Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Survivor: A TV Ritual You Should Watch

Worth Watching Each Week


Being a parent, at least for my wife and I, means that we aren’t current on a lot of television. In fact, we are only current on two television shows aired on network TV. (I’m current on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Meghan doesn’t watch it.) The Big Bang Theory is in its final season. The other also airs on CBS and it’s a show we hope will never end. If you’ve never watched a minute of the hit television series, Survivor, then you’re missing out. Not only is this reality TV show heading into its 38th season, it is doing so on the simple premise of being too good not to watch.

Survivor Expectations


I started watching the first few seasons with my parents. After some jobs and then college, Survivor fell off my radar. It was somewhere around Season 21 that I started watching every single week. Fortunately, I was able to backtrack on Amazon Prime to watch the 12th through 20th seasons.

Survivor is led by Jeff Probst, one of the most charismatic individuals I’ve seen on TV. He is seemingly able to talk to anyone at any time, regardless of their condition. They can be happy, sad, exhausted, injured and with the medical team, or sitting down with a tribe at Tribal Council. Make no mistakes, Probst is the compass pointing viewers in the right direction of where the story might lead. Watching Survivor live every week during a season is a ritual, because you get to watch Probst prod and poke as he tries to find where each player is at each moment of the game.

If Probst is the compass, castaways are doing their best to stay away from his pointed questions. They’re also hoping to discretely stab their fellow contestants in the back. The players are absolutely fascinating to watch. They are thrown into a massively crazy experiment where you’re essentially lost on an island with the bare necessities. The only hope they have is to build enough trust with enough people to survive until the next vote. Generally speaking, there is usually one vote-out per episode, and that’s the key to winning the game. How do you maximize your staying power from week to week?

The Middle Ground


Being a leader early on puts the spotlight on your decisions, making an easy target for anyone that either wants to be the leader or wants to avoid being on the bottom. It’s a murky balance to avoid being on the bottom, while not being the glaring person on top. It’s always a strange thing for contestants to blame other players for “riding coattails” or coasting in the middle. Yes, perception is a huge factor on who wins and who doesn’t, but eventually, players are trying to stay in the middle to survive Survivor.

It’s possibly why Survivor is one of the greatest games ever played. You’re witnessing people at their most vulnerable, while attempting to maneuver themselves to a win on day 39. Oh, did I mention the grand prize is one million dollars? How do you believe someone on day 1 and then hope they’ll be by your side on day 4, let alone day 34? The ability to achieve a perfect balance in Survivor is possibly the hardest thing to achieve, because any perceived “threat” of winning the game will make anyone a target, at any time.

Cheering for Season 38 and Beyond


Along with seeing good or bad strategy play out, there are enormously entertaining obstacles. You might actually think, like I did last season, “How can anyone stand on a small perch for six hours?!” Not only did my back twinge at the thought, my feet started to cramp as I watched an Immunity Challenge. Christian Hubicki from David vs. Goliath (Season 37) stood on a small ledge for six hours and won! The level at which these contestants compete, both physically and mentally, is astounding to watch. It’s the very nature of the show that’s so thrilling – sit back in relief as someone you like is being saved from the vote or you’re jumping up and down in shock as a player gets sent home early.

If you’re interested in watching a show that will grab you enough to where you’ll follow along (forever), you will check out the upcoming season, Survivor: Edge of Extinction, which premieres on Wednesday, February 20 at 8pm.

I can’t wait!



Thursday, February 7, 2019

"Never Gonna Give ['The Sequels'] Up"



I really enjoyed The Sequels #1. The premise behind the story is so unique ⏤ trying to find normalcy after having a crazy childhood adventure. The story flows extremely well; showing the adventure, the repercussions from the fallout, and then how that affected Avery's life. It totally has that 80s vibe with the adventure early on, but it totally translates well to present day. I think it's hard to talk about our internal struggles, regardless of the reason, and The Sequels highlights how lonely life can be and the importance of talking about our issues.

I am really looking forward to see what happens next. I actually think Avery and his new friends talking about their adventures would set them on a path to getting over the let down feeling in their lives. Now, I'm wondering how they'll feel after going on another adventure. When it's all said and done, will they go back to that feeling that led them to that support group, or will a new adventure provide a spark that also helps them.

The artwork seems to match the story perfectly ⏤ it blends so well from panel to panel. The darker shading, the colors, it's almost like they match the mood of the character as he's telling his story. The campfire scene is absolutely splendid. This story works so well. I love the unique perspective to highlight one's own misery and then providing a spark. The spark of life is the support group. The adventure is the surprise. And who is the guy who handed out the card?!


This brief review was brought to you by a very geeky parent.


The Sequels Issue 1 is available for pre-order now.

Story by: Norm Harper
Art by: Val Halvorson and Bobby Timony
Flatted by: Deanna Poppe
Lettered by: Oceano Ransford
Cover by: Don Aguillo


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Into The Unknown

In one week, I will be venturing into the great unknown. The unknown being scary as I will be leaving my current employment. The great being wonderful as I pursue my dream --- full-time writing.

Now, I've been professionally involved in writing in some capacity for over eleven years, since that college internship that had me writing and editing press releases, newsletters, and business spotlights. Since that time, I've continued writing in higher education, whether it be email marketing, flyers, social media blurbs, content management for websites, and even drafting an NCAA ticket lottery email for Radford University's entrance into the big tournament against UNC.

There are other things I've written, but I am going to focus on the dream --- creative writing. I've always been a writer. When I was younger, it resembled poems or song lyrics. As I got older and determined "I am a writer," I crafted and self-published a few novels. I constantly dabble and sometimes post short stories, while continually expressing my cluttered mind in a poem.

For over two years now, I've had the distinct pleasure and honor to write for Fanbase Press. I've been able to tell a story in a different way. Celebrating and sharing the amazing world that flows through the comic book, movie, and TV worlds. Did I mention I also get to explore the galaxy in a series, you might've heard me mention before, Geeky Parent Guide?

So, I guess the point of this post is to share my thoughts, my fears, and what I'm reaching for.

I want this. I want to be able to provide for my family by doing this one thing. I will look to continue my entertainment writing in some way, whether it be as a contributor for multiple entities as contract work or whatever else will work.

This was not an easy decision. The easiest decision I've ever made was asking Meghan to marry me. And with her support, she has made this difficult choice a reality, and ultimately a satisfying moment in my life.

As a creative writer, writing about movies, NASA, and anything else geeky is fantastic, because I have to find a way to make it relatable and interesting. Yes, I still write fiction. I still write poetry. And recently, I wrote my first comic book script for a first issue in a to be determined-sized arc.

To sum up, I love writing. I think I've got "it" and I'm going to take a shot at making it a reality. One week to go.

Thanks for listening.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Seven Years A Writer

I received a notification this morning on Twitter, "It's your Twitter anniversary!" I've been on Twitter for seven years, and it made me think, "What is the significance of that?" Well, in my case, a little over seven years ago I admitted to myself that I was a writer. It was something I always wanted to do, but never thought it would be possible, for some unknown reason. I had previously crafted poetry, song lyrics, and attempted various scribbled stories on blank sheets of paper growing up. Then, realizing I wanted to write something of my own, something that staked my claim as a writer, happen to come after reading The Hunger Games.

Not only is it a fascinating and wonderfully written story, it led me to believe in myself to say, "That's what I want to do." So, I did. That night after work, the dream began to take shape with character names, locations, and plot points to use, cross off, or keep on hold for a later book. So, every night after work, I turned the TV on, hit the mute button, and started writing. In a month's time, I had written my first novel - a dystopian land that someone once mentioned as a cross between 1984 and The Hunger Games. This book would become part of The Weiland Kershaw Series. I self-published the first three and the fourth installment has been in the edit room for a few years. I'll call the "edit room" my version of deciding to put the long editing process on hold to focus on my kids and allow my narrowed focus to craft other delights (or at least I think so).

Over the past seven years, I have also crafted, and sometimes posted online, other tales of fiction in poetry or short story formats. I've written press releases, marketing copy, and written tons and tons of blurbs for social media. More recently, over the past two years, I've written comic and movie reviews and editorials, a featured bi-monthly series, and continue to generate and craft new ideas and stories that I keep ready to tackle when I have a spare moment. I've landed a staff position at Fanbase Press, which is where you'll find my reviews, editorials, and the Geeky Parent Guide (featured series).

After seven years, I am still striving and working constantly to reach that dream - creative writer, full-time. In my own hyper-critical thinking, my writing, my contributions, will never be enough. I always need to write more and more, despite the limited time available in this little thing we all know as life. And after seeing a notification about a Twitter anniversary, my mind starts racing, analyzing, "What have you accomplished?" and "When will you reach your dream?"

These questions are honest questions as I look back over the past seven years to think, "Have I done enough?" Perhaps I will never be satisfied with how much I create, but I know there will be an enormous sense of satisfaction that comes with the day that I can sit down at home, with my wife and two kids, and say, "I've done it. I'm a full-time writer." This Twitter reminder has allowed me to think about the things I've done, while also keep me pointed toward that significant direction. Not to say I haven't been pointed there all along - must become full-time writer *robot voice* - it is safe to say I appreciate the chance to reflect on my accomplishments, even if it means I have yet to achieve my dream.

There are plenty of moments where I can look back, and not too far, sometimes, and realize how scattered and upset I've become at times. It's not often, at least for me, to clearly summarize my feelings when I realize the scope of my dream and then teeter on the edge of restless nights trying to think of other ways I can better my craft, or wonder how much more I can do. To better summarize my thoughts or fears of failing or self-perception of my rattled professional growth, this is who I am. I do not know if achieving a full-time writer position will diminish or remove these distressing feelings. Quite honestly, I don't know if I would want them to go. Does that ever-present feeling of not doing enough allow me to craft the way that I craft? Will a writing position provide comfort and actually alleviate the stresses and make me a better writer?

I do not know.

Something I hope I can share with my kids is to never be afraid to say, "I don't know." I don't want to pretend that I have all of the answers. I want them to see me work and work and work for my goal, and hopefully, let them see the satisfaction of achieving it. Granted, I hope they can achieve whatever goal they have in mind much quicker than I'm currently yielding, but none-the-less, the sentiment will always remain the same. I do not know if I will succeed, but I have to try. I do not know if I will fail, but my kids need to see it, again and again, if needed, so they know that having a dream and pursuing it are never worthless endeavors. They are what our hearts crave, and when surrounded by people who will support those endeavors, it will make the trip much more bearable, even if it isn't always readily apparent.

Seven years a writer. I haven't achieved the dream yet. I will constantly move forward. I will constantly look forward to seeing other creators and what they're doing, hoping to see them succeed as much as I want to do the same. Reading amazing stories or seeing fantastic artwork is inspiring as it gives me hope. I see the smiles on others' faces, or joyous tone in a tweet, when they post about their recent published works, and it's a wonderful thing. That's what I want to do. That is the mindset I carry with me, and perhaps, it will always be there.



Friday, January 12, 2018

Leveling Up: Embracing The Fanbase

Where does inspiration come from? What drives us to put pen to paper, create equipment being sent up to space, illustrate colorful or gritty images for comic books, mentor or lead a local theatre, or express ourselves because we feel comfortable, at peace, safe?

As a sometimes neurotic, introverted individual, my path to success sometimes finds itself in unconventional or geeky ways. Writing is a passion that can’t be quenched with finishing a story, and the ideas always have to be jotted down – even if it means sending myself an email with notes of what I will write, someday. My most open, extroverted period seemed to peak during my college years – as I challenged myself to become a Communication major, because, hey, why shouldn’t the quiet guy who was always told to “speak up” not want to do that. I branched out, extended beyond my comfort level to a degree, and then the best moment of my life happened – meeting the love of my life – a person who accepted all of my little idiosyncrasies and loves me just the same. This is Level 1 – the base or start to any game where you have all that you need to proceed. I honestly don’t know how I reached, or captured, this level and I can’t contemplate how I did anything before her.

Level 2 was having the freedom, giving myself permission to admit, that I want to write for a living. As soon as it happened. I plunged into years surrounded by reading and writing, much ado about dystopian fiction, and the world seemed a little clearer. My grasp on the craft continued to evolve as I etched short stories into my skin and pulled poetic younger years from my soul.

Level 3 – my children. “Game over, man. Game over.” There isn’t a need to reach another level, right? All that life has to offer is there, and it’s the most wonderful experience anyone can never fully realize until it happens. There are magical stories from Disney and Marvel’s Avengers, and an assortment of superhero toys and puzzles. My geeky influence spills over into their worlds, and it feels perfect. Seeing them take joy in the things I take joy in is wonderful, and it’s even better when they decide on their own who they want to be. Early on, it was, “I’m Super Woman!” for both my daughter and son – and watching them run around with a cape and a mask always made the day better.

How do I reach beyond a level I don’t necessarily see a need to exceed?

When dreams become necessary to fulfill, to not only satisfy my own desires, but to show my children it is always okay to go for what you want. The adventure of finding full-time writing has landed me in a special place. It’s a part-time gig, and the most professionally satisfying thing I’ve ever experienced, and the dream doesn’t stop. It grows. The experience continues to move, mold, and restructure itself as I push myself beyond my regular sleep hours to write and write and write. And before I knew it, I had reached Level 4 – and I am truly happy about it.

Level 4 is Fanbase Press. Leveling up through the “Fanbase” has been extraordinary as I’ve reviewed comic books, created a featured series, and interacted with those in and around the Fanbase Press family. The leaders running the organization are Barbra and Bryant Dillon, and their desire to support people’s fandoms, while creating new ones and making sure it’s an environment for anyone to want to join or share – and keeping true to the wonderful notion of building people up and sharing their dreams. Their endless workload and compassionate devotion to their geeky friends led my desire to do more for them, leading to the Geeky Parent Guide.

It’s been close to a year and a half with Fanbase Press, and it’s been an exhilarating experience. How does it feel to be a part of such an organization that only makes you want to do more and more, and never feel like you’re doing enough because you want to do more?

It is amazing. I am a part of something that can be bigger and brighter than any of my dreams ever could’ve imagined. Geeky Parent Guide will reach its one-year anniversary in April, I still continue to write reviews and editorials, and I’ve contributed to a few feature podcast episodes of The Fanbase Weekly. Being a part of a support system that encourages growth and heartfelt communication, I encourage everyone to explore Fanbase Press. If you’re looking for support, or simply want a community that will accept you for you and love watching you build your own geeky empire – then go to fanbasepress.com.

If you find them on Twitter, share your geeky endeavors or your favorite geeky things, and then tag your post with #EmbracetheFanbase. It’s an honor to be able to be involved with this organization and as a staffer, and friend, it’s important for me to share how I’ve leveled up by being a part of Fanbase Press. And by sharing, hopefully it will continue a path of breaking out of my shell and exploring where the Fanbase will take me and where I can help take the Fanbase.

Embrace the Fanbase, and level up. I wonder if Level 5 is in my future.