Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Halloween: The Diary of Judith Myers"--Coming Soon!


More non-"The Coming Evil" news today (Don't worry, I'm still working on it :p).

I've been sitting on this particular project for awhile because I've come to discover that, in the world of writing comic books, everything rests on a foundation of shifting sand. But, since there's the official announcement of it over on Comic Monsters, I thought it would be safe to spill the beans.

In the upcoming trade paperback collection of Devil Due's Publishing's release of "Halloween: The First Death of Laurie Strode"--written by Stef Hutchinson with art by the amazing Jeff Zornow--I am writing a prose piece entitled "The Diary of Judith Myers". I actually wrote this a year or so ago, and it looks like it might finally be getting its due (no pun intended).

Who is Judith Myers, you ask? For those of you uninitiated in the world of John Carpenter's original masterpiece "Halloween", Judith--or Judy--is Michael Myers' (that's the killer) big sister. She is, in fact, his very first victim. She plays a pivotal role in his life as a monster, but until now, her story has never been told (save for the opening scene of the first movie). Her life has been a blank slate, and it has been my honor to try to fill that.

The Diary is written from Judy's point of view, giving readers a sneak peak into Michael's childhood and home life. But, for those of you--like me--who believe that Michael Myers is the best when he's "The Shape"--a vessel of pure Evil with no motive for his madness--this Diary does not attempt to spell out why he kills. I'll leave that to Rob Zombie. I want to keep Michael mysterious, and, instead, shift the spotlight to poor Judy.

I'm really excited to hear people's reaction to the story. Like I said, Judy is a very integral part to the "Halloween" mythology--the event that begins Myers' reign of terror--but one that has been, so far, almost entirely ignored. Seeing how she is Michael's first victim, I went into the writing of this Diary as a sort of "Halloween 0"--a prequel and natural lead-in to the first film.

I'll keep everyone posted when it comes out.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm in "Supernatural"!



Well, sort of.

Let me explain. Anyone who knows me or "The Coming Evil" and my other work knows that I am a huge fan of monster hunters. I've gone on and on about how watching "The Monster Squad" every day for a summer when I was a wee, timid lad forever shaped my destiny. I love monsters--but more importantly, I love those brave souls who fight against the dark.

Naturally, when I heard about a show about two demon-hunting brothers on a road trip across "Backroads America" I was greatly intrigued. ...Then I found out said show was going to be on the teen-oriented WB and would be starring two "pretty boy" actors. I cringed. I was already coming down off my "Joss Whedon is a writing god" high and the thought of another cutesy tongue-in-cheek take on a subject matter that I hold very dearly made me want to hurl.

But, I watched that first episode of "Supernatural" and I was blown away. A) The pretty boys can act. Can REALLY act. B) The show is dark and horror based--not like I've seen since the glory days of "The X-Files". C) It's about monster hunters!! I was hooked from that point forward.

So, when I heard that the first tie-in novel "Nevermore" was coming out in 2007, I was first in line (only in line, I think) to get my copy on release day. It was a great read. The author--one Keith R.A. DeCandido--nailed the mythology and the voice of the characters and really showed that he knew this series. So, I felt so led to write him a long, gushy e-mail shouting my praise.

Turns out that letter was sent in good timing, for Mr. DeCandido was hard at work on his second "Supernatural" tie-in novel, "Bone Key". As soon as "Bone Key" was released last year, I was back in line (still the only one, I think) and cracked that puppy open. Then I get to Chapter Five on page 61 and my heart nearly stopped.

I read my own name.

Was it an amazing coincidence? I guess "Greg Mitchell" isn't really that uncommon a name. Or...did I dare to dream? Had Mr. DeCandido taken a name off a fanboy's e-mail and slapped it on to an original character in a "Supernatural" novel? I was floored with excitement, but tried to tell myself it was only a fluke.

However, since then, I've taken up the matter with the author, himself, and I am proud--and humbled at the same time--to say "Yes". I am a Supernatural character...albeit one who gets roughed-up by the ghost of Ernest Hemingway over a six-toed cat...but still!

Sure, none of this means a hill of beans to you people, but this was a small victory for me--a little kid who grew up loving monster hunters and now gets to be in a book about two very awesome monster hunters.

I'm writing all this to say A)Yay! B) Thank you, Mr. DeCandido and C) Watch "Supernatural". If the series mastermind Eric Kripke has his way--and I hope he does--, the story will finish next season. You've still got time to catch up on the DVDs and be a part of this amazing show.

That is all.

-Greg Mitchell

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Flowers for Shelly" is here!


Hey, all, I'm pleased to announce today that my zombie love story "Flowers for Shelly" is now available as part of the menu at "Coach's Midnight Diner: The Back From the Dead Edition". As their official site describes it, "Coach's Midnight Diner" is a "hardboiled anthology of horror, crime, detective, paranormal, and weird fiction with a Christian slant". I first heard of the Diner when their first anthology--the Jesus vs. Cthulhu Edition--was released. I thought "Hey, I've got to get in with these guys! This sounds awesome!" So, I'm very excited and honored to be a part of the Diner's latest offering.

"Flowers for Shelly" is the darkest thing I've ever written, but also one of the most personal things I've ever written--if not the most personal thing. It remains my wife's favorite of my work and I'm really pleased to see that it's finally being unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.

Coach has a special offer lined up for those of you who aren't quite sure what to make of the Diner and need a little sampling of the fine cuisine before placing your order. Available on their site, you can actually download the eBook, read a sample of the first two Editor's Choice pieces and then, if you like the book, you can opt to purchase the eBook and the rest of the anthology will be unlocked for your viewing horror.

I urge everybody to go out and buy a copy--not just to support my work, but also all the other Christian horror/weird fiction pioneers out there. This is an incredible opportunity to show the world that, just because we have "Christian" in the title, doesn't mean we're slouches when it comes to the gritty stuff.

Now, go! Hurry! Buy your copy today! Read "Flowers for Shelly"! Have your life forever changed!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"The Coming Evil: The Last Halloween" Part Two of Two

READ PART ONE

And now, the conclusion...



PART TWO

Halloween. Back then.

Their trick-or-treating done, eight-year-old Dras and Rosalyn hopped into the back of the Chevette. Rosalyn’s dad turned the radio to KDZY and tuned in to the special Halloween broadcast that played “Monster Mash” on a nearly endless loop, broken up only occasionally by “Werewolves of London” or “Nightmare on My Street”.

And, as usual, Rosalyn’s dad began to sing along with Bobby “Boris” Picket in his best—though undeniably terrible—Bela Lugosi voice. He gestured with his hands and pretended he had a cape, singing proudly.

“Your dad’s so cool,” Dras whispered in total awe, knowing he’d never see Jack Weldon indulging in such frivolity.

Rosalyn hid her face. “Daaad.”

Her dad leaned into the backseat, tickling Rosalyn’s side. “I vant to dlink your blood!”

She laughed hard and slapped at him playfully. “Stop it! You’re such a big dork!”

#

Fourteen years later, the laughter from that night still rang through her memories.

Rosalyn and Dras drove in silence. Seeing the Chevette again reminded Rosalyn of all the things in Greensboro she sought to escape. Pain. Death. Yes, there were good times, most of them spent with the “Weird Avenger” seated beside her, but…were they enough to keep her here?

Finally Rosalyn ventured, feeling nauseous, “I think I’m ready to go home.”

Dras balked at her, “We were just getting started.”

“Dras,” she said flatly, cutting through his boyhood theatrics. “I…”

He grew dark and the joyous mask that seemed fixed to his face slipped to reveal the man Rosalyn knew he could be if he’d just let it happen. “It’s the Chevette. Isn’t it?” he asked quietly, thoughtfully. “Thinking about your dad?”

Dad…

The word brought so many images to Rosalyn’s mind. Her dad playing guitar on the back porch, practicing for a gig with one of his bands. He frequented bars, fairs, and Main Street Festivals, singing Bob Segar covers and strumming a few originals, as well. By day he was a factory worker, a drone enslaved to the system, but by night Rosalyn saw the magic come alive in his eyes. He told stories and played songs, and on Saturday afternoons he took her and Dras wherever they wanted to go in his sky blue Chevette.

Then one afternoon, ten years ago, he blew his head off with a shotgun. No note. No good-bye. No explanation. It was quite possibly the moment that defined her life the most. Over the years, it had become the chain that kept her tied to Greensboro.

What would her Dad think about her leaving town? Would he be happy for her? Or angry that she was running away from his memory?

“Yeah,” Rosalyn admitted. “I’m sorry.”

“Nah, it’s no big deal,” Dras replied, his voice warm and considerate. Suddenly he was a totally different person. “You don’t like Pod People anyway. But, you don’t have to be alone, you know? I mean, you shouldn’t be alone.”

But I am alone, she thought to say, but didn’t. She and Dras had been practically conjoined at the hip since birth, but when her daddy took his life, a wedge came between them, an unconquerable chasm that now grew ever larger. Dras stood on the side where youth and dreams lived, and Rosalyn where burdens and doubts dwelt. Dras believed in the magic of Halloween—of escapism and fantasy. Rosalyn hadn’t believed in much of anything since she was twelve. She thought, on occasion, to probe Dras further regarding God, faith, and the afterlife. After all, his dad was a preacher and Dras went to church all the time, albeit late. But this was Dras. The deepest thought he had was probably who would win in a fight between Darth Vader and Optimus Prime. Once after her father’s death, Rosalyn tried to believe in something beyond death. That same year she took a trip to the North Woods in search of her father’s ghost. She was just a kid, and it was a stupid delusion.

But tonight, seeing her father’s Chevette after all these years made her wonder.

What if Dad really is still out there, somewhere?

#

Rosalyn dropped Dras off at his apartment, and headed home. Sullenly, she parked the car on the curb and walked toward the front doors of her apartment building, jangling her keys, envious of the kids that ran by her, shouting and crowing into the night air.

Was I young like that?
Yes, she had the memories to prove it. I wish I could be again.

Behind her, an echo from the past—the sound of bubbling potions—grew steadily louder.

It was the opening of “Monster Mash”.

The deep bass thrummed, echoing in the night, creeping on her back. She heard the familiar roar of an engine as bright light splashed against her, casting an elongated Rosalyn-shaped shadow in front of her. Like a sentry, the shadow stared her down, barring her passage home, commanding that she turn and face what she feared most.

She swiveled reluctantly, fixed to Fate’s design.

Sure enough. The Chevette.

Rosalyn held up a hand to shield the headlights’ beam, struggling to see inside the vehicle. The driver remained anonymous, only a dark shape, his glowing eyes boring straight through her heart.

“Who—who—?”

The engine stopped. The car rumbled to a hungry purr before dying out altogether, but the bright lights held Rosalyn in their sway. Ever so slowly, the sky blue door creaked and groaned open and a tall, lanky shape shambled forth.

Dras’ words shook her: Here we are, on Halloween night—the night when anything is possible…

“Dad?” Rosalyn whispered, her throat catching.

“Rosalyn?” the shape asked, one trembling arthritic hand raised to grab her. To keep her in Greensboro.

No. God, no.

Adrenaline burst through her veins like hot mercury, igniting her instincts. She turned around, breaking free of the headlights and their sticky luminescence and raced for the door to her building. Rosalyn tore through the door, knowing she had no time to lock it. The thing that was not—could not be—her father would be right behind her.

Instead, she clambered up the steps, two at a time, holding in a terrified shriek as she hurriedly unlocked the door to her apartment. With all her weight, she barreled into the dark room and slammed the door shut behind her, catching just a glimpse of the shadowed, lilting figure hobbling for her door.

“No!” she screamed. “Stay away!”

Dumb hands banged against the door and frame, and Rosalyn pressed herself against the wood, near tears. “Please… Just go away…”

“Rosalyn…” the thing on her doorstep moaned. It was the sound of graves opening and dead fathers returning for their daughters.

Here we are, on Halloween night—the night when anything is possible…

No, Daddy! No…I’m sorry for wanting to leave! I’m sorry! Don’t be mad, Daddy!


“Rosalyn Myers,” the voice said more clearly. “Are you Rosalyn Myers?”

Rosalyn’s heart fell into a steady boom-boom-boom as tense seconds passed. “Who are you?”

“I have something for you,” the man on the other side of the door answered. He sounded strong, though elderly. And a bit annoyed. “If you’re not too busy, that is.”

Suddenly feeling very embarrassed, yet still apprehensive, Rosalyn cracked open the door. “Who—?”

An unfamiliar man with insanely bushy eyebrows and a definitive limp barked, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare ya.”

“What do you want?” she pressed.

“Paul Myers your daddy?”

She swallowed, her heart slowing. “Uh…yeah. He is. Was.”

“That car out there—that his?”

“It used to be,” Rosalyn said, her brow furrowing. “I think.”

“Yeah, I met your pop a time or two. He was real good with a guitar.”

Dumbfounded, Rosalyn replied, “Thanks.”

“I just bought that car today. Was digging through the glovebox and came across something. I recognized him. Thought the other’n might be you.” With swollen hands, the man reached out for the crevice in the door. He held a Polaroid.

Carefully, for she was not accustomed to taking things from strange men, Rosalyn took the photo and turned it over.

“Looked you up in the phone book,” the man continued. But Rosalyn could not hear him.

She broke down in tears.

#

“Well, how’d you do tonight, pumpkin?”

Eight-year-old Rosalyn Myers finished watching Dras scurry up to his house, where his mother stood on the front porch, shaking her head with a sort of resigned indignation at his Halloween enjoyment. Rosalyn allowed herself a giggle before turning to her dad seated in the driver’s seat.

“Pretty good, actually.”

“Have fun, then?” her father asked brightly.

“Yeah.”

“I love Halloween,” he said, looking at the show that unfolded before him on the streets. His eyes happily glazed over. “Always a lot of fun. Life should be fun sometimes, too. Not always work.”

He winked at Rosalyn, and she grinned.

“Oh!” he said, reaching for something in the backseat. “I almost forgot!”

“Daaad,” she whined, rolling her eyes, but still unable to remove the grin.

“It’s a tradition. You can’t expect me to abandon tradition, Roz.”

He brought out a Polaroid camera and squeezed close to his daughter. He held the camera at arms length, aiming it back at father and daughter. “Come on, now,” he grinned, “Time to take our picture so we can show Mom all the fun she’s missing. Say ‘cheese’!”

Rosalyn stretched her smile and said “Cheese” through strained teeth. Dad snapped the picture and Rosalyn deflated, putting on her best aggravated look, though its sincerity was questionable.

“There?” she asked. “You happy now?”

Her dad waited for the photo to eject and began to flap it, hoping to coax it into developing faster. “I am,” he said, matter-of-factly, determined not to be brought down by her sourpuss. Then he softened and faced his daughter. “I just wanted to tell you, you’re a great kid. I love coming out here with you. Thanks for letting your old man tag along.”

Rosalyn blushed and could not hide her smile. “No problem.”

“I hope I can always tag along with you.”

“Yeah,” Rosalyn sighed, feigning consideration. “If you promise not to be a skeeve.”

Skeeve? Where do you pick this stuff up?” her dad laughed, reaching over for a hug. “Come’ere.”

They hugged, he tickled, and she laughed.

She laughed…

#

Rosalyn sat alone in her darkened apartment. Halloween’s moonlight sprinkled through the window, illuminating the photograph in her hand. There she was. Eight years old and dressed like a witch, fake nose with a wart and everything.

There was her Dad.

She cried over the photo for hours. Pained tears at first. Then happy tears.

For so long she had feared leaving Greensboro, feeling as though doing so would betray her father’s memory, but now those shackles were loosened. Somehow she thought her dad would approve. At least, she wanted to believe he did. It seemed he’d sent her a message tonight, a happy memory in the midst of her confusion to let her know he was always here, tagging along with her, wherever she went.

Ten years ago, out in the North Woods, Rosalyn lost her faith. She went looking for her father but she couldn’t find him. But tonight, on Halloween, the night when anything was possible, here he was. Still dead, but never gone.

Maybe it was possible to believe again. If only for one night.

Somewhere, “Monster Mash” played in the night and Rosalyn smiled.

Copyright 2009 Greg Mitchell

Monday, April 6, 2009

"The Coming Evil: The Last Halloween" Part One of Two

Hey, all. Before you ask, yes I'm still working on getting the Expanded Edition of Book One out to you. And, yes, Book Two is actually finished and waiting for Book One to be picked up and re-released. So, yes, it's going to be a little bit longer. I hate it, too, but that's the writing business.

In the meantime, I've written another "The Coming Evil" short story. This one is entitled "The Last Halloween" and serves as a sort of spiritual successor to "Among the Dead". If you haven't read "Among the Dead", you can follow the links to your right or click right here and enjoy the audio production (It's quite nice). "The Last Halloween" is split into two parts. Tune back in tomorrow for the conclusion.

Hope you enjoy.



PART ONE

Historian’s Note: This tale begins the last Halloween before the events depicted in “The Coming Evil, Book One: The Strange Man”


“What are you supposed to be?”

Dras Weldon stared down at his costume—a mismatched ensemble consisting of a cheap cloak, some too-large workman’s gloves, a moth-eaten fedora perched atop his perpetually disheveled sandy blonde mop top, and a pair of very strange copper and leather goggles—and regarded his auburn-haired friend with sharp eyes. “Um…hello? The Weird Avenger?”

“Weird’s right.”

“It’s steampunk,” Dras defended.

“Mhm,” Rosalyn Myers agreed, chuckling at Dras’ expense, as she closed and locked her apartment door behind her. “Don’t you think you’re a little old for trick-or-treating?”

Dras huffed as the two twenty-somethings walked down the apartment building corridor, then downstairs and into the twilight street below. Rosalyn’s question was an all-too-familiar one, and Dras’ answer remained the same. “No,” he said flatly, a bit offended. “You’re never too old to enjoy Halloween.”

Rosalyn grinned absently, stopping on the sidewalk to unlock her car. She hopped into the driver’s seat, and Dras took his rightful place at her side, though had a spot of trouble gathering his costumed self into a bundled heap before he closed the door. His efforts proved unsuccessful, and a corner of his cloak got caught in the door and flapped in the October breeze when Rosalyn pulled away from the curb.

Inside the car, Dras bounced with childlike excitement, admiring the pumpkins and harvest time decorations that populated Greensboro. Cartoonish ghouls and black cats smiled back at him from crudely painted murals on storefront windows.

“Man! Look at that one!” Dras nearly bashed his face into the window when he spotted a colorful werewolf cutout standing behind the drugstore glass. “Coulda used more gore, though.”

Rosalyn sighed wistfully, allowing her best friend his fun, though she really wished that he’d abandon such adolescent pursuits. Halloween was fun—in small doses—but Dras would, no doubt, outdo it by dragging her to a number of costume parties, as well as the obligatory trip to Corner Video Store where he would rent Invasion of the Pod People, again. In vain she began to think of excuses to wiggle out of watching the silly sci-fi movie with him for the umpteenth time, but resigned herself to play along. She felt she owed it to Dras.

After all, this was their last Halloween together.

He didn’t know that, of course. He also didn’t know that she was beginning to fill out college applications with the hopes of finally leaving Greensboro behind and going to school somewhere across the country. A particularly picturesque campus in Vermont called to her these days, and the excitement of broadening her horizons—seeing what the world had to offer her—filled her with a sense of hope she had not felt in a long time.

But what would she tell Dras? When would she tell him?

And perhaps the scarier question: Could she really leave Greensboro and all its ghosts? Would the past really let her go?

Gazing out into the passing night, watching the carefree children in garish costumes that dotted the small town horizon, Rosalyn felt a tinge of sadness pinch her heart. The same sadness she always felt at Halloween time.

Then, as if Fate had conspired to twist the dagger of painful memories just a bit deeper, she saw a Chevette. The Chevette.

The last time she’d seen that 1983 sky blue Chevette…

It’s not the same car, is it?

“Rosalyn?”

Rosalyn gripped the steering wheel tighter, her dark eyed-gaze fixed to her left where the dingy ’83 Chevette sat parked at the used car lot, staring back at her.

Is that the same car?


“Yello? Not ready to die yet.”

A car honk slapped Rosalyn’s senses and she jerked the wheel, pulling the nose of her vehicle back into the proper lane. Dras sat erect in the passenger seat, looking a bit frazzled. “Keep it between the mayonnaise and the mustard, will ya?” When his sarcasm failed to elicit a response, Dras turned to Rosalyn, seeing her pale and stiff. “Hey, it wasn’t that close of a call. I’ve had worse.”

Rosalyn didn’t respond. Now he grew concerned.

“What’s wrong?”

“I thought I just saw my dad’s old car.”

#

Halloween. Back then.

Eight-year-old Rosalyn Myers and her best friend Dras Weldon—just her age, to the day—sat in the backseat of her dad’s 1983 sky blue Chevette, peering out at the decorated spectacle that was Greensboro’s Main Street. Everywhere they looked pint-sized goblins and machete-wielding maniacs, werewolves and ghouls met their wide, wonder-filled eyes. As the Chevette slowly crept by, Jack O’Lanterns smiled at them, beckoning the two friends closer to dimly lit porches and a trick or a treat beyond every front door.

As per the rules whenever they went trick-or-treating, Dras and Rosalyn were only allowed to haunt well-traveled, inviting neighborhoods. The Chevette pulled to the curb, the back doors popped open, and Dras and Rosalyn went shrieking out into the night, their cries of unbridled mirth mixing with the din of other excited trick-or-treaters. Rosalyn dressed as a witch that year, all black gown and pointy hat and a fake, warty green nose strapped to her face. Her mother had protested, of course.

Meredith Myers, a girlie girl if ever there was one, pleaded with her daughter to dress as something more ladylike and becoming—like a ballerina, princess, fairy, or cheerleader. Whether she was following her own tastes or doing her best to exasperate her mother, Rosalyn stuck to the witch’s costume all the same and loved every second of it.

“Hey!” her dad called warmly from the Chevette, pointing to something in the front seat beside him. “You forgot your broom!”

Rosalyn skidded to a stop, still clutching her plastic pumpkin basket, and looked back at her father, his ponytail lightly waving in the breeze, and a somewhat goofy smile lighting up his stubbly face. He looked almost as excited as the trick-or-treaters who passed to and fro between them on the sidewalk. Rosalyn hurried back to the car, popped the door open, and grabbed the broom she’d confiscated from her mother.

“Thanks, Dad,” she muttered, slightly embarrassed, but thankful for his good-natured assist.

Her dad winked, “Bring me back some Sugar Babies or something. I’m starving out here.” Rosalyn grinned and rushed back to Dras’ side.

Dras, meanwhile, watched the witch approach with shades of disappointment, and Rosalyn felt momentarily guilty for having such a great costume. That year for Halloween—as every year—Dras was going as an unassuming little boy whose parents wouldn’t buy him a costume. Dras’ father, Jack Weldon, was the most respected pastor in their small town of Greensboro, and there were those in his congregation who avoided Halloween altogether. Jack didn’t mind a little Halloween fun, but Dras’ mother refused to allow her son, who came from “a good Christian household”, to go out parading on “the Devil’s holiday”. So the Weldons compromised, with Jack adopting a strict “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy where Dras’ October 31st endeavors were concerned. Dras was allowed to go out on Halloween, but his mother was not going to buy him a costume or even a decorated bag to catch chocolate treats.

Thankfully, Rosalyn’s dad had procured for Dras a ghost bucket of his very own, for which the little boy was most grateful.

“Ready?” Rosalyn asked, catching up to Dras, their baskets already heavy with candy goodness.

I get to knock this time,” Dras declared.

Rosalyn rolled her eyes. “You knocked at the last house.”

“Did not!”

A sigh escaped Rosalyn, mature beyond her years. “You’re such a child.”

Dry autumn leaves swirled around their feet as the two friends scurried up porches, joining the ranks of their enthusiastic kin. Dras raced to the nearest two-story house and pounded hard, grinning ear to ear.

A short, heavily-made up platinum blonde woman answered, dressed professionally, as though she’d just come home from the office. “Well, hi there, Dras.”

“Hey, Miss Lidell!” Dras beamed, holding out the ghost bucket. “Trick or treat!”

Miss Lidell, despite the dull, tired shine in her eyes happily obliged, dumping a lion’s share of goodies into Dras’ bucket. Rosalyn immediately stepped in line to receive hers, and could not help but spot the pack of Sugar Babies lying in the heap of Miss Lidell’s Halloween stash. When Miss Lidell instead handed her a couple pieces of taffy, Rosalyn blurted out, “Oh! Can I have one of those, too?”

Rosalyn glanced toward the street, where her father smiled back through the rolled-down window of the Chevette.

“It’s for my dad.”

#

The ’83 Chevette remained in Rosalyn’s mind for the rest of the night. An ever-present intruder, it continued to stare at her from the used car lot in her mind no matter where Dras led her on his latest Halloween extravaganza.

She was only half-conscious of the here-and-now when Dras banged on a familiar door. A tired woman, now older, but still pleasant, emerged, expecting knee-high visitors.

“Hey, Miss Lidell!” Dras beamed, holding up a large sack, just begging to be filled by delicious sweets. “Trick or treat!”

Miss Lidell’s brows met in quizzical conference. “Dras, aren’t you a little old—” she hesitated and shouted over his shoulder to the plainclothes beauty on the sidewalk behind him. “Isn’t he a little old for trick-or-treating?”

Rosalyn shrugged indifferently, still thinking about the Chevette. In a moment Dras joined her at the yard’s edge, somewhat deflated. Rosalyn walked on pensively, Dras in tow, until his grumpiness finally demanded her attention.

“What’d she give you?”

Dras automatically reached into his bag, grabbed the offensive material, and held it before her, presenting his case. “Dental floss.”

Rosalyn perked up. “Ooh.”

Dras halted. “Ooh? Here we are, on Halloween night—the night when anything is possible—surrounded by magic and the very spirit of innocence! But it’s the dental floss that gets you excited?” The young man paused, letting the sad irony set in, then walked on, grumbling, “You’re sick. A sick heathen.”

Rosalyn did not titter or snicker or any of things she usually did when Dras made insane declarations. Instead, she remained broody and silent as they ventured the rest of the way to the video store.

Once inside, Dras yipped with joy, holding high the worn VHS copy of Invasion of the Pod People like King Arthur retrieving Excalibur. “Yes!!” Irritated patrons cut eyes his way, but Dras carried on obliviously, jogging up to where Rosalyn stood by the front window, nervously chewing her lip.

“Hey! I got it! No one checked it out yet!”

“Dras,” she began, barely audible, her mind distracted, “Look.”

Dras looked out the window, scanning the busy night. “Um…what?”

It sat parked across the street, in the grocery store’s parking lot. Facing her.

“That’s my dad’s Chevette.”

Dras lifted his steampunk goggles and squinted against the darkness. “Where?”

“I saw it earlier. Now it’s over there.” She inhaled slowly, cold air burning her lungs, as she spotted a dark shape sitting behind the wheel. Watching her. “I think it’s following me.”

READ PART TWO

Copyright 2009 Greg Mitchell

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Magic, Mensa and Mayhem" is here!


When I first started writing “The Coming Evil”, I felt like a freak, blending monsters with Biblical Christianity. When I joined the Lost Genre Guild, I met a whole mess of crazy writers trying to chart the same strange waters I was treading and I discovered I was not alone! One of the first people I noticed was Karina Fabian and her story DragonEye, PI, a story about a dragon private detective from another realm, working for God in the Mundane world. Now that’s weird. And in the best possible way. I’ve kept my eye on Vern the Dragon for awhile now and was among the excited when his first misadventure, "Magic, Mensa and Mayhem", was picked up by Swimming Kangaroo Press.

Now the book is here and to help celebrate the “lost genre” of Christian speculative fiction, I sat down with Karina Fabian to talk about Vern.

Greg: Alright, let’s start with the basics. Lay it on me. What’s the book about?


Karina: Here’s the blurb for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem: It should have been a cushy job: Vern, the dragon detective, and his partner, the mage Sister Grace, are given an all-expense paid trip to Florida to chaperone a group of Magicals at a Mensa convention. Then the pixies start pranking, the Valkyrie starts vamping and a dwarf goes to Billy Beaver’s Fantasyland 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 aren’t getting paid for.

…“Wisdom of the Ages, Knowledge of Eternity, and I end up a babysitter at the Smart Humans’ Convention.”--Vern

G: Tell me about Vern. How does a dragon become a private investigator in a cramped office in the “real” world?

K: First, in DragonEye, there are two universes: Faerie, the land of magic and legend, and Mundane, which is what you call the “real” world.

Vern is a dragon working off a geas (or spell/compulsion) put on him over eight centuries ago by the Faerie St. George. George removed all this dragon greatness--from size to fire--and told him he could earn it back by serving God and His Children (sentient beings) through the leadership of the Church. He’d done it all from Pope’s pet to scribe to fighting Quetzalcoatl for the souls of the Aztecs. He was taking a “sabbatical” with the Silent Brothers when a combination magical mishap and nuclear accident blew a hole between the two universes. For the first time, Vern felt Called to do something--go across the Gap.

Where he was unappreciated, thanks very much. While living in the garage at Little Flowers Parish and dealing with questions like “Is it housebroken?” and “Did it eat my cat?”, he helped solve a mystery involving an enchanted fruit and a murderous chili pepper field. He couldn’t exactly join the police force, so he hung up his shingle as a professional problem solver. DragonEye, PI: Wisdom of the Ages, Experience of Eternity. Treasures Found. Virginity Verified. Flights extra. Now he gets questions like “Can you find my cat?” and has saved the universe he has a code for such cases--STUC. He tries to charge extra, too. He seems to be getting back his dragoness at a faster rate here, too.

G: Despite the fact he’s a mighty 800-year-old dragon, Vern’s real strength seems to be Grace. What’s her story?

K: Vern’s not 800 years old. He’s not even 800,000 years old. Vern was created at the dawn of time. Thanks to the spell St. George cast on him, he can’t remember most of it, though. He has a fair idea of what he was, though, and what he will be again. Is it any wonder he’s cranky and a bit resentful?

Grace has been a calming influence on him. She helped him discover a sense of fun about his situation--which is ironic, because she’s not much of a comedienne herself. In fact, when they first met, she was as cranky and stressed as he was. More! She had come to the Mundane world to get treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (That story comes out as “Mishmash” in the anthology Tentacles later this year from Samsdot.)

Grace is a magical heavyweight, a nun in the Order of Our Lady of Miracles. She can handle both Holy and neutral magics, and is just a sweet lady besides. She accepts Vern’s dragon nature in a way people haven’t done in ages. Even little things like suggesting he eat on the floor instead of making him sit at the table like a human. She loves him to pieces and has given him a reason to really care about someone other than himself.

I didn’t plan Grace’s name, but it is appropriate.

G: Let’s go back to the beginning. From whence did this crazy story come? And why dragons?

K: I have to thank Michelle Acker and Kirk Dougal. They were looking for dragon stories for Firestorm of Dragons. I just really wanted in that anthology for some reason, so my husband Rob and I brainstormed for ways dragons had not been written. After an hour, we came up blank--it’s all been done!--so we went to go watch the comedy improv show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” with the kids. They had a film noir skit that had us rolling and I thought, “I can do that with a dragon!” Vern was born.

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem is thanks to Shirley Starke, editor of the Mensan newsletter, The Prairie Dawg. She helped me with a translation I needed for a DragonEye, PI story, “Amateurs,” and asked if she could print it in the newsletter. Since I had that one intended for an anthology, I said no, but I’d write one for her. We came up with a mystery happening at the Mensa World Gathering, and it took off! I’m still finishing that serial, BTW--it took a different turn from the book.

Incidentally, I am offering “Amateurs” free to anyone signing up at the DragonEye, PI website. Go to www.dragoneyepi.net and register, and I’ll tell you where to find it.

G: You’ve got a very real and “lived-in” mythology here. Was that something you were very conscious of—did you sit down and lay out the world in great detail—or has the world grown out of plot necessity? For instance, I know D.M. Cornish, who wrote Monster Blood Tattoo wrote, like, 30 notebooks or something on just the world of the Half-Continent alone long before he ever thought about writing the story, itself. That’s a lot of world building!

K: I probably should sit down and write out the history, but I’m a “pantster,” so I come up with things as I write. I usually have enough ideas and research to get me started, then catch the rest as I go along.

I love reading up on an old myth or legend then deciding how to twist it around. I like to twist clich├ęs to the shattering point.

Elves are a good example: Everybody likes to make them long-lived. Anybody ever think about what that means to their sense of time? Their patience? Their speech? My High Elves are long-lived, and so they are long-winded. As Vern says, it takes them half an hour to ask where the bathroom is. They love elaborate ritualistic speeches, have tongue-twisting names. (Which--if you take time to read them--tell you about the character’s personality. I made a glossary for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem.) They have schemes decades in the making. I knew this much before I started writing about Gozon and Galendor, who play a big role in MM&M. As I wrote them, they not only fleshed out the details, but also introduced me to a startling fact about how artificial flavorings affect Elvish time sense. Took me by surprise, but made for a better story--and gives me the seeds for a great Evil Overlord scheme for a later book.

What I have is a glossary of characters I’ve started and a file with the stories as they fit in a timeline. Ironically, that timeline baffled me for a year until I arranged it by the age of the Costa children. (They play a small but important role in most of the stories.)

G: What’s more fun for you as the creator of DragonEye? Creating the world or writing the characters and their particular story?

K: Characters. DragonEye, PI is full of great characters, and I love getting to know them. They often like to surprise me. Sometimes a minor character will take on his own life, and he’ll come back in a later story. Galendor and Galinda, for instance. I wrote the story of how they met in “DragonEye, PI,” (Firestorm of Dragons). I didn’t expect them to come back and be part of the mystery of Live and Let Fly. I really didn’t expect their marital problems, either. (Vern wasn’t thrilled about that, either. He’s not sure how he ended up being everyone’s guidance counselor in this case.)

Kent and Brunhilde make a brief comeback in the next novel, Live and Let Fly, and Kent gets to direct a play in the novel after that, GapMan!

Some of the characters have stories I only allude to in Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. I figure there are at least 10 cases in that book that I haven’t even written, but my characters know about them--sometimes more than I do.

G: One of the things that I admire the most about DragonEye, PI is how you’ve worked God and Christianity into your world in a very real and practical way. In most Christian fantasy, the trend seems to be to hide God in the subtext or disguise Him with metaphors, but you’ve got God and the Church and faith and prayer right there in the forefront, shaking it up with magical creatures. You’ve not shown any hesitation in talking about God and fire-breathing sarcastic dragon detectives in the same sentence with humor and truth. So, in a genre that makes a practice of talking about God without “talking about God”, why the decision to invite the True God—as Vern calls him—to be a major part of your story?


K: It’s just the way I think. Sorry--short answer for a long question, but that’s really the truth.

I will say this, though: a lot of the well-published books have God in the subtext or in metaphor because that’s the way to make it palatable--and thus publishable--with the large secular publishers. I hope someday to see DragonEye, PI, on the shelves of B&N, maybe even reprinted by a big publisher. However, I write these stories because they are in my head, and I love exploring how faith would develop in a universe where magic is a force like electricity.

When it comes right down to it, though--if you have a down-and-out dragon, you have to have a St. George. And if you have a saint, you need a Church.

G: Now be honest. How many “are you nuts?!” looks have you received over the years when you’ve told people what your story’s about? Any church ladies on your lawn with picket signs or do people seem open to a dragon detective working for God?

K: No church ladies on the lawn, but I did have one very sweet lady tell me that I was writing about Satan. I told her, “This isn’t the dragon from Revelation. He’s only got one head,” but somehow, that didn’t convince her. Since I don’t make any claims for DragonEye, PI being “Catholic fiction,” I don’t run into resistance or accusations of heresy or anything--from Catholics, anyway.

I do get a lot of confused looks, mostly of the “I don’t understand how your mind works, but it’s cool in its own…unique…way.” That’s OK. My husband has the same twisted style I do--he’s my first source for ideas when I get stuck--and we’ve got the kids trained.



G: What’s in store for Vern and Grace? Is there a focal point to your mythology—an “end goal”, so to say?—or is it more of a freewheeling case-by-case series? What’s your vision for DragonEye PI?

K: It started out free-wheeling, but with the novels, I started seeing a progression in a deep backstory. Satan’s army in Faerie is looking to bring the battle to the Mundane world. So, while a lot of the stories and novels will be light and funny--like Magic, Mensa and Mayhem--some will have very serious, darker aspects. They’ll always be fun, though. Vern has a very broad view of things which keeps him cynical but not gloomy, and funny things seem to keep happening to him.

However, I’ll write the stories as they grab my attention, so even though I have a vague overarching scheme, I don’t have a planned out course or a set goal. Unless it’s that Good conquers Evil.

G: I think you’ve really created a very well-rounded and iconic character in Vern—Grace, too. Have you considered opening up your sandbox, inviting other writers to come in and write their own misadventures with your characters? Or is Vern way too particular about who gets to chronicle his life?

K: There’s a spot on the DragonEye, PI website for fan fic--about Vern and Grace, dragons or St. George. Vern, of course, has the right to comment on or outright reject any stories submitted. Grace is a little concerned--she’s heard about “slash.” If she finds out people are writing slash about her, Vern, or any of the major characters, they may stop telling me stories. So please--if you want to write that…stuff…use someone else’s characters.

G: All right, last question. Make a monster boy proud and tell me straight: Will I ever get to see a pack of savage werewolves take on Vern? That might be the single coolest thing ever written.

K: Aargh! Don’t do that to me! Now you’ve got my imagination all fired up. (stomping on the flames.) Right now, I’m writing a science fiction novel, and I have plans for two more DragonEye, PI novels and two short stories--none of which, sadly, involve werewolves--but I will put it on the list.

Thanks, Karina, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. Now, everybody, rush out and order "Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem", will ya? Vern’s gotta eat. In the meantime, dig the trailer!