I take back what I said about e-books

Somewhere, a pig is flying.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how the e-book will never be as popular as the good old-fashioned book. I confess, I am something of a Luddite and I like the feel of a book in my hands. I treat my books badly, though, dragging them to the beach and into the bathtub. I fold down corners to mark my place, bend back the spines, and splash spaghetti sauce on the pages. I like the disposability of paperbacks, and will toss out a banged-up pb with barely a twinge of guilt. E-books made no sense to me, and I never planned to buy one.

Until I went on a recent trip and wrenched my shoulder because of all the heavy books in my suitcase. Coincidentally, on that trip, a writer gave me a peek at her brand new Amazon Kindle. She raved about it with evangelistic fervor, demonstrating all its bells and whistles. She had dozens of heavy textbooks saved on it, and said she could travel the world with her medical library in her purse.

When I got home, I decided it was time to step into the 21st century. So I bought a Kindle too.

I admit, my first experiences were not good ones. To start off with, I live in Maine, which is a “Whisper-net” free zone. When I’m home, I can’t download a thing onto my Kindle via Wi-fi. If I’d known that earlier, I probably would never have bought it. So I first have to download the books onto my computer, and from there I transfer them onto my Kindle.

And here’s where the fun part of the Kindle comes in. I checked out the titles of books available for download and suddenly I was a kid in a candy shop. You can download the King James Bible for under two bucks, plus change! (I’ve always intended to read the Bible from beginning to end, but ended up getting bogged down in Leviticus.) Here was my chance to carry a bible around with me, for only a few bucks. Then there’s Herodotus’s “The Histories”, another book I’ve meant to read from beginning to end — and also available for under three bucks. Tempted by all the choices, I began downloading like a madwoman. I picked up classics and textbooks and novels. I downloaded an Egyptian hieroglyph dictionary. I had visions of traveling the world with my entire forensics library contained in my purse.

Then I headed out on book tour, intending to road-test my Kindle.

I found out that when it comes to reading novels, the Kindle is wonderful. The display is crisp and the battery lasts a very long time before you have to charge it (you can read about three books on it before it needs a charge.) And best of all, if you’re at the age when you’re constantly reaching for your reading glasses, the Kindle allows you to enlarge the font and make any text readable. I loved not having to actually turn a page; all I had to do was tap a button.

But when it comes to textbooks, the Kindle is just not going to work for me. I miss the ability to flip easily between sections. I miss being able to jump between chapters and scan for illustrations. I discovered that the hieroglyph dictionary is pretty much useless on a Kindle, because I can’t really search the files for particular symbols except by going page by page. Maybe I’m just not facile enough to figure out how to do these things on a Kindle, and I don’t really have the patience to teach myself the necessary techniques.

So here’s my judgment on the thing. It’s great for vacations, where you don’t want to load up your suitcase with novels. It allows you to bring both serious reading and light reading on the same trip. But when it comes to textbooks, I’ll stick with the real thing.

I’m sold on it as a pleasure-reading device. And believe me, I was a hard sell. I don’t know if I’m representative of some sort of consumer tipping point, but I suspect the e-book component of book sales is on an ever-steeper climb.

Which is a bit scary for those of us who write, because of the possibility of piracy. If the music industry can be ruined by digital theft, could publishing be far behind?

Life is returning to normal — sort of

It’s been quite a month.

The first week of September, I was in California packing up my mom’s house and bringing her back with me to Maine.

The second week of September, THE KEEPSAKE was released and I headed out on book tour.

The third week of September, my son landed in the hospital, and I halted my book tour and headed to Syracuse to stay with him. After a week, he was finally released and is recovering nicely.

Now it’s the fourth week of September, I’m back home in Maine, and the storm formerly known as Hurricane Kyle is bearing down on us. As I’m getting ready to head out again on book tour.

If this were a novel, an editor would probably tell me, “There’s too much crisis going on. It’s just not realistic.” In fiction, we novelists have to stick by this rule called “believability.” Which means no coincidences, no melodramatic twists and turns, no characters doing insanely stupid things.

But in real life, there are no rules. And unbelievable stuff happens all the time.
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Thank you, everyone, for all the kind comments about my son!

what really matters

Thank you all so much for the good thoughts and best wishes. There is no worse nightmare than to sit in your child’s hospital room, wondering what will happen next. My husband and I are both physicians, so we know how quickly things can go wrong, no matter how excellent the medical care. We know how quickly patients can crash and burn. When it’s your own son in danger, you feel helpless and terrified, and you know that you’d give up anything, anything, just to keep your child safe.

We’re relieved that he’s now out of the woods.

My son’s a strong young man, and he’ll be fine. He’s a private person, so I’ll just say this: we adore him, and he knows it. And the next time he thinks about traveling to an exotic place with mosquitoes that carry exotic and potentially fatal diseases, we’ll urge him to visit Pennsylvania instead.

A family emergency

I apologize to those who’ve emailed me and haven’t had a response. I’m having a family medical emergency and am in Syracuse, NY, attending to matters. I’ve been forced to cancel the two book events this week, in Massachusetts and Enfield, Connecticut. You all know how compulsive I usually am about honoring my bookstore commitments, so trust me, I’m canceling for a really, really good reason.

Notes from the road

I’m in Cincinnati at the moment, enjoying a visit to the city where one of the more momentous events in my professional life happened 12 years ago. I was on book tour for HARVEST, my first hardcover thriller. And here in this city, I learned that I’d hit the New York Times bestseller list for the very first time. For that reason, Cincinnati will always hold a special place in my heart.

Another reason it’s a favorite place for me is that I get the chance to catch up with a media escort who’s been with me every time I’ve visited the Cincy-Dayton area. Just to be clear, I’m talking MEDIA escort, not escort as in ESCORT service, a difference which sometimes leads to amusing misconceptions about what it is, exactly, authors do on the road. Media escorts are generally hired by the publisher to make authors’ lives easier on the road. They drive us around, take us to interviews and bookstores, feed us, pamper us, and make sure we’re not going psychotic. A good media escort is like a surrogate mommy, and Kathy T. is one of the best, a woman who’s also become a friend. She and I can’t remember how many times we’ve been together, but I think it’s been at least five times, and over the years we’ve shared stories about our kids and our marriages and our personal crises. She’s watched me mellow over the years, since my first few releases. I started off as a nervous author, worried about my very survival in the publishing world. Now I’m feeling a little more confident, and know that what matters is simply that I write good books, and leave the sales to good luck, which is sometimes what it comes down to.

Over the years, after twelve book tours, I’ve come to know many great media escorts around the country. They’re the familiar faces waiting at airport baggage claim, the friendly voices on the phone, the helpful life-savers who’ll sometimes even offer to launder your suitcase of dirty clothes, time permitting.

So here’s a big thanks to all the escorts who make life on the road a pleasure for authors. We don’t always remember to send you thank-you notes (because usually we get home and realize we don’t have either your email or your mailing addresses!) But we couldn’t do it without you.

From the road

I’m sitting in my hotel room in the Hilton Garden Inn, getting mentally geared up for book tour. Actually, there’s little “gearing up” to do, because I’m feeling so accustomed to the whole process. In some ways, going on book tour feels a bit like a vacation (crazy, huh?) because I don’t have to cook dinner, I get to watch TV in bed, and I can gorge on all the gossip magazines I pick up from the airport newsstands.

I love book tours.

I don’t like the travel anxieties and the airline snafus, but I love the whole idea of getting out of Maine and seeing the rest of the country. If it hadn’t been for book travel, I would never have seen Mobile AL or Little Rock, Arkansas or West Texas. I’m a sucker for small American towns. I’m a sucker for obscure regional foods. Get me out into the heartland, and I’ll find something to love, even if the only thing the town seems to offer is a diner and a gas station.

This tour, I’m not visiting any really small towns, but I’ll be looking for local culinary quirks to sample. A chef’s daughter is always on the lookout for something she’s never tasted before.

Tomorrow, I’ll be in Nashville. Hope to see some of you there! (And I’m bringing my shrunken head.)

Why touring gives me gray hairs

I am obsessive-compulsive about being on time. I freak out when I know I’m going to arrive late for an appointment, a dinner date, or — worst of all — a booksigning event. So I always leave myself a comfortable margin of time for travel, preferring to arrive at a store way too early rather than cutting my arrival too close to the appointed hour.

So you can imagine how uptight I was on Thursday afternoon when I got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic en route to my signing in South Portland, Maine. My event was scheduled for 7 PM. It usually takes about an hour and a half to drive from my house to South Portland. I left my home at 3:30, allowing myself time for a leisurely stop at McDonald’s for dinner. (McDonald’s frequently plays a large part in the life of the touring author. I make no apologies for my French fry addiction.) I was happily zipping down Route 1 when, just outside the town of Wiscasset, the traffic suddenly halted. A line of cars stretched ahead of me, all the way to the horizon.

No problem, I thought. I’d given myself an extra TWO HOURS to arrive at the store. At the very worst, I’d have to wolf down my dinner a little faster than I wanted to.

An hour later, my car had moved maybe a hundred feet. My stomach was growling. Any hope of dinner was fast fading away.

Yet another hour later, my car was still stuck in Wiscasset. Traffic had scarcely moved. Now I was panicking, because I knew there was no way I would be on time. As the minutes ticked by, I made a series of phone calls to Borders, each one more despairing.

“I’m stuck in traffic. I may be a few minutes late.”
Then: “I’m still in Wiscasset! I’m so, so sorry! I’ll be a half hour late.”
Then: “I’m still stuck in this (expletive deleted) traffic, in this (expletive deleted) town, and I don’t know when I’ll get there. But I (expletive deleted) well will get there.” (Well, okay. I didn’t really use those expletives over the phone. But I thought them.)

I told Borders that if customers had to leave, I would be happy to sign any books they left for me. I also said that no matter what time I arrived, I would give my talk, if anyone wanted to listen. I’d even stand on my head, anything to make it up to those forced to wait. I imagined my readers getting more and more irritated with me, muttering darkly that the author didn’t respect them enough to be on time. I imagined them walking off in a huff, tossing my books aside.

When I finally did arrive at the bookstore, I was 45 minutes late. I did not expect anyone to still be waiting around for me. I dashed into the store, bypassing the ladies’ room (which by that time I desperately needed to use) and headed straight for the events area.

To my amazement, customers were still sitting there, even though they’d been warned that the author might not show up till much later. “We talked about it among ourselves, and we decided you were worth the wait,” one of them told me.

It’s moments like those when I realize how lucky I am to have such wonderful readers.

Considering how unpredictable travel is, it’s amazing how rarely I’ve missed, or been late for, an author event. This is my twelfth national book tour. During all those tours, I’ve had my share of delayed flights, thunderstorms, traffic jams, and no-show drivers, but I can remember only two tours when I actually had to cancel events. The first aborted tour was halted because of 9/11, when I suddenly found myself stranded in Seattle for two weeks. The second interrupted tour was after I herniated a disc in my neck, and needed urgent surgery. (Although I confess I considered going ahead with the tour anyway, with a suitcase of narcotics in tow.)

My national tour for THE KEEPSAKE is just getting started. Airports are chaos, the weather is weird, and my bookstore events are lined up like a series of dominoes, just waiting for something to go wrong and topple the whole schedule. I just hope that all my readers are as patient and understanding as those customers in South Portland’s Borders Thursday night.

I’m trying my best to get to you. I really am.

Free E-book giveaway of THE SURGEON!

For two weeks only (9/11 – 9/25) you can download an e-book of THE SURGEON for free! If you have either a Kindle or a Sony E-reader, click on the links below to get your free e-copy of the first book in the Jane Rizzoli series:

Free Kindle e-book of THE SURGEON.

Free Sony e-book of THE SURGEON.

The offer expires at midnight September 25.

If you’ve never read me before, here’s your chance to give one of my thrillers a try — at no cost. And you’ll be starting off with the very first book in the Jane Rizzoli series — a great way to be introduced to Jane when she first appeared in the world of fiction!

“Mummification 101 with Tess Gerritsen”

A fun article in my local paper. It also has a photo of me and my mom.

Asking for your eyes

Once again, I have a favor to ask of you all. I’d love to find out in which stores THE KEEPSAKE has arrived, and how it’s being displayed. So the next time you’re in a bookstore, take note of where the copies are displayed, and drop me an email. And also let me know your mailing address — I’ll send you some bookmarks!