Not Professional - Unless I Get to Be Professionally Me
Hey all, and welcome to a page about me :) I thought about making this a professional writer site, but I'm not an office person and hate being defined by my profession...even if it is as cool as living as a writer. Have a look around, and feel free to say hi. Thanks!
Quick Facts About Shane (Always Subject to Change)
I've never been great with the autobiography thing in writing - stories come naturally through telling, in my opinion, so here's a quick run down of things about me in "fast facts" form.
1) Political Affiliation - Fiercely independent. Any given election I can vote Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, or even maybe Libertarian, depending on who's running.
2) Religious Affiliation - Christian. Not "American Christian," not "conservative," not "Republican," not "closed-minded," but actually Christian. I'm often mistaken for a Humanist or Pluralist because I get along well with so many people.
3) Favorite Movies - Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, Babbette's Feast, Love Me If You Dare, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo, Garden State, and too many more to mention.
4) Favorite Books - Yikes, how many hundreds to I get? I guess The Walking Drum by Louie L'Amour, Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, any fantasy by George R.R. Martin, Dark Tower Series and literary fiction by Stephen King, and anything by John Steinbeck
5) Favorite place I've lived - Fairbanks, Alaska. I love Austin, Texas, and I still hold a soft spot for the Appalachian part of Pennsylvania, but something about Alaska just gets in the blood.
6) Short term goals - Sell my first novel this year, pay off excess debt from grad school, get at least three good road trips in this year, start up a funny t-shirt company with my buddies, have a rough draft of memoirs. Probably end up passing those off as fiction to avoid the headaches.
7) Places you want to visit - Scotland, Mongolia, Hemingway's grave (Idaho), Isla Mujeres Mexico (re-visit), Ireland, Estonia, UAE.
8) Major Pet Peeve - People who think that they're absolutely right all the time no matter what, or people who over value institutional education (I know, I know, says the MFA grad :))
9) Best thing about where I'm living now? Amazing Cajun restaurant and bar just five minutes drive away. I'm a firm believer that everyone needs their "home away from home," and I found a great one.
10) Like the Career? I've always wanted to make a living writing, so yeah. I still want to (and believe I can) get to the point where I'm doing it with fiction and screen writing, but for now this will do just fine. Still the best job I've ever had.
11) Blog to brag about? Yep. I've made a flagship blog to help people out who are in the same boat I used to be in by teaching them how to become a freelance writer.
Some of My Favorite Books
I love a wide variety of books, and these are some of my favorites.
Maybe the most brilliant and intense novel ever written.
The first book in maybe the best fantasy series ever written.
A Medieval fictional history that is incredible.
Great spiritual book from a guy who actually gets it.
What to Read to Become a Renaissance Man
40 Books to read for an all around education
Ever since I first heard the term "Renaissance Man" and learned what it meant, I've always wanted to think of myself as a Renaissance man. It's such a great term, along the lines of "a gentleman and a scholar," and it fit me.
I was interested in anything, and I wanted to be a well rounded individual in my education. I didn't want to specialize in one field and ignore others, I wanted to learn everything and be able to discuss every field.
It's with the well rounded, well educated, Renaissance Man idea of reading that I give my recommended list of 40 classic books everyone desiring a true classic education should read. These aren't in any particular order, as all twenty work together for a well rounded literary experience that you can be proud of.
1) "Book of Psalms," King James Version Bible. The poetry from this book is gorgeous. The use of language, the flow of words, and the struggles trying to reconcile the world and faith make this one a winner.
2) "The Wasteland," by T.S. Eliot. Few works in all of human history have captivated the common reader and the critic alike the way "The Wasteland" has.
3) "The Origin of Species," by Charles Darwin. Few works have changed the course of science, thought, or human history than this work. And with all the people incorrectly quoting this book without reading it (this goes to scientists and atheists as heavily as overly religious individuals), that makes this work a must read. I have it on my shelf next to the Bible, which seems pleasantly appropriate.
4) "The Brothers Karamazov," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In my opinion, this is the most brilliant novel ever written. Russian literature tends to be thick and complex (in the best of both words), and this book is so incredible that it can shake you to the core.
5) "A Tale of Two Cities," by Charles Dickens. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." And if you read the book, you'd know the entire first paragraph, about a page long, is equally as poetic and brilliant as that first sentence. Once of Dickens' finest works.
6) "Don Quixote," by Miguel de Cervantes. Considered to be the first Western modern novel, and a definite classic with great stories of the tragic Don Quixote.
7) "Red Badge of Courage," by Stephen Crane. A great work of American literature, maybe the best thing written in the time period released. A very short but powerful work.
8) "The Sun Also Rises," by Ernest Hemingway. Maybe the single greatest last line (in context) of any novel ever written.
9) "East of Eden," by John Steinbeck. "Grapes of Wrath" is also powerful, but Steinbeck set out to make "East of Eden" his masterpiece, and he succeeded in this brilliant novel.
10) "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller. One of the greatest satires ever written, this is a stunning work filled with great humor, story, satire, and it set a new standard for fictional dialogue that still hasn't been matched.
11) "No Easy Walk to Freedom," by Nelson Mandela. The single most important autobiography of the modern era.
12) "Jude the Obscure," by Thomas Hardy. The last novel by Thomas Hardy, commenting on much of society, a depressing work that shows the "dues ex machina" of "rigged doom," or a universe where all characters are turned towards their own destruction.
13) "On the Road," by Jack Kerouac. Part of the beat generation, few travel novels capture the age's society or pure intensity of energy Kerouac's writings produce.
14) "Frankenstein," by Mary Shelly. Hello modern horror novel.
15) "Gilgamesh" (epic poem). A great epic poem, better than "Beowulf," in my opinion.
16) "The Odyssey," by Homer. No one should be able to call themselves a scholar, or even well read, if they don't know this story.
17) "The Communist Manifesto," by Karl Marx. This isn't only a work of political philosophy, but also of spiritual philosophy in a staggeringly well written and argued thesis.
18) "Les Miserables," by Victor Hugo. Maybe the finest story ever produced by a French author, and they have many to choose from.
19) "The Prince," by Niccolo Machiavelli. One of the most important and formative political writings in European history. I had this assigned three times in college: once for a political theory class, once for western history, and once for English.
20) "Another Country," by James Baldwin. Right up there with Richard Wright's "Native Son" as some of the most important African-American literature out there.
21) "Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger. This is one of the most popular and incredible novels ever written, and solidified Salinger as one of the great master of letters of all time.
22) "Lord of the Rings," by J.R.R. Tolkien. He wasn't the first fantasy writer, but he should still be considered the father of the modern genre.
23) "Lord of the Flies," by William Golding. Short, easy to read, but this novel takes a deep look into the dark part of the human psyche, to the blackness of human nature, to the brutality of the beast.
24) "The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Modern British literature at its finest, these stories are exceptional.
25) "The Tale of Genji." A classic Japanese novel written around the year AD 1000, it is a work that is considered by Japanese scholars to be the mountain top towards which all Japanese literature aspires.
26) "Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis. This work was brilliant as theology, philosophy, and fine non-fiction rhetorical literature, and should be required reading at the college level.
27) "The Sound and the Fury," by William Faulkner. Faulkner's most complex and ambitious work, this novel is incredible, and don't be surprised if you have to read it two or three times to fully appreciate the staggering complexity and genius behind this work.
28) "House Made of Dawn," by N. Scott Momaday. This little known Pulitzer Prize winning novel was written about a Native American's experiences after fighting overseas in the World War, and struggling to join back into a people and culture he feels permanently separated from.
29) "A Small Place," by Jamaica Kincaid. One of several great pieces of modern Caribbean literature, but this work is the best of them all.
30) "The Invisible Man," by Ralph Ellison. An incredible work describing the problems, plights, and struggles of post-Civil War black culture in America.
31) "The Souls of Black Folk," by W.E.B. Du Bois. An incredible work that is considered ground breaking in sociology, as well as African-American history.
32) "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston. An early work that was a breakthrough for both African-American and women's literature, paving the way for much later works by Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.
33) "The Art of War," by Sun-Tzu. Still considered the Bible for military tactics and military history.
34) "The Second World War," by Winston Churchill. This six volume set is considered one of the best and most important modern histories ever written.
35) "The Wealth of Nations," by Adam Smith. It's a shame all the people screaming for unregulated capitalism don't read this work they so often claim to quote.
36) "Leaves of Grass," by Walt Whitman. This was Whitman's most brilliant poetic masterpiece.
37) "Le Morte D'Arthur," by Sir Thomas Malory. These are the original legends and stories that became the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
38) "One Hundred Years of Solitude," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is an incredible work blending history, fiction, and magical realism in a creative blend that makes this novel a one of a kind work.
39) "Siddhartha," by Herman Hesse. A story that became extremely popular 40 years after its writing, this search for enlightenment, peace, and fulfillment is a spiritualist classic to this day.
40) "Ideas & Opinions," by Albert Einstein. The musings, thoughts, and contemplations of one of the most brilliant men to ever live.
41) (Free bonus) "A Brief History of Time," by Stephen Hawking. Often called "the unread best seller," this book has sold millions of copies, but few have read the entire book all the way through. I have, and it's worth the time and effort.
These are just the beginning, but if you've read all the books on this list you can definitely consider yourself a well read scholar.
Some of Shane's Best Squidoo Lenses, Thus Far
A lot of my best lenses are scattered among many different subjects, so here's a collection of the ones I'm most proud of. Some are time sensitive, so appreciate the amount of work :)
- Sinclair Lewis and Antique Books
Spent two weeks on the top 100 list, and is close to getting there again. All about the forgotten American literary giant and about the antique value of his books now.
- The Coen Brothers
Best movie directors ever.
- Mom's Antique Store
Mom's antique store in the town of Belle Plaine, Iowa, with an ability to buy online from her eBay store.
- 2007 College Bowls Lens
It started with a whole lot of predictions and looking at every single bowl game, then the game by game update as they came in.
- Want to Be a Freelance Writer?
A page dedicated to saving beginning freelance writers from all the hard knocks and lessons I had to learn.
- Master Dayton
Blog I'm starting about all aspects of making a living as a freelance writer, and I'm hoping that eventually this will be a flagship blog for me that I can use to help thousands of people who want to learn how to make a living writing.
Wacky Adventure: 2009
They all sound good to me. Which one intrigues you the most?
Shane's Favorite YouTube Video
I have to hand it to these guys: this is a fantastic home made movie about surviving the zombie apocalypse that is both hilarious, and excellently done. Nice job guys, and bright future ahead!
First Part, First Draft of My New Novel (It's rough, hasn't been revised at all, so be gentle)
Not the one I'm sending out now, one I'm working on bit by bit - tentatively titled "Ghosts of Coe"
Spring of the year was of the lion, the gentleness of the lamb easily consumed by Mother Nature's much larger and side of her split personality. The first hint was the harshness of the previous winter. The long length kept us cooped up in small rooms, little prisons where tensions with roommates boiled.
I was among the lucky few who could withstand the cold enough to take a walk through two feet of snow when it was thirty below, but even I couldn't last out there for long.
It was a miracle that Sledge hadn't speared Andrew right out the window again. The tension hadn't ceased since that incredibly bizarre incident. Yet somehow, in a strange way, they were growing some type of friendshp.
Classes were my sanctuary. When I was there I didn't have to think about work or closing in on graduation, or anything else. I didn't have to worry about the seemingly endless surrealness of life, or questions about the universe. There were simply the classes before me: African-American Literature, History of Catholicism, poetry workshop, or Ornithology.
That was it. Nothing else, at least until I had to go home, to a world as alien to the campus as the campus was to my roommates.
Saturday mornings were both the best and worst. They were the worst among my classes because we usually traveled somewhere for ornithology lab. It allowed me to get away for five hours at a time, but it was open enough that I couldn't help but become reflective.
I was forced to deal with some aspect of my life, and it wasn't always pleasant. On the first truly nice weekend of spring our professor led the caravan to Holiday Lake. On this day my thoughts turned back to Christina.
She hadn't been back at the Barnes and Noble since that mid-December week. There was something different about her that wouldn't let me forget. I kept trying to make her memory like a peaceful gentle breeze; pleasant, yet soon gone. She wouldn't leave because I wouldn't let her. Why had she decided to sit and talk with me?
What was it that made her laugh and look away when I tried to set her up with Andrew? Why was I interested in her? She was beautiful, but she was a strongly faithful Christian girl, I couldn't be her type.
Why hadn't she returned? What was it about her that was so different? In the months following I still hadn't been able to place what it was that made me obsess over her. Many times since I went back to the bookstore, hoping to catch her again, but she was a dream, always dancing on that edge between fantasy and reality, always out of reach.
"Dude, you alright? We're here," Aaron said, punching me in the arm to get me moving.
"Sorry," I apologized, "just day dreaming a little bit."
We had pulled off to the side of a gravel road and all stood looking at a small part of the lake. The chop was violent and large despite the clear sunny day. The lighter people were already having trouble standing, and it was impossible to hold a pair of binoculars straight. We watched at ducks while our professor was correcting the assumption that their actions were "simple" by lecturing on the complex intricacies of their relationships.
"Okay, class, did you see that duck flapping its wings out toward the cattails there? That's misdirected aggression."
"Looks like he's beating the hell out of them damn cattails to me," some heckler chipped in.
All of us laughed.
"All right, that's enough class. Let's get serious. The other male there moved in on a female the first one was trying to impress. This brought on a fight-or-flight instinct. This particular male was too indecisive, so he's taking his aggression out on those cattails. This doesn't do him any good, since he doesn't attract the female or ward off the male trying to move in. This happens because a bird's mind is very instinctive, so it can't think of how to handle the situation. So the moment this bird became frustrated he ignored his problems to vent in a way that really didn't help him at all."
I shifted from one foot to the other, trying my best to balance the importance of keeping my balance with listening to a professor whose voice droned. I looked again, watching as the wind eventually made the chop so heavy that the waves started white-capping and the ducks took cover on shore.
We drove up to the main part of the park, which led to a long two mile trail near the shore of the main part of the lake. I was silent. I didn't care to join the discontent mass muttering about the muddy trail or attempt to catch up to the professor and class brown nose, talking constantly a little further ahead.
I kept my own pace, directly in the middle of both groups, left to my own little confused world. I wasn't so far gone thinking about Christina that I didn't hear the footsteps approaching. I turned to glance over my shoulder just as Vanessa caught up to me, smiling a little bashfully, a little mischievously. It was a good combination for her.
"How's it going, slugger?"
"I'm doing alright. You?"
"Wish it was a little less windy," she said with a laugh, leaping up to grab her hat as a gust of wind puffed up, trying to claim the prize for itself.
"Has to be at least fifty or sixty miles an hour," I agreed. The weeds and trees confirmed what I had been saying with ridiculously overemphasized nods that brought them back and forth like bobble-head dolls.
"I haven't seen you around much recently."
"It's been a strange year for me. I guess I'm just trying to figure things out."
"You looked like you were day dreaming. Anything you care to talk about?"
"Maybe later," I said, thoughts of Christina rapidly fading in precedence as Vanessa's hand fell on my shoulder and she drew herself nearer.
"You work tonight?"
"Only a partial shift."
"I might visit you, if that's all right."
"I get off at eight. We could go catch dinner somewhere, if you want."
"Look over there in the distance," the professor yelled over the wind. "See that long line of white. That's a flock of literally hundreds of white pelicans. Let's walk down to the end of this trail and see if we can't get a better look."
I looked towards where he had been pointing and saw it. From the distance we were at the flock of nearly a hundred pelicans looked like a white puff of pure heavenly color at an unreachable and unobtainable distance.
Even through the binoculars no bird took on a distinct form, but there was at least some sense of life, that the long beautiful white line was in fact alive. They were the same color that I imagined angels' robes looked like in heaven, minus the glow. It was pure beauty.
The wind wouldn't subside. We'd feel an additional burst as it upped itself a notch, but it never returned back to what it was. Instead it kept compiling upon itself, making the going extremely energy consuming.
We passed one or two barren trees and a lot of weeds. Towards the end of the trail stood the stone foundations of a building long since gone from the pages of existence. Standing at the end I looked through the binoculars at the group of pelicans again. I still couldn't see enough to distinguish any individual bird, but the beauty of them was breathtaking.
I didn't care much for science, but my poet's heart could sing at this, just as it was singing questions about Vanessa's snuggling right then.
If she could hear my heartbeat, she'd know I was a very nervous man.
"What's that over there?" Aaron asked.
I looked and saw what looked like a skeleton, except there were feathers on it. The professor led the way into the marshy ground, stopping in front of a skeleton. It was a good thing it was there, because two more feet and we would sink in mud. It was the remains of a white pelican, head unattached, but with feathers on the wings. I couldn't believe that I found the plain ivory color of the bones strikingly pretty.
"My guess is that this pelican died in the fall," the professor said. "Come on, everyone, draw closer. It's finished decomposing. It doesn't stink anymore."
He picked up the skull and began lecturing on the beak, the length of it compared to the head, and what evolutionary advantages it had. He finished and placed the skull back on the ground, stepping back as if indecisive on what to do next. At that point the wind swirled up yet again, even more fiercely this time.
The feathered skeleton got up and danced its indignant, yet graceful, steps right towards a group of girls in our class, causing them to jump about and away from it. Finished with its performance, the skeleton took its final bow.
We began the long trek back. I didn't stay with Vanessa so much as she stayed with me. The professor and the brown nose were far ahead. Aaron and the storkish blond were close behind, then we were twenty feet back.
On the way back our professor went off on a side route, disappointing the majority of students who all felt it was long past time to go home.
He led us into the woods over by a pond. We had to cross a small creek, skipping and hopping from rock to rock to make it, trying our best not to twist an ankle or slip and fall in during the process.
We sat in a clearing in the woods, searching for any signs of ducks moving among the weeds. Vanessa laid her head on my shoulder for a little while, and I let her. I felt good.
It wasn't long before we completed the journey back to the cars. Every new burst of wind refused to to give way to silence, each continuing to add upon its predecessors, keeping us in a constant state of tenuous balance.
Vanessa and I kissed quickly while the others took one last look at the pond. Everyone then struggled against the wind to get back to our various car pools. The wind had gained severe storm-like momentum despite the blue cloudless sky and bright cold sun.
God was angry with us, and we knew not why.
The Constant Question (Tongue in Cheek)...
Friends of mine have debated this since I was sixteen, and the morbid sense of humor in our group certainly helped...
Will Shane make it to 50?
Dude, You're Not Dead Yet, so Definitely - Crazy is Good for the Health
Links to Blogs I enjoy
Hope every visitor enjoyed. Feel free to leave a comment!