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Elizabeth Jane Spilman Massie was born and raised in Waynesboro, Virginia, a town in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Tended by a newspaperman/journalist father and watercolorist mother, she and her two sisters and one brother grew up surrounded by words, paintings, pets, open-minded attitudes, and wild senses of humor. As a child and young teen, Elizabeth dreamed of owning a horse, being a famous actress, being a famous writer, getting spanked by the Beatles, marrying Peter Tork or Robert Redford, and turning into Penny Robinson so she could fall through a mirror and meet a cute guy. She was a dreadful student; she rarely paid attention in class and frequently got bad marks on her report card for not "working to her potential." Little did the teachers know that the daydreaming, the goofy drawings, and the angst-ridden stories she was doing in class instead of the assigned science/social studies/math, would some day have some relevance. During the summers she worked as a counselor and lifeguard at Girl Scout, YMCA, and horseback riding camps. She enjoyed spending time with kids (most of them, anyway).taking them on scavenger hunts, helping them with their swimming in the goose-greased lakes, and haunting them late at night with tales of "Morgan" who lived in the rickety, tree- and vine-ridden house at the bottom of the dam, and with forced runs across that very dam at midnight. ("Move those legs, kids.Morgan's crawlin' up the side! Can't you smell him? Can't you HEAR him?")
A Waynesboro High School graduate of 1971, she attended Ferrum Junior College and Madison College (now James Madison University) and earned a degree in elementary education. She taught in public schools in Augusta County, Virginia from 1975-1994. During those years she married Roger Massie, had two children (Erin, born in 1976 and Brian, born in 1979) and sold many of her wacky pen and ink/watercolor pictures at art shows around the state.
This was also the time she began writing in earnest. Her first horror short story, "Whittler," was published in The Horror Show in the winter 1984 edition, along with the first published story by good friend and horror author, Brian Hodge. Many other story sales followed, in mags such as Deathrealm, Grue, Footsteps, Gauntlet, Iniquities, The Blood Review, After Hours, The Tome, and many more, as well as anthologies such as Borderlands, Borderlands III, Best New Horror 2, Dead End: City Limits, Women of Darkness, Best New Fantasy and Horror 4, Hottest Blood, New Masterpieces of Horror, Revelations, and many others. Beth's novella, Stephen (Borderlands) was awarded the Bram Stoker Award and was a World Fantasy award finalist.
Elizabeth added horror novels to her repertoire in the early 1990's, and has since published the Bram Stoker-winning Sineater, Welcome Back to the Night, Wire Mesh Mothers, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (co-authored with Stephen Mark Rainey), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion, Twisted Branch (as Chris Blaine), and Homeplace. She has also had four story collections published: Southern Discomfort, Shadow Dreams, the extensive The Fear Report, and A Little Magenta Book of Mean Stories. Her bizarre poetry is included in the early 2004 anthology Devil's Wine, along with poems by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub, and more. Presently, she is at work on a new novel about a haunted farm house and a bunch of new short fiction for various publications.
In the mid-1990s, Beth was divorced. She also branched out with her fiction and began to write historical novels for young adults and middle grade readers. She has said, "There is a great deal of horror in history, so moving from one to the other wasn't that big a step for my creative thought processes. I love the idea of putting my mind back in time to experience what people years ago might have experienced. And damn, but some of that stuff was creepy!" Her works include the Young Founders series, the Daughters of Liberty trilogy, and The Great Chicago Fire: 1871.
On the side, Elizabeth also writes supplementary materials for educational publishers (both fiction and nonfiction) and continues to wield her inky pen and watercolors to create the characters of Skeeryvilletown. In her free time, she likes hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, digging through antique stores, traveling roads on which she’s never traveled. She is also an active member of Amnesty International, the human rights organization to which she’s belonged since 1985.
Elizabeth still lives in the country in the Shenandoah Valley (a mere four miles from where she was born and next door to her best friend and sister, Barbara Spilman Lawson) with illustrator Cortney Skinner. She regularly attends Necon in Rhode Island in July, and is well known (along with sis Barb) as both a Necon Whore and a peace-lovin' Serendipity Sister. Her advice to one and all, "The answer, alas, is blowin' out your ass, the answer is blowin' out your ass.."
J. R. Deans
on March 07, 2012 :
I fully admit that I do not like the zombie "genre." Like vampires, I find the whole thing just a bit silly, and very much overdone.
However, I am a fan of Elizabeth Massie's work, and was willing to try "Abed" on the strength of byline alone.
As with much of her work, Massie makes this zombie tale less about zombies and more about what zombies would mean for those "left behind." ABED begins as many of Massie's stories do, with an introduction that almost seems without direction. She slowly weaves in expert fashion a narrative that gives the reader a false sense of security, and then presents the reader with true horror. Massie does not smash the reader over the head with graphic imagery of blood and gore, or treat the reader to an onslaught of sensory overload. She builds the horror slowly, deliberately, and presents the reader with ultimately a fantastic tale told in such a way that it not only frightens or disturbs on the surface, but shakes itself into one's core.
Massie's stories are truly tales of horror not for what you read, but how they make you feel. ABED becomes a crisis of conscience and belief that heightens the tension wonderfully.
What makes ABED work so well is that it is a remarkably short tale despite the great depth of emotion and sense of place Massie evokes. That is probably her best strength: her ability to paint such a grand mental image with characters that the story cannot help but feel real, because the reader so easily connects with them. You feel their emotions and tensions, which makes the worlds Massie presents us all the more real.
ABED is a great story, despite the "oogy" feelings it evokes (it is Horror, after all). It has just been made into a short film, and while I think it has great potential to work as a film, I also think that no adaptation of Massie's work will ever surpass the raw emotions of the source material.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)