author, Short Story, writing

The End: A Short Story

Rachel squinted as she looked up at the sky. It was painfully bright. People bustled around her, panic in the air. She stood still amongst the chaos; she knew she was safe. She knew she wouldn’t be left behind on this dying planet. Her brown hair blew across her face in the hot breeze, and she glanced around the crowd, eyes focusing on what they were all here to see. A spaceship was several meters ahead of her. It looked like something out of the old sci-fi movies. Sleek and clean, but capable of leaving this galaxy behind.

A man stepped up on the podium and the crowd fell silent. He cleared his throat and started to speak, his voice echoing around the entire area. “This galaxy is dying,” he stated. “Soon the sun will die, and humanity will no longer survive on this planet. Space-Tech has spent the last several years perfecting our spaceships and we can now escape this planet and galaxy before the sun dies.”

The crowd murmured around Rachel, fear evident in their hushed tones. She wasn’t afraid though. She already knew what was happening.

The man cleared his throat again. “Unfortunately, we were only able to create one spaceship in the time given. This means that there is a limited amount of space for people.”

The hushed tones grew louder, panic setting in.

“We have devised a system to choose who will accompany us on this trip. A select few have been chosen due to abilities, such as scientific or agricultural knowledge.” Rachel smirked, her hand caressing the token in her pocket. “However, there are still 20 seats left on the ship.”

“Only 20?” yelled a woman in the crowd. “That’s not fair!”

People started screaming and crying. Rachel slowly backed away from the crowd, she could feel that chaos was about to reign. A man shoved several people to the ground as he raced up to the stage. “I’m not dying on this planet!” he yelled as he tried to climb the stage.

A single gunshot rang out and the man dropped to the ground, dead. A solider appeared beside the man, aiming his gun at the crowd. “If anyone tries to force their way up here, they will die long before the sun does.”

The crowd fell silent, too afraid to move. A sly grin appeared on the man’s face as the soldier disappeared behind him again. “As I was saying, we have devised a… competition of sorts. We have the brains to create a life away from this system but… unfortunately there is a large percentage of men on the ship. Thus, all men are disqualified from leaving this system.”

A loud roar echoed through the crowd but before anything could happen soldiers swooped through the crowd, pushing all the men out of the arena. Several wives and children followed as their husbands and fathers were forcibly escorted out of the area. Soon only a handful of women remained behind. More than twenty, but not by much.

The man at the front motioned to the soldiers and the young and elderly were quickly taken away. They only wanted younger women, fertile women. How were we going to populate a new planet without women after all? It felt barbaric. Rachel gently touched the ring on her left hand, immensely grateful that both her and her husband were among the first to be chosen. Both engineers, thank goodness.

Several men appeared on the stage beside the leader. The twenty men chose a woman in the small crowd, and those women were taken to the man and away from the area. Soon, the twenty women had been chosen and no places were left. The remaining women were pushed out of the area and large barricades swiftly appeared, placed well before the selection process took place. Rachel sighed as she glanced out of the clear barricades across the barren land. Those people would be left to die. The choice of who lives and dies left to one power-hungry man. She didn’t know if it was better to stay and die or leave with this lunatic, but she had no choice. She had to go with her husband, no matter the cost.

author, tips, writing

10 Tips to Writing at Home

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

Pablo Picasso

Most writers usually work at home, or in a corner of a café. It’s just what we do! It is, however, difficult to work from home when you have others around you or, like me, you have a 7 month old at home to take care of.

It can be difficult to write when you have distractions, such as a child (or children) or a partner who now has work from home options. It’s important to maintain motivation as you can and try to stay productive! Here’s my tips in 2022 to staying productive with numerous distractions at home!

1. Noise Cancelling Headphones

These are honestly the best thing I have invested in. I find it’s easier to focus and do my work more effectively when I can’t hear what’s going on around me. I usually put some music on, from my specific writing playlist, and focus on the task at hand. Not being able to hear things around me lets me get into the zone and get writing! Now, I don’t use these during the day when my husband is at work, or working, since I obviously need to be able to hear my child! However, they are really useful in the evenings to block out noises and focus.

2. Set Up Rules With Others at Home

“I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.”

Anna Kendrick

You need to set time for work, and work is writing. You need to let others know when you’re disappearing to do your writing, and when you need to be left alone.

I needed to set this up with my husband and tell him when I was doing something that I needed to focus on. Working at home together than be tough when it comes to distractions, but it helps to set those boundaries and let others know when you need to step away and focus on work.

3. Have a Morning Routine

It is so important to have a healthy morning routine and stick to it. Not only does it help your mental health, it also helps your productivity. Try to get up around the same time each morning, get out of your pyjamas and eat a healthy breakfast. Include whatever you want into your morning routine, but try to stick to it each day and push yourself to have that healthy morning routine.

My morning routine is drastically different now than it was a year ago. Now, when I get up I have to entertain a child! I try to set the same kind of routine for each morning, even with my son. I get up around the same time, feed him, we both get changed and then it’s play time until he goes down for a nap. I have breakfast and exercise when he goes down to make sure I start the day right!

4. Exercise Every Day

Following on from the last sentence, I usually incorporate exercise into my morning routine, but sometimes I just go for a simple walk in the afternoon. Exercise really helps your mental health, and you need to take extra care of that mental health in the current world.

Whether it be a high intensity workout, going for a run, doing some yoga or going for a walk, it really helps to take the time out during the day to get your endorphins up and stretch your muscles. It helps your mind muscles to strengthen and improves your mental health, which positively impacts your writing ability.

5. Make a To-Do List Each Morning

I find this helps me to stay focused and know what I need to do each day. Since I do University and take care of a 7-month-old, I include things like time to study, when my classes are each day and when my boy needs to nap or eat. It helps to have this planned out in the morning and know what I need to do during the day. I can plan my writing around other things and it helps keep my focused towards my study goals and my writing goals.

6. Set Deadlines

“If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.”

Kenneth Goldsmith

It really helps to set your own deadlines and try to stick to them. Things like ‘write 500 words a day’ or ‘finish 2 chapters this week’. It really helps to have deadlines to meet each day, or each week. It helps keep you focused and fighting towards your end goals.

7. Have a Dedicated Workspace

I never saw this as overly necessary pre-COVID, but once the pandemic hit and we were home bound, I came to the realisation that a dedicated workspace is so crucial. I still have my desk completely set up even as the world moves past COVID and it really helps me to focus.

It is important to take that specific time during the day to write and focus on work at a dedicated working spot. Occasionally I will change positions and write on the couch or outside, but I find the dedicated workspace works really well for me.

8. Minimise Distractions

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston S. Churchill

It can be hard to stay focused at home with animals, family, food or social media. I can’t get much done when my son is awake, but even once he’s down for his nap I still get distracted and can often find myself having accomplished nothing by the time he is waking up!

It’s important to minimise distractions as you can, using things like social media lockouts and noise cancelling headphones. By doing this, you can stay focused on your task and be done sooner than you would while being distracted.

9. Have FUN

Don’t forget to have fun! Writing is always a fun activity, even if sometimes it’s tedious or exhausting. Try to have fun while writing or break up your writing day with some fun activities! Play a game, go for a walk, write something different! Just try to have fun because writing shouldn’t become a chore!

10. Be Kind to Yourself

You need to take a step back and remember that we’re all human and days can be hard! It’s okay to have off days and it’s okay to spend a day bludging and accomplishing nothing. The important thing is to not let this be every day, and to keep pushing on where you can. You feel bad, so take a day off. But get cracking back into the next day. Try to not push yourself too much, we’re going through a lot right now and it is okay to feel horrible and have a day, or a few, off. Just take it one step at a time!

“Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going.”

Chantal Sutherland
author, Short Story, writing

The Night: A Poem

The stars shine so bright
And the moon is high in the sky
On this cold winters night.

My room has a nightlight
Coming in from outside
The stars shine so bright.

I hold onto my blanket tight
Trying to stay warm
On this cold winters night.

The sky is a beautiful sight
And even when clouds roll in
The stars shine so bright.

My window looks white
As snow falls to the ground
On this cold winters night.

I can’t sleep tonight
I just stare out the window
The stars shine so bright
On this cold winters night.

author, mental health, pandemic, writing

Busy Month of April + COVID

“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.

Saint Francis de Sales

It has been a busy month! April usually is busy every year, except when Easter falls in March. We’ve had COVID outbreaks here, my husband turned 30 and Easter happened! It has been a bit crazy.

Easter is always a great time of year, a time I really love. I love spending time with my family and Church throughout Easter. Unfortunately, Australia has been having some major COVID outbreaks and my family got hit. Right before Easter.

I was hit first, followed by my little boy and then by my husband. It was a rough week. Australia still has quarantine laws so we had to quarantine for a week after the positive test. Not that that was a bother considering how sick we were. The only frustrating thing has been missing out on family gatherings and Church.

My little boy ended up coming down with COVID too. He was hit hard and ended up in hospital for a while, which was terrifying. Thankfully he is all recovered now and doesn’t seem any worse for wear!

I’m glad that we’re through COVID now. We’re both still feeling some lingering symptoms, like a persistent cough and fatigue, but the worst is long gone. I’m looking forward to catching up with family now for belated Easter celebrations and working on my writing once again! It wasn’t happening while the fam was sick, and I’m glad I’m feeling well enough now to get back on it!

author, poetry, writing

Starlight: A Poem

It is very quiet this night
Too quiet for me.
There are no people in sight
No one that I can see.

I usually enjoy the stillness
I find peace in the calm.
But today silence means illness
Disease has come to our farm.

I’m too afraid to leave my room
Afraid of what I’ll find.
In the morning, chaos will resume
But for now, I’m safe inside my mind.

It is very quiet this night
In the glow of the starlight.

author, tips, writing

Finding Time For Self-Care

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Anne Lamott

It’s often hard to take time out of our busy days just for ourselves. I often find myself doing so many things throughout the day that I don’t take any time to sit down and relax. I feel unproductive and lazy when I take a break, which is a terrible attitude to have!

There is a lot to get done in a day, but it is essential to take some time out of a busy day to rest a little and relax. I’ve really started to overload in recent weeks, and I’m needing to take some time out of my day for some self-care.

I’m trying to take some time out of the day in the mornings to rest my mind and I’ve started to do yoga routines again in the morning. It’s been easily 7 months since I last did yoga and I’m definitely not where I used to be with it. I’m liking get back into it though and taking the time to exercise, stretch and calm myself for the day to come.

It’s hard not to see myself as ‘unproductive’ but I try to do yoga to rest my mind and remind myself that I am busy everyday, just because i don’t do anything specifically successful doesn’t mean I’m not productive.

It takes a bit of work to take time out of my day, which sounds funny but it’s true. I need to plan my day and make sure that I have time to exercise and take time out of my day. I’m trying to be kinder to myself each day and if I get nothing done one day, it is okay. I do have a child afterall!

author, Short Story, writing

Losing A Piece Of My Heart: A Short Story

“The baby,” I sobbed, gripping my husbands’ arm. Blood was dripping down my leg as he pushed me towards the emergency room. I felt like a brick was sitting on my chest, crushing my heart.

The nurses hurried over to me and helped me into a private room. I could feel their sympathetic stares boring into my skull. The anxiety peaked as a doctor soon arrived, confirming my worst fears. Our baby was gone.

My husband and I pulled each other close, crying into each other’s arms. We knew this happened to people, but never thought it would happen to us. Miscarriage seemed so unlikely, so rare… but more common that we realised.

We were part of the 1 in 10 to lose our child before it even opened its eyes to the world. Before we could name our baby or hold it… it was gone.

I felt like I was coated in a thick fog, unable to see or process anything ahead. How could I go on? How could I get through this pain?

My husband and I barely spoke on the way home from the hospital. I had miscarried, and there was nothing the doctors could do anymore. I was given some pain medication and discharged. Sent to the depths of darkness alone, to face this overwhelming sadness at home.

We liked to have things prepared, and now that organisation hurt me more than anything. I stared into my baby’s nursery, already set up and awaiting its arrival. We were so prepared, so ready… but not ready for this.

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t feel. I curled up in the nursery at 1am, wanting to die instead of my child. My husband found my curled up next to the bassinet in the morning, clutching a little teddy bear to my chest. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I even carry my child safely? Why did I miscarry?

I couldn’t look at my husband for days. His face reminded me of the child that wasn’t here. The child we would never see. It hurt every time I saw him, every time he moved. I wondered if our child would have had his blue eyes or his curly brown hair.

The days turned to weeks and we slowly started to heal. It stung, and I would never forget my child, but we were moving forward together. It took time to communicate again. Time to stop crying every time he turned his eyes in my direction, but we got through the pain. We planted a tree to remember our child, and called it Charlie, after our baby. We didn’t know the gender of our unborn child, so Charlie seemed fitting.

As the weeks turned to months, we grew closer together again. The pain of losing our child still stung, but we learnt to lean on each other. We cried when we needed to and vowed to never forget our angel baby.

Several months later, I felt a pang of fear overcome me as we entered the doctor’s office. I cradled my stomach, desperately hoping that everything would be okay. When the doctor cleared us, relief rushed over me. The fear remained, but things seemed more promising. I knew there was always a chance, I knew we could lose this baby too… but a twinge of hope stayed in my heart.

We left the doctor’s office together, my hand gently resting on my slightly bulging bump.

We got out rainbow baby. A rainbow baby that was now 24 weeks, and able to survive if I went into labour now. A baby girl that would always know of her big sibling in heaven, watching over her every day.

author, Short Story, writing

Entering Short Story Competitions

“A word after a word after a word is power.”

Margaret Atwood

Short stories are so incredibly different than writing novels or poems. It can be hard to incorporate everything into a short amount of words. I am much better at writing novels and creating my characters, world and plot in at least 50,000 words. But, I do enjoy the challenge of short story writing!

I’ve set myself a goal this year to enter 5 short story competitions. It’s incredibly intimidating and hard but I’m determined to get it done. I’m still writing and editing my novel, but I wanted to do something else while getting my novel ready for submission.

I do enjoy the challenge that short stories bring. Pulling together an entire world in a small word count is a hard challenge, but extremely rewarding when you do manage to nail it. I’ve enjoyed expanding my horizons by writing short stories. It’s a good break from my usual novel editing journey and a fun challenge.

It is also, admittingly, a lot easier to write a short story while my son naps. He often only naps an hour at a time (maximum) so I don’t have a huge amount of time to sit down and flesh out my novel. I still want to write though, so smashing out a short story in those nap times works really well for me.

I have a few short story competitions picked out over the course of the year that I am intending on entering. Even if I don’t win anything it’s always a fun challenge to write and test yourself by entering competitions. I am excited to be doing this throughout the year!

First one closes in a few days – I’m almost ready to submit and I can’t wait!

author, Short Story, writing

Hunted: A Short Story

She waited in the shadows, staring at the five people through red eyes. She stood as still as a statue, not wanting to draw any attention to herself. After a few moments, the group separated, three went one way and two went the opposite. Her prey was within the pair.

He had abandoned her, turned her and left her to fend for herself. He used her to get what he wanted, then left. She was forced to turn into a monster, while he managed to control it. She had to abandon her family and friends, while he merely carried on with his pathetic life. Now, it was her turn to repay him, her turn to make him suffer.

She followed him down the streets, making sure to keep to the gloom. She couldn’t be seen now, not when she was so close. She’d only been this close once before, and she was caught. She couldn’t be caught now; she’d practiced so often. She’d been so careful when planning this out.

Tonight, was the night; she knew it in her blood. Her hate filled eyes glared at the black-haired boy as he kissed the blonde girl on the cheek. That blonde was his next prey; she knew the way he thought. She knew the way his mind worked. But he wouldn’t torment any more girls like he tormented her. She wouldn’t allow it. She would stop him no matter what. Now he was her prey. He was going to suffer like she did.

The duo separated. The blonde walked down the street and then veered into a magnificent white house while he turned and strolled down the dark, empty path. Perfect. He was alone and in the dark. She didn’t think he sensed her, at least not yet. That was good, very good. Maybe she’d succeed tonight. Maybe, just maybe.

She slowly followed him down the street, her padded feet suffocating any sound that might appear. She breathed softly; forcing herself not to pant like her entire body was telling her to do. She forced herself not to pounce, like her heart was demanding she do. She forced herself to continue following and to not be seen. She needed the right moment, the perfect moment, and then she would pounce. Then he would pay.

He stopped in the middle of the path, the moonlight shining on top of his head, giving him the essence of a halo; a malicious antithesis in her opinion. He was the devil to her, and the moon tormented her by giving him a halo. Once again, she forced herself to not pounce. Now was not the right time, he was in the light. He needed to move just a few centimetres forward, then she could attack.

Not a thing could be seen within the darkness, and if he moved forward, he would be hidden as well. An evil smirk graced her dog-like face as he moved those few centimetres forward, and she lunged.

author, University, writing

Writing With Other Priorities: University and Family

And the chaos resumes! I knew 2022 was going to be intense from the moment I brought my son into this world. I still have 2 years left of my degree (since I dropped to part-time) and I really want to push through and finish my studies!

It’s already a tough juggling act and University has only just begun. I have to attend classes and sometimes they clash with when my son is awake or needs to be fed or is just plain grumpy. It’s already a tough haul getting the studies done while looking after him.

Add onto this my writing commitments and I am swamped! I do enjoy being busy, I’m not a person to sit still and do nothing all day. But even for me it’s a bit too chaotic.

I was originally planning on doing 2 University classes, but I dropped it down to 1. I’m focusing on my family and on my writing right now while slowly trudging through my degree.

I’m enjoying spending more time in the present and being able to prioritise my family. I’m writing and reading when I can and University is on a bit of a backburner. When I get published University won’t be the be-all and end-all anyway!

I’ll keep busy with my 1 class this semester, family commitments and writing commitments. I am swamped but definitely enjoying it all.