A Few Words About the Awesomeness of #TBTBSanta

Okay, so some of you are probably like "TBTBWhaaaaat?"

The #TBTBSanta. That's the hashtag for the Secret Santa hosted by The Broke and the Bookish every year. I'm participating this year (YAY!), and I wanted to talk about it a bit. If you want more info on what this is, click here!

This is my second year participating in the Secret Santa--my first year of participation was 2012, then I skipped last year (I think I completely missed sign-ups), and then this year I made it in by the grace of sweet baby goodness. (Seriously, I cut it close. Luckily Jamie was wonderfully amazing about it.) I am SUPER into this exchange this year. Like, honestly happy all the time about it to the point that I may cry because I'm that kind of person. 

So I wanted to explain WHY I'm so weep-happy and excited. Well, other than the fact that the whole thing is pretty darn fun.

The reason WHY ties back to my first TBTB Secret Santa experience, which was my only one before this year. But still. It was my first.

I've always adored Christmas. Not because of gifts (though don't get me wrong, I find great joy in getting and opening gifts, same as I do giving other people gifts and then they get all happy and it's so freaking great!), but because this whole season is magnificent to me. 

Winter is my favorite season. I love this time of year and I love snow and I get all kinds of excited. It gets darker earlier, and I enjoy that, too. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm a girl who lives in Texas and has no idea of what a REAL winter is like. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, the place that has been going crazy with snow this week. I know what heavy snow is like. I know how cold it gets, and how not fun it is to have to go outside in that and deal with it. But it doesn't make me love this season any less.

When November comes around, I start getting excited, but I try to keep it subdued. I have nothing against people who want to start celebrating and decorating the Christmas season before Thanksgiving. I understand the desire to stretch that jolly time out as much as you can. But for me and my family, we get into Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving. Put our tree up and get right into it. 

And then in December, we are ALL OVER it. Christmas movies and specials, cookies, decorations...ohmygosh, my mom makes the inside of our house into the most fantastic place. I remember coming home from school to see the place get more and more decorated each day and it was magical. And me...I'm in the very best mood pretty much the whole time. Well. We all get into low moods sometimes. But I get hyper excited more often this time of year than any other time. December is my favorite month.

So the point to all the Christmas ramble--I love the holiday and the season and this time of year as a whole. Signing up to do Secret Santa was icing on the cake of awesome that first year. Oh, and it was my first year of blogging, too, so that was like double the awesome.

On my end, I was looking forward to getting my match a gift. I checked out her Twitter and Goodreads, thought through what I thought she'd like. I did end up getting her something I thought she'd like--Jennifer L. Armentrout and Pepe Toth were in Houston for the Opal release party that year, so I got a copy of Opal signed by both of them. Then I gathered some bookish fun stuff--swag and whatnot. And I made her a card. And sent it all over to my match.

There was thought put into the gift. I was honestly excited about it as I put it together and made the card and tied it all up for my brother to take to the PO for me (bless his soul). But there wasn't much PLOTTING to it, if that makes any sense. I didn't go through things with giggles thinking Will she think this is the coolest thing since sliced bread? or anything else. Because it was my first year doing the exchange and it was my first year blogging and I was still getting a feel for everything. I didn't even really MEET any bookish/blogger friends until that Opal release party. So it was a big deal to me.

(Reading over that paragraph, I feel like it implies I didn't try much. I DID. But it wasn't as much of a to do then, if that makes sense.)

But then there was the gift I was given. Guys. It was amazing. I think I'm going to tear up writing this part because it blew my mind how...AMAZING it was.

The gift was sent in a Christmas-decorated box. Red and green striped, all pretty and festive. We opened that right away, because no way could I NOT. Inside, there was a tote bag. It's a bag I still use today at book events and for school and nearly everything I need a bag for. If you've ever met me/if you ever meet me in person, you'll probably recognize this:


Inside that tote bag was a card. A nice little note from my Secret Santa, wishing me a great holiday and telling me who she was. Underneath the card were two wrapped gifts--books that my mom took away immediately, saying I had to wait until Christmas to open them since they were in wrapping paper. (They ended up being Starcrossed and Sweet Evil, by the way.) And then there was the cutest bookmark, a cute little worm squirming its way out of a book, and there was a tassel on top--I LOVE tassels, so that was great. 

I was over the moon with that stuff. TWO books! A note! A bag! A bookmark for Tiger's Curse, which I planned to read soon! 

But that wasn't all that was in the gift. I thought it was for a bit, but then my brother was messing with my bag (typical.) and felt something in the inside zipper pocket. So we opened it and pulled out what was inside.

There was a receipt for the books--which I did NOT look at, and my mom snatched that up the moment she heard it was there, too. There was also another little note, again wishing me well. 

And there were these two ornaments, made specifically for ME.

(Just a Booklover is the name of my old blog)

After opening these, I swear I smiled for the rest of the night. They were the sweetest, most thoughtful things and I'd never imagined anything so...intricate and amazing when I signed up for the Secret Santa exchange. I'd predicted a book and a note or card, and that was it--which likely explains why my gift was so lackluster in comparison.

But these ornaments? My favorite gifts EVER. We put them on the tree right away, of course. And I keep them on my bulletin board of bookish awesome year-round when the Christmas tree is down. These babies don't go in the box with the others. 

That first year was more than I'd ever anticipated. It's such a great memory for me, and that feeling. That feeling I got when I opened my gifts, and when I found those ornaments? That is the very best thing to me--especially during this time of year. I am so grateful to my Secret Santa for giving me that feeling and being so wonderful. It's something I will never ever forget, and it's also something that I keep in mind now.

That first year, I could have done better. I honestly tried, but I don't feel like I tried hard enough.

But this year? I am PLOTTING and PLANNING and it is fantastic. I went to B&N today to check some stuff out about what I hope to get my match. I already have one book and a few other things I think she'll like set aside for the package. I'm putting forth so much effort this year--because I want so badly to give my match that feeling. That happy, excited feeling I got when I opened my gifts my first year of Secret Santa. 

I kind of doubt whether I have the ability to give that feeling--I'll darn well try my darnedest. But even if my match gets a little taste of that happiness, then I'll be a happy camper. 

And checking out the #TBTBSanta hashtag, I get the feeling that there will be a lot of people experiencing that feeling. Because I'm seeing people be so, so generous. And helpful. And all kinds of fantastic things that I could list, but now I'm feeling teary so I'll stop listing. It's magical to me how kind this whole community is. How some people are giving SEVERAL books because they think their match would adore that series. Or how some people are making grabby hands all over the place for things they feel their match would like to have. And how everyone is so helpful when anyone has a question about whether they should send using a flat rate box? 

I guess the whole point of this post--this long, long post--is to say thank you. To Jamie, for being the miracle worker behind the whole event. And to everyone participating for being generous, kind, and putting forth the most heartwarming efforts to make this experience the best it can be in all ways possible. 

I'm gonna go happy-cry now, because I think my heart's about to burst.


Swoon Thursday (163): Work in Progress

It's that time again! We created a HOT meme, and if you're new to the game, here's how to join in the fun:

From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering.

Shout it out on Twitter with the hashtag #YABound, post it here in the comments, or grab the steamy button above and share it on your blog. We want to know!

Hey, y'all! Ashley here.  I am SO excited to share this week's post!  You may be wondering why the title for this week's Swoon Thursday is "Work in Progress" ... well, that's because we are sharing swoons from OUR works in progress!!!  And they are SO... *sigh* ...yummy.


Happy Thursday, y'all!

ASHLEY:  My work in progress is currently titled FINDING BECCA:

     She doesn’t say anything out loud, but she looks straight into my eyes, and nods slowly. I tilt my face towards hers until our foreheads are leaning against one another. “Then I always want to be here.”

     I want to kiss her so bad I can taste it. But after everything she’s been through, I need that to be her decision. Just because she wants me to be here for her, doesn’t mean she’s ready for anything more than that. I close my eyes, and we lay like that for a minute or two. Just when I’m about to pull away and ask what she wants me to get her to eat, she tentatively brushes her lips against mine, as if
she’s asking me if I want to kiss her. I don’t even hesitate to respond to that question. I want her to know exactly how I feel about her.

TRISHA:  Trisha's swoon is from her work in progress FADING OUT, Living Heartwood #3 :

            I’m a starving, doomed man, just needing a taste. I release her hand to brush a loose strand from her shoulder. My fingers gently glide across her skin, taking in the satiny warmth, and I feel her shiver against me. It stirs a deep sigh from my chest.
            Her now free hand wraps around my shoulders to meet her other. Her hands lock together behind my neck, and I’m aware that this is difficult, because of the height difference. But I’m not complaining one fucking bit. It forces her body all the closer because of it. Her breasts press up against my chest, her stomach aligns with my waist, her thighs flush to mine.
            We’re barely moving now. Swaying just slightly. I’m tempted to pull her farther into that dark corner.

KELLY: Kelly's swoon is from her work in progress AFTER LOVING YOU, an NA written as Ashelyn Drake:

Jared’s hands weave through my hair, no longer holding me in place since I’m showing no signs of pulling away. No, I’m doing the opposite. I’m tugging his shirt, bringing him closer to me. His mouth trails down my jaw and to my neck, burying itself in the spot that makes me moan every time.

“God, I missed hearing you do that,” Jared says. 

KELSEY: Kelsey's got TWO swoons to share from her current works in progress:

From NAME OF RA Descendents of Isis #3:

Seth’s back hit the hardwood floor, and he let out a harsh “oof” before laughing himself. The sound hypnotized Natti, silencing her giggles and focusing her senses only on him and the dizzying spell that spiraled in her veins. She felt her legs wrapped around his hips; his excitement still pressed against her thigh. His eyes engulfed her vision, drowning her thoughts in their turquoise pools. Her body was frozen with the chill of her blessing; her hands laid even closer to his heart than before. The temptation to slip inside plagued her heart while its pulse pounded in her throat. Every molecule in her body wanted to blend with him. Be with him.
"I love you," she whispered in her trance. 

His body moves and stiffens, his body weight crushing down on my bones as he shifts. Then he slips inside. I gasp out a small cry. My hands cling to his skin for dear life. Then once he starts rocking his body into mine, the discomfort eases and I release my hold. I match his pace, thrusting him deeper inside me. The pressure feels so good, and I moan, extending my head back. Cole slips his hot hand down my arched back, cups my ass, and pushes me into him even harder. My jaw drops open and I close my eyes. Each breath get caught in the back of my throat, emerging as intense, animal-like groans.

Delicious Repeats:

JESSICA:  Swooning over STONE COLD TOUCH by Jennifer L. Armentrout:
(Jess note: This is a long one, but I couldn't help myself. Zayne + cuddles = swoonage I can't ignore.)

Zayne stared back at me, momentarily obscured by a length of blond hair. I held my breath as he eased down on his side and tugged the covers up to his waist. My gaze dipped. He was wearing a gray cotton shirt and it stretched taught over his shoulders as he reached over and under the comforter, finding me in the bundle of blankets. With his arm around my waist, he snagged me back against his chest. Every muscle in my body tensed as he settled in behind me, curving his body around mine with a natural ease that scattered my senses. There was virtually nothing between us but our thin sleep clothes, which were no shield from the hear he radiated. 
And that warmth...oh. It seeped into my muscles, easing out the knots and all the sore spots. Within seconds, the rigidness flowed out of my spine and my cheek returned to the pillow. The bed turned into a cloud and I felt like I was in one of those cheesy mattress commercials Stacey and Sam always made fun of, but Zayne had the power to change an ordinary mattress into something wonderful. I closed my eyes, letting my body sink down. In the moments that followed, I wasn't thinking about anything and that was great. 
He lifted his hand from my waist long enough to brush strands of my hair out of his face and then I felt his warm breath against the back of my neck. A series of shivers danced over my skin. A different kind of tightness formed in my lower stomach as I focused on breathing normally and not like I'd just attempted to run up and down bleachers.

HEATHER:  Swooning over LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins:

I kiss him like I've never kissed anyone before.
He doesn't move. His lips aren't moving.
My head jerks back in alarm. I've acted rashly, I've pushed him too quickly---
He collapses to his knees and yanks me back to his lips. 
His kiss isn't even remotely innocent. There's passion, but there's also an urgency verging on panic. He pulls me close, as close as my dress and chair will allow, and he's gripping me so tightly that I feel his fingers press through the back of my stays.

NEREYDA:  Swooning (TWICE!) over THE HOOKUP by Kristen Callahan:
"I want to kiss you, Anna."
My breath hitches.  I'm all the way under the covers now, in a dark heated world.  And there's nothing but his voice.  "I think about it all the time.  How soft your lips will be?  What will they taste like?  Will you make those sweet little noises like you do when we make love?"


“Why won’t you let me kiss you, Anna?”
I can’t breathe.
“Why, Anna?”
“It’s too much,” I rasp.
“Not when I want everything.” He says it so deep and strong, a staking of a claim. “And I want everything with you, Anna.”

SO NOW IT'S YOUR TURN! On your blog (and be sure to leave us a link), and/or on Twitter... SWOON us!

And PS! Make sure to tweet with the #YABound hashtag so we can RT you!


Blog Tour: Gideon Lee by Lisa Orchard - Excerpt & Giveaway!

Gideon Lee
Release Date: 10/21/14

Summary from Goodreads:
Lark Singer’s relationship with her mother is prickly to say the least. As she enters a musical competition that could launch her career, Lark also searches for answers her mother would rather keep hidden. Throw into the mix the fact her best friend Bean has been acting strangely, and Lark finds herself launched into uncharted territory. Will her quest for answers sabotage her musical aspirations?

Buy Links: (only $.99)
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Excerpt #1:
Just as I snag my books, the boy with the curls stumbles, then collapses on the floor. Mr. Montgomery moves fast and is at his side in seconds. I watch all of this like it’s a silent movie. I can’t understand the voices and everything is moving in slow motion.
Mr. Montgomery yells at another student to buzz the office. The boy does this and our teacher shouts from his
kneeled position. “Get an ambulance here, ASAP!” He slaps the boy’s face gently, trying to revive him.
“Tweaker couldn’t manage his habit,” another student says, shaking his head and stepping over the boy on the way to the door.
Tweaker? What the heck is he talking about?
Mr. Montgomery seems to have heard him too, because he lifts the boy to his feet and attempts to get him moving. Another student steps in to help, and together they escort the boy around the room.
The boy wakes up enough to hurl all over Mr. Montgomery’s shirt and skinny tie. His head lolls to the side with his mouth hanging open. That’s my cue to leave. I can’t stand the smell of vomit. It makes me feel like puking. Go figure.
I hustle down the hall and head to my locker. After putting my books away, I make my way to the cafeteria. Picking up my pace, I search for Bean. He’s not in the stream of students heading toward the lunchroom, and I hope he’s already there, saving me a place in line.
When I enter the cafeteria, there are freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors milling about and my ears hurt from the buzz of a thousand different conversations. A random sample. The words float involuntarily through my brain and the image of my math teacher, Mr. Sweeney, comes to mind. We’re studying statistics and probability right now. It’s not my favorite subject.
Disappointed when I don’t see Bean anywhere, I rush forward and step into line, right before a chubby kid who’s in my science class. I give him a quick smile and turn my back on him to discourage conversation. He’s another one of those musically challenged individuals, and those people don’t get me. I’m an enigma as far as they’re concerned. Sniffing the air, I’m hoping for a whiff of what’s on the menu. I’m hoping it’s pizza, but I can’t tell. I can’t distinguish between the mixture of fried meat, the sickly sweet perfume that clings to many of the girls as they pass by, and the musky body spray some of the athletes s wear to cover a more ominous scent.
Scanning the cafeteria, I continue my search for Bean and finally spot him, his face floating above the crowd. He
sees me just as I see him and he gives me a slow smile and waves. I wave back and enjoy how my heartbeat quickens as a warm tingle starts in my belly and spreads throughout my body until I’m overwhelmed with its warmth. It’s like this every time I see him.
I motion for him to step in line with me. He moves forward with that gangly walk he has. Bean is all legs and arms. Everything about him is tall and thin. Even his hair is skinny, clinging to his scalp as if it were holding on for dear life. He keeps it short just because it’s so thin. Otherwise, he’d have long hair just like the boy in my history class.
Brushing a stray lock out of his eyes, Bean gives me a slow, lazy smile. “What’s on the menu, Chickie?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I’m hoping for pizza.”
“Ahhh… Italiano.” He winks at me as he twirls an imaginary mustache and draws out the word Itaaaaalllliiiiaaano with a thick accent.
“We can only hope.” I give him a quick grin and he cuts in line ahead of me.
His jeans hang on his frame as if his legs go straight into his back, as if he doesn’t have an ass. I smile when I see the drumsticks wedged in his pocket.
Good old Bobby Bean… never without his sticks. He turns and flicks his blond hair out of his pale blue eyes again. There is a distance, a far-awayness in them that never seems to go away even when he’s focusing on you, as if he isn’t always entirely there.
He has been my best friend since third grade, ever since I broke Dwayne McIntyre’s nose during recess. His real name is Robert, but everyone calls him Bean because he’s so thin. Sometimes, when I’m feeling playful I’ll call him Bobby Bean. He hates that. He says it sounds babyish, but I don’t care. I like it.
“Hey,” I say, poking him in the back.
“Hey what?” he asks, turning around.
“A dude passed out in history class.”
“Really? Wow. That blows,” Bean says as he steps back and allows another student to pass through the line.
“Yeah. And then he did an epic hurl all over Montgomery.”
Bean snickers. “So how did the Old Historian handle that one?”
We share a conspiratorial laugh at the expense of Mr. Montgomery. Then I say, “The dude even got his skinny tie.”
Bean laughs aloud at this. One of his full belly laughs, which is hard to do since he doesn’t have a big belly. It gets the attention of several students standing around us. Bean smirks at them, turns toward me, and winks.
I smile and then grow quiet as I think back to last year when Bean dubbed Mr. Montgomery the Old Historian. We had been standing in the lunch line, much like we are today. He had been complaining about all the homework Mr. Montgomery had assigned.
“Dude gives us way too much homework,” Bean had said, shaking his head and frowning.
“Most teachers do,” I had responded with a sigh.

“What’s so great about history anyway? Everyone is dead. You can’t go back and change anything.” Bean had moved forward in line. When he caught up to the student in front of him, he turned and said, “That Old Historian needs to get a life, something to jazz up his mothball existence. I mean really. Skinny ties? Who wears those anymore?”

About the Author
I am the oldest of four children and grew up in a small town in Western Michigan. I grew up reading mysteries, starting with "The Bobbsey Twins" and "The Nancy Drew" series.
By fifth grade I was writing my own mysteries and illustrating them as well. I've always known that I wanted to be a writer and I tucked that little piece of information into the back of my brain; determined to take it out and use it when it was time.
After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree, I landed a sales job. I was on my way! After spending 13 years in the Insurance industry, I met my husband. We soon married and had two beautiful boys. I decided to stay home with my kids. A tough decision, but one I don't regret.
I did, however, miss the hustle and bustle of work - and working toward a goal. That is when the little voice inside my brain said, "It's time to write."
So I did, and "The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer" was born, followed by my new book, "The Super Spies and the High School Bomber."
I am very excited as I begin this new "chapter" in my life.

Author Links:
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