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Monday, December 31, 2012

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Beginning January 1, 2013

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Happy New Year! 

Friday, December 21, 2012



Kamikaze Gift Exchange

Most people are surprised to hear that I’m a big ‘ole Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. It hasn’t always been so. When my son was little, I was very much into decorating the house, baking cookies, belting out carols, and wrapping gift and gift after gift in pretty paper with shiny bows. But now that I’m older and my son is grown, I find myself very put off by the whole idea of exchanging Christmas presents. I sit down each year and make a list of the people I have to buy for, and it feels like a chore, an obligation. And I never know what to buy, so I end up wandering around the mall looking for gifts to buy just for the sake of buying something. Surely that’s not what the spirit of Christmas is about. Try as I may to choose thoughtful gifts, I never know what to get. No one I know needs more stuff. It got to the point where we were just trading gift cards, many of which would sit in a drawer and home for months before being regifted at various times throughout the year. Ugh. After some deliberation with extended family members (many of whom, as it turned out, felt the same way), we’ve started a new tradition. This will mark our third year of the Kamikaze Gift Exchange.

The Kamikaze Gift Exchange is a variation of what I’ve heard others call Yankee Swap, Black Santa, Chinese Gift Exchange, or White Elephant Gift Exchange. Here are the rules:

  1. Each person brings a wrapped gift. It need not be something purchased. In fact, we encourage rummaging through the attic or basement to find the most hideous, unwanted item possible.
  2. All wrapped gifts are placed in a pile.
  3. Each person draws a number to determine the order of his turn.
  4. When it’s your turn, you may either select a wrapped gift from the pile, or steal a gift that has previously been unwrapped by someone who has already had his turn. (If someone steals your gift, you have the option of choosing another unwrapped gift or stealing a different unwrapped gift.)
  5. Whatever you end up with must be displayed in your home for one year.

This was such a huge success the first year we tried it, that it’s now the highlight of our holiday celebration every year. We laugh and laugh at the outrageous gifts people end up with. Our first year, I received a life-size painted ceramic bust of Elvis. It was gloriously gaudy, and a great conversation piece.

One significant advantage of this type of exchange (aside from not having to spend money on gifts) is that last minute guests aren’t left out. If someone brings a girlfriend/boyfriend, as long as he/she arrives with one wrapped gift (or if the host has a spare gift available), they can participate too. Not only that, but if someone isn’t able to make the gathering, there’s no worry about how to deliver the gifts to/from the missing person.

Of course, I still buy something special for my son and my husband, but our new tradition greatly eases the stress of holiday shopping and allows us all to focus on what matters most: spending time with family, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

To celebrate the holidays and the spirit of giving, I am offering a free e-copy of my new release, Sock it to Me, Santa! To enter the drawing, please leave a comment below and tell me something you enjoy about the holidays.

About the Author: Madison Parker adores romance in all shapes, forms, and sizes (from beefy bottoms to tiny tops), but she loves her sweet, sexy boys best. She credits fanfiction for introducing her to the world of hot, humorous, and heartwarming manlove. Although Madison is extremely left-brained (logical, rational, orderly), her artistic, creative side never ceases to flail around in a desperate attempt to be noticed. She spends her days reading, writing, solving math problems, and playing with her feisty German Pinscher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, her pup, and her troop of sock monkeys.

Find her online at


New Release: Sock it to Me, Santa!
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult GLBT Romance

Ryan is assigned to Jamie Peterson for his class's secret gift exchange. If word gets out that he has to make a handcrafted gift for flamboyant and openly gay Jamie, Ryan will be the laughing stock of the school. It's a good thing no self-respecting boy would be caught dead in a craft store, because otherwise he'd be at risk of being spotted when his mom drags him to her weekly craft workshops. He hopes Jamie will appreciate all the trouble he's going to for this assignment. Finding the perfect gift is gonna be tricky. Jamie deserves something good, though, after all the crap he has to put up with at school. At least, Ryan tells himself that's the reason he's putting so much thought into the gift. It couldn't be that he has feelings for Jamie, could it?
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Thursday, December 20, 2012



“I’ll be back in an hour,” my dad announced, dropping me off at the outdoor ice rink—a flooded frozen field—adjacent to a shopping center plaza. “Are you sure you’ll be OK by yourself?”

I slid out of the pickup, hugging my brand new white figure skates to my chest. “I can do this, Dad. Go shop before the stores close.”

Floodlights winked on over the black ice as I headed for the lean-to strung with multicolored Christmas lights. The place was empty except for a mom strapping double-runners on her toddler’s boots. I sat on a bench and ran my finger down one skate’s razor-edged blade. A moment of doubt skittered across my mind. Me, gliding gracefully over ice? Balanced on two dinner knives? I looked longingly at the kid’s double-runners and swallowed hard.

I dipped my feet into the stiff skates, laced up and knotted bows. I’d never ice-skated before but I was 15 and roller-skated since third grade, so how hard could it be to translate this simple balancing skill to ice?

I stood up, ankles bound and locked. I didn’t fall over. So far, so good. I took a few wobbly steps. Piece of cake. I robot-walked to the rink’s edge and stepped out.

I glided a few feet. A few more. I could breathe now. I was getting the hang of it. One foot in front of the other, step-glide, step-glide. I made it around the rink’s perimeter without once bouncing on my butt. I pulled off my knit cap and shook out my hair, confident.

Until they came. A group of high school seniors, guys and girls, clomping into the lean-to, laughing loud. They bladed out on the ice, spun, skated backwards. I kept to an empty corner, practicing a figure-eight, trying not to get bumped into.

A girl skated up to me. “Hey, c’mon over. Want to play Crack the Whip?”

I didn’t know what cracking a whip was in skating terms, but she seemed friendly enough. And since I was feeling supremely poised and self-assured, why not be bold and try something new?

“You’re the tail,” she called over her shoulder, heading for a line of skaters holding hands. The end skater grasped my hand and we moved in a snaky undulating line, slowly at first, then speeding up. Faster, faster. The Head skater was practically motionless, but me, the Tail, shot around the ice, breaking the sound barrier, hair whipping, fear frozen on my face like a death mask from the gathering momentum. Now I knew what cracking the whip meant: whiplash!

I let go. Arms flailing, legs akimbo, mouth gaped open in a soundless scream. I hit a snow bank full force, launched forward, and plowed down the backside on my face. Snow in my mouth, my hair. I was paralyzed, too shocked to cry. That sensation lasted only five seconds because in the next moment I was drenched in humiliation, mortified. I wanted to belly-crawl behind the snow bank, hunch behind the lean-to and lick my wounds until Dad came to scrape my remains off the parking lot.

No chance. Someone grasped my arms and lifted me to my feet. “Jeez, you OK?” he soothed in a luscious deep voice, placing a warm hand on either side of my face, tipping my head from side to side, dark eyes full of concern.

I was on the verge of tears, mucous coating my upper lip. I would not cry, wouldn’t pretend, act all girly because a knight in shining blades came to my rescue. I was red-hot smoking mad.

“You tricked me!” I raged at him, beat my hands against his chest. I turned on the others, furious. “You all tricked me into being the Tail. You knew I’d wipe out.”

“No!” He placed his hands on my shoulders and gave me a little shake. “Honest, we didn’t. We saw you doing figure-eights and thought you were a pro.”

I studied his face. He was serious. I felt like an idiot. “Oh,” I said, looking down, fishing in my pocket for a tissue. Snot on lip was all I could think.

“Skate with me?” he whispered in my ear. He boosted me back to the ice, took my hand, and we stepped out gliding. Together.

Any figure skaters out there? If you enjoyed this true personal story, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. The Best of the Best will win a free print copy of my YA novel For the Love of Strangers, with an autographed bookplate and personal note from yours truly. About the Author: Jackie is the author of 200+ stories and articles for children’s magazines, and 20 fiction and nonfiction books ranging from joke series and nature activities to YA fiction, most recently For the Love of Strangers (Leap Books 2010) and First Girl Last (KDP Publishing 2012). She lives in the upstate New York woods and writes in an office overlooking a herd of tame deer and a flock of scrawny wild turkeys.

Facebook: Jacqueline Horsfall
Twitter: @jackiehorsfall
Amazon URL:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012



As a loyal anti-American communioanarchitheist, I have celebrated Christmas the same way for the past twenty years or so: My family all gets together at my parents’ house, where we exchange gifts, eat cheese and crackers, and then disperse to play with our new toys. The only real change over the years was the excitement and waiting as presents became less important and the joy of family became more and more pronounced.

Oh, and I learned to not shoot myself in the face.

The exact year and date is lost to my admittedly terrible memory, but I distinctly remember the shape of the present: a tall, smashy robot toy. I remember it being a freaking giant of a toy, easily coming up to my young hips, and loaded with enough cool gizmos that I could play with it for hours. But one of the most potent gizmos attached to the robot was its Deathsphere launcher.

The Deathspheres were, by themselves, not that impressive: orange foam balls that were loaded into a tube on the back of the robot. But when you activated the launcher, the robot's left arm would whirr and groan, lurching to life. A buzzing sound would fill the air, announcing to my cats that a rain of slow-moving projectiles was about to slightly disturb their naps.

But despite the wonders of the Deathspheres, I found myself unable to simply enjoy the toy. I had to know HOW the Deathsphere launcher worked. And so, while it whirred and growled, I looked down the barrel. To my delight, I saw that the launcher had, a few inches behind the barrel, a whirring gear. Suddenly, my young mind was able to piece together the parts: The Deathspheres drop down the tube when you push the second button on the side, then touch the spinning gear...and vroom!

I had to see this in action!

I pushed the button.

Needless to say, the whole enterprise ended well: I got to wear an eyepatch while lying on my parent's big comfy bed in a darkened room for the rest of Christmas. My eye got better, Christmas became less and less materialistic every year, and the robot toy slowly fell apart. The last thing I remember is using the thing's left leg as a makeshift building in a Warhammer 40,000 wargame.

But even that leg is gone, and now I find myself thinking that it's odd...I barely remember any of my gifts. I don't remember the toys or the books or the video games. I do remember the immaterial things, the stuff that didn't cost a thing. And you know what that tells me about myself?

It says that I'm the Worst. American. Ever.

Leave a comment for a chnace to win a download of Debris Dreams. Happy Holidays!

About the Author: Heavily influenced by George Romero movies and bad, poorly dubbed anime, David Colby decided to start writing almost twelve years ago. It went poorly. But despite these early setbacks, David continued to work and write and send out submissions until someone was mad enough to accept him. Currently living in California, having just finished his Bachelor of Arts in English, David continues to be fascinated by George Romero movies and has finally realized that animes have subtitles.

Debris Dreams is David’s first published novel. After a terrorist attack, Spacer teen Drusilla Xao is drafted into a war fought in the cold of space, with no hope of relief or reinforcements. The only thing that keeps her sane is her correspondence with her earthbound girlfriend Sarah, and the dream of one day setting foot on Earth.

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Twitter: @therealzoombie

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