Archive for the ‘real life’ Category

I’m officially in my mid-thirties; I should be professional and appropriate by now, right?

Um…

…right?

Honestly, I don’t know that I fit into the average subjective definition of either term. However, it has been an idea that has been wriggling around on the skin of my mind lately.

I am the parent of two young children. My partner and I are both very “outside the box” people, so he and I struggle with constantly trying to teach our children to behave inside the social box. This is the sort of contentious relationship I have with social norms and expectations, but by some miracle, I have managed to balance my rebellion into measures of social success thus far in my life.

Yet, as I delve deeper into being a horror author, I find the questions surfacing again. Most specifically, as I post images of me half naked and covered in blood on the wide internet.

Professionally, I have never had much of a problem. I’m reasonably intelligent and have done well through my career. I’ve performed high at my various jobs, though the jury is still out on the new role I just started. The issue is never my work or my work ethic; rather, I might be too much “me” at work. I’ve been scolded by a Master Sergeant in Iraq for cussing too much. I’m simply a very open person. So, my other career of dealing in horror is perhaps a little too public.

I see no issue with someone executing their day job then going home to dabble in any kind of deviant art. That does not mean everyone feels the same way. Our culture is very strange and hypocritical about female expression and nudity. We are bombarded with the imagery of naked women but then told a woman who is naked publicly is morally bereft. While I have yet to encounter any negative consequences for my blatant exhibitionism, I am ever aware of the threat.

I consider what employers, clients, or future employers might encounter when they Google me. I would like to think they could separate the art from the artist and focus on my qualifications, but I simply do not have that much faith.

Am I unprofessional because I am publicly and unapologetically me outside of the “office”? Do I get to be taken seriously when I am comfortable enough in myself to lay my mind and skin bare?

Working in IT, I harbor no illusions about the internet. After working with the government and military for so many years, I am well aware of how much of a delusion “privacy” is now. I know anything sent or shared or even simply residing on a computer with wireless capability is not private. I deal with this reality but simply having no secrets, having nothing that could be uncovered and used against me.

Plus, I have an exhibitionist streak about as wide as half my personality, so I would voluntarily be advertising it even if no one would ever have access to it.

Maybe I can be professional. I can do my job well entirely separate from any extracurricular activities, even if I do post them very openly, very accessibly to employers or clients. What about “appropriate”? The word appropriate itself causes my neck to flex and my lip to curl in a hint of a twitch. I have never wanted to be appropriate because of the many ways the society that manufactures the definition is simply…wrong.

But I’m also older now. Hi, Middle Age; yeah, I see you right there over the horizon. And, more importantly, I am raising children. Get into the box, kids, so you can understand it (and hopefully then jump right out of it and set it on fire).

Is it appropriate for a 35 year-old woman to pose for pictures naked and covered in fake blood? Why not? After pregnancy and gravity have had their way with me, it is the time I have felt most comfortable in my body, given the least amount of fucks. The question sounds a lot like, am I skinny enough to wear a bikini? Now, is it appropriate for a mother of young children to do so? And more than that, be open with her children about it, share and explain the pictures. I am too observant to have not noticed the judgement on parents around me.

Is it appropriate to expose them to horror and art? I let them participate in their own bloody photoshoots, obviously without the nudity involved in some of mine.

My instinctual answer to all of these questions is: hell yes, it’s appropriate. It is my body to live in and reveal as I want. I provide my children with a safe and happy home and do not expose them to anything carelessly or without evaluation.  Yet I remain acutely aware of all the consequences I could be tempting in the distance. Maybe they never come, but it would be reckless to plunge through life so carelessly. I insist on living deeply, not stupidly.

Then, maybe the most poignant question: am I safe? I hate that I even have to write that, that it is a question that has to occupy such constant real estate in my mind, but the real world is dark and full of terrors. Like I said, realities of the internet. When will I interact with the wrong person? When will I post the wrong picture? When will I share the wrong detail? When it will be too much and the consequences will be more than social?

The more I find and express myself, the more I question what it will cost me. Everything in life has its price. My brain, especially the depressive mind, quietly catalogs all the ways it could go wrong in the background. I am happy being myself. Writing dark and twisted stories. Taking pictures soaked in fake blood. Dancing on the stage. Posting about the inner workings of my fractured mind. It feels right, within MY definitions of professional, appropriate, and (hopefully) safe.

I will continue my path unaltered and see where it leads. Sometimes, I just need to stop and unpack the doubts from my head.

Christina Bergling

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When I started “modeling,” I think I was chasing a way to feel positively about my appearance. In the wake of my most self-destructive phase, I needed to manufacture some semblance of confidence from the shattered pieces of my sense of self. I knew I could never be classified as conventionally pretty or skinny, but I wanted to make that art. I wanted to see myself differently, from the outside.

Over the course of this clumsy dabbling, I worked with photographers with whom I could collaborate, and our visions collided and amalgamated into what I considered my visual style.

But I never did feel better about myself.

My pseudo eating disorder raged. I would starve myself and not eat on days I did nude shoots, as if lunch or water made a perceivable difference. I would turn the pictures on myself, use them to catalog my flaws, use them as a qualifier of my worth. For as much as I have never prioritized aesthetics for any other person, the toxic tentacles of the damage in my brain always made me one-dimensional to myself. It was as if my physical body was an entirely separate entity from the rest of me, judged meticulously by only its appearance–by ever-sharpening criteria. I was never going to be “thin” enough or “pretty” enough because it was never about how I looked. Self-destruction had been driven out of my heart only to make a hidden home in my eyes and my flesh.

Yet I continued to play in front of the camera. The symptom was never the disease. I modeled until we moved back to Colorado from Tennessee. Then I was no longer dancing, I had no established relationships with local photographers, and I had another child. By this point, I resigned myself to simply being too old and the pictures being a closed chapter in my life.

Then I mentally evolved again.

Two major changes happened. Most importantly, perhaps at the root, I finally made peace with the damaged and self-destructive persona in me. I have been analyzing, flirting with, writing, and being her half my life. This time, I actually forgave her, forgave myself for what I did to us. I released that blame and those consequences that it felt so safe to hold.

Perhaps as a side effect to this or maybe as a tangent effort, I put my atypical bulimia to bed. In vain attempts to restore myself after my son, I spent years obsessing and fixating, starting and torturing myself, punishing my body to the point of multiple injuries. Then I discovered intermittent fasting.

I had attempted numerous diet and fitness paradigms, yet fasting slipped on like a glove. For all my anxiety about not eating and hanger, it was just what my brain and body wanted. Needed.

And impossibly simply, food was no longer an issue. The numbers were no longer an obsession. Just like that. It seems utterly unrealistic. I am neither the weight or size I “want,” yet I don’t care. I am happy. I am comfortable. I have finally grasped that confidence that launched the entire endeavor.

It is possible I have simply outgrown some of the fixations. Life continues to get bigger. Maybe I am old enough to just give no fucks anymore. Yet a part of me still fears this is a trap set by that self-destructive girl, a false summit. Feeling authentically good in my skin feels alien, so forgotten it’s almost foreign. I have reservations over so many years of struggle culminating in so seemingly simple a fix.

But I’ll ride this wave until it sends me crashing onto my face.

In this place, I have returned to modeling. Yet this time is not motivated by a search to find something in myself. This time is not a band-aid over the tear in my mind. I am not trying to prove to myself that I look worth something.

I am trying to look scary and disturbing.

I have launched into a new collaboration with members of my “commune.” The photographer is establishing her visual voice, and I am happy to play test subject. We both love horror and have already collaborated on one of my novels. With the addition of a blood minion, we are collectively chasing beautifully disturbing images.

Successfully so far.

The difference is where I am coming from. I no longer feel infected by that pervasive insecurity. I am no longer worrying if the wrong position creates a bulge; instead, I am making sure the fake blood is dripping right. I am able to look at the pictures and see the image rather than all the things I am not.

I have worked with some amazing photographers over years (and plenty not), but there is something unique about laughing your head off as your “sisters” ladle chocolate fake blood on you, about collaborating with women who have held you up most of your life.

The fact that the pictures are turning out is just a bonus.

Christina Bergling

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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.

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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