Archive for the ‘real life’ Category

As an author, you do have to crawl into the skin of your character. Often, I simply use myself as the boilerplate. However, when I crafted Emma for The Rest Will Come, I definitely took character study to the next level.

Not only did I base this character on a person in my real life (and her life experiences on several people in my real life), when I was belly dancing in Tennessee in February, I performed as her.

It is always fun to assume a persona on stage, liberating and exciting; however, it was even more entertaining to become a character I had created in my own story. I spent so many months inside her head, crafting and developing her. It was somehow cathartic to put a shovel in her hand and let her undulate and hair toss around the stage.

Not to mention I miss undulating and hair tossing on the stage in general.

I debated whether I ever wanted to publicly share the video of the performance. The internet can be…unforgiving. Ultimately, I decided f— it. It was my first time choreographing anything by myself, and I do like how it turned out, amateurish as it may be.

Ultimately, the performance is probably if Emma met Ronnie but close enough.

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I recently had an otherwise innocuous experience dig up some very old and relatively unrelated trauma. Considering the disconnect and the disproportionate emotional surge, I considered this a warning sign and an indication that I should probably finally go and address the issue. I have effectively avoided actually discussing it in 15 years of sporadic therapy.

So I brought it to my current therapist. We exhumed the 17-year-old skeleton and its nearby relatives in the strata of my emotional past. Now, I have been tasked with “forgiving” 17-year-old Christina.

What does this have to do with horror? you may ask. Or writing? Or horror writing? In short, NOTHING. A sane person would probably do all this processing privately on hidden paper. I, however, am an extrovert and an exhibitionist. Besides, if I write something and no one reads it, did I even write it at all?

The idea of forgiving 17-year-old me is oddly unnerving. I think largely because my entire identity and concept of self at that age was defined by self-loathing. My pain bred self-destructive behaviors that caused consequences that inflicted more pain, a little self-fulfilling cycle. And I blamed myself for all of it. I turned all that hate and pain in on her.

But what are her crimes? What do I need to forgive her for?

Sexual assault. This is the beast that was awoken by a doctor bending me over a table to administer my plasma injection. Even now, I hesitate to classify that long-ago incident as a sexual assault. In all honesty, I do not remember what happened. My memory was fractured and hazy then, and it has not improved in 17 years. I know I got very drunk with an older guy I did not know. I know we ended up having some kind of sex. But I do not know what I consented to or did not, and I do not know the extent of what happened. I would not feel comfortable using words like “rape” or “sexual assault” if I wasn’t sure, and I’m just not. But I also don’t know what else to call it.

I knew something was wrong in my reactions though. The guy pursued me heavily afterwards, and whenever he called, I experienced uncharacteristic anxiety. Not nerves, not shame or regret, something near physical panic. Then, when I did actually see him once after, I trembled so uncontrollably that I spilled a shot all over the kitchen trying to take it. This was not embarrassment. This was something else.

Why is this my crime though? I obviously blamed myself. I should not have been there. I should not have drank whatever it was he gave me. I should not have put myself in that situation. But beyond that typical reaction, I think the ambiguity of the circumstances always turned on me. Since I never really knew what happened, I could never resolve if I was a victim or just a stupid girl who consented to something she regretted.

Ultimately, it does not matter. Whether I put myself in a position that got me assaulted or I got blackout drunk and consented to something I did not want to do, it’s not a crime. 17-year-old me made stupid, naïve decisions. She made mistakes, which she learned from. Neither scenario is unforgivable.

Miscarriage. Let’s just note upfront that this offense is unrelated to crime #1. Same year, different circumstances. But I did miscarry a child that same year. I did not know I was pregnant, and it had to be relatively early in the pregnancy.

I blamed myself entirely for this unplanned and unknown accident. I told myself I must have drank the baby to death, that it must have rejected me for some reason. Nevermind that I could barely keep myself alive at the time and would have made the absolute worst mother. It was just another, much larger transgression to beat myself up over.

I did make peace with this one long ago. Maybe even before having my children. I matured into more perspective about pregnancy and circumstances. Occasionally, I will do the mental math on how old my child would be, but largely, I have buried the loss.

Self-mutilation. I would love to say this was a coping device for the previously described traumas. It was not. This behavior predates the majority of this list. That first lighter to my stomach in the parking lot honestly feels like the catalyst to all that followed. The pain was first. The overwhelming, soul crushing, swallowing pain I could not explain or identify. The burning then the cutting was how I coped. And that always felt like a weakness.

And that is always what my father and my friends told me it was.

The practice fractured my personality, creating personas for the victim, abuser, and bystander. Injuring myself turned me on myself, made that self-hate part of who I was. I have not deliberately charred and sliced my own flesh in 15 years, but I would be lying to say that it was not still with me. Right before my recent hamstring injury, I felt a dangerous flirtation with the idea of being hurt.

I got what I deserved for thinking that.

Substances. In the spectrum of drug use, even at my worst, I probably still rank relatively low and mundane. However, it is relatively undeniable that I tried to drink myself to death when I was 17. And even more undeniable that my pursuit of alcohol resulted in a lot of the problems and crimes I’m discussing here.

I was drunk for an entire year. Every single day, no embellishment or hyperbole. I managed to find some way to indulge every day, and sometimes the cost of that resulted in more of the consequences previously discussed. I made extremely stupid and dangerous decisions in pursuit of these substances, and I am fortunate that more awful things did not befall me.

Alcohol and pills were another crutch, another weakness. And so they were another thing for me to judge and condemn myself for. I couldn’t handle my perfectly acceptable life, so I was just a weak addict.

Being crazy. The crux. I think this is what underlies it all. I think this is the ultimate root of this entire list of crimes and infractions, mistakes and regrets. At the time, at that confusing age of 17, I had no idea what was going on in my mind. I did not understand why my emotions raged so extreme and in directions opposite of my stimuli. I could not see when my perceptions were fractured or distorted. I had no perspective on myself, my life, or really anything.

All I knew was that I was broken over nothing. And that seemed like a perfectly reasonable cause to hate myself.

I fought my diagnosis with all I had. The idea of “just being crazy” like my mother, like my family upset me to my core. Everything I was feeling, everything I was had to be more than that. I could not wrap my brain around the idea of being reduced to chemical reactions and learned behaviors.

Now, that I have accepted and integrated the realities of my mind, it seems silly to harbor such resentment at myself over something I have no actual control over. Yet I feel that somewhere deep it still lingers. Maybe under it all, always under it all, I am mad at myself for being crazy. How can I make my insanity such a part of my identity now while resenting myself for it? Perhaps this duality, this contradiction is what binds me to my 17 year-old traumas.

I blame crazy for all the bad things that happened to me, and I blame myself for being crazy. It feels stupid to say yet somehow rings true.

So I guess, in the end, I need to forgive myself simply for being me.

Christina Bergling

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Last weekend, I took myself on a little miniature tour through Tennessee. As with all things in my life, it was a whirlwind.

Initially, this entire trip was planned around attending the Behind the Mask Author Event. I had never previously done a mass book signing event, so when the organizer invited me, I figured, why not? I might as well try it out, investigate and experiment for myself. I selected this particular event because it was located in Nashville, so I could pair it with a visit to Chattanooga.

I lived in Chattanooga for about five years. It has now been five years since I returned home to Colorado. We moved for my husband’s job. I briefly deployed to Iraq with my job then returned to working from our new home, knowing no one. Eventually, by several clever turns of fate, I found the morbid cabaret belly dance troupe (yes, such a thing does miraculously exist) the Corpsewax Dollies. These girls became my community, and dancing with them became my passion.

I leaped at the chance to pair an author event with a more nostalgic visit. Plus, having that time with the Dollies served as a safety net. Even if the signing was a complete, depressing bust, the trip would not have been for nothing. The Dollies then sweetened the deal by planning a show for me to perform in with them and allowed me to dance as my own serial killer Emma (from The Rest Will Come).

Undoubtedly, I have missed the Dollies themselves the most. The sisterhood, the community, their devilishly individual personalities. Yet the lack of the stage and performing in my life has also left a vacancy. A vacancy I never really confronted since I have not performed with them in five years (since my farewell show) and have only done haflas with the teachers I have taken up with back in Colorado. My performance life was never grand or exceptionally successful, but there is simply something different about dancing on a stage versus dancing in a classroom.

Between the book signing in Nashville and performing in Chattanooga, the trip became something of a mini author/dancer tour.

I flew into Nashville on Thursday night. The travel in itself was quite the adventure. I ended up stuck in traffic mere miles from the Denver airport when a truck ahead of us overturned. Then I spent almost two hours on the tarmac waiting for the plane to be deiced. Once we actually flew and landed, the Nashville baggage throwers jammed the carousel with our bags. A semi trailer blazed in full flames on my drive down to Chattanooga in the fog. A surreal comedy of minor errors.

But I did make it.

Even from the first steps off the plane, things felt very strange on this trip. When we lived in Tennessee and traveled, my husband used to say that the minute we hit Tennessee airspace, my disposition changed (read: I became a bitch). In this same way, when I exited the airport, it felt almost as if I had never left, as if I hadn’t left a life in Colorado to return. I have returned to Tennessee before this, and it has felt like picking up where I left off, but nothing like this amnesic feel. However, I dismissed it and carried on.

On my first day back in the Dirty South, I met my first and former running mate (the Dolly I was staying with) on the Riverwalk for a run. After I had my daughter, she had been the unfortunate victim who took up running with me. We spent countless mornings and an untold sum of hours jogging up and down that riverwalk. In the dark. In the rain. In the heat. Like dance with the Dollies, the activity became foundational. Running remains so for me now.

After the run, I met with Ricky Davis of TRD Photography to get new author headshots. After all, I have not been orange for some time now, so my current ones seem a bit like a lie. I figured might as well get them refreshed with a photographer I knew from back when I utterly sucked at “modeling.”

That night, dress rehearsal. Back in the studio with the Dollies preparing for the show, just like old times. The experience was strangely gut-wrenching. Simultaneously, I felt the vivid joy at being back and the searing pain at knowing it was fleeting. I felt welcomed and included yet inevitably on the outside. The contrast, the duality was visceral. I couldn’t stop smiling, and I also wanted to cry. I simply savored every moment of it.

Saturday was the epicenter of the trip, the author event itself. One Dolly and I got up painfully early and drove back to Nashville. Navigating the venue and parking and unpacking and locating the event was laughable clusterfuck, but, again, we made it. She was instrumental in getting me where I needed to be, especially when I kept sending her back to the car for everything I forgot.

When we walked in to the ballroom and looked over the other tables, I knew I did not belong at this event. Most tables boasted huge standing signs advertising the author’s name. From the macro pictures of chiseled male abdomens and pink calligraphy of the font on these signs, from the chapstick lined up and chocolate strewn over the tables, I knew I had stepped out of my genre. Somehow, I had ended up at a romance author book signing.

One might argue that The Rest Will Come is a dark romantic comedy. One could say that sexual tension is at the root of Savages. One might even try to argue that The Waning offers an extremely twisted love story. I would say that a romance reader would not agree on any of these points. I knew I was incongruent; I just did not know if it would be a good thing to stand out or not. I did not know what to expect from any of it.

In the morning, the readers steadily trickled through. I sold a book here or there. Many potential customers wrinkled their noses and walked faster once they realized that horror graced my table. I did have some delightful conversations regardless.

The crowd dwindled around lunch time, and instead, restless authors began roaming the booths. These romance authors seemed quite excited about what I offered in The Rest Will Come. I ended up selling more books to other attending authors or their support crews than any person who bought a ticket.

The afternoon monotony was salvaged by the arrival of more Dollies. They arrived to buy a good chunk of my books and keep me company. By this point, authors had abandoned all professionalism, walking between booths to talk other events, drinking bottles of wine or eating at their tables. I elected not to wander but still connected to a few kindred spirits and was annoyed by others.

The book signing event finally rounded to a anticlimactic close; however, it went better than I anticipated. Not as well as I could have hoped or dreamed, but I ended up selling about half of my books, enough to not have to ship them home. I had feared I would not sell a single book, so I considered this result a win.

The Dollies and I retired to our hotel room to drink and prepare for the masquerade ball that was a part of the author event.

The masquerade ball was terrible. We arrived an hour late to find less than ten people sitting idle at tables in the dark, barely even speaking. The provided food was minuscule, and the drinks were grievously overpriced. We ate the miniature food and had a weak drink. We watched the DJ fail at enlivening the crowd. By the time we bailed, there were maybe 20-30 people there, but the entire thing felt like a flat wedding reception. Free booze and sleep at the hotel was much more appealing.

Sunday, back to Chattanooga! Admittedly, my brain was a bit raw from the event. After so much unknown and anticipation to see if it would break my author heart, I felt overstimulated, maybe emotionally hungover. Then, I also spent some time driving around the city by myself, which allowed strange feelings to swell over me. The nostalgia became paralytic at times. In the quiet, I was confronted by shapeless emotions I had not anticipated. I did not know how I felt, only that I felt. A lot.

Yet there was no time for all that. Sunday night was the show.

This serial killer show was held at the same venue where I participated in the majority of performances during my time. Despite the name change and some fresh paint, it remained largely unchanged. Once again, this was somehow both comforting and upsetting, forcing my mind to awkwardly straddle the past and the present.

After crawling into someone’s head to craft the character of Emma, it was ridiculously fun to pick a dark anthem for her then fetish her up into a costume. I ended up looking like some gothic lumberjack with a bloody shovel, but I don’t think I would have cast her any other way as a Dolly. With my bloody shovel, I danced to a solo I choreographed myself. More nerve-wracking than dancing to someone else’s!

It was a blast. All of it. I managed to not completely mangle the dances I was in, even those learned over a tiny screen and Google Hangouts. Even if I did mess up, I didn’t care. I just laughed and kept dancing, kept watching, kept cheering.

Afterwards, the Dollies put on a fire show in the parking lot. I definitely wish I had been around when they started playing with fire. It was amazing to watch.

Then it was tearful goodbyes in the parking lot and a midnight run to Waffle House.

On Monday, it was over. All the Dollies were at work and back at their lives as I packed myself up and headed back to the Nashville airport. From the moment I woke up (after not much sleep), my head was an absolute disaster. Though I had imbibed the night before, I do not think I was hungover. I managed to rouse with zero physical symptoms, and I did not feel drunk at the time. However, my memories for the previous night were scattered and fractured. I would say definitely drunk except this effected lasted until I napped on the plane.

This oddity was unnerving in itself, but it was also coupled with the most crippling depression I have felt in months. The emotional surge went so far as to affect me physically. I felt like I could not breathe, like I should not move. This is not entirely unfamiliar, but it has been so long since the depression reached so deep. Again, this could be attributed to alcohol, but it hinted once I hit Nashville and had no accompanying hangover.

I drove past my old house and managed to make it worse. I am not sure why. I miss the Dollies, but I do not think I miss living in the South or that house in particular. Though my husband and I had my daughter and became a family there. Perhaps it was the swell of memories on a vulnerable mind. Perhaps it was that many of those memories are edged in pain and depression akin to what I was feeling. I cannot accurately say because my mind’s narrative was so splintered as I was experiencing it.

Whatever was happening made my travel home excruciating. The logistics themselves were fine. I arrived to the airport early. My flight was on time. I had a lovely friend willing to pick me up. All of that was easy, but my experience of it was terrible. I felt like I was barely holding it together the entire time.

Again, I am honestly not sure why. I used to feel somewhat similar (turned WAY down) when I would visit Colorado while living in Tennessee. I have returned to the Dollies before and do always feel these feelings (turned WAY down). I don’t have an explanation as to why emotions ran so high this time. Did I dissociate? Did I depersonalize? What happened? I only know it has taken me almost four days to resurface.

All told, the trip was a rollercoaster. Emotionally more than anything. Yet I would not trade a single moment. Even the darkest moments made the pleasant ones burns all the more bright. I am still glowing. And maybe crying too.

As far as authoring, I think I learned some valuable lessons. My first publishing contract included a marketing class, to teach us to sell our own books. One basic premise was to not do BOOK things. Don’t do book events or book venues or anything centered around books. The idea being that you place yourself in direct competition with other books. Instead, it would be more advantageous to be the only book where your target audience might be.

After this experience, I can see it. I think I agree completely. But I needed to try it. I needed to experience it and learn for myself. Now, I know. Now, I have other ideas of what to do and try.

Tennessee the mini tour, totally worth it.

Christina Bergling

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When it comes to the state of the world at large and current events, I am with the majority in being ready and excited to say goodbye (and fuck off) to 2017. What a rollercoaster mess of a year.

However, if I refine my focus down to something a little more narcissistic, the assessment of the year brightens. For my writing, 2017 was a pretty damn successful year.

Last January, things would have never appeared so optimistic for my authoring career. I began the year released (with my two novellas, Savages and The Waning) by my first publisher. I went from having two books published and available to being featured in an anthology or two. From there, it felt like starting over.

However, starting over did not take long. Within the same month, my novel The Rest Will Come was accepted by Limitless Publishing. This rejuvenated my confidence and allowed me to focus on something positive and productive. It was ultimately released in August.

Not far behind that, I had a short story, “Hatch,” included in Collected Easter Horror Shorts in April.

Then, in October, things exploded. My poor rejected Christmas horror short “Santa’s Workshop” was accepted by Horrified Press into a future holiday anthology. My short story “Black Widow” was published in Collected Halloween Horror Shorts.

And my short story “Adam, Eve, and Mr. Bubbles” was published in the anthology Demonic Wildlife.

In November, my previously rejected short story “After the Screaming Stopped” was accepted in the upcoming Graveyard Girlz anthology by HellBound Books Publishing.

In December, I had three horror drabbles accepted into the upcoming 100 Word Horrors anthology.

Also, and perhaps the most exciting, HellBound Books Publishing released the second edition of my second novella, The Waning. This release was especially thrilling because it got one of my released books back on the market and because my friend Phil designed the badass cover art. Holding this edition was particularly special.

Then, to top it off, HellBound Books Publishing just offered to publish the second edition of my first novella, Savages. With this last contract, all of my finished and submitted works officially have homes. I no longer have released, rejected, or orphaned works. Every piece submitted is published or has a contract to be published. This is a HUGE accomplishment. This is what 2017 was for my writing.

2018 will already see the re-release of Savages and the publication of Graveyard Girlz100 Word Horrors, and possibly the holiday anthology from Horrified Press. Additionally, I am planning on submitting to three different anthologies before summer and am working on a collaborative novel with Kevin Kennedy. I also hope to start on my second solo novel, though I have not yet settled on a concept.

In short, I intend to be busy. 2017 was kind to me, at least as an author. I intend to build on that momentum.

Christina Bergling

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You know your October is crazy when it takes you until mid-November to recover enough to even reflect back on it. But now, two weeks later, I think I can nearly breathe again.

October has always been a busy time for me. As a horror writer, it’s the height of the season for the genre. As a Halloween lover, I have a million traditions to which to adhere. My children are getting old enough to have their own activities. So my social life and author work in the autumn month are consistently madness. However, this particular October crossed my threshold.

The difference? The day job went haywire as well. Inopportune timing!

So I did #31DaysofHorror and #Hallowear online. I attended the Telluride Horror Show for the first time. In addition to doing non-horror things like hiking to the summit of Pikes Peak. Plus HALLOWEEN! It was all fantastic, to the point of being euphoric. However, the month left me an overstimulated shell of a person. Mentally, my brain was completely wasted. Physically, I was simply exhausted.

So, it took me half a month to recover from my October. This is not a bad thing. I am not complaining. I would not trade that October for anything. Yet, in all its fun and frenzy, it did teach me about myself and my limitations. I learned that I can be too busy, that I might need to draw the line and balance against the requirements of my day job. I also learned I do not want to take a picture of myself every day.

But I survived, and I think I have recovered. Just in time for the holiday madness! I only hope to find the time and inspiration to draft some new horror. There has been no time for writing, and my brain needs to get lost in new stories.

Christina Bergling

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I have been so busy posting reviews for the Telluride Horror Show, that I haven’t yet had time to talk about my actual experience of it!

This year was my first attendance of the Telluride Horror Show. Previously, I have only made it to the Stanley Film Festival (back when there was such a delightful thing) once. I haven’t even been to Telluride since I was a child.

The Telluride Horror Show is in its 8th year so is relatively established, and that much shows. The festival is well organized and smooth running, and the town seems very acclimated to the invasion by hundred of horror lovers.

Plus, Telluride is just GORGEOUS! I’m a Colorado mountain girl, so a town like this will always speak my native tongue. I loved that everything for the festival was in walking distance. The venues might be a half mile apart at the farthest, and our lodging was situation blocks away between them. We were able to just walk everywhere and enjoy the mountain air (or a creepy dark path with a bear sighting).

We arrived midday on Friday (after having to deal with our son shoving cinnamon playdough up his nose and needing to go to the doctor for extraction from hours away). Since it was Friday the 13th, en route we watched Friday the 13th and Friday the 14th Part 2. It helped to set the appropriate mood for the weekend.

We threw down our bags, mixed a drink, and headed to pick up passes. The venue for pass pickup was a little congested with lines for the ice cream social, passes, the bar, and swag all intersecting. However, things moved so quickly and the swag was so awesome that it was easy to forgive. I am still living in my lightweight hoodie and hat I bought there. I was even able to find horror figurines to match my children’s upcoming Halloween costumes.

Then we raced over to our first screening, Tragedy Girls. Witty, funny, and socially on point, Tragedy Girls is a fantastic choice to set the mood for our festival experience. (Read my full review here)

Following Tragedy Girls, we headed over to Creepy Campfire Tales. When we attended the Stanley Film Festival, we devoted our entire trip to watching movies. We did not indulge in any of the other activities. This time, we were determined to take in some social and non-screen activities.

Envious as I was as another horror author listening to someone read their work by the flickering firelight in the crisp mountain air, it was a very enjoyable experience. Then it was a quick sprint to resupply on food and drinks before hurrying to another showing.

Being that it was Friday the 13th in October at a horror film festival, we absolutely had to go see Never Hike Alone. It is a wonderfully executed and painstakingly local fan film of Friday the 13th. (Read my full review here)

By the end of the movie, I had imbibed my fair share and was enjoying the added effect of a few more thousand feet in altitude. However, said enhancement turned on me in the morning. I suffered a very brief but crippling hangover. I had to sleep it off while the rest of my party attended the horror comedy block of shorts. I managed to pull myself together for round 2.

Trailers from Hell, a collection of 35MM horror movie trailers. The trailers span multiple decades, but they are absolutely ridiculous. It was just the sort of simple, mindless entertainment I needed to ease me back into my day.

Following the silly, we embarked into the more cerebral with the Lovecraftian mind-bender The Endless. I loved the realism in the fraternal relationship of the main characters and the raw and creepy filmmaking. (Read my full review here)

After The Endless, we walked down to the pig roast. I appreciated that the festival included a free meal. It is nice to splice in experiences when you can interact with all the three dimensional people you are sitting next to in the dark for hours. The food was basic but also filling and delicious, fueled us up for a night of solid screenings.

We went to Jungle next, a real-life account of a hiker lost in the Amazon jungle. It is raw and intense and terrifying. Though I would not normally classify such a movie as horror, it is so gripping I was wiling to embrace the deviation. (Read my full review here)

We exited the theater after viewing Jungle simply to line up in the cold outside it again for Creep 2. Knowing Creep 2 was on the roster in advance, we had watched Creep right before coming to Telluride. The franchise is an interesting approach to found footage, completely carried by the main actor. (Read my full review here)

By this point, my brain was becoming a bit overstimulated by so many horror movies, typical for this point in the movie festival. The final morning, we took in back to back horror short blocks. First suspenseful, which started strong for two then went off the rails. Then zombies, which were super fun.

The final showing came up, and I struggled with my commitment. Part of me just wanted to relax and do anything but watch another movie. However, I am so glad we powered through. Well, half our party.

For our last movie, we watched Trench 11, a horror movie set in World War I trenches. I loved the history, the characters, the filmmaking. Genuinely, I just enjoyed it as it brought a perfect close to our set. (Read my full review here)

Before we departed, we took in one more social horror event, mostly so we could hang out with friends we had made at the Stanley Film Festival. We participated in horror trivia. Although our entire team was just terrible at horror trivia, we managed to finish somewhere in the middle and had a fantastic time doing it.

Then there was the lovely 6 hour drive home in the dark. Small, winding mountain roads slicing through the night. My GPS leading us on the opening arc of a Wrong Turn movie on some desolate dirt road. Yet, somehow, we still made it home.

My overall first impressions of Telluride Horror Show are entirely positive. Truthfully, I can only directly compare it to my one attendance to Stanley Film Festival. In that competition, Telluride wins on films but falls shorter on venue. While Stanley Film Festival had fantastic movies, there were some I did not enjoy and some that unnerved me to the point of discomfort. Whereas with Telluride, I only took issue with some of the suspenseful shorts. The ending ratio was much more enjoyable.

However, you cannot argue with The Stanley Hotel as a venue. Telluride is small and very convenient in that we could walk absolutely everywhere very quickly, yet the social events were crammed into small spaces like the Sheridan’s bar. The ballrooms in The Stanley were much more open and conducive to socializing. There was also The Chiller Lounge, which was necessary to recover from movies like The Treatment.

Culture-wise, the two festivals had a similar feel. People were more engaging and friendly in person at the Stanley Film Festival; however, there was much more online networking after Telluride Horror Show. The proprietors, in particular, are very responsive on social media, which always makes a fan and attendee feel appreciated. After the show, I was contacted over Twitter by multiple directors to review their movies.

And the social experience is a large part of what a festival is about for me. I can watch horror movies anywhere and with anyone. It is something different and decidedly more special to do it with people who share the same passion, with people who contributed directly to what you are watching. I adore cast and director Q&A. I love being able to randomly talk to a filmmaker in line for their movie. It is what going to a horror film festival is all about for me.

Telluride Horror Show was a fantastic experience for everyone in our group. We have already begun planning and plotting for next year and enlisting other victims to join us.

**BONUS**

After the Telluride Horror Show, my viewing was able to continue. I was privileged enough to screen Frazier Park Recut from the comfort of my own couch. The multiple perspective found footage film is both a throwback and something divergent in the subgenre. I would have loved to have gotten it into our viewing schedule while we were there! (Read my full review here)

 

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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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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