Circulating

“Round and Round” by Imagine Dragons has been stuck in my head.

Imagine Dragons is my favorite band. If you’ve worked out to one of my group fitness playlists, I probably don’t need to tell you that. Dan Reynolds has said he feels he can recognize Imagine Dragons fans by sight, just walking down the street, because there’s a certain kindred spirit about them, and I wonder if he would really peg me at first glance for someone who appreciates his music. But then, one of my best friends—”best” in the sense that we can go for months without seeing each other and then lose all sense of time chatting over a hot beverage—also turned out to be a fan, so maybe there’s something to that.

That was a shameless digression, but the reason I have the song going round and round in my head is because I am going in circles trying to get anywhere towards publishing anything.

I want to talk to a content editor about The Gatherer, and I have a specific someone in mind. She’s one of the best, so I wonder if I will be able to afford her help, or if she will even have time to take a look at my project, but I think she might be just the right person. But I have to do my homework first. She has a YouTube webinar in which she gives some excellent advice on creating the content every writer should develop surrounding their project, from a chapter-by-chapter summary, to an elevator pitch, to a one-sentence summation called a throughline. There is little point in approaching her if I can’t even verbally sum up what I’m trying to accomplish here, so I still have some prep work.

As my book’s single flaw (haha) is its length, I have not yet completed the chapter-by-chapter summary. But as much as I want to work on getting my novel ready for publication, I also have at least one short story that I’d like to publish—as a freebie. If you want readers to invest in a lengthy work, it’s nice if they have an idea of what they’re getting into. Gifting a story seems like the perfect way to help readers decide if they find my voice satisfying.

Besides, the story is good, and people should read it.

But making it available is not as simple as slapping a link to a PDF up on my site. Oh, I could. But why not do it right? An ebook, while not exactly as satisfying as holding a physical book in your hand and turning the pages, is pret-ty cool. Cue the research to verify that it’s really not that difficult to publish an ebook these days, and then some more research on the best way(s) to do it, and then some more research to iron out the various wrinkles of the process… and before you know it, you’re wandering in frustrated circles with the vague impression that you’ve already lost quite a bit of your hair and you’d probably better stop pulling on it.

I’m an Apple person, incidentally. I am privileged to own an iPhone and a Mac, and I hate Windows definitely prefer Macs. I grew up a Windows user, however, and back when I was taking upper level computer science classes at UNC, I once watched, appalled mesmerized, as the head of the Comp Sci department ejected my program by dragging it to the trash can. This seemed backwards to me, so I asked him why he used Macs, and he absently replied, “They just make sense.” He was ahead of his time, adopting Apple technology way before it was sexy, but I get his statement now.

Why, you wonder, was the head of the UNC Comp Sci department trashing my program? Well, I had an unfortunate history of turning in well planned and beautifully organized projects that did not actually work. They should have. My teachers acknowledged this, and not even they could figure out what ailed my programs, at least not in the limited time they could devote to trying to debug them before they had to go teach class and accept all the functional submissions from all their other students.

And for the record, can I please add that these were the kind of complex software projects where you have to write your own modules to debug the different components of your code as you go, and those all worked. I feel better now that you know that. You see why I did not end up with a degree in comp sci. (Naturally, I chose Slavic linguistics as an alternative, because languages “just make sense” to me.)

That was another shameless digression, but I’ve always found that anecdote fascinating, so I took the liberty of foisting it on you. And honestly, life is often a lot like debugging a failed software program, so I value that experience.

Anyway, where I’m going with this, believe it or not, is that Macs offer some built-in tools in Pages that make publishing an ebook a snap… in theory. In actuality, there are some major quirks. You are dealing with a reflowable format, meaning the end user can choose the device they will use to display the book, and some other features like the font size and background color, and so the layout of your book needs to be flexible yet consistent. It’s like making sure your finished garment design looks flattering in a size 2 and a size 2x, and everything in between.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to try to get images to show up where and how you want them placed in an ebook?? In Pages, the image is perfectly centered. Check. Export it to Books, and it’s off center, or it’s on its own page, or the text that is supposed to be on the next page is jammed up right beside it. Uncheck.

I’m not frustrated by this at all, nor does it distract me from things like finishing my chapter-by-chapter summary. 😑 (That might actually be my favorite emoji, except I can’t really say that because it makes me seem like a negative person, and anyone who knows me will verify I’m not. But when ya feel that emoji, ya feel it.) And my day job as a mom, chef, homeschool supervisor and household manager keeps rearing one of its hydra heads, claiming my attention, so naturally I am making a lot of progress towards publication. 🤪

“We are afflicted by fiction, by fiction,” the song says, “building a case for eviction, eviction, circling… Guarding a tower of ancients, of ancients, shooting down arrows of patience, impatiently circling…”

Afflicted by fiction. I absolutely could not have put it any better.

I did have a breakthrough. For anyone combing through search results trying to answer a similar question, I will tell you how to MAKE IMAGES IN PAGES APPEAR CENTERED IN AN EXPORTED EPUB: I made the images inline (Object Placement: Move with Text, and Text Wrap: Inline with Text). This fixes issues like the finished EPUB somehow slapping text right next to your image when it shouldn’t. Then I set off the image with paragraph breaks above and below it (empty paragraphs, no text, just used as spacers) and made sure those blank paragraphs were centered, with no first-line indent or any other messy tweaks that creep in when you’re not paying attention. Voila! The image stays centered in the exported EPUB.

If that’s Greek to you, forget it. If I just ministered to your soul and stopped you from tearing any more tufts from your scalp, you’re welcome.

That was merely one wrinkle, of course. But things sure are looking a lot smoother from where I sit. I think I might keep my hair after all.

Back to the circulatory process of debugging life…