I’m a long-time user of Microsoft products. I’ll admit it. And to be honest, the main reason is because of necessity. The computers in my high school had Windows 95. All the campus-owned computers at my college ran Windows 98 or XP. The computers at work run Windows XP (though we’re now slowly upgrading to Windows 7). All of our personal computers have run a Windows operating system of one generation or another.

And with that came the productivity software. When I purchased my first computer for college in 1999, we dropped the dollars to have it come with whatever version of Office was current at the time. I purchased MS Office 2003 when I upgraded my computer for grad school. And the hubs and I gladly reused that Office 2003 license on our home computer when my grad school machine finally gave in to The Blue Screen of Death.

In the past couple years, however, we’ve avoided anything related to MS Office on our home computers. Our desktop needed a major reinstall of Windows about a year ago, due to some freak registry error I couldn’t comprehend, and we just barely managed to save the contents of our hard drive (including thousands of vacation photos, the value of which cannot be priced). We decided not to bother reinstalling Office 2003 and went with OpenOffice instead.

I had made the decision to do the same for my Acer netbook. Yes, the one that nearly died six months after purchasing it, and which the hubs resuscitated.

For a really long time, this seemed to be a good decision regarding our productivity software. I mean, free is always the best price, and I don’t do a lot of fancy stuff with Word or Excel or anything like that. Plus, since I use WriteWayPro as my writing software, all I really needed a word processing program for was to format drafts in their entirety and work on stuff from, well, work.

We’ve batted around the idea of biting the bullet and purchasing MS Office again for quite a while. For one thing, just about every file I transfer to and from work requires some fixing on either end, because we upgraded to Office 2010. And despite OpenOffice being “compatible”, it really isn’t. The formatting is off 99% of the time.

And as for writing – well, OpenOffice has decided it no longer knows how to recognize American English, despite the US dictionary extension being installed. I can’t do a true spell check if the program thinks every word is spelled wrong. And the formatting issues irritate me too. It’s just really getting to a point where OpenOffice has outlived its usefulness.

Microsoft has its ups and downs. I think we’d be hard pressed to find a productivity suite anywhere that does everything just as its supposed to, with no bugs. The bigger headache now is that you can’t even buy a multi-machine license anymore, unless you want to “subscribe” to Office 365 – for $99 a pop every year. I get that the point is so you can get the latest updates every time you renew. But really, Microsoft? You’re that short on funds that you have to make your productivity software a subscription? I can’t even just buy Word?

Greedy bastards.

You do not play fair.

Join us for some Blarney and bits and pieces of the Emerald Isle.

Sign up now through March 17, 2014


Welcome to the Bit O’ Irish mini blog hop.

Rules: bloggers must post something Irish, even if it is vacation pics taken while on the Isle. Participants may join in any day before St. Patrick’s Day. Please make sure to visit fellow hoppers. If you would like to add something to the  main giveaway, please notify me with a comment. All participants are welcome to add their own giveaways on their site. Erin Go Bragh!


I never knew I had any Irish heritage until 11th grade, when I was assigned a family tree project for my AP U.S. History class. Low and behold, my paternal grandmother’s branch of the tree had more than a little bit of Irish! Granted, the family lines that heralded from Ireland settled in Canada before coming here, but it was still a delightful revelation to know I didn’t have to pretend to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day – I really am part Irish!

Celebrating this holiday – one which really originated in the United States as more than a religious observance – isn’t something I’ve ever done to any great extent. I wear green. I listen to some Irish reels and may sometimes be heard singing things like “Danny Boy.” A chocolate Irish stout cake may have made an appearance in my kitchen last year. It’s interesting to note that since the 1970s, a celebration, which began to recognize Irish-American culture during the 19th and early 20th centuries, has taken its place in Ireland itself.

Hopefully, somebody’s still giving St. Patrick his due…

Interested in more St. Patrick’s Day history? Check out:

Georgia Public Broadcasting – The Origins of St. Patrick’s Day

National Geographic – Saint Patrick’s Day 2014: Facts, Myths, & Traditions

History.com – History of St. Patrick’s Day



We will be spotlighting Jill Bisker’s inspirational story Within Reach and giving away a variety of ebooks and two $5 Amazon gift card.

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Within Reach is the story of Emma, a woman coming to terms with her mother’s increasing dementia and the everyday challenges associated with it.  Inexplicably, she finds herself ‘re-living’ specific events from her past.  She soon wonders if her own sanity is slipping, and only her mother can help find the key.

About The Author

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 Jill Bisker lives in Stillwater, MN with her husband and a calico cat named Senora, and a grown son who is in college. She believes in empowering women to be strong enough to protect themselves, while still soft enough to be loving and compassionate. Her work includes paranormal mystery, traditional high fantasy, as well as contemporary and humorous fantasy and an everyday living blog. Once a dedicated stay at home Mom, Jill now writes full-time.

Connect with Jill:

Facebook Page:     https://www.facebook.com/authorjillbisker

Pinterest Page:  http://www.pinterest.com/jillbisker/

Website/Blog: www.jillbisker.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JillBisker

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/102225571446174386202

Email: jkatbisker@gmail.com


Join in the Blarney. Click on the Pot of Gold below for a chance to win cash prizes great reads.

pot of gold


Choose from the following ebooks:

      Within Reach

      By Jill Bisker

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Merry Christmas, Henry

By Aubrey Wynne

Contemporary Romance

Henry small cover  shortstoryr 


Craving Vengeance and Covert Exposure

By Valerie Clarizio

Romantic Suspense

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By Mary Kate Brogan 
(Romance set in 1950′s Ireland)


Symphony of Light and Winter      Imposter’s Kiss

By Renea Mason

Paranormal Romance

symphonyoflightandwinter_byreneamason-800x1200     TheImpostorsKiss_ByReneaMason-200x300 copy

Muir Bhreatan

by K.E. Shade

Historical Romance

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Click below to add your link. Remember to stop by these blogs for more luck o’ the Irish:


Note: When you add your link, you can copy and paste the thumbnails to your page and the links will be all done for you. Less work and more time for green beer and corned beef with cabbage.

On Saturday, Rhonda Penders, editor-in-chief at The Wild Rose Press, gave a presentation at this month’s CNYRW meeting that, among other things, provided some perspective on what’s happening in the publishing industry. Her presentation, from which I garnered tons of information and ideas, spawned a discussion among the CNYRW members about what constitutes success as a writer.

I think we can all be in agreement that the publishing industry has undergone huge changes over the past few years, for better and for worse. There are options available today – viable ones, even – that just didn’t exist five to ten years ago. Between the incredible uptick in indie publishing, the turn toward small presses that often seem way more author friendly, and the traditional agent-to-Big-6-publisher route, it can be a little mind-boggling to even decide what avenue to pursue, let alone determine what will define your success as an author.

Therein lies the key, I think, to determining the path an author needs to take. What is success? Is it landing a 6-figure publishing deal with Random House? Is it making enough in sales each year to let you quit your day job? Are you just looking to make some extra money doing what you love? Is it some combination of the two?

We can’t all be Dan Brown or Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling. The law of odds, and the way traditional publishing seems to work, does seem to make it difficult to break out into New York Times Bestselling Author-tude. But maybe securing a publishing contract with a smaller press is what will equal success in your life. Or maybe perfecting your self-publishing process through professional editing and cover art services and a solid marketing plan, thus gaining a small but solid following, is enough for you.

You have to define what your goals are before you can determine the steps that will bring you success. You do have to do your homework, whether it means researching agents and how to properly query them, putting your manuscript in front of an editor who can help you fine tune (and fix up, if necessary) your work, or identifying how to run what amounts to your business if you decide indie publishing is the way to go.

For me, what is success as an author? I admit it – I would love to land a contract with a major publishing house. That’s always been the brass ring. But given all the options and combinations of possible avenues for publication, it’s also very tempting to pursue a path that would give me quite a bit more control over my writing career. From what I’ve read and been told, authors today are responsible with the vast majority of their marketing and managing their careers, so whether I go indie, work with a small press, or get that Big 6 contract, I’ll have to have a plan.

I don’t see myself leaving teaching anytime soon. But if the world was perfect and the right pieces fell into place, it would be pretty cool to be able to write full time at some point. So for now, my goal is to pursue a publishing career that lets me earn a little extra money doing something I love.

Ultimately, though it’s easy to get caught up in the quagmire of submissions, marketing, building your platform, and so on, you do have to write. Write what you love. Write what you want to read. Edit. Read good books. Write more. Stay passionate and ignore the naysayers who point out all the things that are “hard” about being a writer (as if there was every really a time when being a writer was easy).

Define success, and then work for it.

December flew by, and it’s a little hard to believe we’re already a few days into 2014. I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions anymore, other than a bit of goal setting. But I wanted to look back first and how I did in 2013 with some of my writing hopes.

I had a pretty ambitious list of things I hoped to accomplish last year, and while I crosses several things off that list, live managed, as it often does, to shorten the amount of time I had to devote to writing. Looking back, the first half of 2013 seemed to go pretty much on track with what I’d planned, but once the end of the summer rolled around, everything pretty much was dead in the water.

September is often a rough month anyway, because I always end up staying late at school trying to get beginning of the year things squared away. This year was particularly brutal in that regard. While I wasn’t technically getting home any later than usual, the change to middle school really shifted my daily routine. I mean, I’m not a morning person to start with, and having to start an hour earlier than I’m used to completely threw me for a loop. I’d say I didn’t get in to the swing of the new schedule until maybe mid-October. Beyond that, while I often have papers to grade in the evenings and on weekends, I generally can leave work at work. Not this year. With the adoption of the Common Core modules (and I’m teaching both Math and ELA), there’s a ton of prep work that needs to go into every lesson. So rather than stay at school until 6 or 7 at night, which was not out of the realm of possibility, I packed it up and brought it home to make my worksheets and SmartBoard lessons at home.

Instead of writing, unfortunately.

Thank God for the monthly Book In A Week challenges that CNYRW puts on. Otherwise I’d have nothing done.

So my writing goals sort of tanked through the end of 2013. Where does that put me now?

Currently, I have the historical fiction “magnum opus” part 1 undergoing a beta read with an online critique buddy I connected with through an RWA University class in October. I’m hoping it will be ship-shape enough to start submitting again by the end of February or March. I have a pretty good handle on where to go with it, in the event I decide to self-publish, but I still want to give it a few rounds with some small presses and agents first. I finished the chick lit romance and have that pretty well squared away. Opening chapters are currently being beta read by my good friend and fellow author Shelly Hickman. I’m hoping to sent that out for submission by the end of February. And the historical romance is about 10k words from the end of the first draft. I would love to get it wrapped up, edited, revised, and polished in time to submit it to RWA’s Golden Heart Award this year. And if the world is nice to me, I want to start revising and editing the historical fiction “magnum opus” part 2 this summer and get it out for critique.

On the personal front, there are a couple major things in the works for me and my husband. If everything falls into place, as we hope it will, 2014 will definitely turn out to be a pretty big, life changing year for us!

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I thought it might be a worthwhile endeavor to reflect a bit on the things I’m thankful for this year. A lot of people are doing the “30-days of thanks” thing, which I have done in the past, and it reminded me that I need to stop more often and consider my blessings.

So here they are, in no particular order.

Things I’m Thankful For

  1. My overall health. I know I’ve been reeeeeally bad about working out and eating right lately, but I just had a physical on Friday, and turns out I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, maybe more so. So I must be doing something right. I know it’s weird to worry about health when you’re only in your 30s, but since I made the decision to cultivate a healthier lifestyle a couple years ago, it really gives me validation for that decision when I see how healthy I am.
  2. My job. And not just having one, which in this economy is still a pretty big deal. No, it’s really the job itself. Being a teacher is often a thankless job, and I often don’t see the fruits of my labor. But I love it, and I’m lucky to work in a district and a school with such awesome people and a culture of family. Speaking of….
  3. My coworkers. I’m speaking of the awesome people I worked with for the past 7 years (actually, 9) at the elementary school where I taught kindergarten and second grade, because they supported me as a professional and as an individual. They’re my family as well as my friends. And I’m also speaking of the amazing teachers I’ve been blessed to work with since the start of this school year. They’ve made my move to sixth grade and the middle school far easier than I ever expected. We laugh a dozen times a day, support each other, and they’ve filled the past three months with so much awesomesauce, I can’t even explain.
  4. My students. They are awesome. They are the reason I haul myself out of my nice warm bed while it’s still dark. They are truly, above and beyond everything else, what has made my transition to teaching sixth grade not only worthwhile, but possible. They’re friendly and polite to each other, they work harder than many adults I know, they make me laugh, they make me proud, and I can’t wait to see what amazing things they do from here out. I will say it right here for everybody in the world to read. I HAVE THE BEST SIXTH GRADE CLASS ON THE PLANET!
  5. My family. Without my family, I would be so lost. They’ve seen me at my best, my worst, and my weirdest, and I’ve never had a day in my life when I didn’t feel their love and support in everything I’ve done.
  6. My best friends. I don’t have a huge group of friends, but we are tight. We’re the sort of friends who can go weeks, sometimes months, without seeing each other, and as soon as we get together, it’s like we’re picking up right where we left off. And the awesome thing is that, as adults, we’re often more like family than friends.
  7. The CNY Romance Writers. Such an amazing group of authors, and I can’t believe I went so long without knowing they were there! I’ve learned so much from these people over the last year, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for us.
  8. Last, and never least, my husband. I truly did marry my best friend. Without his support and encouragement, I would have given up on so many things over the past few years. From family stuff to writing stuff, he’s my biggest cheerleader, my coach, my confidante, my partner in crime, and when I really need him to be, the world’s biggest teddy bear.

So there you go.

I’m also very thankful for pie. It’s a wonderful thing.

Have a great Thanksgiving!


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