Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen Maze

Although vampires have appeared (sparingly) in Christian fiction over the past year, author Ellen Maze, was one of the first brave souls to dip her quill in this blood-sucking sub-genre trend.

*Disclaimer: I received this novel for free, from the author, for the purpose of an honest review... a long time ago. Now I am finally getting to it, with my apologies for the delay. The good news? If you like it, there are two more books in this series now available.*

Here's the scoop:
(From the description at

Whoever thought writing a bestseller could be so dangerous?

Author Beth Rider's second vampire novel has hit number one and she is flying high on her new-found fame, but at a fated book signing that runs late into the night, Beth is confronted by an evil she'd only experienced in nightmares. Jack Dawn, a supernatural monster belonging to an ancient race of bloodthirsty immortals known as the Rakum, vows to track down and kill the young writer because of the vile redemptive message her book is bringing his people. The Rakum have spread evil among mankind since the Beginning, growing in strength and influence with every passing century.

Jack's proselyte Michael Stone was brought up from his youth to be strong, sensible and oftentimes, brutal. But when he stumbles upon the beautiful and apparently innocent Beth Rider, he is instantly smitten, despite the fact that a few seconds later he realizes that she is the target of his Elder's fury. Puzzled by Jack's unreasonable condemnation, Michael takes it upon himself to protect the lovely author from the limitless lust of his brethren.

Facing the most terrifying trial of her life against creatures known only in fables, one simple woman will unintentionally threaten the very existence of a powerful and accursed people. In the climactic mêlée, it is a race to the death, or if Beth has her way, a race to the life-of every Rakum who makes the choice.
I enjoyed reading this book. I really liked the fresh, original take on the vampire fiction trend. This is not a romance about glittering hot guys who happen to be bloodsuckers; this novel follows a group of cursed men and women "living" without hope; surviving and thriving only by the further negation of their humanity; entertaining themselves through the countless years by inventing heinous games against mortal humans.

Ms. Maze has drawn very visible characters, each physical description clear enough to seem almost photogenic. She does a credible job of ratcheting the tension, (specifically Michael Stone's as he becomes more and more dissatisfied with his eternal existence) and her world-building skills -- all within the world we know -- are well played.


Here's what bothered me: I was expecting Beth Rider to be the protagonist. I really was. But she, in my opinion, was not the main event. This was Michael Stone's story more than Beth's. His character was clearly defined, clearly conflicted, and, even as a vampire, more easily identified with than squeaky-clean, faith-like-a-rock human (?) Beth Rider. I liked Michael. I believed in him and his struggle. And I wanted him to win.

Conversely, I didn't believe in Beth. And, actually, I had a hard time liking her at all. I'm all for strong women of faith, but Beth's acceptance of fiction being fact, of death chasing her, of having withstood torture that would, in all likelihood repeat itself was, (and this is my opinion only -- this book has gotten some RAVE reviews!), not believably portrayed. She was a little too (to borrow Joyce Meyer's words) "Sister Super Christian" for me to even... gulp... take her seriously.

But I liked Michael Stone. And I even "liked" (should I say appreciated?) many of the bad guys who suffered from doubt, power, and a whole bevy of misinformation.

I enjoyed the book and thought it was a fun reprise from the direction most Vampire Fiction was headed (although the trend seems to be playing out, somewhat, now.) With some unexpected twists, turns, betrayals, and allies, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is a worthwhile read.


I'd like to give this novel 4 stars for its author's originality of conception and attention to detail, but I think I have to knock one off due to my Beth issues. So, I'll cringe at the possible backlash from the many readers who found this book five-star worthy (and they were many!) and give 3 Stars to Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen Maze

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Keeping Promises

It's pretty sad when you haven't posted at a particular blog in so long that you almost can't remember how to log in. Good thing Blogger is fairly friendly to the not-tech-savvy among its bloggers. Still, I had a little moment of near panic staring at the beautiful (if I do say so myself) page of this blog and thinking, "So how is it, again, that I get in here?" but -dah-da-dah-dum! I got in.

I guess you could say I'm awesome that way.

Or not.

Regardless of your opinion concerning my awesomeness, I'm BACK after what turned out to be another prolonged absence while I worked building name recognition for that "other" person who shares my face. But why? you ask? Why come back to this beautiful but sadly neglected blog? Surely all your regular readers jumped ship a long time ago!

Um, well, true.

So I guess the only answer I can give you is: I missed myself.

I've been working so hard to build the platform of my alter ego (that's way more super-hero sounding than pseudonym, don't you think?) that I've lost a bit of touch with me, S. R. Van Ness, the gal behind the tricky initials.

So here's what I'm up to.

I'm planning a come back, sort of like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, but without the catchy pop tunes and the Broadway/Playboy stops in between tours. (huge sigh of relief)

Sure, I've stepped away from my name for a while, worked on building name recognition with another name in another genre, but while "she" (is it creepy to talk about my alter ego in the third person??) is doing her thing over there, I'm going to keep laying lines here. From time to time I'll drop by and practice setting the sails, preparing for that blessed day when I can carve my name on the mast of the WIP ship, hoist anchor, and catch that fantastical wind that drives the deepest heart of my writing life.

(By the way: my alter ego doesn't write fantasy. She writes romance.--- Oh, stop it. Not that kind of romance, silly. There's no Fabio, no Old Spice Guy -- there are real stories to be told in contemporary romance and I've -- er, she's -- got a few to tell. But she's leaving the fantasy to me. Which is awesome.)

I wrote 6000 words in my YA fantasy WIP this week, and that made me happy. Plus, my other self read and reviewed 2-1/2 books. Which brings me to a very uncomfortable subject.

One. Particular. Book. Review.

Well over a year ago I agreed to read a book for review. The author sent me the book, she even inscribed it to me and... I still haven't published my review. The reason? I was a novice at reviewing books and wasn't sure how to write about the things that bothered me about the book without sounding negative to this generous and talented author. And I didn't want to hurt her feelings.


In the interim, while developing the platform for my pseudonym, I've become an avid reader of others' book review blogs and I've read and reviewed dozens of YA and romance books under my "other name." Of course, not all these books perfect and some (like one I'm reading now) were downright wastes of time. I've had to develop skills in diplomatic, but critical review. And I have. But always, niggling in the back of my mind, is the unfulfilled promise to review this one book.

This book has taunted me, really. It's whispered "You're a liar! You're a procrastinator! You're a poser!" in the night. (And a lot of the characters are vampires. That's not creepy.)

Okay, it doesn't really taunt me. Not audibly, anyway. But it probably should. Because I said I would review it, and I didn't.


But the time has come. I feel I have a better frame of reference for discerning a writer's vision and qualifying the story against the writer's aptitude in his or her chosen genre than I did a year and a half ago. Therefore, one of my goals for this coming week, is to FINALLY publish the promised review for the first (but surprisingly not the last) Inspirational Vampire Novel (yes, you read that correctly) that I've had the curiosity and opportunity to read.

I hope I follow through. I hope you'll hold me accountable. And I hope I do a lot more with this bee-ooo-tiful (if I do say so myself) blog in the coming months. But---.

But I'm not promising anything, because honestly: after reading this post, would you take a promise from me seriously?


Now go read a book or something.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Have you missed me????

So I've been away for a while.

Working on a different platform, under a different name.

So there it is.

I haven't even checked in at this blog in like, forever.

Sorry. I feel kind of guilty when I scroll down to the Cluster Maps icon and see that someone out in the middle of the ocean actually looked at my blog and... it was all old news.

Thanks for stopping by.

So I've been busy writing. I finished another novel, I'm shopping for a new agent with said novel, and, in the process, have discovered that my current project (hereafter referred to as my WIP, which is short for "work in progress") is a depressing fraction of usability. In other words, of my approximately 52000 words written on this project so far, I'm going back to do a rewrite which will probably use less than 20,000 of those hard-won words.

But it's just not working.

The problem is, I really love these characters. I love them so much that I'm considering, for the first time, giving up my "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" organic writing style in favor of an outline. I'm reading books, watching DVDs, perusing the net on all kinds of outlining/plot planning methods. I've looked at THE SNOWFLAKE, BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS, and all kinds of other stuff. And... the artsy-fartsy part of my brain (the one that rules me, mostly) is saying, "No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-NO!" But the "need to finish this book and have a sellable product" part of my brain (it's a very teensy, microscopic part) is saying, "Make the stupid outline, genius!" (You see, even the miniscule pragmatist within me is sarcastic. It stings. Really.)

So... I think I'll have to come up with my own plot planning way. Find the method that works for me. I don't do Excel Spreadsheets (although I am taking a class this summer... long story) and I can't write within the constraints of a chart. So I think I'll outline in freeflowing, paragraphical style. Like a 7th grader's book report, with a lot of crappy transitions like, "and then she..." And maybe, just maybe, within those twenty thousand words, a new spark will light, a new fire will burn, and a new phoenix-of-a-story will soar into being.

We can only hope.

Now I'm off to write a book, but you better go read one. Need a suggestion? Lisa T. Bergren's River of Time series is entertaining, funny, and well, awesome. And I'm reading Tammar Stein's KINDRED right now and it is hugely interesting look at angels and demons and powers and principalities... through the eyes of a Jewish teen. So... what's keeping you here on the internet when you could be off reading a good book?

Oh, right. You missed me.

But, seriously, thanks for stopping by.
Now go read a book or something.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

YA Lit Labels. Anyone else confused????

Can someone please define a quantifiable difference between "YA" and "Teen" Literature???? -- For a writer (like, ahem, yours truly) to write a book for older teens (15+) through college age and then try to market it as "YA" seems weird.

The YA demographic seems way too wide, in my opinion. 11 year olds and 19 year olds do NOT (and sometimes should not) read the same books!!!!

Would love to hear comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"...stories help us to start believing the things we already know. " -Steven James

Steven James is one of my very favorite nonfiction writers. Don't get me wrong -- he writes engaging, sometimes frighteningly good fiction, too; but it's his nonfiction titles like, Sailing Between the Stars and Story that have really touched my heart and mind. These books inspire me to not only take my writing up a notch, but to take my LIFE up a notch. To live more poetically, you might say.

Steven has a great post up on his blog, Musings and Meanderings about story power... a quote from it rests above. Please go read Steven's post and, if you're not already a fan or follower of his, I encourage you to become so.

Because fiction mirrors truth.

And story matters.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fiction Matters!!!!

Following a link from one of my favorite author's tweets, I ended up being inspired. So a big thank you goes out to the incomparable Tosca Lee (Havah, the Story of Eve, Demon: a memoir, etc.) for setting me up to get back to work on my editing.

Author Brad Meltzer has a terrific post up about why fiction matters. What a lovely call to action after all the time I've wasted this morning NOT writing. I have a story that must be attended to, so that is all for today. Go read Brad's post and then....

...go read a book or something. And make sure it's fiction, of course. Because Fiction Mirrors Truth.