Becoming a travelogue novelist on the journey

To write a novel that involves playing for a Superliga basketball team, you have to approach it like travel writer in a sense.

I’ve traveled to some of the places in the Czech Republic like Prague and Cesky Budejovice back in 2004. But for the rest I used guide books and imagined. After all, I am a fiction writer.

All the places are real in the novel except Svet. Svet is the team Frank Savek plays for. That way I could create the little town I wanted in the north of the country in a football shaped canyon with a river running through it.

I had to be a kind of travelogue novelist. You have to know the place to render it real but not get bogged down in details that a tourist would be looking for.

Here is a scene from near the beginning that gives you a feel of where things are headed.

When we got back to my apartment, Josef pulled out a letter from the Svet Sports club.

“Here is that letter. Let me read it to you,” he said.

17 April 1993

Dear Mister Josef Savek,

We have heard very positive things about your recent play in the Inter-England league. Congratulations on your fine season! You should be very proud of your accomplishments. This letter is a follow up to your phone conversation on March 30 with our representative Bryan Wexford from Manchester, U.K.. As the head coach of the Svet Basketball Sports club I would like to introduce myself to you.

Svet is an idyllic town of 30,000 located in the Czech Republic in the Krakonce Mountains. We are 175 kilometers northeast of Prague. Our basketball club welcomes a player with your abilities. We think you will be able to help us be more competitive in the ten-team Czech Professional Basketball Superliga. Last season we had a strong team. We play a 40-game season. Your compensation will be 5,000 Crowns per month. Your accommodations will be dormitory style in housing provided by our team owner, Mr. Milos Koliar.

Our season begins 17 August. We are beginning our training camp 15 July but we would be willing to have you come two weeks prior to our first game. The best arrangement would be to meet you in Vienna, Austria on 24 July and drive you across the Czech border to Svet.

We think that you will find that Svet is an enjoyable place to live and play in the upcoming season. We hope to speak with you very soon to confirm your intention to join our team.

Jiri Hasek
Coach/Director Svet Lions Sports Club

“Any more info on it?”

“Yes, here are the teams in the league,” Josef said.

He handed me a league schedule that listed the ten Czech teams on the front.

Cesky Budejovice
Hradec Kralove

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Holding on to a piece of myself


Archive Post: Letting go is not an easy thing. I think that as you gain wisdom, you have to release parts of your self from your grasp.

For example, I’ve always conceived of myself as an athlete and warrior. Those are certainly archetypes that have carried me this far on the journey. And I’d like to say our society cherishes these ways of being as well. But the age and the days ahead call for a wiser me that can interpret this vastly changing world we face in 2014.

These prompts and this post came from an Improvisation and the Writer class I took last Fall at Stanford University. Since then I’ve lost another cat and my first writing teacher Jerry Cleaver mentioned in the post died earlier this year but I’m closer to my goal of completing the novel here in California.

Originally posted on Connection To You:

writer's loft chicagoriver snow chicagoCardinalThis is a post about:


A Cat

Basketball Shoes


My Novel

One by one we lose the things that are important to us on the journey. And the things that are left become more dear to us.

Once upon a time I lived in Chicago. I grew up there and spent the first 34-years of my life in that bustling city of three million. I entered into married life there. One of our first apartments as a couple was in a gray stone that had old-world character with high ceilings. We paid $875 per month and had the whole first floor. We had so much room and so little furniture that our footsteps echoed off the plaster walls as we walked on the hardwood floors. And it was situated in a great neighborhood known as St. Benedict’s.

I set up a bird feeder outside our front window. A…

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Mobilizing against powerful forces, we will succeed (together)

Last weekend I saw the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.  As a writer there is a lot to learn from this story.

I’m not one to see science-fiction movies like this one. Or ones with fantastical scenarios, cartoonish characters and that have been newly released at the theatre. But as a writer, I have to take a risk sometimes for strong writing and a compelling story line.

I thought this film Guardians of the Galaxy was worthwhile seeing. The forces are great against this Peter Quill and others in the universe. I’d say this is some new version of the Jesus story.Galaxies

In 1988, a young Peter Quill’s mother dies. That was a powerful opening that draws you in to the story. You align emotionally with that Peter Quill character for the the rest of the movie because of that scene. What a great start! A lot of science fiction films or people don’t draw you in because they keep everything in the rational/cold/calculating realm.  The personal and emotional touches are great.

In the very next scene, this young boy is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu Udonta. Twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, Quill steals an orb, after which he is intercepted by Korath, a subordinate to the fanatical  Kree, Ronan. Although Quill escapes with the orb, Yondu discovers his theft and issues a bounty for his capture, while Ronan sends the assassin Gamora after the orb.

We think we are out there on our own. The myth of the one man or woman creating. We’ve made this whole kingdom and it’s no one else but our own greatness.  That’s especially big here in Silicon Valley where I write this from. Steve Jobs had the vision but there were many people who joined behind him. He didn’t do it alone. Nor do you or I.

Neverthless, we/many of us believe in the sovereignty of the self.  Forget nations. Or anything larger than themselves. But then how come we give so much of that sovereignty away to the Sily-con Valley groups that cheapen the experience and thwart us from going deeper? We’re complicit in  enslavement. So much freedom in theory but so little on the other end.  The irrational is not dealt with. Rational inside but externalizing the irrational.  Destructive stuff. But that’s the monoculture we need to escape and battle against.hermes2

At our best, we imaginative human beings, are threshold creatures embracing the visible and invisible. Drawing out unspoken truths that others can’t. This leads to insights and breakthroughs. The poetic language and stirring that the world needs. A writer with soul can penetrate any darkness, any castle of the tyrannical order holding sway. I need you and am not doing this by myself. If I think that I’m doing it alone, it’s false/an illusion.

The guardians accomplished their goal of saving the universe by believing in something bigger than themselves, each other. These guardians were by no means perfect. We see many examples of their shortcomings.

Nevertheless, they race in on their starships. And a whole force of guardians follow. They spent their lives to that point surrounded by enemies but now as they face death; it will be with a force of friends.Lith basketball

You and I together can create something wonderful. It’s only through the force of agile teams that dynamic energies become activated. It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us together.  There is genius in the group motif out there in the universe.  The Guardians of the Galaxy and this blog  are examples of that.

We’re going to do great things in the days ahead.





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The secret of creativity comes from solitude


Archive Post: Over Christmas and passage into the new year 2014, I was reading Beauty by the writer, priest and philosopher John Joseph O’Donohue. That influenced this post on solitude. He said that your hidden powers and wholeness can’t emerge without some kind of private silence. He also wrote it’s not connection we want but communion.
O’Donohue died too early in 2008, four years after he wrote this book. He didn’t quite complete his work/flesh out/go deeper on the concept of communion. He was just starting to hit something great and needed with that. We have to take up that mantle and explore that dynamic idea in our work!

Originally posted on Connection To You:

Burning Candle

It’s essential to know what is vital and alive in us and shape our lives on its image. Just as you have to really know aloneness to know the value of real relationship. Creativity cannot take hold in us without silence.

Perhaps it’s true that greed and impatience are pushing writers to produce works that are stillborn and without soul. Maybe overanxious writers are rushing their works into production before they should. The biggest culprit in this trend: absence of silence. 

Solitude leads to awakening. For me it’s the silence of the night and threshold into the morning that leads to my breakthroughs. Ideas come and solutions flow in the predawn hour like no other time in a day. 

The place of the inside/soul and outside of a person overlaps. Creativity emerges. Vibrancy, voice and power, too. I’m forced to face sides of myself and let go of things that…

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Don’t let labels thwart you


Writers hold themselves back by listening to labels. Like being called a hack.

But what is a hack exactly? Somebody that makes grammar and spelling errors when they blog? If that is a hack, then I’m guilty of it because I post a blog and then fix it up from there.

My methodology is to write it, post it and make it better when I see the post. I do that because I’m visual processor. When the “story” is in position with a headline and text of the post; I see it better. Then I can edit it. Sorry. That has subjected those that signed up to receive email of my post (my followers of this blog) to some flawed first drafts!

But if you read later versions up there you would see a greatly improved version of that initial email to you. So I’m really not a hack.

Nevertheless, in the US, the term “hack” is used to attack writers, journalists, bloggers, and comedians. There is a hierarchy there, that those calling the names want to maintain.

It’s certainly used in the publishing world, too. Editors at conferences will say, “With all this craze to publish-on-demand and self-publish, there is a lot of dreck out there.” There may be some truth to that but it seems to me to be the wrong perspective. writer's loft chicago

The term can also be used in bicycle riding. I have some recent experience on that as immersed myself in that world in September for a local ride for charity. If you are good athlete, but ride something less than the newest bike, you’re called a hack by bicycling purists. It’s the only sport where if you spend a lot of money, you can have the illusion of being good! My older bike rides well. But there is tremendous pressure to replace it.

In basketball, you can be called a hack as well. And it’s not good. A hack, in that context, means you survive by bodying and fouling better, more skilled players. And you, the athlete, aren’t much of a player/don’t have much skill. Other than fouling that is.

In truth, when I played basketball I was a scrappy rebounder and defensive specialist that helped teams win with his spark. So in that realm I was a lot of things. But not a hack

There is an elitest camp out there across many sports of play including writing. They possess a strange mix of elitism and an insecurity in a changing world.

They are the same people that say you are not writing about the right topics in your blog posts. There is blog expert who claims 2,000 WordPress followers. He says if you want to make money fast and build an audience, you have to do it X way and write X topics in your posts. He calls people hacks if they are not doing it correctly. Do what exactly? This is an art, not science. Yes, I’m all for staying on message in your communications (blogs and social media) as a writer. Writing depends on having courage to produce something on the page. Then on improving/revising.

Good relationships and blogging are based on being authentic and human. And tolerance for not being perfect. If someone calls you a hack or hackette, don’t believe them. Keep creating.

Write me with your thoughts on this. 


letters in mailbox

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Dynamic tension: A crucial part of our lives


Archive Post: Dynamic tension, the balance between light and dark, is an exciting underpinning of the writer’s life. One year later this post still rings true for me. And I like Dave’s Killer Bread (Good Seed is my favorite variety) even more. That stuff is great!

Originally posted on Connection To You:

Andrew_and_Teofilachicago in snowGoing deeper means embracing the tension of opposites. First of all, the mere act of writing makes you confront autonomy and constraint. Yes, tension in stories is important. You need conflict, trouble and danger because that’s the world we live in. But you also need beauty and goodness because that’s also the world we live in. These oppositional forces are important to honor.

Last weekend was the Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay. What a great two-day festival. It’s a Bay Area tradition but because it is reported to be so crowded, I’ve never attended. Until last weekend. There were two new companies at the festival that were handing out free samples of bread: Eureka Bread and Dave’s Killer Bread. I tried both.

Which one will I remember and buy? Dave’s Killer Bread. It was started by an ex-con Dave Dahl in Milwaukee, Oregon. Dave spent 15 years…

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Australia plays prominent role in my life and story

If Chicago is where I’m from and where the novel starts. And the Czech Republic, the setting for the majority of the novel, then how does Australia fit in?

The main character Frank Savek goes to play professional basketball in the Czech Republic in place of his brother Josef who plays basketball for teams in Australia.Stanford University

Near the end of the novel, the brothers are talking to each other on the phone. One is watching the sun sinking in the Indian Ocean off Perth and the other is seeing the sun emerge through a cloud of mist over the Krakonce Range near the Polish border. They realize they are seeing the same sun. Trust me, my fellow writers in a Stanford workshop helped me get the timing right down to the time of day in each respective place. It helps to have those detail-oriented wonks around you when you write.

Also, a three-week trip to Australia pushed me ahead as a writer. I can honestly say when I explored Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra; it helped me put it all together and inspired me to write the novel.

I saw a great deal on the trip including  sailing Sydney Cove in a sailboat race. Surfing near Port Nelson and then North Sydney beaches with names like Curl Curl, Long Reef, and Manly. Hearing the exotic birds each morning was amazing; these blokes were unusual babblers. I loved Australia!Australia

But the most thrilling experience on that whole trip was the insights I got from strolling the Sydney Writers Walk. This great walk takes place at Circular Quay in Old Town Sydney. Basically, plaques of Australian writers and Australian-influenced writers were there in the pavement for you to read.

Some of my favorite writers are Australian including Tim Winton, who wrote the great novel Cloudstreet about Perth after World War Two.

Here I was 3,000 miles from home and I came up to a Thomas Keneally Plaque on that writers walk. Keneally wrote/authored Schindler’s List. Then I was stunned to come upon the plaque of Mark Twain.  That discovery was an ephemeral moment. But that stayed with me ever since. A complete sense of synchronicity.

Twain’s my favorite writer of all time. I’ve been to his boyhood home Hannibal, Missouri with the famous white fence outside and sat in his desk in the office where he wrote for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Nevada.

Twain visited Sydney, Australia in 1896. Here is what Twain said during his tour of Australia when asked about his highs in the world of writing.Flames

“The book of mine which gave me the greatest pleasure is Huckleberry Finn because years after I had written it, and long after it had been wholly erased from the pages of my memory, I took it up and read it to my daughter, who was ill. It was new to her; it was new to me. As the reading proceeded, I didn’t know what to expect–a surprise came as a genuine surprise–a genuine pleasure.”

You know, I’ve read parts of Working the Glass to my youngest daughter and we had the same experience of enjoyment.

Then Twain said I have been delighted with my Australian audiences.

I couldn’t agree more: Australians-readers and writers- are great. This special, mysterious land and people will play a larger role than I can believe in the years ahead for me. I can feel that. Fair dinkum to you!hermes2

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