17 October 2018

#WritersLife: Time Management for Writers



This week I struggled with my blog post. Not necessarily with the topic (although, there was a bit of that also), but mainly just finding the time to write. As a devoted dog mom of three high-energy pups, I am in the habit of pouring my heart and soul into each of my furry children every day.  Not to mention all my other responsibilities associated with my daytime occupation, volunteer work and of course life in general. I realized long ago that it is not healthy for me if I continually focus all of my time and energy completely on others and their needs. Fact is, when we give of ourselves every day, but hardly ever re-energize, we eventually find ourselves completely drained. At this point, we just go through the motions. 

We do need to find a way to recharge and refresh from time to time. We can’t just keep on giving when we have nothing left to give. Everyone around us will eventually catch on when we’re frazzled and running on empty. It is essential that we take some time for ourselves in order to re-energize, so that we can keep going. There are countless ways to give ourselves a break from the everyday hum-drum of life. Exercising, painting, cooking and baking, and many others. And although I have many interests, I have found, that writing is one of the best ways I can refuel. 

Over the past seven years, I’ve written and published seven books. My next historical fiction piece A LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROWN - A Country Girl Empress Novel is almost ready to be released, along with the recipe book 'TIS THE SEASON FOR CHRISTMAS COOKIES. Not to mention that part three and four of The Country Girl Empress-series as well as several other writing projects are in the works. Some of the questions I’m asked frequently are, “How do you balance everything? How do you manage to find the time to write AND do all this other work, plus volunteer work?”  I openly admit, it is never easy to juggle the growing demands of a published writer's life, with everything else. As I have mentioned earlier, I am in the midst of a struggle right now. But it helps me to keep in mind that writing plays a big part in my renewal process. Writing is a unique gift, which provides me with a creative outlet, and a way to connect with others. But how can we find the time to write with all of the other demands on our time? 

Here are some techniques I use to juggle writing along with all my other responsibilities: 

- Schedule your writing time. Pencil it into your daily planner or block it off on your online calendar. I like to block a little bit of time in the early morning hours before everyone else awakens. Everything else is a bonus.

- Prioritize your activities. It's a fact...we simply can’t do everything, no matter how hard we try. When we fill our lives so full with going here and there, we often lose out on the downtime that we hold so dear. It is, after all, the time we can let our creative juices flow. 

- Don’t wait for tomorrow or the perfect moment! Otherwise, we will never get around to writing. Whenever possible, I like to begin my afternoon writing session after everyone has been fed, cleaned and all other responsibilities have been taken care of (or put off until tomorrow?!). Many times that means that my writing time is full of interruptions, but I write anyway...or at least I try. 

- Plan for an uninterrupted writing session for once a week, if at all possible. Due to the less than ideal conditions throughout the week, I make it a point of taking a large block of writing time on the weekends. Sometimes it's just easier to focus when our surroundings are calm.

- Get your family's support. I know, it's not always easy to ask others to help out, and not everyone is blessed with a very supportive husband as I am. But when I take writing seriously, others (including my husband) are more apt to follow suit.  

- Try not to feel guilty for taking the time to write. I sometimes struggle with this, because there are days when I feel I really should be doing something more productive with my time. But then, writing is also a productive activity, and when we can pursue our passions, we are our happiest. Now, who can argue with the pursuit of happiness?

So, what about you? Do you take the time to refresh on a regular basis? Do you ever feel guilty for spending your time writing?



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

10 October 2018

Homemade and Grain-Free Dog Cookies


This week, I'm changing it up again in honour of my furry friend Cara. She celebrated her fifth birthday last week. As it has been our tradition for many years with our current furry children as well as our last two, Lana and Darren, I baked some yummy Apple-Pumpkin Cookies to help us celebrate. While the baked goods were made for our furry companions, they can also be consumed by humans, although they might not be to their liking due to the lack of sugar. This recipe and several others can also be found in my canine health book, Living with Canine Epilepsy, and yields about 25 cookies. Since these cookies do not contain preservatives, they should be refrigerated. 

Apple-Pumpkin Cookies

Ingredients for cookies:

- 1 ¼ cups rice flour
- ½ cup apple sauce
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 2 eggs

Ingredients for frosting:

- ½ cup cottage cheese
- sprinkles (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, combine rice flour, pumpkin puree, applesauce, cinnamon, and eggs. Mix thoroughly. If dough is too soft, just add more rice flour.
3. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface and cut out cookies.
4. Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
5. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
6. After the cookies have completely cooled down, spread cottage cheese frosting on top; add sprinkles for colour.


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

03 October 2018

Month in Review - September 2018



Can you believe it's almost Halloween? Where did the time go? I guess I better start stocking up on Halloween candy. But before I get sidetracked by my fresh cup of pumpkin spice latte, it's time to recap last month. So now, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for September 2018, chosen by you, the readers:



Thank you for reading my blog! Please feel free to come by often to catch up on my latest endeavours and Happy Reading!



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

26 September 2018

Sneak Peek of A LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROWN


As most of my readers know by now, I've been diligently working on my next historical fiction piece for some time, and I can well imagine that many of you wouldn't mind a sneak peek. Well, you won't have to wait any longer. Here it is....Enjoy!


                                                                          Piper


PS: Please keep in mind that this is just an excerpt of two separate sections from an unfinished manuscript, and although it has undergone several rounds of vigorous editing already, it's not the polished, final product. Thank you!  =)



Chapter One
Honeymoon  

It was the 24th of April 1854 at St. Augustine Church in Vienna. Accompanied by the music of trumpets and kettle drums, the newlywed imperial couple exited the building. As the Emperor and his Empress stood in front of the portal and presented themselves to their people, Franz Joseph gently leaned over and whispered in his wife’s ear: “Are you happy, my Angel?”
The young Empress looked up at her husband, and with a gentle smile on her lips, she replied: “How could I not be? I love you!”
But all the while Sisi couldn’t help but think for the one-thousand and first time: It could all be so wonderful if he wasn’t the Emperor!
After their return to the Hofburg Palace, Sisi and Franz Joseph were required to receive the congratulatory wishes from every last one of their invited guests until late at night.
The ambassadors and representatives were already lined up in the audience chamber, and Sisi was not given one moment to rest or reflect on her own feelings. Foreign Minister Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol-Schauenstein introduced the gentlemen one by one, and Sisi smiled and nodded magnanimously while they wished her and the Emperor all the best for the future. Then it was on to the mirror room because the wives of said representatives must be introduced to the new Empress. After that, the newlywed couple was escorted into the ceremony hall. It was the palace and apartment worthy ladies as well as the stewards and courtier’s turn to be officially presented.
Until now, Sisi had done everything to curb her temper and allowed others to guide her from room to room. But as she was faced with yet another massive crowd of strange, curious faces, she decided that she has had enough. She tore her hand free of her husband’s grasp and without further ado ran into one of the antechambers. Sobbing uncontrollably, she hid her face in a handkerchief.
It didn’t take but half a minute before Archduchess Sophie entered the room as well.
“What are you thinking, you undisciplined girl! For once can’t you conduct yourself like a well-behaved young lady?”
But Sisi had already regained her comportment and stepped in front of one of the many mirrors to wipe away her tears.
“Do you not wish to answer me?”
But the new Empress continued to remain silent and rushes past an angry Sophie, back into the ceremony hall. Countess Esterházy hurried to her side and began to enumerate the names and titles of the ladies. Afterward, an embarrassing silence set in. According to protocol, the noble ladies had to wait until the Empress addressed them, as they were not allowed to utter one word until then. But Sisi couldn’t think of a suitable subject matter to save her life. Countess Esterházy saw no other choice but to save the situation by allowing the ladies to say a few words to their new Empress. The aristocratic women stepped forward one at a time, to congratulate Sisi and kiss her hand. Archduchess Sophie had just turned her head for a moment but continued to critically observe her new daughter-in-law from the corner of her eyes.
“Oh, my Heavens, what is she doing now?”
Among the girls, Sisi had discovered her Cousin Adelgunde from Bavaria and embraced her. Before she could release her cousin, Sophie was by her side, grabbed her daughter-in-law hard by her upper arm and pulled her aside.
“Did you not hear that the ladies are supposed to kiss your hand?”
“But that’s my cousin. She often visited me in Possenhofen,” Sisi protested and sought to free her arm from her hard grip.
“It is no longer of consequence, who you played with as a child. You are the Empress of Austria. Now go back and have your cousin kiss your hand!”
Reluctantly Sisi obeyed. Everyone in the room had noticed what happened, and gossip about it made the rounds. Some of the noble ladies felt sorry for Sisi, but the majority did not hold back and whispered nasty comments about the new Empress, who apparently didn’t know how to behave appropriately. Thankfully Franz Joseph joined his wife shortly after that.
“We must go for another drive, Sisi. Please ask one of your ladies-in-waiting to bring you a shawl. It’s chilly outside.”
The quick drive gave the couple a very much needed break from the representational duties. The Kohlmarkt and the Michaelerplatz were illuminated by thousands of candles. Sisi and Franz Joseph nodded friendly towards their subjects while they offered a standing ovation to their beloved Emperor and Empress before the couple returned to the palace.
There, everything had been prepared for a gala dinner. Sisi had finally rested a bit and engaged interestedly in small talk with her table neighbors. Eventually the last guests departed. Now the last act of the ceremony followed, which had been somewhat modified for Sisi’s sake. Typically the entire court was required to pay witness when an imperial couple was brought to bed.... 



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.



19 September 2018

The Silent Killer Dog Owners Should Know About: IMHA



This cutie is 'Zoey'. Our troubles with her began a couple of days before Halloween 2016. Zoey was extremely lethargic and had no appetite. All she wanted to do is stay in her bed and sleep. This was very unusual behaviour from the dog who usually couldn't wait to eat breakfast and dinner. After we ascertained that she had not sustained any injuries, her belly was soft (so, internal bleeding was not high on our list of potential culprits), and she wasn't running a fever, we checked her gums. They were stark white. As we rushed her off to the nearest emergency vet, my husband and I couldn't help but flashback to the many times our late epi-warriors, Lana and Darren required emergency medical treatment for their canine epilepsy. We feared for Zoey's life. After several days of inpatient treatment at the veterinary hospital, the diagnosis was IMHA or Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. 

Simply put, Zoey's immune system was destroying its own oxygen-carrying red blood cells.  Her bone marrow still produced trace amounts of red blood cells to replace the destroyed ones. However, once they were released into circulation, her immune system mistakenly recognized them as foreign bodies, such as a virus or bacteria, and eliminated them. I'm the first to admit that my husband and I aren't novice dog parents. Instead, we are, what some might categorize as helicopter pet parents, highly-informed and hyper-aware of our dogs. So, any deviation from Zoey's 'normal' is immediately scrutinized in great detail for possible causes and potential results. IMHA is an autoimmune disease, and is, unfortunately, often fatal because either the initial symptoms go unrecognized, relapse, or complications such as pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE - a blood clot that can travel to the lungs). Based on a cursory search, breeds that seem prone to this illness, are Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, Finnish Spitz, Poodles, Basenji, Bichon Frise, West Highland White Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, and Irish Setters, but any dog can be affected. Zoey is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. 

What causes IMHA?

In most pets, the underlying cause of the disease is never identified. Some experts believe IMHA may be caused, in part or because of:

- Blood loss
- Decreased production of red blood cells
- Toxins
- Drugs used for the treatment of another condition. Implicated drugs include antibiotics (penicillin, trimethoprim-sulfa), methimazole and acetaminophen
- Cancer
- Insect bites/stings
- Spot-on flea and tick preventatives
- Vaccinations/over-vaccinating is suspected to be a culprit, although the jury is still out on this. However, core vaccines play an essential role in controlling the spread of diseases like Parvovirus and distemper, so it is never a good idea to stop administering them altogether.
- Infection

The Symptoms

Symptoms include, but are not limited to: 

- Weakness/lethargy
- Dark orange or brown urine
- Yellowing (jaundice) of mouth and/or eyes
- Labored (heavy) breathing
- Refusing to eat
- Pale/white gums
  Note: If your dog has black gums, you can also check their eye  
  membranes. Just pull the eyelids gently up or down and look underneath. 
- Seems a little “off”

Note: Not all dogs will experience these symptoms or all at once.

The Diagnosis

If your beloved furry companion shows any signs of the above, time is of the essence. Get your dog to a veterinarian immediately. He/she will need a full medical history. Be prepared for questions about the symptoms you've observed and how long they have been present, any medications your dog may have taken, when the most recent immunizations were given, and questions about your dog's urine and stool. The vet will want to run several of the following tests to determine the underlying cause for the anemia, such as:

- A complete physical examination.
- A complete blood count (CBC) to identify if your dog is anemic.
- A packed cell volume (PCV) to test for the number of red blood cells present.
- A reticulocyte count allows the veterinarian to determine if new red cells are being made in appropriate quantities. 
- A blood film to look for parasites and blood cell characteristics.
- Chemistry tests to evaluate liver, kidney, and pancreatic functions, along with sugar levels.
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
- Urine tests to screen for a UTI, other diseases, and to evaluate the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine.
- Fecal analysis to look for intestinal parasites.
- Screening for vector-borne disease.
- Radiographs, ultrasound examinations, or blood tests for potential underlying infectious diseases or internal injuries.

The Treatment

Dogs can and do survive despite a diagnosis of IMHA. It is not an automatic death sentence. It can be costly, and it is a disease that also requires the pet parents to be diligent, especially where the aftercare is concerned. Treatment isn’t easy, and it is ongoing, and it may include, but is not limited to:

- Hospitalization
- Intravenous fluids
- Blood transfusions
- Immune system suppression (immunosuppression) with corticosteroids or stronger immune suppressive drugs when necessary 
- Repeat vet visits and close monitoring

Treatment of IMHA is one battle, and the side effects of those medications can wreak havoc on your beloved pet's already compromised systems. 

The Costs

Like most life-threating diseases, IMHA treatment is expensive! Zoey's overnight stay with intensive care for four days at the emergency vet cost us nearly $5000. Medications ran about $250/month for an additional six months. Not to mention the cost of each follow-up vet visit and blood tests. Treatment costs will vary from vet to vet, and the price for the medication can significantly differ from pharmacy to pharmacy. It's always a good idea to shop around for a budget-friendly drugstore, and it also doesn't hurt to get an estimate from your veterinarian before you agree to any treatment options.


The Prognosis

I am not one of those pet-parents who believes every so-called fact or statistic she reads online. The published survival rate runs the gamut, but dogs can beat this disease. Zoey is living proof. IMHA is not an automatic death sentence. Patients with IMAH require close monitoring. Red blood cell counts must be rechecked every two to three weeks, and the medication regimen and further treatments will fluctuate depending on blood work results. After stabilization, a basic blood panel and urinalysis should be performed every four to six months. Also, keep in mind that it's not recommended to have your dog routinely vaccinated after an IMHA diagnosis since you just don't know what will cause your dog's body to go through another bout of anemia. 

Thankfully, Zoey is still with us, and we are grateful to have this spunky girl in our lives. Miraculously, her red blood cell count stabilized in the normal range after nearly four months of treatment, and she's been in remission for over a year. But, I still check her gums at least twice a day for any change in colour from their usual pink, healthy shade to anything that even slightly resembles a pale to white-ish tint. Our favourite colour is now pink! While this illness cannot be cured, it can be managed. There are great resources and online forums available to lend you some much needed emotional support and provide you with information. You are definitely not alone. 

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, just an experienced, well-read, and hyper-observant pet parent. This article is not meant to diagnose or treat any canine illness, nor does it replace professional veterinary care. Always talk to your vet about your dog’s health as health care is an individual matter. 

Resources and further reading:

Petplace.com: 
https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-health/immune-mediated-hemolytic-anemia-in-dogs-imha-autoimmune-hemolytic-anemia/

petMD: https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/cardiovascular/c_dg_anemia_immune_mediated

Pet Health Network:
https://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/immune-mediated-hemolytic-anemia-dogs-imha





Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added two historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty and The Country Girl Empress. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.