And now for something completely different

Change is good. Good change is even better.

Change is good. Good change is even better.

If you read my previous post — written waaaaay back in October 2013 — you may have caught a hint of the dissatisfaction I was feeling in my life. My writing was beyond neglected. My life had become a roller coaster of activity, crammed with errands, endless to-do lists, money woes, sleepless nights, and this gnawing feeling that I’d lost my way. Somehow, in the previous four years, I’d launched a business, taken on an investor, adopted four dogs, fostered countless more, wrote a book, hired and fired employees, gained a few very unwanted pounds, landed in the ER, and oh, wrote very, very little of that novel that I began in 2006.

In other words, I’d lost my way.

If you read my short bio the left sidebar, you’ll know that things have changed. And if you used to read my blog back when it was hosted at Blogger, you’ll see that I’ve moved, too.

I’m now working at my dream job as Happiness Engineer at Automattic, helping users publish and share their thoughts with the world, and am winding down my marketing agency. I only recently started the job, and already I’m in love. If it’s at all possible to be madly in love with a job, this must be how it feels.

I’ll still write about books, films, writing, travel, and yes, the occasional posts about my family, but I’ll also be diving into the fascinating worlds of open source computing and publishing and the way the world has changed to allow the most ordinary folks in the most ordinary places to have their voices heard. It’s going to be a wild ride, too, but this time, it’ll be both fun and fulfilling.

Photo by emdot on Flickr.

Linux not necessary to use OpenOffice…


…”but it’s very nice. It’s very, very nice.” (With apologies to the Flight of the Conchords.)

Recently, Anne Wayman over at The Golden Pencil asked about non-Windows-based software programs, especially those most useful to writers. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Hands down, OpenOffice is the best office suite available on the market, even when compared to Microsoft Office. I’ve used it for only two years and have never, ever had a problem with it. It’s never crashed, hung up, made a document or spreadsheet or image disappear, or otherwise wreak havoc on my laptop. I think the only issue I might have with it is that it’s a teeny-tiny bit slow to open (maybe two seconds longer than MS Office), but that nanosecond wait is worth a million Windows products.


  • Free.
  • Easy to download. Takes mere minutes.
  • Free.
  • Very stable.
  • Free.
  • Offers a full office suite, including word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, and database functions.
  • Free.
  • Easy to use. Anyone familiar with MS Office will have no problems navigating OpenOffice’s interface, as it’s almost identical to that of the former. No need to worry about losing MS Office skills, if it’s a concern to those of you working in offices.
  • Free.
  • You can still open and manipulate MS Office files, including .doc and .xls. If you just want to read a Word document without having to open up Writer, though, you can download a free Word Viewer on Microsoft’s own Web site. Plus, you can create a file on OpenOffice and save it in an MS Office file format. I use Writer to write all of my articles, query letters, proposals, etc., and save copies in both .odt (the Open Document format used by OpenOffice) and .doc. I then send the latter copy to editors and publishers.
  • Free
  • It allows you to save your document in .pdf format. Bonus! MS Office doesn’t allow that — you have to buy the Adobe software program for that or troll the Internet looking for a separate software program that will do the converting for you. In OpenOffice, it does it all within the program. I use it all the time when creating and sending invoices to publications.
  • Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?

Check out this screen shot from OpenOffice’s word processing program, Writer (how appropriate):

I’m not sure how clearly you can see it, but it’s seriously so user-friendly and obviously meant to mimic MS Word to alleviate any concerns that non-tech-savvy Word addicts may have about skills transfer.

The even better part, though, is that for those of you not familiar with open source software and are concerned about whether or not it’s compatible with your Windows-based machine, you can still use it. I have Windows XP on my not-quite-two-year-old HP laptop, and have used nothing but OpenOffice. I plan to eventually (within the next year) replace my laptop with one that runs solely on Linux (did you know — and I hesitate to say this because of my personal feelings about the company — that even Wal-Mart now sells Linux laptops?), but even if I were to buy another Windows computer, I’d still only use OpenOffice.

If you’re still not convinced, drop me a line and ask me more. Or better yet, head on over to’s Web site and download yourself a copy. Test it out and see for yourself how incredibly powerful it is and how wonderful it’s going to make your life. It’ll put a glow on your face, a spring in your step, and draw the world’s most gorgeous women to you. Yes, sirree, it’s that revolutionary. It’s better than Viagra!