Writer’s Workshop: A New Career?

Today, Mama Kat asks the musical question, “If you had to choose a new career for yourself, what would you choose?”

I’ve talked about this before, specifically last September, when the prompt was “Something you wanted to be when you grew up.”

Understand now, I retired on disability about four years ago. My career days are over. But if I had it to do over…

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a musician and spend my life playing the guitar. Problem was, I didn’t know where to begin. I could play the guitar, and was pretty good at it, but never felt comfortable playing in front of people, even my family. I don’t sing well, and I don’t like to sing, so I thought that relegated me to the background, accompanying people who could sing. I was lost on my own; I knew a lot of songs, but none that I could play on my own, so when people would ask me to play something, I was like a deer in the headlights.

Besides, I was led to believe that being a musician wasn’t a “real career.” You know, where you make lots of money and gain lots of prestige working for someone else. I was sold on the idea that having a “real career” was the key to happiness. And maybe it is, for some. I came to believe that being a musician was a good avocation, something to do in one’s spare time, but it was hardly something one could make a living at. Better to focus on getting your degree and making yourself employable, be tops in your field, advance through the ranks.

I’m not going to say that doing all that brought nothing but unhappiness and desolation. It didn’t. But, if I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now, I’d sink a lot more time into the guitar.

Writer’s Workshop: My Five Favorite Apps

So the prompt is “List your top five favorite apps.” I’m not much of a phone/tablet person, but there are some apps that I use a lot, most of which are not especially fun, but very useful.

  1. Evernote. If you use Evernote, you probably can’t get along without it. Things printed on paper get lost. I scan them into Evernote, and they’re always around. It’s especially useful with product manuals, because the minute you need to look at it you can’t find it. I find the manual online and attach the PDF to a note. When I pay a bill, I put the payment confirmation in there. I pay the money to have ten gigabytes of uploads per month, and the ability to email things into it. If I’m looking for something, I can do a search on it, and if it’s in a note Evernote can find it. Best of all, I can use it on my desktop, my phone, my Kindle Fire, and on my laptop via the browser.
  2. Feedly. I read a lot of blogs and follow a lot of YouTube channels. Every blog has an RSS feed, as does every YouTube channel. Whether the blog is on WordPress.com, self-hosted WordPress, Blogger, or anything else with an RSS feed, I can get it through Feedly. I can save articles to read later, tag them by adding them to a knowledge board, or save them to any number of apps, including…
  3. Pocket. I can go through Feedly, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or anything that generates a URL, and save it in Pocket. Pocket used to be called Read It Later, and that’s just what it’s good for: saving things to read later. You can tag articles and archive them, and share your curated list with other users. You can, but I don’t. For me, if I want to save an article or webpage, I save it in Evernote. It’s useful to hold on to web pages I find when I’m doing research.
  4. Dropbox. I might find a picture or file that I want to save to use later, so I save it in Dropbox. It’s a virtual directory where the items you save are kept on the cloud and available on all your devices. (Yes, I could also save the stuff in Evernote; maybe one of these days I’ll migrate everything there.) Where it’s most useful is where I take a picture or create a file on my phone, and I want it available on my desktop. I’ve got Dropbox set up to automatically back up the pictures on my phone, so after getting the pictures, I open Dropbox and all the pictures are copied there. No messing with USB cables!
  5. Retype. This is an iPhone and iPad-only app. Most of the badges I use on my blog were created in Retype. As Sumoing, the creator of Retype and a few other apps, says on their page for the app, “Retype is perfect for creating posters, invitations, banners or if you just want to say something in style.” Since I’m not especially artsy, it really helps when I need to create a badge, and it allows me to save into Dropbox.

So, those are my five. What are yours?

Writer’s Workshop: What Am I Forgetting… Oh Yeah….

So, what did I forget to do yesterday? Well, I almost forgot to write. April is a busy month, with the A to Z Challenge taking a lot of my time as I try to visit and comment on as many blogs as I can, because that’s the whole idea behind it. All of a sudden I realized I hadn’t written a blog entry for One-Liner Wednesday. Having done that, I intended on writing this entry, but ended up doing more reading and commenting.

No matter. I got around to it today, and maybe I’ll get tomorrow’s Friday Five done while I sit here at Starbucks.

Time management is not one of my strong suits, and I have the attention span of a squirrel at times. Maybe I should work on that…?

Nah. I’m having too much fun… ooh, shiny!

No idea why I put this here… Just seemed appropriate…

Writer’s Workshop: My Two Dots Trophies

One of the prompts this week is “Share your favorite photo you posted on Instagram this month and give us the back story.”

Now, I have an Instagram account, but I don’t post photographs to it. I’m not much of a photographer (can’t hold the phone steady enough), and the photos I would show are on the hard drive of my desktop computer, not on my phone. I found a tool called Gramblr that allows me to post to Instagram from the desktop, but haven’t sat down long enough to post more than a couple.

However, I do post to the account, primarily the badges that I earn from playing Two Dots, like this one.

Done in just three hours!

A post shared by John Holton (@jholton30062) on

I’m not much for multiplayer games, and don’t have the dexterity to cope with games that have things moving all over the place. Two Dots is about my speed. The basic object of the game is to remove same-colored dots from the board by connecting them. They have to be above, below, or beside each other (not on a diagonal; that’d make it too easy). If you get multiple dots in a square or rectangle, connecting them removes all the dots of that color from the board. There are special dots, such as ones contained in ice, fire dots that burn the dots before you can get them off the board, slime, ladybugs that change color and move around the board, and it just gets more complicated the higher you go.

To finish a level, you have to complete a task in a certain number of moves, such as sink ten anchors, get twenty ladybugs to fly away, remove fifteen hermit crabs, etc. in, say, thirty moves. You can buy additional moves (5 for 99 cents), and the purchase includes a power-up (a shell-shedder for the ladybugs, a hammer to break the gems, etc.). There are somewhere over a thousand levels to the game, and I’m up to level 977 as of this writing. It’s taken me a couple of years to do that.

There are also weekly quests, which are seven games that get progressively harder and for which you get five days to accomplish, and expeditions, where you need to clear a certain number of special dots (anchors, clouds, gems, etc.); you get two days to finish them. Completing a quest or an expedition earns you a token like the one above, which I won for completing this week’s expedition. As my comment says, I finished it in three hours.

Mary plays Candy Crush, which I’ve also tried and didn’t like as much. She managed to complete all the levels that were available at the time and is halfway through playing them again. Evenings at the Holton house will usually find us playing these games.

We’re such an exciting couple, aren’t we?

Two Dots is available for iOS and Android devices (including the Kindle Fire, where I play it). It really is a lot of fun, and helps you develop problem-solving skills. Aggravating as hell, sometimes, but that’s part of the fun.

Do you play Two Dots?

Writer’s Workshop: Want A Challenge For Next Month?

I don’t know whether Kat had intended this to be an opportunity to talk about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, but she came up with the prompt and I don’t think she’ll mind me telling you all about it.


I started blogging in 2012, and one of the reasons I started blogging was so I could take part in the many challenges and blog hops that are held through the year, such as Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop. The challenge that caught my eye and made me say, “Yes! I really want to start blogging!” was the A to Z Challenge. I participated that year and have done so every year since, and have been a co-host for the Challenge since 2015. It’s become the highlight of my blogging year.

Arlee Bird, who runs the blog Tossing It Out, was the person who started the Challenge. In 2011, he said “I’m going to blog every day except Sunday, starting on April 1 with a word that starts with ‘A’ and continue through the alphabet each day in April except Sundays until I reach the letter ‘Z’ on April 30.” That first year, other bloggers who know Arlee decided to do it with him. And, as with most of these blog hops, other people saw what they were doing, and before long we had over 1000 people doing A to Z during April.

We started using a Linky to keep track of everyone doing the Challenge, so that people could go out to the list and choose a bunch of blogs to read and perhaps follow during the challenge, and used that up through the current year. This year we’re doing things a little differently, dispensing with the Linky and instead having people check in at the Challenge blog on a daily basis and post the link to their latest entry as a comment to the daily post there. It became a headache riding herd on everyone on the list, some of whom put their name on it only to not do the challenge, others who started out doing the challenge only to quit part of the way through, and there was no way for a person to join in the middle, which does happen.

Most, but not all, of the people who do the challenge choose a theme for their blog posts during the month. Last year, for example, I used portmanteau words as my theme. Other people have used the month to write a novella, write a daily flash fiction or poem, or to do “The A to Z of ______________,” something they’re knowledgable in. Anything’s fair game.

The advantages of doing the Challenge:

  • You find all kinds of new blogs and new bloggers to follow.
  • Likewise, lots of other bloggers find you and start following you.
  • If you’ve thought of stepping up your blogging, preparing 26 articles to post one per day is a great way to start.
  • It teaches you problem solving. On the 24th day of the challenge, you have to find a word that starts with X. Tha’s when you figure out X is the Roman numeral for “ten,” and that X in Greek is the letter “chi.”
  • It is a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun anyway.

Sound like something you’d like to do? If so, we’d love to have you along for the ride. If not, there’ll still be lots of blogs participating this year for you to read and follow. Many bloggers will post their articles on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #atozchallenge. Give it a try!