The other day, I was just doing laundry, like any other working mother might. Honestly, I may spend half my life washing and putting away laundry. Anyway, I was trying to figure out what clothes I would want to pack for Telluride Horror Show. I ended up doing an inventory of my horror/Halloween/gothic wardrobe.

I ended up with over 40 items. Now, in high school, I was a typical damaged little goth girl. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and I don’t do anything I like a little. And when I grew up, I became a horror writer. None of this is unexpected. Some pieces are from my gothic recovery period in my early 20s. Some are horror movie shirts. There are just a lot.

Some have been woefully neglected, so I resolved to wear them ALL in the month of October. And if I’m going to do something so festive, I might as well hop on social media and share that silliness with everyone. So I am going to post pictures of each of my ensembles on Instagram, Twitter, here…

Now, am I model? Nope. Do I have a perfect appearance by societal definition? Absolutely not. This is all just fun and games. This is about the clothes.

So in addition to #31DaysofHorror bingo, I will be posting pictures for #Hallowear all month. Enjoy!

 

Christina Bergling

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It is that month again. The best of all the months. A time when the weather finally descends from hellish heat to a cold edge in the air. When death is all around you as the corpses of leaves gather on the cool ground. When the gothic and macabre overtake the mainstream and ghouls and goblins come out to play.

It is also time once again to participate in #31DaysofHorror! This entails watching a horror movie every day during the month of October. Last year, I managed to get 50 horror films in the month!

This year, I am adding bingo to the event. So please, read the rules below, download the board and play along!

31 Days of Horror Bingo Rules:

  1. Each day of October, watch a different horror movie. You are allowed to catch up by watching multiple movies in one day.
  2. For each movie, cross out a tombstone on the board. Only one horror cliche per movie!
  3. Blackout all 24 spaces in the 31 days.

That’s it. Simple. Let’s see who can overdose on horror movies first!

 

Christina Bergling

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Some days (most days), I do not have time to be crazy. Yet crazy I remain.

I just surfaced from the longest depression cycle I can remember since I used to drink all my feelings. Unlike my usual three day lows, this was over a month of symptoms reading like a flyer for depression, which is nothing like my usual experiences. Sleeping did not reset it. Talking did nothing. I could not run or dance it out. It was just depression, without cause or end.

Such mundane, typical, relentless depression is decidedly inconvenient for someone as I busy as I keep myself. I learned, in this odd cycle, that I cannot multitask while depressed. It is like my brain is half paralyzed. Thoughts are heavy and slow, and suddenly one monopolizes all my synapses.

For the usual day or two, this is not a big deal. For multiple weeks, this was an epic wrench in the system. I am sure my frustration at the reduction in my productivity and focus only served to enrage the repressive fire.

Yet, on the flip side, depression stimulates my writing. Apparently, I have to devote full attention to it, but it awakens a different part of my brain. Different ideas, which only appear in this mood, flourish. I can write in any mood, but it is a specific experience in any variety of depression. It feels like a door opens in the back of my mind, like the veil between conscious and subconscious becomes thinner.

So the writer’s mind unfurled below and around me, yet the rest of my life suffered. As I climb out of the hole, I am standing in the crater of everything I need to catch up on. Sometimes, when I try to do everything (work and write and be a mom and be a partner and be active and take care of myself), I feel like I fail a little bit at all of them. Since nothing gets my full attention, everything suffers.

Sometimes, it fells like it’s never enough.

Yet I don’t know any other way to be. I can’t give up any part of me. I have to work, but I also have to write. I have to take care of my family, but I have to take care of myself to do that. So reduction is not really an option, but I don’t have time for these hindrances. I don’t even want to dare sickness or another damn injury.

I am just glad to be on the other side. For a while, my mind did not feel like my own. My thoughts and feelings moved in such alien patterns that I felt lost on foreign terrain, like an intruder in my own bones. I just wanted to be able to function like myself, feel like myself, just be without thinking about it.

But I can feel “normal” cresting. I can catch of glimpse of the other side. Hell, I was manic earlier this week. If anything breaks a depression, it is mania. If nothing else, cycling and movement in my moods is part of my normal. I need to ride the wave. I don’t know how to exist on a placid sea.

In any case, I have to pull my shit together. October starts on Sunday, and October is my season. Horror season. Halloween season. The busiest month of my year. In addition to all the customary Halloween traditions and celebrations, we are attending the Telluride Horror Show. Plus there is #31DaysOfHorror, to which I am adding a bingo game this year. And, after a laundry inventory, I am going to rock all my Halloween/horror/goth attire for the month for #Hallowear.

I’m on the other side now; let’s do this.

 

Christina Bergling

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Every writer has common themes around which their brains and hence stories fixate. If you read any author long enough, you will see the same turns of phrase, images, scenarios. You can even chronologically identify a work based on the author’s fixations at the time, like stratifications in an excavation.

I am no exception. I catch my own duplications, my own redundancies, my own favorites. If I take myself out of the writing and look at it objectively, I can identify my own tendencies. A reoccurring theme that has been emerging in my own writing is bad things happening to children. Even in the horror genre, this is an odd path to which to commit. Especially repeatedly.

My first book has a baby in the apocalypse. I wrote a Christmas horror short about a pedophilic Santa Claus. I recently drafted a piece about a monster after a newborn.

As a mother of young children, people ask why I would write about such a topic? Hell, I ask myself. Often.

For me, writing horror is an outlet, as in venting things OUT. I write about the darkness already in my brain to get it out and off of my mind. I document my fears, my worst imaginings. I draft the ultimate worst case scenarios out of anything I could worry about. And as a mother of young children, what keeps me up nights is the idea of anything bad happening to my children.

Some times, many times, my own work disturbs me. The Santa Claus story was especially unnerving at parts, just like writing The Waning (which fortunately had no children involved). Yet while the fact that these ideas are in my head and the act of extracting them is alarming at times, I almost always feel better to have them out on the page.

My most recent story experience, writing about the monster after the newborn, was extremely cathartic for me. I have had that idea floating around my head, haunting my subconscious since my daughter (now 6 years old) was a newborn. It continually resurfaced and nagged me, especially when my son was then a newborn. But now it is out of me. Though the story is not finalized, submitted, or accepted anywhere (yet), it is still a relief to have it on the page.

Another new theme has emerged in my style since submitting to so many horror anthologies. Historically, I always prefer to ground myself in “real” horror, in that it is not supernatural or creature horror. I like to use the real (currently understood) world as my stage and showcase the horrors that already exist there. People are the monsters.

Yet, with these recent shorts, I feel myself veering hard into creature horror. Supernatural monsters and all the things I usually try to avoid. And, even more surprising, I think it is working really well. My childhood of Goosebumps and Stephen King books is permeating my themes. My history is showing.

Maybe I was just limiting myself all along but confining myself to the real. I do not shy away from brutal, disturbing themes and premises. Why should I avoid supernatural or creatures? Especially when it is working.

This might be a change, an evolution in my writing. I will have to see what comes out of me next, where the next project takes me.

 

Christina Bergling

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Today, my third book was released by Limitless PublishingThe Rest Will Come

This book was a journey in every sense of the word. Long ago, it was accepted by my previous publisher before that publisher returned all my works to me. I was fortunate to find a new home with Limitless very quickly; however, that still meant starting the editing and publication process all over again. Logistically, this book just seemed to take forever. But I think it is far better for it.

This was also my first attempt at a full length novel. Both Savages and The Waning are considered novella by length. And while those authored quickly, there is something different about producing a longer piece. Short fiction has also been a forte of mine and continues to be prevalent as I have been submitting to numerous anthologies lately (two more coming this October).

Moving to novellas was a challenge for me. Part of what I like about shorter fiction is that I am only providing a snapshot. I only need to give a flash of pertinent details; then I am able, in my style, to dump the reader abruptly and leave them wondering and thinking. It was hard to flesh out all the transitional bits between plot points. By the end of Savages, I could not write about the characters walking ANYMORE!

So stretching my words into a full length novel demanded even more. I worried that there was too much backstory, too much lead up. I love to punch the reader in the face then sprint into the action. It felt strange to wander back through the complete development of an issue. Hopefully it worked.

The subject of The Rest Will Come is also a change for me. After the extremely dark tone of The Waning, I made a hard turn into horror comedy. And while most of my works (NOT The Waning) have elements of my real life and experience, The Rest Will Come is nearly entirely based on real life inspiration.

I am not the protagonist (like has been suggested for Savages), but I do make an appearance as a character in the book, playing the same role to the protagonist as I did in real life. Turning these real people into characters was endlessly fun and entertaining for me, but it was also intimidating. These people had to read these renditions, and I tend to go straight for the throat on flaws.

Happily I can report, no one disowned me after a read. So far.

Since the book was so reality-based, inspiration was more of a collaborative experience. I queried my friends for their worst dating horror stories and turned those stories into victims in the book for them. I remember sitting on the couch writing with my husband and our roommate, debating best body disposal practices and murder weapons.

Writing is usually an individual sport, something experienced very internally. Writing this book brought it out, tagged in additional players. As someone compulsively social (I know, weird for an author), it made it more fun for me. I could talk about it, and they actually had skin in the game.

Everything about this release is cathartic for me. I have assembled all these online dating tidbits into one narrative. I have finished a full length book and taken a side step into another horror subgenre. I have found a new home with a new publisher. Most importantly, I am published again. I was heartbroken when my first two were taken down.

It feels like a step. A development. I can only hope it’s in the right direction.

 

 

Christina Bergling

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If you are familiar with my reviewing practices, I like to give my bottom line up front (BLUF) then dissect it in detail. My BLUF for 13 Reasons Why (both the Netflix series and book) is that I loved them and hated them, simultaneously. In either case, I recommend reading/watching to explore your own opinions. You will love them, or hate them, if not both. And in either case, I think it is a topic that belongs in our media so that it can be discussed and approached more openly.

And now to it…

Anyone who knows me, in both the real and virtual worlds, probably knows how I feel about suicide. I survived my own mediocre attempt as a child; then I plunged into self-destruction and self-harm as a teenager. I lost my way, disappeared into my own darkness.

Since recovering from that entire period, I have been very verbal about my experiences. I inadvertently ended up talking to hundreds of high school students on how I dove into writing after I failed to kill myself, how I used the words to drag me through and out of self-destruction and depression. Maybe it is because I am a writer and that makes it compulsive; maybe it is because I never want anyone to feel alone in that place the way I did.

Suicide is a topic very close to my heart. More than my own experiences (because, like I said, my attempts were fledgling then indirect), I have collected a volume of stories on the subject. After I wrote How to Kill Yourself Slowly, I received hundreds of emails from suicidal people. With many, we connected. They told me their pain and all the things that brought them there. We talked about what it was like to be in a place where you wanted to die. And they imprinted on me. All of them. The details are now an amalgamation in my unreliable memory, but I feel them still.

With my own pain and the others’ branded on the soft tissue inside of me, I am judgmental on the subject. I have so many perspectives to weigh the portrayal against. I admit I hold a certain set of expectations. Yet I always devour the media with ravenous curiosity because, in truth, even if you do not succeed in dying, you never fully leave that place. You always have one foot, one toe maybe, left lingering in those twisted shadows.

I live in the city with the highest teen suicide rate in the nation. Chris Cornell just killed himself. This is real. This is a thing in our culture.

I know the topic of suicide gets people all jumpy. It’s ugly; it’s uncomfortable; it’s taboo. Maybe it should not be. Maybe if it was not such a secret, people would not suffer in secret. Maybe if we talk about suicide, write about suicide, watch about suicide, we won’t inspire more suicide; we will instead invite conversation about it. Conversation that could save some lives.

In any case, I approached 13 Reasons Why with mixed feelings. Were they going to do it justice? Were they going to glamorize the idea of taking your own life? Were they going to trivialize and mainstream it? Was it going to be stupid? Yet I resolved to indulge with an open mind. Here are my experiences and impressions of it. Spoiler free, so much as I can help it.

Watching 13 Reasons Why

In case you have managed to miss the buzz about the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why is a series about a high school girl (Hannah) who kills herself and leaves 13 audio cassette tapes detailing the “13 reasons” why she committed suicide. Each tape centers on one perpetrator, and the tapes are passed from person to person, with an ominous shepherd hovering in the peripheral. The series follows one person (Clay) as he listens to his tapes to discover his role in Hannah’s death.

Initially, the series had me with suspense. The premise is fascinating.

“We’ll never know why they did it.”

“If they decided to end their life, nothing anyone did could really stop them.”

I have heard this sort of rhetoric around every suicide I have been near, at the funeral I attended. That is what suicide leaves: a wake of questions, doubts, blameshifting, and guilt. But what if you could know? What if someone filled 13 sides of audio tapes with the detailed story of why?

In addition to the sheer curiosity generated by such a story, experiencing the tapes with Clay personalizes the narrative. I wanted to know why he, a seemingly decent if not oblivious kid, had made such a list. I wanted every episode to be his. And so, instead of sleep, I clicked Next Episode and Next Episode…

As Hannah began to unravel her tale of woe, I found my mixed feelings resurfacing. I definitely connected and empathized deeply with Hannah. I was undoubtedly enthralled to find out how she could decide to meet her end. Yet, near the middle of the season, the pace began to lag. The offenses and perpetrators became increasingly “high school” and less shocking and upsetting. It almost felt as if Hannah (or the writers) was groping for more to blame. However, at the end, with the full picture in sight, it did make more sense, and it became clear that all the pieces were in fact very necessary. They were contributing factors.

What ultimately seduced me over were the characters. Most notably, how flawed the characters are. Not a single character, not even Hannah, is simply good or only bad. They are each complex and confused and contradictory. They struggle and falter the way we all do, especially at that awkward and vulnerable high school age. I appreciated that the story showed how many mistakes Hannah made, how she contributed to her problems, how she made it difficult and sometimes impossible to help her.

I know that was what a suicidal me was like.

Hannah struggled; Clay struggled. At one point or another, I loved, hated, sympathized with, cursed, felt sorry for each character (except maybe two). It felt real, and reality was what this story demanded.

Once a certain turning point in the story happened, the plot captivated me once more. I was sacrificing sleep once more. I learned with Clay, perhaps as slowly as Clay, how all these many factors amassed to crush Hannah. And my heart broke for her when that killer blow was dealt.

Watching Hannah’s suicide was brutal. I cried. Like ugly, hysterical, soul crying. I was that 12 year-old girl again; I was that 17 year-old girl again. I was wrapped back up in that darkness that so many times almost pulled me under. And it was strange how comforting it felt. The scene was beautiful in just how viscerally terrible it was.

I can honestly say that my opinion is that the series did not glamorize suicide. Hannah is not shown as this perfect, innocent victim. She is not authentically worshiped as she is mourned after her death. People still hate her; people still talk vicious shit about her. Her parents’ agony is palpable. The show examines more the negative consequences for the people left alive than it depicts her being liberated from her strife.

Instead, my chief complaint is that the anti-bullying propaganda is both belabored and irritating, like being assaulted with the idea. The message is applied far too thickly and unnecessarily as if the show’s creators needed to have it to make fixating on suicide acceptable.

I do not like the persistent suggestion that anyone, especially focusing on a potential high school love interest, could save her. It is an excellent examination of how the small, seemingly insignificant things in life culminate into something larger, something crushing. It is also an alarmingly analysis of causality and all the ways small cultural behaviors are deemed safe yet can lead to something so dangerous. As I read through the inane stepping stones to her demise, I kept thinking, so what? Get over it! Yet it makes sense when you can see the full picture, when the minor infractions are revealed as breadcrumbs to the greater trauma.

Yet the show just keeps beating on the idea that if just ONE thing went differently, she would be saved. Bullshit.

There is never any way to know “what if.” With suicide, with anything in life.

No experience is the same for two people. There is never going to be able to judge what is “enough.” What might kill one person, might just traumatize another, and might go relatively unnoticed on another. All based on the chemistry and biology of their brains, their dispositions, and the compilations of their life experiences. Even just comparing me to me, enough to kill me as a teenager does not even register compared to what I estimate it would take to get me back to that mindset now. And that’s not because my life is better or worse or I am stronger or weaker, simply different. Incomparable.

Additionally, I took issue with Hannah’s narrative itself. Hannah presents a very detailed, logical, near clinical analysis of how she ended up on a suicidal precipice. She speaks about her pain and suicidal influences with the detachment and calm that I can muster decades later. In my experience and in my understanding of other experiences, that sort of encompassing perspective, that kind of sanity cannot coexist with self-destruction. If one could see things so startling clear through the pain, the delusions necessary to kill oneself could not consummate themselves.

Now, every suicide is different. Every pain and every person is different. I cannot reliably say that no one has reached clarity as part of their terminal journey. Yet the portrayal contradicted my expectations and struck uncomfortably against my internal definitions. I mean it did make more sense when her later traumas were revealed, yet the personal critique remains. If she could see so many things so clearly, why could she not see the other side of this temporary horror?

I wanted her to. The entire series, I wanted her to, even knowing how it would all end. And I consider that burning, sustained desire to be a success on the part of the show.

Despite my doubts and critiques, when I survived the last episode, when I considered the series as a whole, I loved it. I do not think it portrayed suicide well; I think it portrayed a suicide well. I think it told one story. One flawed person, one clumsy life–beautiful, unique and irrelevant, mundane.

Reading 13 Reasons Why

When I started 13 Reasons Why, I had no idea it was based on a novel. However, once the credits enlightened me, I of course had to follow my viewing with reading.

Reading a book is always a more intimate experience for me than watching an adaptation. Reading puts the narrative inside my brain rather than before my eyes, but I am happy that I experienced 13 Reasons Why in this order, series then book. In all honesty, the adaptation is close, as close as perhaps Fight Club (for me). Crucial changes yet overwhelming loyalty to the story.

So I binged on the book as I binged on the show, and I began to note all the distinctions between the two versions.

The show’s largest deviation from the novel, in my opinion, is the inclusion of additional perspectives and side stories by developing and following several of the collateral characters. This makes for a more rich (and more watchable) story, rounder characters with backstories. Something that could go into a second season with a dead protagonist whose tapes are spent.

In Hannah’s depiction in the book, these characters are flat, villainous in certain instances. The show tries to make them more balanced, give them redeeming or at least empathetic characteristics, give origin to their behaviors. It makes for a more dense and interesting plot, but it does shift the audience’s perspectives and sympathies.

The book confines the audience to Clay and Hannah, which amplified the appeal of the story for me, making it more of a case study on a suicidal youth and her suicide bystander. I was less worried about it being an accurate rendition of suicide and more taken in by the intriguing dynamics in the story.

I found it easier to relate to Clay’s direct, closed narration in the book. Hannah’s story is in first person in both instances, yet in the show we see it reverberate mostly through Clay but also fragments of the other players. The book definitely put me more in Clay’s head. With the series, I empathized with Hannah. Yet with the book, I felt Clay.

In the show, Hannah’s narration sounds more detached, resigned. It was actually unsettling to me (see above) because she seemed too objective and clear-headed for suicide. The book reads with the anger and emotion that felt more appropriate to my expectations. Her distorted perceptions and thoughts seem more clear and enlivened, even when they same words were used.

Without these distractions, Hannah’s narrative was more raw and consuming for me. Hannah’s fixations are annoying; her reasons are irrational. They should be. We never should be able to bob our heads along and say how justified the suicide was. It should be illogical, frustrating, even sometimes stupid. Then we have Clay interrupting her narrative to remind us she was wrong, to keep us tethered to the nonsuicidal perspective.

Hannah seems mad that no one tried to save her, yet she never tried to save herself. She claims she kept attempting, yet it sounds like (from her own words) she is seeking out failures, hunting for justifications for how she feels. Nothing is ever good enough for her. The way depression breaks your mind. The way we seek out ways to confirm our own distorted, destructive ideas about ourselves. Terminal self-fulfilling prophecies. Convenient harmful excuses. I know I am guilty of that, even still.

The show also upped her trauma, made her reasons more reasonable. Yet I found the book to be more resonate. More real to me. The fragile truths about our own weaknesses. The things we don’t want to believe we would do. When I read the book, I heard the deformed thoughts and twisted perceptions I expect with suicide. It shouldn’t make sense; it shouldn’t be reasonable because suicide is not reasonable.

For Netflix, they made Hannah “more” traumatized and “more” rational to make the topic more palatable. Because the realities of suicide are too uncomfortable for our culture. I liked the less desirable Hannah of the page.

The show also changes Clay. Instead of being another victim of the tapes and a cog in the process of her revenge, he is resistant and confrontational, even vengeful on the perpetrators identified on the tapes. Again, it makes the drama interesting and more digestible for people to watch (we love to think there is justice in the world), but it changes the larger message.

At some point along the way, more with the book than the show, I realized Hannah’s suicide then distribution of the tapes is like a school massacre turned inward. She takes this passive-aggressive way of selecting victims and taking revenge. She does not kill or physically harm them directly, yet she still spreads the pain that she thought no one noticed. She is still aiming to make them pay.

All Told

So after all of that rambling and waffling, what did I think? Like I said in the BLUF, I loved them. And I hated them. Some twisted, blended dance of the two. On the whole, I enjoyed both the show and the book. I understood and accepted the changes the show chose to make in the adaptation. I even enjoyed many of them, but the book remains my preference of the two. Both have their limitations and warts, yet in the end, both worked on me.

For me, the story (book and show) is about perspectives. Hannah’s, Clay’s, all the “perpetrators,’” all the bystanders’. All are narrow and flawed, incomplete and at times utterly inaccurate.

Perspective fascinates me. How every experience is inevitably influenced and distorted by perception, perception we can’t escape. How there is no unified reality. One single thing can (and is) interpreted a thousand different ways by a thousand different people. This is the reason Seven Types of Ambiguity is my favorite book. Teen depression and suicide speak to me, but I am even more drawn to the examination of perspective. That is why I connect to this story.

I do not think 13 Reasons Why is a great or amazing portrayal of teen depression and suicide, but I do think it is a brilliant depiction of a spiderweb of interactions and perspectives surrounding one pivotal knot.

We want there to be a reason; we want suicide to make sense or maybe mean something. However, the point of the book (for me) was that even with 13 tapes detailing 13 reasons in excruciating detail, it still does not make sense. It still does not provide enough reason. Or the right reason.

My interaction with this story, either on the screen or the page, affected me. Gravely affected me. It infected my mind, lingered on the edge of my thoughts and dreams every day. The scenes, the characters echoed in my brain, deep into the darkest corridors inside me. It all brought me back, stirred up feelings long starved and dormant. Not in a negative way, not even in an upsetting way. It conjured a strange yet comforting nostalgia, like finding my way back to a part of myself forgotten. I felt that damaged little girl at my core, and something in that connection was healing.

There is nothing wrong with still connecting with the darkness, with remembering and honoring all the things I have done and felt. I find it distinctly safer to maintain that relationship, lest the darkness swell and fester unchecked.

If you are hurting, do not stay silent. Nothing in life is permanent. No one can be completely lost. Had I succeeded all those years ago, I would never have seen the life that unfurled in front of me. Or the life yet to reveal itself. I would never be able to gamble with my circumstance in every decision and experience the beautiful joy and pain tethered to each course. My darkest times are still my times. Mine to own and experience, learn from and move on from.

If you are lost, do not hesitate to reach out. You can still email me. A distant voice typing on the internet without judgement. christina[dot]bergling[at]gmail[dot]com. Just don’t message me on Facebook; I get too many unsolicited dick pictures there.

Christina Bergling

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I have a demon living in my leg. It is nestled deep below my flesh, far below the surface where anyone can see, invisible and out of sight. Yet I can feel it in the razor edges of its shape. I feel it as it pierces deeper toward my skeleton. The intruder roots deep in my hip joint, embedded under the attachment of my leg. Then it entwines its barbed tentacles around my shape, binding and restraining me.

I hear it laugh when I try to stand up quickly. I feel its claws snag and catch my nerves as I struggle to move. It paralyzes me, nullifying my brain’s commands with the garbled static of pain.

I imagine the demon with long, electrified tentacles, which it whips around at random. I feel them coil around my nerves and send flashes of pain over my nervous system. I imagine it has horrendous razor teeth, sharp points that plunge into my soft tissue if I offend it. I see the demon the color of dark, oxygen-deprived blood and misshapen like a tumor.

In short, my hamstring injury continues. The MRI identified it as a tear, but to me, it feels like this relentless demon.

If I am honest with myself, the kind of soul-crushing honest that one maybe should not put on the internet, I invited this demon in. Not with my obsessive exercise. Not with my compulsive over training. Not with my complete disregard for my body’s pain signals and warnings. No, I all but directly conjured it.

When I was younger and lost in my own darkness, I coped through self-mutilation. My pain was so great and my mind was so fractured that I both grounded myself and released myself with minor cutting or burning. The physical pain brought clarity, dredged me up back to the real world from the distorted trap in my mind.

It was a horrible coping device that obviously did more harm than good, and thankfully, I was only entangled in it for a short time. It was a crucial step on my descent to my bottom. At the bottom, I discovered myself and started becoming who I am today. Yet there was an enticing honesty about it. A rawness in the complete embrace of the pain, both mental and physical. The behavior felt pure and unfettered by rules or expectations.

Despite knowing how outlandishly crazy these feelings are and moving well past the behavior, at times I endure a certain nostalgia for it. The kind of delusional fondness one could only feel for something so destructive after over a decade. I have not placed blade to my skin since I was in my latest teens, and that gap has permitted a perverted ideation to blossom.

 

I never thought I wanted to cut myself again. I never had an impulse to injure or hurt myself. I was not even upset or depressed. Ironically, I found myself in a level, balanced, even happy place. Yet, I found strange thoughts bobbing up in my brain. A weird sort of desire to have a minor injury to nurse, some minor physical pain. Perhaps a rebellion to the uncharted territory of sanity and happiness, as fleeting as it ever is.

I am such an idiot.

My body answered. In a dazzling display of self-preservation, it gave me what I wanted.

Instead of granting me a small little physical irritant, a little pacification of my old demons, it went grand.  I cannot say that I blame it; how could I expect any different from MY body? I do nothing a little. To answer me, it ripped my damn hamstring and provided me with more pain than I knew how to cope with. I asked for a cup of water and got a firehouse. My clever body flooded me with pain so that I would never be foolish and moronic enough to wish for it again.

I did this to myself, with my own mental defects and stupidity. I invited this suffering, and for being so foolish, I deserve it. The injury is not the problem. It is not the demon at all. It is me; I am the demon within.

Christina Bergling

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I have been trying to write this blog post for two months.

At first, I avoided actually drafting the words because putting them out there, writing them out would make the whole situation more real, and I was not sure how I felt about it yet. A part of me knew to keep it in perspective as a simple shift in the tides, a speed bump on the road. Yet another part of me was dismayed, embarrassed, disappointed, discouraged.

Then, once I had somewhat processed that emotional ball, I simply did not have the time. My life has been utterly insane lately, for good and for bad, in business and personal. All of that, however, is for another blog.

There has been a large change, development, detour (whatever you want to call it) in my writing career. At the beginning of the new year, I abruptly learned that my first publisher was dropping all its authors, which of course included me. My two books, Savages and The Waning, were taken down from Amazon and other retailers and all rights were returned to me.

This change was shocking in its abrupt reveal. I tried not to take it personally since the shift included all the current authors. However, it left me feeling decidedly…unpublished. My only real career goal had always been to have a book published, so the reversal of that felt like my dream being redacted.

I did not really know what to say. Could I still call myself a published author? My active works were taken down so maybe not. But they were published and copies still existed so maybe so. The idea of having to say I was a published author with no books brought that embarrassment burning in my belly. So, rather than trying to properly classify it, I just jumped on finding a new publisher.

Thankfully, that process proved fast and successful. Recently, Limitless Publishing signed my (would be) third book, The Rest Will Come.  The same book my previous publisher accepted months ago then returned to me unpublished. I was relieved yet also not excited as one should be to have a book signed (especially in under a month). I think my reaction was tempered by my worry. I find myself infected by a new restrictive caution, a fear of getting dropped again.

I could have not thought it would all be this easy. To win a publishing content with Savages, lock onto a publisher for my career, and just keep cranking out books into old age. I should not be surprised in the least that the road contains detours and divergences, challenges and changes. I cannot even be upset at this change. I was unpublished for about a month before landing a new publisher and starting down the road again.

As things have settled in, my excitement has grown. I am excited to walk this road again, release a new book with a new publisher, and see where it all leads. I am particularly thrilled about this book since it is my first full length novel, my first real horror comedy, and so deeply based in real life. So, in the near future, on the other side of editing and cover design and release schedules, my work will be published out in the world again. That is ultimately what matters to me: that I am a published author.

As for Savages and The Waning, they are still homeless, unpublished again. Though Savages is fetching quite the re-price on Amazon right now!

I have submitted the two rejects to several publishers, got a few of my very first rejection letters. I am debating self-publishing them as I own all the files and covers. I even have a name I would use to publish under picked out. Yet I am still drawn to having a publisher. I believe I have decided to give it a few months, submit to a few more publishers; then, maybe come summer, I will resign myself to re-release them myself.

I do still have my twisted little Christmas story available in Collected Christmas Shorts.  My name on a book being sold right now. That counts.

I have been writing more horror shorts lately. I recently submitted for an Easter horror anthology and a supernatural animal horror comedy anthology. Both of the submissions were very far out of my typical horror lane, but I found them very fun to write and am pleased with how the turned out. Hopefully, the editors of the collections both agree and I will be able to add more titles to my roster.

So, there it is. My big writing career change. New publisher, new book. In the process, I have decided to refresh everything about my writing. New look, updated websites, more blogging. This will take time, but this post is the start.

Christina Bergling

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The pain has become a good friend at this point, as the weeks have spiraled seamlessly into months. The burning edge on my nerves has become the peripheral of my normal, the baseline of my perception.

It hurts. It has hurt. It always hurts. Perhaps, it will always hurt.

The pain swallows the time, devouring the days whole spent cringing, wincing, and compensating. I do not even remember what it is like to stand up without a grimace or sneeze without a high-pitched whimper. The injury has become part of me; defeat is an adaptation.

The pain burns so vividly. As if my hamstring is being peeled from my pelvis and out the back of my leg in a long bloody line, the tendon quivering like a strummed guitar string. As if boiling water is pouring down the back of my leg in a terrible waterfall that pools prickling in my foot. The fire encapsulates my entire hip before dripping and flowing down my leg until my toes are tingling and my knee buckles. The intensity washes my nerves so blindingly that my entire body seizes involuntarily around the sensation, igniting more angry points of pain.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Strangled breaths shoved from pursed lips. Desperate gasps outside my body.

Until the wave passes. Until the pain recedes back into the injury and the temporary paralysis of it releases.

The pain is always there, always on the edge of the incoming signals to my brain. Any movement can anger the beast. It lies in wait when I sit, exploding upon me when I dare to stand. It coils in my trunk, spiraling out into my limbs when I lean at the wrong angle or look the wrong way. It fractures the world when I sneeze.

The problem is at my root, reaching diseased branches up through my body before forming a sharp nest in my brain. The barbs and edges interfere with the neural firing, deform my reactions and perceptions, warp my personality as it has to arch and bend around the intruder. I would recognize my words and actions as foreign, if I can see anything but the pain. I only know that everything incoming stimuli is now an irritation. It all just adds to the cut of the pain.

I feel trapped within my own damaged body. My bones, wrapped in frayed nerves, form my cage, bind me in the ever-whining flesh. Each flare of pain, each restriction of movement is another barred door between me and functionality. I crave the freedom to move without thought and consequence. I want to just exist, able to do the things I want. I find myself obsessed with healing, with the idea of the other side of this injury. I fantasize about when I am all back to normal again, yet every day without improvement is just a punch in that fixation.

The confined and claustrophobic feeling in my chest tangles and dances with the physical experience of the pain. The two marry and breed into something larger and something darker, something with teeth and fangs that sets upon my mind.  I feel the hot and angry tears escape from my eyes as all the sharp points sink into the soft parts of me. I ugly cry with abandon and despair.

So I run. Literally. And I dance. And I workout like nothing is wrong, adapting and compensating around the injury. Flinching silently, breathing through it, adjusting the movement. It hurts less when I move, or so I tell myself as the endorphins reduce the size of my assailant. I take any escape when my body is quiet and my mind can process any other sensation.

Yet the pain does not relent. When the movement stops, it flares back into place.

Overnight, it changed. Consistently uncomfortable had become tolerable; flashes of pain at movement had become normal. I had packed my life up around the problem and made it work. Then I went to sleep.

With each restless turn, it felt worse. The pain spread deeper over my lethargic muscles. More angles had sharp edges or ignited the fire under my flesh. I found the one neutral position, face down with straight and immobile legs, and I sheltered in it for sleep.

When I did wake, I floundered in the pain. It overwhelmed me, blinded me, surged up over me until I could not move. I struggled to roll over to slam into my limitation. I clawed to sit up and discovered the pain formed a wall to prevent me. I could not move, and when that realization broke upon my mind, I felt the panic bloom in my chest and spread like wildfire over my nerves.

Through a flurry of whimpering and straining, I wrangled myself up from the bed, even to standing unsteadily. Yet when my body unfolded completely upright, there was the pain again. At its highest peak. I clawed at the texture of the paint on the walls as I started to collapse under its weight. My leg was too weak to stand against it.

My husband gathered me, sobbing panicked and disheartened. He dressed me and iced my leg and consoled me until I could move again. Then he mocked me mercilessly to make me smile.

The pain recedes and leaves me washed up on the original shore, still holding my hand like that constant friend.

As some of you may recall, I recently talked at a couple schools about writing. It started out innocently enough, just volunteering at my daughter’s school as part of their readathon and helping out a friend teaching Technical Writing for the first year. Then a teacher with whom I often share the zumba dance floor heard about it and asked if I would speak to her class too.

I agreed, of course, thinking talking to another high school class would be easy. Especially talking about horror writing versus technical writing. The middle school aged group had gone so well, been so engaged and fun, that I was willing to try again. Plus my editor always insists that any promotion or publicity is good. After all, I thought it was just one more class.

Oh, no. No no no.

At some point between the request and fulfilment, it became like a real thing. By the time we were finalizing details, I was slated to speak in an auditorium all seven periods of the day, talking to 29 classes totalling about 900 students.

Insert my utter panic.

I am not entirely sure why I was so intimidated. I definitely do not enjoy public speaking; I do not have any particular talent for it. It makes me nervous to stand up in front of a group but nothing close to anxiety. I got over it every time I had to stand up in front of soldiers to train them, even when I had no idea what I was talking about.

The auditorium, the size of the audience, and the multiple speeches surely upped the ante, but as scary as they could be, these were all good things.

So, like a true writer, I gooogled the word count I needed for a thirty minute speech, and I wrote the entire thing out. I showed up at the high school, my nerves vibrating under my skin, with my entire speech printed. I even wrote it in my speaking voice rather than my writing voice (because they are very different).

The teachers were overwhelmingly welcoming. They were genuinely excited to have me there and have me speaking, and that felt amazing. I began to tell myself I could do this; I was going to do this. Under my nerves, I knew the itching anxious feeling was normal, part of it that would pass.

It was intimidating up on that stage, under those lights. My husband mocked me beforehand, saying I could not possibly be jittered over talking to some high schoolers when I have belly danced in front of hundreds of people over the years. Speaking has always just been so different from dance, a different part of the brain and my emotions. Plus, I think I am better at dancing than public speaking (it would not be hard).

That first period was rough. I clung to my printed speech like my life depended on it. I awkwardly paced the stage like a sedated jungle cat. I lived for the cough drop keeping my ill throat lubricated.

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But I made it.

I kept my speech rather basic. I introduced myself, explained I was a horror writer there to talk about writing. I started with how I was inspired to write in elementary school and sort of chronologically walked through my writing career. At this point, I could see the gaping yawns and bobbling heads.

Then my speech took a hard turn. I pulled out my battle with depression, my failed suicide attempt, my bipolar diagnosis, How to Kill Yourself Slowly. Then I suddenly had their attention. I could almost gauge the shock when my narrative changed–sort of, did she really just say that? Is she really talking about that?

I cannot tell my writing journey without including those aspects. My writing, my work does not exist without my broken brain that produces it or my unsavory life experiences that have shaped it. It would feel inauthentic for me to leave it out and speak about my books sterilely.

So I poured out my black, little heart all over the auditorium stage, and I talked to these high schoolers the same as I would to anyone else (minus the normal slathering of curse words and a few punches pulled to stay in bounds on hot topics like suicide). To my mind, if I could decide to try to kill myself at 12, how could I talk to them like children who had never experienced anything? Age 17 was the most formative in my life, and that is right where they are right now. It had to be the raw honesty.

After that chunk, I continued on my little story of being published and being an author as a side job, all the basics of my books and what they involve. Then I opened it up for questions.

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Q&A is my favorite part. I enjoy the questions; I do far better with them than giving a speech. The interaction keeps me out of my own head. The kids were really fun to chat with. They asked me a range of questions, from the canned questions their teachers expected reports on to just random things like my favorite color or favorite Walking Dead character (Negan, currently). They asked about my family, my kids reading my horror writing, why I would write if it didn’t make money, all the things I might write in the future.

After many sessions, I had kids come up and talk to me one-on-one. Some wanted to talk about their writing or being sent to the counseling center for it (been there!). Some wanted to talk about their favorite book franchise. Some just wanted to talk.

I think I got better and better with each delivery of the speech. I at least became less dependant on my notes. Though it was just utterly exhausting. By the last two periods, I was giving my speech while sitting on the steps to the stage. Maybe not very professional but it is what I needed. I do not know how teachers do it.

Overall, I think it went really well. I ended up enjoying the experience completely. The teachers were awesome to work with. The kids were fun to interact with. It was surreal to walk the halls and have them whisper about who I was as I passed. The pseudo celebrity experience is still just strange for me. Mostly fun though.

I think I started to forget that getting published really means something. It has been two years, nearly exactly, since Savages was released. It took me months to come to happy terms with the fact that it actually happened, that the dream had come true. Yet in those two years, I have become complacent with my new reality, writing and promoting every day, comparing myself to every blindingly successful author. This experience reminded me that it is something, that it does matter. Even if just to me, it matters.

It is also awkward for me to consider myself now a public speaker, talking to kids about anything. Part of me wonders if I have anything worthy to say to an audience, the same part of me that wonders if I have any writing worth publishing. Yet I keep writing, so I will keep doing this as well, as long as I am invited.

I have already been invited back to this school, and ultimately, if my silly little talk inspires one kid to write or deal better with being depressed or anything, I will happily continue to do it for free. And if it helps me sell books, all the better.

 

Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com