Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Linking to eBooks

I have had a page on my website linking to my Kindle books for a long time. Recently, because a couple of my friends have Nooks (and because the MZB Literary Works Trust is putting Nook eBooks up through PubIt), I've added a Nook page.

My first lesson in web design was from a teacher writing on the whiteboard. She started with the <HTML> and </HTML> tags and worked inward from there: <HEAD>, </HEAD>, <TITLE>, </TITLE>, <BODY>, </BODY>, etc. We were expected to be able to hand code a web page from scratch, and I still use Notepad as my editor. (I can use Dreamweaver if I have to—my convent uses it—but I prefer to write the code myself, so that I know what's in it.)

Amazon.com's links to a book, either Kindle or dead-tree edition, are short and simple. The format is http://www.amazon.com/dp/ISBN or ASIN. All I have to know is the ISBN (book) or ASIN (Kindle eBook), and I'm all set. I have a spreadsheet with all our eBook numbers, Kindle, Fictionwise, and Nook. Unfortunately, it's not much help for Nook hyperlinks.

Barnes & Noble uses a long string that includes the author and title—and if there was a typo when the eBook was first added, you're stuck with it. Consider the following: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-rhumba-of-rattlesnakes-elisabethq-waters/1111828527. I admit that I have been known to misspell my own name, but what happened here is that my finger hit the "q" as well as the Tab key as I went from the "first name" to "last name" field. I have since corrected it so that on the page my first name is not Elisabethq, but that URL is forever. It's certainly obvious that this is my story "A Rhumba of Rattlesnakes," but wouldn't "http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/1111828527" identify it just as clearly? The Kindle version of this, where the story is in the book Past Future Present 2011, is "http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006JPWHJW."

And for real fun, compare the links for SWORD & SORCERESS 23:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00328HHJE and
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/marion-zimmer-bradleys-sword-and-sorceress-xxiii-elisabeth-waters/1100242465?ean=2940043313041.

My next project is going to be the Nook page for www.mzbworks.com. I'm not looking forward to it; it's going to take days—if not weeks—and there are plenty of other things I should be doing. All at the same time.

So, if you were coding a website, which set of links would you rather use?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Taxation and Representation

One of the major complaints the American colonists had against England was that, while they had to pay taxes, they had no representation in Parliament. After the American Revolution male property owners could vote, and the franchise has gradually extended since then until any citizen can vote after his or her eighteenth birthday. A friend's child once asked me why children couldn't vote (I think he was about ten at the time), and I handed him the sample ballot for the upcoming election. After he looked at several pages of candidates and propositions, followed a lot more pages describing the issues, the arguments for and against, and the complete text of the proposed laws, he handed it back, saying that he was glad he didn't have to vote.

Of course, now that we can vote, I feel strongly that we have the obligation to do so responsibly (despite all of the campaign ads designed to make us turn off our brains and vote the way the advertiser wants us to). I was on a panel at a science-fiction convention some years ago, and one of my fellow panelists was railing indignantly about mindless voting. He demanded of the room at large: "How many of you read the materials the Secretary of State sends out?" The majority of the people promptly raised their hands, so I guess he was preaching to the choir.

But there is still one place where writers are taxed with no representation: other countries. A lot of them, such as England and Germany, have tax treaties with the US, so we don't have to pay tax on our sales there. Brazil, on the other hand, charges so much that when I was working for Marion Zimmer Bradley I said she should be allowed to vote there, while my co-worker Raul said they should at least name a tank after her. And last week her Trust got a check for a Chinese edition of MISTS OF AVALON, with a charge of 15.6% for tax.

I'm not saying that writers should have the right to vote in other countries; even in cases where we can read the language, we don't know the issues and most of them have no direct effect on our lives. And there's a Foreign Tax Credit on our tax return, so we're not really losing the money. It just struck me when I saw that check stub that we are, in a very minor way, back in the situation that America's founders fought against.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fire's Children

I just turned in a story called "Fire's Children" for ELEMENTAL MAGIC, an anthology set in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters world, scheduled to be published by DAW Books on December 4, 2012. The elements are earth, air, fire, and water.

My story is set more or less in the London that my great-grandfather emigrated from. He must have been pretty tough; he spent 25 years in East London (yes, he was a Cockney), and he lived to be 87, which is 17 years more than the Biblical "three score and ten." His father (born 1834) and grandfather (born 1805) both lived less than 36 years, or about half of that. Their London could have used elemental mages, and considering the condition of some of those elements gave me ideas for my story.

London in the 1800s was not a healthy place to live. In modern-day New York City you can see the air (and breathing it is said to be the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day). In a London heated by burning coal, you could not only see the air, you could almost chew it. And when water vapor was added to it--well, London fogs were notorious for good reasons. Then there was the water. My annual Water Quality Report just arrived in the mail. The report on things they test for runs a full letter-size page of fairly small print, with a key to the abbreviations taking up a third of the next page. There are standards for color and for turbidity (contamination comes from "naturally occurring organic materials" and "soil runoff") and a lot of other things, and there's no way any large city that used horses as primary transportation would ever meet these standards. Some people may complain about tap water, but it doesn't give you dysentery or cholera.

There's a saying that those who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it. What I like about history is that I can see that--at least in some areas--we've made progress.