Category Archives: Nicole’s Writing

Why I Quit Doing Book Giveaways

UPDATE: Last June, shortly after my books were published on Kindle, I wrote the spot that begins mid page: How Many Stars on Goodreads and Amazon? Since then, I no longer do book giveaways. Why? I did not experience residual sales after promos ended, nor did I receive ANY reviews.  In contrast, when I do 99 cent sales along with inexpensive ads here and there, I sell as many books as when they were free: from a couple of hundred to over one thousand. Residual sales at full price also occur, though not at the same pace as when the books are 99 cents. Equally important: I get reviews!

Why don’t giveaways work? I don’t know. I suspect people don’t value free stuff.  They wonder why no one is willing to pay for it.  After I downloaded several free books, I understood why.  There may be some gems out there — I’m positive there are — but I haven’t found any.  Many of the ones I read had clearly not been edited, formatted, or even properly proofread. Again — before I get a bunch of outraged comments — I’m sure there are some great free books, and I’ve read the Amazon newsletters describing indie success using the giveaway strategy. It just didn’t work for me nor a couple of other traditionally published authors with whom I share war stories.

Here’s What I Wrote Last June:

How Many Stars on Goodreads and Amazon?

I offered free Kindle versions of both my novels in the past month, and about 2,000 customers downloaded them.  My novels only cost $3.99, so I don’t think price is why I had such a spike on free days; I think it’s the free advertising you get on sites that follow free book deals.

The dilemma for the author: why offer something for free when your object is to sell books?  The answer is, to get your name out there, make Amazon aware of you, make readers aware of you and, hopefully, get some good customer reviews.

So far on Amazon, I have received mostly five-star customer reviews. In case you were wondering, there is no way for the author to manipulate or add reviews.  Friends who bought your book can add reviews, but all my reviews, except one, are from strangers. I am honored that people gave me such raves.

On Goodreads, I don’t have many reviews, but they are all over the place.  To be honest, I consider PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, GONE WITH THE WIND, DAVID COPPERFIELD, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, and other classics to be five-star books.  While I am happy to receive good ratings, I’m not stupid enough to think my books are on a par with Jane Austen’s or Edith Wharton’s.  THEY are 5-star writers.

So for those people who downloaded my books for free, the hope is that you will provide a review, and a nice one.  Please know, however, that no offense is taken if the ratings aren’t five stars.  I’m no Hemingway and I don’t expect to be treated as one.  I’m just grateful that people take the time to read my books.

REGRET NOT A MOMENT amzn.com/B00C3PAR1W

NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS amzn.com/B00CJYQB5S

Cannot Believe This Question to Advice Column!

“Ask Amy” is the syndicated advice column that replaced “Dear Abby.” Today, I read a question that blew me away!

A 22 year-old woman has known her boyfriend for nine years, dated him for two. Of course, they live together [see my previous post: LIVE TOGETHER?  NOT IF YOU WANT TO MARRY HIM]. She wants to get married; he doesn’t. Typical scenario, so far.

Now, here’s the twist:  he’s pressuring her to have his children without marrying her.  She asks, “Am I wrong to want to be married before having kids?  Am I crazy for wanting him to propose?”

WTF?

Wrong for wanting two parents? Wrong for wanting marriage when you’ve been dating for two years? The world’s gone mad when a young woman questions her own desire for a “nest” for her babies.

The columnist gives her a typical, politically correct response:  “I wish I could offer you 20/20 clarity about what pushing someone into marriage tends to lead to…” Give me a break — it leads to marriage, a marriage as likely to work as any other, as likely to end in divorce as any other, but with legal obligations from the father not always afforded by living together.  In contrast, people who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than those who don’t.

Amy goes on to advise, “Talk to peers…who are married with kids — or unmarried with kids — to see what their lives are like.”  What?  Nothing about the woman being only 22 and NOT wanting kids before marriage?  Nothing about the selfish, immature desire of her guy to procreate without commitment?

By taking wishy-washy, politically correct advice, this 22 year old has a big chance of ending up a single mother struggling to make ends meet, trapped by a circumstance she wanted to avoid.  What about bolstering her resolve to provide a two-parent home for her kids?

The advice columnist is so worried about pressuring someone into marriage…what about pressuring someone into the irrevocable decision to have kids?  Amy, you really messed up on this one!

BLOG Tour for NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS

E-BookBuilders is hosting a blog tour for my Kindle romance, No More Lonely Nights, January 27-29. The tour begins today with an author interview. Tuesday will be reviews and author bio. Wednesday will feature a book excerpt.

lonely banner jpeg finalThe link is http://smarturl.it/FANM

Other bloggers participating are https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janet-Wrenn-Author/124906274186149 and https://www.facebook.com/lisathedramaqueen

If you are a blogger interested in participating, please contact Deena at www.e-bookbuilders.com

 

Five Remote, Romantic Getaways You’ve Never Heard Of

Copyright © 2016 Nicole McGehee

Is your idea of a crowd three other people on your beach?  Do you enjoy personalized, but barely visible service?  Or perhaps you want the privacy to skinny-dip in your own pool.

If you’re looking to unplug — truly unplug — from TVs, phones and e-devices, but you want understated luxury and privacy, here are five enticing getaways you’ve probably never heard of. I’ve never been to any of them, but I want to go to all. To that end, I’ve researched them extensively, including Trip Advisor ratings.  I have traveled enough — and written so many travel articles — that I know how to read between the lines of reviews and brochures.  I think you can trust me on these, but, of course, do your own research before booking, and read the bad Trip Advisor reviews for specific criticism.

Very important: since the resorts’ own photos are copyrighted, you owe it to yourself to click on the links I’ve provided and view the full galleries for yourself.  They are breathtaking. That said, most of these resorts provided me with photos.

La Fregate, The Seychelles
http://fregate.com

La Fregate residences

La Fregate residences

This lush tropical island chain is located 1000 miles east of Africa in the Indian Ocean. There are other world-class resorts in the archipelago, but La Fregate, a private island, has always captured my imagination. There are seven pristine beaches for just 16 villas. Each residence has its own pool and — the ultimate luxury — its own butler.  Candlelight dinner on the beach? A picnic for just the two of you on an isolated stretch of sand? A rainforest tour? Massage and facial? No problem; your butler will make all the arrangements. There are no beach front villas here, rather they are perched on a cliff for endless sea views.  But each residence gets a private golf cart, so you’re free to explore.

Much of the food served is grown in the resort’s gardens, and the cuisine is said to be very good, which is rare on single-resort islands. The Trip Advisor rating is 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, with 61 reviews. The one “terrible” review was written in 2006, and the only alarming flaw it pointed out were millipedes raining down from the ceiling. Okay, that’s pretty bad, but it was eight years ago, so be sure to read the raves, too.

La Fregate, The Seychelles

La Fregate, The Seychelles

Meridian Club, Pine Cay, Turks and Caicos http://www.meridianclub.com

The Meridian Club on Pine Cay, Turks and Cacos.  Photos compliments of MAAC Group

The Meridian Club on Pine Cay, Turks and Caicos.
Photos compliments of MAAC Group

I can’t say it better than the resort’s home page:  “The Meridian Club, the only resort on Pine Cay, is a secluded island getaway on a privately owned 800-acre cay in the Turks and Caicos.Beautifully positioned on a two-mile stretch of talcum-powder beach – considered by many as the finest in the Caribbean – The Meridian Club is an environmentally-sensitive private island resort ideally suited for those seeking an unspoiled, upscale but unpretentious retreat. With no automobiles, televisions, radios or telephones ringing in your ears, you are left to unwind and enjoy the island’s natural beauty and tranquility. Soothing trade winds ensure comfortable temperatures and low humidity year round on our Turks and Caicos private island while the surrounding waters(averaging a pleasant 75° – 80° Fahrenheit) teem with marine life. Underwater visibility often exceeds 100 feet and there are miles of coral gardens within a five minute boat ride. Ashore, Pine Cay remains a pristine natural haven with vast open space and seven freshwater ponds, a perfect habitat for the abundant local fauna and flora.”

Trip Advisor gives this resort 5 stars with 88 reviews, 82 of which were “excellent, 3 very good.  The “poor” review complained that the resort — though adults only — was overrun by noisy kids staying at the private homes on the island, since owners get club membership.

The Meridian Club features private villas overlooking the beach

The Meridian Club features private villas on the beach

Coco Point Lodge, Barbuda, West Indies http://cocopoint.com

Not Bermuda, the honeymoon tradition with its very own “Triangle,” but BARBUDA, sister island to well-known Antigua, in the Caribbean.  Barbuda has only 1500 inhabitants in its 15 x 8 square mile area.  It features miles of unspoiled beach, clear water, and all manner of wildlife and birds. Trip Advisor guests give Coco Point Lodge five stars.  Unusual for the Caribbean, guests rave about the food.  Good thing, since this is an all-inclusive resort.

Words from the resort’s own website, “Coco Point provides the ultimate in relaxation and privacy, and it is luxurious without being too fancy, it is refined without being stuffy, it is in vogue and yet still understated.  Our guests do not come to Coco Point to be seen — they come to Coco Point to do the seeing, some to open their eyes, and all to marvel in the view.  Coco Point has not changed a whole lot over the last 52 years because it got it right the first time.  Simple, special, and exceptional, and experiences to savor and remember — that is the Coco Point tradition, has and always will be.”

Trip Advisor gives this resort 5 stars, with 45 reviews. Forty-four are “excellent,” one is “terrible.”  There’s always one, isn’t there?

Anjajavy Hotel, Madagascar, Africa, All photos for this property © Bipa.Fitiavana 2009 http://www.anjajavy.com/index_en.html#

A villa at Madagascar's Anjajavy Hotel

Villa at Anjajavy Hotel © Bipa.Fitiavana 2009

Madagascar:  even the name sounds exotic.  This island off the coast of the African country of Mozambique boasts flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.  Says the hotel’s official website: “Home to lemurs, chameleons, tortoises, humming birds, medicinal plants, cocoa, vanilla, ylang-ylang, cloves, papyrus and carnivorous plants to name a few; Madagascar is one of the last remaining unspoilt oases on the planet. There are virgin forests, savannas, lazy bays and tiny islands to explore.”

Lemurs are plentiful at Madagascar's Anjajavy Hotel

Lemurs are plentiful at Madagascar’s Anjajavy Hotel

Talk about remote, this resort cannot be accessed by road, but the property arranges private air service. Twenty-four rosewood villas on 1350 acres are set amidst a tropical garden, and front an unspoiled stretch of dazzling white sand. Dirt paths within the resort invite exploration, and boat excursions can also be arranged.

This resort has a five star rating on Trip Advisor. Out of 159 reviews, 150 are excellent, five are very good, three are average, and one is poor.  The “poor” did not pinpoint any particular flaw, so maybe the low score should be thrown out, like in Olympic ice skating. Opinions on food ranged from very good to dreadful.  Service:  mixed reviews.

Travaasa, Maui, Hawaii http://travaasa.com/maui
Hawaii may be part of the USA, but it is one of the most remote island groups on earth, at least a five-hour plane trip from the nearest mainland.  Although Maui has certainly been discovered — and can be crowded with tourists — most resorts are in the sunny south of the island.  Take the famous, winding road to Hana, and you’ll end up in another world (the resort can also arrange a flight from southern Maui).  It’s rainier here in northeastern Maui, and the beauty is untamed.  You won’t find a white sand lagoon on the property, but a dramatic cliff, complete with the sound of crashing waves to lull you into relaxation.

Overview of Travaasa

Overview of Travaasa, photo courtesy of Travaasa Hana

Relaxation, in fact, is what Travaasa is all about, with its spa, yoga classes, and rustic-chic bungalows spread at discreet distances from one another.  Here,  they encourage you to try all manner of gentle adventures, from juicing and cooking classes to net fishing and gliding.  Gliding will get your heart racing, it’s true, but it’s serene up there, in keeping with this resort’s natural philosophy.

The resort relies on Hawaii’s bounty for food, spa products, and activities.  Jet skis?  Forget it! Horseback riding, guided meditation? You’ve come to the right place.

This property has 625 Trip Advisor reviews, with over 500 rated as excellent or very good, and 25 “terrible”. Most of the “terrible” reviews seemed to result from pricing disputes caused by booking through third parties. Another problem highlighted in some reviews, however, appears to be cleanliness. The people who gave “terrible” ratings give hair-raising accounts of bugs, dust, and generally poor maintenance.

Even the most recent 5-star review had this to say, “If you are expecting modern and sparkling, stay somewhere else. If you want a transport back in time to the best of Hawaiian culture, race to make your reservations. We stayed in an older Hawaiian wooden cottage with a direct view to the ocean. The vistas were gorgeous, the grounds beautiful, the quiet nourishing, and the energy marvelous. There may have been cracks in the stone counter and dust on the ceiling fan blades, but we lacked for nothing. The rooms were spacious with decking and hot tub and really comfortable beds, delicious Kona coffee to grind and perk, yummy banana bread, complimentary wine on arrival and for a birthday, and a host of other amenities. The charming rooms had nice sitting areas, “kitchenette” spots, and a large bath facility. Every morning the sun and the sea greeted us firsthand. The breezes at night through the screen doors were heavenly. Our retreat was as private as we wanted. There was a wonderful, true Maui Aloha calm and consideration shown by all the attending employees.”

Wellness day pool, courtesy of Travaasa Hana

Wellness day pool, courtesy of Travaasa Hana

Overall, Trip Advisor gives this property a 4 1/2 out of 5-star rating, so I suggest you read the best and worst, and then reach your own conclusions.

Live Together? Not if You Want to Marry Him

Should you move in with your boyfriend?  Not if you want to marry him.

Many women will dispute that statement. They’ll insist co-habitation is a way to test the waters. They’ll insist the decision is as much theirs as their boyfriend’s. They’ll claim the commitment is so strong that they don’t need a piece of paper to affirm it.  Finally, they’ll say that ultimatums are a bad way to get a man to commit.

Bull.

If you want to live with a guy because YOU don’t want a formal commitment, go for it.  You’re already in a position of strength because you don’t secretly yearn for something he won’t give you.  On the other hand, if you hope living together will convince him to marry you, forget it.  Sure, it happens sometimes, but, by then, the excitement of a new level in the relationship — marriage — has been eroded by domestic bickering and at least some disillusionment.

I’m no scientist, and I’m not going to throw statistics at you to support my argument — we’ve all heard that pre-marital co-habitants have higher divorce rates.  Instead, I’ll ask you to honestly reflect on your own experiences. Do you know someone who for years lived with a guy “who just wasn’t ready”, only to watch them break up, then the guy marry someone new after a few months?  Do you know a woman riddled with anxiety and resentment because her live-in boyfriend hasn’t popped the question?  Every holiday she hopes for a ring, only to receive gift cards, earrings or necklaces?

Here’s where the ultimatum comes in.  It’s not for him — it’s for you.  If a reasonable time has passed, and you’re ready for marriage, you owe it to yourself to find out if he’s thinking the same.  If not, you’re wasting  your precious time.  You think ultimatums are bad?  It used to be society that issued ultimatums.  A woman’s father would insist on knowing a young man’s “intentions” toward his daughter.  Now, many of us don’t have fathers in the picture and, even if we do, we want to take of ourselves.  Problem is, we often don’t take care of ourselves.

The other day, I was working out with my female trainer. She’s thirty-ish, never married, and grappling with her boyfriend’s request that she move in with him. She’s dated him on and off for years, and is ready to marry him.  He’s around her age and never married, though he’s fathered a child (not with her).  I advised her not to move in.  I said it was ultimatum time.  A young man working out near us agreed.  “I’m all about the ultimatum,” he said, “and I’m getting married in a couple of months. Couldn’t be happier.”

Here’s how the ultimatum works:  you decide at what point you need an engagement.  You resolve to sever ties if you don’t get it. You don’t do this to punish him.  You do it because you want a relationship in which you are loved as much as you love.  Everyone deserves a relationship in which love is equally shared.  You have to have the guts to walk away from the guy.  For good.  He may come after you; he may not, but it’s best to know where you stand.

Okay, so what does this have to do with living together?  When you live apart, you retain some mystique, some detachment. You retain allure if he doesn’t know every detail of your beauty, diet, and bathroom regimen. You ARE apart and so you are in a stronger position — within your own psyche — to BE apart if he proves less committed than you.  Marriages go through ups and downs, and that legal commitment can cause people to weather the rough times, and often grow stronger as a result.  When you live together, you experience all the humdrum aspects of marriage without the mutual obligation.  How many live-in couples do you know who are already bored with each other?  Maybe it’s because they’re not facing in the same direction as they consider the future.  Shared aspirations, interests and goals — a commitment to a shared future — keep a marriage strong.

An ultimatum forces the man to turn off the autopilot and focus — really focus — on your relationship.  Is it what he wants?  Yes? So now he knows.  Does he think something better might be around the corner?  Yes?  So now YOU know.

If you’re reading this and making excuses for him, go back and watch the movie HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.  Because he’s not.

To purchase either of my books, please click on cover photos at right.

Also, please LIKE my Facebook author page. https://www.facebook.com/nicolemcgeheeauthor

 

No More Lonely Nights 99cent Countdown Deal

Romance novel No More Lonely Nights will be on sale for 99 cents, from 1/13/14 through 1/17/14.

To read the first chapter of this book, which starts in the Mad Men -era and spans 20 years, please go to previous post.  Or you can click on cover photo at right, which takes you to the book’s Amazon Kindle page.

Direct link is http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CJYQB5S/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

First Chapter of No More Lonely Nights

Here’s Chapter One of my second romance, NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS. If you like it, click on the cover photo at right to link to Amazon.  Once there, check out the 5-star customer reviews.

Chapter 1

Alexandria, Egypt I956

DOMINIQUE had never loved Stephen so much as at that moment, when she knew she would never see him again.

As she approached the top of the gangplank, she pivoted on her high heels and searched the throng on shore, as if she would find him there. But the only familiar figure was that of her mother, Solange, who raised her hand in a regal salute. Dominique raised her own gloved hand in return, trying valiantly to make her wave jaunty. It was hard, though. She was only twenty-one and she was leaving behind . . . everything.

Her eyes panned the raucous harbor, trying to commit it to memory. Against a backdrop of once-grand buildings was a scene that would fit nowhere but the Middle East. White-robed porters shouted to each other as they hauled baggage to the ship. Pushcart vendors — each with an umbrella to keep out the blistering sun — hawked food, copper goods, and Oriental rugs to the milling crowd. Luxurious European cars blew their horns at the donkey wagons that jammed the road.

Amidst the dust, noise, and confusion, the immaculate white cruise ship that would take Dominique to her new life in America seemed strangely alien. As it swayed softly with the incoming tide, Dominique put a hand on the teak railing to keep her balance. She should board, she told herself, but still she lingered on the gangplank. Dominique closed her eyes and inhaled deeply as the scent from afalafel cart wafted up to her. Would she ever again smell the familiar blend of cumin, hot oil, and pepper? Her throat tight with nostalgia, she opened her eyes for one last look.

Suddenly, her body grew rigid as her gaze locked on a man strolling a few yards from the ship — one of the ubiquitous khaki-uniformed soldiers who patrolled the waterfront. At once, Dominique pulled down the net veil of her hat and hurried up the gangplank.

A crew member dressed in crisp whites stepped forward to greet her. With a bow, he offered a steadying hand as Dominique stepped onto the polished deck. Then his eyes landed on the face beneath the veil. There was a barely perceptible pause. Until now, he hadn’t had a good look at her. Having seen her husband, he’d never expected someone so young — certainly not so striking. But it was verboten to stare at attractive passengers — especially when they were married. Recovering quickly, he gave her the deferential smile that he always accorded first class guests.

“Good morning, Mrs. Renard. Welcome aboard the Golden Gate.” He raised his voice to be heard over the celebratory crowd on board. Champagne corks popped and waiters rattled by with glasses and trays. Long, curly streamers sailed through the air and landed unnoticed on richly clad shoulders. Cries of, “I’ll miss you! Don’t forget to write!” Enthusiastic waves to those on shore.

The handsome crewman leaned toward Dominique and said solicitously, “Your husband’s found a place for you at the rail, if you’d like to watch the departure.” He gestured toward the bow of the ship, farther away than the length of a football field. “Would you like someone to show you the way?” He pointed to a column of young men wearing red jackets with brass buttons — like bellhops in fine hotels. They stood at attention, waiting to escort passengers to their staterooms or relieve them of their bon voyage baskets.

Dominique smiled nervously. “Thank you, that won’t be necessary. I’ll find him.” The truth was she felt awkward at the prospect of being alone with the man she had married in a rushed ceremony two hours earlier. As she made her way past the gleaming expanse of polished brass and wood, she wondered about Anton. What would they talk about? She barely knew him.

We’ll manage, Dominique firmly told herself. We’ll be fine. She forced herself to focus on the pleasant excitement around her. The atmosphere was that of a huge, carefree party with hundreds of fascinating strangers. Dominique was already catching bits of conversation in French, English, Arabic, and Italian. She wondered if she and Anton would make new friends on board. She hoped so, for she knew no one in America other than her sister, Danielle.

Finally, Dominique spotted the back of her husband’s sleekly groomed gray head. She eased into the space beside him and murmured a greeting as she pulled a stream of confetti from the shoulder of her silk suit.

He turned to her with a welcoming expression. “You said your good-byes?” Anton Renard spoke to her in French, their native language.

Dominique nodded and returned his smile.

Anton squeezed her elbow in a proprietary way and leaned close. “Ready for your new life in San Francisco, darling?” He brushed a strand of her auburn hair from her face.

Without realizing it, Dominique inched away from him. “Of course!” She tried for enthusiasm. The feeling of strangeness would fade, she reassured herself. It had to. Anton was her future; it was time to let go of her past. Forget Stephen.

The earsplitting shriek of the ship’s klaxon broke into Dominique’s thoughts. She leaned against the rail and longingly focused on her mother as the Golden Gate’s crew pulled up the gangplank.

Solange Avallon waved, a majestic, controlled motion. Even in the heat of the Alexandria sun, she looked cool in her ivory linen suit. She carried in her gloved hands a parasol of matching fabric — nothing frilly for Solange. And it seemed the crowd around her sensed that it was in the presence of someone. No one jostled her. No one stood close to her. She commanded respect. Dominique studied her mother with a mixture of admiration and hurt. Why couldn’t Solange, just once, act as if she would miss her? What a contrast to Dominique’s tearful parting from Nanny. The old woman — more family than servant — had been too overcome with emotion to accompany Dominique to the ship. But if Solange experienced similar feelings, they didn’t show.

Heat stung the inside of Dominique’s eyelids. It was wrenching to leave her mother, even though their relationship had never been harmonious. She bit her lip and stifled her unhappy reflections. Instead, she tried to cheer herself by thinking of her sister. Danielle wrote that she loved America. Eight years before, she had moved to New York with her husband, Ronald Marks, an Americanofficer she’d met on the Avallon family’s annual trip to France. Danielle’s engagement had been as sudden as Dominique’s. But then, Danielle had been in love with her husband.

Well, Dominique would learn to love Anton. She was grateful that he was taking her away from Egypt. She gave him a brief, sidelong glance, then once more turned to gaze at her mother. Why was Solange so determined to stay in Egypt after all that had happened? The country just wasn’t safe for Europeans anymore! But Solange insisted that she wasn’t worried. The deputy minister of Egypt himself was her protector. The ugly incident that was chasing Dominique into exile was an aberration, and Solange would simply be more cautious from now on. Still, she had insisted that Dominique go. And what reason was there to stay, since there was no future with Stephen?

Dominique looked guiltily at her husband, as though he could read her thoughts. But he was absorbed in conversation with the man on the other side of him. So, for just a moment — for the very last time, she vowed — Dominique closed her eyes and allowed herself to succumb to her memories. Memories of Egypt. Memories of Stephen.