Posts Tagged ‘apocalypse’

Mini vlog talking (bullshitting) with Phil Beachler about our collaborations on my book covers and other endeavors. Should we start a podcast next? Hell no! Same people belong behind the page…

At least we produce good work like SCREECHERS. Cowritten with Kevin Kennedy and cover by Phil Beachler.

You can find Kevin here: https://www.kevinjkennedy.co.uk/
You can find Phil here: https://www.instagram.com/philbeachchair/
You can find SCREECHERS here: https://www.amazon.com/Screechers-Post-Apocalyptic-Kevin-J-Kennedy-ebook/dp/B07PHZW18Q/

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Artistic collaborations are not new. All authors collaborate with at least a cover artist, unless they are such an artist, just to produce a book. Authors get together to produce anthologies and even cowrite stories, novellas, or novels. As an artist, I love to collaborate. When two (or more) different inspirations converge, the intersection can lead to a new and unexpected direction.

However, just because collaborations can yield something amazing does not mean they are always easy or successful. When I talk about co-writing a novella, the first question is always, “how did that work?” or “how did that go?” It is sometimes hard to see how people could align on a common vision. Yet it does happen all the time with many creative projects. Books are just not a medium people usually think of for collaboration.

Yet when Kevin J. Kennedy asked if I wanted to write together, I did not hesitate to try. Kevin and I had worked together numerous times before when I contributed to his anthologies, but this was definitely a deeper collaboration. Then, when Screechers needed a cover, we brought in Phil Beachler, who did the covers of my books The Waning and Savages.

Rather than recount my experience of the collaboration, I thought it best to include all our experiences.

Where did the idea for Screechers come from?

Kevin: I can’t remember how the idea fully formed, but the initial idea was sparked when I was reading the Hell Divers series by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. He has creatures called Sirens in his books. They are pretty different from the Screechers to be fair, but the screams the sirens make was a bit of a spark and through time I had an idea for the Screechers.

Christina: The idea for the novella came from Kevin ultimately. He approached me to cowrite a story then suggested a post-apocalyptic story with mutant creatures. I instantly wanted to put some human survivors into that nightmare.

Phil: I naturally love drawing monsters and bizarre creatures, so the ideas came from a mish mash of werewolves, space bugs, and various other mutated horrors.

When was it clear that it was going to be a collaboration effort? How did you get involved?

Kevin: I had read all of Christina’s books and loved them. We spoke from time to time because she often featured in my anthologies. Again, I can’t exactly remember how we decided to write Screechers together. It might have been an idea to write something together and then grew into doing the Screechers novella.

Christina: Kevin and I started talking about a collaboration. I had never tried co-writing before, but after contributing to multiple anthologies for Kevin, it seemed like a good fit. Post-apocalyptic was an easy choice for both of us. I had already gone there with my novella Savages. Once mutants and monsters came up, the idea grew legs.

Phil: It became clear after I sent the initial sketches to the authors and got really great reception right away. From there on out, we sent lots of material back and forth to get the ball rolling.

Who was “the leader” on the project?

Kevin: We wrote separate sections and just sent it back and forward. We didn’t even start with too much of a structure from memory. I tend to write as I go most of the time. I can’t recall anyone being in charge. We tweaked each other’s sections, so it flowed better but that was it really.

Christina: I would say Kevin was the leader. He definitely saw more of the Screechers world in his mind, and I fed off of it. But the collaboration was very balanced. We divided the story so we each had our own little sand box. He had monsters, and I had humans. With two pansters writing, we had to force ourselves to outline eventually for when our two storylines would finally intersect then overlap.

Phil: Kevin took the lead, but I got a lot of feedback from Christina regarding various plot points and from her perspective being a fan of nasty monsters.

How did the initial idea change as more people got involved?

Kevin: The idea grew as we wrote as happens with most stories. Christina is friends with Phil, and we asked him to do the cover. The internal art was just a nice bonus that Phil decided to provide.

Christina: We definitely leveled up when we brought Phil in. Not only did we go from an artistic duo to a trio, which increased the influence and opinions flying around, but we brought in an entirely different medium. Phil did the cover, but he drew so many things as he did so. There were sketched of all kind of monsters!

Phil: The idea seemed to stay pretty cohesive. From start to finish, we all had a consistent vision that made it easy to keep on track.

Creatively, how did the collaboration work? How were ideas governed and developed between multiple people?

Kevin: We bounced some ideas back and forth and wrote a chapter each. We would stop every so often and reflect at where we were at and see if anything wasn’t working and review it. It all went pretty smoothly.

Christina: There was a lot of passing back and forth, feedback, and gut-checking. Kevin and I exchanged the outline and the manuscript. Taking turns kept us from wandering too far down a path without input from the other author. Phil came into the process when the story was pretty much done, and he could draw all he wanted based on those words.

Phil: From my perspective, I tried to keep as true to the author’s intentions and vision for the life of the creatures and world they inhabited. I threw some of my own aesthetics into the mix where appropriate, but nothing to distract from the origins of the story. Ideas flowed quite freely between all of us.

Logistically, how did collaboration work? Did you meet up? Get on the phone? Zoom?

Kevin: Everything was done via email and Facebook messenger. I’m in the UK and the others are in the US so no meeting was possible. I’m not a massive fan of video chatting, so I try to avoid it where possible.

Christina: The idea was cultivated over messenger, but the project work was done over email. Phil and I were able to get together and hang out since we both live in the same city, but Kevin lives in another part of the world.

Phil: Mostly chats, emails, and the occasional call.

How was collaborating? Did you enjoy it? Was it maddening?

Kevin: I really enjoyed it. I’ve done it with 3 different authors now, and each time it has been different, but it’s always been fun. In some ways, it’s more fun than writing on your own as you have someone to talk to about your project and it keeps you motivated.

Christina: I have always enjoyed collaborating with other artists. I have worked with visual artists before and enjoyed the balance of mediums. This was my first time working with another author on the same work, not an anthology. I really enjoyed it. I have done tag writing exercises before, where you write a sentence or paragraph and pass it off and the story goes it very unexpected directions. This felt like a much more controlled development of that. The story went in ways I would have never imagined on my own, and I loved that.

Phil: Loved it, and want to do more, much much more!

What really worked about the collaboration?

Kevin: I think it helped that we had read each other’s previous work and liked it, so we knew what we were getting into. Neither of us was too controlling, but we both had out own opinions. It was a good blend.

Christina: We started from a common baseline. We all loved the idea and the themes. Then I think everyone was the right amount of flexible. Everyone contributed, but everyone was also willing to bend and adapt to accommodate the other contributors. It was a good balance.

Phil: Our collective love of survival and apocalyptic themes, in concert with the great introspection displayed by characters, sprinkled with a bit of monster mayhem. In short, it just worked.

What would you do differently in future collaborations? Will you work with other artists again?

Kevin: We mapped out more of book 2 in advance. It came to a stand still when my father became unwell, but we are returning to it now and hopefully it’ll move quickly again now that I have more time. I will definitely do more co-writes.

Christina: In future collaborations, I would probably push an outline earlier. We already learned our lesson and did that first for Screechers 2. I definitely look forward to future co-writing and collaboration projects, with Kevin and Phil and other artists/authors.

Phil: Personally, I just need to get better about being more organized and time-oriented when I’m doing this kind of work in my free time. It’s all too easy to take the “work hat” off and slip into my habits of distraction when I just illustrate for myself.

What about the collaboration shows up in the finished product? What makes it unique?

Kevin: I think the whole point it to make it seem like a solo work. The idea was to have the voices blend although we were writing separate parts.

Christina: I think this collaboration is unique because we had our own sandboxes. It is the weaving of two separate perspectives, humans and monsters, that then collide. Instead of trying to make the dual authors completely transparent, we leaned on that strength to create a layered story. Then we brought the cover artist more into the process than always happens. Phil got to pick our brains before drawing the art.

Phil: Again, I tried my best to be the visual conduit through which the story just flowed. Everything within the book was so strong on its own merit I didn’t want to overdo anything and stray from the vision of the authors.

What is your favorite part of the work that the other persons contributed?

Kevin: I enjoyed the relationship Christina created with the humans in the book. It filled the story out and kept those parts exciting too. I loved Phil’s art and how he brought some of our monsters to life.

Christina: Kevin’s monster fight scene was my favorite part. I focused on the human relationships and humanizing the survivors, but ultimately, Kevin’s monsters were more sympathetic than my characters. That dynamic turned out great. Then I always love how Phil brings what is on the page to life.

Phil: Just getting into their headspace through the writing process as the book took shape and how we would continue to motivate and excite each other as we all came out with more parts of the story through our mediums.

You can find Kevin here: https://www.kevinjkennedy.co.uk/

You can find Phil’s art on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/philbeachchair/

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Since this pandemic started (or more since people began reacting to it), I have heard multiple times, “Your book Savages makes so much sense now” or “I really see what you meant in Savages” or “It’s just like you wrote about in Savages.”

The goal of any writer is to produce a work that is relatable and enduring. However, when we are talking about the apocalypse and bringing out the worst in humanity, those are not the themes you want to persist. I got the idea for Savages when I was freshly home from my civilian tour of a war zone and had completely lost my faith in humanity. These are not exactly ways I want to feel forever.

If you ask me what Savages is really about (and I’m the writer, so I suppose my answer does hold some weight), I would say that more than the byproduct of a Walking Dead binge (though that is in there too), the story ultimately is about questioning how human we really are. Are we civilized, or do we just pretend when we are comfortable enough? Are we all truly savage underneath it all?

I took a lot of anthropology electives in college. In those classes, we spent a lot of time trying to differentiate the common human base from the variable layers of culture applied over it. I took even more psychology electives in an attempt to sort out what was happening in my own head at the time (when did I actually have time to take the classes for my writing major?). In those classes, we compared varying theories on nature versus nurture. What are we born as, and what do we learn?

Somehow, all of this academic experience combined with the hopelessness and disgust I felt at my tiny sampling taste warside (plus a dash of zombie pop culture) left me wondering: are we all just animals, pretending to be evolved and civilized? But animals wasn’t the right word. Savagery was what I was thinking about. Savagery was I saw underneath our surface and wondered if it might be our true nature under all our “humanity.”

So I used the story in Savages to sort the problem out in my mind. Not surprisingly, my protagonist sounded a bit like me, asking all the questions I had batting around my head. She’s even as resistant and depressed as I would no doubt be in that post-apocalyptic position. Sometimes, you write what you know, and I know myself.

Where did I… I mean, she end up? What did she decide about humanity? To find out, you will need to make the journey through the fallout with her and read (or listen to) Savages!

And what about now? A decade later, I had improved my world outlook or fallen back into a comfortable complacency, however you want to look at it. I came home and lived my comfortable life, focused on my family. Then the world swelled back in ways I could not ignore. Pandemic, quarantine, police brutality, a scrolling list of awful—of savage.

But I feel the same way I did those years ago again; my mindset has returned. Savages makes sense. Everything I meant resonates for me again. And I don’t like it.

Last time, I dealt with these feelings with complacency. I accepted our savagery. I was able to accept the world being shit and focus on finding my own happiness within that. Yet, I am different now. I am less complacent. Perhaps it is motherhood, but I do not want to leave things this awful. I do not know how to change them, but I want to, and that desire is unsettling.

Maybe that is what my next book will be about.

At the moment, I am not happy to be reanimating the feelings of Savages. I would rather be reliving The Rest Will Come instead, if we’re picking from my bookshelf.

Christina Bergling

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Being a published author, even on the smallest of scales, remains a perpetually surreal experience.

A couple weeks ago, I attended my first book club. This experience was especially unique because it was also the first time (to my knowledge) that my book, Savages, was the book said club read that month.

Even though this book club was one a friend belonged to, sure to be hosted by equally welcoming people, I found myself nervous. I had experienced feedback on the book from people directly in my life in person and from strangers at the distance of the internet. While the response from those sources was overwhelmingly positive, I had developed coping strategies for when/if it was not. Having to receive critiques from live people who had no personal stake in my mental well being was going to be new.

Thankfully, my anxiety was largely unfounded.

The women were, as anticipated, very welcoming and friendly. Prior to our book discussion, I could have easily forgotten I was there as an author and would have had a delightful time just eating and chatting with newly met women.

When we transitioned to book discussion, I was reminded, “hey, you’re a published author.” Enter the surreal.

There were the normal questions. Where did you get the idea for this book? And so on. Every time I get the questions, I get a little better at articulating them. Especially in person. The more I’m asked about my own inspiration and process, the more I am able to analyze and define it myself.

The critiques were also relatively gentle. They wanted more, more time with the characters, more about the characters. They wanted to know what caused the apocalypse. They wanted to know what happened next. I took all of these reactions to mean I had accomplished what I wanted; I had affected them.

bookclub

Overall, it was a good experience. Like a baby step to public scrutiny.

More recently, I (or more just Savages) went to Denver Comic Con. ChaosStudios was kind enough to grant Savages a cozy little corner on her booth, as she was the artist to visualize the savages from its pages.

savagespairwatermark

Aside from it being Savages‘s convention pseudo debut, this was also my first official convention. I went to a couple misnamed events falsely claiming to be conventions when I was a belly dancer in Tennessee and Georgia. I also attended the Stanley Film Festival. Yet this was my first full fledged, official convention attendance. And a comic con, no less.

Denver Comic Con was overwhelming. We spent the duration of our time among the vendors, lost in a sea of cosplay bodies, shouted sales, and blinking geekdom. Everywhere, there was a vendor to take my money for something new and creative. The market was utterly saturated.

While our voyeur experience was enjoyable, Savages did not fair especially well. On a small corner of a non-horror art booth in a sea of visual options, it went largely unnoticed. Not even a copy sold, which was quite disappointing. Yet I could understand how it could easily happen in such an overstimulating market.

So when I was physically present at the booth on the last day, I simply distributed my cards and evaluated what made a successful booth. It was exposure, and it was a learning experience. In the end, that was enough.

dcc

It is difficult to gauge my place on the public spectrum. I have a published book that seems to be selling; I have created a growing social media following. In short, I am infinitely farther than when I started. Yet in comparison to successful public figures, I barely seem noticeable.

Once again, just utterly surreal.

So I continue to stumble down this unknown path as an author, fumbling through a string of unfamiliar experiences. It all makes me wonder where this road will lead after my second book, The Waning, comes out in July.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

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

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning, coming July 2015

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

thewaning.com

Savages is fully launched and out upon the world! ebook is released; paperback is released. And finally, I threw a launch party and book signing to commemorate it.

Rather than maintain a professional veneer of a polished, public author, I am going to be more raw in my account of my release. More personal and honest. As Savages is my debut book, I have obviously never hosed a book launch party before. I also have never attended one before. Add to that the fact that I am supposed to do something creative and different, I truly had no idea what I was doing.

I stressed about this event for months. I dreaded it. I am not the typical socially reclusive, shy, or awkward writer. I love to host parties; I enjoy attention. However, hosting something of this scale and having it all centered around a deep piece of my own brain made manifest in paper was intimidating. What if no one showed? What if nothing sold? What if people thought it was all stupid?

I just was not sure what I wanted to do, what suited my book, what best represented me, and what would attract and appease my guests. Once I abandoned my apprehension, however, it all came together.

launchflyer

Ultimately, much like it was the backdrop for the story itself, I let the apocalypse be my theme. A friend suggested a taproom in an old church for the venue. Though the place was more polished and less professional than I would have preferred, it fit the theme perfectly, and I simply built from there. I set up a table at the venue. I sold and signed copies of my book. I did a raffle for book-related and survival swag. I did it open house style to keep it casual. And finally, under duress, I did a reading from my book.

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Sari NeoChaos of ChaosStudios also sold prints of the savages she drew from the pages of Savages, including a selection of prints in the raffle as well.

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Admittedly, even with a plan, I remained nervous. It was fear of the unknown. It was fear of exposure and vulnerability. It was fear of failure. However, all the planning did eventually coalesce. Though I dealt with venue issues and swag issues, in the end, none of those problems were visible.

People not only showed up; they arrived early to ensure they could purchase a copy of my book.

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And they kept coming. All told, more than 75 people showed up for the event. People from every branch of my social network made an appearance. I saw friends, family, coworkers present and past, people from high school. I would have guessed at least 25 of my people would show up; it was overwhelming to see triple that number arrive.

It was also overwhelming to interface with all of these people. It took me well over an hour to move around the room, greeting and talking to people. Though it would be a lie to say I was not basking in the attention, praise, and support. It is a rare thing in life to physically see how much you are supported, to have a gathering of people just to wish you well. I did not let such a moment pass me by unnoticed or unappreciated.

I was woefully under stocked for the turn out. I had wrestled with how many copies of my book to purchase, how much swag to make. Unsure of the amount of guests, I did not want to come home with a stack of my own books, but I also did not want so many to leave empty handed. The copies of my book I did have sold out in the first 20 minutes of the event. I had to keep them covered until the event actually started.

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Having your book sell out in minutes is not a bad problem to have. Having people upset that there were not enough copies is also not a bad problem to have. I would have preferred to have been better prepared, but I am not unhappy to have created demand or the need for additional signings.

And I donated half of the money. Not the money I made but all of the money. I donated it to Wounded Warrior Project where it belonged.

It was a surreal feeling to sign my own books as well. Asking people how to spell their names felt foreign. I had to force myself not to concentrate on my own signature, lest I foul it up. The entire experience was just deeply weird for as much as I always wanted it.

I was immersed in being social, but I later found out that the bar was providing very substandard service. Numerous people left due to being served painfully slowly or not at all. This would later explain why so few people lasted until the raffle. The place was packed; I filled it up for about the first hour or so. Then they gradually all disappeared.

We raffled, nonetheless.

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We doled out the Savages keychains, the last signed copy in the house, the prints from ChaosStudios, and the stocked bug out bag. I would have been content to happily conclude the night there as a success. However, the public demanded a reading.

I did not want to read. I was sick and losing my voice. I did not want to hear myself in that microphone or read from my book. It should be the easiest thing ever, to read my own words. I read the full book to my husband twice while I was drafting it. Yet, somehow, I was intimidated once again. Yet the audience would not be dissuaded.

I had selected a passage for such a contingency; however, with the sellout, I had to borrow a copy of my own book to read from. I stood behind the microphone and shakily read my own words to the crowd that remained. Quickly at first, the words leaping off my tongue to make room for the next, sprinting toward the end. Then I slowed myself, allowed myself to fall back into the story I lived in for months writing it. I let my eyes flit up from the words to see them smiling at me, pointing their phones up at me.

reading

As I read my own words in my own published book in front of crowd that came to see and support me, it all felt real again.

Thank you to all who celebrated with me, in person or in spirit; I deeply appreciate you.

So the zombies rose to plague the living, but it was no apocalypse. The world did not end. The living were somehow able to battle back the hordes of the undead. Hey, it could happen; think World War Z (the book, not the movie).

Now, in the aftermath, there is that messy question of what to do with all the leftovers? The zombies still shambling around, the pieces strewn far and wide, maybe even the infected zombie animals. Sure, we could double tap them all right in the brain and burn the remains, but that just seems wasteful (and boring). And what are zombies about if not recycling parts (get it: reanimated bodies)?

So, in the spirit of adaptation and reuse, I give you 5 things to do with the lingering zombies after the apocalypse failed to actually end the world:

Weapons of War

What do we humans do maybe best of all throughout time? Figure out evolving and creative ways to kill each other. Guns, bombs, landmines, biological pathogens—if nothing else, we are innovative when it comes to the demise of our species-mates. Why not include the undead to the regiment?

Imagine, if you will, a battlefield led by the snarling, chomping, flesh-hungry masses that require no food, no quarter, no rest. Sure, they also completely lack cognition and loyalty, but with the proper direction, they could be unleashed on the opposing force.

zombiesoldier

Not to mention the more covert precision insertion of a zombie. A zombie smuggled into a secure facility could mean secure facility down. Zombies could be dropped in the night into sleepy, unsuspecting towns to annihilate the population in mere days.

Entertainment Fighting

Zombie fight club. Zombie cage matches. Zombie gladiators. The variation possibilities are nearly endless. Perhaps zombies could be made to fight other zombies (gambling involved, of course). More likely, zombies would be obstacles for the living, either released gladiator style on the peripheral of a more central fight or as the direct contest.

Zombie fighting could become an entire entertainment industry. It could be conducted on a grand scale in large arenas, getting us to truly channel our savage gladiator-loving roots. It, no doubt, would be televised (most likely on pay-per-view) and YouTubed. Foolish children would be trying to emulate the greats, making their own home movies that ended with them getting chomped on by a zombie and racking up millions of hits.

Scientific Experimentation

Sure, zombies are not living tissue. OK, they are not exactly human anymore. But surely, a reanimated human body more closely imitates a human body than a pig or rat. With a horde of zombies laying around, we might not even need to worry about testing on animals anymore. We could use those undead bodies for all sorts of medical and scientific experimentation, consumer product testing. If a shampoo could give a zombie radiant, shining locks, there’s no doubt it would be a top seller. If lipstick could stay on through the ravaging of a screaming victim, it truly never rubs off on his collar.

zombieexperiment

At the very least, there is the ever-constant search for a cure for zombies. With enough doctors, maybe they could restore zombies to the living before they figured out how to cure cancer.

Crash Test Dummies

Not dissimilar from scientific experimentation, zombie bodies being formerly human bodies could be used to gauge damage done in things like car accidents. Zombies would bring the fleshy (though rotting) tissue and animated rigidity that normal crash test dummies simply lack. And you know if a zombie gets dispatched in a car accident, there is no way a breathing human would ever survive.

Why not zombies shot into space? Save the monkeys. Surely there’s not an ethical consideration if the alternative was to put two in their skull and set their finally limp bodies ablaze.

Perimeter Defense

What is more of a deterrent than zombies? Put a shambling biter on a runner outside your house to discourage a midnight burglar. Leave staggering bodies in a vacant store, ever vigilant for any sound of a living soul who should not be there. Equip these zombie guards with webcams, and you could eliminate the need for a night watchman.

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Even better, create a zombie moat. Imagine, if you will, a deep trench around your property filled with a teeming mass of gasping bodies. You never have to feed them; you never have to make sure there are enough. All you have to do is dump in the dead and let them pace relentlessly in the ground around your site. No one is going to dare crawl down there to get across. As long as you can ignore or mask the noise of those wheezing walkers, it is perfect high security.

Perhaps around a bug out location for when the apocalypse really comes.

 

So before you double tap those bullets in a rotting skull, stop to consider how you could recycle that pitiful zombie (a second time). Grandma need not perish completely unnecessary when you could keep her around as a mobile scarecrow to would-be intruders through your backyard; think of the lives she could save being ejected from a demolished car or the joy she could bring consumers in finding the right formula in hair products.

Don’t waste the dead.

What other purposes could you find for a zombie?

Sweet Success

Posted: December 23, 2014 in writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher did extensive writing lessons. We wrote different formats of poetry. We even wrote and published our own short stories, which included printing and illustrating the pages then binding them together. It was in this class that I realized I wanted to be an author.

I always wrote. I kept a journal compulsively over the years. I wrote short stories that I would pass around to my friends in spiral notebooks between junior high classes. I placed in every writing contest to which I ever submitted.

Writing came easy to me. It was just what I did. And all I wanted to do.

I pursued writing in college, of course. I took every creative writing class they offered (beside poetry). I caused controversy when I made a satire out of suicide. It was just not enough for a career, and I surely could not make a living off of what I was producing and publishing.

After college, I faced a fork in my writing life. I was offered a job as a technical writer for a Department of Defense contractor and as a community writer assistant at a newspaper. It was write for salary and benefits or write for the hope of doing what I love eventually.

I chose salary and benefits; I sold my writing soul for comfort.

And I do not regret that decision, though I do sometimes wonder what if. I have financed a beautiful life; I have supported the growth of my family. I have been comfortable. And eventually, that comfort left me to be able to write my first book.

The seed was planted during my brief civilian deployment to Iraq (another side effect of the soul selling). I went to train soldiers on software but ultimately ended up just writing software user manuals in a trailer in a war zone. I didn’t see any action, but I was immersed into military wartime culture, exposed to things that never could seem so real on the news. My three months there changed everything, shifted every perspective I had.

Later, I nurtured this unconsummated idea with full season marathons of The Walking Dead (complete with my gothic belly dancers for company and lots of booze). The way The Walking Dead explored the survivors made me question the ideas of humanity I had seen in a war zone.

What would we become without all our civilization? What are we really underneath all the comfortable pretense?

And so my novella, Savages, was born.

The story infected me. I woke in the middle of the night to write sections and scenes. I lived inside it.

Then, on a whim, at the recommendation of a dear friend, I entered Savages into a contest from Assent Publishing. I placed as a finalist; I won a publishing contract. It all happened, and my dream since fourth grade was finally realized.

And a year later, after promoting and prepping and editing and reviewing, Savages is released!

SavagesCoverChristinaI cannot wait until next month, when I can hold the paperback copy in my hands. Maybe then it will feel less surreal than sales numbers on an ebook. Maybe then it will feel like I have finally made it to being a published author.

Find Savages on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Savages-Christina-Bergling-ebook/dp/B00R8YRBYY

I could hear them waiting, their shifting feet crunching on the dead rocks and sticks around us. There was always audience around. This was not fighting in its purest conflict; it was fighting for sport. It was violence as entertainment. In what was left of the world, they had nothing better to do.

We fought to survive each day, but then we watched others fight to unwind.

The adrenaline was already reaching thin, excited strands down my veins. My heart was already fluttering into an agitated rhythm, just knowing what was waiting. I fought night after night, smashing my swollen knuckles into another face, for the food to fight the next day. Yet the anxiety never faded; the nerves never steeled.

Above the tremors starting in my muscles, I felt my stomach tightening and writhing, tugging down on my esophagus towards the empty pit in my gut. Vacant, hollow, fucking starving.

I tried to swallow the acid bubbling up my throat and focus on the plate that would be on the other side of this fight.

Then he was gesturing towards me, beckoning me to emerge from the shadows of the trees out into the light of the large bonfire where they could see me. I could see the shifting figures now, mumbling and cheering in anticipation. The fire crackled beside them, sending embers into the black sky. I breathed out hard into that dark sky and watched my breath curl in front of and away from me.

I clapped my hands together and swung my arms back and forth as I had always seen boxers do on TV, imitating numerous people probably dead and rotting under the twisted wreckage.

My opponent looked even more scraggly and desperate than I imagined myself. I had seen myself in the dusty reflection of a shattered window months ago, and it had terrified me. Yet even in that dilapidated state, I was not this emaciated, wild-eyed shell of a man.

He held his hands up in gnarled, shaking fists. I could have underestimated him had other ragged opponents not crept out of starvation to nearly pummel me into the dirt below us.

He did not disappoint. He came at me fast and direct, flying across the dirt and dead pine needles in a flurry of long punches. I lifted my arms defensively over my face and felt his arms collide painfully with my forearms. I let him burn it out. I let him pound his fists into my rounded back.

I knew none of our fatigued and deprived muscles could perform for long.

The crowd grew restless around us. I was not entertaining them. They wanted my fight, my pain to distract them from the dismal world all around us.

The pain rolled over me in waves. Each impact from his fists or his feet rippled through my nerves. My instincts screamed to react, to heed the whine of the patrons, to perform. But I had to stick to the tried and true method. I had to fight my impulse and wear him out. Then I could eat.

I felt his blows waning. I watched his bare feet as I curled under my defensive arms. His footsteps were staggering. He could see the finish line and was seduced by the thought of that food. My food.

When I saw one of his arms dangle at his side, I knew it was time. The audience had nearly given up on me. Stray conversations had started among the crowd; the energy had shifted away from us. When there was a pause in his assault, I stood up tall again and dove my fist into his lower jaw. I felt his jaw collide with his skull, heard his teeth snap together. He toppled back surprised and stunned.

And the crowd exploded in cheers.

They loved me once more; they always loved me when the momentum switched. They were drunk off the violence, wrapped up in the sport.

In a blur of exploding instincts and ravenous hunger, I was on top of him, pounding my fists into his face. I felt the flesh contort below each blow, felt his blood wetting my knuckles. With each strike, the audience became more alive. The world was just this moment, and they lived for what I was doing to this other desperate survivor.

I lived for him to stop moving and for the plate to be placed in front of me.

Finally, his arms stopped flailing up on me. Finally, his breathing dropped to sad sputter. He fell limp beneath me, and the fight was over.

I had won. Dinner was mine.

This is just a glimpse at what entertainment might become in the apocalypse. My upcoming novella, Savages, follows two survivors through the search for others in the apocalypse.

When it comes to preparation for the apocalypse, it is more than just canned goods and a bug out plan. Mental fortitude and well stocked supplies are crucial pieces of the survival picture; however, physical conditioning is just as important. All the well laid plans will not save you if you cannot outrun a zombie or assailant.

With the importance of physical preparedness in mind and included in my full apocalypse prepping, I give you my apocalypse anticipatory workout.

(*Note: I have no personal training experience or exceptional fitness expertise, so take this as you will…)

Cardio

Rule #1: Cardio. We all know it. We did not even need Zombieland to tell us (though it was awesome and hilarious to see). Whether you are sprinting to safety with a zombie on your heels or chasing down your dinner or nomadically trekking across the country, you need the endurance and conditioning (the cardio) to sustain the task at hand.

You would think that running and speed would be crucial, and it is important. However, the apocalypse (like a horror movie franchise) is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, you will be running and fleeing and evading. More often, you will probably just be moving. Probably constantly moving, traveling on foot.

As such, you need to prepare for both.

For my apocalypse workout, cardio will be on day #1 because it is rule #1. It will also be on an additional two days (making it the majority of my routine) because it is the more crucial. First, a long distance run to truly build endurance. Next, running speed work, sprinting and increasing my pace. Then, a very long walk to include intense hills and/or a long hike, conditioning for a nomadic lifestyle that could include a variety of terrains.

Weights/Strength Training

Cardio may be the priority, but resistance training (weights, strength training, whatever you want to call it) also serves an important role. Most simply, you need to be able to carry your supplies. A properly stocked bug out bag is going to be hefty; nonperishable food and water is always heavy.

If you are going to be living a nomadic lifestyle, for instance, you need the cardio to do the moving, but you also need the muscle conditioning to hold everything you need to survive. Even just holding a weapon every waking moment requires a certain amount of musculature.

For my routine, I will include at least two strength training sessions. Once a week, I will devote an entire workout (over an hour) to a full body routine, working each muscle group in two sets to failure. One shorter upper body session paired with a plyometrics workout and one shorter lower body session paired with a cardio day.

Plyometrics

Jumping is important. Plyometrics serves as cardio in its aerobic nature (leaves me panting half to death) but also builds the muscle power. This sort of conditioning would be helpful in any survival situation.

I personally hate plyo. I loather jumping (and also suck at it). But I appreciate its value, so I will include it, paired with an upper body weight workout, once a week. I will probably do the bare minimum to satisfy the workout, but I will try to push myself to do as much as I can take.

Climbing

Climbing (on the comfort of an indoor climbing wall pre-apocalypse) works the entire body, from the flexing fingertips to the gripping toes. That, in itself, is useful. However, climbing as a skill would be helpful in the apocalypse. Without conveniences like elevators or vehicles or anything of that nature, there might be plenty of times the ability to climb would be beneficial. Plus, the knowledge could help mitigate the fear.

So up and down the indoor climbing wall to start. One day, maybe, I will confront my deeply seeded biological phobia of heights and try for the real thing. Preferrably prior to the necessity of the apocalypse.

Yoga

Yoga, for me, is for both the body and the mind. However, in the scope of an apocalypse workout, it would be for the body. Healthy muscles and connective tissues are stretched.

At the conclusion of each of my apocalypse workouts, I will do enough yoga to take care of my body and also subsequently calm my mind.

Rest

There will be no rest during the apocalypse, so before that comes, there will be a designated day of rest in my weekly workout routine. The muscles need time to recuperate; the body needs time to recover. I would like to say I would spend this restful time productively, clean living and what have you. However, truthfully, it will probably include drinking beer, watching shameful TV, and indulging in all the creature comforts I will miss post apocalypse.

My upcoming book, Savages, talks about the physical demands of surviving the apocalypse.

What would your apocalypse workout include?