WordPress <> Facebook Page Cross Posting with PolarFox

PolarFox My blog is a hybrid communication platform and archive. My tweets get auto posted here, for example. Longer form stuff, PDFs, video files, they’re all here too. But some mid-length content, like a quick review of a show or movie, I would like to post to both my Facebook page and here without having to copy and paste. There are a number of apps that can do that kind of thing, but one I recently downloaded and really like is an app called PolarFox.

My main requirement was the ability to send an image and text to both my FB author page and this blog. Of course one distinction between the two is that a FB page has body copy, but no headline the way a blog post would. PolarFox does exactly that. The headline is optional, but whatever you type into the app goes straight to both systems.

PolarFoxThe interface is increadibly simple. You select a source for the image – camera, camera roll, the latest image in your camera roll, or the image on your clipboard – add some copy, select your destinations and hit submit.

In the setup process, when you add your blog, you also select a default category. You can’t, unfortunately, change that on the fly. I also found a bug where it was creating a “null” category and tagging it with that as well. I also usually go in to my wp blog and update info for seo, but my goal with this app was primarily speed and ease of use.

Despite the bug, PolarFox is the fastest way I’ve found to send an image post to FB and this site in one shot. It’s not limited to those systems however. You can connect Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, wordpress.com, a FB group, page or profile or any webhook connected app.

You can try PolarFox for free and it’s available for iOS and Android. And no, I received no form of compensation for this post. I just like the app.

I Try Desk PM for Mac

A fellow blogging friend of mine suggested that I should try an app called Desk PM as a desktop interface for my self hosted WordPress blogs. It’s on sale for $20 so I figured why not? If it lived up to the hype it would get me writing more.

Desk PM

It is a very focused app. It presents a minimalist interface for getting your thoughts down with a number of options to customize your typing experience, like going full screen, adjusting the transparency and typewriter mode.

For markdown enthusiasts (I still can’t break my html habit) it has full markdown support as well. Perhaps the best formatting feature, however, is auto table generation.

iCloud integration makes it easy to keep any local files in sync across multiple devices.

Image embedded via Desk PM drag and drop.

As for using at as an actual blogging interface, Desk is a mixed bag. It’s easy enough to connect to one or more blogs, and it supports a good list of services, ranging from WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress, as well as Blogger, Medium and Facebook (although not FB Pages as far as I can tell.) You can also pull down past posts and drafts to edit them locally. Adding an image is pretty easy, just drag and drop into your document. Alternately, you can import directly from a scanner or camera, and, particularly nice if you are doing online tutorials, you can do screen grabs and embed them directly in your post. There are also good image formatting controls for setting alignment, but oddly no way to set the size of the image.

A couple of other nice features are thinks like running word counts, a timer that tries to guess the amount of time it would take to read your post, and a WYSIWYG view of your content. The coolest blogging feature is being able to schedule your posts.

But what’s missing is support for things like categories or tags. After posting with Desk PM, I find I have to go into the web admin at some point to set the correct category and tags for SEO purposes, if nothing else.

I find I do like the mini-window Desk PM experience for typing a quick post, or maybe a first draft, but given the need to log into the web admin at some point, Desk PM seems to have very limited value. At least for me.

Scrivener for iPad in 2016…is Storyist

I love Scrivener. It is hands down my favorite Mac app and I probably have spent more hours staring at a screen in Scrivener than any other application I’ve ever used. It is hands down the best writing tool I’ve ever used.

Storyist-Scrivener.jpg

My Scrivener novel manuscript shows up in the Storyist file chooser via iCloud Drive.

But I’m spending more and more time writing on my iPad these days – and the long promised iOS version of Scrivener remains the platforms most famous vaporware. This has forced me to look for work arounds.

For a while, I was using Byword, which is a wonderful writing environment in it’s own right. But it is sort of hackey in the way it works and looking at file structure is sort of maddening.

But then I read a feature set for Storyist for iOS that included native support for reading Scrivener files so I gave the app a try. I’ve used Storyist for Mac before as well, and liked it, so I was optimistic about trying the mobile version. I will tell you right now that my small investment has been worth every penny and if you won’t want to read further, just go buy it.

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My manuscript file structure – just like in Scrivener!!!

As promised, Storyist will open up a .scriv file and allow you to work with all of the text files in your project – just like in Scrivener. Period. Full stop. No need for weird work arounds. No need to hyper label every text file so you can tell one text file from another. I opened up my latest novel manuscript and picked up right where I’d left off on my computer. It was what I’ve been hoping Literature and Latte would deliver for over two years now.

Storyist accomplishes this by syncing with your iCloud drive, so you have to be on Yosemite or El Capitan. Relocate your working .scriv file to the Cloud Drive folder, though, and you can begin to sync your project between Scrivener and Storyist.

This isn’t a review of Storyist for iPad. I think it is a fine app and it has it’s plusses and minuses. I haven’t tried to work with my comic script files extensively, which might be an example of where the Scrivener -> Storyist compatibility may start to break down. But from as much as I’ve used it on my novel manuscript, the Storyist folks have totally won me over on iOS.

Scrivener Script Writing Tip: Spark

Scrivener is the Swiss army knife of writing tools. If you haven’t heard of it before, do a quick Google search and you’ll read endless articles singing its accolades. I’ve used it to write three novels, a dozen comic scripts and two screenplays. But as awesome as it is, for any kind of script writing, be it stage, screen or comic, Scrivener lacks some of the power of dedicated script writing apps like Montage or Final Draft. Specifically, when you’re script writing, you need to be able to switch between elements like Action and Slug and Character with ease. Scrivener offers some ability to do this, but not hot key command switching so you can change elements without interrupting your writing flow.

There is one very good work around for Mac users though. It’s a free app named Spark from a ShadowLab. It runs as a background app and lets you assign command key combinations to actions in applications. I used it to create my standard set of commands for elements (Command+1 for Slug, Command+2 for Action, etc) so that when I’m writing scripts in Scrivener, I get the same element changing power of Final Draft and Montage, but in an application that I find much more flexible overall for writing.

Sharks are wimps

* Reposted from my guest post on Murderous Imaginings.

There are a million ways to kill a character and writers have done it all. In fact, we’ve gotten so inventive at killing that it’s a real challenge to come up with a believable death that hasn’t been written into a TV show, movie or book. But that’s part of what makes writing fun. There’s no thrill like doing in someone in a way the reader probably hasn’t experienced before.

Bigfoot Blues

Bigfoot Blues

In Bigfoot Blues, the latest in my Elvis Sightings Mystery series, I bump off a guy by animal. Animal themed murder mysteries are pretty common. Dick Francis made a career with horse themed mysteries. The list of pets as murder solving gumshoes or sidekicks is as long as my arm. Lillian Jackson Braun has written over 30 books featuring two crime solving cats named Koko and Yum Yum. But mysteries with animals doing the killing aren’t so common. Probably for good reason. It’s not easy to invest a fairly straightforward death with a shroud of mystery. I mean, the killer is a critter, it doesn’t have motives or try to cover it’s tracks, right?

The approach I took was to call into question the nature of the killing itself. Was it really even an animal? The official consensus is the deceased was done in by a rogue mountain lion. But with persistent rumors about a chupacabra on the loose, maybe there’s more to it? Cause those things aren’t supposed to even exist. And then add in the fact that the dead man is a taxidermist, with access to things like animal claws and teeth, and all of the sudden “death by animal” isn’t so straight forward.

My stories all live on the edge of being surreal, some might even say absurd, so I can get away with a lot that traditional mystery writers would have a hard time working into their books. You’d be pretty put off if James Patterson tried to write a chupa into a novel, for example, but when the main character is a Lifestyle Elvis who’s life is guided by “What would Elvis do?” and his sidekick is a querulous 3½ foot tall ex-circus performer, it’s not so much of a stretch.

As oddball as my books can get, I still play fair with the reader. My killer animal, be it natural, supernatural or human, still leaves behind clues and a literal trail to follow. Constructing that trail of clues and the ultimate solving of the mystery, despite the animal theme, is done pretty much the same way as I’d handle a real murder mystery. Before I write word one, I have to know why did it happen, how did it happen, and what happened to make the solution not obvious, but not Agatha Christie impossible to figure out either. Without admitting whether or not it really was an animal, I will say that working from the assumption it is a critter makes answering those questions a lot harder. With a normal murder, the killer doesn’t want to be caught – that’s why it isn’t obvious. Again, my approach was to lay groundwork up front that would make it difficult to conclude whether the death was really a simple animal attack or if the animal angle is misdirection. I started by giving one character a really good reason to want the dead man to be dead, then gave him access to those animal teeth and claws I mentioned. I also made my protagonist prone to seeing conspiracies, so while he suspects foul play, he also had to doubt his reasoning. The result, I think, is that you’ll be hard pressed to figure out exactly who the killer is, and why the killer killed in the first place, and you’ll laugh along the way trying to figure it out.

Humans are rarely killed by animals, but here are some animal attack facts you may not know.

If you are an American, you are 20x more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark. It’s true. Every year in America there are about 20 people killed by cow and only 1 by shark. This year the sharks are upping their game, but the cows still have a while to catch up.

Actually, sharks really haven’t been living up to their predator of the seas reputation. Jellyfish kill about 8x as many people per year, all without having teeth.

As vicious and blood thirsty as the cow is, you know what’s deadlier? The deer. They manage to do in about 120 people a year by jumping in front of our cars. Kamikaze deer.

You know what else is deadlier than the shark? Falling coconuts. True, the coconut tree isn’t an animal, but apparently it is really pissed at us for guzzling its milk and takes us out to the tune of about 150 people a year. Vending machines don’t like us either, while we’re on the non-animal theme, and whack about a dozen Americans a year.

Sharks are wimps.