Posts Tagged ‘author’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, it fells like it’s never enough.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christina Bergling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christina Bergling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Christina Bergling

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

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

Oh, no. No no no.

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

Insert my utter panic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But I made it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

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

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

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

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Earlier this week, I stood up in front of classes of 6-8th graders and talked about being a published horror author. The experience was pretty amazing, far more fun and impactful than I really expected.

The children were very excited to have me there and to broach the subject of horror in their classroom. I gave maybe a two minute introduction; then they asked me questions for an hour and a half. Hands still lingered in the air when the class ended.
davis-middle-school-classroom
I would have stayed and talked to them as long as they wanted.
They were hungry to talk about the darkness. We discussed the best zombie origin lore (they were thrilled I brought up The Walking Dead as inspiration). We talked about how often I kill my characters and why. We touched on depression in writing. They wanted to know about my process and inspirations and methods and future plans. I got a lot of “would you ever write about…” questions. They asked me pretty much everything.
When we were discussing my favoring of psychological horror, I told them I like to focus on the internal experience of my characters, their emotional journey. I told them I liked to torture my characters from the inside out. They asked me why and what scared me the most. I told them, my own mind.
bipolar-2
I stood in front of a class of 50 young strangers and told them I was bipolar. I never intended to go there, to bring up that part of my life, yet I said it just as naturally as I discussed my first writing unit in 4th grade.
And when they asked what I wanted to write about but was hesitant, I told them bipolar again.
I don’t love public speaking. Often when I stand up in front of a group to train them, my mind blanks out. I am always less eloquent standing in the front than I am on the page or even sitting within the group. Yet, this was easy. Everything about this interaction was simple and honest and comfortable.
As a bipolar person, you usually learn or are encouraged to keep your condition under wraps. Since mental issues are largely an invisible disability, you are supposed to play sane, medicate or hide your symptoms, and pretend you are just as well and normal as everyone around you. Especially when it comes to employers, as to avoid the possibility of discrimination.
shhhh
No one wants to be branded as crazy. Then treated that way.
I have failed at that approach the majority of my career. And I don’t regret it.
When I was in college, I did work study at the campus art gallery. Since art is a field where deviant minds are embraced if not celebrated, I was able to be honest with my boss, the gallery manager, about my condition. I was freshly diagnosed and in some of the most turbulent times of learning my disorder. It was formatively comforting to be able to struggle honestly and get support and understanding at work. When the gallery manager killed himself years later, a part of me died with him for all he had done for me at a time I really needed it.
However, when I joined the professional world, I tucked that away. I never really muted my behavior, just never volunteered the explanation. I let people think I was eccentric or volatile or emotional and just made sure it never interfered with the work.
There was no hiding in Iraq though. When I went to Iraq for three months for work, it was rough on me. As an unmedicated bipolar, I use routine to stabilize my cycles. Yet I had just moved across the country to a place I did not want to live; I was half the world away from my partner, who served greatly as a balancing influence for me; I was in a place that intimidated me in nearly every way possible. I was too busy trying to keep myself mentally afloat to even give half a care to what others could perceive.
iraq2
And more than just me, everyone seemed pretty raw over there. Aside from it being a warzone, many people elected to work there to avoid some sort of damage at home. And even for the most balanced individual, when you have no personal life and spend every hour with your coworkers, you can’t really hide much.
At least I couldn’t. Stateside management found my blog at the time and became concerned I was going to crack. My boss had to sit me down and assess my mental status. After nearly every single post went live. I chose to be honest with him and in him found another ally. He trusted me to be who I was and handle what I needed, and that faith was empowering.
After that, I did not care who knew or when.
I have been fortunate in my professional experience of my illness. I have been lucky enough to work for empathetic, equitable employers. I am also good enough at what I do that my work speaks louder than my other labels.
I blog under my real name now, linked very clearly to all my author activities. I talk about bipolar on the open internet and public profiles. In the end, being who I am and talking about it for other people in the same situation means more to me than the safety in secrecy. I have never done secrecy well in my life.
living-with-bipolar-disorder
I have been thinking about this a lot because of how it felt to have a conversation with these children and because of where my head has been the past week. I have been in a strange state the past few days, a mixed state. Mixed episodes, which for me is experiencing a blend of mania and depression simultaneously, are extremely rare. I think I may have had two other experiences in my life, both dating back to before my children.
It is hard for me to describe how the mixed state feels, which is saying something as I am a person who describes things for a living and a hobby. It just feels like EVERYTHING. I’m hyper sensitive, hyper aroused. Every sense is on full blast, cutting on edge. Colors are brighter; sounds are louder; my skin feels like it is going to vibrate off my bones. At first, it feels like amplified mania, but then there is the depression. I am perpetually on the edge. The pain is blended into all the highs. I feel amazing and horrible at the same time. I slam between elation and torture in milliseconds. Sensations and feelings fly around so fast I can’t even gauge them.
bipolarbehavior1
The peak of this particular episode was pretty intense for me. I got to the point where I could not physically hold still. My thoughts were racing. I had a song stuck in my head, but it was playing at triple tempo.  My nerves were so sensitive I could barely be touched. And, if I am being completely honest with myself, I loved it as much as I feared and hated it. I knew it was temporary; I knew it was a cycle. I let myself truly experience the intensity. Yet that was the crescendo. Even in my flurried state, I managed to put myself to bed and wake up more balanced.
It was a beautiful kind of pain, a sublime kind of suffering. When it passed, it was a relief, yet it also left a void. Everything felt dulled and quiet and disappointing even.
So as the vivid extremes recede, I find myself just introspective, locked in the internal cycle of evaluating my own mind. And how, on most days, I love the horror of it.

Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

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

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

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

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Where have I been lately? What have I been doing these past months? Why have I sucked horrendously at this whole blogging, social networking business? Aside from my day job, my family, and my workout obsession, BOOK #3!

Technically, this is the third book I have completed in three years. Additionally, this third book is my first full-length novel, doubling the length of either Savages or The Waning. I wrote Savages when I only had my daughter and The Waning mostly while I was still pregnant with my son. The authoring process became much more complicated with two children, who are now old enough to have their own schedules, plus the addition of my own new fixations.

This book was also a unique writing experience because it was assembled from a collection of real life influences. I made people in my life into characters in the book (myself included, even more so than in Savages), and I used these people’s actual life experiences as suggestions for portions of the plot. These people were also involved in the process, both by providing me with inspirations and reading over the book itself to provide feedback. This difference made the process much more interactive. On more than one occasion, I sat and had heated debates about realistic ways to dispose of a body. It more fun than I expected, to share the experience and my craft.

So the process took longer than normal, both because distractions were more prevalent and because the process itself was different, but last week, I completed my submission draft. Now, the book is off of my laptop, out in the world in the hands of my editor, being evaluated for publication. My fingers, toes, and anything else I have are tightly crossed.

I have a couple new ideas batting around the edges of my mind, yet I also think I might need a bit of a BREAK to recoup my creative abilities. Maybe I’ll even come up with an entertaining blog post or two…

 

Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

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

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

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

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Thankful

Posted: November 25, 2015 in real life, writing
Tags: , , , ,

I am going to get a little cliche for the season here. I generally abstain from the contrived November posting about everything I am thankful for. Yet, this year, on this blog, I am going to make an exception. A lot has happened in the past year.

Last December, Assent Publishing released my first book, Savages. On Christmas, I learned it had reached best seller numbers in Amazon categories. I hosted a very successful launch party for it in January.

Then, in July, my second book, The Waning, also came out and also hit best seller numbers in Amazon categories.

My oldest dream came true when I became published. I am thankful for the publisher who saw something in my work and made these books a released reality.

I am thankful for my readers, my fans, my friends, my followers, my critics. I have met so many people who share my various loves, who, for whatever reason, find something in my work. I am thankful to be in a position to have any of these things.

The support I have received from the people in my life and the people who have encountered my writing has been so encouraging. I am thankful to warrant such investment.

If your eyes are on this, I am thankful for you and the two minutes you took to read this.

And so ends the mush. Now back to darker things!

cannibal-thanksgiving-fb

 

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/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

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

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

I have written about it before. I wrote a confession of my past, present, and future readings for Confessions of a Reviewer. I reviewed the Goosebumps movie on MoviePilot. Yet doing both those things has but the examination of my horror influences in my brain. My thoughts swirl and fixate on the horror writings that have made an impression on me.

The Goosebumps movie really unearthed these strings in my mind, resurrecting a menagerie of my childhood monsters onto the silver screen in front of me. I had been so anxious and so curious to see how Goosebumps would take the screen. I read at least 50 of the books in my youth and watched any of the TV adaptations I came across. I did not know how they could capture the series instead of just capturing one plotline.

I was pleasantly surprised by the cleverness of the plot. I will not regurgitate my review here again, but the amalgamation pleased me and permitted me to wallow in my own nostalgia. The same way I basked in flashbacks when I dug out all my paperback copies to show my daughter.

goosebumpsgenerations

(I love her little ermahgerd face, btw.)

Goosebumps were definitely my first definitive horror influence. Something about them spoke to me. I devoured the books whole as soon as they showed up in the store. I found myself transfixed by the fear, attracted to the light shade of darkness. Reading the books felt like home.

My horror ingestion just grew and evolved from there, but Goosebumps and Halloween were the start, the seed in the perverse dirt of my mind.

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Goosebumps taught me to put fear and horror in the every day, even my childhood life.

The next logical progression was Stephen King. I followed the well-trodden mainstream path of horror development. King, like R. L. Stine, provided an exhaustive library to choose from.  I dove in as deep as my adolescent eyes could take me.

Different Seasons taught me to infuse stories with deep, relateable emotion. Gerald’s Game taught me to fill subtly with fear and tension.

From there, I sampled far and wide. I read the classics. I began indulging horror movies and their various adaptations. I dabbled in other genres. I majored in English and took endless literary classes. Back before I had children, I read ravenously and rapidly. A couple other non-horror influences stick in my mind.

Chuck Palahniuk taught me how fascinating the ugliness of reality is. In 7 Types of Ambiguity, Eliot Perlman taught me about the power of perspective.

A little piece of everything I have read or watched is with me when I create, whether I loved it or hated it. I may emulate aspects of what I love, violently avoid reminders of what I hate. Regardless, I am affected; I am influenced.

ghostbook

I enjoy rekindling these influences. It feels like taking a stroll through my old mind. For brief seconds, I feel like I am that version of myself again, that child, that teenager. And I look forward to evolving through ingesting new, varied influences in the future who can teach me something about myself that I have not yet seen.

 

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/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

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

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

My favorite holiday has always been Halloween. I have said it before; I have written about it before. Since I can remember, I always enjoyed and waited for Halloween above all others.

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I love the fall weather and colors.

I love the crisp (or snowy) night.

I love the costumes.

I love the candy.

I love the fear and the horror.

I loved it in my earliest memories as I love it now, as I share the holiday with my children.

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I also started writing when I was a child. I remember my passion truly being ignited during a writing unit in fourth grade, but I believe I was crafting miniature tales even younger than that. Even in my naive, sheltered, and happy youth, I found myself drawn to the darkness, attracted to the infancy of horror I was exposed to within my coveted holiday.

My young brain was stimulated by all the conventional Halloween imagery. Haunted houses. Jack-o-lanterns. Witches. Ghosts. Monsters like Frankenstein, vampires, and werewolves. Bats and spiders. Each year, as these images began to populate the stores, TV shows and movies, and my classrooms, my mind began to whir with spooky stories.

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Each October, I remember I would start to write Halloween tales, complete with illustrations in black, green, orange, and purple. From construction and computer paper, I would self-publish my own childish horror books. I remember being filled with such joy and pride as I folder the paper into the book shape and showed my mother what I had created. A pride I would later revitalize in a mature evolution when I held my first published book in my hands.

This year, I remember that youthful tradition by teaching my daughter how to write and illustrate her own Halloween story and by taking the time to craft a short piece of festive fiction here. I could have crawled inside this one and made a home, which makes me wonder if I should not write something in the young horror fiction (a la Goosebumps) someday, but I forced myself to keep it short. Just a scary little glimpse.

Enjoy.

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The Green Light

That house loomed over me as long as I remember, dark and slumped on a dismal plot of land along our walk to school, staring down at us with wide and lopsided windows like a drooping face. Everyone knew the house was haunted. The McAllister house. The murder house. That damn house. It had many names. If we walked alone, we quickened our step to a near jog until we had passed the edge of the property; if we passed it in a group, laughing conversations lulled, and all eyes cast sideways up towards the black house perched between gnarled and twisted trees.

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The house haunted all of us. It was the torrid subject of village lore, its tales a crucial part of our own cultural indoctrination. We all knew how the rich father murdered his wife then stalked and killed his own children one by one inside the house. Dares to set soles of shoes on the wilted grass were defined rites of passage.

Yet it haunted Derrick most of all.

I grew up in his shadow, watching him both enamored and unnerved by the place. As if a splinter of the very structure was lodged in his brain tissue, swollen and infected under the skin where he could not reach to scratch it.

And when he disappeared, I knew where he had went. The police told our parents that he must have just run away. My mother wept, and my father turned his lips into his mouth and hung his head, and they both questioned what they had done to drive him away. But I knew he had not left us, not left me behind over any fight with our parents. I knew he had finally done it. He had finally walked through that door to see what was in the house.

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With my older brother’s disappearance, his obsession became my own.

“Dude, come on!” Jacob hollered from the safety on the sidewalk beyond the dead yard. “You do this every goddamn day.”

I ignored Jacob’s irritated plea as I did every day as we walked home from school. Instead, I let my gaze stretch and lose focus, crawling up the dead leaves and grass matted down under the black trees that bent in a twisted dance, reaching until I could hear the creak of the wood on the porch and feel the cold metal of the knob on my palm.

“Dude, fuck you, Mikey,” Jacob said, his voice edging on quiver. “I’m going home.”

“He’s in there.”

“Not this shit again. No, he’s not.”

I ignored Jacob, as I always did in the shadow of this house. The mere sight of it had a captivating power over me. As if I could hear Derrick’s voice whisper wafting on the breeze from the dilapidated siding.

He was in that house. I could feel it the same way I knew he was sleeping in his room on the other side of my wall every night.

“Mikey, what are you doing?”

Jacob’s voice was farther behind me now. Growing more distant by the syllable. Startled from my trance, I turned to find him still on the sidewalk. I had wandered halfway up the dead lawn. The fear twisting his face matched the fear quivering his voice, but his features were growing more distant. I continued to walk, to mount the hill even as I looked back at his pleading. By the time I broke eye contact with him, the jagged trees had already passed over my head, and the porch boards creaked beneath my meager weight.

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This close to the house, wrapped under its damp shade, I could almost feel it breathing. As if oxygen was being sucked in through the shingles and the siding, as if the house expanded and slumped, as if a gruesome thumping emanated from its dark center. I could feel its life vibrating up from my sneakers, creeping up along the tingling flesh of my legs, reaching into my very chest.

I felt home, the way I felt sitting in front of the fire with Derrick when the snow fell outside the windows of our house.
The door swung open wide suddenly, yet I was not even startled. I walked into the darkness without hesitation, the way I would walk into my own room.

The darkness swallowed me whole with a wide mouth, and I heard the door creak waning behind me. When the door slammed and extinguished all light, my comfort unnerved. I felt my fear begin to bristle along the edges of the fine hair on the back of my neck. The house grew deeper in the dark, an undulating shape formed by the rhythm of the strange breathing of the wind outside and the steady thumping below my feet.

Something heavy walked above me, footsteps shaking the air over my head. I did not dare move; I only clutched my arms tightly around myself and waited, eyes wide and reeling in the dark. Something scratched along the floorboards beside me, so close I could feel the vibrations in my feet. My heartbeat started to throb, and I think I stopped breathing as I waited on edge.

What was I doing here? I should have stayed on the cracked sidewalk with Jacob like I had every other day. I should have walked home to our empty house and watched my mother stare absently into a pot as she stirred dinner and sat with my father as he silently lost himself in the TV. Where the whole house was where Derrick was not.

No. I needed to be right here.

As I steeled myself, the loud whine of neglected hinges echoed through the darkness, silencing the other noises. The green light emanated from a door up the unforgiving staircase and sliced through the black, splitting my sight and casting hard shadows. The wider the door swung, the more light spilled down to me. It washed down the steps and got tangled in the black shape of the banister.

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I followed the light. There was really no other choice. I stepped slowly and deliberately, outstretching my hand toward the banister. The wood was rough and scratched at my fingertips as I carefully began to ascend the stairs. Each board cried out under me. I just kept moving towards that light.

At the summit, I kept my eyes trained on the glowing shape of the open door as I side stepped in its direction. I allowed my hand to trail the banister, feeling the splinters steadily piercing my fingertips. As I grew closer to the opening, I became aware of something near me. The dark air changed, felt full and disrupted. I stopped moving, silencing the creaks under my feet, to hear the steady, wet sound of breathing.

The sound was right in front of me. I shielded the light to allow my pupils to dilate. As the darkness took on shape, a figure materialized against the wall, shadowed and obscure. I could only make out the reflection of the green light against the two large orbs of eyes staring at me intently.

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The thing saw me see it, yet neither of us moved. Its breathing did not change though mine seemed to strangle in my throat. I waited. Waited for it to jump forward and attack me, waited for it to do anything. The two glowing spheres in front of me remained unmoved and unblinking, and the wet breathing panted in my face.

Keeping a peripheral awareness trained on the dark figure, I began to inch away. I dropped my hand to bathe in the green light and felt somewhat safer blinded by its glow. I walked until it overtook my sight. I walked until the doorframe disappeared behind me. I walked until I was temporarily lost in the green haze.

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My eyes finally gauged the light and allowed the room to take shape before me. A bed slumped against one wall; a ravaged dresser leaned against another. A dead rug draped over the floorboards sprinkled in a menagerie of broken toys. A long and lanky figure folded on top of itself on the edge of that rug, pointing absently at a shattered doll with a spindly digit.

I took another step forward, permitting my hand to extend into the cold air toward the bony shoulder that seemed so familiar. Before my fingertip could make contact, it shifted, and I drew my arm back protectively.

“Michael,” it said. I knew the voice. From the very marrow vibrating in my bones, I knew the sound of it. “Michael, you finally came.”

The figure stood in front of me, growing to be a head taller than me, casting the shadow I had grown up underneath. The boy unfolded his limbs before turning to face me, the green light carving sharp shadows across the face that looked so similar to my own.

“Michael,” Derrick said, stepping towards me. “You’re here. You’re finally home with me.”

The skin on Derrick’s face stretched strangely as he smiled at me with wide eyes, reaching out his arms. I smiled back and dove into his cold chest, allowing him to wrap around me the way he would when I had hurt myself and no one was looking.

We froze in brotherly embrace. In the pit of my stomach, I felt truly home.

And the green light went out.

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Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

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

Available now on Amazon!
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TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

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

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Another book out the door. eBook, paperback, and party. Whew.

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Savages and The Waning were released insanely close together. It really felt like Savages was scarcely out the door before I was booking the party for The Waning. In truth, that is because The Waning was written as Savages was moving through the publication process with Assent Publishing. Back before my son was born, when I had time. Yet, to the untrained eye, it looks like I was cranking them out.

The two books are also vastly different. The stories are not related whatsoever; they are not even located in the same horror subgenre. Savages deals with the apocalypse and flirts with zombies, while The Waning dwells in the darker realms of torture. This difference required a change in party, in promotion.

For The Waning, I selected a small venue called Urban Steam, where I previously had a book signing for Savages. Urban Steam specializes in whisky and coffee, and the cold, industrial feel seemed fitting for a dark tale about a woman locked in a cage.

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A decent number of people attended to sample the delicious themed drinks the bartender concocted based on The Waning, buy books, and win swag. Once again, it was surreal to have people come to see me, to have people want to own a piece of my mind. I cannot express how much I appreciate all the support I have received.

Artist Phil Beachler, who drew multiple visions out of The Waning, joined me to sell his twisted glimpses.

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I consider the launch a success, and I consider a second book being published out into the world another success. I am glad and relieved to have both books out there so I can get back to the business of writing my third book. And actually seeing my beautiful family.

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Nothing makes me prouder than to hold my babies at an event for my writing. May they grow up to be proud of me too.