I am proud to announce that I have at last completed the first draft of the  novel I have been toiling away on for the past two years. The novel is tentatively titled “The NJA Club” and not surprisingly is set in Bangkok, where I’ve been living during that time. The protagonist is a former criminal defense lawyer named Glenn Murray Cohen from San Francisco, California, who stumbles upon a cache of ill-gotten cash and with the help of a crooked colleague, starts a new life in Thailand. Glenn is somewhat self-righteous, abhorring Bangkok’s fabled nightlife, lives by his own code, and is basically a decent fellow.  For seven years he lives a mostly idyllic existence, aside from his inability to form a lasting relationship.  He owns a high-end condo, and whiles away the hours at the NJA Club, where he is part of a circle of friends including his aging hippie weed dealer, a blue-collar former beer truck driver from Rhode Island, a wily retired Thai General, and a beautiful and mysterious Thai woman who is the object of  Glenn’s unrequited love. His pleasant life is turned upside down when circumstances compel his involvement in the underside of Bangkok, culminating in his most reluctant participation in a dangerous and seemingly harebrained CIA kidnapping plot. As the novel progresses, Glenn changes, becoming more street smart and capable, while never losing his essential naiveté and self-righteousness.

That’s about all I’m willing to reveal now. If I gave away too much,  there’d be less incentive to buy the book.

So why do I say it is completed with the caveat “sort of”?

That’s because as I have learned the hard way, that while completing a first draft of a work of fiction is an accomplishment in itself, in many ways it is the beginning, not the end.  Most authors agree that much of the art of writing is in the rewriting. Many ideas that seemed brilliant when written make no sense when editing, and the author must excise words, paragraphs, characters, scenes, perhaps even a chapter or two.  Some will have to be replaced. Just when you think the difficult and draining creative process has ended, it rears its ugly head with a force equal to that experienced in writing the first draft. I have been editing and re-editing as I wrote, which is a necessary part of the process, as characters are constantly developing, the plot is constantly being tweaked, and ideas I thought would work well turn out to be not quite what I hoped.  Authors are perpetually fixing typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies. Despite this ongoing rewriting, the end of the first draft means back to page one to start rewriting all over again.That’s where I am at right now.

I don’t work with an outline. I know many excellent authors who do, and I envy them, because it seems like it would make it easier to know where you are going. Some authors summarize characters and scenes before they start chapter one, and it works wonders for them.  I find I just cannot stick with any outline and while I may give a great deal of thought to what I am going to say, until I sit down and start writing, it’s never really clear exactly what is going to wind up on the page.

I expect to spend considerable time rewriting and editing. Then the “final” draft will be shown to a handful of “beta” readers who will provide what I hope is sincere feedback. I have no doubt that this will lead to more revisions. By the end of the year I hope to send the manuscript to agents and hopefully that will lead to a publishing deal. I’m fine with self-publishing on Amazon, but I want to first test the waters and see what the publishing world thinks of this work. The relationship between self publishing e books and publishing hard copies is in flux; some agents and publishing houses will not touch a work if it ever appeared anywhere, even on a blog.   Others don’t care and some actually find it helpful as they can get some sense of what readers think. So I’ve decided to try the traditional way first and then look at Amazon.. No doubt self publishing e books affords authors opportunities not available in the past. The author must also be a marketer. I’ll be fine with that if it is the only realistic option.

So when will you be able to see this novel or at least excerpts? The answer depends on what I think potential agents and publisher feel about I when I say “finished”. My preliminary research tells me that putting an excerpt of a novel  on a blog is no problem at all, but the excerpt has to be from the “final” version the author is presenting to agents or publishers. So in a month or two  I’ll revisit this issue. In the meantime I will be posting more short stories which I hope you will enjoy reading.

Does it feel good to have gotten this far, to have reached that part of a novel where you can type “The End”? Yes it feels great, but it also means a lot more work lies ahead. It’s just the start of a new phase.


  1. I’m not saying I’m a Muse in general but for this story i was your muse and I can’t even remember Coopers real name. It was your first story and brings back many memories about that lifestyle. Your story was will written but could be a little updated considering the opiate revival. I also also liked
    the story about your childhood friend and his overly protective mother.

    1. Thanks! I have considered a similar story set in the present day, but this one is a picture of the last great opiate epidemic and has some irony and humor right out of the sixties. It was interesting when some young people read it, several of whom were not Americans, others were, and they wanted to know about Barry Goldwater; they either didn’t know who he was or they didn’t have any idea what he stood for. Back when the story was written, everyone would have known that Goldwater was a right winger and how ironic it was that a heroin addict supported him on a law and order platform. The contemporary equivalence would be him supporting Trump. But in truth, I wanted to post a story that had already been vetted and liked and more important, had already been published, for the reasons stated in the post.Also, it was a chance to present something I had written as a very young man writing his own way. My creative writing teacher at Queens college hated it, thought it was idiotic, but the two great writers who guided me on my Masters (Kay Boyle and Wright Morris) liked it very much and encouraged me to write as I liked. On a final note, I think that at this point I am going to stop worrying about what some small magazine might feel about a story that was already published on line; the truth is that a well-promoted blog will gather many more readers than a small magazine. Well-promoted is the operative word here. I’m just starting to get the hang of that aspect.

  2. A very uncomfortable feeling after reading this story. I was fortunate that I was only on the very periphery of that type of life. Possibly because of my early age marriage, having a child at age 22 and getting a regular job. I enjoyed reading it. Was Cooper named after Cooper Avenue, or just a made up name. My trips to my youth are usually comfortable. I am in the middle of watching 18 hours of Ken Burns’ Vietnam and each episode is so painful. Finally, i remember a sign my wife had in her office… it simply said ” A writer must write”. Keep the words flowing and the rest really doesn’t matter that much

    1. Thanks for your time and input. The name Cooper was just made up, and we don’t even know if it is his last or first name. I just wanted him to be of nondescript background aside from middle class white guy, sort of an Everyman junkie. That you had an uncomfortable feeling at the end is actually good news because the whole idea of any story, especially one like this, is to arouse some feelings. Right now I am in the midst of rewriting the novel and it is tedious as so much of it is technical stuff, grammar, spelling, cutting down on overused pronouns and adverbs, making fine tuning in scenes.Some of it is more interesting but mostly not. But that rewrite is what will decide if the reader keeps turning the pages just as much as the plot. That sign is right and after the words pour out the real work, rewriting, begins.

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