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Why I’ve Not Written Anything in a Year

I published Malevolent Flesh in the summer of 2017 which was soon followed by a short story.

By this point, I was in full momentum with three complete outlines already written. All I needed to do was select one and I would be ready to begin work on the next project.

This didn’t happen.

As life would have it, things changed very dramatically and as such, threw the next few months into a dizzying sense of numbness and chaos.

Needless to say, it is these personal tragedies that burn beneath our skin and impact every part of our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. Sometimes, writing offers solitude from the devastation – a place to release the demons and slay them on the page.

Sometimes however, it does not.

In my case, I struggled to find the words or the ability to create something.

Anything.

There were moments where I revisited the outlines I had so carefully plotted but they weren’t the stories I wanted to tell.

Not now.

Something had changed.

I didn’t have the right story anymore and this instilled a sense of panic.

What if I never found the right story?

I pulled myself together earlier this year and composed some blog posts and copy. Writing for other people was much easier, writing for myself – less so.

Despite this, I began to formulate an idea. Though, not a completely original concept, nonetheless it stirred something within me. It was to be a story as told through short character-driven monologues. It was something with substance and I clung on to it for dear life. It seemed that finally, while for months submerged in a deep abyss, I had found my oxygen tank. The problem with oxygen tanks is that they aren’t limitless and when you take that last breath, you either need to find another one or accept your fate.

The idea was only developed slightly. I’d managed to get some words down but I was unable to delve any deeper. It felt like a return to the ominous SQUARE ONE was imminent.

Except, it wasn’t. I should’ve known that process tends not to work in straight lines. Think of it as loops and cartwheels instead.

It had been a tough year and there were many moments where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.

And I still don’t.

But I learned a great deal. Life still continues and with life comes everything else, including writing and the bits in between. We’re not born with the ability to process trauma, it will always find a way to remind us that our stay on this little planet is short. We must learn from this and for the writer, or the artist, or the creator or whatever provides your drive to keep trying to make sense of this existence, we tuck it into our tool-belt and we wear it and we use it. It gives us something special –

A new appreciation of life.

Through it all, I’ve developed a new perspective. A new way of seeing the world and accepting its flaws. Writing can be challenging sometimes, especially when you’re faced with extenuating circumstances but if we allow, it can also teach us things. It may feel like a slog. Even a chore sometimes but there’s a reason we do it and we just have to trust that the reason doesn’t necessarily need to introduce itself, instead we acknowledge its existence and we let it in with wide-open arms.

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Drew Forest is a writer/blogger with over a decade of writing experience. He has provided content for small businesses and writers in a variety of different areas. With a strong passion for the written word, he has self published, edited and marketed several five-star rated novels as well as providing content for online businesses and authors.

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We Don’t Read Books Anymore

Our attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

We live in an age where we have access to an endless stream of information at our fingertips. We now have the ability to talk to our devices if we wish to receive the latest news updates or request them to perform a specific action. The need to use a keyboard to formulate our questions or state an opinion is becoming an antiquated notion. Pictures speak louder than words – so why use sentences when you can snap a picture and let the image do the talking? People need instant gratification and sometimes even ‘instant’ isn’t quick enough especially with the incessant need to cram so much into our ever-increasing schedules.

So where does this leave the storytellers?

There’s a certain degree of craftmanship that goes into the development and honing of a plot. Characters have to gradually reveal themselves to the reader and this takes a little more than a few sentences. A reader can’t be told how to feel, they have to be shown the story and allow themselves to be swept along with the plot. They need to be able to invest their time in discovering what motivates the characters. These particular aspects cannot be presented in shorthand. So where does this leave the novel and the creators of these stories?

It saddens me to think of the novel as a dying medium. I for one, am an advocate for the importance of being able to engage in a story. If I had missed out on these stories in my childhood, I think I would’ve lost a large part of who I am. This leads me to begin to think about how we can continue to tell these stories in a world that wants to absorb everything with such simple administration.

Thoughts on a postcard email please.

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If you hand me a pen…

I’ve spent the last two hours combing through some old files on my computer. They were once the breeding grounds of endless rough-cut outlines for stories and some semi-decent attempts at beginnings – even a few chapters worth of a plot that I still have no idea what direction it was going to take.

It’s interesting looking back at these old writings and I am bemused by some of the insightful commentary of my life at the time. Strangely, a large part of what I had written was autobiographical. A small snapshot of what I was thinking during that particular moment or an observation that I had been dying to dissect on the page.

It’s almost like reading the journal entries of an entirely different person. Some of the content borders on downright embarrassing and I am confident when I say that it will not see the light of day. But I am glad it exists, at least for me to look back upon.

There is a good chunk that I feel would be nice to post on the blog but I fear that the majority of it would be largely met with eye-rolls and shielded grins so rest assured, I will not put you through that. At least not now anyway (!) However, I wanted to at least share something and this little piece spoke to me and I thought it might be nice to allow others to muse upon my musings. I believe this was from August/September 2009.

They chew you up and spit you out and you’re left to face the rest on your own.

So don’t let them.

It’s often difficult to face the daily battles especially when the world has been drained of any colour and all you observe is various tones of grey. A boundless drizzle clings to your pale, clammy skin like unwanted kisses. But you have to dig out that old battered rain coat and wear it with pride. You’ve got to manufacture your own sunlight and you’ve got to learn how to pulverise that grey sky until it gives you some semblance of colour. Even if it means beating the absolute shit out of it. It has to come at all costs. They might not know about the turmoil and they might not understand that the prospect of putting your shoes on and greeting the day comes with its own challenges. It isn’t their fault.

It takes a little time to solve the crossword puzzle especially when the clues are so goddamn cryptic.

Three across: A bitter pill to swallow.

Nine down: Another word for dusk.

We’re not machines; we’re not programmed to react and respond in a particular way. If you hand me a pen I can’t guarantee that I won’t write a love note or an instruction manual on how to fool the world. Maybe I will just settle with a letter of apology or I’ll tell you about the time I hid under the bed for three hours too afraid to move.

The ones who wait for you are the ones you should keep. Remember their names and remember their birthdays – the small details are often the most important. And if you can wait for someone else then they will remember your birthday too. It’s all about the details, the simple things, the way we connect. And if we can apologise to the world and know that it’s true, then let it be. Let it swallow you whole and rock you to sleep. Let it consume you even if it is just for one brief, sweet moment. They might not notice that you left the room but they sure will notice when you make your return. Don’t forget their names. They won’t forget yours.

Thank you for taking the time to read and as always, I’d love to hear from you.

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The life of a Manchester horror writer: Drew Forest

It’s no secret that I am a born-and-bred proud Mancunian. Having lived in the ever-changing city of Manchester for the entirety of my life, I often joke when people ask where I am from that, ‘I was born in Manchester, I’ve studied and worked in Manchester and it’s highly likely that I’ll die in Manchester!’

For some, my Manchester roots may not be entirely obvious as some of my stories tend to take place in fictional towns (except ‘Malevolent Flesh’ with its direct Manchester and Northern references). Needless to say, the city has provided many influences – particularly growing up on a council estate surrounded by numerous shifty characters and living with a constant sense of unease. As I got older, I discovered more of the world through the City Centre and the droves of different people it attracted. From Saturday afternoons spent in Afflecks and The Coliseum to being stunned into awe at the interior of The Central Library. I spent many hours scouring the CD racks at the multi-level HMV at the top of Market Street (which sadly no longer exists). However, I was always fascinated by the dark side of the city – the creepy backstreets, the infamous underground tunnels and the haunted history in many locations (‘Most Haunted’ even filmed several episodes in some areas of Manchester with reported high levels of paranormal activity!)

So, it came as more than an honour to be featured in a recent article in Visit Manchester – a popular online magazine that features everything happening in the bustling city. I thoroughly enjoyed participating and it was a nice way of putting myself back in the saddle of promoting and sharing my work.

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You can read the full article here – I want to thank Emily Oldfield and Haunt Manchester for conducting the interview and my good friend Dean for putting me in touch! Please drop them a follow on Twitter – they would very much appreciate it!

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You can read my newest short ‘Martha’ – part of a character-driven collection.

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Martha

I hate him.

Twenty years of marriage to a fool. A pathetic excuse of a man and yet here I am, washing his shit-stained pants in the sink because he forgot to call out for a plumber. Of course, it’s not for me to fix, I am here only to feed him and clean the house and look after the kids.

I took to the bathroom this afternoon. Not long after I had downed a hastily made martini and put the television on mute. I sat on the toilet seat with the razor blade in my hand. I lifted up my skirt and began to run the fine metal across the skin of my inner thigh. It felt sublime. The initial coolness of the blade followed by the sharp pain. Warm blood trickling down my thigh.

It was intoxicating.

I repeated the pleasure three more times – creating pretty parallel markings next to the thin white scars of past indulgences. I carefully dabbed at the blood with some tissue. The paper bloomed with crimson warmth and I felt a tingle of excitement in my crotch. Before I disposed of it, I cautiously placed the freshly stained tissue into my underwear, I wanted to be close to the departed life-force that had once run through my veins. I wanted to keep it there longer but I had things to do. I had already formed a plan of action. There were things to do before that bastard got home

Billy

The last few weeks have presented themselves with a plethora of ups and downs. My main concern is how slow the writing has been. Flaccid dribs and drabs of essay attempts and prose followed by a constant sense of frustration. These pellets of ideas that merely required a little tender nurturing would cease at precisely 4pm in the afternoon. It was times like these when Sartre and Lynch would fuel that hunger.

Evidently, not this time.

The world feels cruel and it often seems like we are powerless to it. The never-ending uphill road with the building anticipation of an accelerated decline – windswept and refreshed. Except it never comes. Perhaps tomorrow.

I had an idea of death. It came to me upon a walk – a momentary flash of a leaf withering on a branch. The last few skeletal veins sucking at the air around it, a last attempt at life. But the leaf will bloom again and if this is what death is, have we the need to be afraid? For surely it’s a cycle. Right?

I am confused. The days grow longer and the ideas grow shorter. I want to kill all my characters – I want them to depart in the most excruciating of manners. Genitals haphazardly ripped from bodies, eyes gouged with rusty implements, grotesque disembowelments splattering upon pavements. And I recall my primary school teacher describing me as a ‘kind and gentle soul’ to my drunk mother. Perhaps she was tempting fate but I was only seven years old.

I wander more than I used to. Any excuse to escape the mundane nature of committing to the routine of waking up and going to sleep. Mainly because I want to dissect my dreams. I want to know their true meaning – sometimes I consider them to be past lives. The way they return to me like loving kisses to my feverish forehead.

I’ve been analysing everything lately. Deciphering meaning in the smallest of observations. The breakfast news, the old man who lives down the street who instinctively tips his hat to me each and every morning, the way the light streams through the curtains – so precise. I can’t help but feel like someone or something is attempting to deliver a message to me.

Under the Pink

“Circles and circles and circles again…”
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Tori Amos – “Under the Pink” 1994

I’ve had Tori’s ‘Under the Pink’ on a loop for over a week now. It’s one of those albums that makes herself known when it’s necessary. From the piercing demands of ‘I believe in peace bitch’ during ‘The Waitress’ and the wishful lullaby-quality of ‘Baker Baker,’ ‘…make me whole again,’ – there’s a certain degree of self-exploration taking place during the twelve song cycle.

 

This idea of self-exploration will always remain a part of the pieces I write whether I choose to present them with cryptic clues or fanciful analogies – very much in the same vein of Tori’s writing. Though the primary aim is tell a story, inevitably it becomes more of a process of peeling back a few layers. Sometimes however, we pull back too many layers and what we find beneath is far too raw – too exposed.

And so begins the healing.

There has been one thing troubling me for quite some time and it’s something I may choose to dissect further at a later date but that is the idea of ‘life imitating art.’ It was Oscar Wilde who initially made this observation and I had never really personally experienced this phenomenon firsthand. However that was due to change after I wrote Malevolent Flesh. I penned the story back in 2016 and it was only a year later that I would come to realise that I had seemingly foretold some personal future events. I guess I could put my Psychology degree briefly to use here and explain it by my subconscious mind picking up on small clues and therefore inserting these into the story.

It’s something we can never know for sure but it has haunted me since I made the connection. There’s a strange cyclical effect between fiction and reality  – perhaps this is what Tori was referring to during ‘Cloud on My Tongue’ when she sings ‘circles and circles and circles again…’

I’ll be attempting to hang around this blog more often with content varying from writing news, reviews and personal updates. Here are some February – March – April snapshots.

My good friend and fellow author Asher Meekins has just launched his own website so please check it out and sign up for updates here!

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I’ve just announced a new competition where you can win a signed copy of my personal favourite book ‘Reading the Palms of Dolls’ simply by following me on Twitter and liking and retweeting this post.

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A winner will be randomly chosen on Friday 13th.

Best of luck!

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