Jim Santos Books

Author, Traveler, and Voice Over Artist

Jim Santos - Author

As long as I can remember, books have always been at the core of my life. Through a rough childhood in an epically dysfunctional family, they were my solace, my joy, and often my escape. I was reading the adventures of Dick and Jane (and the irrepressible Spot) on my own by the time I was three. By third grade I had gone through all of the works of Jules Verne, and did a fifth grade book report on Tolstoy's War and Peace (my teacher confessed to me that she had never read it).

I also tried to write as soon as I could string enough letters together to make words. Sappy diaries, awful short stories, incredibly atrocious poetry - even really, really, bad song lyrics.

Didn't matter, I was writing.

It was a long time before I found proper outlets for this urge to put pen to paper. In my late thirties, I wrote ad copy during my stint as a part-time radio jock in Charles Town, West Virginia. I also wrote a few editorials for the local newspaper, The Spirit of Jefferson, which were lucid enough that they hired me to write a neighborhood column.

As I moved into the world of computers, networks, and the internet, I began writing technical papers. Troubleshooting guides, Installation procedures, and other such scintillating works. My work with a local ISP led to a teaching gig at a local community college, where I taught computer and networking certification courses. More technical docs, lesson plans, and I even designed a course book for Installing and Configuring Apache Web Server.

This continued as I segued into a career as a network technician working in the US Senate - more troubleshooting guides, more installation docs, and even a few how-to videos.

During the dark days following the loss of my first wife Carolyn to cancer, I wrote almost daily trying to make sense of it all.

But I didn't really begin writing things that the general public might actually want to read until I was 55, when Rita and I moved to Salinas, Ecuador.

It started with a submission to International Living about a little Ecuadorian boy showing us his new puppy at a local restaurant, which they promptly turned down. However, the editor did like the style, and asked me if I would write a profile piece about ourselves and why we chose Salinas. I did, they bought it, and that was enough to get the ball rolling.

I submitted periodically for another year or so, when at 57 I realized due to our reduced cost of living, I didn't really need to keep working for the Senate. I took the leap, and IL decided to offer me a retained position as the "Ecuador Coastal Correspondent". Since I would only write about things I had really experienced, this led to more travel - first up and down the coast, then into the Andes of Ecuador, and eventually to Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina. More articles for IL, an article request from The Wall Street Journal, and exposure in The Huffington Post followed.

After over 200 published works, I finally decided to take the plunge, and write something of my own. My first publication was an incredibly poorly timed book based on our trip to the Galápagos Islands in August of 2019. You can read a sample or even purchase below that work, The Galápagos Islands: On Your Own and On a Budget.

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It was a great book, well researched, useful information, wonderful color photos, and fun to read. The only problem was that within a few days of publication, travel to the Galápagos was shutdown due to COVID-19. Worse, as of July of 2021, although tourism has resumed to the Islands, they are still requiring all visitors to have a guide with them at all times. Even in the free public areas I so carefully listed in the book.

In short, the whole concept of "on your own" was blown.

Oh well. Que será, será. Maybe things will open up again in the future.

My second book was much more difficult to write, and much more personal. You see, when we moved to Ecuador I weighed just over 300 pounds. I was struggling (still am, really) with Survivor's Guilt after Carolyn's death and from events of my childhood. Then in 2016, Rita and I for some insane reason decided we should make plans to hike the 26-mile Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in August of 2017.

I kept a blog of our efforts to train, and my effort to lose enough weight to be able to achieve this goal. As time went on, I realized it began to parallel the daily writing I had done after Carolyn's death. I began to understand the link between my guilt, my weight, and the attempt at the hike. On some level, I was trying to justify my existence by showing I could overcome the weight and survive the Inca Trail.

This eventually led to my second book, An Uphill Climb: Survivor's Guilt and the Inca Trail. This book is divided into two parts. The first book deals with training for the hike, but also jumps back and forth in time in a very personal reveal of childhood trauma, my life with Carolyn, and watching her die. Book Two is a day-by-day account of the hike itself.

It was not an easy book to write, nor is it an easy book to read. Nevertheless, it got very good reviews on Amazon, still rating a 4.6 Stars. I also received several messages from people who also had struggled with Survivor's Guilt. That feeling of knowing that I affected someone's life with my words is really what writing is all about to me. Here is the preview/purchase option.

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With that metaphysical load off my metaphorical shoulders, I was ready to write something fun! After years of writing about the expat life, giving talks at conferences, meeting potential expats, and listening to their questions and concerns, I knew that there were a lot of misconceptions about living abroad. Not only that, some of the information out there was incomplete at best and blatantly wrong at worst.

I wanted to write a book that would take a look at some of the more common myths and fears about expat life, and look at them through the lens of my six years of experience. I did not want to sugar-coat anything - in fact, I stated right up front that this was not intended to be a how-to expat book, or even a why-to book. I wanted to give my honest opinions based on real-life examples and let the reader decide if it would work in their lives.

The only problem was that about half of the material would be taken from articles I had written for IL, who still had full rights to the work. Worse, it was from my original submissions, so not all of it actually made it into the publications. This made it almost impossible to cite what was what, and threatened to complicate or even stop the whole shebang.

Fortunately, when I reached out to International's Living they were incredibly generous. The publisher herself gave me permission to use the material, merely in exchange for including an acknowledgement to IL for allowing it. Even more incredible, she also was willing to waive any editorial control over the finished work! This was huge, since I explained I would be going after some of the Sacred Cows of the international retirement genre.

The result was a funny, entertaining, and ultimately very useful look at what it is really like to live overseas. This has been my most popular work to date, with a 4.8 rating in Amazon. It is available as an e-book, paperback, and now a hardcover edition as well. Here is the link to preview/purchase Living Abroad: Challenging the Myths of Expat Life.

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I have a couple of book projects in the works now, but I recently took some time to publish some smaller works in Series on Amazon. These are in the form of e-books only, and range from short stories at $0.99 each, longer works for $1.99, and so on.

The first of those series is Short Takes! , a collection of short stories taken from real-life events. I'll be adding more, but for now they include a story about an old body playing a young man's sport, a prank gone wrong at the US Senate, struggles with stage fright, and a story of the love and loss of a household pet.

There is also the series Travels With Jim and Rita. There you can find summaries of some of the places that Rita and I have visited. These are not meant as travel guides, rather they are glimpses into what it is like to explore in new lands. For those who are not sure they want to deal with the sometimes heavy emotions of An Uphill Climb, I have also release an e-book as part of this series that simply covers the Inca Trail Hike itself, complete with many color photos.

It is titled cleverly enough Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu , and costs only $2.99.

Lastly, I will be publishing in a month or so the first few entries in a series called The Best Place to Live in Ecuador. It will take an honest look at dozens of possible places that expats could enjoy in Ecuador. You see, I have found that if you ask an expat 'where is the best place to live here?' they inevitably and coincidentally tell you it happens to be the place THEY decided to live. I wanted to write a series that gives unbiased assessments of the many cities and villages Rita and I exposed on the Pacific coast and in the Andes. The facts are, every place has its own pluses and minuses, and every potential expat has different wants and needs. My goal will be to provide enough information for the reader to narrow it down to a few possibilities that look right for THEM.

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Hope that you enjoyed this, and I look forward to your feedback if you choose to read any of my work. As always, happy to answer any questions, any time.

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