Friday, June 26, 2015

UtopYA 2015 Deets and Utopia 2016 Announcements

Happy Friday, everyone! Wow, I've been in a funk since returning from the con Sunday, and I haven't really had the ability to get on here and blog. But, no worries, it's all happening right now!

Before I get started, I have to announce that tickets for the 2016 con--forever more known as Utopia--are on sale NOW for VERY low prices! $80 is the basic one. This year, we'll also have fan tickets that will allow fans into the exhibitor halls to meet the authors. So many changes! Very exciting. Get your tickets or exhibitor space here.

When I set out for Nashville I was raring to go, promising myself I'd blog while I was at the con. That didn't happen. I, somehow, forgot how overwhelmingly busy the conference is. Minus five pounds by the time I got home should give you a good idea. Anyway, let me get to the details of awesome!

I left early Wednesday morning so I'd have the chance to see and talk to a couple of people I knew were already there before things went nuts. I had a lunch date with Regan Claire, and I was hoping to run into Carlyle Labuschagne, Katie John, and Carol and Adam Kunz. I got to see Carlyle and Katie, and low and behold, Ginny Gallagher showed up, too, but Carol and Adam were nowhere to be found. This is the lovely Katie:

Anyway, I squealed and hugged new friends and old ones, and barely had time to breathe. I did manage to get a couple of shots outside the hotel this year:

Regan, Ginny, my niece, and I, all went to Hattie B's for hot chicken and snagged some cupcakes from Gigi's. It was soooo crowded, but we had great food and a wonderful time. Pics!

As we were returning to the hotel, I find we're right behind Bella Roccaforte. I brought back cupcakes, and I handed them out in the HUGE line in the lobby of people waiting to check in. Surprise! It was the birthday of one of my fans (Terri Barber)! Need I say that she got the first pick?

Well, the Fractured Glass ladies (Kelly Risser, Casey L. Bond, Tia Silverthorne Bach, and N. L. Greene) arrived not a moment later. Once everyone got checked in and we hauled all our stuff up to our rooms, I asked the dreaded question: Should we wait an hour to load in to the exhibitor space, or should we eat first? They were starving, so the answer was:

"GIVE US FOOD! NOW!"

Rachael Brownell, Ginny Gallagher, a fellow IBGW editor named Karen Robinson, and Lindsay Lewis came along, and we ate amazing food and had a drink or two at Margaritaville. Pictures? Okay then:

Because we didn't get everything out of the car and into the room until almost six, and because the hotel shuttle was slow, we didn't get back until tenish. Setting up/load in time was up at eleven.

Well, the dynamite five had a book to plan, and I didn't want to be up all hours, so we decided to meet in the room I was sharing with Tia so we could get to business and just set up the next morning.

You guys are going to DIE over the book idea. If it's half as good as we see it in our heads, well... Anyway...

Up suuuuper early the next day (Thursday), I went in search of a cup of coffee to wake me up and a trolly to carry all our junk to the exhibitor room after my shower while Tia was in the bathroom doing the same. I scored one. Whew! We had a bunch of boxes and stuff, and it was all soooo heavy.

After six, we were in the space putting our stuff up (this took about an hour). Then it was off to a very speedy breakfast and on to the keynote speech for the day given by Denise Grover Swank. As she talked about the losses in her life and how they'd brought her to where she is today, I cried. It was so moving. We got out right before the exhibitor hall opened, so I boogied back downstairs (elevators took a LONG time). Here's a shot of Crystal Bryant, me, and Janet Wallace, as well as Denise and the IBGW booth:
 
 

We gave away allll those books you see on the center of the table in the first shot, and I snagged a copy of Lex Talionis by S. A. Huchton (read it already, review to come).

I attended two talks that day: When Marketing Globally, How to Act Locally by Stormy Smith and Slaying the Demons (Dealing with PTSD as a Writer) by Chelsea Starling (this second talk ran wayyyy over, and I didn't get out until right before lunch). See our pic!

Lunch was crammed down between talking with people and chewing. Then, it was back to the exhibitor hall.

I moderated a panel that day about being a book blogger/tuber. We gave away a book, and everyone who attended said they loved it so much. I was sweating, so it thrilled me to hear that bit of info. On the panel were (from left) the lovely Maria Pease, Chris Canon, and Tammy Blackwell. It was fun! Here's a pic Christina Marie took from the audience:

Then it was back to the exhibitor hall until four. Everyone didn't clear out until almost five, but we managed to escape eventually. I headed back to my room to freshen up and change clothes for the keynote speaker dinner at seven.

As always, I was a little early (6:30ish), and I ran into one of the women I'd been dying to meet but hadn't gotten the chance: Regina Wamba. She's an amazing photographer, and she does cover shoots for many of the attending authors as well as headshots and promo pics. I finally got to drink some water, which was amazing, by the way, and ten minutes later Denise Grover Swank came in. I spoke with her for a little bit, and then Liz Long, Janet Wallace, Kim Holden, Lindsey Miller (the backbone of the con), the winners of the dinner (Myra Lang and Meg Farrell) showed up along with Lauren Miller. This is Lauren:

We were shown to our tables. Oh man, I got to sit with her! Denise was at another table, and Kim was at yet another table.

You guys, Lauren is SO down to Earth. She's such a real person. And, we got to eat amazing food! Yes, I took photos:

Jamie Anderson (also one of the vertebre of the con), showed up, and he and I talked about his upcoming release (news to come later). I saw a photo of this somewhere. I can't find it now. Gah! 

Anyway, after the dinner (which ended around nine), I headed downstairs to find Tia. After stopping in the lobby and chatting with folks milling about, I located her and we headed to bed. Earlier than most, but later than I would've liked (like I said, I love my sleep). I tossed and turned all night, and woke up early the next day (around fiveish). Fun! No, not really. I'm crabby when I can't sleep.

So, it was off to the races once again. After locating coffee and having breakfast, we headed upstairs to listen to Lauren give her keynote speech. Wow did it resonate. I'm so elated to have gotten to meet her. I skipped the shaking of hands and rushed down the stairs (see previous note about the elevators) to get back to the exhibitor hall.

There I was all day until lunch (which I again inhaled between conversations) and my panel right afterward. This one I was sitting on, and it was moderated by Rick and Amy Miles. It was a good debate there for a minute, because it was called: How to Make Your Blog Tours Run Like Clockwork. You all know me.

Moving on.

After that, I hoofed it back to the table because we had to start breaking down soon. An hour later saw us unloading in the room, separating stuff so we could set up the next morning, and getting ready for the Afterlight ARV-3 short film premiere that night. I have a bunch of pictures and videos that I'll be sharing Monday. For a little teaser, here's the author and the crew:

Man, I do loooove me some zombies.

Once the film was done, we headed back downstairs to get food. We were dead on our feet. I inhaled dinner once it made it to the table (slowwwwwwww) and we skipped karaoke in favor of our beds. It was late, and with two women and two teens in our room needing to get changed/ready for bed, we finally crawled into bed around eleven.

Up again at five on Saturday, we had to shower, eat, set up for the day (again), and be upstairs for the last keynote speech by eight-thirty. I had a bit of a rough start that day because I was so tired, but I got through it and pushed on. All day was spent at my table, with an hour for lunch where I sat and talked with S. M. Boyce. Here's my table, and B. Kristin McMichaels's beautiful little girl!

Once again, breaking down and stuff happened around four thirty (people were difficult to clear from the signing hall), then it was back to the room to get ready for the awards and the cocktail hour that began at six. Dinner was pizza, courtesy of Casey L. Bond, that she had sent to the room. It was crazy. CRAZY with seven females getting changed, doing makeup and hair, and trying to eat. I got one piece of pizza.

Then, downstairs for the awards where we had a lip sync battle, and Casey L. Bond won an award for Sin for best serial series! Pics!

Once the main event was done, I cleaned all the crap off my face, changed into jeans and a tank top, and went to the after party. I danced with B. J. Sheldon and all the other ladies, but we only stayed about an hour. Again, I was so tired!

I can list the drinks I had over the four days on one hand. Okay, so I'm lame, but water was always, ALWAYS needed, and I don't like to have cocktails when I'm dying of thirst. *grin*

Up again super early on Sunday to head to the closing ceremonies and pack everything up so we could check out of the room and head to the Parthenon.

Big announcements happened that morning, and Janet Wallace revealed the theme for year five: Revolution! She also announced that utopYA will be changed to utopia and will expand to include middle grade and adult paranormal and contemporary. Wowzers!

It was my nieces first (and maybe only) visit to Nashville, and I wanted her to see all the things. Besides, I wanted that extra hour with Tia, who I only get to see once a year. Here are some photos!


After that, I dropped Tia and Jackie back at the hotel and started the drive home. It wasn't too bad (just about three or four hours), but I was exhausted and traffic sucked because TDOT decided to put some cones in the road. Yeah, no construction, just cones.

Finally, I made it home! Today was the first day I've felt anywhere close to being a human, so it is what it is. I've been busy today rounding up the bloggers for next year, so expect me to be back to my regularly scheduled program on Monday.

Still on the fence about doing written author interviews for 2016, but we'll see.

Did you enjoy them last year?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

6 comments:

  1. Yay, good post. Maybe next year I'll get to meet you and say hi! Got my ticket already.

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    1. YAY!!! Just look for the hat ;) LOL! Seriously, you can't miss me. Problem is catching me long enough for a squeeeeeze :)

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  2. I loved every second of hanging out with you this year! Much <3!

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  3. Aww, what a nice post! I loved Parallel by Lauren Miller, so that's so cool you got to meet here. I enjoy Denise Grover Swank's books too. That's great you got a brainstorming session in too =)

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    1. Thank you, Heather! I adored having dinner with those awesome women. :)

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