Thursday, 17 December 2020

Interview - Eleanor Harkstead and Catherine Curzon


 The Captain's Snowbound Christmas by Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead is out on general release next Tuesday, 22nd December, just in time for Christmas. Eleanor and Catherine have popped in today to give us this interview on their writing together.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and your book. 

We’re Eleanor Harkstead and Catherine Curzon. Our Christmas m/m romcom The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is released on 22nd December!

Will Reuben be unwrapping a captain this Christmas?

Reuben’s a makeup artist who’s much in demand in the business, from making the beautiful even more gorgeous to creating an alluring love-scene glow. All of his Christmas wishes come true at once when he’s hired to work on the set of his favourite TV show. And not only that but on the swoony Christopher Manners.

Bunny is lusted after by millions as the brooding hero of television’s Captain Firth adventures. His manly swash and handsome buckle have earned him a legion of fans, and when he strides onto the screen and commands, “Draw your sword, sir,” it’s time to get down to business.

When Reuben and Bunny’s first date turns into a disaster, it looks as though the show’s over before it’s begun, but a blizzard, a mysterious bearded man in a red coat and a hot winter night combine to give them a second chance.

The Questions

1.    Are you a pantster or a plotter?

EH: We both get together to write a plot before we start. Writing together means that pantsing just wouldn’t work! That said, we sometimes don’t know how a character will get out of a particular situation until we get there. We listen to the characters and they tell us what they’re going to do. Or they just do it and it comes as a pleasant surprise!

2.    Where do you get your inspiration?

EH: The inspiration for the story came partly from Catherine and I talking about what make-up artists do on set, and how they use a mixture of water and baby oil to give actors a post-coital gleam! And that conversation set us off, and The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is the result.

3. Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing?

EH: Before we start writing, we’ll bat ideas back and forth, which usually starts with a character and a scenario or environment. Then we start to get into a position where we can write down a plot. In this process, we’ll share photos of people who might resemble the characters, their clothes and accessories, the houses they live in, the buildings they work in, the cars they drive, that sort of thing.

It helps us individually to do that sort of research (I know lots of solo-writing authors who do, even using a model from a catalogue as a heroine!), but of course as we’re writing together, it’s important to share these things so we can “see” what each other is seeing.

4. What is the significance of the title?

EH: The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is linked to our Captivating Captains series. Our first jointly-written novel was The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, and when we thought about it, we realised there was potential to have all sorts of captains! Army captains, cricket captains, ship’s captains, pilots...


5. What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

EH: The biggest challenge with writing a Christmas story is that they’re generally not written at Christmastime. We wrote The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas in early September 2019! I know people who’ve written Christmas stories who’ve played Christmas music in the background to help them get into the zone.

But I found that once we were into the story, and describing the December chill, and the decorations, and people asking each other what they were doing for Christmas, it was actually really easy to forget it was September. In fact, I was surprised when I looked out of the window and saw bright sunshine and realised there was no frost on the ground! And certainly no snow.

6. What are you reading now?

CC: The Commissar Vanishes, by David King. It’s an absolutely fascinating examination about the censorship of official photographs in Stalin’s Russia, to remove those who had been deemed “undesirable”. I have a lifelong fascination with the politics of the World Wars and the Cold War, and this book is a richly-illustrated look into one of the most audacious and extreme examples of propaganda. 

EH: I’m currently reading - and enjoying - Kate Johnson’s cosy mystery Death Comes to Cornwall. The action partly happens on the set of a TV programme, so it dovetails quite nicely with The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas!

7. What was your favourite book when you were little?

CC: The Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton. Today they evoke memories of the happiest parts of my childhood, and the joy of losing myself in a fantastical story.

EH: Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch stories. I started to read them just as I moved to a new school, so I could really identify with the hapless Mildred Hubble. And I had a tabby cat as well!

8. What do you do to relax?

CC: I’m an aviation nut, and can often be found sitting beside runways with a megazoom camera and an airband radio, snapping photos and listening in to the flight deck. My dad built planes for Lockheed many, many years ago, and we spent a lot of time at airshows and runways when I was a little girl. Today, I keep up the family tradition!

EH: Every so often I get really into knitting. Back in the spring, I was knitting ear-savers for NHS and care workers, then when I found out I was going to be an auntie again, I switched gears and knitted lots of little bears as well. And I really enjoy family history and transcribing old documents. I love the extraordinary stories that can pop up in them - ordinary people don’t always lead ordinary lives!

9. If you could live anywhere where would it be?

CC: By the sea, and I’m determined to one day do so!

10. And lastly, what superpower would you have given the chance?

CC: Invisibility, because I’m super nosy!

Author bios:

 Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead began writing together in the spring of 2017 and swiftly discovered a shared love of sauce, well-dressed gents and a uniquely British sort of romance. They drink gallons of tea, spend hours discussing the importance of good tailoring and are never at a loss for a double entendre.

They are the authors of numerous short stories and two novel series, the de Chastelaine Chronicles, and the Captivating Captains, published by Totally Bound and Pride. Their novel The Ghost Garden was shortlisted for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards.

 The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is published on 22nd December 2020 by Pride. Available in ebook.

Book Buying Links

 Universal Amazon link

Pride Publishing

Author Links

Find out more at website

Follow Catherine at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bookbub

Follow Eleanor at: Facebook, Twitter , Instagram, Bookbub

Sign up to our newsletter and receive our free, exclusive short story “Brighton Beaux”. 

Excerpt:

Reuben couldn’t believe his luck. Makeup on the filming of one of his favourite shows. As he found a spot in the studio car park, he felt as if he’d stormed the barricades and at any moment someone would arrive and try to throw him out. And Reuben would say, “Go and have a word with Amy, she’s hired me for the day.”

Reuben had loved Captain Firth since the first series had been shown on television. What wasn’t to love about the flamboyant show full of men in tight breeches and flowing shirts? And the saturnine and sexy-as-hell captain?

Maybe I’ll get to meet him. Maybe I’ll get to say “Draw your sword, sir!” to the man himself.

As a makeup artist, Reuben had met a huge number of actors and celebrities. It was both a perk and a downside of the job—some of the people he’d met couldn’t have been nicer, and some couldn’t have been more nightmarish if they’d tried. Reuben had never been particularly starstruck, but he feared he might be if he actually met Christopher Manners, the man who played the captain.

Once he’d found a spot for his Renault, Reuben tightened his scarf round his neck and headed off into the studio. He’d probably spend the day applying mascara to a chimney sweep’s face or brushing rouge onto a kitchen maid’s cheeks, but when he saw the wall behind the reception desk covered by a huge Captain Firth poster, his heart leapt with excitement.

Christopher Manners, you smouldering bastard.

“Reuben!” Amy appeared from a closed door before he had a chance to approach the receptionist. “You’re a lifesaver! Carrie’s gone into labour and we’ve got literally one day left before we wrap. Reshoots, you know… I’ll tell you on the way. We’ll go straight down. It’s a closed set.”

Reuben nodded. “Hope Carrie’s okay! Closed set, eh? This should be interesting!”

He was probably going to be stood in a room with the coachman boffing the brigadier’s wife, but it paid a wage, so Reuben didn’t care. Besides, he’d been told before on closed sets that he was a joy to work with during intimate scenes, so he would be in his element.

“I’m going to let you look after Bunny,” Amy said as they strode along a grey corridor. It was funny to think that somewhere in this labyrinth, the Napoleonic Wars were being fought by the swoonsome Captain Firth.

Bunny?

“Okay,” Reuben said, trying to mask his disappointment. Definitely one of the less-well-known cast members, then. No naked, lustful Christopher Manners for him.

“Bunny’s a complete peach.” She pushed open another door, dodging past two fully equipped astronauts as she strode on. “But everything that could go wrong this morning has. It’s all a tad tense for our Regency spies today!”

“I’ve got my kit, don’t worry!” Reuben assured her. “And I’m an old hand at love scenes, you know that.”

“Brilliant.” Amy grinned. “Because once we get today wrapped, I can start my proper Chrimble!”

They paused outside another door that Reuben knew would take him into makeup. He was no stranger to the setup at the studio, after all. Amy opened the door a little and peered in, then told Reuben, “Come on in, everyone’s mostly decent!”

Reuben strolled in, nonchalant as he swung his toolbox of makeup. Until he clocked who was standing by the mirrors wearing only his breeches.

His very tight breeches.

Oh fucking hell, no way! Christopher Manners!

“Erm…nice to meet you,” Reuben said. Nice being the understatement of the century.

Christopher turned and raised his teacup to Reuben in greeting. “Hello!” he said as a man knelt before him, face to face with the breeches. For a moment Reuben wondered what was going on, then the man began tussling with the buckle of Christopher’s sword belt.

‘Draw your sword sir!’

Reuben was so tempted to say it. The words were burning his tongue. But he didn’t dare. Here he was, in the flesh. Captain Firth. His toned chest was even more impressive in reality. And those shoulders…that flop of dark-blond hair and…and…his blue eyes. Reuben tried to bring himself to his senses and said, “Just looking for Bunny?”

“You’ve found him!” Christopher Manners extended his arm over the armourer’s head towards Reuben. “Sorry, I’m trapped in my sword belt!”

Reuben wasn’t sure where to look. He glanced down at the armourer and all he could see was Christopher’s groin in the pale-coloured breeches. Then, when he glanced up, his gaze latched on to the man’s chest before moving up the column of his kissable neck and finally settling on his eyes. And even that seemed wrong, somehow.

“I’m Reuben. And you’re…you’re Bunny? You’re on the closed set?”

Merry Christmas, Reuben!

“I hope so, or my agent’s not doing her job!”

He seized Reuben’s hand and shook it as Amy said, “Bunny, I’m going to leave you in Reuben’s capable hands today. Linda’s a bit shy and I think she’d prefer a gal, so…you boys’ll be okay together, won’t you? We need Bunny to look nicely battle-worn and beddable, smouldering basically. Dust down on torso and shoulders, all that.”

Reuben blinked. Battle-worn and beddable? But wasn’t that one of the main reasons people watched Captain Firth? Well, one of the main reasons Reuben watched it, at least.

And Reuben would help to bring the magic alive.

“Okay, could you take a seat and I’ll…” Reuben turned to Amy. “So just torso, arms, shoulders, we’re keeping the breeches on?”

She nodded. “They’re due to come off round about lunchtime, but for now just torso.”

“Arse out before lunchtime,” Bunny lamented as the sword belt finally came free. “Thank God for that! Can’t do a love scene strapped into a sword belt.”

Reuben put his toolbox down on the worktop. He caught sight of his own reflection and saw his cheeks were pinker than usual.

I’m going to see Christopher Manners’ bum. I’m going to sponge it and brush it. Dear God, this is a beautiful day.

“Okay, we’ll deal with the bum when we come to it,” Reuben said. He selected some of his creams and powders and laid them out on the work surface. “Could you take a seat, Christo— Do I call you Bunny? Or Christopher?”

“If you’re powdering me from head to toe, we may as well go straight to Bunny,” he replied with a smile. “Skip the formalities?”

Straight to Bunny?

“Dare I ask why you’re called Bunny?” Reuben asked.

“Because I earned my Equity stripes playing the Easter bunny in a rather anarchic pantomime.” Bunny gave him a dazzling smile. “And now I brood manfully on Cornish cliffs for a living.”

Amy patted Reuben on his shoulder as though to say thanks for being a sport, then headed towards the door with the armourer in tow. As she reached the threshold she paused and turned.

“Reuben, I forgot to tell you to bring your baby oil. You’ll need it after lunch!” She shrugged. “I’ve got some in my kit, shout if you need it.”

Baby oil. On Captain Firth’s chest? I’ve been waiting for this moment forever.

Reuben had a quick rummage in his toolbox and held up the bottle. “Never fear, I come prepared!” He gave Bunny a wink. “Post-coital gleams are a speciality of mine.”

“I hope so.” Bunny settled into the chair, returning Reuben’s wink with one of his own. “Captain F’s known for his post-coital gleam!”

Reuben remembered one scene in particular where Captain Firth had lain naked on a bed, only a very small, convenient piece of sheet sparing his blushes. Reuben had always envied the makeup artist who’d worked that scene.

Reuben dabbed some foundation in different shades on the back of his hand, then took a sponge and tried them out on Bunny’s shoulder. Bloody hell, he’s toned. “Just finding your shade… So…I wasn’t expecting to be doing your make up today. Carrie’s having her baby, Amy was saying?”

“Isn’t it great news?” Bunny beamed. “Thanks for coming in at such late notice. You’ve really saved the day.”

“It’s no bother,” Reuben said. “I had a magazine shoot booked in for today with some politician bod, but it got pulled because of some Whitehall drama. I’d much rather be doing this!”

Reuben decided on the shade for Bunny’s chest, poured out the foundation on a palette and got to work with a large sponge. “Tell me if it’s too cold,” Reuben said, aware that Bunny’s nipples had pebbled. Nipples that he’d be stippling with rouge later.

It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.

“It’s fine.” Bunny took a sip of tea. He was cold, though, Reuben was sure, just too polite to say. “You haven’t worked on our show before, have you? I’d have remembered.”

Reuben smiled. He was glad that Bunny wasn’t one of those actors, the kind who saw everyone backstage, including any actor who had lower billing than them, as anonymous, entirely forgettable minions.

“No, I haven’t. But I love the show. It’s so exciting to be here. And it’s so exciting doing your makeup.” Reuben took a breath and the words of Captain Firth’s catchphrase rang loudly through his head, as intrusive as an insistent earworm. ‘Draw your sword, sir!’ He bit it off just before it erupted from his mouth. “Yeah, good ol’ Captain Firth…”

Bunny’s face was on a bus that went past Reuben’s shared south London flat every day, the features brooding and chiselled alongside the words, Draw Your Sword This Christmas. And like the rest of the country, Reuben would be glued to the screen at his family’s festive gathering.

 

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Cockles theory 15x18

        I have a theory, and I don't usually write about Cockles, but we know Jensen got someone to film the scene in 15x18 on his own phone. We know he and Misha talked about it a lot during the summer. What if Jensen replied me too, not for the scene, but for himself knowing it would be removed? 


I'll just leave that idea here for myself and anyone else who stumbles on it.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Supernatural - my review of the ending

It’s been nearly two weeks and I need to get these thoughts on paper, but it’s been a hell of a time. I should start by saying the finale was nothing like what I’d hoped for. Essentially, like many others, I wanted a happy ending with Sam and Eileen and Dean and Cas. If you’re interested in discovery my ending, you can read it here. 

https://archiveofourown.org/works/27686816

At the end of episode eighteen, I was sad but hopeful. Castiel had sacrificed himself once more fulfilling his offer to the Empty which he’d made to save Jack. This is what the three lead characters in Supernatural have always done, except this time there was a difference. This time, Castiel told his truth to the man he loves. In a speech that brought tears to my eyes, and to Dean’s, Castiel told Dean Winchester what a good man he is and how much Castiel had gained from simply knowing him. However, this time he added a sentence that changed everything for me.

At the start of the scene, once again Dean blames himself for not being able to stop Chuck, for not being with Sam and Jack, for the fact that Death will kill Castiel. He stands behind the chair he’s been held in at one time to begin with then moves in front of it, moves closer to Castiel, for what may be their last moments alive. At this point, Dean expects to die. Back to Castiel’s words.

We all know Castiel’s deal with the Empty. I’ve wondered what could give Castiel a moment of pure happiness since, and now we see it is a moment he chooses to himself. It is the moment he tells Dean how he truly feels about him. Yes, Castiel gets to choose the moment. Anyway, those words.

“The one thing I want is something I know I can’t have.”

When Castiel said those words gazing at Dean, my heart had no idea whether to jump for joy or cringe away in fear. Castiel wants Dean. In hindsight, this declaration reminds me of a scene from In and Out, a guilty pleasure of mine, in which Billy tells his soldier friend, played by Matt Dillon, that he loves him and Matt Dillon’s character goes through the many ways he could love him – a friend, a brother, a cousin, a penpal, but we know Billy means another way. Castiel wants Dean in that other way. He then goes on to tell Dean about himself to bolster him to the last. Castiel’s last words are of the admiration and love he feels for Dean Winchester. This culminates in a romantic declaration of love. Dean doesn’t reciprocate (except in Spanish). Cas is taken, along with Death, by the Empty, leaving Dean so distraught, he doesn’t answer the phone with Sam calling. Just remember, we the audience are told he loves Sam above all others. He knows Sam is in peril and yet, he doesn’t answer the phone because his angel is gone and Cas has just said, I love you. There is no one else in the room. This is not a collective, I love you. This is a declaration of love, need, want for Dean, and only Dean.

So, at last, the writers had gone there. They had allowed Cas to say those words to the man he loves. A male presenting character, although I don’t strictly think of Cas in those terms, had expressed a romantic love for another male character. Knowing how Supernatural works, and that Cas could return, I hoped the writers might continue to be brave and do something absolutely genre breaking. I hoped Cas could be Dean’s happy ever after. Oh boy, did the next two episodes kill that little flicker of hope. But not only did they do that, there was worse.

And so on to episode nineteen. When we left Dean, he was mourning Castiel’s disappearance with his head in his hands, ignoring what could be a cry for help from his brother. The episode opens by showing us that everyone is gone except for Sam, Jack, and Dean. Dean leaves the bunker and comes to them. We do not know how long this takes him. Dean is asked about Cas and with tears in his eyes explains what Cas has done. And that’s it. At no point from now on does he say to anyone what Cas told him. We are back to Dean taking the blame. He apologises to Jack. Okay, I will admit Dean saying nothing is in character, and then wasn’t the time for an outpouring of emotion. After this, we have another occasion where Dean says he will kill Sam, or Sam can kill him, or they can kill each other, if Chuck will bring everyone, but specifically Cas, back. Dean places great emphasis on Cas. And again that little flicker of hope that Cas might return burns more brightly. But no, Chuck refuses. This is Chuck’s end of story with the addition of Jack. This is the end Becky read. This is the end with no Cas. But as there are around seventy-five minutes left to the end of the show, we, the audience, know there must be more.

Dean does what Dean does - he gets drunk. Is this the only way he can sleep? I imagine so. Dean has used alcohol in this way before. This could have been the moment when Dean tells Sam what Castiel said to him – but no. Instead, Jack senses a presence which turns out to be a dog, something for Dean to love. Strange how Sam has been the one with the dog before, but now Dean holds onto this dog (because he can’t hold onto Cas?) until Chuck exerts his power again and takes the dog away. Dean knows Chuck can go on doing this for the rest of their lives. They still have no free will. If he can’t write Sam and Dean, Chuck can write everything else. But there is more. Jack takes them to a church. We get the third Winchester brother in the form of Michael. So all the angels aren’t gone. I wondered about heaven and hell at this stage. But Michael too fails to open God’s death book, and we are left with Sam and Dean and another of those opportunities for Dean to talk to Sam about what happened.

Dean’s phone rings. It says Cas. I wasn’t expecting this now. We hear Castiel’s voice for the last time saying he’s hurt. Dean races up the stairs but is greeted with Lucifer of all characters. I hated this. The show taunts Dean but also us. This is the last time we hear Cas’s voice, but it isn’t him. It’s another lie. Lucifer provides a new Death to open the book. So maybe Chuck can be killed after all. But Lucifer and Michael, still the brother’s vying for God’s love, follow Chuck. Michael kills Lucifer and what we don’t realise is, that for Jack, this is a Highlander moment. He absorbs Lucifer’s powers. We are led back to what looks like the place where Jack was born to see the spell. We don’t yet know this is all a trap for Michael, and for Chuck, so Jack can absorb all their power and become ‘the New God’. After achieving his aim, Jack returns everyone to the world. We aren’t yet sure who everyone is yet. And Jack promises everyone will get their answers. So will Sam? Will Dean? Is Eileen back? Is Cas back? Wouldn’t they both have asked Jack that at this point. Even if he enigmatically said the answers they need would come in time. This for me is another why did they do this moment. I wanted Jack to have a life with his fathers, not to have to be God. Perhaps it’s the atheist in me, but God could have been left in the Empty with Amara. Jack could have had a life. But more sacrifice for him, and still in a sense, Chuck wins.

And finally, the brothers are free. We have the final montage. We have the final drive in Baby. And do you know, if the whole thing had finished with this, with this montage of everyone they had loved and met along the way, I’d have been okay with it, even with Castiel gone, because we know why, although I’d still be wondering about Eileen. I’d have wished Cas had got to hear Dean say I love you and, as Misha advised, the story of all our heroes could have been finished however we wanted them to be finished. But, of course, there was another forty minutes to go.

For a week, we waited. For a week, I hoped once more. My writer’s brain imagined every scenario. I wrote my own ending, just in case, an ending I developed later into the story linked above. But I never imagined we’d get anything like the car crash that was the finale we were presented with. It was terrible, and it was heart breaking. It provided the worst ending possible. It negated fifteen years of stories, fifteen years of character building, fifteen years of pain and sacrifice. I hated it on first watch and didn’t feel any better about it watching to write this essay. Here is why.

It's a few days after I wrote the first part of this. I’ve been putting it off, but I found myself thinking about it when I wake up in the morning, so I needed to get it down.

As soon as the finale started, I said, “There’s no Carry On.” I suppose nineteen finished with a montage of all the characters throughout the season, so we weren’t getting one here, especially as it turned out we weren’t getting these characters either. Instead, we got what had happened in the last two episodes, emphasising again who had been lost, but that now the boys were finally free.

The episode opens. Why does Dean have an alarm? I’ve never understood why people have alarms if they don’t have to get up at that time. And Miracle the dog is there giving Dean someone to cuddle. We see Dean’s need to do this and feel sad he’s missing Castiel. Then it’s ordinary life. Sam running, the gratuitous half naked shot supposedly to show fans what they will get more of in Jared’s new show, Dean cleaning his teeth taking us back to when Castiel was human. Sam tidy and Dean not. Did we ever see Dean’s bed left in such a mess before? But we need to see the differences between them now. Sam reading while Dean puts together a gun. And I think really? We’re going there again, as if Dean, who has shown several times that he reads, would never pick up a book. All this stereotyping feels forced after fifteen years, like taking a sledgehammer to a nut. And while this is happening, I keep thinking, where is Eileen? There’s been no mention of her existing or not existing. This woman, who Sam loved gets no acknowledgment—more later. Dean checking the computer finds something – so there are monsters still. But it turns out to be a pie festival.

Comedy Supernatural has featured often before. Dean wanting pie and not getting it happens a lot. This is another example of that. Dean gets a pie in the face. (At least it’s a lemon meringue. I don’t like meringue.) We are supposed to be amused yet again, and I think, for goodness sake, give Dean some pie, though it is Dabb’s pie – ha, ha. More comedy later. Now a mention of Cas and Jack by Sam, but not Eileen, echoed by Dean, who also says that if he and Sam don’t keep living, all of their sacrifice will have been in vain. More of this later, too.

And so we cut to a family. What? So we do have monsters. Father killed, Mum with tongue ripped out but alive so she can give our boys a description, and children snatched from under the bed – old school. But these men in masks simply look like men in masks – robbers, kidnappers, not monsters. However, Dean and Sam remember one case around thirty years before from their father’s book. We stop under a tree. I said there would be another comedy moment and here it is as Dean gives them a name – vampire mimes. Since when have vampires worn masks? Since when have they ripped out tongues and left people alive? Now the mimes might to make people silent, but a crossover monster? Is this just so Dean can do the joke and make us feel safe. After all, Jensen has said Dean likes killing vampires the most because they are straightforward to kill. And you’re telling me that only one family in a town fits the description? Yeah. Yeah. To me it’s just bloody lazy.

This brings me to a question. Why did Jack keep the monsters in the world? He could choose who to bring back. Why bring back vampires? Is it to do with balancing good and evil? Maybe there should have been some exceptions for those who haven’t killed people just like Garth and his family are ‘good’ werewolves. Surely, Jack had the power to examine anyone’s heart and soul. Or is this part of his hands-off scheme. So does this mean we have demons too. Do we have Hell as well as Heaven? The bad guys need somewhere to go too. The vampires were once humans, humans who didn’t necessarily chose to become vampires. Are they punished for what they’ve become, or spared because they had no choice? Who is in charge in Heaven and Hell now? What function will those places serve?

At this point, I have to say that I believe in neither, but then I don’t believe in vampires or werewolves either. However, they all exist in this world. Is Rowena still in charge of Hell? What has happened to the angels and Heaven? And there’s another question. What about the Empty. I’m going to diverge from the episode here.

We know the Empty hates noise. We know when they go there, angels tend to sleep. We know Cas didn’t stay quiet the first time. Is there any reason to suggest he might this time? I can’t see it. Cas gets bored easily. He never accepts what fate has thrown at him. He still has that cracked chassis. He still loves Dean and Jack and Sam. But we never find out. We discover what has become of Heaven but not Hell and especially not the Empty. For me, this is a huge plot hole. Did Covid restrictions foil filming? I don’t know. But we later find out that Cas is no longer in the Empty and is with Jack. We don’t, however, learn how.

And back to the vampires. Why go there in the dark? This always annoys me in films. Don’t vampires sleep in the day? The first thing we see is that Dean has Castiel’s coat in Baby’s trunk. How? Didn’t it go with him into the Empty? Did he leave one behind for Dean to keep? Dean gave the other one he kept back to Cas. Or are we, the audience, just supposed to think, “awe, Dean has Cas’s trench coat?”

We have fighting. We have Dean recognising a vampire from fifteen years ago. We have comedy Dean reminiscing, making a joke, distracting until Sam takes care of her. We get a sight of the nail. I wondered then. Nooooo, Dean is pushed back onto it. But they can get help. He’s not bleeding at the front when it was big enough to go through him. Perhaps it missed everything. Sam finds blood. Now he could have called for help and sod what anyone would think. But then I get it. Dean is going to die here, standing up with his boots on, hung on a nail with his brother. No long life for Dean. No experiencing new things. We are going to have his final moments with his brother dying, not heroically going out swinging, but like this. I know I should be sad, but my only bubbling feeling is anger. Not like this, I want to yell. Please, not like this. It wasn’t always supposed to end like this. It’s not good. Don’t make this Dean’s end. But they do. The scene between Dean and Sam should feel poignant, but I can’t get past my anger. I’ve never been a co-dependency fan and here it comes with bells on. Yes, Sam needs to hear Dean’s words. Dean needs to say them. Dean has always played this role. He’s the older brother and has always looked after Sam. He’s supposed to die first. I get this feeling so much. My younger brother died of cancer three years ago. I truly get the idea that the oldest should die first. It is the natural order of things. But not so soon. Dean deserved to live too. Dean wanted to live. Has he changed his mind now? Is he back to seeing himself as not worthy of happiness?

My other problem about this scene is that it’s all about Sam. Dean is side-lined here, as he is throughout the whole episode. Dean talks about Sam. He praises Sam. He begs Sam to say it’s okay for him to die. He tells Sam he loves him. And yes, I’m not a fan of the it’s only been you and me stuff, but you’d think Sam might thank Dean before he dies for all that he did. For how he looked after him, brought him up, protected him, and died for him more than once. But no, all Sam does is allow Dean to die. Arrgghh! I want to scream here. The only one who has told Dean how wonderful he is was Cas. He told Dean what a wonderful man he was. Cas did that. Cas said all the things I wanted Dean to hear, not Sam. But Sam should have said them too. Dean needed to hear them from Sam. He needed to die knowing Sam would try to live a great life for both of them. This also brings me to the question of whether Dean didn’t want to fight dying here. This isn’t a great message. It suggests he has nothing to live for. He doesn’t fight to live this time. He lets go. Is losing Cas the reason? Whatever, I don’t think it sends the best of messages to people with mental health issues and, even though Dean uses the words always keep fighting, he doesn’t. When the scene ended, I was shouting, “get him off the hook” and “let him lie down.” I had way more anger in me than sadness. Then there was the funeral. Sam is alone mourning his brother. Dean, who had so many friends, who was a legend among hunters, is burnt alone. Is this Sam’s decision? There’s Covid obviously, but there must have been something they could have done. Brothers in Arms is played. Yes, this does irritate me because it accompanies my favourite ever episode of any show, that of Two Cathedrals in The West Wing. I don’t want it here. Yes, they were brothers, but it was never just them, especially as the show went on. There should have been so many there to mourn him. It makes Sam appear selfish, just him there with the dog.

Now, we get what Sam does with his life. Still no explanation of what happened to Eileen, although we do find out Donna is alive. Just a few phone calls to others would have solved this mystery for us. No need even for them to appear on screen. I’m not surprised Sam leaves the bunker – too many memories, and he has never considered it home, unlike Dean. But – and this is a big but – Sam leaves all that knowledge behind. Sam and Dean were legacies of the Men of Letters. They never got to fulfil those roles. They became hunters instead. Was this legacy ever used again? Did Sam simply lock all those books and artefacts away? If monsters still existed, shouldn’t someone have had the chance to explore all that information? If there were other hunters… I could go on. Instead, we get this montage of Sam’s life with a woman we never see and is in none of the photographs. We get a son called Dean, with an anti-possession tattoo on his arm so we can see it, to replace brother Dean, and no other children. We get Sam moping in Baby. We get Sam in an awful wig. We get Sam dying with his son and no one else to mourn him. Is this what Sam did with all this extra life he got when Dean didn’t. The only positive image we get is of his relationship with his son, but even then, I worry that there is nothing else. What life has Dean junior had?

Sorry, I’ve got ahead of myself. Back to Dean, now in heaven. Of course he is. Here he meets Bobby outside what appears to be the roadhouse. Bobby tells us Jack has sorted heaven so there’s no longer just one memory to live in. Free will coming to the after life. I’m not sure what to make of this. What role to the angels play now? Are they needed? If you can do what you want in heaven, go where you want, isn’t that simply Earth? Is it a place where only good things can happen? Do you just get to do all the things you want to do if they are good things and harm no one? Do you simply wish for a beer and get one? Then why would they offer El Sol? This is a beer Dean hates, but of course, it’s the one his father, who treated him badly, who didn’t speak hardly after his mother died, who dragged him around from place to place chasing the demon, who left him alone to fend for himself and his brother doing who knows what to get by, who thought Dean deserved to end up in jail for doing the job he should have done, it’s the one he drinks. Jack has torn down all the walls. Everyone is happy. Everyone is together. Mary and John are nearby. I assume heaven is infinite or it would be a little crowded. I suppose at this point we’d have seen all the others if not for Covid. There are rumours this would have included Jimmy Novak. I’m so glad it didn’t. Imagine Dean seeing Jimmy and it not being Cas. Then Bobby says Cas helped. So Cas is out of the Empty and around somewhere. If this is the heaven you want, Dean could find him, and with ten minutes to go, I think we could still get a happy ending for Dean. The show could still be brave even if it’s in Heaven and not on Earth. Given how Dean has reacted every other time Cas has come back, you’d have thought he’d have reacted more. He might have asked a few questions, but all we get is a slight smile. Arrgghh again. This episode! Dean says it’s almost perfect and we’re back to Sam again. But he’ll be along Bobby reminds him. So in the meantime, what is Dean going to do? It appears he’d going for a long drive. Now, I like to think he finds Cas along the way while listening to Carry On at this point, and that somewhere Cas is waiting at home for him when he sees Sam again. It’s my only hope. And we’re back to the sad Sam montage while Dean drives. I must admit, I was hoping to see the soldier in Baby as Sam sat there. Sam dies. We get another version of Carry On. And so the brothers meet up again in Heaven. They are both young, unlike Bobby. They are wearing the same clothes from the first episode. Arrgghh!

So, after fifteen years of character development, here we are with the brothers back together again and me asking what was it all for? Why weren’t both brothers given a chance to be happy? They could have met up in Heaven after long lives together. They could have had love, families, fun, days sitting by the sea, watching sunsets. They could have been able to retire from the monster killing business. And most of all, both Dean and Sam could have written their own stories with the people they chose. Free will. Don’t make me laugh. That for me was the worst aspect of the finale. Both of them had expressed a desire to live, but in the end neither of them did.

I hated what the show did to Castiel (and to Misha) after twelve years for him not to be there at the end. But I also hated what they did to Dean and Sam. I know what Eric Kripke said, but the show had moved on from there. I write romance so perhaps I’m biased. But it would have been brave to show Dean and Cas together. It would have been wonderful to have Sam with Eileen. In the end, who would it have hurt to have given these brilliant characters, who a world of fans has come to love, a happy ever after? After all, family doesn’t end with blood.

And there’s a PS

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that the Heaven we saw in the finale was not Dean’s version of Heaven. In the end, he wasn’t even allowed that. Maybe this was Bobby’s Heaven. I don’t know. Anyway, although I’d rather there wasn’t a Heaven at all, and that instead Dean and Cas had lived a long life together, here are my thoughts on the subject of Dean’s Heaven.

Dean would get into Baby and realise, after a few miles, that this wasn’t his car after all. It wouldn’t rattle in the same way, and the green soldier Sam stuck there would be missing. Finally, after a few miles, he’d find himself at the coast. There would be a house, with a veranda running the full length of the front, with seats that gave a great view of the sea. The sky would be blue. There would be a light breeze. Further along the road, he’d see a roadhouse. This one would have Harvelle’s written over the door. He’d smile. At the side of the house, he’d notice another Impala. When he’d climbed out of the original car, it would disappear. He’d walk to the other Impala, run his hands along the metal, check inside, find the soldier, then open the boot and find Castiel’s trench coat. He’d pick it up and carry it to the house.

Inside the house, there would be comfortable furniture, and a fire that didn’t make it hotter. Photographs of his family and his found family would cover the walls along with his favourite paintings. To one side, there’d be a table big enough for many people to sit around and chat with a map on the top. There would be lamps everywhere. One wall would have books, because Dean does love to read. Here would be all those books he never got to finish because his father moved them on, or life got in the way. There would also be a jukebox. Dean would walk over to it, note the contents included his beloved Led Zepplin along with a little Taylor Swift, he’d smile, and put a track of on just loud enough to hear. Along a corridor, there’d be bedrooms. One would have a large bed with more photographs, and other bits and pieces on shelves including a small box. He’d open one side of the closet and laugh at the amount of flannel shirts and jeans.

Finally, Dean would arrive at the kitchen. There’d be everything he needed to cook. He loved to cook. A pie would sit on the window sill cooling. He’d open the huge fridge and take out a decent beer then carry it back to the veranda. He’d hear a voice.

“What do you think?”

There, sat in one of the chairs, would be Cas. He’d grin, but his heart would be full, and he’d wipe away a tear before Cas saw it. He’d sit in the chair next to him. The others would wait for him at the roadhouse, he’d wait to see them tomorrow. Tonight was all about him and Cas and the words he needed to say. They’d sit watching the sun go down, sipping beer, eating pie, and holding hands. At some point, when the sun was almost gone and the sky streaked with so many beautiful colours, the moment would arrive, and Dean would utter four simple words.

“I love you, Cas.”

Cas would turn and smile at him with those blue eyes shining. “I know.”

Recognising the film reference, Dean would take another sip of his beer, sigh, and they’d sit together until the sun had disappeared, knowing eventually all the people they had left behind would one day appear, and that they had more days and nights to come, and all the time in the world.




 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 20 November 2020

The Final Mistake

 

This time yesterday, I was anxious but still hopeful. I needed a win. It’s been a shitty year in so many ways for everyone, but also for me personally. Getting the ending I wanted on a TV show wasn’t going to get me mobile again, but it would have given me a reason to smile. Instead, today, I feel sad, I feel let down, I feel grief, I feel anger and frustration. I feel like someone took something else away from me. Those of you who have ever been invested in a TV show or a film franchise will understand this feeling.

I came to Supernatural in the middle of season six. I was part of the Doctor Who fandom, had found friends in it. Series six of DW stared a character called Canton Everett Delaware III in the first two episode played by Mark Sheppard. My DW friends also watched Supernatural and said he played a demon called Crowley in the show. I caught up those seasons quickly. I loved Crowley, and the brothers, Dean especially, but along the way, I found Castiel.

Now some people see it straight away, and some people don’t, but the way Dean and Castiel looked at each other, from the first moment I saw them, something clicked. Over the next nine years, that relationship develop, and I hoped, God how I hoped. Alongside my writing career, I wrote the odd bit of fanfiction filling in those fanfic gaps. Every season, I hoped they’d be brave enough to follow through with the feelings these two characters clearly had for each other, feelings which to me seemed more than brotherly. When this didn’t happen, the show was accused of queerbaiting.

Then they announced Supernatural would be coming to an end in this year – the year that has become the year from hell. In episode eighteen, Cas tells Dean he loves him – loves him. This is a declaration of romantic love which Misha Collins has confirmed. Misha said that he was told to play being in love with Dean from the beginning of the season, but as he continued, he realised he’d always played Cas this way. Dean doesn’t answer him in that scene, but you can see the emotion on his face. He ignores Sam’s call. This event shouldn’t have been something to simply brush off and not talk about, but it gets no mention beyond Dean saying Cas is gone. In episode nineteen, the world is fixed, and Sam and Dean drive off in Baby. Much of me wishes they’d left it there, but they didn’t, which brings me to why I’m so sad.

The writers and producers of Supernatural had the chance to do something massive with this finale. They had the chance to send a message to so many people that a man like Dean could be in love with another man. People would have talked about this for years. This would have been the show that killed everybody, not just the gays, but brought them back. They could have given Sam an ending with Eileen, a woman he loved, not someone whose face we didn’t even get to see. They could have made both sides of Destiel canon. Cas thought Dean would never love him. Dean thought Cas was an angel, a divine being, who couldn’t love someone as damaged as him. Cas told him what a good man he was, but Dean didn’t get a chance to process those words, and we didn’t get to hear how he felt about it. A character who had been on the show for eleven years confessed his love to another character, and that person didn’t even get to talk about it! A football fan would say - we was robbed - and we were. So many people were robbed. And once again the gays were buried. Although in this case, I think both characters would have been bisexual or pansexual, the result is the same.

Some people have blamed Jensen, but I don’t believe that for a minute having seen how he is around Misha and knowing what parts he has played before. At the Jus in Bello con last year, he clearly wasn’t pleased with the ending. Misha has yet to say anything. In the end, the writers bottled it. Did the powers that be step in? I don’t know. But in my view a chance was missed. This was a bad ending. It didn’t make sense either. The writer in me kept being jarred out of the moment. I wanted to feel but I kept shouting – no – it wouldn’t happen like that. Dean wouldn’t die being pushed on a nail. If he had to die, he’d have died heroically saving Sam or someone else he cared about. He certainly wouldn’t get to heaven, hear that Cas was there, and not want to find him. If for no other reason than, as he has often said, Cas is his best friend, and family doesn’t end with blood.

So, after the finale, I’m upset, sad, and more than a little angry. I’ll go back and watch the many episodes I love again, but not this one. This ending will go down as another of those disasters like Dexter or How I Met Your Mother as far as I’m concerned. For me, it let fandom down and didn't do the characters or the story arc justice. And the real truth is that I am not all right about it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Fandom, Gay Romance, and Me

 


I came to fandom quite late in life. Don’t get me wrong, I’d been a fan of certain programmes, especially Doctor Who, for a long time, but I’d never connected with other fans until I went looking. The reason I went looking was the death of one character.

I was born into the generation who watched television, and I’ve watched a lot over my nearly sixty years, but only two programmes have sucked me in and torn at my emotions – ripping my heart to shreds. Those two programmes are Torchwood and Supernatural. It was the death of Ianto Jones in Torchwood that I can say with all truthfulness changed 

When Ianto died in the arms of his lover, Captain Jack Harkness, I cried. It wasn’t the first time I’d cried over the death of a character – see Dr Greene in ER – but, maybe because this coincided with my increased use of social media, I went looking for anything online I could find to see if others felt the same, and a whole world opened up. I found fandom. I found fanfiction. I found fanart. I found an online community of fans. I read, I watched, and I communicated. I found like- minded friends online, people who have become real friends even though we’ve never met in person, but I know will be there when I need them. Then, I started writing and I met other writers online. I discovered a new love. I wrote story after story about Torchwood. I wrote fix-its that were canon compliant and alternative. I wrote stories, from drabbles of 100 words to my biggest work of fanfiction, Torchwood High which is 200K words. I republished a re-edited version during lockdown. But what has this to do with gay romance you might ask?

I don’t know what it is about gay romance that first pulled me in. I’d never been a big reader of romance, except for reading family sagas and historical novels. They occasionally had gay characters who I found myself rooting for. I also read a lot of fantasy, especially the novels of Stephen Donaldson, Julian May, and Katherine Kerr. They too had gay characters. I loved sprawling stories and bought books by the inch with big themes. But romance is usually more intimate. Yes, that is obvious, and yes there are side characters. But essentially, the story is about two people finding each other, finding the person for them. Heterosexual romance, even that with its difficulties, is ‘acceptable’. LGBTQ+ romance provides another layer, even if there isn’t any conflict at all. Take Schitt’s Creek, for example. David and Patrick face no opposition at all in the story, but I was invested in their love story much more than that of Alexis and Ted. I love David, but I adore Patrick because he loved David and his many wonderful eccentricities. I love an opposites attract story.

Anyway, this brings me back to Ianto. As fans we watched as he struggled with his feelings for Jack. Jack had killed his girlfriend, and yet, like many others, Ianto was drawn to him. Maybe it was sex at first, just a bit of fun with a stopwatch. But by the time he died, their story had developed into a love story. When Ianto whispers his love for Jack as he dies, it’s heart breaking because you think that there will be no more and I wanted more, even down to buying curtains—old joke. Fortunately, because of the audio plays from the BBC and Big Finish, this isn’t the case, but at the time, it felt like the end had come to soon. Fandom exploded. Accusations of ‘bury the gays’ were levelled at Russell T Davies. A shrine was built to Ianto, a fictional character, in Cardiff Bay. This shrine is still there eleven years later.

Back to Doctor Who and Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor and the connection to my other obsession. The opening episodes of series six, The Impossible Astronaut and The Day of the Moon, got me writing again because of one character, Canton Everett Delaware III played by Mark Sheppard and his father Morgan Sheppard. I fell in love with character and the actor and wrote an 80K fanfiction called The Canton Chronicles. My fandom friends pointed me towards a show called Supernatural in which he played the baddie, Crowley. I caught up six and a half series to join along with their weekly watch. 

Yes, I loved Crowley, but in series four, Castiel appeared making one of the greatest TV show entrances ever. For me, the connection between the gorgeous Dean and his angel was immediately obvious. I found others had seen it too. I discovered Destiel. This time around I discovered Tumblr. I watched fascinated as these two edged nearer to each other then pulled away. Maybe it was because I’d never watched the brothers in real time that I didn’t invest in their relationship. My investment in Destiel was total. This, for me, was Jack and Ianto all over again. I waited, and waited, and waited. I hoped and despaired. And yes, I loved Cockles too. Then they announced season fifteen would be the last. Would they go there? Could they make Destiel canon? I don’t think it was any secret that Misha was on board with the idea and Jensen had played bisexual before. Last week, during the US elections, Destiel trended higher than the elections and Putin because Castiel confessed his love for Dean. 

It wasn’t the first time he’d said I love you, but this was different. Misha has since acknowledged that this was different. Castiel says he wants something he knows he can never have, and those, for me, are the words which make this declaration different. It is a heart-breaking scene. It has made me happy, sad, and angry. I’m happy that Castiel said it. I’m sad Dean didn’t get chance to reply, and that this might be the last time we see Castiel. And I’m angry because, like Ianto, Castiel immediately dies. Ianto is sacrificed and Cas is sacrificed. ‘Bury the gays’ strikes once more. And I’m back watching videos, reading fanfiction, and writing a fix it, depending on what happens in the last two episodes, because I still have hope it’s not the last we’ve seen of Castiel.

I’ve thought a lot about the connection between my love for these two programmes and gay romance lately, and I think what these stories give me is the chance to become a cheerleader. I support Cardiff City and Leeds United football teams. I’m used to being happy and sad in equal measure. When I pick up a book, sometimes I wonder whether to continue, but by the end, I want the main characters to get their happy ending. TV and film often provide no guarantees for LGBTQ+ characters, but the stories I read do. And let’s face it, today we all need a happy ending. Fingers crossed, there’s still an outside chance for Destiel.