06 November 2019

Month in Review - October 2019




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 2019, chosen by you, the readers:

Over the last few weeks, I've received several inquiries asking me to write at least one article about some lesser-known facts regarding the main character of my Country Girl Empress series, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary. Since I share the trait of being an animal lover with the late Empress, I thought it was only fitting to start with this little known fact...

2. The Silent Killer All Dog Owners Should Know About: Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia




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...


3. #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...


4. 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...


5. Howl-A-Ween Safety Tips for Pets




It is that time of year again! Halloween is finally 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...


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 four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. 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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30 October 2019

Howl-A-Ween Safety Tips for Pets



It is that time of the year again! Halloween is finally 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:


...but it is not made for pets! All forms of chocolate, but especially dark chocolate, can be dangerous, and even lethal, for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Foods that contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of this substance can lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures.


You should also keep Halloween decorations such as pumpkins and corn stalks out of their reach. Although they are considered nontoxic, such plants can induce quite the gastrointestinal upset, should they be ingested in large quantities. An intestinal blockage is no laughing matter! Speaking of pumpkins…you really shouldn’t keep lit pumpkins around pets! If they get too close to an open flame, they may run the risk of burning themselves or knocking it over, causing a  house fire. If you must have some sort of flickering light, consider a flameless candle or miniature flashlights.


If your furry children are not perfectly reliable, you should probably keep them away from the door. Not only will your door be continually opened, closed and opened again, but strangers will be dressed in bizarre costumes, yelling loudly for their sweets. This can be a very scary situation for some of our furry friends. If you feel that your pet may be a bit on the nervous side, it might be a good idea to put your dog or cat in a room away from the front door. This will also prevent them from darting out the door as soon as it opens. 


If your dog or cat should escape despite your best efforts, proper identification will increase their chances of returning home safely. Up-to-date information is essential, even if your pet has not been micro-chipped.


...unless you know for a fact that your dog or cat is comfortable getting dressed up. If you do decide that your furry child needs a costume, please ensure it is not a nuisance or unsafe, and that it does not constrict movement, hearing, or the ability to breathe. It is also a good idea to try on the costumes before the big night. If your furry friend seems distressed, allergic, or behaves in an out-of-character manner, perhaps you should consider a festive bandana instead.

Wishing everyone and their furry companions a Happy Howl-A-Ween!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. 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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23 October 2019

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 boring, 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 author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. 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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16 October 2019

#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 eight years, I’ve written and published eleven books. My next historical fiction piece EXCERPTS FROM THE IMPERIAL DIARY is almost ready for the editor. Not to mention that part five and six 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: 


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.


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. 


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. 


...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.


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.  


...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 four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. 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 October 2019

The Silent Killer All Dog Owners Should Know About: Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia



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 four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. 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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