01
Apr
14

How I finished “How I Met Your Mother”

I have written before — and often — of my love for CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, which ended its nine-year run Monday night. It was a show of true heart, relateable joys and heartbreaks, and outrageously funny characters that have kept me entertained for nearly a decade. I didn’t want to fire off a knee-jerk reaction to the finale — as the internet has proven time and again, that way lies madness. I wanted a little time to ponder, to sort out my feelings, to understand them before I tried to explain them. Now that I’ve thought it through, I think I’m ready.

Be warned. Spoilers ahoy.

To say the ending left me feeling conflicted is an understatement. There were certainly fine moments, and the structure works. At the end, the show is finally given its true context. The framing sequence, when Ted Mosby circa 2030 is telling the children how he met their mother, is really Future Ted’s attempt to explain to his children why — six years after the death of his wife — he’s considering trying to start up a relationship with their “Aunt Robin.” It explains succinctly why the story started with his and Robin’s first meeting, why so much of the story has centered on her, why over the years Ted and Robin  would backslide to one another so often. It makes sense.

Despite making sense, though, something about the finale left me feeling… hollow. And I needed to decide what that was. It wasn’t just that Tracy, the mother, was dead. I didn’t want that, but I’ve also never thought it was fair to judge a story by what you want it to be rather than what it is. And it isn’t that the ending was, at best, bittersweet, because those are often the most emotionally rich and spiritually honest ways a story can end.

My problem, I think, stems from the fact that the final few minutes of the show thrust Ted and Robin back together again — this after years of Ted trying to get over her and finally succeeding just a few short episodes ago. In the penultimate episode, in fact, he underlined that moment, telling Robin that he was not in love with her anymore. To leap, then, from that point to Future Ted returning to Robin’s apartment with the blue French Horn from so long ago… it felt like all the character development had evaporated. I could deal with Robin and Barney’s divorce, sad as that was. I probably even could have dealt with the Mother dying, as such sadness is true to life, is what ultimately makes the moments of joy all the greater. In the last minutes, though, I felt like we bounced back to square one.

In a way, I think the writers trapped themselves. In any long-running story — especially on TV, where the writer’s goals can be derailed by actors leaving, dying, getting arrested… really any circumstances where real-world events can intrude on the storytelling — there has to be room for flexibility. We all know that Aaron Paul’s character was originally slated to die in the first season of Breaking Bad, but Vince Gilligan changed his mind, and thank goodness. Then we have LOST, which initially hung a lot of significance on a 10-year-old named Walt. The mysteries around that character had to be dropped, though, because while only a few months passed on the show, in real time several years passed. The actor aged and hit a growth spurt. Now I remain a defender of LOST, I liked the ending, but I can’t deny frustration at some of the questions that were never answered because nature necessitated putting him on a boat off the island.

HIMYM’s problem wasn’t as dramatic — there was never a question of removing an actor or one of them leaving the show. Instead, the characters moved in a direction I don’t think the creators anticipated by focusing so much of the show of Ted trying to get past Robin, to the point where many viewers (I’m raising my hand here) wanted to just get past that and get on with the story of the Mother.

But the die had already been cast. To avoid “The Walt Problem,” they filmed scenes of Ted’s kids reacting to the end of the story eight years ago, before they had visibly aged from the scenes they shot for the first few episodes. It was a good strategy, but it kind of locked them into the ending, in which the kids gave Ted their blessing to go after Aunt Robin. With no wiggle room, they took an ending that may have worked in season two, or three, or even five, and applied it to characters who — by season nine — had outgrown it. The ending planned no longer rang entirely true.

I don’t hate the ending. There was, in fact, some fine work in there. Lily and Marshall have always been the stable core of the group (save for a brief period in season two), and having them act as a sort of Greek chorus in this finale, shuffling them between Robin, Barney, Ted and Tracy, all rang true.

Neil Patrick Harris, to use a baseball analogy, gets the save here. One of the best aspects of the show for the past few years has been the slow growth and development of Barney Stinson from a one-note character to someone you truly wanted to root for. When he and Robin broke up and he reverted to form, it was heartbreaking. In his case, though, it was not a question of true backsliding, of him becoming the person he once was. Even sadder, he was trying to return to the person he used to be, and with each protest that his friends “let me be who I am,” it was increasingly clear he was no longer that person.

Then he held his daughter and professed his truest, most sincere love. In that moment the old Barney — the Season One Barney, the Barney he put back on life support when he and Robin called it quits — well and truly died. And as sad as his split with Robin was, I don’t think the new Barney, Daddy Barney… hell, the real Barney… ever could have existed without her. It was a phenomenal moment, and although we didn’t get to see much of Barney as a dad, I have no doubt that it was Legend — wait for it…

And finally, Cristin Milioti as Tracy, the Mother. She gets this season’s MVP award. To come into a show in its ninth and final season would be daunting under any circumstances. To do so in such a way that makes the viewers feel for her and care about her as deeply as the five characters the audience has known all this time… it’s heroic. She was simply magnificent. We accepted easily how quickly Ted fell in love with her, because we did too.

I believed Tracy as the love of Ted’s life. Which is initially why that ending felt like a gut punch. upon reflection, though, I think I also see a seed of redemption in it. I can use it for a little perspective. Ted, after all, was the one who turned down Robin when she tried to take him back at her wedding. Tracy wasn’t his second choice, like I felt at first. Even though he didn’t know her yet, he gave up Robin to look for her, and he was rewarded. And it’s not like he ran back to Robin as soon as his wife died — he took six years, a more than respectable amount of time, before he decided it may be worth pursuing. Even then, he put the wishes of his children — Tracy’s children — before his own. Through that prism, I can see it as Robin and Ted finding solace with each other after her unexpectedly lonely life and the loss of his true love.

It’s not what I expected. It’s not how I would have ended it. But it has some truth to it nonetheless.

So while I’m not fully satisfied, I’m not really upset either. I’m certainly not angry. How could I be? For nine years, I’ve been allowed to join in on the adventures of characters right in my own stage of life, allowing me to grow with them. As Ted’s friends married and had children, so did mine. The first time Ted ever heard Tracy’s voice, she was singing “La Vie En Rose,” and as Erin and I prepare for our own wedding, they’ve given us the song for our first dance.

So thank you, show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, and thank your writers, for nine years of joy. Thank you to Pamela Fryman, who directed nearly every episode of the series (a Herculean feat in and of itself). And thank you to our six incomparable friends, and the countless supporting players, for the pop culture milestone you’ve created.

For robot wrestlers and the Kennedy package. For slap bets and for Swarley, duckie ties and dopplegangers. For never buckling to peer pressure and explaining about the pineapple. (Yes, I’ve heard the rumors of a DVD extra. Shut up.) For making interventions fun again. For extending the cultural significance of the hanging chad by a good 13 years.

For making me cry more than once and never making me ashamed of it.

For blue French Horns.

For yellow umbrellas.

I request the highest of fives.

 

–dary.

Yeah. Totally worth the wait.

28
Feb
14

Blake has written books Day 5: Everything Else

Throughout the week, guys, I’ve given you glimpses into the full-length novels I’ve got available. But that isn’t the extent of my work. There are several shorts and collections available as well, and darn it, don’t they deserve their day in the sun?

Tales of Siegel City:

The Restless Dead of Siegel City

The Restless Dead of Siegel City

In this novella, it’s Halloween night and the city of faux superheroes finds itself overrun with the REAL undead — mummies, zombies, vampires, and all manner of creatures of the night have come to wreak havoc. Copycat, Animan, and their crew have to dig out the root of the infestation, and Josh has to confront the ghost of his greatest failure.

This is the first direct follow-up to Other People’s Heroes.

Lucky Penny: A Christmas Story in the World of Siegel CityLucky Penny

Gill Lutz is a Las Vegas runner — a man employed by a casino to make sure that everything runs smoothly with no interference by people with “special” talents, which in a world full of metahumans is no small task. When the Vegas-based superhero called Lucky Penny uses her powers make Gill’s casino pay out jackpot after jackpot, he’s got to stop her before the casino goes bankrupt or, even worse, he’s out of a job.

This new story is set in the world of the novel Other People’s Heroes and the short story “The Restless Dead of Siegel City,” but can be read independently of those works. This eBook edition also contains a bonus short story, “Stowaway.” It’s Christmas Eve, 1827, and Louis Baudreau is determined to find something in the skies over the Gulf of Mexico he never thought he would see again. Instead, he finds a visitor on his boat that may take him places he never imagined.

GhostofSimonTower2The Ghost of Simon Tower

Every Christmas Eve the heroes of Siegel City come together to raise a glass to their fallen friends. On Josh Corwood’s first Christmas among them, he learns of an apparition that has haunted Simon Tower for years… a mysterious, nameless phantom, who may hold some of the Tower’s biggest secrets yet.

Set the Christmas after The Restless Dead of Siegel City, This short story continues the tale of Other People’s Heroes with a gateway into the past of Siegel City, and a glimpse into its future.

AssociatedPressure_HiAssociated Pressure

After the battle of Simon Tower, there are a lot of questions… heroes missing, villains who have changed sides, evil twins, and rampant confusion. The new LightCorps is holding a press conference to place everyone’s minds at ease. Unfortunately, one of the new superheroes can’t keep his story straight…

This very short story takes place in-between the final two scenes of Other People’s Heroes, with a humorous look at a Josh Corwood taken totally outside of his comfort zone.

Christmas Stories

A Long November and Other Tales of ChristmasA Long November

A Long November was written as my National Novel Writing Month experiment for 2005 and became my first Podcast Novel. Duncan Marks is just like you — sick and tired of Christmas coming before the Thanksgiving turkey even comes out of the oven. But this year, a Spirit of the Season takes him on a journey that tests his resolve… and upon which Christmas itself may rise or fall.

This short story, along with eight other Christmas themed stories of mine, has been collected into an eBook. Some of these shorts, including the Siegel City storyLonely Miracle,” have been included as bonus content in some of my feature length novels.

Making Santa AdventMaking Santa

Making Santa is my first effort at a true serialized novel, a lighthearted sci-fi story for the holidays. Yes, you read that right. It’s planned to be released in four installment, one each year at Christmas time. Here’s the info on part one:

Advent:

Nicholas Grace and 199 other men have been abducted by a strange alien race called the Yool — a “benevolent order” that travels the galaxy helping undeveloped worlds by providing them with the things they lack. On our world, the Yool are trying to give us our missing icons. With the help of the Yool and their advanced technology, one of the 200 abductees will be chosen to fill some of the most legendary boots in history. One of these men will become Santa Claus.

Geek Punditry

Reel to Reel - Monsters NO BLEEDReel to Reel

The Reel to Reel project is my ongoing effort to study, document, and pontificate on different genres of movies. Once or twice a year, I intend to run the “first draft” of each project, a day at a time, online. I’ll then come back later with the expanded eBook editions, including more movies and more content. Here’s what’s available so far.

Vol. 1: Mutants, Monsters and Madmen

The first project looks at 40 of the greatest, most entertaining, and most influential horror movies of all time.

The Obligatory Everything But Imaginary

For years now, I’ve offered up my geek punditry at CXPulp.com and various other sites across the internet landscape. Now I’m gathering together the best of those columns and articles in a series of short, low-price collections around different themes. Here’s what’s available so far.

RevolvingDoor_MockupVol. 1: A Revolving Door in Heaven
A look at the phenomenon of life, death, and the rapid turnaround between the two in American comic books.

SuperSanta_HiVol. 2: Is Santa Claus Super?
In this volume we look at Christmas comic books, Christmas music, how to shop for the Geek on your list, and we answer the most burning question of all… is Santa Claus a superhero?

27
Feb
14

Blake has written books Day 4: The Pyrite War

PyriteWar_v2For my fourth novel, I returned to the world of Siegel City, but not the one we saw in Other People’s Heroes. While OPH was very much a contemporary novel, in The Pyrite War I hearkened back to the city’s early days to tell the tale of Siegel’s very first superhero.

On the cusp of America’s involvement in World War II, the world only knows of one super-powered champion: Guardian M, protector of Siegel City. When young Gabriel Ruston discovers powers of his own he sets his sights on becoming the second champion, but dies in a tragic incident on his first night in costume. When his brother, David, finds evidence that Gabriel’s death was no accident, he is forced to join with a frightened underground to uncover the truth about the man everyone idolizes. In Siegel City, nothing has ever been what it seemed… not even in a Golden Age.

This book is partially my tribute to the origins of the superhero, partially a way to flesh out and develop the world of Siegel City. Fans of OPH will find a whole new cast of characters, but a few of them may just have links to people we’ve seen before.

And don’t forget, guys — reblog! Tweet! Share! And please post your reviews at all of the above websites and at Goodreads.com!

26
Feb
14

Blake Has Written Books Part 3: Opening Night of the Dead

Opening Night of the DeadMy third novel, Opening Night of the Dead, is the second book in the world of the Curtain, although you don’t need to have read the previous book, The Beginner, in order to enjoy it. It’s almost Halloween, and at the Climax Studios campus in Hollywood, work is being done on a new zombie movie. On the other side of the property, though, at the Climax Studios Theme Park, a real zombie has stumbled into the costumed partygoers. A pair of former cops (as “former” as you can get) are sent to try to quell the violence, joining their skills with a studio stuntman and makeup artist, plus a tabloid reporter that has strayed on to the lot. In this humorous take on horror movies, it’s these five people who stand between the world and a zombie apocalypse.

This book is a bit more lighthearted than The Beginner, and in fact, establishes the tone I really want for the Curtain universe. It’s also where the term “Curtain” comes from. If you’re into weird takes on zombies, this is the Petit book for you.

And don’t forget, gang, please, tweet and share and reblog this post, and if you’ve already read the book, why not throw up a review at any of the above websites or at Goodreads.com?

25
Feb
14

Blake Has Written Books Part 2: The Beginner

The Beginner coverMy second book, The Beginner, was also given a revised second edition a couple of years ago, although the revisions to this book weren’t as extensive as those to Other People’s Heroes. Although I didn’t have a name for it yet, like OPH, this book has served as the launching pad for a continuity of related titles. But while the tales of Siegel City have been offbeat takes on the world of superheroes, the world of The Curtain draws its inspiration from the various realms of fantasy, monster movies, and horror.

In The Beginner we meet Curtis Dupré, a young filmmaker whose debut project got him enough attention that he’s got the freedom to do his second project just as he wants: casting an actress he’s admired for years and filming in his home turf in Louisiana. But things don’t go smoothly at all — people begin to vanish from the set, leaving everybody except Curtis himself unaware that they ever even existed. Desperate to prove his own sanity and save his friends from a mysterious creature with a glittering pick for a weapon, Curtis will have to find the truth about himself to stop the devastation.

The Beginner is a story for people who love a good campfire tale. It’s also the book that taught me a valuable lesson about titles: try not to be too generic. You know what you get if you do an Amazon.com search for “The Beginner“? You get ten thousand how-to books, that’s what you get.

Here, I did the search for you:

I ask again, guys, to help me spread the word about this book. Share! Tweet! Reblog! Let people know!

24
Feb
14

Blake Has Written Books Part 1: Other People’s Heroes

Hey there, everybody. I’m working on a lot of stuff right now — some of it all-new, some of it new versions of things you’ve seen before. In both cases, the cylinders are firing and I’m having fun shaping my own weird worlds.

Other People's HeroesWith all of those worlds in play, however, I find myself in a position of wanting to push harder to spread the word of my existing work. After all, I’m the sort of writer who enjoys linking all of my various worlds and works in a way that rewards readers who stick around. The only way that sort of thing pays off, though, is if people are aware of the previous works in the mythos.

That said, this week I’ve decided to step back and remind folks of my current work in print. Let’s spread the word, guys. If you enjoy my work, talk it up. Posts reviews on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, or any other place you talk about books. And by all means, when you see this post, share it. And “like” it. And “retweet” and “reblog” — do whatever you can to tell people about my stuff.

So let’s start today with my first novel, Other People’s Heroes…

OPH is the first published tale of Siegel City, a world full of superheroes that are sweetly similar to heroes you’ve all met before. Josh Corwood, a reporter covering the exploits of the world’s greatest champions, thinks he’ll be able to join them when he discovers a power of his own. Once he begins to immerse himself in the world of Siegel City’s most famous Capes and Masks, though, he realizes nothing in his world is as it seems.

This adventure tale approaches the world of superheroes with a sense of humor and a good-natured eye at deconstruction, while at the same time, telling a different sort of story about a different sort of world. OPH remains my most well-known and most popular work, as well as the linchpin around which many of my future stories revolves. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

23
Jan
14

The fate of George Wilson

Fair warning: the following post spoils the ending of The Great Gatsby.

No, the novel. The real one.

Anyway, as I’m currently teaching Gatsby to my 11th grade students — you know, like you do — I’ve had way too much time as of late to think about the characters. Particularly the character of poor cuckolded George Wilson. And I’ve come to a startling conclusion.

At the end of The Great Gatsby, George Wilson — having murdered Gatsby in cold blood, believing he was having an affair with his wife — commits suicide. He was brought to this point, I submit, by a life that was never what it really should have been. He owned his own business, but the garage was unprofitable and he was often on the brink of being destitute. He had a wife, Myrtle, but she never truly loved him. Myrtle Wilson treated her husband with open contempt and flagrantly defied their marriage vows by running around with Tom Buchanan, a fact obvious to virtually everybody but simple-minded George Wilson. No, poor George wasn’t all that bright. He was naive and easily fooled: the only reason he targeted Gatsby at all is because Tom gave him the perfectly accurate yet horribly misleading information that Gatsby owned the yellow car that killed Myrtle. His naivety pushed him towards his ruin. And through it all, George was trapped beneath the harsh, watchful, judging eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg’s enormous billboard, looking down at him from behind its pair of gigantic spectacles, peering at him like the eyes of God.

After his death, though, George awakens to a new life. Gone is the responsibility of his own business, replaced instead with a job that is physically demanding (for which he is suited), but stable and respected. George has become a mailman. In his new life, George meets and marries a girl named Martha. Martha is everything Myrtle was not — kind, intelligent, compassionate, and unselfish. George loves her deeply. After years of hard but satisfying work, George and Martha quietly retire, to live out their days in happiness together.

Then, a new family moves in next door. Although seemingly normal and pleasant, there is a child that vexes George. The boy is troublesome — almost dangerous. He constantly causes damage to George’s property and physical harm to George’s being, causing him to fall from ladders, trip over toys and otherwise suffer a litany of abrasions and bruises. George cannot retaliate, however, due to the youth of the child that good-hearted Martha has taken a liking to. What’s more, the boy appears to have no actual malice in him — the destruction left in his wake is the result of simple-mindedness and a lack of forethought, much like that left by George in his own previous existence. George is crushed under the boy’s affection — he considers the old man to be his best friend, and George endures for Martha’s sake, hoping the child will grow out of it.

But the boy does not.

As time goes on, not only do the boy’s antics grow more cartoonishly outlandish, but more destructive as well. Damage to George’s car, his home, the ruination of a priceless collection of stamps become common. Their encounters become an almost daily occurrence, with longer, more colorful episodes happening on Sundays. True horror sets in when it occurs to George that it has been years — perhaps decades — since he first encountered the child, and nothing is changing. The town stays the same, he and Martha do not age, and the boy — the terrible, devastating sprite — is perpetually six years old. And what’s more, nobody but George seems to realize they have become frozen in time.

It finally dawns on George. He is in Hell. This is his punishment for Jay Gatsby’s murder. Day after day, year after year of slow torture at the hands of little Dennis Mitchell, who simply does not know any better.

But George knows. God is watching. God is laughing at him still, every time something happens. George can see Him in the huge, round spectacles Dennis’s father wears, for George Wilson recognizes that gaze… not from the eyes of Henry Mitchell, but as the watchful stare of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg.




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