Living my Dream - as an Artist and Author

I have always loved both art and books. My ‘A’ level subjects were English Literature and Art, which came as no surprise given my childhood. From an early age, I could be found drawing on any piece of paper that was left lying around; and reading voraciously.

My First Painting!

My first books were the Enid Blyton Famous Five series, and I remember being enthralled by the tales of adventure they described. I read the entire series of Sherlock Holmes books whilst still at primary school. I discovered fantasy and science fiction, with books by Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin and Stephen King taking pride of place on my bookshelf. And then—please don’t judge me—at University, I found Danielle Steel’s novels, and I have virtually every book she has ever written.

Harry Potter, Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, and lots of travel memoirs now fill my kindle. I am never without a book nearby, and I am a fast reader.

After leaving University with a degree in sport and a PGCE in teaching PE, I joined the police, and spent thirteen happy years pounding the beat, and latterly, working in schools. A natural career progression led me to move to work in education, reaching the dizzy heights of a Director of Education for the Church of England.

Throughout all this time, I still enjoyed writing. Whether that was typing out an arrest report; crafting a million-pound bid for school funding; or writing drug education resources for schools which were adopted nationally, I took a pride in my work.

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

But nagging away in the back of my mind was always the thought that one day I would love to write a book. I had certainly read enough books and had a vast collection on an array of bookcases at home. Maybe, one day, a book with my own name as the author would sit alongside them.

Moving here to Portugal to live gave me the time and space I needed to finally launch my career as an artist, and it has been a fabulous and enjoyable journey. I also started writing a blog about the Algarve, and that proved to be a very popular resource, with over 100,000 views a year. It also gave me another creative outlet to explore, and it wasn’t that long before I started thinking that maybe the book I had always wanted to write might actually become a reality.

In April of this year, I finally realised my dream, when I self-published my first memoir, ‘Living the Dream – in the Algarve, Portugal.’ I finally had a book with my name on it!

Authors are often cagey about sharing their sales figures, and I read a fascinating article recently by a memoir author that admitted he had only sold fifty-one copies of his book since he launched it almost eighteen months previously. I was a little stunned. I had no idea what a ‘successful launch’ or good sales figures would look like, but that article really surprised me. I have been both amazed and humbled by the success of my book. Since April, in the five months it has been for sale on Amazon, I have sold almost 900 actual copies. Add to that, a staggering 175,000 pages have been read under the Kindle Unlimited scheme, which equates to approximately 635 further copies in total (that’s assuming everyone read it all the way through!)

Thank you to every single one of you that has bought and read my book. You cannot imagine how happy I am, I am staggered at how many people seem to have genuinely enjoyed reading about our life out here in the Algarve.

I have received so many fabulous 5-star reviews on Amazon from around the world, including this recent one on the Amazon UK site:

Living the dream in the Algarve...

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 September 2020

"It is a pleasure to travel to the Algarve with Alyson. Her love of the place and the people shines through from the beginning as we discover what this stunning part of Southern Portugal has to offer. The food, festivals, history and culture are all explored and there were times when I was transported back to the warm beaches and grilled sardines of holidays there.

Like most international moves, this one was not without its challenges. Bureaucracy, language and piles of paperwork all provided hurdles along the way, but Alyson’s sense of humour and ‘can do’ sprit overcome the difficulties.

Alyson and her husband make the most of their new home and community, enjoy the gentle pace of life and wonderful weather. Both find time to pursue their talents. This book is full of anecdotes and useful information. The Sheldrakes really are living their dream life." Linda Decker.

I have also been so fortunate to have found a whole new group of authors and friends through the fabulous ‘We Love Memoirs’ Facebook group. This really is the nicest FB group around. Click the picture here for a link to their group, everyone is welcome:

They have been so supportive at promoting memoirs and writing, they even gave me a whole ‘Sunday Spotlight’ slot where I was the featured author for the day. As long as you are a member of the group, you can read all about it via this link:

I have been writing all summer and I am now busy editing the sequel to my first book which will be called ‘Living the Quieter Algarve Dream’.

I am hoping that it will be ready to launch by the end of November. I am busy designing the cover at the moment—I’ll share a sneak preview of that with you all soon on this blog.

And I am already planning book three—which will be something slightly different.

I guess I have definitely got the writing bug now. I hope that my childhood self would approve.