READING from Followers: Christina Bergling

Followers
Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….

When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.

Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.

Boo-graphy:
Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over ten horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Nightmares, and Demonic Wildlife. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Andrew Robertson

For those of y’all who don’t know Andrew Robertson, you are sorely missing out. He is one of my most favorite people of all time. He’s super talented in everything he does – writes, musician, lots of other things – and passionate about life and his role in it. I highly suggest you take a look at his short stories.


Meghan: Hey, Andrew! Welcome back. And good luck with the anthology release today (UnBreakable Ink). Hamburger Lady is definitely a story I NEED to be reading. I know you’re busy today, so let’s get started. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Andrew: I’ve always loved the fall months and the moodier days that come with them. I also think that cooler weather means a better wardrobe!

I was born in October near the spookiest day of the year, and I’m sure that contributes to how I’ve always been drawn to darkness and the most wonderful time of the year. As a kid, I would get spooky craft books from the Scholastic Book club and make paper spiders and masks and ask for Frankenstein and Dracula glow-in-the-dark models for my birthday.

When my family went to the Maritimes on a road trip, I asked them to stop at every roadside attraction once I realized they all had a wax museum with a House of Horrors.

I would say that most queer people also love Hallowe’en because dressing up gives you an opportunity to express yourself in ways you can’t any other day of the year. When you grow up queer with a bit of self-awareness, especially in the 80s, you realize the world is against you. Gay meant AIDS, and that only belonged to the queers then. You realize you’re a target almost every single day that you choose to shine, so you start to look for ways to express your true self in a subversive way.

So many movies in the 80s threw the word ‘faggot’ around without any concern for where it landed, or the violence it engendered, or the queer kids it affected. I took Hallowe’en as a chance to wear a ‘mask’, even metaphorically, and finally fit in. It was one of the few days I could be celebrated for my ‘creativity’ and not beat up for what I was wearing.

And in queer culture, Hallowe’en allows us to explore our identities. Lots of drag queens have tested their high heels for the first time on October 31st, and the whole art of creating a costume and exploring darker, deeper, or more revealing identities is very attractive to me as a queer person.

In my community, Hallowe’en is referred to as gay Christmas. The fact that I wasn’t born wearing black eyeliner is some kind of oversight. Essentially, everyday SHOULD be Hallowe’en.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Andrew: Scaring youngsters looking for candy.

It sounds mean, but hear me out – I don’t think that we need to sanitize Hallowe’en. It’s a pagan holiday that grew out of some really dark practices, and we don’t need to ignore that entirely. A little bit of fear is healthy. When I would go out as a kid, I’d be so disappointed when a house had all its lights on like a dentist’s office. I mean, that’s scary too, but it isn’t cool scary. Unless it’s Little Shop of Horrors, and then we can sing along to the pain!

For me, the night is not about the candy collection as much as the atmosphere and parading around in the dark as a little Dracula, a voodoo doll, or wee Witch. Even as a kid, I longed for the days when I would be old enough to spend Hallowe’en smoking darts, drinking rum, and looking tough in a graveyard by the full moon. I will tell you that the first time I did that, my friend Jessica and I almost ended up in an open grave running away from two giant poodles! Looking tough.

But Hallowe’en should be creepy and make you think about the necessary darker sides of existence. If you think your kid needs to be carried around on a pink cloud, take them for a happy meal. I’ll gladly take my kids to a haunted house or a corn maze one day.

When I was younger, my favourite part used to be dressing up and going to whatever haunted house was on the go. I love being scared and I love creating oogie boogie characters out of the make-up drawer and costume boxes Dinis and I have at home, but after we bought a house, my favourite part became giving out tons of candy and seeing what kids are dressing up as when they come to the door. Kids have this amazing ability to take an odd, creepy idea and translate it into a fun look. Halloween gives kids a reason to show their creativity instead of hiding it out of embarrassment or fear.

Dins and I also love decorating the porch with severed limbs, animated projections, dry ice and scary music, then watching some people avoid us on their candy crawl. That’s the best compliment a Hallowe’en House can get!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Andrew: Hallowe’en is the best day of the year for so many reasons. In the month of October, there are suddenly horror movie marathons on every channel, ghost stories become the norm, you get to decorate with skulls and ghosts, eat small versions of candy and pretend 10 isn’t too many ‘cause they are so tiny, and I love to be scared. All these haunted attractions open up…it’s heaven.

I just wish people would stop trying to make it all cutesy and spoopy or whatever that ridiculous term is. I know I’ll get some hate for saying it but, when someone says something is spoopy I assume they mean a diaper. Don’t @ me!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Andrew: I really believe in karma. I think every shit thing you do to someone else will come back to you, and even if it doesn’t, you know what you did and that makes it so much worse. Each nasty thing you do, every time you leave a friend hanging, that’s your own picture of Dorian Gray.

One of my favourite films of all time is A Christmas Carol. The Alastair Sim version. Back in Dickens time and long before it, ghost stories were a Christmas Eve tradition, something that is slowly making its way back into popular culture, and I’m glad for it. That story is the perfect example of what was and continues to be everything that is wrong with the world, and even though we have all seen the story in some form, we continue to reproduce the very conditions that the story condemns. We really are an awful species, with no regard for our own future or sustainability or each other, even though we can’t do it all on our own. Weird, right?

I try and be genuine with people, follow through on what I say I will do, and apologize for what I can’t. It’s the best way to not haunt yourself.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Andrew: My absolute favourite is Pinhead, a.k.a the Hell Priest from Hellraiser. I remember the very first time I saw Doug Bradley as Pinhead. I was at the Eaton Centre in Toronto going to see some awful comedy as a tween, and there was a standup of Pinhead holding the Lament Configuration and I was just in love. The nails, the sneer, the outfit…I was a future goth at that exact moment, and I’ve worn a few cassocks since, but nothing like that. There is something about the character that Doug Bradley created and the way he voices the lines that is just perfectly evil.

I had the absolute fanboy pleasure of meeting him a few years back at Frightmare in the Falls at Niagara Falls, which is an incredible horror convention, and we took a pic, then I got his book signed. He was so awesome!

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Andrew: This is a tie between ‘Salem’s Lot and The Haunting of Hill House.

I never understood what it meant to be really, really unsettled until I read the Shirley Jackson classic. Her writing just prints itself right into your brain with heated keys. Everything I have read by her has the same effect. It’s like the characters are right there, whispering the story behind you, warm breath on your neck as you turn the pages, and you just have to believe every word they tell you.

Stephen King has the same gift. Something about expertly creating the slow build and getting into the readers mind, that’s a gift. Then the author can use the simplest thing, the sound of walls settling, for example, to make you certain there’s a horrific vampire scratching away behind your favourite poster of Siouxsie and the Banshees. ‘Salem’s Lot was the first book I read that had me up all night waiting for someone to be floating outside my window.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Andrew: Hostel.

I had no idea what I was in for with that one, but it is absolutely relentless. I don’t want to say all that much because of spoilers but at one point my ankles turned to water, at another point, I wanted armour for my eyes. I haven’t ever done a rewatch. I felt polluted.

That movie hits on so many vicious things, but somewhere in there, I believe it’s a comment on capitalism, race, and our disregard for anyone else, much like The Purge. That’s the real horror in the world. I also want to point out that The Purge made the issue of race and systemic racism in politics, government and policing very clear, and it was a very important statement even if you don’t agree with the medium.

There’s very little empathy left in the world at this point, and to me both Hostel and The Purge are the platinum standard of what happens when people only want laws when the laws agree with their desires, and serve their gods, in place of what’s just and equitable, and we’ve seen a lot of that during COVID-19.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Andrew: So, this is as far from scary as it can get, but I want to tell you about my GAYEST costume ever. When the musical Cats closed in Toronto, they auctioned of all the costumes and props to benefit Casey House, which at the time was an AIDS hospice in Toronto (and continues to be Canada’s first and only hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS).

I bought Demeter’s outfit, a spandex one piece that was painted in various stripes and had crunchy bits of ‘fur’ on the shoulders. It was $20 so a twelve-year old could afford it.

I tried to recreate the look from the musical then wore it to school. I guess I could have said I was a werewolf, but I didn’t. It still remains one of the most unapologetically queer things I have ever done, but I didn’t look at it that way back then. I just really loved that show as a tween, and figured every else would think it was cool too. #mixedreaction

Since then, I’ve lent the costume to a few people for a variety of functions, and as is often the case, the last one I lent it to never gave it back, so now it’s just a memory, all alone in the moonlight. I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.

But I shouldn’t dwell on that right meow.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Andrew: I regularly listen to Elvira’s theme song, especially when I’m walking at night. I also love the Lydia Lunch version of Spooky. Her album Queen of Siam has a carnivalesque darkness to it, and I think her version of Spooky is the cutest love song ever for the maladjusted (by now the people who hated the spoopy comment are really vexed. I’m not sporry about it).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Andrew: A lot of people don’t like them, but I love the molasses kiss. It is a classic, and it’s comes back from the dead each year without fail. This is the candy in white, orange and black wrapper, printed with witches and owls and scary moons. They are my number one must have Halloween candy.

The most disappointing treats would be the ones with razors in them.


Boo-graphy:
Andrew Robertson is an award-winning queer horror writer and future spaceman. In December 2021, his short story Sick is the New Black will appear in the gay-themed, multi-genre anthology Pink Triangle Rhapsody: Volume 1 from Lycan Valley Press. He is currently working on a novelization of the same story, exploring themes of queerness, addiction, fame, anti-vaxxers and the toxic nature of post-pandemic life in a culture locked in the thrall of social media. Feel free to be his agent.

He recently launched his first monstrous children’s book and sticker set, And Then The Fart Happened, on the Great Lakes Horror Company Kids imprint with illustrations by LiZzDom, and colour and layout by his partner Dinis Freitas, the Most Handsome Man in All of Puppetland®. People seem to love putting the Fart sticker on their butts, which checks out.

He is also headed to the Moon, or at least his writing is! In 2022, his short story Sundowning from Klarissa Dreams Redux will be headed to Lacus Mortis with the Peregrine Collection as a part of the ULA/Astrobotic Peregrine launch. In 2023, Hamburger Lady from UnBreakable Ink will be headed to the Lunar South Pole with the Polaris Collection as a part of the SpaceX/NASA-VIPER/Astrobotic Griffin launch. These stories will be part of the largest single collection of contemporary artwork ever put on the Moon, and will fly there on the first commercial lunar flights in history.

Back here on Earth, Andrew’s fiction has appeared in literary magazines and quarterlies such as Stitched Smile Publications Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Undertow, and katalogue. His work has also appeared in anthologies including Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld, and the Group Hex series.

UnBreakable Ink
Travel to the furthest reaches of space, traverse time, delve into the darkest parts of the mind and beyond in this collection of speculative fiction shorts.

Curated by Shebat Legion and presented by Indomitable Ink, Unbreakable Ink boasts twenty-nine stories and is the first installment in a series of anthologies designed to provoke the unbreakable imaginations in us all.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Christina Bergling: Trick ‘r Treat & Halloween

Trick ‘r Treat vs. Halloween

What is THE Halloween movie? What do you watch after the trick-or-treaters have gone home and the Jack o’Lanterns are burning low?

The knee-jerk reaction might be to say Halloween. I mean, after all, the title of the movie is Halloween. The movie is set on Halloween. The soundtrack has become synonymous with the holiday itself.

While I do watch Halloween every October, not only the original but multiple offerings from the franchise, I respectfully disagree. For me, there is only one film for All Hallows Eve: Trick ‘r Treat.

Every year, after we have spent the October weeks hitting pumpkin patches and haunted houses, on Halloween night after we have extinguished the porch light and put our own weary trick-or-treaters to bed, we turn on Trick ‘r Treat. We stumbled up on the movie by accident one year and assumed it was going to be terrible and campy, and yet we discovered it was sheer festive brilliance.

Trick ‘r Treat is not another horror movie that takes place on Halloween. It does not rely on stock imagery of fog engulfed streets or flickering Jack o’Lanterns. Rather, Trick ‘r Treat is an interwoven set of anthology stories about Halloween. The spirit of Halloween, the traditions and superstitions undermining the holiday are the theme and essence of the film.

Trick ‘r Treat does, of course, unfold on Halloween night. It has costumed children taking flickering Jack o’Lanterns to the site of a tragic local lore. It has drunken adults looking to get lucky at throbbing Halloween parties. It has naughty children betraying the rules of Halloween. All the archetypes and tropes that come to mind around Halloween appear and are cleverly woven together to the spooky lover’s delight.

However, what ultimately makes Trick ‘r Treat my Halloween movie is Sam. Sam appears as an observant, childlike trick-or-treater on the peripheral of each tale. Yet Sam is actually Samhain, the embodiment of the spirit of Halloween, and later the enforcer of the traditions of the holiday. When Sam’s rules are not followed, things get ugly.

Distilled down, Halloween is ultimately a slasher movie. If you changed the title and shifted the timeline and setting, the movie and Michael Meyers could still exist successfully. It would still function in the subgenre. Plenty of the other entries in the franchise wander away from the holiday. Halloween may have the soul of a killer, but it does not have the spirit of Halloween in its essence.

That spirit is where Trick ‘r Treat is different, is more than other horror movies. A manifestation of Samhain trails through the reels as the underlying current of the culminating narratives is Halloween tradition. The film as a whole can be taken as a campy cautionary tale to heed the superstitions and the rules in an increasingly detached and non-participatory world. Trick ‘r Treat pushes us to remember the Halloween spirit, and the perfect time for that is Halloween night itself.

Lest you blow out your Jack o’Lantern too soon and meet Sam with his sharpened sucker in the dark.


Boo-graphy:
Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over ten horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Nightmares, and Demonic Wildlife. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

Followers
Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….

When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.

Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by Christina Bergling: Halloween Land

Halloween Land by Kevin J. Kennedy

I read horror books all year round. Every season is horror season for me. However, fall time puts me in a particularly festive and nostalgic mood. When the days get darker and colder, when the leaves crunch and the pumpkin spice flows freely, I want to read a specific kind of spooky. I want to read something with a Halloween vibe.

Halloween Land by Kevin J. Kennedy delivers the nostalgia-laden plot that I need beside a crackling fire with a stiff whisky and some mellowcreme pumpkins lifted off my children. The novella is bite-sized, like the candy, and I was able to binge it in one sitting.

Halloween Land introduces us to two teenaged children, Zak and Wendy, as they search for fun and frights on Halloween night. A traveling carnival has appeared in their town for the night, and the two feel compelled to explore it. They don their costumes and push their way through the crowd to get inside. Yet they quickly discover that the carnival is not normal. Instead, it is a gateway to something far more terrifying.

I know Kennedy more than the average reader. He and I co-authored the post-apocalyptic horror novella Screechers. I am also featured in several of his horror anthologies. I personally know how deep of a horror lover Kennedy is and how much genre knowledge he has. That passion, focused on Halloween itself, is very evident in Halloween Land.

Like any deep horror author, Kennedy takes his favorite toys out of the box to play with in his world. This produces a reliance on tropes and archetypes, appearances of familiar characters and ideas. Especially when we approach concepts steeped in motifs, like Halloween itself or a carnival. Kennedy blends horror with Halloween and a carnival in Halloween Land. This blending relies on the tropes you would expect to see in such a recipe, but I was not exasperated to see reliance on these archetypes. Rather, it was like coming home to familiar friends, smiling at the comfort.

The subtitle of Halloween Land is “A Coming of Age Story.” That aptly describes the journey of Zak and Wendy and sets the tone of their adventure. The two dressing up and heading to the Halloween carnival has a distinctly Goosebumps vibe to it, especially since Goosebumps laid the foundation for all my later horror indulgence. That tickle of my childhood only amplified the nostalgia already conjured by the Halloween and carnival imagery.

Yet Halloween Land does not remain in childlike fantasy. When Zak and Wendy cross the threshold into Halloween Land’s other dimension, we too step into Kennedy’s world of monsters.

I am familiar with Kennedy’s world of monsters. I have written there. When we were writing Screechers, I handled the human survivors while Kennedy concocted the mutated monsters. He imagined fantastical beasts. I cannot fathom what all is lurking in his imagination. I will not betray Halloween Land with spoilers, but the same sort of blood-thirsty beasts are unleashed from his mind. With the appearance of these monsters, you can expect epic battles and harrowing fights for Zak and Wendy.

Halloween Land is the quick, easy read to sit down with to get you in the Halloween mood. It is the story to curl up with when you are feeling nostalgic and want to go to the Halloween carnival and also hint at your own youth. Halloween Land is horror comfort food to be consumed in one sitting, perhaps by a fire with a stiff drink and some leftover candy (like I did). Get in line to see if you survive the Fun House!


Boo-graphy:
Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over ten horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Nightmares, and Demonic Wildlife. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

Followers
Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….

When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.

Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.

GUEST POST: Christina Bergling

When Halloween Takes Over

When I was a child, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I anticipated its arrival with far more excitement than I reserved for Christmas, even with Santa and the promise of presents. I wanted to climb into the soothing darkness of the season as I crunched on the dead carcasses of the leaves on the street. I wanted to slip into the false skin of a stranger for the night while collecting a hefty sack of cavity inducing treats from my neighbors. The culmination of these autumnal festivities was the most fun I had all year.

Halloween was relegated to the day itself in my youth, perhaps extending some happy, preparatory tendrils into the preceding weeks. I did not control the celebration then. I merely indulged of it—as deeply as I was permitted. I was always anxiously waiting for the next year, planning my next costume, writing my next spooky story.

Yet as the manacles of adulthood and its responsibilities fastened around my metaphorical limbs, I was placated with the ability to embrace Halloween whenever and at whatever intensity I desired. Skeletons and macabre trappings were liberated from orange totes in the garage into permanent placement as standard household décor. Network television schedules no longer dictated when seasonal favorites like Halloween or Hocus Pocus graced my screen as I could play a DVD and later stream whenever I wanted. Eventually, I could even order mellowcreme pumpkins (don’t judge) year-round—on Prime. It could be Halloween whenever I wanted, and with that initial rush of that freedom and control, it was Halloween all the time.

In short, I was the high school goth girl all grown up.

Truthfully, if possible, I may have tried to overdose on Halloween and horror and all the macabre. Thankfully, I had a high tolerance and maintained a solid addiction, even as I brought a family into my home to dilute it. As cohabitation compromise, Halloween migrated (somewhat) back to its season. My foolish husband futilely strived to contain it within October (insert my eye roll in black eyeliner).

Enter my career as a published horror writer.

Halloween season is horror season. Hence it is horror writer season. As the leaves die and the air crisps, people get in the mood for something spooky. They are more interested in reading about someone being stalked by a killer or haunted by a ghost. They want to enter that darker world as the days around them grow shorter. Enter a new reason to pour accelerant onto my already steadily burning devotion to Samhain.

Horror writing, and more the unfortunate required marketing thereof, offered the opportunity to do all sorts of fun new Halloween activities and traditions each year. At first, it was thrilling to be able to do all things dark and spooky and witchy and claim they were for the greater professional good, the same exhilaration as writing a pleasant expense off on your taxes or eating a free meal on the company tab. Yet, as with all things, on a long enough timeline, the excitement wore thin through to mediocrity, and fun thickened into obligation.

Halloween began to take over.

Here are some of the new Halloween traditions that overtake my Octobers:

31 Days of Horror Bingo

There is no better time to binge-watch horror movies than during Halloween season. The mood is right. The movie release calendar is poised to support such indulgence. Numerous horror movies are set on or around Halloween. It is simply meant to be.

#31DaysofHorror is a social media activity to mark watching a horror movie every day (or night) in October. The execution varies account to account. Some do a differen theme or element every night. Others prescribe a particular film each night. Others just view any horror movie each day.

I took 31 Days of Horror and turned it into a game. I added bingo to it. For my #31DaysofHorrorBingo, I create a new bingo board each year. Every tombstone on the board has some horror trope or element.

The rules are as follows:
1) One movie per day.
2) One movie per tombstone.
3) Blackout wins.

Now, the rules do not really matter, and no one really wins. However, it is very fun to play and connect with others as they play along. It is interesting to see which movies other people use for each tombstone, which movies people have to watch every October (we all have them). 31 Days of Horror Bingo becomes a way to do something isolating (watching a movie alone) as a social and larger community activity.
This is all fantastic, but it does require a movie every single day. Not only does it require a movie every day, it necessitates a certain movie. The selection becomes increasingly restrictive as the month goes along and the tombstone options dwindle. What is usually a fun game can turn into a requirement and a chore on some frantic days.

That said, come join us! Play, play along…

Halloweenwear

Like any good goth girl, recovering or otherwise, I maintain an extensive macabre wardrobe. Many (MANY) of the pieces are Halloween specific. My horror and Halloween wardrobe expanded to such a level that I decided I had to showcase it somehow. Hence Hallowear was born.

Much like #31DaysofHorror, each day in October, I pick of piece of Halloween or horror attire and post a picture of it. The concept was enough the first year. Then it became mundane (and I am no Instagram model), and I needed to level up to keep it interesting. So the pictures needed to be Hallowear and something else. A clever scene, perhaps some fake blood, some festive ambiance.

This year, I aim to get more creative (I am getting no younger or nicer to look at) and pair each outfit with a reading recommendation. Hallowear with Hallowreads.

Like 31 Days of Horror, Hallowear is fun to execute yet a daily obligation. Sure, I would wear these clothes anyway, likely snapping selfies, yet the requirement adds a layer of daunt to it.

Telluride Horror Show

If we are going to talk about horror movies, we might as well talk about horror film festivals. And Telluride Horror Show happens in October. An easy way to knock out a horror movie a day is to spend three days sitting in theaters all day long. If those movies will hit a horror movie trope and mark off a bingo tombstone is always a gamble, but that’s why it is a game.

Telluride is one of my favorite trips. It is a guaranteed annual vacation for me, doing something I absolutely love. It just happens to occur in a month that is booked beyond capacity with activities and obligations.

It also includes its own landslide of marketing rushes for books, finding new followers and connections, and creating content and movie reviews. All good things but just a lot of them.

Even Telluride itself is a marathon, a microcosm of the barrage that is October and Halloween season itself. The movie schedule is end-to-end the entire weekend, and I, of course, want to watch all of them. Then there are other events (campfire readings, horror trivia, pig roast, bar parties) sprinkled between the films. Plus, our group always tries to get out into the mountain scenery. The weekend is exhausting on its own, even more so as the midway point of the October sprint.

Public Speaking

Sometimes, people like to talk to me about my writing. I’m strangely popular with local schools, talking about the writing and publication process and my own journey through both. Yet most people want to have a horror writer come talk in… you guessed it… October. In pre-COVID times, I usually booked my school appearances in October. During the pandemic, I even did these over Zoom.

While speaking in front of teenagers can be unnerving, particularly when it is an auditorium or gym full of hundreds of them, I have not had a bad experience. To my surprise, they at least pretend to be engaged. I keep my talk pretty abbreviated, expounding how my childhood love of Halloween dropped me straight into the horror genre, detailing how writing navigated me through severe depression and suicide attempts, explaining the horrors of the publishing experience. Then I turn the session over to questions. The students come up with interesting and often surprising questions, and the session usually flies by.

The experience is great, and I would never deny it. Nor would I reschedule it. I understand the relationship of horror and Halloween. I appreciate the inherent mood. I will always make time to cram something like this into my stuffed month.

Speaking of public, performances tend to ramp up in October too. Especially when you are a metal fusion dancer of the morbid cabaret persuasion. Oh, a Pennywise dance or Oogie Boogie interpretation? Then the shows for that flavor of performance happens in, you guessed it, spooky season. Pencil a few more wonderful obligations in that calendar.

“The Normal Stuff”

Under all of these festivities and promotions and extras are the “normal” Halloween activities. Every year, I need a Halloween costume. Naturally, it must be more elaborate and creative than the previous year. I have children who also need their own outlandish and detailed costumes (this year we are looking at RuPaul out of drag and Sam from Trick ‘r Treat). They also trick-or-treat every Halloween night, which proves challenging since our neighborhood is not especially participatory. We try to attend a haunted house. We go to a pumpkin patch. We host a Halloween party (back when drunken gatherings of multiple households were a thing).

More than anything, these normal traditions are non-negotiable. These are the foundation of the season, the bliss in my memory and the joy I want to pass down. I am attempting to endow my children with all these traditions, all these things that have made me happy each autumn, all these habits that I look forward to when the seasons shift. I have just stacked so many other Halloween things atop the list that it threatens to crush us all.

A logical or sane person might suggest simplifying, scaling back. My therapist may have said those very buzzwords in previous, more social years. To which I throw back my head and laugh manically. Halloween has taken over my life, but I welcome such a demanding mistress. I relish such a daunting yet blissful end. I could not give up my horror movies or Halloween shirts and books or public appearances or performances or any autumnal tradition. I can come skittering across All Hallows Eve practically a skeleton or zombie myself.

There’s plenty of time to sleep in November. Oh wait… NaNoWriMo.

No rest for the wicked!


Boo-graphy:
Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over ten horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Nightmares, and Demonic Wildlife. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

Followers
Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….

When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.

Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.