When I wrote the first draft of Death Will Get You Sober back in 2002, my techie character, Jimmy, had to show his girlfriend, Barbara, how to look something up on Google. By the time the book was published in 2008, “google” had become a verb and an activity in which a savvy New York professional woman would certainly need no instruction.
In the first draft of Death Will Extend Your Vacation, written in the summer of 2007 and set in the Hamptons, Jimmy was considered an eccentric for insisting on taking his computer to the beach. I thought it was rather daring of him to insist on lugging his computer out to the East End of Long Island and setting it up in a tangle of cables and peripherals. At some point what I originally envisioned as a desktop became a much more portable laptop. However, neither Jimmy nor I wanted to risk getting sand into the laptop, so when Barbara dragged him to the beach, he took a PDA (personal digital assistant, if you’ve always wondered) along. It wasn’t clear whether he could access the Internet on it, but at least he could function, tapping happily away while Barbara and my protagonist, Bruce, swam and schmoozed with the gang of recovering alcoholics, codependents, and other members of twelve-step programs I created to serve as victims and suspects.
Death Will Extend Your Vacation was accepted for publication early in 2011 and is slated to appear in April 2012. While the manuscript was being edited, it occurred to me that nobody talks about PDAs any more, so I upgraded Jimmy to a netbook, one of the pint-size laptops that first came on the market in the fall of 2008 and soon appeared all over. They were especially popular with the write-in-Starbucks crowd. I got mine in 2009, a classy little dark-red Acer that I assumed would be the latest big thing for a while. Wrong!
Amazon’s Kindle first appeared in 2007, changing the face of publishing and reading itself forever. I remember this, no matter how my aging memory deteriorates, because when I signed the contract for Death Will Get You Sober, the electronic rights were not considered very important, and by the time I signed the contract for Death Will Help You Leave Him, they were. Kindle and its competitors affected us primarily as readers—and as authors who wanted readers to buy our books. But once the e-readers started busting out all over like the proverbial June, could the iPad and its ilk—featherweight tablets that functioned as both e-readers and computers—be far behind?
I had almost completed my response to the copy editor’s queries on Death Will Extend Your Vacation—my last chance to make changes before the manuscript is set in type (an archaic phrase in itself)—when I realized that if Jimmy is really a computer buff (much less a computer genius, which I kind of regret labeling him way back when), he wouldn’t be caught dead on the beach in 2012 (“now” for people who will read the book when it comes out) with anything less than an iPad. It’s too late to do anything about the fact that the sunbathers all around him should be thumbing away on their smartphones. Oh, well. Once print books become extinct, authors will be able to make these changes even after publication by accessing and editing their e-books.