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The day the Mayans predict the world will end, Paul Starnes' race to survive begins. After a massive line of light passes over the Earth, Paul finds himself trapped in the remains of Central Virginia. Every living thing there has been wiped out, but he's not alone. Aided by a vampire named Philly, he must fight a trio of zombies sent by the Norse goddess Hela to escape the Deadlands and make peace with why he is the only survivor.
The Deadlands marked my first story to make it into print and as part of an anthology. That alone makes this a special story for me, but there's a lot of my childhood wrapped up in this myth-inspired tale.
When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to become a comic book writer, but even by high school, I realized that wasn't exactly the most profitable of career choices. I didn't want to abandon the cast of superheroes I created, so I wrote my first book, a 200-page story about a team of teenage superheroes called the Demon Riders. As with any first attempt, that book had a lot of problems with it. I won't bore you with the reasons why, but more than a decade later, my wife unearthed a copy of that book during a fit of spring cleaning. To my surprise, she said, "There's some good stuff here." At her suggestion, I set out to write a young adult novel inspired by some of those ideas.
The biggest challenge I initially faced was how to justify the existence of these superpowered teenagers. Inspiration came from the supposed end of the world prediction by the Mayans (which isn't really predicting the end of the world, but why let that stop all us writers from running with it?). I decided to mine as many different types of mythology as I could to craft this world. I settled on a heavy dose of Norse Mythology to inspire this first adventure for Paul Starnes.
The Deadlands only represents the first third of that rough draft. The word limit for the Four in the Hole anthology allowed me enough room for a 15,000 word adventure. Even with that much space, I had to trim the hell out of that story while adding just enough material to let it stand alone. I enjoyed the challenge and found many of the changes I made worked better than what I had in the novel's rough draft.
Perhaps my favorite bit of inspiration came from Bulfinch's Mythology. A section which describes the Norse Goddess of Death Hela states that, "Delay (is) her man." This prompted me to make zombies her minions on earth, people whose death has been "delayed." Of course, my zombies aren't your typical walking dead, but to see what I mean, you'll have to buy the book.