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

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.

author

When The World Changes

“The future sometimes looms like a monster, a horrible scary one with teeth and claws.It’s hard to plan your life when all the news talks about is how screwed up the world’s become.”

– Ann Aguirre

Things have been a little chaotic this way over the past two weeks. Honestly I thought since COVID was improving and there were less outbreaks things would get better, but then the world laughed and dumped 1000mm of rain in a day.

I wish that was a joke too. South-East Queensland was just bombarded with rain resulting in immense floods that have devastated so many towns and peoples lives.

We were lucky. We were flooded in for a while, nothing major, and although our house did have water through it, it wasn’t anything major. Our house is structurally okay and only a small amount of possessions had to be thrown out.

But I know people who have lost their entire homes and contents in these floods. It’s devastating. Absolutely heartbreaking.

And then while we’re being flooded here, Ukraine is at war and the world just feels like a nightmare right now. COVID was nowhere near this scary.

It’s hard to have perspective sometimes and to be able to be grateful for the small things. I feel so horrible for the men, women and children in Ukraine and the Russian civilians who don’t want this war.

I can’t do much right now. I was donating to UNICEF (which I highly recommend checking out here) but we’ve had to put our money into replacing items and helping family members right now.

I had to pause writing for a bit. My headspace has not been in it. I’m trying to get back to writing a little now and using my writing time to disengage from what’s happening in the world right now.

Hope that wherever you are you are safe and can hold your loved ones close ❤️

author, Short Story, Writing

Gone: A Short Story

He wasn’t coming back. I knew he wasn’t, but I wanted him too. I was desperate for him to
come back, back to my arms, back to me…

My love was gone, pulled away from me. He had been conscripted to go fight in the war;
there was no way out of it. He was yanked out of my arms and sent off to battle; I knew he
wasn’t coming back. I had a feeling in my heart. Of course, no one believed me. They all
thought that I was crazy; they all thought that he would be back.

“The war will be over in no time honey.” That was what they all said, or something along
those lines. Mothers, wives, daughters… we were all worried for their safety, but it seemed
like I was the only one that truly believed the war was not going to end quickly. It seemed
like I was the only one who believed that the war would take many lives and ruin many
others.

I carried on doing my chores for the day, I had to clean the house up a little. It was all I could
do to distract myself from the loneliness. I heard a knock at the door, distracting me from my current task. I hurried to the door and opened it; eyes wide as I realized an army officer was standing in front of me.

He took his hat off and nodded at me. “Mrs Mathers?” he asked.

I nodded. “That’s me. Who are you?”

“I am Colonel Elliot, and this is Lieutenant Colonel Fredricks.”

The other man nodded his head as he was introduced. I could see he looked uncomfortable and my heart sank. “You’re both from the army?”

The Colonel nodded and cleared his throat. “When I met Lieutenant Jarred Mathers, I knew he was a fine soldier. He was strong, capable, and always looked out for his teammates. It’s with great regret that I must inform you that he has died in the line of duty.”

My eyes clouded over with unshed tears. My love was dead. I would never be able to hold
him in my arms, kiss him and keep him near. The one thing I feared more than anything in
the world had come true. He was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.

The Colonel clasped my shoulder and I gripped his hand, not fully believing what he had just said. My husband was gone. The love of my life was gone.

They stayed for quite a while longer, leaving when I was able to fully comprehend the news. The Colonel passed me a letter before he left – it had fallen into his hands rather than going through traditional post.

I made sure they both left safely and quietly closed the door behind them before slowly
moving to the living room. I picked up the envelope and stared at it, my lip quivering. It was the last letter he had sent me.

I finally worked up the courage to open it. I peeled off the white envelope and stared at the
paper now in my hands. I took a deep breath and started reading, tears splashing onto the
paper as I held it. He was being medically discharged soon. He was going to be home with me. He was excited to be with me while we had children and lived our lives together, outside of the fear of war.

I dropped the letter on the ground and let out a pained sob. My heart felt like it had just been
ripped out. He was so excited to come home. He was meant to be home in a few weeks, but
he is gone instead. I clutched the letter with one hand and my stomach with the other as my tears continued flowing.

He was never going to be able to meet his son.