Monday, September 15, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mark Henry

The winner of Mark's book is: Katie! Congratulations, Katie. Send me your snail mail information and I'll pass it along to Mark. Thanks so much to everyone who participated.

When Lynda asked if I'd guest blog here at Paranormality, I said what I always say -- being the promo whore, I am -- of course and when? I never think about the consequence of accepting. The costs. The emotional toll of it all. No. I just jump at the chance for a new audience.

Then it comes time to actually think of something to write about. I'm at a loss. Did it have to be paranormal, necessarily? Do I even need to talk about writing? Maybe I could just write about my day. No. Too boring. Who'd want to read about me yelling at the puppy that pisses on the carpet or my lengthy daily trysts with my mistress, Facebook? No one, that's who.

So I came up with this . . .

Harvesting Childhood Fears for Fun and Profit!!!

Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I'm not talking about scaring the poor little children here (not that a few good scares isn't what they need), I'm talking about our own fears. Think about it.

I don't write about zombies because I want to touch people in a deep and spiritual way. I want to scare them . . . and gross them out and make them squirm. And laugh. I always want that. But when I sat down to write the first book, I needed to figure out what I could do to make my scares unique. How was I going to tap into people's fear in a new way?

Well, of course, I wasn’t, because, truthfully, there's nothing new under the sun or moon. It's all been done before somewhere, which I learned pretty quickly. Sentient zombie protagonists have an actual history (who'd a thunk it), but hey, at least there hadn't been any in urban fantasy.

What I could do was inject some real scares. Real because they came from my own childhood crap. I'm talking about the baggage. That irrational stuff we all carry with us, all the tiny abuses, the nightmares, and fear. This is where we're each unique.

For instance, when I was 5 or 6, I was trapped alone in an elevator at this old hotel on Westpoint, the U.S. Army Academy. There was no phone and nothing I could do but wait. These are the times where having an overactive imagination can be detrimental. I sat and stared at the trap door in the ceiling for what seemed like an hour. I imagined the roof crawling with rats and even conjured up the sound of thousands of tiny claws scrabbling on the metal.

Bingo. Creepy elevator scene.

Lots of people have fears of the dentist. Me? Optometrists. I'd always worry that he'd poke me in the eye, or that in some weird turn of events, the chart that he'd been writing on would fall loose and he'd have to scramble to pick up all the paper, windmilling his arms in the process and slicing my open eye with the thinnest of lacerations. No joke. That's the kind of crap I'd think about at the eye doctor.

Guess what? That particular fear shows up in the finale of my first book.

I could go on and on. Don't get me talking about finger webbing.

For you aspiring writers, don't imagine that all this stuff has to be generated internally. Poll your friends. Get some conversations going. Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) utilizes his social groups for his material. Find out about their fears, do it over drinks when people are less inhibited. Stories tend to escalate and you'll get some pretty weird ideas.

Try it.

The trick is then to incorporate these fears into your character somehow. Despite sharing some fears and quirks, my character is not me, but at the same time she is. And she's my wife and my mother and probably bits of all the women in my life except she looks like Jennifer Connoly.

You'll have to figure out your own tricks and fears and all that, because in the end, writing is about introspection. Whether you're writing about yourself or inhabiting a fictional character, it's all rooted in some human experience.

Jeebus, that sounded hokey.

How about this? You tell me what scares you and I'll give one random commenter a signed copy of Happy Hour of the Damned. That's as good a way to rap up a rambling blog as any. The winner will be selected Tuesday evening.

Mark Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned, a zomedy with teeth and liquid eyeliner, is in stores now. The sequel, Road Trip of the Living Dead is coming in February 2009 from Kensington Books. Visit Mark at his blog ( or the League of Reluctant Adults (


Blogger Debora said...

From the earliest time I can remember, age six or so, if I argued or disagreed with my mother about anything, she'd tell me that she wouldn't love me anymore and that she was going to go away and leave me...imagine my fear when my stay-at-home mom would be next door at a neighbor's house when I came in from school and couldn't find her...I lived in fear that what I said or did would cause her to stop loving me and make her leave...


9:25 AM  
Blogger Mark Henry said...

Thanks for sharing, Deborah. That's horribly scary for a child. Adults, too.


9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am scared that you used the word Jeebus in this post Mark. LOL seriously, I used to be afraid of the basement where my brothers had their bedrooms. Because there were spiders down there. So, being the loving siblings they are, they told me at night all the spiders came into the middle of the basement, and if I didn't want them to "get" me, I had better stay upstairs. (and not bug them)

Bastards. LOL

9:56 AM  
Blogger Pamk said...

spiders or bugs crawling on me with no way for me to get away. And darn it that my adult fear as well as my childhood fear.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

My biggest fear is something that someone mentioned before, my mother leaving me.

My parents often argued when I was growing up and my mother would say that when the children were older, she was leaving. Somewhere I picked up the fear that if I was "bad" my mother would decide it wasn't worth staying and just leave. It was so bad that I didn't like to sleepover at friend's home. I was scared that when I got home my mother wouldn't be there any more.

That fear has been a guiding force in my life. I know it is there, but I still have an abandonment complex.

Thanks for the guest blog!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Mark: Thanks so much for being here today! Humans have such creative and horrible ways of scaring (and scarring) each other. As a therapist, I've seen childhood fears completely rule a person's life. During my early childhood I lived in an old house in the inner city of Detroit. My room was in the attic. There was a small door at the far end of one of the walls and a drunken relative told me something bad lived in there. I remember the sound of his laughter as he pushed me inside the dark, small space and closed the door. I can trace some major personality changes to that moment, and I've dreamed about that event repeatedly over the years. Yikes.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Michele Writes said...

One of my biggest fears is that Amanda Feral will only have one book out per year. Oh, wait ... well, maybe I should sent Kensington my therapy bills.

Loved the post, Mark. Now writer faster.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Michele Writes said...

Writer faster. Or write faster. Whichever works out the best.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Mark Henry said...

Wow. These are all so great. Thanks guys.

I'm really feeling the arachnophobia. Crippling fear. I once nearly got into an accident on the freeway when a tiny spider wound its way down from my visor. Horrifying.

And, hey Lynda, did you already know I was a psychotherapist for 12 years?

10:24 AM  
Blogger J.K. Coi said...

Jebus, I think I see a hallucinogenic toad I could be licking...

The dentist seriously freaks me out. Even now when the damn hygienist is usually younger than I am, I still have to drag myself in there and I'm clutching my hands together the whole time. And don't even try to get me to go for anything that might involve an injection and a tool that makes that scree-ing noise...

Great blog, Mark! I liked the first book very definitely made me squirm. Kinda gross. That was awesome!

10:28 AM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Mark! I didn't know you were a psychotherapist for 12 years! I'd love to hear the story about why you're not anymore (if you aren't). A lot of my clients are creeped out by the fact that I write about vampires. It makes perfect sense to me! grin.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Mark Henry said...

Why not? Hmmm. Writing's more fun than working with C.P.S.

The short answer.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My biggest fear is Prada might someday be available in Wal-Mart. LOL

Dakota :)

11:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice to see you over here Mark! Sorry I haven't been around here lately Lynda...moving apartments has me scared of ever having to move again ;)

Well you don't need to enter me for this contest but I will tell you I am scared of Ladders. Not sure why...not afraid of heights...don't mind walking under them but going up them is a problem!

11:49 AM  
Blogger Qwill said...

I used to be afraid to sleep. I had a hideous recurring nightmare when I was around 10/11 years old. The dream was in sepia/silvery tones. Sand underneath, Doric columns on the sides, open top, black black sky, walking, walking, walking towards the silvery curtains at the end. The curtains begin to move, gently at first... and I will NOT describe what came out from behind them. I always awoke before being stabbed. I just gave myself the creeps and I think my blood pressure just went up... :)

11:55 AM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Hi, Amber! Glad you're here. I know what you mean about moving. I've moved a lot, so the thought of doing it again (which I will) is pretty scary.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Ruth Schaller said...

Well, I've never been the squimish type in regards to zombies, vamps or anything else paranormal. But I am afraid to death of bees and wasps or anything that stings. I scream and jump around like a goon when one of those things comes near me! I actually should get it on video tape to send to AFV because it's just toooo funny!

12:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Im right there with ya Pam, Spiders are the worst. But I also have an active imigination and cannot sleep with my hand over the side of the bed for the fear that something or anything will attach itself to my hand and well after that lets just say I dont let my hand fall down. lol

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been afraid of, well, everything. But the biggie when I was a kid was a fear of intruders.

When I was little, a few times the neighborhood thugs would gather on our porch. My terrified mom would call my dad, who tended bar nights, to come home and drive them off.

Something in that, though, lingers and I'm always afraid that people will come charging into the house.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Mark Henry said...

Just last week, my foot was dangling off the bed and my dog started licking it. I told my wife and she said--get this--"you better turn on the light, people can lick, too."

I freaked out, jerked my foot back under the covers and even turned on the light.

Why is she trying to kill me?

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first fear ever was after my older cousins sat the younger cousins (like me who was only 4 at the time) in front of a TV, and played one horror movie after another.

The jerk-offs.

Well the first one they happened to pop in was Stephen King's "IT". Which right now is totally corny. But as a wee 4 yr old, seeing a creepy man dressed as a clown trying to attract kids into a sewer, who then turned into this weird spider-like monster, yeah, needless to say, I was freaked the (bleep) out!

12:56 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

In the middle of the night, I couldn't step on my bedroom floor. I would die if I did. I had to jump from one piece of furniture to another to make it to the doorway.

To this day I'm not sure why I thought I would die if I touched the floor...

1:00 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I have 2. When I was a kid, I saw the shower scene from Psycho and was terrified of taking a shower if no one was home. In my house now, we have open stairs and when it is late at night and everyone is in bed, I will run up the stairs convinced something is going to reach through and grab me. And yeah, I saw "People Under the Stairs" too. Oh and Dakota having a bad hair day terrifies me too.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Mark, let's see...I started reading Happy Hour of the Damned and had to stop. The feeding scene squicked me out. But I love a voicy writer, so I'm probably going to talk about it in therapy this afternoon and go back to it if I can.

My childhood fear? Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. Vampires, Tarot cards, man-eating plants...I've blocked the rest.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Night critter said...

As a kid my brothers took great delight in scaring the crap out of me, they would spend hours plotting and planning. You know how most kids believe there is a monster under the bed? Well, my brothers came up with the brilliant idea of hiding under my bed; my bed had one of those girly ruffle skirts. They brought these scaly monster arms from somewhere, which they put on, waited till I was nearly asleep and then grabbed me and began pulling me under the bed. As you can imagine there was much screaming from me, the terrified six year old. Needless to say from then on, no more girly ruffle skirts on my bed.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Destiny Blaine said...


I just love reading your work. Thanks for adding to the smiles today!

Destiny Blaine

5:32 PM  
Blogger TestBunny said...

Hi mark,

Love your blogging.

I have 2 great fears. (ok 1 great, 1 interesting0.

1. I am scared of heights. I know the building is not going to fall in but if I can look straight down i freak. but if i look at an angle I am ok.

2. Dakota Cassidy, Elevator, 12 hours, yellow walls.
It honestly came in a nightmare last week and truly freaked me out. I could not decide if the yellow walls or Dakota scared me more. :)

11:11 PM  
Blogger LadyVampire2u said...

I started with a fear of earthquakes. The feeling of being unable to stand, run, etc while the ground is shaking. Why? No idea. But growing up I was. Then two years ago my aunts took me on a trip and we went to the St Luis Arch. To this day I don't know how they got me to go up into the Arch, but unfortunately they did. And it was a windy day with the building moving all over the place. Something they told me nothing about until I was terrified and stuck up there. I freaked out so badly that a nun who was up there came over and comforted me until the people could arrange an elevator take me back down. Now sadly, I have a fear of heights. I'm trying to push through it and conquer my fear though.

3:11 AM  

You are too funny Mark.

My big childhood fear was spiders.
I used to kill them. Then I dreamed that when you die, yo get locked into a room with anything you killed in your lifetime. So it was just me an a gazzion spiders. So now I am a spider re-locater. Unless they jump at me and I cant get them into the jar... then they are toast.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Sewicked said...

Okay, this is really stupid. Luckily, I outgrew this (mostly). Remember that old tv show _Land of the Lost? Remember the sleestaks? My brother loved that show & I'd hid behind the couch whenever the sleestaks came on the screen.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Mark Henry said...

You people are killin' me with your spider stories. I have to pull my feet off the floor while I read 'em.


Thanks everybody for stopping by and sharing all this good stuff!

5:54 PM  
Blogger Heatherini said...

Okay so being that you write about Seattle and I'm obviously from the area, (I won't metion that "the area" is actually Renton for fear of ridicule), and we all know that Seattle is a breeding ground for serial killers, I've always heard about them on the news or something. So when I was young and the "Green River Killer" was all over the news with new bodies being found, I was terrified that he was coming after me! I really thought that he would find me in my house and kill my Mom to get to me. As I got older I realized that the REAL scary thing about this fear was the fact that I obviously didn't realize that I wasn't a prostitute! I'm so glad that I finally did figure that out though because if I hadn't, whoa... would my life be different! :o)

btw... I loved Happy Hour of the Damned and I can't wait until the next one is released! I will definitely try to find you at a signing... (I didn't actually say anything about me NOT being a stalker!)

7:34 PM  
Blogger dytudtyujdytdgh said...


2:14 AM  

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