Welcome To Travels with Hermes
… where you will find resources and inspiration to help you navigate the worlds of humanity and the soul, leading to the best hidden experiences of the two. Hermes is the Greek god and personal guide to travelers, athletes and writers. 

Welcome! My name is Andrew Kloak and I will bring you dynamic communication that leads to insight and personal breakthroughs. I’m a Social Commentator and Novelist of the #1 Sports Book of 2016, Working the Glass: A Novel.

My novel was just released on April 7, 2016. It’s ready for you to purchase now on Amazon.com!

This is my blog Travels with Hermes! hermes2

    • As a social commentator (based in the San Francisco Bay Area and a native of Chicago), I can help you thrive and go deeper in exponentially changing world. I’m on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on local social media like Google+, Twitter and everything in between.
    • As a sports novelist, I bring you the #1 Sports Novel of 2016! I think you will enjoy Working the Glass: A Novel, a gritty odyssey of basketball and romance across the Czech Republic in 1993.
    • As a professional speaker and teacher– I can speak to your organization about writing, Silicon Valley and spirituality.

Andrew Kloak, Sports Novelist and Social commentator

Got questions? Peruse this blog to LEARN MORE, Sign up for this blog. I need your email to stay in touch and send you twice monthly updates as we get closer to the release date on my novel. Let’s hook up so you are on my email list and part of the Travels with Hermes community.

MY PHILOSOPHY
My philosophy is to advocate for you. I strive to be the #1 sports novelist of 2016 and one of the Top 10 Blogs for Self-Publishers 2016. I engage readers not only in the San Francisco Bay Area, the USA and Canada but across the world. Unlike many scribes, I empower writers and advocate for them as an expert coach. We’re all in this together!

HERMES MESSENGER AND GUIDE
Hermes the amazing! He’s the right guide for you and me. Hermes is an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia. The second youngest of the Olympian gods. Hermes is a God of athletes and invented fire. We’re going to need that fire!!! We have it. Our servers are all powered by LiteSpeed and solid-state drives (SSDs). LiteSpeed is 533% faster than Apache 2.4 with keep-alive connections and 167% faster with no keep-alive connections (SSDs are superior to regular HDDs) but don’t take my word for it. Try it out.

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We Couldn’t Do It Without Our Mothers

My mother Therese Kloak came to visit me in the San Francisco Bay Area from Chicago. We pulled over in the car along Skyline Drive near Windy Hill were we could see the whole of Santa Clara Valley below.  I pulled out the book Do What You Love and the Money Will Come, written by Marsha Sintar. We read parts of it out loud in that car.Parents with Book

 I told her my destiny was that I was writer. She said you can do it, I believe in you. 

From up there, I had a vision and confidence I could do it. The whole world was in front of me.

Twenty five years later, after a roundabout trek in journalism, public relations, team work consulting, I completed my first novel Working the Glass: A Novel.

A week ago, my Irish mother broke her hip in the living room of my Mountain View, California home. The next day, she had hip replacement surgery at Stanford Medical Center.

On Saturday, I moved her to a skilled nursing center here in my town. There were a lot of decisions to make and I felt a lot of pressure. So much so that my oldest daughter wiped a tear from my cheek as I stopped to pause and reflect on all that happened in seven days. 1294541_846685385382351_7297171292484329696_o

She was supposed to fly back home to Chicago, but life had other plans. It’s been a tough, but eventful week.

My helping her isn’t an imposition; it’s an act of love. I’ve been by her bedside every day. Sure, I get tired and have to pace myself after coming to see her for all these consecutive days so far. I put my both hands over my face more than a few times this emotional week!

But here’s the thing: My mother has always encouraged not just me, but a lot of other people along the way. Besides my wife, having a mother like her is the luckiest gift I’ve ever received.

This remarkable 90-year old woman had eight children and I’m happy I’m one of them.

But she’s a gift to many besides, my large clan. Even now she’s taking care of other people’s babies. There’s Tracey the RN and Danny from Stanford Hospital. Marisol, Maripreet and Mario, the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) at her current healthcare center. And many others. She gets to know them all, laugh with them, and enjoy them!

As writer promoting my novel, I can learn a lot from my mom. We can all can!

While recovering from surgery at Stanford Hospital, my mother had constant newcomers coming in as her roommates. Most were too tired to say much from their orthopaedic surgeries.

Then one day, on the other side of the curtain, there was a woman who looked like my mother.  From behind the thin divide across the room, the cranky look-alike-alike said this: Why is that woman next to me? Get her out of here.

She swore constantly and complained about the bad care she was getting at the hospital.

After a day, she was transferred out and replaced by a new person.

Who knows of complainer lady’s future?

In contrast, my mother’s trajectory is very good because she always had a great attitude. Even after all this. Her doctors say because of her outlook and family support, she’ll thrive and successfully rehabilitate so she can head home.

I sure hope so. I’ll do everything I can to make that happen!

I wouldn’t be a novelist, writer of a blog like this, and human being I am today without this special person.

What will happen next is a mystery, but I can tell you this:

The world is a much better place with the Therese Kloaks in it!

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A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

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Love and Magic in Connecting with Readers

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. –CorinthiansAndrea and Marcel

I went to a wedding anniversary celebration of my friends and supporters Andrea and Marcel from the Slovak Republic recently. This famous wedding passage above was read.

My eyes watered upon hearing this beautiful passage that day here in Mountain View, California. It’s a reminder of the strength and fragility of all this. It sums up the greatness of the journey of their 10 years of marriage.

But also my journey as a writer.  It’s the right affirmation of the heart and mindset you need if you want to create anything enduring and rich as the protagonist of your own story as a writer.

Writing a novel takes all of the above. You have to apprentice yourself to the attributes of patience and kindness.

Patience to work hard and keep churning ahead every day.

Kindness to yourself. You have to be kind and praise your efforts. There’s joy in that.

My wife Teofila is as reluctant as Michelle Obama has been at times to be a public figure in helping her husband, Barrack.Sir Gawain

I’ve been married 21 years and sometimes it’s very tough. But there is one time now when my wife truly comes alive.

That’s when I’m meeting with readers of Working the Glass: A Novel.

She takes pictures, engages with fans with stories, and then after a while, when it keeps coming, she takes it all in with amazement. I can see it in her face.

They say things like they loved the story and stayed up late to read it. Others say they were sad to see it end and want me to write more.

Many readers are emboldened to meet you after reading the novel.

How times do you feel compelled to meet the author after reading their book? It’s a real honor to hear this! I love it.1271960_846685325382357_5973650051005791898_o

I shake hands, tell stories, answer their questions, sign books and take pictures. I lose myself in the process very much like the peak experience moments I find in writing. Or even further back, playing basketball!

To my wife, here is the manly hero using his guile and magic to slay the dragons. For a few hours, the world obeys and conspires in his magic. There’s greatness in this, she would say.

This is the great thing about being married to writer!

Love is patient, love is kind.

Don’t forget that.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

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Increasing Face-to-Face Contact Stands Out As Antidote To Current Malaise

My novel was published a few months ago and that’s a great accomplishment for my fifth decade. 

But I realize more than ever, that I need to see your face.

I have been meeting with people face-to-face. I’m good at connecting and want to make it as real as possible.

But to scale up to make my novel a bestseller, you have to connect with people in the online space. Lots of them. That’s the game today. One friend said you have to make a connection to people that have little to no emotional connection to you.  He’s right.Nimue___Lady_Of_The_Lake_by_Raipun

But remember even in the online space, people are connecting emotionally with you, even, if it’s greatly obscured.

We think we’re more connected than ever.  But it’s nearly impossible. Everyone is seemingly accessible on social media, but like the medium itself, it’s a kind of hell today. You’re so close, but yet, more distant than ever.

It takes draconian effort today just to meet in person. A phone call is a start.

But I can’t even find your number anymore! 

Unlike the 1990s, when I had everyone’s name and phone number in a planner, it’s more difficult to track down friend’s phone numbers and emails.

My contact lists are in ruins.

And even if I have them, it’s harder to call for some reason.

Maybe here’s why:

Social media and prolonged online interaction promote a false sense of intimacy. We all thought seeing the achievements and pictures of your friends online was a social glue.  But this online voyeurism is no social glue at all.

It’s killing our character.

I took an online writing class at Stanford Continuing Studies a few years ago. I hated it.

Compared to the in-person classes I’ve taken, it felt empty. People were afraid to engage and be honest. I felt disengaged and disconnected in that online writing workshop.

I did much better when there were writers sitting along. We looked into each others eyes when we talked.  I would come home exhilarated and alive!Employees-chatting-1

Research by Paula Klemm and Thomas Hardie bears that out. They compared face-to-face, in-person groups with online cancer support groups. They found they were statistically similar except for one thing: the participants’ moods. Most (92 percent) of the participants in the electronic groups were depressed, while none of the participants in the in-person group were!

The more time we spend on the internet, the less time spent with friends, family and colleagues. We accure hours on our computers each day. Whatever the benefits, that’s mostly time spent alone.tx_2279373b

As Susan Pinker said in her book, the Village Effect, the “come-hither” aspect of electronic media has pulled the wool over our eyes, convincing us that different ways of making contact are the same as being there. Our electronic networks are expanding, but our social networks are staying the same and the people we feel close to has shrunk.

That’s significant.

Pinker goes on to say, given that the only person many Americans say they can trust is their spouse, it turns out that many of us are just one person away from being alone!

So it turns out being married or having close buddies you rarely ever see isn’t enough.

Being married to your computer doesn’t work either.

Go into a Starbucks in any town in America now and you’ll see half the people having a date with their computer.

Being in touch with your friends in the middle distance can breed contempt. And can generate complacency.

The cliché familiarly breeds contempt isn’t true.

Why? Because face-to-face contact, by far, creates a sense of oneness, satisfaction and fun. Amazingly, that close connection attracts the other to us even more. And vice versa.

It’s too late to throw out my tablet, iphone and computer.  But the truth is I just need to bring things back to the future.

The 1990s me started the novel had an overwhelming preference to face-to-face communication. That same desire is alive today! That’s how we’re wired.

Our ability to connect with anyone 24/7 with technology hasn’t led to an uptick in well-being. Has it made you better? Let me know.

By and large we’re lonelier and unhappier than we were in the decades before the internet age, according to a 2004 study of households in the United States and the U.K.

My present self that just turned 50 sees the need for the authentic and frequent face-to-face contact. I’m on the road to repairing and replacing face-to-face relationships I’ve lost. But trust me, it’s hard work even for a extroverted, positive guy like me!

I’m doing it for the sake of my well being, health and longevity.

I’m sorry, I’ve not been the best friend!

Let’s start small and connect. I’m calling it Operation Connection to You.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

 

 

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Outlier Writers Are Mainstream, the Key Is to Be Authentic

I’m rolling up my sleeves to create a Working the Glass website for the novel. Not having it was a rookie mistake! Hey, you learn in this publishing business. My Travels with Hermes is close to my heart, but mixes the message and can’t stand as the book’s primary vehicle.

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The outliers are mainstream now. People expect underdogs like me to make great gains. And I will. The channel is open right now and I’m going to cruise my ship right through it.  Even the tycoon Donald Trump has had his moment in the outlier spotlight but now that’s coming to an end. The fascination factor is starting to ebb on The Donald. People have had their fill and see there was nothing much there in their rearview mirrors.

Where does this great wave, put me as I embark on public life after writing a novel? I’ve certainly had many twists and turns and have a compelling bunch of plot points in my journey to write this over the last 17 years. That’s good for me as I launch a novel.  We’re on the verge of something today.  Working the Glass

What’s the measure of self worth? If you look at a society that’s addicted to finance and money, you’d think that was it. To a lot of people, that’s their sum contribution to life and the world. And definer of self.  But as the Chinese economic collapse demonstrated even last week, people who were extremely wealthy lost it over time. People lost everything in fact. The lesson here is fortune comes and goes. And it’s no place to put your grand hopes.

There has to be a better way. How do you be as a writer out in the world writer promoting yourself?  I read something recently that had a novel approach to this. How the World Sees You, written by Sally Hogshead.Author Photo 1

It’s good in that it shows you how you are seen by others. That’s your reputational self. It’s an important part of the quotient.

You do exercises and determine your type. I’m dynamic, inclusive and engaging. That’s pretty accurate.  Hogshead gives each type a name and mine is A People’s Champion. This doesn’t translate into the persona and figure you associate with being a writer. Not a writer posture. Rather it’s kind of like a being rock star figure and public phenomena than anything else. But it is who I am. It’s going to work great for me

But being my enthusiastic and lyrical self on the trail like some Irish poet or politician will only get me so far. It’s more complicated.  You have to fullness. People aren’t evil, it’s just we have hidden dimensions. Dark part has to be honored and balanced with the brightness. I’ve called it dynamic tension.

Just be your exuberant self and it will all work out. Just be your rockstar self and everything will open for you. For one thing, Hogshead book assumes everyone sees the world that way. People are different types and if you channel all this energy in one direction with others, a good number not your type will be dismissive, not out of evil so much as, they are threatened. Then you have cynics.

Moreover, your reputation encompasses just one side of who you are.  Hogshead forgets about a whole other side of how we operate in the world. That is: How do you perceive yourself to be? That’s just as important to consider as your reputation.  So the bifurcated way (external and internal) is more accurate to how we operate in the world.

This type is a great campaigner. Kind of like a Bobby Kennedy figure but this doesn’t translate into the persona you associate with being a writer. Not a writer posture. It’s more politician than anything else.

I’m Irish and Czech so let’s look at both sides of my heritage as examples. Patrick Pearce was an Irish poet who led the 1916 Easter Uprising in Irish. He was being his lyrical and enthusiastic self. And even got up on a chair and read poetry as the Uprising against the British was underway. He was lyrical and enthusiastic but no had groundedness. The Uprising was crushed in three days and he was executed.

More sensible was another writer from the other side of my heritage, the Czech writer Vaclav Havel. Like Pearce, Havel had a good understanding of what’s important in life.

Havel was equally philosophical and effusive. But grounded. You need that balance.  The architect of the Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989 had better understanding of the forces he was dealing with in the desperate Communist authorities. He was victorious and eventually was elected President of the newly democratic Czechoslovakia.

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Working the Glass

How Is Your Debut Novel Doing Since Hitting the Market Two Months Ago?

People ask me all the time, how the novel is doing?Paris 2015 New Year's Day

Here is what I say. I think you can put a book out there like mine and it will become an instant New York Times bestseller.

But it’s not as easy as you think.

Selling your book takes a lot of work, much more than I thought, but I love doing it.

This novel has brought all these friends back in my life and wonderful strangers to me, too. Face-to-face connection. It’s been the most stunning outcome since releasing Working the Glass on April 7!

Many writers are introverts and really don’t want to get involved in promoting their novel. They just want to write. I can understand that. It’s fun to write, I really love that part, or I wouldn’t call myself a writer.

But the magic in this promoting the novel process is in connecting with others. I’ve found that.  I have to sell myself.

I was a salesman snob.

Like many people, I always looked down on the concept of “selling.” It seemed like something lower than me.

To some extent, selling appears manipulative. You have a product and you try to portray that it has more value than it actually does. So you need to manipulate people into buying it. This seems sad, as in the book “Death of a Salesman” sort of sad.

I was wrong. I always said, even before the novel came out. I can sell things I’m passionate about.1383_1050716588312562_5043507779212100650_n

When I believe in something like a story like Working the Glass: A Novel, I can sell it.

Not just because I took 17 years to write it. It’s because I put my heart in this and feel I told the story I always wanted to tell.

When I watch films like Goal: The Dream Begins, Hoosiers, Rudy, and A River Runs Through It on the big screen, I get inspired.

Those were written stories that came to life and became classics.

Look at the power of creation. Now I’m in the ranks of the creators of those stories. It’s great to be here!!

All I have been doing is selling. Selling stories, selling the promise of the novel, selling myself for jobs, selling myself.

I put engagement and people skills much higher than technical skills in this book tour stage. The most amazing thing I’ve learned is good content marketing – this blog- will help people solve problems. What’s the problem? People want friendship and face-to-face connection.

So in a sense, the novel has been a vehicle for this incredible return of meaningful connection. The novel has emboldened people to connect with me and I really love that part. They won’t take no for an answer.

People want shared experience. They want to be with me. The writer moving up in the world. We’re changing together.

My friend Michael Easley said it best. When someone spends 10 hours reading the novel, they feel like they know you. They want to talk to you. Michael and I did talk and meet for a beer after he read it. It’s the least I can do. He gave me great feedback on my marketing strategy. We reconnected.

Same with my 93 year old uncle Jack in Florida, he wrote me a letter saying I’d given him two days of joy as he spent more time in the world of superliga basketball, the Czech Republic and the head of Frank Savek, my main character.

My uncle loved the novel! He encouraged me and told me I was on the right track.  I’ll save that letter for the rest of my life.

Can I do more to get the word out there about the novel? Yes, hard cover sales have fallen back some in the last few weeks on Amazon. But E-book/Kindle sales have risen.

I’ve not gotten any media coverage yet. I call that earned media. You have to earn it. I’m rolling out a marketing plan now. I’ll be able to have book readings and bookstore events if I work hard at making those happen.

I have faith and optimism. Those are my strengths to be sure. But at its essence you have to connect with one reader at a time.

It starts with friendship. Nobody is going to buy from someone they hate. The buyer has to like you and want to be your friend. If you don’t have that, you will be publishing a worstseller. No writer wants that. 

People have to care about the character and care about you. The minute I stop caring for a character, it’s over.  

It also calls for being a trusted source. Whether you buy the novel or not I’m going to help you and give you ideas that will help you.

That’s what I want for you and I.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

 

 

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Paris 2015 New Year's Day

We Can Thrive Together, How This Novel Will Change Your Life and Friendships

I was questioned by the police and they asked for my ID. I gave them my Illinois Driver’s License. The officer said if you would have run we would have hunted you down.

A few minutes before I hit a woman from behind on my bike  along the lakefront where the path narrows near Diversey Street and Lake Michigan in Chicago. bicycle-700x300

I wasn’t going that fast and a woman drifted in my path. I was shocked at how she flew off from the impact of my front tire. She hit the pavement and began bleeding in the head.10454381_715910825183234_6146033870314769843_n

I stopped and laid my bicycle alongside her. I got a towel and stopped her bleeding and comforted her.

I told her I was sorry. She said it’s okay.

A woman who said she was a nurse was jogging by stopped and helped us.  In the back of my mind, I wanted to continue on my journey. I had places to go but I wasn’t leaving this woman.

That’s when the police came. They could see the whole scene. My bicycle laid down on the ground. The injured woman in her 50s, me and the nurse on the scene.

We started to draw a crowd. An ambulance came. I squeezed this woman’s hand and walked to the ambulance. Whereupon one of the two paramedics took her from me. He said to her come with us, we’re going to take good care of you.

Nothing ever came of that I moved to California a few months later.

Flash forward to a few days ago.

My daughter, now a teenager at 13, was telling me she hated me and I was a terrible father. She unleashed a torrent of upset. I was washing the dishes in the kitchen. She was telling me this from the living room, where she was doing her home work on her school-issued IPad.

I hate it when people talk to me from the other room. But hated it more than my daughter was saying this stuff to me. It hurt. She’s got power to hurt and heal. There’s now potency in her that I’d never seen before. I realized she’s growing up!magic begins

So I came into the living room and said I didn’t like that she said that. She said these things are true. I said nothing. But she looked into my eyes. My face told her I was hurt. Then she settled down and said Dad, I’m sorry.

Photo0204I said let’s sit down and talk face-to-face so I can understand why you are saying these things. You might be right about things and there might be some truth in this.

I know there’s power in talking to someone and looking into their eyes. Just listening. Seeing their humanity and letting them know you’ve heard them and care.

I said let’s talk. We can sit down on the sofa and can talk now.

She said no, I don’t want to talk to you.  I said okay and retreated.

I want her to know I care and moreover I’m going to slow down enough to listen. Eventually, we’ll talk and I’ve seen the transforming power of connecting by talking and listening.

I’m going to keep asking until she says yes.

Given that’s she’s a teenage, it may take a while, but I won’t stop.

I was listening to the John Tesh Radio Show while driving in the car last weekend. I really like this guy.KSII-JohnTesh300x200

Tesh said something great. He said having friends is three times more powerful than exercise. Moreover, research shows that those who develop friends live 15 years longer than loners. That’s plenty powerful right there.

Like you, I have places to go ahead, write that next novel but I’m going to take the time now.

I know that time and distance has passed with my daughter.

The same has passed with each of you, too. The most important thing for me is to connect with you.

We’re going to talk and see each other again.  I know it.

First buy my book Working the Glass: A Novel. I know you’ve been holding out like my daughter.

But like with her, I’m going to keep asking. Then we can go from there and we’re going to meet.

I want to hear your stories of all that you’ve done. I want to look into your eyes and build our friendship.

It’s not too late. Like with that woman I hit or with my daughter, I’ve laid my bike down and I’ll be with you.  I’m ready. Don’t resist getting a good story like the one I worked on all these years. Buy it now here.

The greatest thing that has happened since the novel has come out in early April is that all these people I’ve lost are coming back. It’s so much fun.

People are emboldened now to meet with me. All that’s lost can be regained. First start by getting this exciting novel, Working the Glass.

You’ll never be alone.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

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Down, But Not Out: Trusting the Wisdom of The Surge

Last weekend (Sunday), I spent the morning on the living room floor in pain. Lots of it. Waves of pain surged through my lower back. So bad I stayed there, unable to move. THE WHOLE DAY. Trust me, I tried to crawl and get up but when I did, my nine-year old daughter said “your eyes were going to bulge out of head.”

My wife and daughters had to step over me. They brought out a pillow and breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I didn’t want to be down, I wanted to be out there promoting Working the Glass: A Novel. I was the writer who just completed his first novel and I had to do things every day to get the word out about my book.12973524_1126404267410460_77915591499528718_o

My trouble came because of this: Four weeks ago I hired a personal trainer so I could be more fit for the book tour. More like my superstar main character Frank Savek from Working the Glass: A Novel. We meet every Thursday for an hour and I did it for three weeks in a row. I must have overdone it and my back decided to give out on Saturday night after I signed books for the first time in downtown Mountain View and I met with Books, Inc about doing a reading there at their store here in my hometown.

My lower back gave out and I  was literally grounded. As I laid on the ground in the living room, I checked my ranking on Amazon.com for the Sports Fiction genre. I was surging upward, meaning people were buying my book. I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t have to do anything that day to make it happen like I thought I had to do.

It was like the world said stay down, we’ve got you covered. I wasn’t controlling anything.

There’s magic and mystery in this life and process of publishing a novel.

It reminds me to trust the bigger plan. Last year I bought a Crape Myrtle tree sent from South Carolina. It came in a box via the mail. I was ecstatic with pride as I felt I was going to have a part of the old South here at my home here in California. I carefully planted  and watered my small tree. It was going to grow to 10 feet high and bloom reddish pink flowers. But when winter came, the leaves all started to fall off. I feared the tree was dead, No leaves were left. I even cracked off a piece of the branch and it sure looked dead to me.1383_1050716588312562_5043507779212100650_n

Nevertheless, I continued to water it and see what happened. The drought ended here and winter and spring rains fell. Then buds appeared and full green leaves! There’s a lesson in this for writers. We don’t control things as much as we think!

Branding is creating a gap between reality and perception. Coke and Pepsi are both sugary, brown water but they both spent millions to differentiate themselves.

You don’t need a personal brand.  But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you can to build authentic relationships.

How do I embark on public life after writing a novel? I’ve certainly had many twists and turns and have a compelling bunch of plot points in my journey to write this over the last 17 years.   We’re on the verge of something today.

What kind of ground offensive is needed to promote yourself?  I read something recently that had an inventive approach to this in the book How the World Sees You, by Sally Hogshead.

She demonstrates how you’re seen by others and why that’s important. That’s your reputational self. It’s a valuable part of the quotient.

You do exercises and determine your type. I’m dynamic, inclusive and engaging. That’s pretty accurate.  Hogshead gives each type a name and mine is A People’s Champion. This doesn’t translate into the persona and figure you associate with being a writer. Not exactly a writerly posture. Rather it’s kind of like being rock star figure and public phenomena more than anything else. But it is who I am. It’s going to work for me!

 

But being my enthusiastic and lyrical self on the trail like some Irish poet or politician will only get me so far. It’s more complicated.  Fullness. That’s what the world wants.  The brightness balanced with the dark. I call that dynamic tension. That’s electric and alive. The hidden fullness honored that’s real and potent.  The real you! 

What’s the measure of self worth? If you look at a society that’s addicted to finance and money, you’d think that the almighty dollar was it. But it’s no place to put your grand hopes.

My type is a great campaigner. Kind of like a Bobby Kennedy figure. It’s more politician than anything else.

I’m Irish and Czech so let’s look at both sides of my heritage as examples. Patrick Pearce was an Irish poet who led the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland. He was being his lyrical and enthusiastic self. The republicans had taken command of the Dublin Post Office.  He stood on top of a desk and read poetry aloud amid the dust and bullets as the Uprising against the British was underway. A great romantic gesture but he forgot the groundedness. The Uprising was crushed in three days and this passionate poet/leader was executed.

More sensible was another writer from the other side of my heritage, the Czech writer Vaclav Havel. Like Pearce, Havel had a good understanding of what’s important in life.

Havel was equally philosophical and effusive. But grounded. You need that balance.  The architect of the Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989 had a better understanding of the forces he was dealing with in the desperate Communist authorities. He was victorious and eventually was elected President of the newly democratic Czechoslovakia.

So I’m be A People’s Champion, because it’s who I am. The ability to campaign is the ability to connect with others on an emotional level. That’s required. But that will take care of itself, if I do it right and keep the balance as best I can.

Be your great self, and grounded. With that, nobody can stop you!

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A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

Mobility and learning key to thriving: My story

A journalist recently said this. I wouldn’t spend 17 years to write a Working the Glass: A Novel [like you did] for any amount of money, not even a million dollars.

Neither would I!  There’s no price you’d give me to write this in money terms.

I did it out of love. Love for the reader. Love for a great basketball story. Love for the kind of book I’d always wanted to read out there in the world. Working the Glass: A Novel has international intrigue, romance and sports action.

Now all Working the Glass needs is you!

It was on a snowy morning Jan 1, 1998 in my home office in my Lincoln Park apartment on the Northside of Chicago. I started page one of the novel. I didn’t even know what to call it. I worked on the fundamentals like you would see in a junior high practice: ball handling, passing and shooting. Only it was writing dialogue, building tension in scenes, and handling backstory. These things remain important. The key fundamentals needed in making a novel-length work, and hopefully, a good one. The world will be the judge of that!

My New Year’s goal that year was to finish this novel by the end of the year. It was an all-consuming objective that I poured myself into. My earnings from my business doubled that year because I became a more interesting person. People could feel the shift in my energy. And I was writing the novel half the week and working in my consulting business the other half.Stanford

Four years later, I crafted a title Working the Glass in a Stanford Continuing Studies fiction writing class. As a novelist, you have to keep the fictional world apart from you the writer. I’m not Frank Savek. That’s my plucky character from this novel. I’m the writer. But for some reason the story and life questions of him and I are coming together. Especially here at the end as I bring events to the finale.

As I’ve been editing and working on the final scenes, I’ve seen that you have to have a very clear idea of where the character is going next.

Could my main character go back to Chicago where he started from? Maybe. And even if he does return, it would never be in the same way. He’s changed. The experience of playing a season in the Czech Basketball Superliga in place of his brother tranforms him.

Where I am heading next? That’s me the writer and human being talking now. And it’s a question you’re always asking, too. Professionally and personally it’s there for all of us. You may not even be conscious of it. Where are you heading next?

I’ve lived in Silicon Valley since I left my native Chicago 16 years ago. Working on this novel ever since. This story has been my constant companion.

What are two ways you can become a more interesting person? One is to make the hard decisions. To really face situations as they are. A second would be to do things you don’t want to do.

I’m not saying you have to spend $400 a month on books. But you do need to continually be learning. Your whole life is a work in process. In the middle ages when the printing press was perfected, that opened a revolution. It allowed words from paper to touch the soul in a new way. It was one of the best technologies ever invented. The novel has remained the highest form of writing even though they’ve taken a hit over the last few years.

Chicago is the hog butcher to the world as Walt Whitman said. But it’s also the bridge between east and west. A very important nodal point and it’s not the largest city in the interior for nothing. Yes it can be provincial and inward looking but it’s a great city.

Meanwhile, California is a trendsetter and fertile ground of the imagination for the United States. It’s on the creative edge and has a global perspective. Yes, even with this long standing drought, it stands strong.

When I read a good book or see a great sports movie, I have an immediate reaction. I know it at the time.  On the gut level.

But when it stays with me over the night and into the next day, I really know it had substance and passion in it. There’s something there! That’s what I hope Working the Glass: A Novel creates in you.1271960_846685325382357_5973650051005791898_o

People have told me my book Working the Glass: A Novel would make a great movie.  But is the movie ever as good as the book?  I want to enjoy this book.  A film adaptation of the Working the Glass: A Novel will occur if it’s meant to be. Before the novel was released on April 7, 2016, I was focused on getting this book made into a movie. Now that’s it’s been released in readers hands, I’ve cooled my drive to make it into a film. And now I’m more interested in having people hold it in their hands or see it on their computer screens. Then read and enjoy it.

Finishing this (my first novel) means everything to me. I relish this new period of listening to the feedback and getting the word out about this special book.

The Big Screen Can Wait

Twittering is what some in the older generation call the totality of social media. So I was Twittering and one of my first Twitter followers was the Canadian director Ivan Reitman. You might have seen some of the great films he’s directed. This talented man has several resonant films that touched me especially the film Dave. I loved it. But he’s also done some sports movies including the excellent 2014 film Draft Day about the Cleveland Browns football team in the NFL. It starred Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner.

Reitman was born in 1946 in Komárno, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). My wife says he’s probably following 20 Andy Kloaks (creative outliers like me.) But it’s nice to know that he’s reading.

Another Mountain View Andy (Andy Weir) just had his first novel move into a new realm.  His story inspires. In 2011, he self published his science fiction novel The Martian. Just like I’m doing.

Then while in the SFO airport, I stopped in the bookshop there and Andy’s book is featured there. A big publisher has now picked him up! Now a film adapted from his novel came out this week starring Matt Damon. My town Mountain View is a becoming a burgeoning hotbed for writers!

KolyaThere is magic in the process and there’s a bigger plan unfolding. I don’t control it although I like to think I do. When I started writing the novel, I saw the Czech language hit Kolya. That touched my soul and was resonant. I’d love to have Working the Glass make the big screen like that.

It’s a mysterious journey. But I know I have a professional cover, formatting and editing right up there with a New York Publishing Company product.

Like Frank Savek, my main character of the novel, I’m lining up in the tunnel right now with the rest of the guys. Soon the coaches will prop the doors open and I’ll run into the light.

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Working the Glass: A Novel Begins Its Climb

Dobry Den all,
My first novel, Working the Glass: A Novel has hit the shelves!
It’s gotten some nice advance reviews so far, and this could be one of Amazon’s Best Books of April.
As some of you know, I worked on this thing a long time, and it’s pretty gratifying to see people enjoying it.
A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

Working the Glass: A Novel A basketball star from Chicago’s Czech neighborhoods seizes his last chance at basketball glory by impersonating his Australia-bound brother on a struggling Czech superliga team mid-way through their season.

I’m a new voice from out of nowhere (actually, I’m from the beautiful Southside of Chicago) and would like you to give it a read.

So check it out on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million, or best yet, your local bookstore.
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Grace Cumming and Andrew Kloak

Moving From A Single Burning Focus Toward Next Steps


I forgot to tell you about a writer friend who recently said, it’s always a good idea to have five projects (no more, no less) on the burner at same time. It gives you fuel to move back and forth.

That’s knockout advice.

The trouble is its 18 years too late! I wish I heard that when I started the novel in my Lincoln Park (Chicago) apartment on that snowy morning on the first day of 1998!

I’ve been mainly a one story guy the whole way. Well, mostly. I confess to adding a new project in place of this true love. I’ll describe that up ahead.

Taking so long demonstrates either inner strength or insanity. I had a crazy enduring vision of a goal, albeit, far away in the distance.1294541_846685385382351_7297171292484329696_o

But I procrastinated because sometimes my drive ahead felt like a grueling death march.

My lowest point was after a half dozen years. I said this is crazy, I’ve been working on this for six years, and I can’t do it anymore. Plus, I’ve never been to the Czech Republic! So I booked my first trip to Prague for that September with my wife.

So I stopped writing the novel for nine months in 2004.

But being a writer, I had to find a new love. So I wrote a 20-page story (Vive La Paix) about a boy from Normandy that searches for his father and return a camel to the Paris zoo in the summer of 1944.

Julie Orringer, my teacher at Stanford, said you’ve got to continue this story and make it novel length.  She said I’ve seen nothing like it.

Julie’s encouragement and strong interest from my fellow scribes in a writers group gave me fuel.

Next came the two-week research trip to the Czech Republic. I went to the glass making area, Prague, Hradec Kralove, Liberec and Sabotka (my grandmother’s village). That really energized me. We chased down leads and took in the amazing country.

The trek for THE BASKETBALL NOVEL was BACK ON.

Always surprise, that same writer friend said. If you surprise yourself, then it’s a guarantee everyone else will be surprised.

I’ve done that in Working the Glass: A Novel. There’s no regret for me there! I BEGAN with this understanding on that cold New Year’s morning. I surprised myself.

Now here’s another surprise coming just around the corner THIS WEEK. My first novel (with all the corrections made and reader ready) arrives to my doorstep.

I’ll be holding this hardcover beauty in my hands and have the story I wanted to tell under the covers.

I’ll take pictures. Have a bloody good cry and release it to Amazon.com for distribution.

Dobry Den!!

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