Website Upgrade! And a Handy WordPress Hack

The Website Empire has been looking a little tattered around the edges. In our first three months, Camptown Races Press writers — we have four of ’em! — cranked out so many books it was hard to keep up in the production department. We were publishing eight to ten bookoids a month, many of them short-shorts, but several full-length books.

Meanwhile, here at Plain & Simple Press, I had broken my War & Peace-size magnum opus into 18 installments, all of them significantly longer than the Camptown Races “Racy Books.” Most of the Fire-Rider installments are novelette or novela length. Once these were online, I began collecting them in three “boxed sets,” Amazon’s ungainly way of presenting collections and anthologies. Two of those are now “published” (scare quotes: to my mind self-publishing on Amazon is more akin to “posting” than to real publishing, which entails many layers of quality control) and the last one is on the way.

That’s a lot to keep up with. I’d fallen behind with posting and describing Plain & Simple Press books, and just now I’m pretty far behind with Camptown Ladies Talk, too, largely because of a hectic holiday season complicated by the fine respiratory infection that’s going around — you’ve probably enjoyed that one, too; if you haven’t, brace yourself, for you soon will. 😉

So yesterday, the first day of relative peace in two or three weeks, I focused solely on tidying and updating the P&S website. I’d put off developing a “Books” page for Plain & Simple Press, largely because of an annoying WordPress characteristic that makes it damn near impossible to display Amazon “cover” images in an attractive and coherent way. Plug-ins notwithstanding, you can’t insert a table that lets you display two, three, or four images across a page, add links to them, and be confident the things will make any sense on a mobile device. “Gallery” plug-ins don’t seem to fill the bill, and plug-ins for tables require more technological expertise than I have or want to learn. This means you have to use the formatting tools available in your WP theme, which are very basic, indeed.

WordPress is programmed to “clean” your copy every time you save or publish…by deleting any extra line spaces you’ve entered. So if, say, you’d like to post a cover image flush left, enter a block of copy to the right of it, and then drop down three, four, or more lines to enter another flush-left image and block of copy below that one, you CAN’T. The extra line spaces are invariably deleted, leaving a gawdawful mess in place of your elegantly designed page.

What if, for example, you’d like entries in your Books page to look like this?

Dark Kindle LoResA doctor put Victoria Hay on blood pressure pills and told her he didn’t believe she could lose an excess twenty-two pounds. She proved him wrong. With a “real food” diet free of artificial and highly processed ingredients plus some mild exercise, just sixteen weeks she dropped thirty pounds. Her blood pressure returned to the normal range and stayed there.

Yes. Like that. Without this paragraph right here pulling up to the right of the image. With this paragraph right here STAYING PUT, dammit.

When you google up this issue in as many variations as you can imagine, you find that the techies at WordPress don’t even understand what their customers are talking about when users post questions at the annoying forums. They don’t seem to know what the user wants to do or why anyone would want an extra line space in a page of copy, and so they’re unable to offer any advice that makes anything like sense.

After what seemed like endless searching, I stumbled across this piece of code: <br style=”clear: both;” />

Enter this at the end of your paragraph while in “Text” mode et voilà! you get an ineradicable line break! NO MORE “CLEANING UP” the design you entered on purpose, not as some sort of mindless typo. You may have to enter it twice in order to make the added line break stay put.

Absent this nifty little snippet of code, you end up having to center images and then set descriptive copy flush left, like this:

The Travelers’ Tales
A Roberta Stuart Series

A huge storm over the East Coast shuts down air travel, leaving travelers stranded in airports all over the region. As evening turns to night, seven weary travelers are stuck in a waiting room, hoping to hear at any time that they can reboard their plane. Fighting boredom and frustration, one of them suggests they pass the time telling stories. The subject? Your most memorable quickie!

Presentation6 LoResOne Night in the Library

First to go is Aileen, the librarian whose mousy appearance is, as it develops, deceptive…


Presentation7-3 LoResScience Teacher

When the microscope repairman shows up at her laboratory door, Janice is surprised to find he’s there to fix something altogether different.


This is not awful. It’s just not what I want. IMHO, setting the descriptive type directly adjacent to a flush-left cover image is easier to read and more intuitive. And I hate the way the subhead under each image pulls up tight against the image’s bottom border.

<br style=”clear: both;” />  Try it. You’ll like it.