Author Alathia Paris Morgan Explains a Historic Mystery: It was Zombies!

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To warm us up going into February which is Women in Horror Month, I got to chat with author Alathia Paris Morgan. I picked up her book Infected Waters: A Titanic Disaster after I saw it on twitter and it was recommended in a Facebook group I belong to. Not only was it a great read, but it explained a question about history that has always bugged the heck out of me: how did no one see the giant iceberg that sank the Titanic? Well, Ms. Morgan has given me the most plausible explanation yet, it was zombies of course! Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 8.02.36 AM

Knowing the story of the Titanic, tension was already high before I began to read, but then the author twists the screws and I could not stop reading, I had to find out what happened. I even found myself googling facts about the Titanic to try and guess if my favorite characters would have a chance at survival! Zombie outbreaks are pretty intense when you can run away, but try that on a ship at sea and see how far you go and how long you survive! Now I’m questioning a variety of other historic disasters and I think I’ll blame zombies for a vast majority of them.

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Alathia, I am so excited to have found your work! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m an avid reader. I have about 4k books and have always dabbled in writing. With three children and a hubby my life got crazy busy. I started Avon as I finished college and it was a great way to be flexible with kids and make money for us. Then some unexpected life changes happened and I realized that life was short, I couldn’t wait to become a writer when I retired. I had stories that needed to be told now. So I started during a NaNoWriMo camp in April of ’14 and I finished it after the July camp. Since then I’ve been writing and learning a lot and hope to continue writing because I keep getting more ideas with every story that actually gets written.

Life has a way with us, doesn’t it? What led you to pursue writing?

I had written some in high school, but the need to write wasn’t there. Now, I have to write because the voices in my head need to find a way out onto the page. Some stories jump to the front wanting urgent attention while others wait quietly until it’s their turn. So this is why I’m a writer because the world so obviously needs one. (Wink Wink) 😉

Well, I for one certainly enjoyed your story and look forward to reading all the others. What genres do you write in?

So, the two genres I write in are zombies and mysteries. I hope to branch out as time goes on into other areas.

Two of my favorite genres! What about the zombie genre intrigues you the most?

While the zombie thing has been done a few times, I wanted to give zombies a new twist. Put some reality into the end of the world, where are all the children? What happened to the military? Why are there no babies born? Or are there?

Sounds intriguing!

Your book “Infected Waters: A Titanic Disaster” is brilliant! Where did you get the idea for the story?

My daughter loves Titanic and she said, “Mom wouldn’t it be fun if there were zombies on the Titanic?” So I asked if I could use her idea and it took about six months to get it right. Along with watching the movie for atmosphere while writing, I’m good with not watching the movie for a few years.

I could see your story being made into a movie. Do you hear that Netflix or SyFy? Zombies. Titanic. Need I say more?

I keep a running tally of things that scare people so I have ideas on how to spook readers. What kinds of things scare you?

Unlocked doors. Unexplained noises.

Thank you! Filed away.

What’s next for you?

I am working the 3rd book in my Nova Ladies Adventures for Nano and I have the 2nd book in the Against Zombies series featuring the Military.

Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?

Alathia Paris Morgan Stalker Links:

Author page: www.facebook.com/apmorganbooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alathiamg

Street Team: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1442476186066361/

Book Launch: https://www.facebook.com/groups/533488213404927/

Website & Newsletter signup: www.alathiamg.wix.com/books

 Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8611387.Alathia_Paris_Morgan

Thank you so much Alathia! Keep the books coming and have a happy Women in Horror Month!

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

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Dottie Daniels’ Affliction is Infectiously Entertaining!

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Back to my Summer of Great Reads!

The minute I saw the cover of Affliction by Dottie Daniels I knew I wanted to read it! I love a good zombie romp and enjoy seeing how different authors attack *get it?* the subject. Most all have a unique spin, but this one was one of my favorites!

The main character, Seanna, is a twenty-something paramedic that we meet just as a mysterious and violent outbreak is gripping her city. She’s smart and strong like other female leads in the genre, but make no mistake, she’s quite different! The story is told from her POV and Ms. Daniels does an excellent job of bringing us into Seanna’s head and body…you have to read to see what I mean! I don’t want to give too much away because it is such a cool twist that I want you to discover it yourself!

It’s tense and funny and terrifying and moving in all the right measures. The characters are diverse and well developed, I got really invested in what was happening to them right from the start. When I hit the last page I scrolled back several times to be sure it was over because I was so into it!

As with my other summer reads I am so lucky to have actually been able to chat with Dottie about her book!

Hey there Dottie! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you for taking the time to interview me, I really appreciate it! I’m a thirty-something zombie genre-loving woman who works in a busy surgical services department at a local area hospital by day and has aspirations of writing many books in the future. I enjoy traveling and also getting to know my other fellow writers.

What led or inspired you to become a writer?

A little over ten years ago I survived a brain aneurysm. After the surgery and coma and everything else that entails, I struggled with memory loss and it took me a while to recover. I feared I would never be able to retain information. While everyone assumed I would write about surviving that experience, once I was able- I began to write about another type of harrowing experience; the zombie apocalypse. I don’t know if I felt it was more interesting or what, it was what piqued my interest at the time. I never thought I’d want to write when I was younger, in fact, I was always intimidated by huge writing assignments in school.

Oh my! Dottie, we are so glad that you survived! What an ordeal! I think your experience enhanced your storytelling. There were many passages in Affliction where the feelings of distress was real I had to take a breather!

Why do you write in the horror/zombie genre?

For me, as a writer, there’s something special about the horror genre, zombies in particular. There’s a certain feeling of overwhelming desperation that can really draw a reader’s attention if written properly. I guess it would be the equivalent to a character vying for someone’s affection in a romance novel or the amount of adventure required in a fictional bank heist. The desperation of surviving (or not) in the world of the undead is what does it for me. It holds my attention the longest whenever I read someone else’s work or when I’m writing my own.

Well put!

Speaking of harrowing experiences and desperation, I don’t suppose much scares you, but is there anything that gives you pause?

Honestly, it’s indecent and uncaring people. You know, the alive ones. Seriously. I was told as a kid it’s never the dead you have to worry about- be wary of the people walking around.

I was told the same thing. Sadly, it’s true.

People, myself included, are always fascinated by the creative process. Do you have any unique writing rituals?

I don’t really have many rituals anymore other than I write whenever I have time and I’m always in need of more time. I prefer to write in the middle of the night or early morning when all is quiet. My thoughts seem to be more clear then. A lot of times I’ll light a candle too. Oh, and sometimes I’ll have classical music playing in the background. I have to sit in my office chair too because it’s comfortable and have a cool, sweet beverage and the ceiling fan on low. Yeah, so I guess I have a few rituals- ha!

I like the candle!

Your book Affliction has a very cool POV and twist on the zombie tale. Where did you get the idea for your story?

Up until then, I hadn’t read many books in the genre with a female main character. There are some out there but then I hadn’t come across any that were biracial or of color. I wanted to challenge myself and bring a few of those attributes into the story and see how well it all plays in a typical apocalyptic storyline. I wanted to write the kind of book I would expect to read and enjoy. A lot of the writing and style is intentional and I feel plays very well into the details of the story. The flashbacks the first-person writing, almost as if she’s explaining to you herself. It was all a challenge for me to entertain my readers.

Challenge met! I was deeply entertained. Being bi-racial myself, I appreciate seeing more characters with diverse backgrounds in all media, but horror in particular. Nice work, Dottie!

What’s next for you?

Well, Affliction is definitely set up for a sequel. I’m aiming to get it completed this year. As a published author you too understand the many hats you wear (writing, promoting, actually selling) and then everything else that life itself requires. I hope to pull the strings together again and get back in the routine of getting the sequel ready. It can mean less promoting and less selling but then again nearly every author has to make that sacrifice if they want more book titles on those shelves.

Too many hats at times! I’m looking forward to the next book, I have to know what happens!!!

Where can we find out more about you and your writing and keep tabs on that sequel?

I’m on most of the larger social media outlets that are older than 5 years. Twitter, Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 9.21.18 AMFacebook, Goodreads, and WordPress. I enjoy interacting with other writers and readers. In fact, I purchased a couple of copies of your novel Dread that I’m going to include in a giveaway this Fall as we near the Halloween season! I always follow back (unless it appears Spammish). Thanks again Joy for the opportunity let others know I exist! 🙂

 

Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/authorddaniels/
Twitter       https://twitter.com/AuthorDottie
WordPress https://dottiedaniels.wordpress.com/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34209033-affliction

Thanks so much, Dottie! It was totally my pleasure. Hear that kids? Follow Dottie for the chance to win a copy of my novel Dread! Check out her book Affliction for an entertaining and zomberific read!

By the way, look for more opportunities to win a signed paperback copy of Dread from me in the coming weeks! If you can’t wait and want to get your Halloween scares started early, the eBook version is on sale from now until midnight October 31!

Until next time, keep your survival instinct on high, and Never Turn Off the Lights!

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Tales from the Ghost Town Writers Retreat

15493618_10154899107475972_7094799763006043672_oI have had a difficult time writing this past year. I have a novel that I have started and stopped more times than I care to admit and a Christmas project that I decided to postpone from the planned November publish date. I had amazing momentum coming into this year, but it fizzled quickly, and I’m not sure why.

I decided many months ago to attend the Ghost Town Writers Retreat at the beginning of August to see if I could get my groove back, then my Grandma passed away a few weeks ago, and I almost canceled. Losing her hit me harder than I expected and I just wanted to hide out. My darling husband took time off from work to go with me and said it would give us some time away from the kids together, I suspect he knew I needed him to give me an extra push.

The retreat was held in the small mining town of Georgetown, Colorado. I’m a Colorado native but can say I’ve never hung out in Georgetown for anything more than a bathroom break, fill up, or to get to the pass to go to Clear Lake. I remember when I was little my parents looked at buying a piece of property there. The day they went to look at the property they dropped me, my two siblings, and my grandparents off at the little park in town to eat lunch so they could speak to the realtor without distraction. My sister would not play or leave the bench she sat on. It wasn’t until I told her where I was going that she said the park was full of spooks and they demanded to know why she was there. It scared the hell out of her, and that’s why she wouldn’t play. Weird story, I know, but totally normal in my family.

Georgetown is only about an hour from our house on I-70, but the ride up was hairy. The retreat needed to borrow some grills for the Grill and Greet, so I volunteered ours. Since my husband was coming along, we took his truck and loaded our old gas grill into the bed. The day was overcast, and the wind was picking up. Just as I inquired if the grill was safely tethered a huge bang shook us. The grill had fallen over but not out of the bed. Sadly, the handle didn’t survive. After readjusting the bungee cords, we journeyed on. We drove through dense fog, drenching rain, and pounding hail. It didn’t help that I woke up that morning with a nagging headache. Maybe it was a sign to go home, I thought.

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I-70 Westbound

 

When we got to the hotel we discovered that it would be some time before for our room would be ready and we were a little confused about where to check in for the conference, but we did figure out where to take the grill. After an uninvited cloud burst, my husband helped cook up some buffalo hot dogs and burgers, and we had a tasty little dinner with some fascinating folks.

One of the things I really wanted to do was check out the park. I still had a headache, but the next morning I grabbed my camera and off we went. The moment I entered the park through the iron archway my headache was joined by a turbulent stomach. No one demanded to know why I was there, but it felt heavy and strange. My husband asked if it used to be a cemetery because it gave that kind of vibe. As a side note, I got a terrible headache working on this piece, and I kept getting an error message when I tried to upload the photos of the park, it took several tries. Coincidence? Maybe, but my husband says I should quit messing around with this subject!

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The Park Entrance

Even though my head and tummy were very unhappy, I continued to hit up all the sessions I could. Every single session was terrific, and the presenters (some first timers) were great. When we got home and were describing some of the things we learned my daughter laughed and said it sounded like a murders’ convention! Most of the sessions were held in the historic Heritage Center, the old school house. The building restoration was fabulous!

The marketing sessions were beneficial, as that is the area I dislike the most about this author thing and find the most challenging. I’m a quiet, shy, introverted person which is a huge hindrance to my marketing efforts. I made a commitment to myself to move way out of my comfort zone in the coming months regarding this.

I also had an epiphany. I believe my difficulty in writing has come because I know the marketing will come after. Yes. I hate it that much. I think I got some tools and resources at the retreat that will help me, though.

Being the very first Ghost Town Writers Retreat, there were some hiccups and places where there is room for improvement. I thought Georgetown was a great location and I had the best burger ever (after my tummy finally settled down) at Round About Burgers. The waffles at The Happy Cooker were amazing, and the Family Dollar is stocked better than a full sized Walmart! It turned out to be more of a conference than retreat, however. I would have liked more opportunities to meet up and write with other writers. And coffee! Coffee at the venue for morning sessions, please!

I wasn’t sure where or how to sign up for editor/agent sessions, but since I didn’t feel well, I opted not to pursue it. Maybe for next year,  the signup and location information could be available a few days before the event begins.

There was a walking ghost tour that I would have loved to attend, but it happened on Sunday evening, and I was already jonesing for my kids. We opted for the train, mine tour, and of course, the cemetery.

We really didn’t need a ghost tour anyway. I drug my husband around the town late on Saturday night, just to see what we might see. He always warns that I better not get him arrested, but I’ve been doing this to him for years, and so far we are arrest free, knock on wood!

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Haunted Hamill House After Dark

 

Even though I didn’t feel well for the first three days, I feel like I got out of it what I wanted. I have a strategy to push through my writing wall, and I got to spend some time with my husband. He got a better idea of what it is I do and struggle with and ended up getting into it himself! I said we should just write spooky books together and forget everything else!

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My Handsome Husband – It Looks Good on Him!

 

I can only imagine what it takes to organize a thing like this. The speakers and moderators were great. The movie screening of Dead Awake was fun, and I wanted to ask Jeffery Riddick (Dead Awake, Final Destination) what led them to cast Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), she was great by the way, but my head was killing me.

How you go about contacting all these folks and getting them to come to a retreat in a tiny Colorado mountain town is beyond me. I’m grateful for the opportunity and that I ignored my headache AND did not go back home. I am already looking forward to next year, but I think I’ll stay away from the park…or not!

roy and joy

What a Year

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What a year. 2016 had ups and downs, losses and gains, twists and turns. I don’t know about you, but I feel a little sea-sick! I’m hoping 2017 is a little less crazy. A girl can dream, can’t she?

It’s been a good writing year. I finished writing and revising DREAD and published! I’ve sold some copies, and not just to my family, LOL! Some of those readers even left five-star reviews. Weirdly, I miss my characters a little bit. I spent almost every day with them for over two years, after all. I’m sure they don’t miss me but are enjoying new life every time they spring to life in a reader’s imagination. I *heart* you Nate, Garrett, Sophia, and Lindsey!

I stretched out of my writing comfort zone and wrote a short story in the Dystopian Horror genre. Dystopia always felt overwhelming to me. Seriously, how in the world do you create a whole new world…out of your words? I spent a large part of my summer working on Code Yankee Sierra 7 so I could enter it in the  Pandora’s Box of Horrors Challenge. Guess what? It tied for the win. Pretty exciting!

I’ve made amazing writing friends and connections this year. Their stories captivated, spooked, entangled, and encouraged me. Thanks, guys!

I wrote three other short stories. One was originally posted as a Thanksgiving story, but I revised it to a Christmas story (All Through the Night) and popped it up on WattPad for fun. Another one is also a Christmas story (The Kalli-Who) that was published on this blog as a playful holiday share with you, the readers! Lastly, just for grins, I reworked a story I wrote a very long time ago (Best Night Ever) and also shared that on WattPad.

My current WIP Shiver is coming along. I’m still getting to know the characters, and so far, I like them. Too bad I’ll have to terrorize, burden, and maybe knock some of them off *evil giggle*. What?  I’m a writer, it’s what I do.

A writer. You’d think I’d feel perfectly fine calling myself a writer by now, wouldn’t you? But it still feels awkward. When I think writer, I think of Anne Rice, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and the like. When I say I am a writer, it seems arrogant and like a big overblown fishy tale. Despite the list of accomplishments above, it feels like I am the biggest poser in history, play acting a childhood fantasy and hoping the world buys it. I wonder if the people I mentioned before ever feel that way.

For 2017 my resolution is to own it. To boldly submit works and laugh in the face of rejection letters! To shout, I AM A WRITER! Well, maybe just say it in an inside voice.

Here’s wishing you an adventurous, thrilling, spooky, joyous, own-your-truth new year. I hope you get some of that through reading something I wrote for you.

Until next year, Never Turn Off the Lights!

Reading to Improve Writing

I feel a little sorry for my kids. I’m a recovering educator and I know how easy it is over the summer months to forget everything that went in the brain all school year.  So, I have an easy “keep it in there” program going. We have Math Mondays where everybody practices math facts, usually with a card game. Each kid gets a math challenge problem on our refrigerator every week to solve to keep those math juices flowing. We have “read aloud to Mama” while I cook dinner and ask questions for understanding. But their most favorite thing is the timed reading frequency game we play. I time them for one minute on a passage to see how many words they read and we chart it to see improvement over time. There’s more to reading frequency evaluation but for our purposes this is fine.

Reading and understanding what you just read is the most important skill I can try to arm them with, academically. It’s also one of the most important things I do as part of being a writer.

In the day-to-day-work-for-a-living I write businessy stuff. It’s a much different style from the fiction that I enjoy writing. It can be a difficult thing to do the brain switch when going from one to the other. Reading fiction and non-fiction of all types helps me with that a bit (so does good editing and beta readers). It also helps me to evaluate my own writing: what works, what doesn’t, why did this author use the word “totally” twelve times in the same paragraph, that kind of stuff. I read or listen to an audio book every day and have at least two to three books going at any one time.

So far this year (since January) I have read:

  • The Shining, Stephen King (re-read, first time I read it I was 11 years old way back in the 70’s)
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Missing 411: Western United States and Canada, David Paulides
  • Black Magic Rose, Jordan K. Rose
  • Ransom Lake, Brent R. Taylor
  • Looking for Alaska, John Greene
  • Ours, Regina Puckett (short story)
  • Real Vampires, Night Stalkers, and Creatures From the Dark Side, Brad Steiger
  • In the Shadow of the Mountains, M.R. Graham
  • The Body Finder, Kimberly Derting
  • How I Kept My Head When I Lost My Breasts: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Journey, Sandra Fuentes
  • Four to Score, Janet Evanovich (currently)
  • On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King (currently)

Spurned by my recent stay at the Stanley Hotel, I seem to be on a bit of a Stephen King rant right now. Not such a bad thing, in my opinion.

I write almost every day, too. I get up very early, before my little kids get up, to work on my fiction. Some days the words just flow and my fingers fly across the keyboard and other times it is a flurry of fits and starts. I need to get a better habit down and go from almost to every day. When I write every day things just move better.

My little kids (that’s how we refer to the ones still at home with us) love to write as well. Maybe it’s from watching me, I don’t know. One kid writes hilarious comics in the vein of his favorite author, Dav Pilkey. He’s a pretty good artist and has an excellent sense of humor, granted it is mostly potty humor but that’s what he likes! The twins write about mermaid princesses and hippo-unicorns. Of course these are my girls, so the princesses always know karate or can shoot a bow and arrow or know the secrets of picking berries and save the day (my oldest arrests shoplifters and burglars and the like for a living, that’s the kind of girls I raise).

Plumbing Problems by my kid!

Plumbing Problems by my kid!

Reading does improve my writing but I also really enjoy it. It’s relaxing to get lost in another place or character. I hope I’m not just raising comedians and hero-warriors but readers and writers.

What are you currently reading? What was the last book you read? Can’t answer that? UGH! Pick up a book, will ya! I hope my novels will be on your list when they are released into the wild but for now, thanks for reading this…quiz to follow, just kidding.

Spooky Fun Writing Challenge

I was cleaning up my files this week, a lame exercise that I use to avoid working, and I came across some files that were from a writing challenge I participated in last Halloween. You had to write a scary tale every week in under 500 words for eight weeks leading up to the holiday. Not as easy as it sounds. Some of them were embarrassingly terrible, some may be spun off into something more, and some just need to never see the light of day.

For some Friday fun I thought I would share one that was based on something that really happened to someone I know. Enjoy.

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Long Distance

Her passing had impacted us all, him worst of all. Since our aunt who had raised us died three months ago he had spiraled down with booze and other poisons. I hadn’t spoken to my brother, Jack, for almost two weeks. That, in and of itself, was not that unusual.

The unexpected nature of Auntie’s cardiac aneurism had amplified the blow for everyone and I knew he needed help but I also knew I had to have good boundaries with him. Otherwise, he would suck me down to crazy town with him. My aunt had spent years trying to save him from himself and I truly felt her inability to do so had broken her heart to the point of death.

I thought a little TV would crowd out these thoughts and I was thrilled to see a spy movie marathon was happening. I don’t think I got to see more than 20 minutes of it. I woke with a start to the shrilling of the phone. I reached for it and groggily brought it to my ear.

“Hello?”

“Mickey, I’m so worried about your brother.  Please help him.”

“I’m sure he’s fine, Auntie.  Just on a binge…” I sucked my breath in. “You can’t be calling me, you’re dead,” I whispered. I could feel my insides dropping to the floor.

The line became full of static and a hissing sound followed by a screeching that hurt my ear.  I threw the phone down hard and it went silent. I eyeballed it like it was a big poisonous spider looking for a snack.

My head felt a little foggy, maybe I was dreaming. I bit down hard on my lower lip and the bitter taste of blood told me I was wide awake.

My head slowly cleared. There was no way the phone could have rang. After all the funeral expenses I was a little strapped and I had the landline disconnected to save some money.

“What the hell?” I said aloud to the empty room, relieved not to get an answer.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face. I had to be hallucinating. Maybe I was having a waking dream. That’s a thing, right? After all I had been thinking about this stuff before I dozed off.

I was inspecting the injury to my lip when the buzzing of my cell in my front pocket made me jump. I checked the caller ID, unknown. I thought about letting it go to voice mail but instead I slide my finger to answer it and slowly lifted it to my ear.  My heart was pounding so hard my hand was bouncing in rhythm with it.

“Hello?” I croaked.

“Mickey?”

“Jack?”

“Hey. I just wanted to tell you that I’m ok and I’ll be sober from here on out. I was just trying to dull the pain, ya know?”

“Where the hell have you been? Are you in jail?” I demanded.

“Mickey?”

“Ya, Jack, where are you?”

“Auntie says hi.”

And the line went dead.

©Joy Yehle, 2013

Well, I hope this makes you never want to answer your phone and Never Turn Off the Lights. Try your hand at a 500 word or less story and email me at joy@joyyehle.com or post in the comments, I’d love to read them!

Zombie Subdivisions, That’s Actually a Thing

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My story Dread takes place in a new, well planned, shiny subdivision. I know in my town there a several such developments underway. While I hope this is a good sign for the economy, I find there is something unsettling in the partially built homes and undeveloped lots in these areas.

As I researched and thought about my setting an interesting little phenomena caught my attention and my imagination.

The economic downturn created what has been coined “Zombie subdivisions”. Sorry, no walking dead here but platted vacant land or partially built out plots then abandoned areas. These modern ghost towns look like they could host the undead.

 

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Newly constructed homes in an unfinished subdivision is surrounded by weeds in Coolidge

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US ECONOMY

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Unfinished subdivision

These photos are as interesting as they are depressing. It must be very unsettling to be one of only a handful (or less) residents in this type of neighborhood. I hope the recovering economy makes it possible to rehabilitate these areas away from blight. But for now, the possibilities these spark in my imagination are endless. The poor dear folks in Dread may find their beautiful subdivision a little less perfect (as if it wasn’t scary enough for them) by the time the book is released later this year.

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

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