My e-mail is:

M: Thank you, and good luck with the books.

Stephen’s books will be available at the Echelon Press website.

February 16 update: Night Shadows is now available for download from the OmniLit website.

Monday, February 7, 2011

First Monday With Robyn: Ebook convenience

Convenience, Convenience, Convenience

By Robyn Gioia

Newsflash: Amazon reports selling more eBooks than paperbacks [article].

My hands-on experience with eBooks has skyrocketed since writing last month. And that’s because I received a Kindle for Christmas. Seems my husband was eavesdropping on some of my conversations with my writer friends because I don’t remember discussing eBooks with him. I’m glad he did.

As you probably know already, Kindle is Amazon’s eBook reader. The major bookstores have split up into different groups when it comes to eBook readers. The Nook belongs to Barnes and Noble, and Borders is featuring several readers such as Kobo, Velocity Micro Cruz, and Sony. And that’s important to know, because they are not the same.

For instance, my Kindle can not download eBooks from the library. Since libraries have embraced the digital age and are loaning out a bigger and bigger selection of eBooks all the time, that’s an important thing to know. Seems that Nooks and Sonys are library compatible, but Amazon has not given the libraries permission to make their eBooks available to Kindles yet. A librarian friend said Amazon will send you a patch that allows you to download library loans, but only if you request it. To be fair, there is a link [here] where people loan and borrow Kindle ebooks.  I have not ventured into these areas yet, but I will let you know when I do.

I started a series called The Alchemyst by Michael Scott with my students. We all read book one. I, like many of my students, wanted to continue on in the series. I checked the price of book two on my Kindle. Its live bookstore link takes you right into the cyber store where a book can be downloaded within moments. By the end of the week, I had purchased and read book three and four, too. The reader’s convenience was evident. No driving to the bookstore, or the library, where it might have been checked out. In fact, there was no waiting at all. When I turned the page from book three to book four, I didn’t even get up off the couch. And Amazon has kindly offered to cyber zing book five to my Kindle the second the download is hot off the press. Or should I say hot off the wire.

But that also means I don’t have a paperback to share with friends. I, like many authors, am a collector of books. I LOVE my books. I loan them out, discuss them with friends, sticky note special passages, flip through pages for quotes, and compare story lines. I revisit books that catch my eye, and admire the different styles of cover art. That is something the eBook reader won’t be doing anytime soon.

* * *

Robyn Gioia, teacher and children’s author. She is the author of America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, St. Augustine, FL, September 8, 1565. The book can be purchased here. You can visit her web site at:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Off to Love Is Murder with a surprise review

THIS WEEKEND IN (or near) Chicago about 250 mystery writers, fans, agents, and editors will meet for the annual Love Is Murder mystery conference at the Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois.  On tap are presentations in forensics, writing, marketing as well as plenty of time to mingle, socialize, and sign books.  This is my favorite conference and you might remember my interview with organizer Hanley Kanar just a few weeks ago.  And as I was getting ready to go, I was pleasantly surprised by a note I received.  It was the Clive (Iowa) Public Library’s monthly newsletter.  My attention was directed to the article on the Reader of the Month; take a look:
Thank you, Gigi – I’m busy at work on the next book in the series.