Last night the windchill was predicted to be -48c. Not sure if it got that low or not, but it was -35 without the windchill this morning.
At which time, naturally I worry about Merlin and Trinny. Trinny in fact more so since she is a thoroughbred and not as tough as Merlin.
I needn't have worried. For non-horse folk, horses are 'designed' to be out in weather up to -40c, provided they have shelter, whether that is with trees, a wooden shelter or, as in this picture, a simple windbreak. Instinct is to go wrap them up in blankets or put them in a heated barn. In both cases you would be wrong. Blanketing merely flattens a coat instead of allowing air to be trapped between the hairs and creating warmth. Unless, of course you have a performance horse which is working and going in and out of different temps, you should never blanket. If a horse comes into a barn at night, then you would not turn it out without a blanket on a cold cold day.
Horses aren't stupid. If in a herd, they stay together and give each other body warmth. In cold weather such as I mentioned today, if they haven't got a continuous supply of food then you are asking for trouble. The very act of eating and digesting ensures warmth. Plus a goodly supply of fresh water helps them enormously.

Merlin and Trinny would probably have been all right without extra food today, but I didn't feel right without giving them something. I glanced over the whole herd and no one was shivering. I gave RD, another of the thoroughbred mares, a few nibbles, too. Prob shouldn't have done since she isn't mine, but, heck, she wasn't going to watch Merlin and Trinny eat without shoving them off anyway, and even she was incredibly polite today.
I came away with a great deal of admiration for my animals. I was out for ten minutes in scarves and hat, gloves, sweaters, furry boots etc and I was frozen. Those guys were all, like, whatever! It's Alberta. Even the damned cat went out. I was cringing but he insisted. I called after ten minutes and he reluctantly came in and then wanted straight out again. He can stay out until the sun starts going down, I guess, but I don't like it. I do worry about those delicate ears. I guess I am just a human wimp - lol.

Before I go back to writing posts, and, yes, I have been writing rather a lot this month, I want to do one more about grief. Writing about it helps me and hopefully others, not that  I wish grief on anyone.
One of the things I have learned over the past couple of years is that there is  no 'getting over it'. It seems an obvious thing, but the majority of people often think there is some kind of time limit. Let me tell you here and now - there is not. There is no magic number which says, okay, that's it, no more grief, no more tears. There never will be. Not that this makes it morbid or depressing, just a fact. There are always going to be moments or hours when something triggers you. Not just anniversaries, but a photo, a memory, a place, even a scent.
That is normal.
As it is normal to cry, whenever you damned well want to. To grieve whenever you damned well want to.
Because of 'convention' I thought perhaps there would be a time when it didn't hurt. There are days like that now. Because you don't stop living or loving or even enjoying your life, just that there is a part of you that will never let go of the hurt of such a loss. And, hey, that is okay. Really. Why should you? It will always hurt. It isn't suddenly going to change. No one can turn back time.
I don't know why I ever thought it would. I'm changed, as those around me who also loved Rich are changed. How could we not be? And sometimes I get fed up with putting a brave face on it.
So I am just saying; there are going to be days when I can laugh and love as I did before, but there are also days when I am going to cry, because I need to. Because I want to. Because I lost a child, and nothing on this wide Earth is ever going to replace that, not even my tears.
I lost a child, who left his love and went running, and no one can tell me why he lost that life, or even how. My last memories are of how much he adored his daughter, how proud he was to be a soldier, how much he was looking forward to the rest of his life. I think that's worth many tears.
I just posted this on Rich's page, but I feel right now I want it to go public. So :
A thing I want to say on here as Richard's Mum. I lost Rich. I WILL not
tolerate losing any more of you. Not that any of you contemplate this, but I
just want to re-iterate stuff. Every time you have a flashback, do you think no
one else understands? No, they do not, in the same way you do. But they are
willing to...
listen. And the main thing is that listening, because YOU are talking. Which I
know is hard. God, I know. So easy to shut down and not feel. Far easier. Bitter
and twisted you carry on, but you aren't the person you once were. Of course
not! How could you be. Because you have lost part of yourself. You left it on a
battlefield, which could be in Afghanistan or Alberta. At the end of the day,
though, you realise that there are so many people who love you. Love you in
different ways, whether that is as a wife, a friend, a sister, a parent. All
different from that same love you might have had for a bud. Not a sexual thing
but a coming together of like minds. You think, only they can understand, and in
many ways that is a truth and a lie. Maybe as a parent or a wife or a sibling,
we haven't seen what you have, but we know the person inside. We know that
person we knew who went to defend our country and we have so much love, so much
patience, until you reject us. Don't do that. We may not have a total insight
into what you have experienced, but let us try. Let us TALK.
One image which will haunt me forever. My son lies in that coffin. So why am I posting it?
Something I posted on fb last night and wanted to spread to others:

Given the spate of Canadian Forces
suicides, can I say something as a soldier's mum who has lost as son? I lost  Richard through an accident, but he was still PPCLI, he was a soldier. He did NOT take his life but his life was taken from him. So, as a soldier's mum, I have the right to say, suicide is not the answer. Because I know as one of those who is left behind that this isn't how you spare the family left behind. They will forever question - why?
Why didn't you speak out, why didn't you say what was troubling you so deeply.
And I understand this is one of the hardest things you could possibly do, but,
for me, for a mother who has lost a son, please do so. Speak about what is
troubling you.  Speak about what you had to face. because, we are here to
listen. You will be surprised by how many WANT to listen and understand, without
condemnation. Because you were there to serve our country. You were there to
help a country in extremis, and not everyone understood that, but we do. I do.
Richard fought to save lives. He and his team destroyed IEDs. They saved
countless lives doing so, Don't negate that by now taking your life because you
also faced things which, back home, seem insurmountable. They aren't. If a
mother can survive the loss of her son then you can survive. You survive for the
people who love you, for the wondrous life around you. Yes, you saw Hell, but
are you going to let that defeat you? Don't.

Seeing as most of north America is under a blanket of snow and cold, it only seems appropriate to curl up with a good book before an open fire, or write one.
Of course there is this essential thing called 'work', at least the one which pays the money and keeps the horse in shoes, but  fortunately the work has calmed down somewhat.
A good friend told me the other day to 'take my life back'. Those four small words stopped me in my tracks, because there have been 'things' which have prevented me from writing. Not mere prevarication but exhaustion, minor health issues, and of course the ever constant on my mind, Rich. Every time I sat at the computer, instead of writing what was in my head, I froze up and played mindless games of solitaire or stared at FB. I wanted to write but I just couldn't seem to put pen to paper.
Then came those four words and I thought, you've been letting others rule your life, if you really wanted to write you'd do it through tiredness, past Rich's memories and, yes, do what you really want.
One of my minor health issues has been stress, which can manifest in all sorts of annoying ways. I say 'minor' because there are far worse things to cope with. Outwardly much of the time I can wing it but then I might come home and have a meltdown. Yes that is still grief rearing its head, and it will for some time to come, but I was letting it rule me. As I was letting work rule me, telling myself I was too damned tired to write or ride my horse etc etc.
Some vitamin B12, some rooibos tea and a couple of days off and it is amazing how different the world can look. Attitude can change so much. My mother has always been one of my inspirations. She had bowel cancer and when she was told she only had days to live she looked up at the doctor and said, But I haven't seen my grandchildren yet. And she defied cancer for over ten years.
If I am going to honour Rich's memory then indeed I should write, because that was indeed something he wanted me to do. He loved my stories. He even took them into a war zone where the printed out pages are probably fluttering across an Afghan desert. I rather like that image. Some tribesman shaking his head over some weird English science fiction and knowingly nodding that all westerners are mad.
So I wrote over six thousand words over two days. I won't be that productive every day because, yes, I do work outside as well. But it's a start after a long gap. Now it is just a matter of getting to the finish.

As a young woman, I sung in a church choir in UK. I also rang (properly) the
church bells. I wore a cassock and a ruff and I took communion. I loved the
atmosphere of it all; I loved the singing, although the bell ringing was a
little scary. But the point is, it was how I grew up. Literally church three
times on a Sunday, not to mention the choir and bell practise. In reality, as I
grew up and worked with horses, suddenly Sunday wasn't a holy day but a day when
animals must be fed and exercised, and I developed a philosophy similar to what
(supposedly) the Dead Sea scrolls say, that God lives underneath every stone,
not necessarily within a church. I grew up, I travelled the world, a little bit,
I returned home. I didn't think about God much during this time. I just lived. I
married and popped out three sons. My husband is Canadian, so we moved from UK
to hopefully give our sons a more diverse life. We moved with a suitcase each,
an Irish Wolfhound and a lot of faith that 'everything would turn out'.  As
happened, it did very well, but that wasn't because of God, it was because of
hard work and adaptability.
Fast forward to 2011. I had one son living in  Malaysia as an interpreter, another in the Canadian military and another still  in school. I get a phone call - your son is missing. This was my military son who had served two tours in Afghanistan; who had saved many many lives through his work in diffusing IEDs. Back in Edmonton, he goes missing on a training run for a race.
The short story is that he slipped on ice and drowned in the river that ran close by where he was running. The long story is what that did to those he left behind. Which is where I intersect with others who face loss, because in every word a dying many writes I see the same grief as I feel as losing a son. That hopeless helpless feeling of utter frustration.
In the question of - Is there life after death - yes, I can say there is - just too many coincidences to deny, but can I relate them to faith or God? No, I can relate them to spiritualism, however.
Like many I am a writer, and while I am not a 'professional' as some are, I use my imagination to reach people through words, and, yes, I write science fiction and fantasy, more often than not about the human 'condition'.
Through my experiences as a mother who has lost a child, no matter if he was 25, he was still my child. I have always believed in a higher power. But when you start to label and categorize anything, you place it within a box which says, this is the way it is. You start worshipping that small box because you are clinging to a belief that somewhere, somehow, there is something better and if I pay or give gratitude, then I may share it. You create a religion.
I do not deny there is a higher power which/who shapes us, but is its name 'God' then I begin to question. As I questioned *everything* when my son passed. And note I say passed and not died. Because I do think there is a kind of afterlife. That isn't faith, that is simply the experiences I have had since my son left. I don't know, exactly, what those experiences are. I cannot say 'God' because, whatever you believe in has many faces.
I do know there are spirits, or spirits as humanity interprets them. Are those echoes, like radio waves, which bounce off the ether, or are they more godlike or angel-like
beings - I don't know. There is *something*. Which indeed gives me faith that
dying isn't so terrifying after all.
True faith is an enviable emotion. That utter conviction in 'what is'. But for me, as a soldier's mum, who saw her son go to help another nation in extremis and possibly came back so broken by his experiences, uh ha. If God tests us, why indeed does he take the good. To me that is illogical, and blind faith cannot answer it. I remember writing after the phone call I  got - yes, it was a phone call - that, the angels better have a damned good reason for this one. A thing which the media picked up from my FB page and posted for the world to see. I was hurt at that lifting of privacy in
some ways but understood it in another - that the 'world' needed an answer.
Well, I never got an answer for my son's death Not one. Not how or who or why or
even where. Just vague references from police and military. So the next thing I
knew was that the 'internet' had decided that he had to have taken his own life
etc etc. Fortunately I am not a fool. Fortunately I knew my own son extremely
well. Then people would turn up at my door and say - he's at peace now. Because
that was what they believed.
But many use this word 'empirical' based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.
Is there logic when you get a visitation? Is there logic when pictures leap off the wall, or you hear the voice of a loved one who has passed on? No, of course there isn't. So you start looking for answers - any answers -you look for proof that life after death exists.
You might indeed ask God, or psychics, or anyone who can give you a definitive answer. But no one can. Not definitively. They can only pat you on the back and say - there, there, there.
But as with faith in a Christian God, you know there is something. You
can't deny it, yet you can't explain it. So you must have faith. The same faith
as those who would form jihads in the name of their God, who is, actually, the
same God. So forgive me as the mother who has lost a son, for not believing in
one god, who on one hand would let women and children and men suffer so much and in another take those who would protect them. And on the other who would
supposedly take those who suffer onto  a higher plane - Heaven.
When you give birth, you never, quite, cut that cord. You retain the essence of what and who you delivered into this world, and that essence never leaves you. It never
leaves his friends his lovers, his family, and in that essence is memory. Is
that life after death? It could well be. Memory, so strong it cannot be denied.
Or it could be something so much more. I don't know, but I don't think 'God' is
responsible. At least not the God we created to pacify ourselves.


I read someone else's reading list for last year the other day, and it intrigued
me to look at what I had actually read. Not interesting for others, but for my
own edification:

In reverse order and maybe some I read the previous year
but I often 'repeat'.

Shadow Over Avalon - CN Lesley
Cherry Blossoms -  Wes Funk
No Dominion - CE Murphy
Mountain Echoes - CE Murphy then repeat for *everything*
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
Romance super bundle - er various
Then follows everything by Lili or Lilith Saintcrow
Cold Steel - Kate Elliott
Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier - then rinse and repeat *everything* by Juliet Marillier
Protector:Foreigner - C J Cherryh
First of Her Kind - KL Schwengel
Never - Crash Froelich
The Siren Depths - Martha Wells - repeat for *everything* Martha Wells wrote.
Midnight at Spanish Gardens - Alma Alexander
Shards of Honor -  Bujold
Black Tiger - Greta Van der Rol - repeat on *everything* Greta wrote.
A Bullet for Carlos - Giacomo Giammatteo
Bee House Rising - Keby Boyer
Curse of the Mistwraith - Janny Wurts - a much loved repeat
Summer Knight - Jim Butcher - I read quite a few after this but then I got  bored.
Dominion - CS Friedman

The consensus being that once I get ahold of an author I like I truly do read *everything* by them as long as the quality holds up. With the Dresden files, it wasn't so much the quality as being too similar in plot after a while. There were more that I read. Some I don't even want to mention, some I've simply forgotten. Mostly these were kindle purchases, but not all.


I read this novel a while ago,
when the author and I belonged to a writing group. When I write a review, even
if I know the author, I try to be scrupulously honest, because I know exactly
how an author feels. I have a library full of books - yes, real ones - because
for me, the mark of a great book is when I can go back again and again and still
find something.<br>When I read Shadow over Avalon again, even knowing the
outcome, I discovered the same thrill on my initial reading. That pleasure of a
great plot that kept me on my seat from start to finish - that anticipation when
I know I am getting close to reading time at the end of the day. Because the
characters get a hold of you and you simply have to follow them.<br>If you
mention 'Arthur' as a storyline many folks will sigh and mutter stuff like -
been there, done that. Don't be fooled, this is a unique novel where the
author's scientific knowledge shows through. This Avalon is nothing like the
almost utopian creations of Arthur and his round table and his perfect knights.
This is a battle for survival where Earth has returned to a more primitive form.
Avalon is one of the few outlets that have retained technology, but there is a
price. Avalon is under the sea.<br>Shadow over Avalon is just the
beginning of an epic tale which describes how this happened. Arthur, whose
talents as a seer, make him a valuable asset rather than a 'person' must
discover his true origins to gain freedom. 'Shadow' is the mysterious woman
whose life he follows upon the surface world to gain that
knowledge.<br>The real threat, however is only just beginning to show its
ugly head. Who or what is truly manipulating events? And how did this threat
come about?<br>But a stunning plot is nothing without the characters who
people it. Characters you can empathise with, or hate for their actions. Shadow
over Avalon has it all.<br>Now I am going to tap my fingers for the next
one. Ms Lesley, please hurry up!
<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2588375-susan">View
all my reviews</a>
This is the novel I tried to post the other day and had a mega fail with wrong everything. Let's have another go. Chapters one and two of:

The Crystal Gate
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I think all authors are asked that age-old question - where do you get your ideas from? Variations on that theme are - I know you, but I never expected you to write a book like that.  Which leaves me wondering if I am a little bit strange.
Why indeed do I write? The simple answer is because I have to. The more complicated answer is that it is a love and an obsession that compels me to put words on paper and screen and then go over and over them again until I am happy and, hopefully, they are in grammatical order; I've got all my facts right etc etc.
Games of Adversaries was my learning curve. My first published novel, and it shows in places. Yes, I made mistakes. When I read through some of it the other day I thought, hms, I would have changed that. But. The thing is, a bit like children, sometimes you simply have to let them go.
I've had some wonderful reviews for it, so people have truly enjoyed my words. No, I didn't become an overnight success *G*, but I never expected that, because I tend to write complex novels populated by extra-ordinary folk.
The main thing that came through was that the novel wasn't what people expected. It was always about contrasts, it was always about the horrendous nature of war and what it does to people. I'm not sure what they imagined, but obviously I didn't do a good enough job with the blurb.
I haven't pushed it and I know I should have done a lot more, but it is a good story. It is different, the people are real. It is about betrayal and courage, where nothing or no one is quite as they seem.
I can't fight the mass of novels out there right now, but I can quietly say I am proud of my fledgling. There are two more novels which go along with this world. Not edited yet, so we'll see if people want to know more. I know this one novel wasn't enough to portray the worlds I created.