Archive | October 2014

Halloween Excerpt: All Hallow’s Mayhem

Happy Halloween and Reformation!

Trolls for Dust

Happy Halloween, TfD readers: One of my favorite episodes from Trolls for Dust, Season One, is Episode Five, All Hallow’s Mayhem.  Enjoy the free read. –Pixie 🙂

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Something was in the works at Vale TV Studios, particularly something with Trolls for Dust. Tippa wasn’t sure what it was, but she was determined to find out. She waved hello to Michael Abner, who sat outside eating a heaping bowl of oatmeal topped with raisins and almonds.

“Keeping up that fine physique, Ab?” Tippa called.

“It’s all for you, babe!” he shouted back. His expression then returned to the contemplative look that Michael had sported ever since coming back from the hospital.

Tippa avoided being seen by Sandra Vale and her new best friend, Jin Yang, both of whom were berating Harvey Candish for showing up late and being drunk. From…

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Haven, S5, The Old Switcheroo Pt. 2 and Nowhere Man


The Old Switcheroo Pt. 2

She’s back! Amusing episode ending with a great scene of Audrey being exorcised from Mara (or vice versa).  So, I was wrong in that they weren’t two people, they are, proving Nathan’s faith in true love.  Kudos also to Duke (in Nathan’s body) for thinking up the idea of using a Trouble to force Audrey out of Mara.

Great acting in this episode, and I think now that the Scooby Gang is trying to figure out both weekly troubles and unpuzzle the greater arc over the trouble origins, Haven feels like, well, Haven, again.  The best parts of this ep were Mara now obviously pretending to be Audrey to manipulate Duke and Nathan in their switched bodies, and the end scene with the three of them.  Pretty compelling.  Also, the South Carolina Thinny thing is a freaky vacuum vortex!

Nowhere Man

Like Sherlock, LOST, and a few other shows, the writers don’t feel obligated to explain certain plot points, like how Audrey is now a separate person.  And that’s ok for now, but if the reason stays as being an unknown trouble it may hurt the impact of the show as a whole, for the show has always been about who or what exactly Audrey (and now Mara) is as well as why the Troubles exist.  Leaving an explanation for later, however,  keeps the momentum of the storyline going strong.

Nathan, dear Nathan, finally gets some lovely time with his one true and Duke has an interesting verbal sparring match with Mara.  Will there be a Duke/Mara relationship?  Could prove amusing, but perhaps too much fan service if the show goes that route.  And now Audrey is a separate person, yet no longer immune to the Troubles.  I think, though, that she will still be good at helping the Troubled despite that.

Trouble of the week: Awesome.  A Trouble that flips people to a ghost-like existence while leaving a burnt shadow figure on the floor.  And Nathan’s the one who gets ghosted!

The Guard: They seemed shoehorned in in far too many scenes.  In the earlier seasons, the Guard seemed relevant, but now I just don’t see the point of them other than to promote more Hollywood stereotypes that “hicks” often with Southern accents (never mind we’re supposed to be in Maine, here) are easily-led goons who stick with their traditions or marching orders no matter what.  Duke’s addressing Guard members in a mocking Southern accent both mocks these members and pokes fun at the show itself for portraying these people as hillbilly types.  The writers are possibly acknowledging that for now Haven needs a villain, and the Guard works in that capacity.  Mara’s evildoing ability is currently put on hold as she is prisoner on Duke’s boat.

Speaking of Duke, he seems more like S1-S3 Duke, though I can’t put my finger on why.  Maybe its his drinking of hard liquor and threats of violence towards Mara.  Plus, a gun just looks so right in his hands.

Nathan gets his own screen time and scenes that are not so Audrey-focused in what seem like forever.  In them, he shines!  He, too, is born to figure out Troubles.

Audrey:  Yes, she’s back, but she’s nowhere near her old self.  She appears weak compared with Mara, but then it’s supposed to be that way.  She’ll find her way.

Trouble of the week, dos:  It is not the Trouble of the week, but  of the fortnight (for you Austen lovers.)  I’m thinking this Trouble is photography-based, and figuring that, it’s pretty obvious who’s behind it.  Dun, dun, dun!

Book Review: Escape from Camp 14

Escape from Camp 14Escape from Camp 14 is one of those true stories that makes one question oneself.  Shin Dong-Hyuk, the titled escapee, is from the beginning presented as an unreliable narrator.  The author, Blaine Harden, is a journalist attempting to set the record straight on what actually happened in Shin’s life, as Shin has changed his story from the first time Harden wrote about him.

If we’re used to reading fiction, we as readers don’t often fully considered unreliable narrators.  If we’re citizens of affluent countries reading about hardships in other countries our expectations tend to be a desire for some kind of cathartic experience.  This is reflected in many of the reviews of the book both on Amazon and Goodreads where readers express their frustration that they did not have an emotional connection with the main character.  This is said to be Harden and also Shin’s fault, but I pose the possibility that this has nothing to do with them, but our expectations as readers.  Why do we desire a cathartic experience from Shin’s story?  Does he owe us this for some reason?  Will we have our experience and then go on and take down the North Korean government?  Will we throw money at the problem and hope it goes away?  These questions are not to blame readers, but to probe our expectations.  Yes, Shin is an unreliable narrator.  He’s human and just as sinful as both us and his oppressors.  Sometimes we forget that like any human being, victims sometimes lie, are sometimes selfish, and often don’t fit into whatever box in our mind that we’ve created for them.

Shin is a victim because he was raised in the camps, but he’s also not a victim, he’s a survivor.  He feels guilt for what he did in the camps, but all of his betrayals, right or not, helped him to survive.  He’s still trying to survive in a world where he’s expected to behave like someone who grew up in freedom.  He’s expected to be honest, but was never raised to be honest.  Yes, his lying is irritating, but does it really lessen his story?  It’s obvious he went through trauma of some kind, and I think it’s kind of morbid on our part to want the victim to recount their awful experiences in gory detail just so we can have an emotional connection.  These people are plagued by guilt and continual nightmares and we want catharsis for ourselves, just because we want to be entertained.  I ask again, does an emotional response mean we are actually going to do something about the problem, or will we think on it a day or two and move on with our lives?  This isn’t, again, to criticize, this is to be realistic.  Stories of this kind are important to be told, but for most it’s one book in a long line of books that we read in our lifetime.  So our expectations should perhaps be more reasonable.  The truth isn’t easy to come by.  It wasn’t during WWII with the Nazi camps, and it isn’t now.  Shin’s story is his story and if we learn something from it (even if the details aren’t exactly perfect), that’s not a bad thing, and in the end, he doesn’t owe us a thing.  We can criticize his way of thinking and his actions, but that’s not going to change his actions or his way of thinking.  He’s a flawed human being, just like we are.  And just like us, he knows his faults and is trying to remedy them.

Speaking of criticism, I found the paragraphs discussing the callousness of South Korea’s response to the atrocities of the North as the pot calling the kettle black.  South Korea and the United States are both driven by work, success, and the like.  We like working, want to succeed, and have done so many times over, often to the peril of personal relationships and human kindness.  This, however, does not make Capitalism, competition, making money, or the drive to succeed bad in and of themselves.  To try to succeed in life is honorable, to make something of ourselves is also honorable.  To step on others to get there, not so much, but this is something we have in common with Shin.  It’s not always an easy choice.  Our advantages often come on the backs of other’s disadvantages.  If our ally got to the barbed wire first, suffered and died because of it, is it right for us to climb over his dead body to escape?  If we survive, we feel guilty; if we succeed we also feel guilty.  We are so lost to the truth, that we can’t even be sure if our guilt is justified.  We feel guilty about feeling guilty.  Is forgiveness even possible?

As a Christian, I believe it is through our Savior Jesus, who died that we might live, who took all that pain, guilt, and pseudo guilt on himself, so we could wear robes of holiness in the eyes of God, and be saved.  It’s easy to criticize people, societies, and countries for doing nothing about atrocities, but what honestly could we do that’s ever enough?  Could tons of money solve the problem of North Korea?  Could an invasion or a takeover?  We could maybe end the camps, but can we stop the thinking that leads to the camps?  WWII ended Hitler, but it didn’t end the thinking and ideas that made his takeover possible in the first place.

These questions also pale in comparison to a more immediate problem: Claiming to care these days is considered to be moral high ground.  The southern border problems of the U.S. are case in point.  So many people claimed to care about the thousands of children coming across our border this year, but their caring (including mine) stopped at actually addressing not only the problem, but also the concerns of citizens in allowing so many to cross our border at one time and stay indefinitely.  The people with concerns got criticized harshly while those who “cared” got to act holier than thou by proclaiming how much they cared on social media.  And now that crisis has been overtaken by the latest fear of Ebola in which the same puppetry plays out.  This claiming to care, this need for catharsis from others’ sufferings, are just that old selfish human nature coming to raise his ugly head.  If we claim to care, we can feel good about ourselves, even if we will not or cannot do anything about the problem.  Same with an emotional response.  If we have the right emotional response to an atrocity, well, we must be good people even if our very next act is to go about our daily lives as if that catharsis never happened.  We snottily tell others what they should pay for, all without ever planning to give a penny of our own income.  The petty tyranny of “good intentions” is alive and well today as it always has been.

Petty tyrannies are only part of the real threat to freedom: actual Tyranny.  Put the blame where it belongs, on the North Korean officials who perpetuate this awful system of oppression and fear.  Is “the system” really an excuse for the evil men do?  Did all of the people have go along with the Nazis and their concentration camps?  They could have rebelled (some did) at the cost to their own lives.  It’s never an easy choice to do the right thing, and sometimes we aren’t even sure what the right thing is, but putting the blame on those who live in freedom is faulty at best.  The free people are criticized severely no matter which choice they make, to help or not.  Our cry of compassion should not be for others to give what they have, but for us to give what we have, for us to be the change we want to see in the world.  Even Shin, who was not taught honesty, knows this.  It’s why he struggles with nightmares and guilt, and is frustrated by those well-intentioned people who think they know exactly what he should do with his life.  It is so very easy to spend other’s time and money, to tell others what they should care about, who they should help, and to dismiss their fears.  How much harder it is for we as individuals to put our own time, money, and effort on the line!  To put our own skin in the game and struggle with the problems that can come with (fore example) a mass migration no matter the reason.  Skin in the game is why, despite its flaws Capitalism and competition are superior to both Socialism and Communism.

Even today, too many young people are still taught that Socialism and Communism are good things.  They are taught that the evilness of human nature only comes out in Capitalism, consumerism and competition.  They are taught to look at those who own businesses and make money as evil.  The young are taught this in free societies thriving on competition and Capitalism, in places where they themselves have little to no threat of the tyranny and death toll that both Socialism and Communism bring.  They are taught that those who invest should reap the same reward as the employee who is flipping hamburgers, despite the fact that the investors may have put days or years of more time into their work efforts, and also a lot more money.  Are burger flippers really in the same situation as Shin in Camp 14?  Do they honestly have no other choice but to be burger flippers?  If they “escape” the burger flipping by working harder, taking the risk to move up in management, or paying for more education, should they be chastised?  Are they climbing over their colleagues’ dead bodies to get through the electric, barbed fence?  Greed is a sin, yes, but envy is too, and “Workers of the World Unite!” is the cry of both the greedy and the envious without at least the virtue of hard work to temper it.  It is a cry that falls prey, time and again, to the tyrants of this world – and there are many.  Self-sufficiency (as apart from government) is the best way of keeping tyrants at bay.  Human nature is selfish, and those that promise a new system where everyone is “equal” or forced into equal outcomes in life, is only a cover for those tyrants who wish to have more of the proverbial pie than most.

Socialism and Communism are most often idealized by the young, because they are childish notions with little understanding of how the world and selfish human nature work.  Capitalism and Republics, for all of their faults, are for adults, those who wish to make their own paths in life and who are willing to risk failure in order to succeed.  It’s hard to force people into freedom and self-sufficiency, because they are alien ways of thought in much of modern life.  We are inundated daily with the idea that governments hold the key to all happiness for society.  But how can this be when governments are run by flawed people who are at heart selfish, and who only want to stay elected, and keep their jobs, so they don’t have to invest in another career?  Time and again, we are shown just how greedy so many officials and politicians can be with money that they did not earn and that is in no way their own, and yet we still believe the Communism/Socialism/Nazism/Totalitarian fairy tale.  True, having too much can corrupt, but so can having too little.  Envy is a different beast than greed, hiding in the deep recesses of our hearts, it gnaws away at us, a green monster to which an honest and open greed pales in comparison.  Shin is actually pretty honest in what he wants: a full belly.  He wants to eat, and eat well, and he is doing what he can to ensure that happens.  And he is also at least striving to tell his story and in some small way help those who are still prisoners of the country we call North Korea.  May God be with him in his continued struggles and help to find peace of mind and the forgiveness that all of us need so desperately.  And may God help us to put our expectations where they belong, on ourselves first and foremost, to be His hands, and His good in this world.

Haven, S5, Eps 4 & 5

(Spoilers ahoy!)

Ep. 4: Much Ado About Mara

Not a lot happened in this episode but a few parts were very good, especially Duke’s nonsense curse.  Delicious taco!!  Eric Balfour was so great at delivering the ridiculous lines, that half of the time, I belatedly realized he hadn’t said anything understandable.  I’m sure his costars were ready to burst with laughter by the time “cut” was called.  Also, Mara is really a great character.  She’s a mean girl, yet somehow likable…perhaps some inner Audrey peeking through?

We also get a hint of what kind of creature Mara actually is, someone so far above humans they are like insects to her.  I give Dwight/Sasquatch props for trying to get some information out of her.  Nathan is no use in this area, as he is only focused on getting Audrey back. Duke is just trying to deal with everything.

The last scene where Nathan, Duke, and Dwight try to bring Audrey out of Mara by treating her like Audrey is outstanding.  Emily Rose really shines and the humor is spot on.

Ep. 5: The Old Switcheroo

Body switching! This is a good “trouble,” especially for actors who like to have fun imitating their costars.  I thought that John Dunsworth (Dave) did an awesome job being his brother Vince.  The standout, however, was Lucas Bryant (Nathan) mimicking Duke’s mannerisms to a T.

As far as the long arc plot, we get more hints about Dave Teagues’ dubious origins that are connected both to the world Mara is from and/or the New England Roanoke legend.  North Carolina looks uncannily like Nova Scotia 😉 and we get another “Thinny” or door between worlds as a cliffhanger.

Nathan is still on his quest to draw Audrey out of Mara, or change Mara into Audrey or whatever.  He recruits Duke’s help and Duke discovers (dun, dun, dun!) Mara is pretending to be Audrey!  This presents the possibility that every time Audrey has appeared in S5, it has simply been Mara pretending to string the Havenites along, so we come back to the question: Does Audrey still exist?  I say, and I think Duke would agree, that Mara is Mara, and Audrey is Mara, and there has never been two separate entities.  There is only one woman.  She may have multiple personalities, but she’s still one woman. a woman who may have both the desire to give people “troubles” and to help cure them.  No real answers, yet, however, and I still miss Jennifer.  Duke needs another Jennifer.  And as much as I love the Nathan/Audrey love story, this “saving Audrey” thing is dragging the storyline a bit.  Nathan could use another love interest or just another focus for a couple of episodes.  Maybe a woman with long black hair?  That seems to be his type.  Or maybe he could just deal with this obsession off-screen for a bit?  Let Duke, Dwight, and Gloria handle a really whizbangwow Trouble until the writers are ready for the big Mara/Audrey reveal and we can get on with the big arc already!  Ok, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just annoying when plot points are prolonged or withheld because the story needs to be x number of episodes long, or x number of pages (I know, I do it myself in my own writing from time to time, roll my eyes, sigh heavily, and keep going with the story).  Filler episode, filler scenes, filler characters, these are the Troubles that plague storywriters.

Season 5 is good, yet I’m wanting more rewatchable moments and episodes.  Too much fill means too much going through the motions and who wants to rewatch that?  Seasons 1-4 all have a very rewatchable quality to them.  Again, S5 isn’t bad, it’s just having difficulty finding its footing, probably because of Mara/Audrey.  Audrey and her desire to help people is the glue that holds the series together.  So, as much as I love watching Mara, Haven needs Audrey back, and soon.

Post-Bookfair Thoughts


The Minneapolis Book Festival: What an awesome experience to be a part of!  Saturday at the MN Fairgrounds was a lot of fun.  I got to meet many fellow writers and especially fellow book readers.  Sometimes it feels like no one reads anymore, so it’s very heartening to have so many bibliophiles come together in one spot.  The pic above, isn’t the best of me, as I’ve been battling (with invisible antibiotic swords and bullets) under the weatherness for a week or so, and though on the road to recovery, it’s a slow road.  So, no, I have not been drained by a vampire, just was exhausted before the day began.  So, my interaction lacked a bit of pep, but I did sell a couple of books, and gave away a few postcards, stickers and chocolate coins.  Many people seemed fascinated that they still make chocolate coins.  They do, they do!  And the likeliest store to have them would be your local party supply store.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my table.  It was fun to meet you or just exchange smiles.  To those who entered the contest to win a t-shirt and book, in a day or so here I will be sending the winner an email with the link to pick out a t-shirt and more details.  So, if you get an email from, that would be me.

Upcoming posts:

Haven – I’ve caught up on a couple of great episodes I plan to review.

Five Fingers Kdrama – about prodigy pianist rival brothers! What’s not to love? My fingers have itched to tickle the ivories every episode I’ve watched thus far. (Currently streaming on Netflix).

The Blacklist – Also on Netflix, and one S1, but wow! What a show!

Escape from Camp 14 – Book retelling the true story of a young man who grew up in and escaped one of N. Korea’s worst prison camps.

The Feast and Ghosts in the Yew – Each book is the first in a high fantasy series by a couple of fellow authors at the book fair. It might be a few months before I get the books read and reviews out, but they were selling like hotcakes, so check them out if you like fantasy (links are embedded in the titles).  Also, they both had really cool Tolkien-like maps.

Ok, happy reading, everyone, and have a good week.

Back to Trolls for Dust, Season Two


Book Fair This Weekend!

Trolls for Dust


I’m getting pumped for the Minneapolis book fair this weekend!  If you’re in the area, make sure to check it out and stop by my table to say hi.  I will have a few books for sale at $10 (cash only)  each, some stickers and gold coin candy.  There will be plenty of other authors to meet as well, ranging from poets to historical writers, to graphic novelists.  Hope to see you there!  –Pixie

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