How to Rock Your Author Website

 

I bet you hear this a lot: “Authors need an author website.” It’s one of the more common and oft-repeated lines coming from every book marketing and publishing industry expert. Website, website, website. You HAVE to have one.

If you’re hoping I might offer a different opinion, you’re sadly out of luck. If you’re a self-published author and you want to drive sales of your book, you really need an author website. No way around it.

Instead of lamenting the hassle of building and maintaining a web presence, I’m offering some advice and best practices for building your website.

Continue reading “How to Rock Your Author Website”

Author Interview: Hannah Russell and the Magic of Little Alf

Self-publishing attracts a wide and diverse range of writers. Like, staggeringly wide and diverse. You know why. Because we all have stories to tell, wisdom to impart, and a desire – almost a need – to share those stories.

Today we’re going to hear from just such an author: Hannah Russell, the author of The magical adventure of Little Alf. Her stories are geared toward younger readers, but show how anyone can take their ideas and their imagination and turn that into a story. Read on to learn a little more about Hannah’s unique author journey.

What do you do when you are not writing about Alf? 

Haha, funny questions, if I’m not writing about Alf I am usually thinking about Alfie and what he is up too, we are never usually that far apart. But in my spare time, I love reading, I think this is a common hobby in authors we are either writing or reading. I love all books literally I will read anything. I also love visiting quaint and quirky shops in the UK especially books shops there is something about them that is just so magical. And if I am not doing any of the above you will find me with my pets. I have 13 pets so I’m usually chasing one of them around the house or garden… they always create such mischief…

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

Hmm well, my name is Hannah Louise Russell, I am 20 years old and live in the stunning Yorkshire Dales. I live near a small market town called ‘Leyburn’ which is in the heart of Wensleydale. I have 13 pets all different shapes and sizes, I have 4 guinea pigs, 4 horses, 2 rabbits, 2 dogs and 1 robo hamster, who keep me on my toes. I love hot chocolate and drink at least two cups a day through the winter months and I love all things animal related! I’m usually in my office at home writing which has a small window where I can watch my horses in the fields.

Tell us a little bit about Little Alf

Where do I begin?! Little Alf is my little bundle of cheekiness. He is a miniature Shetland pony who stands at just 28 inches high due to him having dwarfism. He is 5 years old and is always playing in the field. Alfie has a best friend who is another miniature Shetland called Pepper.

How did the two of you come together?

Back in 2012 I heard about a miniature Shetland looking for a home, due to him having dwarfism his previous owner could not keep him and as soon as a saw him I fell in love, he was a hairy mess and looked like he belonged to a hippie rock band. Alfie came to live with me at a point in my life where I needed a new focus, I was 16 years old and had just found out that I had fractured my vertebras in my back and was likely never to ride again… He came to me at the ‘right time’ and completely turned my life upside down in the best possible way and gave me a new focus. I’ve never looked back since and couldn’t imagine life without him.

What made you decide to share your life with Alfie with the world?

I felt like I had a story to tell which could inspire so many, I was so stressed doing my A levels at college so ended up ‘dropping out’ which wasn’t very common although my family were really supportive. I felt with my story I could share it with other individuals. I’m a big believer in ‘Do what makes you happy’ and felt like my story could reflect that. I also wanted to share Alf’s story and his cheeky adventures and raise awareness about animals and pets in general. All of my animals are rescues and life for pets who aren’t considered ‘perfect’ can be unpredictable. In my book, you can read about all my daily activities with my pets and what extra care they need!

Are you surprised with how popular Little Alf has become?

Yes, 100%! When I was 17 years old (2 years ago) I was just a girl writing about my pony, and now his fan based is completely crazy. It’s been hard work over the past 3 years, it’s not that easy being an author but this year with his memoir been published I’ve felt incredibly proud of what we have both achieved together it’s all still very overwhelming! Alfie even gets fan mail which is so adorable we get the best drawings and presents sent to him!

What made you want to write a book about Alfie’s adventures?

Alfie! Alfie is my inspiration he always has been, he’s full of life and mischief and he’s just the perfect character for a story, he’s always up to no good but that’s what makes him him!

Have you always enjoyed writing?

No, not all! I hated writing and English at school I was more of a maths and number type of girl. I never imagined one day I would be a writer and author. I loved reading through school and also liked writing stories but did not enjoy anything to do with English literature or language. I’m actually a terrible speller and really struggled with writing through schools. Once I left college and Alfie came to live I started writing a blog about him and loved it… then a few months later his first children’s book was published.

How did you come across Lulu?

Word of mouth actually! I knew of a local author who lived nearby and my mum went and knocked on his door actually which was very nice of her, I was so shy at the time! He invited us in and told us all about LULU and how to use to the online site. I have kept in touch with him ever since and he is a big supporter of the Little Alf books.

How did it feel to publish your first book with Lulu? What was it like when you got it in the post? 

Amazing! I felt so proud of my first ever book, I remember holding in my hands and just been so proud and overwhelmed… Who knew back then that one day Alf would have his own empire.

What kind of impact do hope your books will have on the children that read them? 

My children’s books have lots of magic and adventure, I hope it gives them a sense of adventure when they read the books and makes them believe in the magic…! I visit schools quite regularly for talks and it’s always lovely to hear what children think of your books!

Can you tell us a little bit about the awards the books have received?

I currently have 5 awards sat on my shelf at home which have been for the books, which is very overwhelming! When I was 17 years old I was nominated for a local award close to home it was ‘5* book review’ it’s quite a big award for authors in Yorkshire, one of Alfie’s fans had nominated his Christmas book and very surprisingly we won. I remember being told the news I think I just sat in my office and cried it meant too much. Then after that, we received an author award for inspiring children with the stories. And in 2016 me and Alf where shortlisted ‘young entrepreneur of the year’ for the whole of the UK, where we came runner up! This year me and Alfie got a very special award from HRH ‘Princess Anne’ which was unbelievable, that was for the Little Alf children’s books and helping raise awareness for the Riding for Disabled Association – It’s been quite a whirlwind the past few years.

Has writing these books provided you with opportunities that you would not have expected?

Yes! I would have never imagined getting an award of meeting Princess Anne one day! I’ve had the most exciting year this year, I’ve met some Olympic horse riders and been to huge events book signing, it’s been crazy.

What advice would you give to others out there that may be interested in writing a book, but are afraid to give it a chance?

Go for it and believe in yourself. Everyone has a story inside of them it’s just whether you wish for it to come out. Make some notes, start writing and go for it! It’ll be the best thing you ever do, whether you write a chapter every night or on weekends just start writing! Believing in yourself is a huge aspect in life, it’s something I never did until now, it’s hard I must admit as sometimes you take 1 step forward and 2 back but you’ll get there. Hard work does pay off and it’s really worth it!

What’s next for Hannah and Little Alf?

Who knows! Even I don’t really know, this year I opened up the first ‘Little Alf’ shop in Leyburn Market Town. It’s really small but perfect for me and the Little Alf products. I would love to open up more shops across the UK. I have a few exciting campaign I’m working on for 2018 for charity and one campaign for a feed brand which is very exciting! Next Spring I’ll be publishing the next children’s book so at the moment my office is covered in sticky notes and coffee mugs. Other than that I’m not sure I just love spending time with Alf!


Hannah Russell is the Author of the Little Alf adventure series, her first book ‘The magical adventure of Little Alf – the discovery of the wild pony’ was published when Hannah was just 17 years old.
The Little Alf books are based on Little Alf, who is Hannah’s miniature Shetland pony who stands at just 28 inches high. Hannah had the idea to write books about Alfie due to his huge cheeky personality!

Check out her Author Spotlight for all of Little Alf’s Adventures!

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Beki Turner

Together We Can by Beki Turner

Beckiturner

I live in Brighton with my daughter Rosie and my dog Frankie, and I have been here since 1999, moving impulsively from London after ending up at a party in the basement of a record shop.

Brighton is a very special and magical place, and it felt right to base my story here. I wanted to highlight the subject of loneliness, and how people of all ages can be isolated and lonely for a number of reasons. I’ve worked extensively with homeless individuals and quite vulnerable adults over the years.

Everyone has a reason for ending up in Brighton, and sometimes people get lost along the way.  I wanted to show how kindness and coincidence can bring people together and change lives, and how people coming together can be really powerful.

Perhaps the characters in my story will be developed in the future because they all have a story to tell and have the potential to help each other.

I have always loved writing fiction as a hobby and promised myself that if I was one of the winners of the competition, I’d start taking it seriously…

Extract from Together We Can

Gav is drunk. You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles. Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank holiday families with their middle class picnics, and the hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes. They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.

Tourists and locals huddle around tables, drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set. Gav turns back to look at the glitter bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt. Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead. He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold. He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig. The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – David Benedictus

Protected Housing by David Benedictus 

DavidbenedictusI am 79 and I am a theatre director and writer. I have written lots of stuff – too much really – and published about 15-20 novels from The Fourth of June (1962), a scurrilous book about Eton, to Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (2009) an authorised sequel to the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

I am a member of Nightwriters, the writers club in Brighton. My second published novel, You’re a Big Boy Now (1963) was filmed by the (very) young Francis Ford Coppola in New York. I worked for the BBC on many occasions and was commissioning editor for drama series at Channel 4 from 1984-1986. I was a London tour guide and ran a horse-race tipping service for 25 years. The Daily Mail said I was going to marry Princess Anne , but I didn’t. At the BBC I initiated the programme Something Understood.

I have 4 children, a QC, a novelist, a psychotherapist and a theatrical producer. They are amazing. I have also written a number of musicals, one of which was started in 1955 and is still awaiting a full production

I don’t know where the idea for Protected Housing came from but with just a few hours to go before the deadline I thought I ought to do something  and this is what emerged. It’s not like anything I have written before and although it would benefit from a second draft I like its poignant atmosphere.

You can read more about David’s life  here

Extract from Protected Housing

‘It really was the most marvellous garden,’ she said. ’Not that I had anything to compare it with.’

He tried to recall it. ‘It smelled so beautiful. No chemicals of course then, and it rained only when you needed it. I remember a tree,’ he said. ‘Because I used to sit in the shade and make up names for things. Then you came along, and you thought of miraculous names. Like Flutterby.’

‘You improved on that one.’ She smiled. Although her skin was so wrinkled these days, she retained a smile to charm the birds out of the trees. They seldom spoke of those days because they seemed not only to belong to a different age but to two different people entirely.

‘Would you like to go back?’

‘Well, we couldn’t, could we? For one thing, we’d never find it.’

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Saba Sams

Nice Light by Saba Sams

sabasampicture

Saba Sams just graduated from the University of Manchester with a first class degree in English Literature with Creative Writing. She has now moved back to Brighton, where she was raised. ‘Nice Light’ is her second short story to be published. The first, ‘What Do You Know About Love?’, can be read online at Forge Literary Magazine. A few of Saba’s poems have also appeared in places such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Cluny MCR.

Nice Light’ was written in Manchester, on an evening spent missing those hot Brighton summers, when drunks stumble up the Old Steine, and teenagers crowd the cycle paths on the seafront. It’s a story about right now, about living in the present tense, told by a protagonist who can do nothing but cross each bridge as she gets to it. But this story is also about those tiny moments of self-reflection, those glimmers of memory, recognition, or random kindnesses that remind us who we are, or where we’re going. It’s about that time of day when the clouds split to let a little sun through, and a few minutes of nice light remind us that the ordinary can hold something extraordinary.

Extract from Nice Light

One of those days in Brighton where the heat is thick. Everybody lying on the grass watching everybody else. Ice lolly sticks all over the playground. Dogs with their tongues out, dry. Max sleeping next to a crate of Foster’s. No clouds. A teenage boy in a grey t-shirt tapping me on the shoulder. Sweat patches, smiley. Tells me he’s looking for alcoholics. Making a short film for college. Just thought he’d ask around the park. Hot day, you know? Writes his mobile number on a rizla. Don’t have to decide now, just something to keep in mind. He’d appreciate it.

Put the rizla in my back pocket. Remember being seventeen, on a bus. Woman with a sandwich turned around in her seat to tell me to go easy on the drink. She’d seen me on this route before. Couldn’t even walk straight at eleven in the morning. Better kick it before it’s too late. Got a whole life ahead of me. Not a thing to waste, a life. I thanked her for the advice and got off at the next stop to buy four K Ciders. Guess I’ve got it written all over my face.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Jenny Gaitskell

On the Threshold by Jenny Gaitskell
My-Wife B&W

 

My default state is daydreaming, and some days I have to go to work and pretend to be sensible, but I write stories whenever possible. While I’m writing, I can go to places I’ll never see, travel in time, meet impossible strangers and be somebody else for a while. When the stories are published, my hope is that readers will imagine something new too. I blog about daydreaming, my creative brain (who calls herself Gonzo) and the unexpected encounters which inspire me. If that sounds like fun, have a look on jennygaitskell.com, or come and say hello on twitter @jennygaitskell.

When I wrote , I’d woken up into one of those mornings when everything feels impossible, even making stuff up. Under those circumstances, obviously the best thing to do was mess about on the internet, and that’s how I found the theme for this anthology, Everyday Epics. Yup, I thought, each day’s a toughie. My page was blank and my mind was blank, except for a woman stuck behind a door. I asked myself, if she could only make herself take that first step, out into the world, what might she try next?

Extract from On the Threshold

On the threshold, Emily told herself: you can become the version of you that’s needed, send another letter, take one more step forward. She took it, and closed her front door quietly behind her, for the sake of neighbours who’d never noticed her. Once again, the street smelled of last night but the sky was pink with possibility. Passing across the square, she recognised, from identical mornings, another early riser. He didn’t see her smile, was too busy examining the inside of his frown. There is always tomorrow, she thought. She was right on time for the park, and ready for the dog walker’s half-hearted salute, which might really be no more than a shaking of the leash. She threw her first ever greeting, but it fell short. The walker didn’t turn to pick it up, didn’t wait to see what might happen next. But a word had been spoken, and that was better than yesterday.

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

It was just one of those things   

She tipped the contents of the barrow into the English Channel, and smiled: Nobody could find him now! The police could investigate, and the media speculate as much as they liked; in a couple of weeks no-one would give a damn about the disappearance of a guitarist in a boy band. She’d got away with it!

The barrow was easier to push now that it was empty, but a small plastic sandwich bag remained in the bottom. Helen stared at the bag; damn I’ve forgotten his bits and pieces after all! Oh well, they can go in the fridge. I’ll go to the pier and feed them to the seagulls tomorrow

The voice from behind her came as a surprise, ‘Allo. Allo. Allo. What’s nice a girl like you doing in a place like this in the middle of the night?’

Helen turned slowly, ‘Oh hello officer! I’ve been taking some rubbish to the dump.’

The police officer looked into the wheelbarrow, where at the bottom, Justin’s sad looking bits and pieces along with his fingers and toes were clearly visible in the transparent sandwich bag, ‘What the f***…’ he said and stared at Helen in disbelief.

Oh well you can’t win them all.

(Marita)

Protected Housing

‘It really was the most marvellous garden,’ she said. ’Not that I had anything to compare it with.’

He tried to recall it. ‘It smelled so beautiful. No chemicals of course then, and it rained only when you needed it. I remember a tree,’ he said. ‘Because I used to sit in the shade and make up names for things. Then you came along, and you thought of miraculous names. Like Flutterby.’

‘You improved on that one.’ She smiled. Although her skin was so wrinkled these days, she retained a smile to charm the birds out of the trees. They seldom spoke of those days because they seemed not only to belong to a different age but to two different people entirely.

‘Would you like to go back?’

‘Well, we couldn’t, could we? For one thing, we’ld never find it.’

‘There’s a few clues. The Land of Nod.’

‘But what’s that mean? It’s just a metaphor. It means you might see it in your dreams. You might. I haven’t had a dream for months.’

They were sitting either side of a plain oak table on which lay the remains of a frugal lunch; soup and some unappetizing fruit. Their conversation was interrupted by power drills and the cheerful blasphemies of workmen for whom every day was predictable. The village was being reinvented.

‘I did dream about the snake once. He was an old charmer, despite everything.’

‘It must have been part of a plan,’ Adam remarked. He wanted to continue talking and to leave the dishes till later. ‘And when you consider all the aspects of it, it was a weird kind of plan, because I don’t believe we had any choice. It would have been helpful if we had some record of it all; photos maybe.’

(David, Hove)

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

Master of the Rolls

The groan that oozed from Amir’s throat pitched as horror, sadness and pity took turns to confront him. The barbeque was tomorrow. And now £95 worth of meat – the beef-burgers, the lamb-chops, the vegetarian sausages – was all gone; destroyed. And £20 of breads used as tennis balls? This could not be happening. Everyone in The Building had been invited: ten families; thirty two stomachs. He couldn’t cancel. He must think of a solution – one that didn’t involve shelling out money. Because all he had in his wallet was a maxed-out credit card and a £10 note. Nothing in the bank until the cheque he’d paid in for the Matheson’s loft job was cleared. It would be Wednesday, at the earliest, before that £200 was in his account. Amir heard his wife sniffling her sobs under control.

(Michael, Eastbourne)

Nice Light

One of those days in Brighton where the heat is thick. Everybody lying on the grass watching everybody else. Ice lolly sticks all over the playground. Dogs with their tongues out, dry. Max sleeping next to a crate of Foster’s. No clouds. A teenage boy in a grey t-shirt tapping me on the shoulder. Sweat patches, smiley. Tells me he’s looking for alcoholics. Making a short film for college. Just thought he’d ask around the park. Hot day, you know? Writes his mobile number on a rizla. Don’t have to decide now, just something to keep in mind. He’d appreciate it.

Put the rizla in my back pocket. Remember being seventeen, on a bus. Woman with a sandwich turned around in her seat to tell me to go easy on the drink. She’d seen me on this route before. Couldn’t even walk straight at eleven in the morning. Better kick it before it’s too late. Got a whole life ahead of me. Not a thing to waste, a life. I thanked her for the advice and got off at the next stop to buy four K Ciders. Guess I’ve got it written all over my face.

(Saba, Brighton)

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