Archive for the ‘ Books ’ Category

Felix and the DreamWorld Sample

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

In honor of my children’s reading at Philcon, I am making a free sample of my upcoming short story collection, working title Felix and the DreamWorld Bandits and Other Stories, available via Smashwords. Please check it out and write a review!


Felix Discovers the DreamWorld and Other Stories

In this book for young readers, Felix learns about the DreamWorld from his mother: a place where you can do anything and go anywhere. With a child’s eye for the absurd, he explores this land with his best friends, a robot named Hobart and a dinosaur named Drusus. Felix and his friends fight a dragon, meet a unicorn, and learn that the DreamWorld offers surprises Felix could never have imagined while awake.

Free at Smashwords

Article: Fun Children’s Book Authors

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

In one of my most recent stories, I shared some of our favorite children’s book authors.

Three Children’s Authors Who Make Reading Fun

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Promotion Fun

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Joy and happiness! It’s Black Friday, the day that retailers entice shoppers into their stores with deals, hoping to make up for the entire rest of the year.

Well, if you’re one of those shoppers, have fun and good luck! And when you’re done, put your aching feet up, pull out your laptop and hop on over to Amazon to pick up a Kindle copy of my book, “Dedicated Idiocy: A Personal History of the Penn State Monty Python Society,” at bargain basement prices.

(And if you don’t have a Kindle device, don’t worry. Just search for “Free Kindle Reading Apps” and download one of Amazon’s apps for smartphones and PCs.)

From today (Friday, November 29) through 6 PM (EST)/3 PM (PST) tomorrow (Saturday, November 30), you can nab a copy of that silly, colorful look at my shrimp salad days for just 99 cents. Then the price will step up incrementally to $1.99 and $2.99 before finally returning to the standard price of $3.99 on December 3.

The sooner you get there, the more you save! Give yourself the gift of laughter. You deserve it.

My Greatest Hits… Free!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

A few years ago, I embarked on a personal project that gave me a great sense of empowerment. I combed through more than a decade of my newspaper columns and online writings to put together a collection of essays and humor, titled The Art of Life.

The collection represented some of my best creative non-fiction and humor to date: including an essay on Marilyn Monroe and body image; ponderings about the conspiracy of giant cows on the American roadside landscape; and musings about my late dog, Una, who taught me to appreciate the little things in life: to smell (and lick) life’s goodness.

Since the collection addressed such a broad range of topics, I opted not to approach a traditional publisher but instead to go the self-publishing route. Because of The Art of Life, I not only got a chance to reflect on my writing up to that stage in my career but also dipped my toe into the modern age of self-publishing.

Of course, self-published books don’t have giant marketing operations behind them, and I happened to put the book out the same year that I gave birth to my all-consuming bundle of bouncy boy energy, Kung Fu Panda. I sort of fell down on the marketing aspect of it.

But you know what? I’m not giving up. And now that my son is entering preschool (and my gluten-free, dairy-free diet has cleared the cobwebs from my postpartum brain), I’m giving it another shot. In fact, I’m so convinced that you’ll like the book that I’m giving out free Kindle copies this weekend.

From November 8 (today) through Tuesday, November 12, stop by the page for the Kindle version of The Art of Life and snag a free copy. Then tell all your friends. And if they tell two friends, and if they tell two friends and if they tell two friends… an exponential number of people (or at least, what, 32? 64?) will give the book a read.

Ideally, that might lead to sales. But at this point, you know what? I just want people to read it. I guarantee you will find something within these pages that will make you smile, ponder and perhaps even turn to your companion — be they human or dog — and say, “You’ve got to hear what I just read.”

(And if you do like it, I’d like to encourage you to write reviews on, Goodreads or any other book review site. It’s good karma! Or, for my canine friends, good dogma.)

Executive-Sized Silliness

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Remember me mentioning a side project that threw me off during my 30 Queries in 30 Days project? Well, it’s now complete!

Dedicated Idiocy cover graphic

About a decade ago, I spent umpteen hours putting together a detailed, silly, madcap collection of web pages called “Dedicated Idiocy: A Personal History of the Penn State Monty Python Society.” This spring, while casting around for ideas for perks to offer for my Indiegogo campaign, “Get the Ringbearer to Illinois,” an old friend suggested turning those pages into a PDF and offering it as a perk. “After all,” he reasoned, “you’ve already done all the work.”

I suspected even then that turning such a massive project — containing dozens of pictures — into a PDF would be a time-consuming affair. But I liked the idea, so I offered it and got a handful of takers. Instead of just cutting and pasting the previously written material, I made corrections and added some new information, as well as adding on some never-before-published skits and some of my post-MPS writings.

Then I happened upon the news that PDFs are less than ideal for many uses nowadays. Because they don’t scale well, they are irritating for anyone reading them on a small screen (such as a smart phone or iPad). That’s when I decided to do a Kindle version, as well.

Having done Kindle versions of my poetry book and my essays book (both available through the Alyce Wilson store), I didn’t think it would be too difficult, but neither of those had included photos (though the essay book did involve a number of footnotes). The Kindle project ate up a lot of time, as I painstakingly converted the existing PDF document into a HTML document which would then be converted by Kindle Direct Publishing into a Kindle book. Since this also involved resizing all of the photos, I also took the opportunity to use my newfound Adobe PhotoShop Elements skills to “retouch” them, fixing the color balance and reducing noise.

When I’d finally entered the testing phase, I realized that the pictures rendered fairly small. While someone reading a PDF could zoom in on any photo to read the text, that was not an option for the reader using a Kindle device or the Kindle app. Therefore, I made one more pass on the document, providing physical descriptions of the photos that involved text and/or including the text in the body of the book.

All told, the finished project clocked in at roughly 398 pages, which is a suitably silly number. I’ve dubbed it the “Executive Version” of the history, and you can purchase it from Kindle or order it from me as a PDF (use the “Buy it Now” button on the index page of the original project).

Even if you have no connection to the Penn State Monty Python Society, I guarantee plenty of laughs. As I described it on Amazon:

A wildly colorful look at the silly, anarchic history of the Penn State Monty Python Society from 1988-1993, packed with photos, funny stories and original sketches. From staging wacky events on the college campus to author Alyce Wilson’s personal interactions with some members of Monty Python, “Dedicated Idiocy” tells a universal story of friendship, played out on the always unpredictable stage of a college campus.

If you love British humor, silliness, performance art, sketches and wacky stories about pranks, you will love “Dedicated Idiocy.” Tell all your friends!

Coconuts not accepted as payment.

Review: “Writer Mama”

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your KidsWriter Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a write-at-home mom, Christina Katz’s book practically jumped off the shelf at me. “Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing career Alongside Your Kids”? That’s exactly what I was trying to do. Flipping through it, I felt it might provide some useful info, so I purchased it, making sure to save the receipt to file with my taxes as a business expense.

The purchase was well worth it. While at least half of the information was already familiar to me — as someone who’s been writing for publication in some capacity for more than 25 years — the book was sprinkled with helpful information that was new to me. In particular, I loved the tips on how to determine your audience, identify possible markets, and write queries.

Katz’s love for lists and keeping things in folders seemed a little antiquated, although I know plenty of mothers would find such a system useful. In an effort to reduce clutter, I’ve gone increasingly paperless, moving most of my planning documents onto cloud-driven storage sites such as Google Drive and Dropbox, so they can be accessed from any computer or mobile device. It’s relatively easy to adapt her recommended tracking systems into digital form, but perhaps if she does a revised edition, she could do some research into some of the most useful online tools for writers to track their ideas, work progress and submissions.

Overall, the book gave me insights on how to take simple, actionable steps in order to grow my freelance business. I recommend it for moms at any stage in their writing careers.

View all my reviews

Review: “This Mobius Strip of Ifs”

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

This Mobius Strip of IfsThis Mobius Strip of Ifs by Mathias B. Freese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How does one summarize an entire life of more than 60 years? When faced with this ominous task, too many self-published writers produce rambling, episodic narratives that fail to capture the true drama and beauty of their lives. Fortunately for author Mathias B. Freese, he is a gifted essayist who has been writing essays for decades. By collecting his favorite pieces, he gives readers insights into both his personal life (which is, sadly, full of tragedy) and his views on such topics as education, psychotherapy, blogging, and, of course, writing. The book, as a result, is one part personal memoir and one part intellectual analysis.

This combination elevates the book, but it also means it is a book best read slowly. Readers are likely to find themselves pausing to contemplate the message behind each essay. Freese is direct and opinionated, and he often takes an opinion counter to popular thinking. Take, for example, the essay “Teachers Have No Chance to Give Their Best,” where he begins by railing against students for their “puerile minds” and “vacuity.” But while these words are harsh, he lays the blame squarely on teachers. As a former teacher himself, he strongly suggests that schools need to do more to encourage creativity and self-reliance.

Just when it seems he has given up, labeling the educational system as “a great Arctic mammoth wandering aimlessly,” he offers up a glimmer of hope: “Take any five decent, well-intended, creative and committed teachers and administrators, people who care, people in passion, free men and women, and one could wreak a reformation in weeks.”

Such is the power of these essays: he sets up problems in stark language, but he also points to the possible positives that we, as a society, could reach for. Whether writing about the challenges of the current publishing scene or the historical record of the Holocaust, he shows readers both the ugliness and the beauty of each topic. He shares valuable insights from his time as a psychotherapist, and he waxes eloquent on some of his favorite movies and classic film actors.

The personal essays in the back of the book provide a look at his family’s trials and grief. From the tragic loss of both his first wife and his daughter, to coping with memories of a neglected childhood, he writes powerfully when he is at his most personal. In many ways, these essays might have been a better way to begin this collection, since it would have helped to provide a real sense of the writer, in a personal way, before the denser, academic pieces.

This is a book that will stay with the reader, that will occasionally pop up as an undercurrent to conversations. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his fiction masterpiece, The i Tetralogy, it is a thoughtful, compelling read.

View all my reviews

2012 Holiday Bazaar

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Holiday Bazaar! I did something like this on my personal blog a few years ago, and it went fairly well. You are welcome to participate and list your books, games, crafts, and other handmade gifts, as long as you follow the rules below.


1) If you aren’t already following me, either follow my Twitter account (@alycewilson), or “like” my Facebook author’s page, or friend my personal blog on LiveJournal, or subscribe to this blog by typing your e-mail into the “subscribe” box on the right-hand sidebar.

2) Begin the comment by giving your real name and/or screen name and telling me how you’re connected to me (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.). This is one of the ways I’m screening out spammers and will also help other visitors to connect to you. Feel free to list your home page in this section.

3) Give a brief description of what it is that you’re selling, i.e. book, hand-made crafts, artwork, CD, photography, etc. In order to qualify for the bazaar, it must be something you have a direct connection to. You can promote your friend’s book, if you like, but be certain to mention your connection.

4) Include one or, at most, two links to the place where your gifts can be bought. If you have an Etsy store, it’s best to include the link to the entire store than to link to multiple items. If your items are all in different locations, it would be best for you to create one blog post that has all the links, and then link to that post. That’s because my spam detection programming automatically flags posts with too many links.

5) Promote this post so that other people can shop, join and share! I’ve created a TinyURL you can use:

And that’s it! If you have any questions or if you think your post has accidentally been culled by the spam filters, e-mail me. I’ll post a sample comment below.

In other news, this is the final week (ending the close of Monday, December 3) of the America’s Next Author contest. I’m trying to at least break into the Top 10 this week, and hopefully grab the judges’ attention to be a possible Wild Card. I’m guaranteed a spot in the semifinals if I place 1st this week. Please read and vote for my story:

The vote totals were zeroed out for the beginning of Round 8, so even if you already voted, please stop in and vote again. Voting for me is NOT a condition of being included in the Holiday Bazaar! In fact, I won’t even know whether or not you voted for me unless you tell me.

WIP Mini Blog Hop

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

I was tagged by P.J. Bayliss in the ‘Next Big Thing’ Authors Tagging Authors… also known as the WIP Blog Hop.

P.J. Bayliss has nearly 1,000 Twitter followers (@YrMonAmi) and has nearly as many blog followers, as well. I have been grateful for P.J.’s generosity and friendliness since we connected on Twitter.

Here are the rules:

  • Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you
  • Post the rules for this hop
  • Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
  • Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them

My Questions:

  • What is the working title of your book?

1) Belated Mommy 2) Felix and the Dreamworld Bandits

  • What genre does the book fall under?

1) Parenting/humor 2) Children (ages 3-8)

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?

1) I would love to see Amy Poehler as a 30-something mom trying to find her way as a parent 2) Jared Gilmore, who plays Henry on “Once Upon a Time”

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

1) A collection of humorous and insightful personal essays about the challenges and rewards of being an older parent. 2) A collection of short stories about a boy who explores the dreamworld with his best friends, a robot and a dinosaur.

  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will likely seek an agent to represent both books; hopefully, I can find someone who will handle both nonfiction and children’s books.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

1) My goal is to blog the book and complete it in roughly a year.  2) Felix is my current NaNoWriMo project, and I hope to have a pretty decent draft by the end of the month.

  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

1) Anything by Erma Bombeck, one of my earliest inspirations 2) The Winnie the Pooh stories

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

1) As an older mom — I had my son at age 39 — I often feel left out of the parenting advice market, and I wanted to fill that gap for other moms, dads and guardians. 2) I’ve been telling my son rambling bedtime stories to put him to sleep, and I wanted to write a book that would appeal to kids and parents alike.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest

1) I’m seeking input from other parents in the 35+ age bracket, so please e-mail me if you’d like to contribute ideas! 2) I’m hoping that one of several talented artist friends of mine will add illustrations.

In addition, I’d appreciate it if you’d read and vote for my story at America’s Next Author:

I wish to tag the following authors:

Sally Wiener Grotta – Twitter: @SallyWGrotta

Joseph Ephraim – Twitter: @FreelanceJoe

Nina Amir – Twitter: @NinaAmir

J.L. Manning – Twitter: @JL_Manning

Robbie Cox – Twitter: @CoxRobbie

Life as an Animal Savior

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Here’s another excerpt from my book, The Art of Life. This column originally appeared in The Standard-Journal, June 19, 1998.

For a week, I was the Animal Savior. In my care were the lives of no fewer than eight animals, which I pet-sat for members of my family.

Whenever I entered their residences, they bowed and scraped before me in their feline and canine ways, mewing and rubbing against my leg, staring at me with awe in their eyes.

For they knew and respected my power. I was the one who wielded the Sacred Can Opener. I was the one who opened and closed doors on a whim, allowing them out or in again.

In short, I was the one with hands.

Imagine what life would be like if dogs and cats could manipulate objects with their furry paws. You would come home from a hard day at work and find your animals sprawled on the floor, patting their full bellies, meat and cheese wrappers littering the floor.

The back door would be open, and frightened moles and sparrows would scurry and flutter about the house. (“Ha! Make us leave them in the yard now!”)

Your closets would be open, and the choicest shoes (like those leather moccasins from the 1960s) would now be chew toys.

Perhaps the only thing scarier than pets with opposable thumbs would be pets who could talk. Oh, I know, you’ve thought about it. You’ve wondered what was behind that feline smirk, that doggie grin. But would you really be prepared to talk to your furry friends?

They wouldn’t suddenly take up political discussions, you understand, or enjoy reruns of Seinfeld. They’d talk about the same things they already talk about, in their pet ways.

You’d converse for hours about such topics as: “food” and “pet me.” No doubt they’d scintillate with wit as they discussed the subjects “not this food” and “pet me more.” And on long evenings, who would pass up the chance to deliberate over subjects like “Why’d you stop petting me,” and “Let me out”?

My temporary position as Animal Savior clearly gave me a lot of free time…

When I say free time, I mean, “alone time.” My daily rounds as Animal Savior meant I had little personal time. At one house, in the morning I fed four cats and let the dog into the yard to, um, water the daisies. That afternoon, I went to another house and fed one very angry cat which insisted that it should be going OUT right now! (Kind of like when I used to tell the babysitter that we were allowed to have chocolate and soda before bed and stay up tillmidnight.)

At another place, I fed two indoor cats who are so plump their little bellies fly back and forth when they run toward you to pay their respects. After scratching both their heads for awhile (otherwise, one gets jealous), I returned to the first place, walked the dog, and let cats either in or out of the yard.

I then gave the elderly queen cat, Ginger, one of her two daily pills, and fed her as a reward. In the evening, I gave her another pill and let the dog out into the yard to, um, inspect the trees.

Then, the next day, it started all over again.

The duties of Animal Savior never end.

But I learned something this past week. I learned that with power comes responsibility. I also learned that giving a cat a pill is a task only slightly more complicated than constructing a computer fromLincolnlogs and cellophane.

But I love my subjects, although their loyalties have returned to their former rulers. Somehow, running myself ragged never felt so good.

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