49 Buddhas: Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm
Lama Rinzen Mystery Series Book 1
by Jim Ringel
49 Buddhas tells of Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm—a realm of confusion, shifting ground, and anger.
Lama Rinzen awakens from meditation to find himself reincarnated as a detective on Denver’s Colfax Avenue. Immediately he realizes that once again he has been reborn into the Hell Realm—this time charged with finding insurance man Sonny Heller’s killer. Rinzen believes finding Heller’s killer will lead to the Sacred Dorje, which has eluded the lama for many lifetimes. By finding the Dorje, he will become a bodhisattva, allowing him to lead all sentient beings to Nirvana. But should the Dorje escape his grasp, Rinzen will be forced to suffer yet another lifetime in Hell, haunted by past demons and his failure to achieve enlightenment.
**Releasing in ebook for an Amazon Best Seller Day on May 23rd!!**
Jim Ringel writes the Lama Rinzen Mysteries, with each book set in one of the six Buddhist realms of Hell, Hungry Ghosts, Animals, Humans, Warring Titans, or Gods. In each realm, Rinzen must solve a crime and learn the lesson of the realm so he may progress along his path to enlightenment. The first book of the series comes out in May, 2018.
Jim is a Buddhist practitioner who writes and explores Buddhism in his every day life. His previous works include the novel Wolf, a "sales-werewolf" noir set in a world where vanquished dogs return seeking revenge, and where salesmen sell products they cannot understand.
Jim writes the Writing Like a Buddha blog (www.WritingLikeaBuddha.com), and lives in Colorado with his Tibetan Terrier, Rascal, who is both inspiration and teacher.
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What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
1)Anything by Graham Greene
2)Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series
3)Thomas Berger’s Neighbors
4)Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter
5)Kleist’s The Marquise of O
7)Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
8)Olen Steinhauser’s The Cairo Affair
9)The Heart Sutra, which is the Buddha’s Second Turning of the Wheel
10)John Gardner’s Mikkelsen’s Ghosts
11)(one more because I’ve been around a while) Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins
What book do you think everyone should read?
Jim Ringel’s Wolf (my first novel, although not a Lama Rinzen mystery)
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing seriously now for about 12 years. Lately, I am making it my main focus.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
All my characters are born when I write them. Yet they all have existed in some previous life of their own. Those lives influence who they are when I meet them. I am sure of it.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Historical and cultural. For 49 Buddhas I really needed to get familiar with the geography of the Tibetan plateau, of Tibet’s political and military history, of the lifestyle its people live, and their superstitions, recreation and pastimes. I watched a lot of videos, read poetry, news articles and blogs. I did what it took to get a flavor for the people, since they play a big part in the book.
I also researched a lot of old photos and ads for businesses along Colfax Avenue, and visited Colfax’s haunts and barrooms.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. And I keep adjusting my lifestyle to it.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I think the traditional publishing market is certainly driven by a conservative commitment to doing things safely. Plus, it is weighed down by too many MFA program clones. Too much academia, not enough life. There are so many explosions happening in other art forms, but the New York publishing houses are stodgy old stick in the mud types.
Self-publishing is on the rise, and that’s where the promise is. It’s fresher. It explores more. It’s written more like what people read.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I’m really quite eclectic. I am currently reading Andreas Izquierdo’s The Happiness Bureau. Before that I read a Southern Gothic called the The Past is Never by friend and writer-extraordinaire Tiffany Q Tyson. Before that it was a revisit to the Martin Beck police procedural The Laughing Policeman. I did a quick re-read of Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman when the movie came out. Next to my bed I have Jeffrey Deaver’s latest The Burial Hour, Jeff Vandermer’s Annihilation, and Justin Courter’s The Heart of It All.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I make it a point not to have preferences. Noisy, quiet, stinky, sweet—like Travis Bickel tells the Wizard in Taxi Driver, “I can work anywhere, anytime.”
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
The Cat in the Hat
Pen or type writer or computer?
Everything starts with pen and paper, but within a paragraph or two it goes to computer. Who am I kidding, starting things in pen and paper? My handwriting’s awful. I am not even sure it’s words I am putting down.
A day in the life of the author?
A day in the life is like taking an uncontrolled substance. Without some discipline, you easily lose track of time, and with it, any sense of purpose or direction.
So get a clock. Not a tick-tock clock. Those are mundane and don’t work when the electricity dies or the battery fails. I mean, get a dog. A dog gets you up in the morning. He or she comes to your desk at lunchtime expecting a nice noontime walk. He will let you know when it’s dinnertime, because again, he wants his walk and he’s hungry. And he rolls on the tile before bedtime letting you know it’s time to go outside and pee (him, not me) and then hit the hay. If you stay up too late at night dancing in the living room or watching the umpteenth rerun of some TV drama you disliked the first time you saw it, he stares at you with wide, judgmental eyes dripping with disappointment at your carryings-on.
And in between the dog walks, fill in your schedule. After the first walk of the day, it’s breakfast and little time to read the paper and catch up on the news. (Yes, I said READ A NEWSPAPER; we owe our support to institutions that write so that we may think).
Then I like to write for three hours until the noontime dog walk. After the noontime dog walk, I take care of writing business, such as research, returning phone calls, marketing matters, and restocking the fridge with Pilsner.
Then I walk the dog and make us both dinner.
Afterwards—and this part is key and a bit of a struggle—after dinner I try not to glue myself to the TV, but instead return to the office and write for another two hours. I do this at least three nights a week. For all writing sessions, I recommend the Pomodoro method for keeping yourself going.
Then at bedtime, rinse off and repeat it all again the following day. Be sure to give yourself one day off a week. Because all routines are empty, and on the seventh day routines are meant to be broken.
Advice they would give new authors?
Know yourself. Be comfortable with who you are, and be willing to lay it out bare for strangers to read and comment on. Otherwise, your writing risks becoming a mimeograph of the latest trend.
We live lives that have many spirals. Caring for loved ones, eating, shopping, earning cash, recreating. Let all spirals point to writing. The Buddha says “We suffer because of our attachments.” Each and every spiral of our lives is an attachment. That doesn’t mean they’re good, it doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means they are the sources of dissatisfaction. Don’t resist the suffering. It’s how we free our minds to write.
But if writing’s not your goal, and you prefer being published by one of the big three NY houses, attaching to their support, and hoping for their success, marry a Palin, a Trump, a woman who has not been paid the same as her male counterparts, an aggrieved member of the majority, a Kardashian. Yes, marry a Kardashian. Publishing loves its latest Kardashian. Until they no longer do.
Describe your writing style.
How about if I let a few reviews describe it for me. That way I don’t sound boastful, while still being boastful.
“… an entertaining, head-spinning murder mystery that combines Buddhist insights with noir tropes on the mean streets of Denver.” -BlueInk Review
“With enriching and thought-provoking lessons and deeply reflective prose, Ringel keeps readers’ fingers on Lama Rinzen’s pulse at every twist as he races to recover the lost dorje—in a hell in which he himself is lost.” -US Review of Books
“Jim Ringel’s sharp, witty 49 Buddhas illuminates the mysteries of both Buddhism and murder.” -William Haywood Henderson,
author of Augusta Locke
“Blending elements of philosophy, religion, and the mystery genre, 49 Buddhas is the start of a series to watch.” -Foreword Clarion
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
My writing process is for ever evolving. I am always looking for the secret sauce that helps me write more “efficiently”. My first novel, Wolf, took me five years. 49 Buddhas clocks in at four. I am hoping my next book takes about two.
So, yes, I outline. But when the outline goes askew and starts seeming forced, I start writing the story. That lets the characters breathe and start living their own lives, which then makes me re-examine the outline. I write like this until my characters fall into a routine. Until their Mondays start looking like their Thursdays, and their Thursdays like Sundays. Once they hit this rut, I return to outlining. Outlining feeds the writing, and writing feeds the outline. Or as the Buddha tells us—form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. One does not exist without the other.
Another thing very important within my scheme of things. My books typically take place over a few days. They are not epic, they are slices of life. I only mention it because it brief moments can keep stories filled with the back and forth of action and reflection.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
All the rest of life’s attachments that divert a writer’s attachment to writing.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The Internet. Email. Facebook and Twitter. Turn them off when writing. Yes, you will miss some the day’s news and important happenings. But if you never know about them, will you really miss them?
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
There’s something I learned in sales that applies here. People are always willing to buy something familiar as long as it’s unique. No matter whether it’s music, literature, a movie, play, or the latest actor or politician on the scene, people always can follow a familiar archetype they have seen or heard before. But what arouses curiosity is that little that slightly skews the familiar into something new and challenging. That’s the intrigue of insight. That’s the moment of emptiness.
If I had to crack it out mathematically, I try to be 10% original and 90% familiar. I think that’s what people want.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You need to feel good when you write, and keep from getting bloated.
And to that end, taste is the most important part of eating and drinking. When consuming, always be mindful of a food or drink’s taste. When it starts losing its taste, it becomes like the nervous monotony of chewing gum. A boring and soul-less thing. Keep the weight off. If you want to avoid back pain toward the end of the story and later in life, keep the weight off.
And that same lesson applies to writing.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
It’s really the same as writing any character, although opposite sex characters require an extra bit of diligence. The key is Do Not Stereotype. Don’t go to the quick and easy, particularly with minor male or female characters. Not because stereotyping makes them any less realistic. There are a lot of living, breathing stereotypes out there. But when you meet on the street, they generally turn out to be boring. And nobody likes a boring character.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes. Most definitely. Writer’s block is a writer’s mind projecting an uncertain moment as a reason to put down the pen, and go for a walk, or maybe give it all up and consider an exciting career in accounting. Yes, I believe it happens everyday.
But writer’s block is only a projection, and like everything else, temporary. So, no, I don’t believe in writer’s block in any absolute sense. We must aspire to our more daring selves, like the one at the cocktail party who when asked, “How’s the writing going?” convincingly says, “Great!” Even when our writing’s completely off the rails and tumbling into the abyss.