My thoughts on becoming an author

“You should write a book.” Somebody said that to me. …maybe once… While walking the Camino three book ideas did occur to me. The first one was a collaborative effort with June as we were passing the time walking. The other two just appeared in my troubled mind. I’m trusting you, my loyal readers, not to steal any of these ideas.

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Book 1. June and I talked about a mystery novel about a man walking the Camino who has been accused of killing his wife. She died under somewhat mysterious circumstances and was found after he had started his walk. The authorities are trying to track him down. At first he doesn’t know that he is a suspect. Gradually through a series of conversations with other peregrinos he realizes that he is being pursued. There are many ways to travel the Camino and sometimes using the different routes, different places to stay, and other side trips he slips by those on his trail. At other times some of the peregrinos, having heard his story, act to provide misinformation to those following him or to help him evade those others. As we walked we added more and more detail and thought about all of the country side, albergues, sights, meals, and people that could be included in the tale. Later I let my mind drift farther and wondered if maybe he wasn’t an ordinary peregrino, but was a secret agent. Perhaps his wife’s murder was done to frame or expose him. Perhaps there are people from both sides trying to find him to aid him or silence him. Perhaps it is difficult to tell which people are which. Then at the end of the pilgrimage I have him in the cathedral at Santiago at the pilgrim’s mass and as he leaves… But that would be a spoiler. June thought I was a little over the top adding the spy part. We both think it needs a lot of work so don’t look for this book soon.

Book 2. This book seemed pretty obvious to me. The farther we walked the looser I noticed my clothes were becoming. This pilgrimage appeared to be a great way to become more fit. So I was thinking of a book titled something like, The Santiago Weight-loss Method; How to lose weight and avoid bariatric surgery in just 36 days while on the spiritual pilgrimage to Santiago by Douglas J.Hiza, MD. I would say things like a person could lose up to 50 pounds through this activity. I only lost about 10 pounds but that is still “up to” and I didn’t say that one would lose that much. I would leave out the part about chips and beer at the end of the day. I would advise not having the Pilgrim’s Menu every evening as there is way too much food in those. I think this would be a great seller as people are always looking for a lose-weight-quick-method. It doesn’t matter if it really works or not. After all, most diet or weight loss books don’t work over the long haul and they still sell like hotcakes. The fact that it would be authored by a medical doctor would add some credibility. (Think about that the next time you buy a book authored by a medical doctor. Completely factual just because of the degree?) I think I could make this into a best seller and make a lot of money allowing me to retire…wait, I am retired. Well it would allow me to be more retired and more is always better, right? I would have to lose some weight for the jacket picture and for the book tour but I bet I can find a good book on how to do that quickly. This book also needs some more work.

Book 3. As I blogged I started using the theme “Are we there yet?” as a way to connect my readers with their experiences on road trips, both as children passengers and later as adult drivers. I’m pretty sure I heard my parents say most of the “suggestions” that I placed at the end of each of those blog postings and I’m sure that June or I have “suggested” those things to our children on our trips. I got to thinking about the advice given, how universal it was, and how it contains a lot of wisdom about what is needed in life. To help you review without going back and reading all those postings (but feel free to do so if you wish), I’ll list them here.

  • Just settle down.
  • Maybe you could try reading your books for awhile.
  • You share back there.
  • Listen to some music and maybe sing along.
  • Let’s not use that kind of language with each other.
  • Don’t fight!
  • Why don’t you think of the stories you can tell of what you have seen, the things you have learned from the people you have met, and what you have learned from the journey when you are together over the table.
  • So remember, it is not what you achieve but the journey that counts.

It all seems like pretty good advice and if expanded would make a good book on living well with ones’ neighbors. It brought to mind the guy who wrote the book and then someone wrote a popular song about it and there were posters and other paraphernalia associated with it and I’m sure he became very rich… You know, All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Well, my concept is similar. I think the advice that my book would offer would differ from Fulghum’s in that it is more primitive. It begins before kindergarten when preschool children travel in the back of a car. It has a longer history in that I can see ox drawn carts with parents turning and saying variations of those words to the children in the hay in the bed of the cart. I was thinking of trying to play off Fulghum’s title to sort of catch the wave of the purchasing public’s attention. I was thinking of something along the lines of All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In The Back Seat Of A Car. But then I began to worry, a little, that perhaps my potential readership would misunderstand the message that I intended to convey in the book thinking instead of other experiences they had in the back seat of cars. To make matters worse, an unscrupulous publisher could put some sort of jacket art on the cover that would foster the notion that what was contained inside…well, might not be for family reading and that would entirely miss my lofty intentions. But then again, if that mistaken notion was made by the reading public…well, those books tend to sell well, too. I don’t know. I think this one needs more thinking and work, too. And, perhaps, a different title.

But, hey, I have a following of readers here that I can turn to for advice. Which of the books should I start on first?

  1.  The Camino mystery – as yet untitled.
  2.  The Santiago Weight-loss Method; How to lose weight and avoid bariatric surgery in just 36 days while on the spiritual pilgrimage to Santiago by Douglas J.Hiza, MD
  3. All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In The Back Seat Of A Car.
  4.  None of the above. Just give it up!

Let me know your vote in the comments below. If I publish I will take all the names of those who voted for that book, put them in a box and draw out a name for a free autographed copy.

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Do it again?

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Since I have been home some people have asked if I would walk the Camino again, or if I wanted to walk the Camino again or if I was going to walk again. I’m not sure of how to answer that. We met or heard about many people who have walked the Camino more that once. Some have walked it many times, like Jaime who was walking the Camino for the tenth time in eleven years. We met one man who was walking the Camino for the third time this year! (But we think he had some…”issues.”) Several of the people who ran albergues have walked the Camino more than once, their attraction to the Camino one of the reasons they are running an albergue. We met one man who biked the Camino three times and now was walking it. Granted he had broken his leg the last time he biked it. But the point is that walking the Camino more than once is not unusual.

Jamie said that each of his ten walks was different. I can see how that would be. You would meet different people with a different set of interesting stories. You would notice different things while you walked through the same places. The season and weather would be different. You might visit some places on the side of the Camino that you had not stopped for before. You think about and meditate on different things. We heard about one woman who had walked with her daughter. Upon completing the walk she said that she would not trade the experience of walking the Camino with her daughter with the deepening of their relationship for anything. But she was going back to walk the Camino alone because she needed to experience that.

When we decided to walk the Camino we decided that we were not going as tourists, but as walkers. Sometimes the difference was a little gray, but in general we did not stop nor detour to see famous relics, or churches, or monuments, or other things often mentioned in our guide books. We did tour two cathedrals but even that felt a little strange to me. While walking, though, I did wonder about taking time to visit some of those towns or cities for a little longer or about purposefully seeking out some of the very interesting sites that make up so much of Spain’s history.

As I walked I thought of several ways that one could walk the Camino in terms of “themes.” They would include:
…appreciating and learning more about the architecture we passed by. The old buildings, including the ruins were fascinating. Much of the construction that we passed was mud and straw (with some rocks thrown in). With the walls crumbling I could see how they were constructed and how they were preserved or modernized. Then, of course, there were cathedrals as well as modern buildings to study and appreciate.
…attaining a better understanding of the flora and fauna of the region. There were so many plants, weeds, mushrooms and flowers that I wasn’t familiar with as well as gardens with crops that I hadn’t seen before. We didn’t see many animals but we did see birds. It would be interesting to spend some time better understanding the ecology of the region.
…learning more of the history. The region is full of history. It is spelled out in buildings, monuments and in the towns themselves. It could be a interesting and full walk just trying to learn about the history of the region and of the role the Knights Templar, for instance, played along the route. Why did certain towns exist and then become deserted and decay?
…trying to capture the beauty photographically. I sometimes wished I had a good camera and the time to just take pictures. There were so many picturesque things alone the way. There were flowers, and weeds and gardens that captured my eye. There were incredible landscape views in different kinds of light depending on the time of day often with wisps of mists drifting through. There were old structures in various states repair from almost totally ruined to well maintained to reconstructed that were incredibly interesting. There were, of course, people that would have been great photo subjects, both pilgrims and the people living there.

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…sharing stories. It could be great to just have the time to focus on talking with people and learning their stories. My trip highlights were certainly the people I met and some of the incredible stories I heard. Imagine spending the entire walk focused only on that!
…focusing of food. How could I not think about spending more time eating on the Spanish schedule and really gaining an appreciation of the regional cuisines? We ate a lot of good food, but by not eating at the times that Spaniards eat, we missed the “normal” restaurant and cafe menus. It is really hard to believe that I didn’t make an issue of focusing more on the food.

I often thought it would be interesting to walk the Camino again. If I did it would be without a return ticket determining when I needed to end the walk. I would walk shorter distances and do more of the things I was just wrote about. It would take longer. June suggested that rather than walking again, it might be good to return as “tourists” visiting those places we knew from walking to be able to spend more time there to better appreciate them. I don’t know. There was certainly something about walking through Spain. The pedestrian view is much different and, I think, richer than taking a car, bus or train. And associating with other pilgrims added significantly to the experience. I think we will have to see what happens when the experience of the Camino sinks in more fully.

It’s interesting. They say that part of the magic of the Camino is that it often provides you with what you need when you are in need. After our walk I think we were both thinking about others who had walked the Camino more than once and we discussed if we would consider returning sometime later. In many ways the walk was sufficient. We had done what we had set out to do. But, would we return? In Santiago we headed for a book store almost immediately, as reading a good book was one thing that both of us had missed. There were not that many books in English but we both found something that we thought we would enjoy reading. June bought Isabel Allende’s book, Portrait in Sepia. She began reading it and told me I had to read the poem that Allende had placed at the beginning of the book. It was a poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda from his work, End of the World. Here is the poem:

And that’s why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.

(Did I mention the rocks?) I don’t know if I need or want to go back and walk the Camino again. There are so many other places to see and walk where I can meet interesting people and hear their stories. But then again, I don’t know that I won’t want to walk that path again. I will just wait and see. After all, it may take some time before I discover why I walked the Camino and just exactly what that walk contributed to my understanding of my physical, mental and spiritual self.

Why…why…why?

How come when walking the 774 kilometers from SJPP to Santiago I rarely experienced sore muscles and now that I’ve returned my thighs ache and I have a touch of sciatica? We are walking much less now. In bad weather, like the hurricane on Tuesday we walked 0.0 kms. Today we walked about 10.4 kms or about half a Camino day’s walk (without packs, rocks on the trail or ups and downs). The days in between Tuesday and today we walked less than today but more than Tuesday. Yet I’ve been achy for the past few days. Endorphine withdrawal? Delayed recovery of pain receptors? Any ideas?