Review: First Impressions

See my review in the middle of this post.

About this book:  M/M Romance

Two years ago I made a mistake, a big one, and then I threw in another couple just for good measure. I screwed up my life big time but I made it through. I was lucky.
Then I was given the opportunity for a fresh start. Two years in Auckland, NZ, ‘The City of Sails’. Away from the LA gossip, a chance to breathe, to get my life back together.
I grabbed it and packed my new set of golden rules with me.
I don’t do relationships.
I don’t do commitment.
I don’t do white picket fences.
And I especially don’t do arrogant, holier-than-thou, smoking hot K9 officers who walk into my ER and rock my world.

The only thing I know for certain about Dr. Michael Oliver is the guy is an arrogant, untrustworthy player, and I’d barely survived the last one of those in my life.  Once was more than enough.
The man might be gorgeous but my eleven-year-old daughter takes number one priority and I won’t risk her being hurt, again. I’m a solo dad, a K9 cop and a son to pain in the ass, bigoted parents.
I don’t have time for games.
I don’t have time for taking chances.
I don’t have time for more complications in my life.
And I sure as hell don’t have time for the infuriating Dr. Michael Oliver, however damn sexy he is.

About the author:

Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in the LGBTQIA genre in MM Romance and Fantasy. She has traveled extensively and lived in many places including the US, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea, and loves to add experiences from these adventures into her writing.

She is a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for parenting a gorgeous daughter-well that depends on the day.

She has lovely complex boys telling sweet sexy stories in her head that demand attention and a considerable number of words to go with them. Their journeys are never straightforward and can even surprise Jay, but the end is always satisfying.

You can find her on Facebook as JayHoganAuthor and on Twitter as @taranakidreams. Visit her on Goodreads  and buy this book, First Impressions, on Amazon.

Giveaway: Jay Hogan will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My review:

Things I liked 

  1. The two main characters are complex, intelligent and sexy people with back stories that ring true and make them both easy to like.
  2. The secondary cast of characters is also well drawn, from Josh’s sassy daughter and his loyal police dog to Michael’s best friend, the glitter-eye-shadow wearing male head nurse.  Some of these characters could so easily read as caricatures but they don’t; they come across as genuine individuals. 
  3. The banter in the book is great fun and almost everyone engages in it. 
  4. I found the switching of point of view between the two main characters to be particularly well done, especially when the same scene was told from each man’s perspective. 

What I didn’t like

  1. Everyone has a point at which steamy romance turns into porn and individual tastes do vary. I like to think mine are kind of in the middle of the spectrum, but, hey, who knows. I do know this novel crossed my line about a third of the way through the book due to the frequency of the sexual content, the really specific details given in the sex scenes and the pages-long duration of some of the scenes.  Perhaps a reader should be forewarned the novel contains a large amount graphic sexual material. I would have passed on reviewing this book if I had known.

Because the sex scenes make up so much of the book, I feel I cannot give it a rating. Rather, I will commend the author for the things she did well, mentioned above, and recommend the book to those whose tastes in this regard are different from mine. 

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

My Favorite Excerpt:

Josh was fuming. Fast pitch was one of the few activities he got to enjoy on his own and now he had to put up with Michael freaking Oliver. Arriving at Kendrick’s he’d immediately collared Mark at the bar as the guy was buying a round.“What the hell, man? Whose idea was it to invite him?”

His friend plastered a huge grin on his face and held up his hands in surrender. “Nothing to do with me, mate. Boss man just asked me to deliver him.”

“And you couldn’t think of any reason that wouldn’t be a good idea?”

“What was I going to say?” Mark studied his friend. “And honestly, he seems a good guy and he plays a solid game.”

“I don’t give a flying fuck if he plays like Nathan Nukunuku, he’s an asshole.”

“Funny, that’s what he called you.”

“Wait. He called me an asshole?”

Mark snorted. “Lighten up, Josh. Anyone would think you actually liked the guy.”

“Fuck off.”

Mark whacked him on the back of his head.

“Ow,” Josh protested.

“Suck it up. You deserved it. So, the guy was cruising, so what? Oh. My. God. What a scandal. And he even got lucky with a gorgeous young man, well good for him. It’s not a crime. And besides, he’s hot. And he hit on you. I would think that was reassuring, that you haven’t lost it. You’re both obviously hot for each other.”

“I’m a father of an eleven-year-old girl.”

“And that came with getting your dick cut off, did it?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” Josh dismissed the comment.

If you are interested in a review from me:

One of my resolutions is to review more books here. I am interested reading speculative fiction of all sorts, including science fiction and fantasy. My protagonist in y1 is shape-shifting gay male, so I am predisposed to review stories featuring LGBT heroes (or others who find joy in life by being true to who they are in spite of obstacles) or stories featuring interesting shape shifters.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book from the author, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.


This is my first review here in a while. I hope to do more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my review policy.

Review summary: I chose this book because I enjoy fantasy, and shape-shifting dragons sounded like way too much fun to miss. It turned out to be more of a romance novel in a fantasy setting. However, it is a fun read (and the shape-shifting dragons were as good as I hoped.) I give it a 7/10. Details are below.

About this book: An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds. To some, it’s nothing more than a dream. To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations. For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift. For sheltered Lily Kiers, it’s all too real. Her escape from danger, straight into the arms of her destiny. Thrust into a realm made of fantasy and unbridled passion, Lily faces violent resentment and jealousy from extremely powerful enemies. Amidst fierce creatures whose very existence defy all common sense, Lily pieces together a past she could never have imagined. Claimed by Kord, Prince of Battle Draconian, their love will not be denied, even as malevolent forces plot to rip them apart.

About the authors: CiCi Cordelia is the pen name for the writing team of BFFs Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko.

 Published authors in their own right, they share a love for well-written stories infused with their favorite romantic genres: paranormal, suspense, and erotica. Both are fans of Alpha Men and the women they’d lay down their lives for.

 As a writing team, they bring a solid know-how for accomplishing the foundation of what makes a great romance read: a strong story, a passionate romance, fascinating characters, and a happy-ever-after ending. CiCi can be found: & More links for each author can be found at the end of this post.

Giveaway: CiCi Cordelia will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win.

My full review: Romance novels just aren’t my cup of tea, but I can appreciate a fun story, an imaginative setting and a happy ending. This book provides them all.

What I liked best:

  1. The parents. When mom and dad show up at all, in either romance or fantasy, they are seldom this supportive or having this much fun of their own. The Prince of Battle Draconian’s mother was actually my favorite character.
  2. Sensitivity. I expected the romantic male to be strong and, well, manly. No worries, he is. But he also isn’t a jerk. He treats his beloved with understanding and even courtesy and is all the more desirable for it. Kudos to CiCi Cordelia.
  3. The dragons. I loved their physical description, their shifting, and most of all the way they were part of but separate from their human brains.
  4. Bonus points for well written sex scenes that are detailed enough to be sexy and tasteful enough not to be embarrassing.

What I liked least:

  1. There aren’t many plot surprises, and I felt like the basic premises of the story were pretty obvious from the start. I’m all for the happy the ending, but would have appreciated more complexity in getting there.
  2. I’m willing to suspend disbelief about all things magic, but the idea of one of the three ruling families of an entire world living with no domestic help, doing all their own chores, was beyond what I could accept.
  3. The last third of the book slowed down. Once the romance is largely settled, the authors opt to resolve the remaining plot issues with a lot of fight scenes. I felt the book could have used a few more clever and less predictable ways to tie up the loose ends.

In spite of those flaws, I do recommend this book for anyone desiring an easy read to make a few hours melt away. It would be perfect on a difficult plane ride, where you could put on some music and immerse yourself in this story. If you are lucky enough to be traveling home, you can indulge yourself once you get there by pretending your mate is secretly a dragon. I bet it will make for an interesting evening.

Purchase this book: On Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

February 8: Two Crazy Ladies Love Romance
February 15: Emily Carrington
February 22: Fire Dancing for Fun and Profit
February 22: Sharing Links and Wisdom
March 1: Kit ‘N Kabookle
March 1: The Book Garden

My favorite excerpt:

“I won’t hurt you.” The dragon’s powerful voice held a soothing quality. Then it ruined the moment by leaning down to sniff her. “Mmm. You smell like apples and honey.” To her amazement, that long, forked tongue re-emerged and flicked gently along her neck. Its texture felt incongruously like velvet.

Lily managed to bite back a hysterical shriek even as her lower lip trembled. She clamped it between her teeth to steady it, before venturing, “A-Are you going to eat me?”

Every muscle and bone in her body hurt. Her world had upended itself. Beyond exhausted, she longed for this nightmare to end.

If a dragon could frown, then this dragon was definitely frowning. Its fierce expression sent additional shudders through her, and she fully expected those massive jaws to come for her at any moment.

As hard as she struggled for calm, tears leaked from her eyes when he raised long, sharp claws and reached for her. Too frightened to move, she turned her head away. The thrumming of her heart pounded through her entire body as she waited for the sharp talons to slash into her. Instead, the dragon carefully nudged her cheek until she was forced to raise her face and meet its magnetic stare.

“I said I wouldn’t hurt you.” Then slowly and gently the creature unfurled its tail, the very tip pressing against her lower back as if encouraging her to gain her feet, and held her steady until she was standing securely on the ground.

Before Lily had a chance to run, there was a bright flash of light, then a shimmering of brilliant colors. Her jaw slackened at the sight of a man standing before her.

An extremely handsome, naked man.

If you are interested in a review from me:

One of my resolutions is to review more books here. I am interested reading speculative fiction of all sorts, including science fiction and fantasy. My protagonist in y1 is shape-shifting gay male, so I am predisposed to review stories featuring LGBT heroes (or others who find joy in life by being true to who they are in spite of obstacles) or stories featuring interesting shape shifters.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Individual Author Links:

Cheryl Yeko:
Website:  ‘Where Love Always Wins’

Char Chaffin:
Website: “Falling In Love is Only the Beginning”

Final Note:  I received a free copy of this book from the authors. A free copy of a book would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

A better word than joy?

I knew from the beginning that my second novel would be centered around the theme of joy. My first novel was all about our connection to others; I wanted this one to celebrate the authenticity of being oneself.

Because I’m the kind of person who gets carried away with an idea, I decided to center the action around the place on the globe that was exactly opposite of Nigeria, where my my first novel took place. Turns out that location is just south of the equator, smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This fact might have discouraged someone else, I but I was determined to introduce this symbolism of opposites into my already half-developed plot. So I delved deeper and discovered the island nation of Kiribati, and began to write a novel that encompassed a swath of the sea.

Just as “peace” seemed an inadequate word to describe x0, “joy” barely touched the surface of my overarching theme for y1. What I wanted was a word that meant

the sheer exhilaration that can only be found when a person is true to who they are.

We do need a word for that.

The book was orange in my head. Orange for sunsets over the Pacific and orange for crazy-strong exuberance and for all that glows. This had to be a book about the fire within.

I already knew that later in the series I would write a book that was blue, and it would be about the virtues that tug us in the other direction. I’m still struggling to find a single word that encapsulates the theme of my blue book, but I know that it is about something important, too.

(For more thoughts on words we need, see A better word than loyalty?, A better word than peace?,  A better word than hope? and A better word than courage?)

Why would anyone call a collection of books 46. Ascending?

I spent most of my free time over the past six years writing a collection of six novels. I’d never written a book before and, now that I’m finishing the last one, I’m starting to puzzle through what possessed me to do such a thing.

It seemed like fun? I’d always wanted to write fiction? Why the hell not?

Part of the answer lies in something I wrote today to put at the end of the sixth book to explain to any curious reader who had stuck with me exactly why I called this collection of books 46. Ascending.

Here is how I explained it.

  1. It is an I Ching hexagram.
  2. It is what I came up with when I decided that my six proposed books could be made into an I Ching hexagram. Those with a female protagonist would have two lines and those with a male protagonist a single line and book one would be at the bottom and book six at the top because I was pretty sure that was how you were supposed to do it. I thought it was a cool idea.
  3. The lines make Sheng, the I Ching hexagram number 46, as I discovered when I looked up the above cool idea.
  4. Sheng answered the question that bothered me most. The question was not “will my books make money?” or “will I sell a lot of books?” It wasn’t even “will these be good books?” or “will I enjoy writing them?” Those would all have been fine questions. But, this I Ching hexagram answered my question “should I do this or not?”
  5. Researching Sheng, I read that “it is a time of development and progress, the direction is correct” and “hexagram 46 shows a time where a steady progression will occur where the predicted outcome is positive  and “keep working on your plans and maintain confidence in their success.” Those all sure sounded good to me.
  6. My research on 46 Ascending also put this quote in front of me. It is always better to fail in doing something than to excel in doing nothing. – Chinese Proverb . It is undoubtedly a good quote for anyone contemplating anything.
  7. I learned that Sheng was also referred to as the Symbol of Rising and Advancing, Ascending, Ascension, Rising, Promotion, Advancement, Sprouting from the Earth, and Organic Growth. Who can argue with all that?
  8. Sheng’s details included “The emphasis is on upward motion, from obscurity to influence, with growth that is supported by adaptability and an absence of obstacles.” and “Make a sincere effort to apply resolute effort against the forces of inertia, bending around obstacles that arise, and good fortune will follow.
  9. In other words, everything I read about the I Ching hexagram told me loud and clear “write the damn books.” So I did.
  10. Was the universe talking to me? Was I talking to myself? Am I lucky I didn’t put the lines in the reverse order? Those are all great questions. But the one I started to consider was how well did the hexagram fit in with the books themselves.
  11. If you asked me what this collection of books was about, from the beginning I would have told you it was about how all humans have so much more potential than they realize. We can improve, we can rise, we can ascend. Climb the mountain. Move towards the light to the south. You know. Grow.
  12. So this collection of books is named after an I Ching hexagram that not only got me off my butt and writing, but just happened to perfectly describe what it was I was trying to say. Go figure. At the least, it seemed reasonable to name the collection of books after it.

What I don’t address at the end of my novel is the question “did writing the books make me happy?” It’s an important question, but it’s important to me, and not really to my readers. That makes it a more appropriate topic for my blog.

Well …

I can tell you that I wrote these books filled with a sense of energy and purpose unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. Many days, writing wasn’t just what I wanted to do, it was all I wanted to do. It was an addiction, an obsession, and a nepenthe against all the world’s ills. I let it consume me, and I enjoyed the ride.

I emerge at the other end, tireder, older, fifteen pounds heavier and with six years of my life mysteriously gone. But, I was lucky enough to have five people in this world who loved me throughout this process and I was lucky enough to have a way to make a living while I wrote that kept serious worries away. Neither is to be taken lightly and for both I count my blessings.

Everybody always tells you to pursue your passion in life. I don’t think that “everybody” has much of an idea of all that really entails. It changes you in ways you do and don’t like. It’s not always fun. It doesn’t always turn out well, certainly not in the Hollywood kind of way.

But once you’ve done it, you can’t imagine not having done it, if that makes any sense. Like not doing it wasn’t even an option, or at least it shouldn’t have been.

Is that happiness? I’m not sure, but I think it might be something even better.


Still caring about those reviews

Hope 1y1 has been out for a while now, and it has several dozen reviews under its belt, here and there. None-the-less it makes my day when I find a new one, especially when the reader enjoyed the book. Let’s face it. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this story, and yes I do crave feedback. Sales only provide me with a cold, dry number.

A writer wants to know what total strangers, ones who like the kinds of books she writes, think about her book. So yes, reviews matter to a writer, whether they should or not.  I imagine they must mean as much to an actor, or a musician or anyone who puts themselves out there to entertain and amuse the world, and there is no way around that. Once a books has hundreds of reviews, I suppose that individual ones matter less. I hope some day to find out.

Imagine my joy the other day when I was doing a search for something else and found the wonderful blog The Printed Word which features reviews by Melissa. There it was, a review of y1 posted January 10,  2014. Her review begins with “I give this book a 5 out of 5. Once again, Sherrie Cronin shows off her amazing research skills! Like the first novel in the series, x0, she weaves real facts and controversial, sensitive topics in with the fictional Zeitman family. This time we follow Lola’s son, Zane, as he learns at a young age that he can adjust his appearance to better blend in, much like a chameleon.”

What a wonderful surprise. I’m going to kick up my heels and dance for joy.

(Thanks to Zen2Zany on Facebook for the image that appears above.)

It’s about you.

zen2zany 1Or her. Or him. But not me.

I’m about halfway through d4 now and finally starting to roll. Today I came up with the final tweak to the final scene in the book. Mind you, there is many a occurrence in-between that I haven’t figured out yet, but I know from experience that once I get the very end in my head, I will find a way to get there. d4 will happen.

And with that done, part of me moves on to the next book.

This time around, however, it is the last one in the collection, and that is scary for me. It helps that I know already that this last book is not about me, it is about you. Whether you are young or old, healthy or struggling, male, female, who ever you are, I am going to be writing about how you were born with something you need to say, a truth you hold deep within yourself, and how desperately you need to find a way to sing it, dance it, whisper it or shout it. Pretending otherwise will just frustrate you. Your truth needs to be told.

There. Doesn’t that sound like a fun story? I will do my best to make it so, I promise.

(Please drop by the Facebook page for Zen to Zany and drop off a “like” for the image above.)

Knowing where you are going

signWhen I start to write a book I have a general idea of how it is going to end, but the specifics have surprised me every time. I’ve recently finished the first draft of my fourth novel, c3, and I am still enjoying some of the  unexpected twists and turns. The good news is that I always know exactly where I am going once I have finally gotten there. 🙂

A few months ago I wrote a guest post answering the question of whether I used an outline or not. My answer was yes I did and yes I didn’t. That seems to have become more true with each story I’ve written, and I’d like to share the post with you.

catWe’ve gotten very into particle physics at my house lately, mostly because my husband is reading about entanglement.  We are household of geeks, and the three of us and my older daughter who is visiting are fascinated by Schrödinger’s cat, hidden in its box simultaneously both dead and alive. For until you open the box, every possibility exits. It’s not a case of an “or”, it is an “and”. Dead and alive, simultaneously, as impossible as that seems.

And so it goes with my writing. In my twenties I thought planning was evil and that true creativity would spring forth from my subconscious only if it was unfettered by something mundane as an outline.  I still have pages of long hand creative brilliance that go on and on in a fascinating if somewhat illegible fashion and then go nowhere in various interesting ways.

My thirties brought children and a real job and a need for order, and my attempts to write went with it. Carefully planned lists and plot outlines filled neat folders on my computer, and my first book was outlined so many times it got ridiculous.  I didn’t write, I just made outlines, but they were really spectacularly thorough ones.

Today I do both, or neither. My fourth book started just like my first, with a series of chapters each defined only by four to six bullet points that got me from where I wanted the story to start to where I wanted it to end and provided a sense of pace for getting from here to there in about twenty chapters. No details.  Each time I have written the first few chapters with no further constraints and watched to see what happened. Each time, there were surprises, mostly in the subplots and additional characters that emerged.

outlines 1

research and outline in progress

Then for each chapter after the first couple, before starting  that chapter I expand the bullet points out to maybe ten to twenty items for just that chapter, so that I can now make sure that all the growing complexity is getting moved along in a timely fashion.  Every few chapters from then on I stop and look ahead, adding a bullet point or two to my later chapters to make sure that all emerging subplots will get carried through to conclusion. But I never plan details, leaving room even in the current chapter for my characters to surprise me.  They do that a lot, and I think that is the most incredibly fun thing about writing fiction.

So it is a little like Schrödinger’s cat.  It is both outlined and it is not. Only in the cat’s case, the probability function collapses when you open the box, and it becomes one thing or another, dead or alive.  My novel’s probability function collapses when the book is done, when it becomes both a story with form and structure and yet a tale full of events I could not have predicted when I started.

This appeared as a guest post at
Bunny’s Book Review
on June 8, 2013
Kindle Nook Books on June 13, 2013
The Book Connoisseur on July 28, 2013

Check these blogs out for a wealth of information on reading, writing and publishing as well as leads for many fine books you aren’t that likely to hear about elsewhere.