Indie Author Seeking Shelf Space

bookstore3.jpg

 

As an indie author there are many “hats” you need to wear to get your “book babies” out into the world.

Over the past four years I’ve been through a steep learning curve in relation to getting my books babies written, typed, edited, formatted, cover designs created (Photoshop is evil), published, launched and subsequently marketed on a shoestring budget.

The marketing aspect is probably the toughest challenge an indie author faces.

Actually writing the book in the first place is the fun part!

Since KDP and other self-publishing platforms made books so relatively simple to self-publish the market has been flooded. There were circa 2 000 000 books published in 2017 alone. Competition is tough, VERY tough!

A quote from a Forbes.com article from 2013 sums up the challenges succinctly: “Here’s the problem with self-publishing: no one cares about your book. That’s it in a nutshell. There are somewhere between 600 000 and 1 000 000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more- are self-published. On average they sell less than 250 copies each. Your book won’t stand out. Hillary Clinton’s will. Yours won’t.”

Harsh but honest words.

I’ve said many times if you’re writing a book to make money then you’re in for a hell of a shock!

To date, I’ve been extremely fortunate that no one has said my book babies are ugly, they’ve each earned 5* reviews and I’ve received a Royalties payment every month, even if it is only for pennies.

The majority that have been sold have been e-books but each of my book babies is also available as a “real” book too.

E-book marketing can be done through social media. “Real” book marketing, actually gaining shelf space, is far tougher. I’d love to see my books  on the shelves in bookstores but getting shelf space as an indie author is nigh on impossible. I managed it once with Stronger Within for a whole six copies. A major accomplishment that I remain very proud of.

img-20150804-wa0001

For me personally though I’d love to see my Silver Lake series on sale in the book stores in and around the town where the stories are set. That small town is somewhere I am passionate about. A lot of the feedback that I’ve received has been that folk want to visit Rehoboth Beach, De. (It’s not a big place but in my own quiet way from over 3000 miles away I’ve introduced my readers to this jewel on the Delaware Riviera.)

On more than one occasion, I’ve approached a “local” bookstore in an effort to open discussions about the possibility of them putting a few copies on their shelves. My polite approaches have been met with silence.

So I reverted to advertising on social media and added pages and groups linked to the locale to my list. I don’t over advertise on these- one post every few weeks on these “local” pages at most. To an “outsider” looking in on the group/page descriptions they look to be about promoting things linked to the area, including books, events, places etc about the area so the Silver Lake books meet the criteria….. or so I thought until recently. One well- meant post met with a brief but sharp barrage of complaints that I was routing shoppers to Amazon instead of local stores and was detracting from the town. I quickly deleted the post as that most definitely was not my intent. The comments stung. If local businesses supported indie authors, regardless of where they reside, who are writing about their town then local folks wouldn’t have to shop online….. marketing lesson #700….. I won’t be engaging with that group again.

Maybe Forbes.com was right “no one cares about your book.”

However, authors, including indie-authors, are storytellers at heart and, for as long as they have a story to share, they will find a way to publish or self-publish their work. I know I will.

As for marketing, well despite having been kicked back down that learning curve, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and will start all over again.

Can I interest you in a book?……..

 

Amazon.com links –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Ellen – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FYHKR44

  

 Amazon.co.uk links  –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Ellen – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FYHKR44

 

 

 

Advertisements

January 2019

Hi
I’ll start with a small apology…… life got in the way and I omitted to write a newsletter last month. (I also forgot to add writing it to my To Do list and with all the buzz of the run up to Christmas etc, I forgot about it!)

2015-02-04-sorrypostitnote2

I mentioned in November’s newsletter that I would be busy with my music blog in December and I was! During December I enjoyed three great nights of music. Missed my reviews of those shows? Not to worry, you can catch up here https://the525toglasgow.wordpress.com/

Currently there are seven gigs in my 2019 calendar but that list is bound to grow somewhat as more tours are announced. Do you think I’d get away with badging it as “book research”? LOL

December also saw a guest indie author make an appearance on my blog. I welcomed Mark Grint aka Christian W Smith along to share his excellent short story Alana of Great Lindford and some insights into his writing. If you missed it, you can catch up here https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/introducing-2/
If you are an author with a new novel underway or have a short story to share and would like to be featured on my blog, please contact me. Guests are always welcome.

welcome-enter-as-a-guest-friend-decor-vinyl-wall-decal-quote-sticker-inspiration-on-wall-decal

The next instalment in my Silently Watching series rounded off the year on my blog. It never ceases to amaze me how popular that particular dark angel is. Don’t worry, she’ll be back later this year.

dark-angel

My primary creative focus is still Book Baby 5. Progress has been steady throughout December and as planned I began the long arduous process of typing it up on 1st January. The current loose plan is to write/type for the first half of this year, type/edit over Summer and into Autumn then, all being well, Book Baby 5 will take its first tentative steps into the world towards the end of the year. It’s a tall order as there is a huge amount still be done but I’ll give it my best shot!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


As my mantra says “Dreams get you started. Discipline keeps you going”. I’m going to need all my self-discipline to bring this one in on schedule- trust me!
Till next time…..
Love n hugs
Coral xx

How many times……..

.facebook_1528224279676

 

How many times have you gone to bed thinking “I should have messaged XXXX. I’ll do it tomorrow”? Or driven home from work thinking, “I’ll phone XXXX once I’ve had dinner, done the laundry and got the kids to bed.”?

How many times have you thought, “I haven’t heard from XXXX for a while. They must be busy.”

How many times have you scrolled through Facebook and thought “XXXX hasn’t posted in a while. They must be taking a social media break.”?

Sounding familiar?

I’ll hold my hands up here. I can be as guilty of this as the next person.

I am not standing in judgement here by any means. Maintaining friendships takes work on both sides of the relationship.

In this frantic 21st Century world we live in, there are countless ways to keep in touch with friends and family. Stop and think for a moment how many different ways you can contact someone if you choose to.

Maybe in days gone by we were actually better at being friends to one another. In the past, pre-mobile phones, pre-internet and pre-social media, we picked up the phone (dragged it into another room till the curly wire was straight) and spoke to our friends. We met up more often to socialise in person. We wrote letters and sent them in an envelope with a stamp on it via the mail.

How many friendships survive these days on social media posts and text messages alone?

Yeah, I’m as guilty of that as the next person too.

Social media posts and text messages can mask so many things though. It’s so easy to create a false impression in our digitised world.

How many times have you posted something cheerful to your social media when you’ve really been miserable inside?

How many times have you replied to a message saying all is well and added a smiling emoji to reinforce the lie?

Yeah, I’m guilty of that one too.

If we met those friends face to face or spoke to them and actually heard their voices, would we pick up on the subtle signs that something might be amiss? If we spotted the signs, would we reach out to help them through whatever was troubling them?

I’ll leave that thought with you….. there’s no need to answer it.

About six weeks ago, I sat down to undertake the annual task of writing my Christmas cards to friends and family. Over the years, my friends have become scattered all over the globe. As I wrote one particular card, the thought crossed my mind that I hadn’t heard from that friend in a while. Neatly written (who am I kidding? My handwriting is a scrawling mess!) I sealed the card and added it to the pile to be posted.

Now, six weeks down the line, I don’t know if that card ever reached the address on the front of the envelope. I don’t know if it was ever opened by the addressee. I don’t know if it arrived too late.

My heart tells me it was never opened. 

As the quote says “Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they’re there.”

My post-script to that quote would be “Let the stars of your friendship shine bright and be filled with the love of light and the twinkling sound of laughter.”

 

2019 ….and the goal is…..

untitled

And in the blink of an eye 2018 has been and gone. Can’t say I’m sorry to see it go.

At the start of last year, I set myself three goals.  Here’s a reminder of what they were

https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/2018-so-whats-the-plan/

Did I meet them all?

Yes I did 😊

OK, Book Baby 4 was launched a little later than planned. Ellen was finally launched on 1st September and quickly found her feet, earning herself five-star reviews on Amazon and Good Reads…whew!

imgid170658697

I brought Jake and Lori back to out to play as promised. On 8th May 2018, exactly five years after I sat down to write the story that became Book Baby 1, I sat down once more on my front doorstep and began to write Book Baby 5. Writing about all things Silver Lake has been like being reunited with old friends.

 

My third goal from last year was to blog once a week. Guess what…. I’ve met that goal too.

49089571_1736603126445273_4514292665713426432_n

Go me!!  LOL

So, what creative goals will I set for 2019?

Well, I feel it’s time to cut myself a little creative slack so I’m going to keep it really simple.

My 2019 goal is simply to finish and publish Book Baby 5 in 2019. The first draft is about 40% of the way there but it’s a VERY rough first draft in places!

What’s that saying? …. your first draft is like shovelling sand into the sandbox. You can build sandcastles later ….. or something like that. I’m still shovelling like crazy!

It goes without saying that I’ll continue with my weekly blog posts and who knows, everyone’s favourite dark angel may make an occasional appearance. (I have a longer term plan for those stories but I don’t want to say too much just yet.)

If you read my Christmas Eve short story then you will already have met two new rock star characters. I have the beginning of an idea for them too. (That may need to be in the five year plan!)

I’d like to thank each and every one of YOU  for your ongoing love and support. It makes the creative journey so much easier knowing that you guys are there.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share the details in the comments box below.

If your own goals include “read more books” I can think of four to get you started…. Hint hint…

Regardless of what your personal goals are for the coming year, I’d like to wish you health wealth and happiness to pursue them. Remember “Dreams get you started. Discipline keeps you going.”

Love n hugs

Coral  xx

 

 

And if you want to catch up on your reading….

 

Amazon.com links –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Ellen – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FYHKR44

 

 

 

Amazon.co.uk links  –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Ellen – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FYHKR44

 

Silently Watching At The End Of The Year

dark angel

The year was rapidly coming to an end …. only five hours left. Part of him was going to be glad to see the back of it; part of him was looking forward to a fresh start, a new year. It was never an occasion that they celebrated much as a family but this year was going to be different. They’d been invited to see the new year in at a neighbour’s house.
While his family were getting ready upstairs, he had seized the opportunity to slip out to the garage for his daily dose of mugwort tea. Running his tongue over his teeth, he reasoned that his “fangs” hadn’t developed any further and were still fairly unnoticeable. After his son’s innocent observation, he had tried to curb his hunting instincts and had stuck to the regime laid down by the dark angel. It hadn’t been easy but, on the whole, his will power had held strong.
As he drank the daily measure of mugwort, he wondered where she was. Five weeks and one day had passed since she had left.
He’d spoken to his mother on Christmas Day. He’d almost been relieved to speak to her. She hadn’t mentioned anything out of the ordinary other than an infected bug bite on her wrist that refused to heal. As ever, their conversation had been brief as she had cut the call short to dash off to join her friends for Christmas lunch.
Part of him wondered if the “bug bite” was the angel’s doing…….

Travelling didn’t agree with the dark angel. It took her ten days to reach the Mediterranean coastline of Spain. As a rogue vampire, she chose to avoid flying too close to London and Paris en route for fear of attracting any undue attention from the vampire elders who resided there. Avoiding Barcelona had proved to be more of a challenge as she searched for the runner’s mother in the unfamiliar territory. One young Spanish vampire had crossed her path but, after an exchange, they had reached an accord, with him promising to keep her presence in the area quiet.
It took her until mid-December to locate the woman she was seeking. From a distance, she observed her for a few days to establish her routine and to try to determine her vampire strengths before working out a plan.
Deciding to keep it simple, she opted to obtain the blood while the woman took a nap on her balcony in the afternoon. It was unusual for vampires to sleep outdoors and even more so for them to sleep during the day, causing the angel to wonder if her transformation had also been a partial one. For three days she watched the runner’s mother take a swim after lunch then retire to her shaded balcony for a siesta. On the fourth day, she made her move. Rather than biting her, the angel decided to use a sharpened thumb pick. Almost as an afterthought, she smeared a sedative and some of her own blood onto the point to numb the “pricking” sensation. With next to no knowledge of the woman’s powers, she wanted to be as discrete as possible.
Reaching the balcony unseen posed a further problem and the dark angel had no choice other than to risk exposing herself to direct sunlight during her rooftop approach. Stealthily, she slipped onto the shady balcony from above, pricked the inside of the woman’s wrist, acquired the two flasks of blood then retreated to the shadows.
Drained and slightly burned by the Spanish sun, the dark angel sought refuge in a nearby church until dark.
Keeping the blood at human body temperature was her next challenge. With no other option open to her, the angel used an ancient incantation to raise the temperature of the flasks themselves. By heating the metal, it would keep the contents warm. She just had to be mindful of where she stowed the flasks in case she burned herself. Sustaining the heat spell however sapped her energy.
On the return journey, she had to stop to feed three times. Her first two victims were elderly residents in remote mountain villages. Fortunately, both of them had been in good health despite their advanced years and their blood of a surprisingly high standard. She selected her third victim at one of the French channel ports. In her hurry, she chose poorly. Her victim had been high on opiates and their blood contaminated by a cocktail of drugs. The effects hit the angel hard as she drained the last drop of blood from the now lifeless body. Instantly, her stomach began to cramp and her vision blurred. It took all of her energy to crawl into a safe hiding place in an empty container in the freight yard. With the last of her strength, she reinforced the heat spell then lapsed into unconsciousness. She remained that way until Boxing Day, awakening to find herself ravenous but severely weakened.
The first thing that she checked was the blood. It was still warm. With a sigh, she sank back onto the floor of the container and tried to figure out her next move. As dusk fell, she fed on several large rats that she caught running between the containers. Their blood helped to revive her but she needed to make a fourth human kill to get enough blood for the last leg of the journey home.
Soundlessly, she prowled the ferry port in search of a suitable meal. As she slipped through the rows of trucks and lorries that were waiting for the early morning ferry, she identified one truck driver who was going to Manchester with a load of furniture. If she could hide in his trailer, she reasoned, it would get her closer to home quicker than she could fly in her current weakened state.
The last lorry in line was being driven by a woman in her forties. Her trailer was full of clothes destined for the high-end fashion boutiques of London. Carelessly she had left her cab unlocked when she had retired to her bunk for the night. The angel bided her time then struck shortly before dawn.
Her hunger satiated, she had returned to the furniture lorry and slipped into its trailer to stowaway for the trip back to England.

By late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, she as within reach of home …. and, by some miracle, both flasks of blood were still warm.
She prayed that her fledgling had managed to stick to the plan and fretted that she had been gone so long. Leaving him to fend for himself at such a young vampire age had been a high-risk strategy but she had had no choice. His Rabbia Sanguigna needed to be calmed as a matter of urgency before he became a danger to his friends and family and himself.
The church roof came into sight and she sighed.
“Home sweet home,” she muttered to herself as her feet touched the soft ground outside her mausoleum.
Exhausted, the angel reinforced the incantation one more time then settled down to rest for a few hours.

As New Year’s Eve parties went, it had been a good one. There had been plenty of food and alcohol, the kids had had fun with their friends and he had got on well with most of the neighbours. There had been worse ways to end a year.
Shortly after one, he led his tired family across the street and home to bed. While his wife put the kids to bed, he stayed downstairs, hoping to grab a few moments for a first cigarette of the year. When he entered the kitchen, he filled the kettle to make a cup of tea then stepped outside for a smoke while it boiled.
He had just lit the cigarette when he felt the air stir beside him and heard the familiar rustle of feathers.
“Son of Perran,” she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper.
“What are you doing here?” he hissed, horrified that she would visit his home.
“Sh,” said the angel. “Two minutes. Less. That’s all I need. I’m exhausted. I need to hunt then rest.”
Before he could comment, she brought the two flasks out from the inner folds of her cloak.
“Drink,” she said calmly. “Both of them.”
“But,” he began anxiously.
“Just drink, son of Perran,” snapped the angel, “My patience is worn thin. Time is short.”
Hearing the kettle come to the boil, he drained the first flask then opened the second. As the kettle clicked off, he drained the second flask dry then handed them both back to her. The blood had tasted sweet and somehow familiar.
“Now what?” he asked.
“You go back indoors and make your cup of tea and I go and hunt before going home to rest.”
“How will I know if this has worked?”
“You’ll know,” she replied cryptically.
She turned to leave then paused. Gracefully, she stepped forward and brushed a kiss on his cheek, “Happy New Year, son of Perran.”
She spread her wings then soared off into the night.

Happy 5th Blogiversary To Me

5 balloon.png

Happy 5th Anniversary to me… well, to my blog to be more precise.

I still remember the nerves as I hit “publish” on that very first blog post

 ( https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/deep-breaths-and-begin/ )

I’d like to say that those nerves have eased considerably over the years… but I’d be lying. There is still that wave of panic as I hit “publish” every week although it is not quite the tidal wave it  once was.

My original challenge/goal was to post one blog piece per week in an effort to overcome the fear of letting people read what I write. It’s a goal I’ve met consistently ever since (OK there has been the occasional “cheat” blog along the way).

The first proper blog that I shared was very personal to me.  

https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/do-you-remember-when-fond-memories/

and over the past five years there have been a few very personal blogs shared. They are the hardest to publish …. I’m not very comfortable exposing my soul in public.

I’ve shared poems, short stories and photos. (Watch this space on 31st December if you like vampire angels…. Hint….)

I’ve also shared the birth of my book babies…all 4 of them!

If you’d told me on 29 December 2013, when I created this blog, that five years down the line I’d be writing an anniversary post like this and calling out that I have published four novels via KDP/CreateSpace that have earned 5 star ratings on Amazon.co.uk plus ratings on Amazon.com and GoodReads, I’d have said you were delusional. Insane even. However….

That’s exactly what has happened. I still find it all very surreal.

The last five years have been an incredible journey. Yes, there have been many times when I have faltered along this creative path that I am travelling but the love and support of everyone who reads my blog, reads my poems, my short stories and my books has kept me going. I honestly couldn’t do it without you all, especially my Infamous Five (you know who you are).

So, what’s next?

In keeping with this 5 theme – book baby 5 hopefully! Who would’ve have dared to dream that I’d ever be saying that! And more weekly blog musings.

Thank you for sharing this road with me and here’s to travelling many more blog miles together as the journey continues.

Love n hugs

Coral

 

 And just in case you haven’t met my book babies yet…..

Amazon.com links –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Ellen – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FYHKR44

 

 

Amazon.co.uk links  –

Stronger Within – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00VXDSC1M

Impossible Depths – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01C0GS30K

Bonded Souls – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XSQHG71

 

Ellen – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FYHKR44

A Little Christmas Eve Tale…

Screenshot_20181224-075000_Google

Happy Christmas Eve, folks. Amidst the chaos of shopping and wrapping and cooking I hope you find time to enjoy this festive tale.

When I was seeking inspiration for this week’s blog I decided to use a writing prompt and to come up with a festive short story instead of a blog moaning about the mania that surrounds Christmas shopping. The prompt words I chose were  “a party dress and an ugly sweater.”

And here’s the result….    happy reading and a very Merry Christmas when it comes.

love and hugs to you all

Coral

 

A Party Dress, An Ugly Sweater And A Christmas Surprise

“How did I let myself get talked into this?” she asked her reflection in the mirror.

She hated Christmas parties, hated corporate Christmas parties even more. She hated getting all dressed up. She hated feeling as if she was on display. And boy when she walked into that function suite would she be on display!

Amid flurries of snow, she had arrived deliberately early, checked into her room under an alias and then spent all afternoon sitting gazing out of the huge picture window at the view of the beach and the ocean. How she longed to walk along the sand but she daren’t risk bumping into anyone who would recognise her. She had procrastinated all afternoon until at five o’clock she surrendered that she had to start getting ready.

Now, two hours later, she was sitting at the dressing table gazing into the mirror.

Her midnight blue dress was a perfect fit, it’s empress line flattering to her figure. A narrow diamante outline accentuated her full breasts, the deep V of the neckline revealing just enough cleavage. Her long sun-bleached hair had been coaxed into soft ringlet curls. Her make up natural, the eyeshadow emphasising the blue of her eyes.

Behind her on the bed lay her silver evening purse and her phone. A green flashing light indicated she had a least one message. Her heart told her it was from him.

Lifting the hem of her dress, she slipped her feet into her silver ballet pumps. Common sense had overruled her love of spike heels and she had reluctantly packed her flats in her suitcase that morning.

Taking a deep breath, she gazed one last time into the mirror.

“It’s now or never,” she said to her reflection.

As she crossed the room to lift her phone, her gaze fell on the chair by the window and the ugly sweater she had been curled up in all afternoon. His ugly sweater.

She’d had it since Easter. She’d had it since the last time she’d seen him before he left to go on tour. She’d had it since they had spent a blissful week together in this very hotel, spending most of it in bed together hiding from the paparazzi. Every time they had left the hotel to enjoy a walk along the beach, they had been followed. Every time they had gone out to dinner, they had been followed. After three days they had given up and stayed in their hotel room, a penthouse suite, and lived off sex and room service.

On their last morning together, he’d wakened her before five, instructed her to wear his big ugly sweater then, with baseball caps pulled down low to hide their faces, they had crept out of the hotel to walk along the beach to watch the sunrise. They had sat snuggled together on the sand watching the first light of dawn and marvelled together at the splendour of the colours of sunrise. They had kissed. They had promised to keep in touch daily. They had promised to meet up at the record label’s Christmas party.

He had left a few hours later to tour Europe, Asia and Australia for eight months. She had re-joined her band, finished their US tour then headed into the studio to record their fourth album. Closeted away in a remote mountain studio she had kept out of the public eye. It had kept her out of sight of the paparazzi who hounded her.

She had kept her promises to him. They had messaged daily. They had spoken most days as their schedules and time differences allowed. There had been a few brief Skype calls too. Every call ended the same way.

“Counting the days till December 23rd.”

Now, here she was back in the hotel keeping her final promise.

With her hand trembling, she picked up her phone. The message was from him. In fact, there were six of them. The last one read “It’s December 23rd. Where are you? I thought we had a date, angel?”

Guilt washed through her for ignoring her phone all afternoon.

“On my way down. See you in a few minutes. X” she typed quickly before nerves got the better of her.

She slipped her phone and the key card into her purse then glanced round the room. Her eyes lingered on the ugly sweater and she smiled anxiously, wishing she was still wrapped in its warmth.

Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she smoothed out the soft fabric of her dress and left the room.

 

The hotel’s main function suite was crowded, a veritable sea of tuxedos and ball gowns of every shade. Wearing his own newly purchased tux, he stood at the bar keeping an eye on the doorway, hungry for his first sight of her.

With a smile he remembered the last time he had visited the hotel, recalling the days secreted away in his suite. His loins twitched at the memory. The key card to the same suite was in his pocket and, ever the optimist, he hoped they could pick up where they’d left off. In his other pocket his fingers played anxiously with a small token that he had bought for her. In his mind, he had the entire weekend mapped out, including Christmas morning.

Suddenly he saw her.

For a few seconds she paused in the doorway, her sapphire blue eyes scanning the room. She looked stunning. Unlike the other celebrities that filled the room, her beauty looked natural. He caught a glimpse of her bare tanned shoulders, nothing fake about her skin tone.

Setting his drink down, he made his way through the guests to greet her.

 

A wave of anxiety swept through her as she entered the crowded room. Already around her she could hear the whispers and feel all eyes on her.

Where was he?

She turned her back on the room, ready to retreat to the hotel foyer when she heard his voice.

“Anna.”

Taking a deep breath, she turned round and found herself face to face with him.

“Anna!” he exclaimed.

“Ben,” she whispered, forcing a nervous smile.

“You’re….” he began lost for words and struggling not to state the obvious. “Pregnant.”

“Just a bit,” replied Anna with a nervous giggle.

“Pregnant?” he repeated loudly no longer able to hide his shocked expression.

Around them their fellow guests were staring. A small space had opened up around them.

“Eight and a half months pregnant to be exact,” said Anna struggling to remain calm. “I didn’t know how to….”

“No!” he yelled sharply. “No. No. No.”

“Ben?”

“This wasn’t meant to happen, Anna.”

The words were out before his brain had thought them through.

Her blue eyes filled with tears. Without another word, she fled from the room.

 

The crowd closed in around him and before Ben could push his way through Anna had vanished. Pacing the foyer, searching for her, he cursed himself for being so stupid, so insensitive. She was nowhere to be seen. Knowing that she wouldn’t have returned to the party, he figured she’d have gone to her room but which one was she in? Hoping that his celebrity charm would work, Ben approached the reception desk to check which room Anna was in. His enquiry was met with a strict “guest confidentiality” reply. Resorting to the “don’t you know who I am?” card, Ben tried to coerce the information from the receptionist.

“Mr Storm, I know who you are but I still can’t tell you which room a guest is staying in. I suggest you call your friend and have her meet you.”

Angrily he turned away from the desk before he vented his frustrations on the girl.

A flash of colour caught his eye over by the entrance. He’d know that pattern anywhere! It was the sweater Anna had pinched from him. By the time he reached the front steps of the hotel, she’d vanished from sight into the cold dark December night. He had to find her! Slowly he walked down the white polished steps of the plush ocean front hotel, trying to decide which way she would have gone. Beach? It was the obvious answer but would she venture down there in the dark? Would she risk going down there alone and pregnant at night? In his heart he knew she would.

 

Tears were blinding her as she stumbled along the beach in the dark. Cold sand had filled her silver pumps within seconds of fleeing from the hotel. She had known Ben would be surprised but she had never imagined the horrified look on his face that she had seen when he saw her bump. She knew she should’ve come clean and told him about the baby months ago but she hadn’t been able to find the right words at the right time. Their relationship had barely been four months old when she’d fallen pregnant; their schedules for the year had already been packed with work commitments leaving little room to spend time together.

A sharp pain in her side caused her to stop. Breathing heavily after practically running from the hotel, Anna carefully lowered herself down onto the soft sand. She’d been lucky to enjoy an easy healthy pregnancy so far but with less than two weeks to go to her due date her baby bump was huge and low and heavy. At her last pre-natal appointment earlier in the week she had been warned that the baby could come at any time. Sitting cross legged, facing the ocean, Anna focussed on her breathing in an effort to calm herself down. Stress and anxiety weren’t good for her or the baby. She could feel it shifting restlessly and a few strong kicks thumped into her already tender ribcage.

Rubbing her swollen belly, Anna whispered, “Sorry, little bean. Daddy wasn’t exactly thrilled to see us.”

Fresh tears flowed down her cheeks as she listened to the waves crashing in onto the beach in dark.

 

There she was! He breathed a sigh of relief, marvelling at how far along the beach she had come in such a short space of time. In the pale moonlight, she was a picture of fragile beauty. Even from this distance he could tell she was crying. He knew he was the cause of those tears and he felt consumed by guilt. Stress couldn’t be good for her or the baby and he hated that he’d caused it. She looked cute wearing his ugly sweater over her chiffon dress. With a smile forming on his lips, he gazed at her large baby bump. It looked like a leftover Halloween pumpkin resting in her lap from this angle. Then it hit him…. that bump was his baby, his son or daughter. In a few days he’d be a daddy. Subconsciously, he found himself hoping it was a little girl.

He was going to be a daddy…. if Anna would let him.

 

“Anna?”

She hadn’t heard him approach and looked up like a startled rabbit.

“I’m sorry. I acted like a total jerk back there,” he apologised softly. “Can we talk?”

Silently, she nodded.

Gracefully, he sat down on the sand beside her then reached out to touch her hand that was resting on top of her firm belly.

“You ok?”

“Not really,” she replied, her voice barely more than a whisper. “I should’ve told you but I didn’t know how. Everything was so good between us. I didn’t want to ruin that. The longer I left it, the harder it got.”

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“I don’t know. I never asked.”

“Guess we’ll find out soon,” he said putting his arm around her shoulders. “I am so sorry about earlier. I had this whole holiday worked out in my head. Had it all planned. That plan’s been what’s been keeping me going these last few weeks. The tour’s been tough. Seeing you. Seeing you pregnant… well, I guess I panicked. Over reacted.”

“Are you still mad at me?” asked Anna gazing up at him with tear filled blue eyes.

“No, angel, I’m not mad at you. I’m pissed at myself for not realising, for upsetting you, for embarrassing you back there.”

With a giggle, she said, “I’m guessing our social media feeds have lit up like a Christmas tree.”

“Probably,” agreed Ben. “But I don’t care. Let them talk. I just want you to be ok. Want us to be ok.”

“You sure you still want to be seen with me like this?” she asked, her hint of sarcasm not lost on him.

“Forever.”

“I don’t want to be pregnant forever,” she said, smiling at him. “I’m about done with carrying this little bean around.”

“How does it feel? I mean, isn’t it strange to have a little human in there?”

Taking his hand, she pressed it to her belly then moved it a little lower. His eyes widened as he felt the baby, their baby, kick for the first time.

“Wow!”

“Quite something isn’t it?”

He nodded as the baby kicked out again.

Together, they sat in silence, listening to the waves.

 

Beside him, Anna began to shiver. A quick glance at his watch told him they’d been sitting there for hours. It was after eleven.

“Let’s head back,” suggested Ben. “You’re cold.”

Reluctantly, she nodded then allowed him to help her to her feet. As she shook the sand from her dress, he smiled at how beautiful she looked. Everything about Anna was always perfect and it didn’t surprise him that she had grown a perfect, if larger than average, rounded baby bump.  In the moonlight she looked like a goddess.

With his arm protectively around her waist, they walked slowly back towards the hotel.

As they had both feared, the paparazzi were still swarming about the front of the hotel. Hand in hand, the celebrity couple stared straight ahead and walked purposefully through the sea of flashbulbs, ignoring the cries of “Anna!”, “Reuben!”, “When’s the baby due?”, “Anna, is it Reuben’s?”

By the time they crossed the foyer and reached the elevator, there were fresh tears in Anna’s eyes and she was trembling.

“You ok, angel?” asked Ben as the doors of the elevator closed. “You’re safe now.”

“I just hate getting caught like that by those guys. I can just see the headlines now,” she said forcing a smile. “Comes with the territory though I guess.”

Anxiously Ben watched as she placed her hand under her bump as if she were holding it up.

“You sure you’re ok?”

“I’m fine. Baby’s fine,” she assured him. “You might be surprised to hear that this bump is quite heavy to carry around. I’m tired. It’s been a long day.” She paused then said, “We’ve passed my floor.”

“Have we?” said Ben trying to act innocently. “Guess we’ll just need to go to my room then.”

“Ben, I’m exhausted,” protested Anna softly.

“Spare me an hour, angel. Half an hour even. Please?”

“Half an hour then I’m going to bed.”

“Deal.”

As if on cue, the elevator stopped and the doors opened. Slowly Ben led her along the short corridor to the door of his suite. He slipped his hand into his pocket to check if his gift for her was still there. It was. Chivalrously, he opened the door then stood aside to allow Anna to enter first.

She gasped when she saw the room. It was beautifully decorated in silver and red. A huge Christmas tree stood by the window, several small beautifully wrapped packages stacked underneath it. Beside the couch sat a champagne bucket and two crystal champagne flutes.

“Did you have this all planned?” quizzed Anna as he guided her over to the sumptuous cream leather couch.

“I had something planned,” confessed Ben sitting down beside her. Resting his hand on her belly he added, “I think you win for surprises though.”

“You sure you’re ok about…” her question was lost as Ben’s lips me hers.

He kissed her slowly and passionately, trying to ignore the hardening bulge in his pants. Sex would have to wait he suspected. She tasted so good though. Seeing her in the glittering fairy lights of the room made her even more desirable. All he wanted to do was make love to her on that leather couch.

Digging deep for some restraint, Ben said, “Champagne?”

“I shouldn’t,” replied Ann, rubbing the side of her bump. “Oh, what the hell! Half a glass can’t hurt, right?”

“I’d say it was medicinal in the circumstances.”

Glancing at the time, Ben noted he was right on cue with his original plan. Expertly he opened the chilled bottle of Moet and part filled both glasses.

Right on the stroke of midnight, he handed her the flute.

“Happy Christmas Eve, beautiful,” he toasted, raising his glass to hers.

“Happy Christmas Eve,” she echoed, aware of a sudden sharp tight feeling across her stomach.

Taking a sip from the glass, Anna noticed something at the bottom of it. Squinting through the bubbles she saw it was a diamond ring.

“Ben?”

Moving to kneel in front of her, Ben cleared his throat, took her hand in his and said softly, “Will you marry me, Anna?”

Tears filling her eyes, Anna said “Yes,” as she felt a weird popping sensation then a wetness spreading between her thighs. Just as a contraction began to build, she added, “But I think we’re about to have a baby first. My waters just broke.”

“What?”

“Ben, we’re having a Christmas baby.”

Laughing, Ben raised his glass, “Who needs wise men with gold, frankincense and myrrh. We’ve got gold, champagne and sand.”

“And your ugly sweater,” giggled Anna.

inCollage_20181220_200748470