The Joy of Writing

It’s Done!

Here’s how writing a book goes for me.

I get up in the morning, read in bed until I hear my egg white frying and smell the coffee, get up, brush my teeth and make my way out to breakfast on the back porch. Yes, I have a husband who makes me breakfast every morning. Highly recommended for every writer, and everyone else.

After feeding and watching the birds, I take care of housekeeping items. That can mean actual things to do in and around the house for our continued existence or it can mean answering emails, checking on yoga students, catching up with friends.

Time to sit down to write.

In two hours a reminder goes off for me to do at least 10 minutes of yoga to rescue my joints and then it’s back to writing. If bells didn’t go off every two hours, I could (and have been known to) sit and write for 8 hours without moving. That might work for a 20 year-old but not so much for my old bones.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I am blessed with this routine and with writing a first draft that flows. I’m a little in love with my characters. I wish they were real so I could have a cup of coffee with them.

And then….It’s Done! Great feeling, right?

Then I start on the first edit.

Wake up. Read. Breakfast. Birds. Housekeeping.

Procrastinating. Editing? Not so much fun.

But, okay, at some point…It’s Done!

Second and third edits, with beta reader assistance, more procrastinating, no longer any need for a reminder every two hours unless it’s a reminder to get back to editing.

Finally…It’s Done.

Now it gets harder. The big re-write. Bless the beta readers. One character needs more depth. One chapter needs to be torn apart. Too many adverbs. Too many words.

Suddenly I find myself watching TV series downloaded from Netflix in the middle of the day while my re-write beckons. I have to help a friend find a wedding dress. I need a new playlist for my Sunday night yoga class.

The first draft took four months of fun and the re-write took almost as long but of procrastination. I hear James Patterson’s words in my ear – your writing is not holy! If it doesn’t move the story forward, get rid of it.


And then, today at 5:10 p.m…It’s Done!

I feel like a Cucumber Gin Gimlet or two or five and dancing all night.

My manuscript is written, edited three times and re-written. I’ve sent it off to three new beta readers.

Sure, I’ll be back at it next week after I get feedback but, for now, It’s Done.

The Characters Write their Story

Writing Yoga for Detectives: First Lesson was the kind of experience you’ve all had where it grabs you by the heart and you trip over your own feet, laughing, trying to keep up.

It was joyous and fun and refreshing.

I met Jaya, Arielle, Tal, Ansui, Rose, and all the others, along with my readers.

Friends of mine asked me if I had modeled Jaya after myself but, really, there’s some of me in all the characters. Sure, on some days I feel like Jaya. But on others I’m much more Ansui. At times I’m Tal, while at others I’m more Yitz. Sometimes 82 year old Rose and sometimes 9 year old Arielle. They’re all inside  me.

Mostly, they took on personalities of their own. Words flew out of their mouths via my fingers on the keyboard, not the other way around. When I tried to create their conversations through my fingers, they most often didn’t ring true and I had to wait patiently for my fingers to let go and surrender to the characters.

The story line tumbled out day by day. I was never quite sure where it would all end up.

These are all the kinds of realities that can be frustrating for would-be authors to hear.

What does it even MEAN? That the characters are in control of their actions and words in a book, and not the author? That the story tells itself, instead of the author making all the decisions?

I remember a Hebrew teacher telling my class, when asked how we know whether the plural of a word is the feminine ending “oht” or the masculine ending “eem”, that it just rings true or not. “How in the world does anything ring true to someone only just now learning the language?” I thought, in frustration.

Frustrating or not, it’s true of language and it’s true of writing.

I fell in love with the characters of my first book. And that’s what’s complicating my second.

The story is taking me to some dark and dangerous places this time. It’s not clear to me yet, as I begin writing Chapter 28, if all my beloved characters are going to survive. The plot is twisty and following an ominous path and there are some days when I’m too fearful for my characters to continue.

Several of my characters have begun to show less attractive traits, alongside the wonderful traits with which I originally fell in love. And that’s hard. In some ways, oddly, I’m finding it harder to expose their faults than it is to expose my own. (Someone has suggested that, perhaps, their faults ARE my own.)

We’re traveling to parts of India and Spain  where I’ve never physically been. How peculiar that after reading about these places, seeing photographs of them and writing about them, I feel that my characters have taken me there and shown me around, through their eyes.

Writing. Not an experience for the faint of heart.

As if self-discipline weren’t challenging enough, there you are, meeting yourself on the path over and over, in the most unanticipated places with the most unexpected feelings. Not all pleasant.

This time my characters and their story are sometimes dragging me forward reluctantly instead of grabbing my heart joyfully.

But I’m all in for the journey.



The Yoga of Max’s Discontent

I read The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj while on a 5 week trip in India. Couldn’t have been better timing.

The book can be read and enjoyed on several levels.

It is interesting as the tale of one young man’s personal journey toward a better understanding of the meaning and purpose of his own life. The reader follows Max’s development from a childhood of poverty in the projects to financial success on Wall Street; from his close relationship to a childhood friend and his younger sister to a life seemingly far from each; from certainty to confusion to acceptance of both. Max can easily be the archetype young person in the Western world of 2016.

On another level, The Yoga of Max’s Discontent clarifies the basic concepts of attachment, The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the path to Enlightenment, no-thing and emptiness. I’ve been teaching meditation for close to two decades, teaching yoga for 5 years and practicing for eight. A decade of reading Buddhist thought and philosophy quite intensively as well as listening to hundreds (perhaps thousands) of hours of excellent dharma talks didn’t bring me to the clear understanding this book did.

Of course, it’s undoubtedly the combination of all those factors. In any case, I greatly appreciated this book’s crucial part in that process.

Max’s own confusion at each stage in the development of his path toward Enlightenment created the possibility for suspending my own disbelief in such seemingly bizarre events. His difficulty in grasping the logistics of his spiritual advancement allowed me to recognize the stepping stones in my own journey.

Paradoxically, the clarity I gained also brought me to the realization that enlightenment is not, in fact, something I choose to seek. To the contrary, I’ve become clearer in my understanding that should I ever approach that state, my choice would be to remain on the path of altruism in this world.

Jaya’s in Trouble!

In Yoga for Detectives: Lesson One, Jaya began to understand that her guru’s plan for her may have something to do with her ability to solve mysteries and protect good souls who are in danger. But she, herself, is never in any real danger.

In Yoga for Detectives: Lesson Two, all that changes. In the very first pages we come upon Jaya alone, bruised and broken, awaiting certain death.

The twists and turns of this second book take our characters through the crowded streets of Mumbai, into the ruins of temples in Goa, crossing into Basque Country, delving deep into the archives of The British Museum in London and, finally, making their way through the labyrinth of the Three Counties Caves System in the Yorkshire Dales.

Deceit and desperation are the name of the game as Jaya and her friends discover that some people are willing to do anything to prevent the truth from uncovering a saint’s extreme unsaintliness.

Once again Ansui, the elder statesman of The Brahmacharya Das Legacy Meditation Center in Manhattan, brings his grumpy disposition, wise quotes and loving heart to the tasks which threaten those good souls who come under Jaya’s protective wing.

We learn, together with Jaya, to appreciate Daniel’s inner strength and creative intellectualism, as he helps unravel the intricacies of centuries-old secrets. Working together with him from far away, Ananda begins to acknowledge her own growing feelings for Daniel, painfully in conflict with her understanding of Jaya’s relationship with him.

And, always, the children’s stories are interwoven with the danger, tragedy and heartbreak which the adults encounter. Another young cousin, Yarden, joins Ariel and Tal on a lark, in a European vacation which may be their final adventure.

Sinister and highly dangerous men, cloaked in the righteousness of their religious order pull apart the lives of all the characters we grew to know and love in Yoga for Detectives: Lesson One.

Will they survive for a third lesson?

Read the sequel, Yoga for Detectives: Lesson Two to find out. Available on Amazon Summer 2016.

Vishnu       star_o_david   Ganesha 1

A Jerusalem Icon Saved – Sefer v’Sefel

One of the toughest things about living a country where the primary language is not English is the lack of easy access to books written in English. I’ve been living in English book poverty for 36 years. Every time I’m in the U.S. I swallow books whole at the amazing public libraries. I have been known to sit in Barnes & Noble for entire days, reveling in the sheer luxury of being surrounded by books, glorious books.  reading

Kindle has made my feeling of impoverishment much less poignant and, yet, there’s still something comforting about the feel in my hands of a book made of paper, bound in a cover, with artwork and author info.

In a little alleyway, up some slippery stone stairs, resides a true icon of Jerusalem called Sefer v’Sefel. Since my very first days wandering the streets of my new and quite glorious city, this super well-organized 2nd hand bookstore has been my refuge in the desert of English books. The proprietor, Uri, a native Hebrew-speaker, for some reason unknown to me, opened up well before I moved to Israel in 1979 and presided over his kingdom with equanimity, a pleasant demeanor and excellent recommendations for almost 40 years.Sefer v'Sefel

For the past several years that he has been unwell, which came at a time when ebooks put a serious dent in the store’s income, Uri remained a steadfast presence in his realm. But I began to have a feeling of doom walking up those familiar stone stairs, anticipating the day when the gate would be locked and there would be a sign with the dreaded word – CLOSED

Last week when I walked in the (thankfully open) store, I saw a cheerful young woman putting away some books in their rightful place. I responded to her welcoming smile with one of my own and told her I was very happy to see that the store was still in operation.

Her response was, “Well, I certainly am, too, since we just bought the place.”

My heart signaled the bittersweet reality to my brain. I won’t have the enjoyment of those short but lovely conversations with Uri anymore and Uri won’t experience firsthand the love and appreciation he inspires in his decades -loyal customers but the icon that his “baby”, Sefer v’Sefel, has become will remain alive and he can pamper himself a bit now that he no longer has to keep up his tradition of ALWAYS being behind the Sefer v’Sefel desk, rain or shine, economic boom or bust.

Thanks, Uri, for 40 years of consistency and the love of books.

Best of luck to Zia!

Dinner with Buddha

Dinner with BuddhaAuthor Roland Merullo has served Buddha breakfast and lunch and, now, in his new book Dinner with Buddha, dinner. Here we rejoin the characters we met and learned to love in the two earlier books.

The narrator is 52 year old Otto Ringling, former senior editor for a book publishing firm in New York. Otto is once again called on by his sister, Cecelia, to join her esteemed Russian/Tibetan monk husband, Volya Rinpoche, in an adventure.

From their North Dakota retreat and meditation center, they head out to the mountains, guided by one of Seese’s dreams, stopping along the way to meet people based on her directions. Otto’s skepticism, mixed with admiration, toward his much respected brother-in-law provides a foundation upon which readers can stand firmly.

Volya Rinpoche’s enthusiasm and joy in living in the moment, as expressed in his slightly off kilter English and newcomer’s understanding of American culture, repeatedly brings a smile to the reader’s lips. When he adopts the phrase, “Bet your ass, man!” from someone along their journey, Otto reflects on the trouble he could get into –

“I didn’t have the energy just then for yet another lesson in the American vernacular, though I found myself wondering, tiredly, if one day this new affectation would get him into trouble. In a week or two weeks, up in the mountains somewhere – Wyoming, Colorado, Montana – a tough waitress would ask him if he wanted anything besides butter with his oatmeal and he’d say, “Bet your ass,” and there would be a scene. Or he’d hold the hotel door for a bull rider and his girlfriend on the morning after a rodeo and the young woman would thank him, and he’d say, “Bet your ass.” Or we’d be in a library in New Mexico, there to do research on American Indian artifacts, and the librarian would ask, “Can I help you” Bet your ass you can. Or we’d be in a rest area, the kind that were peopled by lonely men in sedans, and Rinpoche would head for the edge of the trees, curious about some butterfly or bird he’d seen there, and one of the men would say, “Want to take a walk?” And so on. There was no end to the trouble a misplaced “bet your ass” could cause a person. This was my mind spinning. this was my mind.”

BuddhaRinpoche’s syntax in English is charming. Otto’s relationship with him is complex. Seese’s love for both her husband and her brother is generous and unconditional.

The reader learns, along with Otto, to appreciate and trust Rinpoche’s wisdom, even as he’s described as having a Speedo bathing suit which Otto describes thus,

“Given the inappropriately small size of Rinpoche’s Speedo, and the powerful torso and legs it revealed, and given the kind of antics of which my brother-in-law was capable, I said a small prayer of thanks, as we made our way to the elevator, that, this time at least, he’d decided to wear his robe over the bathing suit.”

Incongruously, Rinpoche Volya joyously yells, “Colorado!” as he cannon balls into the motel swimming pool and rises at 3 a.m. everyday to sit in silent meditation without moving a muscle for 3 hours. He loves his wife and daughter with all his heart and yet when Otto is consumed with worry about them, after hearing about a possible threat to their lives, says:

“Right now. In this minute, in this second, Chinese killing?”


Tapping three times on the table. “In this second, they killing?”


“They hurting Shelsa?” (his daughter)


“Worry is in your mind the pictures. You think you see these men but what you now in this minute see is this,” he pointed to his own face. “And this,” the teacup.”Worry is worry, man.”

Something is afoot. Changes are on their way. Hints abound but clarity is slow in coming. No matter. Every chapter is filled with gems for the reader to remember for her own life journey.

I loved this book. I didn’t want it to end. I worried about whether there would be “Dessert with Buddha” or if this was IT.  anxiety

The final Merullo book about these people I’d grown to love.

And then I heard Rinpoche’s voice and tried to integrate his instruction to “rest inside that love now, man, and we be quiet.” and not to “pay too much attention (to that feeling) or try to hold onto it because the part that wants to hold on is the part you letted (sic) go to have this feeling.”

meditation 11


Buy and Enjoy!