My UtopYA Con 2014 trip to Nashville started with my arriving at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel on Monday to get my pre-orders and swag organized and to get in a little writing before everyone else arrived.
But the hotel’s legends of ghostly visits got the best of me, and I spent the first night with the light on, even though I don’t really believe in ghosts (I don’t think).
On Wednesday afternoon, I met up with Susan Burdorf, Janet Wallace, and Lindsey Miller as they were unloading boxes and carrying them up to the second floor. It was nice to have them to myself for a few minutes (the ladies, not the boxes).
Susan and I created our own write-in at the hotel lobby that day, and I knocked out 1000 words of The Gatekeeper’s Promise and figured out a major plot point!
That evening, Susan kidnapped me, Chelsea Starling, and Christina Mercer. We had no idea where we were headed, but when we ended up at the Loveless Cafe for the historic final broadcasting of Music City Roots in that venue, we couldn’t squee loudly enough! “Pour me another tequila, one for each hand!” Shawn Camp and Friends sang.
On Thursday, I finally got to meet one of my street team Divas, Lisa Graziano (pictured below on my left). She, Krystal Wade, Amy Evans, and Morgan (of Morgan and Fallon’s Book Blog: Seeing Double in Neverland) joined me for lunch at Praline’s, and then we went on a mani-pedi adventure! Although I didn’t end up getting my nails done, I enjoyed getting to know these ladies.
Thursday evening, I got to meet another of my street team Divas, Shellie Hedge (on my right). She became my roomie and my personal assistant for the rest of the week. I don’t know how I could have made it without her! That very first day she arrived, she helped me haul my swag to the Opry Mills Mall for a book event with Bailey Ardisone, Rebecca Ethington, and Felicia Tatum, where we introduced the natives to our swaggy ways. Afterward, Shellie and I ate at the Rainforest Cafe past a beautiful aquarium and next to some wild omnitronic gorillas!
On Friday morning, Sylvia Day motivated us with her keynote, “What I Wish I’d Known Then,” and then I was off to a presentation of my own as one of the panelists in “What A Difference a Year Makes.” I shared the spotlight with Carol Kunz, Sarah Ashley Jones, Starla Huchton, and Teal Haviland (our moderator).
Shellie helped me haul my pre-orders and swag down to the lobby Friday afternoon for the Friday Night Fan Invasion. At first I was disappointed when I discovered that my table would be at the end of a long hallway where I thought few people would come to visit me, but then I learned that Sylvia Day would be sitting at the table next to mine, and I perked up quick. As the fans lined up to get her signature, I passed out my bookmarks to them and invited them to enter my raffle.
I also enjoyed meeting my table mate, Melissa Pearl, who, though originally from New Zealand, had come from China to the con. Across from us, Misty Provencher tossed caramels to her fans (and gave me a lovely bookcharm necklace!). Other fabulous people that came to my table were Tina Donnelly and her sisters Cassie and Terri Barber, Barbara Gordon and her brother Patrick, Stacey Nixon, Justine Vandale, Kendall McCubbin, Ericka Pasco, Shellene Clare, and Kelly Risser.
I headed over to Maxwell’s for karaoke night once the Fan Invasion had come to an end! After accidentally calling Chanda Hahn “Alison” (I must have been missing my good friend, Alison Pensy!), I managed to pull a bunch of others up on stage with me to sing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Among them were Kika MacFarlane, Becca Huerta, Casey Bond, Brenda Hiatt Barber, and Caroline Johnson Pinard. I was especially proud of Natasha Hanova, who seemed to get over her stage fright rather quickly!
Saturday morning, we were graced by the wonderful Gennifer Albin, whose keynote, “Scribbling Women: Empowering Modern Female Writers and Their Readers,” had me both laughing and crying. Then I was off to my second panel, “Amazon Marketing 101,” where I had the pleasure of presenting with Quinn Loftis (our moderator), Brina Courtney, and Bella Roccaforte.
The Saturday evening awards ceremony and dance were out of this world (pun intended)! What fun to watch Adam Kunz accept so many awards on behalf of Jennifer Armentrout, entertaining us with his stand-up comedy. The laughter turned to tears when his mother and co-author, Carol Kunz, aka Amanda Jason, won best debut novel of the year. Her emotional speech of gratitude left me a mess. The other winners were equally moving, especially Quinn Loftis (who cried as she said she wasn’t going to), Inger Iverson (who won best book trailer), Toni Lesatz (who won a couple of awards for her blog), and Amy Bartol and her mother/editor, whose speech pulled at my heartstrings!
And, of course, I had to bring out the tarot of the Mythic Oracle that night! I read for quite a few people, including Susan Burdorf, Tina Donnelly and her sister Cassie, Inger Iverson, Crystal Bryant, Sarah Ashley Jones, and Candace Selph.
The conference ended with one final adventure and the first ever “Eva Pohler’s Party at the Parthenon.” About twelve of us– Megan Bagley, Amanda Daws, Author Tyffani Clark, Kelly A Risser, Justine Vandale, Sandy Bowman, Barbara Gordon, Patrick Gordon, Destiny Love, Sharon Rose Mayes, Sharon Stephens Minzer, Marla Hancock Wenger, and me–dined at Montana Grill (where I had a bison burger–yum!) and then took a tour of the Parthenon, where we saw the amazing forty-foot statue of Athena in an exact replica of her temple in Athens. The smaller statue she is holding is over six feet tall!
What an amazing weekend! There are so many others I didn’t even mention–like Jo Michaels, Collen Blackstone, Brenda Mcleod, Lily Straight, Carlyle Labushagne, Julie Jewels Bromley, Rachel Harris, Cathy Redhotness Jackson, Nely Cab, Alivia Anders, Allyson Gottlieb, Nanette Bradford, Megan Allen Curd, and the list goes on!
I love all of you and can’t wait til next year!