30 November 2022

Record Keeping for Writers: The Essentials


You're a writer, and without a  doubt, you keep a copy of every story you've written. I'm sure you have plenty of files filled with fantastic story ideas, outlines, and descriptions. More than likely you also maintain a collection of great punch lines and unique character names scribbled on sticky notes, along with folders overflowing with printed versions of stories in numerous stages of editing. 

Once you publish your work and even beforehand, you should focus your meticulousness that you pour into your writing and also apply it to your business records. That means you shouldn't toss receipts but keep track of them via balance sheets and income statements - in most cases a simple spreadsheet will do nicely.  

I realize that this sounds horribly mundane, but there are several reasons why keeping business records is imperative: 

...it's a business, and as with every business, it's prudent to keep track of your income and expenditures. Records will allow you to see at a glance if you’re making a profit or loss, identify which of your books or services are selling, and how to make your business more profitable. 

...or should you decide to apply for a business loan it's good to be able to provide financial statements such as balance sheets which clearly show your profit as well as losses.  

This information is vital in order to separate business from non-business expenses and taxable from nontaxable income. 

...such as printer paper, ink cartridges, book contest entry fees, conferences costs, etc. You might just be able to save some money at tax time. 

Just a few minutes a day should suffice to maintain your business records. I find that recording my income and expenses as they occur is much easier than trying to remember them months down the road or attempt to locate receipts during tax season. Granted, this might cut a bit into your daily writing time, but not taking care of such matters promptly more than likely means that you'll have to forego writing for several days come tax time. If you should have any doubts about what's important, please consult a tax professional.

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing 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 LinkedInFacebookMedium, and Goodreads.
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23 November 2022

Wholesome Canine Nutrition: A Canine Thanksgiving Dinner


Thanksgiving is a most treasured holiday. It's a time when we gather with our family members and friends to celebrate, eat delicious foods and enjoy each others company. Every family has their own, unique way of celebrating Thanksgiving, and most pet parents like to include their furry companions in those celebrations. Many dog and cat owners enjoy sharing their home cooked foods with their pets, usually by way of sneaking a few bites off their plate underneath the table. 

It is, therefore, imperative to know which foods are safe and which are considered toxic to pets. Especially if your dog already enjoys the benefits of home-cooked food or even a raw food diet, then a few bites from your plate should be fine to share. However, if your furry friend is accustomed to a commercial kibble diet only, it is essential to know their level of stomach sensitivity to avoid an upset tummy. If you feel uncertain that the foods you'll be serving will be safe for your canine, you can always cook a special homemade meal for your dog. Here's one of my favourite recipes:

Canine Thanksgiving Dinner


2 Cups of ground or shredded turkey
1 Cup of sweet potato cubes
1 Cup of potato cubes
1/2 Cup of pumpkin puree 
1/2 Cup green beans
1/2 Cup peas
1/2 Cup chopped carrots
2 Tbsp Olive Oil


- Heat olive oil in a pan and brown turkey meat. 
- Cut vegetables into chunks and boil them until they are soft. 
- Combine all ingredients and let meal cool until it's safe to eat.

It is vital to be aware of the foods that are considered unsafe or even toxic for pets to consume. Do not feed your furry friend anything that contains onions, garlic, grapes or raisins, artificial sweeteners to include Xylitol, coffee, yeast or bread dough, macadamia nuts, chocolate or alcohol...just to mention a few. For more in-depth information, please contact your veterinarian. 

It is also important to keep in mind that those family gatherings can be rather loud, depending on how big your family is. Therefore, it is a good idea to provide a safe and quiet place for your dog to retreat to. The holidays can be very hectic and busy time for all of us, and unfortunately, some of our furry companions do not tolerate loud noise and large crowds very well. So, be aware of your dog's needs and everyone should be able to enjoy this special time of the year. 

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!


PS: Interested in more pet friendly recipes? You can find them in my book LIVING WITH CANINE EPILEPSY.  

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing 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 LinkedInFacebookMedium, and Goodreads.
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16 November 2022

#WritersLife: The Good and the Bad of Working with Beta Readers

You’ve finished writing your story. You’ve self-edited it to the nines, and enlisted the help of family members and friends to read your manuscript. It's ready for beta readers. The purpose of beta readers is not to stroke your writer's ego. Their job is to find your story's shortcomings before it is published. While it can be painful to receive feedback filled with a laundry list of issues, it's preferable to see that list in a private message, rather than plastered on the internet as part of a book review.

However, as with everything in life, this method of weeding out your masterpiece's flaws comes with its own pros and cons. I thought it would be beneficial to share the good and the bad of working with beta readers before publishing your book, based on my own and some of my fellow writer friends' experiences.

Free or low-cost feedback
Obviously, one of the most beneficial aspects of selecting beta readers to read your manuscript is the potential for free or low-cost feedback. However, low cost or free doesn’t necessarily ensure quality.

Expeditious turnaround
You could begin to receive feedback rather quickly, depending on your beta readers' availability and reliability. Some readers offer fragments of input along the way, while others only provide feedback after reading the entire thing. If you are only looking for partial input on the opening or the first few chapters of your story, you could receive comments sooner rather than later.

Beta reading arrangement
Some beta readers might offer to read parts or all of your manuscript if you return the favor. This is a good idea if you don't have strict time constraints. Being a beta reader can be time-consuming. A mutual beta reading arrangement holds both parties accountable and promotes empathy when providing feedback.

A potential future critique partner
If a swap goes well, it could potentially lead to an on-going critique partnership arrangement. Expanding your author network is always a good thing. Swapping your stories with fellow writers is a great way to build mutually advantageous connections.

Easy to organize
Organizing beta readers is relatively easy and straightforward. I found mine, or I should say, they found me, as they are part of my loyal readership. Some of my fellow writer friends found many of theirs online through dedicated social media groups. They furnished the following information to their potential beta readers:

-Premise of the story
-Word count and genre of the manuscript
-Which parts of the book they specifically wanted feedback about
-Offer to beta read for others in return
-Preferred schedule

Providing this information beforehand meant they stood a better chance of gaining readers who were fans of the genre, were able to provide feedback by a specific date, and who understood the expectations. 

Unrealistic expectations
A good thing to remember is that beta readers are, in most cases, not your friends or professional editors. Many times, reading an entire book takes hours. If a person offers to spend time doing that and comment on your work, that’s fantastic. Especially if they are doing it for free. Just remember: You need them more than they need you. So, be reasonable in your expectations.

For that matter, readers might have exceptionally high expectations of your book. So, it’s essential to consider what you send them. If your book is still a rough draft, then at least let them know beforehand. That gives them the option to decide if they want to read it or not. Just keep in mind that a manuscript containing a mess of fonts and riddled with grammatical errors does not bode well for positive feedback, no matter how good the story might be.

Disregarding set parameters
You’ve made your expectations and preferred method of communication clear to your readers. So, there shouldn't be any problems. Right? Unfortunately, reality looks a bit different. When one of your beta readers ignores your parameters and starts bombarding you with late-night messages, that’s definitely not a sign of positive collaboration. On the other hand, pestering your beta readers for additional feedback after they've already commented on your book is also not a good idea. Just think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed.

The silent treatment
It happens to the best of us. People tell you they’re going to beta read for you, but after a couple of emails - radio silence. It’s definitely frustrating when they don’t let you know what's going on. Especially if you were prepared to fulfill your end of the bargain. If this happens to you: Just move on and don't waste your time crying over spilled milk! You have no idea what’s happening in other people’s lives. As already mentioned in "the good" section, finding additional or replacement beta readers is always an option. 

Not genre experts
While it's preferable to ask for beta readers familiar with your genre, it doesn’t mean they’re experts of said genre, just because they like to read it. Your chances of finding the ideal reader from those who reply to your request are quite slim. After all, you are wholly reliant on the kindness of people willing to spend their precious time reading your work for free or in exchange for a nominal fee.

Irrelevant or callous feedback
Although receiving free input from beta readers is one of the positives, you might end up with irrelevant or even insensitive feedback instead. Callous or flippant comments could result in a confidence knock, especially for a first-time author. While I'm not advocating lying to the author, the old adage still rings true: If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all! There's no reason to be rude. 

Beta readers are absolutely entitled to their views. After all, that is their role. However, constructive feedback is far more beneficial to an author than rude or tactless comments. In such cases, it's usually best to cut your losses and look for someone new.

With the good and the bad in mind, here are some pointers for a more beneficial experience with your beta readers:

Look for a mixture
To maximize your chances of quality feedback, try to find a mix of free and paid beta readers and offer to beta read in exchange. Selecting a variety of readers also accounts for possible mismatches, or should any one of them do a disappearing act.

Let them go if necessary
It doesn't take long to get a sense of which reader(s) might not be a good fit. In such cases, it’s okay to cancel your collaboration.

Set deadlines and expectations
To set a professional tone from the beginning, start by naming the genre of your book, word count, book blurb, preferred timeframe, and whether you're willing to beta read for them.

Ask specific questions
Knowing which part of your book you most want feedback on really helps you and your beta readers. If you’re only asking them for comments about one or two elements, rather than the entire novel, it might make them feel less inundated.

Protect your work
Selecting beta readers from trusted sources should reduce any worries you might have about sharing your work with strangers. But in order to alleviate further concerns about potential plagiarism, copyright your manuscript, watermark it, or make it a read-only document or PDF.

Have you utilized beta readers? Was your collaboration useful? Good, bad, indifferent? Feel free to add your experience in the comment section.

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing 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 LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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09 November 2022

November is #EpilepsyAwarenessMonth: A Day in the Life of Two Epi-Warriors


I'd like to take this opportunity to share a little insight into living with canine epilepsy - a subject matter near and dear to my heart. As many of you probably know, the two dogs pictured above were my Epi-warriors, Lana and Darren. They both developed Idiopathic Epilepsy (epilepsy with unknown cause) within two days of each other when Darren was two and Lana was four years of age. I did my best to provide them with everything they needed and the quality of life they deserved. But, in the end, Darren suffered a massive stroke, and Lana lost her battle with bladder cancer; they passed away within four days of each other. At which point, I decided to write a book about their journey called LIVING WITH CANINE EPILEPSY, to let everyone know that dogs with canine epilepsy can lead a happy and meaningful life. Prayers for all the Epi-Warriors out there...may they stay seizure free for a long time!

Epilepsy is a condition that globally affects over 65 million people. However, did you know that dogs can be afflicted with this ailment as well? Up to six percent of the canine population suffers from a form of epilepsy. In fact, epilepsy is the most diagnosed canine neurological disease. This is only a rough estimate since many cases of canine epilepsy remain undiscovered by the respective canine parents as dogs often experience their fits when they are inactive, late at night or during the early morning hours. So, throw on a purple shirt and let's raise epilepsy awareness for all sufferers, human and canine alike!

What is Canine Epilepsy?

Epilepsy manifests in terrifying ways, causing a dog to experience sudden, uncontrolled convulsions. First recognized in ancient times, Hippocrates referred to epilepsy as the “sacred” disease. However, nothing about it seems sacred! Watching a beloved companion suffer a seizure can be an extremely traumatic event. Learning to live with an animal with complex health issues is never easy. In general, we distinguish between two types of epilepsy - genetic and idiopathic. 

Genetic epilepsy is passed down from one generation to the next, and certain dog breeds are more prone to this form of epilepsy than others. 

Idiopathic Epilepsy is caused by unknown factors, and it is often difficult to predict what will trigger the next seizure or when.

Living with a dog that has epilepsy can be a daunting prospect, but with some help from a veterinarian and much planning, epileptic dogs can live a relatively normal, happy and meaningful life.

...no one had a seizure. We all got up around 6:00 am...well, Lana and Darren stuck their wet noses in my face to wake me up. Breakfast and the first dosage of daily meds by 7:00 am. Walk/jog, either outdoors when the weather permitted or on the treadmill by 10:00 am. Outings, errands, and playtime throughout the day. Dinner and the second dosage of daily medication by 7:00 pm. This schedule had to eventually be adjusted once Darren had to switch from Phenobarbital to Keppra, due to his hypertensive liver; a medication he had to take three times a day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

...one of my furry children or one after the other would have their first seizure of the day in the early morning hours, anywhere between midnight and 5:00 am. I wiped away excess slobber off the dog's face and administered a pill pocket with Valium in an attempt to prevent a vicious cycle of recurring seizures. Then it was time to give the dog a quick sponge bath to remove the remnants of urine and/or stool after the dog lost control of bladder and/or bowel due to the seizure. I cleaned/replaced the doggie bedding and adjacent carpeting as necessary, fed the patient a snack, provided a fresh bowl of water and the opportunity to relieve him/herself. I would put the dogs back to bed if it was still nighttime. I would sit on the floor next to the dog bed until they fell asleep again, and prayed that there wouldn't be any more epileptic episodes. Eventually, I crawled back into bed and attempted to go back to sleep. If we were lucky, no one had another seizure. If we were not so fortunate, then the above scenario repeated itself many times throughout the following day or two, and we would eventually end up spending the day at the vet clinic. 

How to Help Your Pup Through a Seizure

Whether your canine companion has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder or just experienced his/her first epileptic episode, it can be challenging to keep your wits about you during such a heartbreaking event. 

I took care of my two epi-warriors, Lana and Darren, for over four years, and today I'd like to share my basic practices for protecting your furry friend from coming to harm and minimizing the effects of a seizure with you.

Protecting your dog from injury during a seizure is essential. Many dogs will give off physical as well as behavioral indicators before convulsions begin (pre-ictal phase). If you notice signs of agitation or distress such as heavy panting, whining, or incessant pacing, lead your dog to a safe location, if possible, before the seizure begins. Spaces away from staircases, furniture, and cables are best. If at all possible, clear the area of items that could potentially injure your pup or may be knocked over such as breakables, decorations, candles, hard or sharp-edged furniture. If your dog is laying on the sofa or bed, lower your friend to the floor to prevent a fall, if it is safe to do so. Make hardwood and tile floors more comfortable with towels and blankets. Please, do not attempt to move your dog if the seizure is already in progress! Instead, improvise by padding the area and blocking off potential hazards with towels, cushions, and blankets as your dog may be thrashing about, banging its head on a hard surface.

During a seizure, your canine’s brain is flooded with abnormal electrical impulses. Any additional stimuli in the form of bright light, loud noises or excessive touching can actually prolong its duration. While it is our instinctual need comfort our furry friends during a time of distress, please rest assured, that your pup is not in pain and is more than likely unaware of what's happening. Many times, dogs will bite the inside of their mouths during an epileptic episode, but it is physically nearly impossible to swallow or choke on their own tongue. So please, keep your hands out of your dog's mouth! Your furry friend has no control over their body during a seizure, and you would only end up getting inadvertently bitten. 

You can make the surrounding area more peaceful by:

- Removing other pets and people
- Turning down/off the TV or radio
- Dimming the lights/closing the curtains
- Not touching the dog
- Remain calm

While every second of a fit can seem like an eternity, in reality, they usually only last a few minutes. Most vets recommend timing the duration of the seizure(s) to determine if it is an emergency. It might also be useful to film the seizure, as it may provide helpful information to your veterinarian.

Although most seizures are not life-threatening, they do indicate an underlying medical problem. If your pup experiences a seizure for the first time or has possibly been exposed to a toxic substance, seek veterinary attention immediately. For animals with a diagnosed seizure disorder, the rule of thumb is: It's an emergency when an epileptic episode last longer than five minutes or the dog has more than three seizures within 24 hours.

For epi-warriors with recurring seizures, it can be helpful to keep a detailed log of any seizure activity you may observe to help your veterinarian diagnose the problem, identify potential seizure triggers, and determine future treatment options. It's a good idea to include information such as the length of each seizure, observed seizure activity like convulsions, “air-biting”, staring off into space, etc., whether or not bladder/bowel control was lost, and observed behavior before, after, and in-between seizures.

What I would like everyone to remember during this Epilepsy Awareness Month...it is not the end of the world if your dog has epilepsy. Yes, it is challenging to live with canine epilepsy, and there's no cure for this condition. However, it can be managed. There may be bumps in the road along your journey together, but you can get through it. Just take a deep breath and deal with it one day at a time.

To learn more about living with canine epilepsy, click here.

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing 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 LinkedInFacebookMedium, and Goodreads.
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02 November 2022

Month in Review - October 2022


Wow, it's already November, and we are, slowly but surely planning our family Thanksgiving. Amazing how quickly yet another month has passed, and it's now time to recap. So now, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for October 2022, chosen by you, the readers:

So, this thing happened yesterday. I checked my email to find that my historical fiction novel, THE PERPETUAL TRAVELER book three of #TheCountryGirlEmpressSeries, won the Firebird Book Award in the biographical fiction category. Woohoo! First thing I did is get out a bottle of bubbly and danced around the kitchen like a little maniac. I know - sounds totally silly right? But I just couldn't help it! I can't believe my good fortune...

It is that time of the year again! Halloween is almost here, and it can be such a festive and fun time for all. However, let’s face it, for our furry companions it can also be quite the nightmare. But it does not have to be this way! Here are a few easy-to-follow safety tips...

By now, my readers know that I've taken a short break from 19th century Vienna to go even further back in time and delve into the 12th century with my upcoming historical fiction book WITH THE HEART OF A LIONESS - A Duchess of Aquitaine Novel. The main character, Alienor d'Aquitaine, was one of the most powerful and noteworthy figures of the Middle Ages....

Our canine friends are so much more than just pets. They are our partners for all of our most extraordinary exploits. They are the happy faces greeting us at the door at the end of a long workday. And they sit beside us when we're feeling down. They may be a little furrier than everyone else, but they are family members nonetheless. So many pet owners are looking beyond the standard kibble. After all, we wouldn't want to eat that stuff every day either. Pizza is the perfect place to start...

I understand that not everyone is a planner. I'm more of a pantster when it comes to my writing. However, there's just something soothing about being intentional with the blank page in front of me. Maybe I won't even map out my entire book. Still, when I carefully decide about an upcoming scene before I write it down, I potentially make it richer, fuller, and achieve more all around....

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing 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 LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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