Indie Spotlight – Alyson Sheldrake

Today I am welcoming indie author and professional artist Alyson Sheldrake to my blog for this week’s Indie Spotlight. You can see some of her amazingly vibrant paintings inspired by her life in beautiful Portugal at the end of this post – but first let’s find out more about Alyson.

Alyson Sheldrake was born in Birmingham,
UK in 1968. She has always loved art and painting, although she found little time for such pleasures, working full time after graduation. She joined the Devon and Cornwall Police in 1992 and served for thirteen years, before leaving to work in the field of education. She became the Director of Education for the Church of England in Devon in 2008.

Once her husband Dave retired from the Police, their long-held dream of living in the sun could become a reality. Alyson handed in her notice, and with her dusty easel and set of acrylic paints packed and ready to move, they started their new adventure living in the beautiful Algarve in Portugal in 2011.

Alyson is the author of the award-winning and popular Algarve Blog, and has also been a keynote speaker for several years at the annual ‘Live and Invest in Portugal’ international conference. She is also a feature writer for the Tomorrow Algarve magazine.

She is now an accomplished and sought-after artist working alongside her husband Dave, a professional photographer. Being able to bring their much-loved hobbies and interests to life has been a wonderful bonus to their new life in the Algarve.

Her first book ‘Living the Dream – in the Algarve, Portugal’ was full of useful advice, enjoyable adventures and hilarious accounts of their Algarve life in the sun. The sequel, ‘Living the Quieter Algarve Dream’ continues their story.

She is now busy writing her third book, which will be a compilation of expat stories about the people who have made the Algarve their home.

Alyson’s Media Links

Facebook Author Page:
Algarve Blog:
Newsletter Sign-up:

Hi Alyson, welcome to my blog. Your paintings are amazing – so bright and cheerful. You clearly love Portugal and are a very accomplished creative person.

What made you decide to publish your books independently?

I had started a blog when we moved to live here in the Algarve, initially just to keep friends informed of what we were doing. It soon grew into an award-winning blog with over 100,000 views a year. I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing our articles, all liberally sprinkled with my husband Dave’s photography.

Many of our personal stories didn’t seem to fit the blog format, so I put them all to one side, and then eventually realised that I had a lot of material sat on my computer. People kept saying to me, “you should write a book”, so I sat down one day and started writing. It wasn’t long before I had written almost 80,000 words, and ‘Living the Dream – in the Algarve, Portugal’ was ready to launch.

At that point I realised I had a viable book sat on my computer, but no clue how to format or produce it properly. I did lots of research and realised that looking for an agent or book deal from a publisher was an unrealistic prospect for an unknown writer with a single memoir to sell.

I had recently read a series of memoirs by Victoria Twead, about her life in Spain, and at the back of her book she mentioned her publishing company, Ant Press. I contacted her and was instantly drawn to her straightforward and sensible approach to publishing. I worked with her to produce my book professionally, and I was delighted with the result. 

Ant Press then talked me through the entire process of self-publishing on Amazon, and I went with the KDP Select option. I am so glad that I did that; I have been staggered at how successful my first book has been. Without their help, I am sure the whole process would have been far more painful and daunting.

Congratulations on having such a successful blog! Taking the step from writing a successful travel blog to writing a book, which you could only hope would be as successful, must have been both a daunting and exciting one.

What are the benefits of being an indie author?

Pressing that ‘upload’ button on Amazon and seeing my book for sale was so exciting. The first time I held the book in my hands and flicked through the pages and thought ‘I did this all by myself’ was a wonderful moment. The upside to being an indie author is the total control you have over every single element of the writing, publishing, and marketing process.

I have heard many traditionally published authors complain that their publisher doesn’t do much for them except take a hefty share of the profits. Unless you are a famous name, that is always going to be the case. You still have to do your own promotion and marketing however you publish. This way, as an indie author, I get to keep all the royalties and can choose how and where I promote my book.

I have a healthy mailing list and send out a regular monthly newsletter and I love hearing from my readers. It makes everything more personal, and I still get a thrill every time I read another review or post about my work. Writing and self-publishing is a deeply satisfying process.

That’s wonderful, but there must be another side to the coin. What challenges do indie authors face?

You are on your own as a brand-new indie author – there is no one there to support you and you must cover all the costs yourself. I was happy to pay for my book to be professionally formatted, and I have a great team of beta readers now. I design my book covers and incorporate my art and Dave’s photography into my work. Being married to a professional photographer and having the entire Adobe editing suite of programmes at my disposal is a perk of the job. I have completed an online editing and proof-reading course to improve my writing and have discovered ProWritingAid. I would love to pay for a professional editor in the future to lift my work up to another level.

Hiring a professional Editor is a great idea and is bound to be beneficial. It is always difficult to proofread and edit your own work, no matter how good you are at it.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?

Write the very best book that you can, join lots of online support groups for writers, learn as much as you can about the processes of writing and marketing and then be brave and launch your book out there into the world. And then – write another book!

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help and advice, too. I have found the indie author community to be extremely supportive – especially fellow memoir and travel writers.

You will need to embrace social media – make it your friend, don’t be frightened of it. Network, share, be supportive, and don’t overdo the brazen marketing. Being subtle and connected is much better than continually forcing people to see adverts for your latest book! 

I also joined a zoom-based support group for writers. We meet each weekday for 90 minutes and all go off and write independently, then meet up for the last five minutes of the session to recap. On Fridays we read and critique each other’swork. We are all memoir writers at differing stages of writing and publishing, and I have found the accountability of the group extremely helpful. Writing can be a lonely profession, so finding fellow writers for support and encouragement can be really useful.5) what have you learned from being an indie author?

That being brave and believing in yourself and your work is priceless. No-one else can do that for you. When we first moved out here to the Algarve to live, I set out to fulfil one of my dreams, that of becoming a professional artist. My husband, Dave, had held a camera in his hands since he was a young boy. We both knew what creative fields we wanted to explore, although neither of us had ever worked for ourselves before or had any idea what we were doing! We just knew what we loved, and we figured the rest out as we went along. Our first joint exhibition in a hotel was a scary moment. They gave us a fabulous room to use and loads of support – but said that we couldn’t hang anything on the walls! We improvised, Dave created a set of table-top A-frame easels, and we were all set.

We did all our own marketing and promotion and made some fabulous media contacts. I will never forget our first morning opening up, wondering if anyone would come, if they would like our work, if anyone would buy anything. Within half-an-hour, we had both sold our first pieces, and we were away. Almost ten years later, I consider myself an established artist, having sold well over 200 paintings, and completed 100 commissions for clients around the world.

Lots of the skills I learnt from my art career have translated over into my writing. Having good media contacts and an established presence on social media, combined with a strong newsletter, meant that I was confident I could promote my books both locally and wider. The next step for me is working out how to reach a broader market.

Those are useful skills to be able to draw on, and some great advice there as well.
Well, we have reached the final question.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

I am busy with my third book, which is a compilation of expat stories about other people who have also made the Algarve their home. Having published two memoirs about our life here, I have met so many other people that also have a story to tell. It has been fascinating bringing their stories to life, and I cannot wait to publish this book.

I have actually plotted the year ahead on my calendar and have four books in total I am hoping to self-publish. Now that I have been bitten by the writing and self-publishing bug, there is no stopping me!

That’s fantastic, Alyson. Good luck with those projects and thank you very much for joining me here on my blog!

Living the Dream in the Algarve, Portugal

Could you leave everything behind and start a new life in the sun?

Have you ever been on holiday abroad and wondered what it would be like to live there?

Alyson and Dave Sheldrake did. They fell in love with a little fishing village in the Algarve, Portugal, and were determined to realise their dream of living abroad. They bought a house there, ended their jobs, packed up everything they owned and moved to the Algarve to start a new life.

Follow them as they battle with Portuguese bureaucracy, set up their own businesses, adopt a rescue dog and learn to adapt to a slower pace of life. Laugh with them as Alyson propositions a builder, they try to master the Portuguese language, and successfully navigate the ‘expat’ world.

Part guidebook, mostly memoir; this is a refreshingly honest and often hilarious account of life abroad.

Buy here:

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Add to your To Be Read List here:

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Living the Quieter Algarve Dream

Have you ever longed for a quieter life?

Ever wanted to escape the crowds, walk on deserted beaches, and experience all that a different country has to offer?

Alyson and Dave Sheldrake moved to the western Algarve, far away from the tourists, to live in a rural market town. Surrounded by chickens, rabbits, beautiful beaches, and crazy locals, they settled down to enjoy a more peaceful existence.

Their plans didn’t include battling with Portuguese bureaucracy, a life-altering diagnosis, and Kat the dog being rushed to the vets. Brexit, a pandemic, and a house that needed updating ensured that life was anything but tranquil for this creative couple.

In this part guidebook, mostly memoir, find out why the Algarve is a favourite destination for so many, and why this couple have made it their home.

This honest and often hilarious story is the continuation of their Algarve Adventures. It can stand alone as a book for you to enjoy, and is also the follow-up to Living the Dream – in the Algarve, Portugal.

Buy here:

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Add to your To Be Read list here:

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Why the Algarve?

What makes a person move abroad to start a new life?

And why do so many people choose the Algarve in Portugal as their dream destination?

In this brand-new compilation of stories you can read about a whole range of different people that have made the Algarve their home.

Read about the people who moved to live in the Algarve in the early 1970s, before tourism was even an idea.

Find out more about the people who packed up everything they owned to follow their dreams of a new life in the sun.

Funny stories, heartfelt journeys, and real-life modern adventures are all covered in this new and fascinating anthology, curated by a long-term resident.

Visit my website or sign up to my newsletter for more information about the release of my next book ‘Why The Algarve?’. Coming April 2021

Alyson’s Paintings

I have been working as a full-time artist for nine years, and my work is displayed in private homes across the world.

I paint in acrylics and have a modern and vibrant style that can transform your living space or office. I am also available for private commissions.

I invite you to enjoy viewing a selection of my modern and vibrant acrylic paintings. My paintings are displayed in private collections and homes around the world, and it gives me a real thrill each time a client or new customer contacts me to tell me of the pleasure that one of my paintings brings to them.

Beach Life by Alyson Sheldrake

Hidden Algarve by Alyson Sheldrake

Praça Luis de Camōes – Lagos by Alyson Sheldrake

Girls on the Beach by Alyson Sheldrake

I paint a range of themes across my own self-titled ‘New Wave’ modern style; through to bright and bold flowers, and I also love to paint the old doors and windows of the Algarve.

Edge of the Sea by Alyson Sheldrake

My work is for sale when available; but you can also commission me to design and produce a unique and modern acrylic painting suitable for your own home, office or business space; or as a gift. I also paint Pet Portraits. Please contact me if you wish to commission a painting or click here for more information.

Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?

Next week on Indie Spotlight, come and meet Starwing. Starwing is an author living in Finland, who was born and raised in Canada. Her debut novel, “Dreaming Your Dream” is dystopian science-fiction and is the first book in the “Machine Dreaming” series.

In addition to writing, Starwing also manages an indie record label and is a team member of the industrial rock band, The Fair Attempts. “Dreaming Your Dream” has a companion album called, “Dream Engine” by The Fair Attempts.

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