Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











UtopYA 2015 starts 4 days… 4 days folks!  And that meas it’s time to get ready for real–no more lists in our heads of what we want to bring, who we want to see, and what we want to do–we’ve got to pull out the suitcases, pack ’em up, and make sure we have everything we need.  It can be a daunting and scary process leading up to the con, from packing, to traveling and getting to the hotel, to meet and greets, and toting your books around and getting to the right places, but I’ve got some tips and advice for you.

UtopYAThursday, June 18, 2015 at 7:00 AM – Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 10:00 AM (CDT)

Nashville, TN

Get your last minute tickets here, if you still need one!!!

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Packing:

Wrapped BooksSo, you’ve purchased your ticket to the con, but still need to pack, right?

Pack light.  You’re only at the conference for four days, and you don’t need to change your outfit multiple times a day.  TRUST ME.  You may feel like you’ll need extra clothes just in case, but you truly don’t.  PACK LIGHT. The more room in your suitcase when you arrive, the better off you’ll be when you leave with ALL YOUR BOOKS!!  Plus, I hardly packed anything to wear last year, and I still didn’t wear it all.

What you need:

  • 1-2 pairs of comfortable pants (or dresses)
  • 2 comfortable tops—you’ll probably want to buy the t-shirt at UtopYA, so count that as a third
  • 1 pair of comfy sandals (shoes if you want)
  • 1 “formal” outfit for the awards ceremony with shoes and accessories to match (think PROM) and 1 costume for karaoke.
  • Pajamas (we’re talking pajama parties, here)
  • Undergarments (socks optional)
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail file, perfume, hairbrush, women stuffs, straighteners, etc.—they have hairdryers in the rooms)
  • ANY BOOKS YOU ALREADY HAVE THAT YOU WANT SIGNED and a rolling carryon
  • Saran Wrap and Bubble wrap (you will want to double wrap your books in stacks for the travel home so they don’t flop all over the suitcase and end up damaged)   ====> Newspaper is NOT a good idea, though, as it leaves black ink on things and is too thin.
  • Cash for books—some authors take credit cards via PayPal, but it’s just easier with cash on hand.  There are ATMs in the hotel, though, if you run out.
  • Name Badge that shows off your icon.  People don’t know my face or necessarily my full name, but they DO know my blog, so last year I made my own badge to stick over the white badge UtopYA gives out, and it worked like a charm.  Bring business cards to hand out as well, if you have them.

NameBadge

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Getting There:

If you can drive to Nashville without getting car sick (like I do), then do it!  But, if you’re like me, or if it’s just too far by car, then fly.  If you’re taking SOUTHWEST, then you’re already ahead of the game–Southwest is the only carrier I’ve found that doesn’t charge for luggage.  This is a book conference, so that means you’ll have LOTS of books to take home.  You could mail them, technically, and spend a lot of dollars doing it, OR, you could fly Southwest, which allows you TWO FREE CHECKED BAGS UP TO 50 POUNDS EACH!  Yeah. <== This.

carryonI flew Southwest last year based on their stellar service and the free checked luggage.  Remember, you don’t need a suitcase filled with clothes.  But you DO need lots of space for your books.  I checked two bags for the conference last year, and one was completely empty on my way down to Nashville.  Hey, it’s free, right?  And it saved me a ton of cash when I left the conference because I checked all my books… my combined weight with books, swag, and clothes was about 76 pounds between the two bags (not counting my 30 pound carryon).  And about 50 pounds of that 76 was book weight.  Imagine the price tag on mailing home 50 pounds of books?

BUT–maybe you’re not flying Southwest and there’s a fee to check your bags… find out how much that fee is for a certain weight… sometimes it’s just $25 extra for 50 pounds… still cheaper and faster than mailing them.  Check around and see your option.

ALSO–make sure you bring a carry-on, and that it has wheels.  Put as many books as you can IN IT for the trip down to Nashville, because if you’re packing light for the con, and your checked luggage is sparse, as it should be, you want to keep your precious books safe from flopping around as the luggage gets thrown around.  Plus, you will want it for the conference to transport all your books and swag (and, it’s gentler on your body). I wheeled my carryon all over the conference this year, and it was a real life saver. Even though my room was just upstairs, and totes are everywhere and they’re fun to use, carrying books around is heavy, and it hurts your back. So bring a rolling carryon.  Trust me.

And if you have the chance, do what I do when flying home: if they’re asking people to standby and take another flight because your flight is full, DO IT–if they’re offering vouchers!  In 2013, Southwest asked me to take the next flight out, which was just four hours later than my original, and they GAVE ME A VOUCHER FOR DOUBLE WHAT I PAID FOR MY ROUNDTRIP TICKETS.  That means my flight for the 2014 convention to Nashville was completely free!

In other words, make sure you don’t schedule any pressing engagements for June 22, 2015, and take the voucher on any flight if they’re offering, and it’ll add up to some awesome free flights.  I took my voucher from 2013 and paid for BOTH my trip to Nashville AND my vacation to Florida.  For real.  Take the voucher if the opportunity arises.

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Shuttle:

So you’ve arrived at the airport and you don’t have any friends coming to pick you up and take you to the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.  NO WORRIES.  The hotel does offer a FREE shuttle service roundtrip to the airport, even if the concierge tells you they don’t… however, for the sake of time, you may want to go ahead and just book a shuttle service instead, which is what I did my first year attending in 2013.

While FREE is nice, I did spend over an hour waiting for the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel Shuttle to pick me up from the airport (only seats 10), and I spent a good 45 minutes waiting for it to take me back to the airport at the end of the conference. So plan accordingly and make sure you head out for the shuttle early, especially if you are under any time constraints.

May I suggest InShuttle… a very prompt service that will take you roundtrip between the Maxwell House and the Airport for ONLY $18 (it will also take you other places, but the fee is a little higher). I used this service in 2013 and really enjoyed it.

InShuttle  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hotel:

Once you get to the hotel, check in… to both the hotel and UtopYAcon 2015 (if that’s an option at your arrival time).  You want to get registered as soon as possible… trust me. If your room isn’t ready and you have to wait in the lobby, ask the concierge to hold your bags for you (they will), and go grab a bite to eat in the Bar.

Millennium Nashville Exterior ImageHere’s some info about the Hotel:

Facilities:

Outdoors — Outdoor Pool

Activities — Golf Course (within 2 miles), Fitness Center

Food & Drink — Restaurant, Bar

Internet — Wired internet is available in the hotel rooms for a fee of $9.95 per day, but it is free of charge in the lobby. Our internet didn’t work in the rooms at all this past weekend, so it was taken off the bill for all guests.

Parking — Free! Free public parking is available on site (reservation is not needed).

Services — Room Service, Airport Shuttle (free), 24-Hour Front Desk, Baggage Storage, ATM on site, Laundry, Ironing Service, Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Business Center, Fax/Photocopying, Souvenir/Gift Shop

General — Newspapers, Safe, Non-smoking Rooms, Facilities for Disabled Guests, Elevator, Heating, All Spaces Non-Smoking (public and private), Designated Smoking Area

Extra Charges:

Upon checkout, the hotel does automatically add on a $50 a day amenities charge JUST IN CASE, so if you see a pending transaction for a lot more than your bill AFTER you check out of the hotel next year, rest assured that it will be taken off—it’s only a security measure.  But do make sure you FOLLOW UP with the hotel about it!

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Food:

Bring it.  Not a ton, but definitely have snacks.  The hotel restaurant and bar is indeed delicious, but they’re both tiny, and when 700+ people are all hungry for lunch, it just doesn’t work.  If you want to eat in either of these places, plan to eat during off times.  11am brunch, or 2pm lunch… avoid the crowds so you don’t have a long wait and can get back to conferencing.

Millennium Nashville Dining Image ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Conference:

Go in knowing that this conference is epic.  I adore it and the laid-back nature of it all.  Janet Wallace, the founder of UtopYA, has made it an unforgettable event that you just cannot miss!

This year’s keynote speakers are Denise Grover Swanke, Lauren Miller, Kim Holden, and Lauren Miller.  From Thursday-Saturday, each will speak, beginning at 9am.  But don’t wait until 9am to get your seat!!  There are always amazing giveaways to start the mornings, so make sure you’re in the conference room by 8:30 at the latest!!  So many people showed up late, missing the opening statements and, therefore, lost out on their prizes!  Hey, more for me!  But seriously, you don’t want to be late for the opening announcements each morning.

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Author Signings:

We also have a full day author signing event on Saturday from 11-4! It’s FREE to the public, but you STILL NEED A TICKET–get it now, time is running out!  Exhibitors

What does an all day signing mean for you, you might ask?  You have MORE TIME to get all the signatures you want!  So, you have time to go to the panels. Last year I struggled getting to panels because I wanted to make sure all my books were signed, and hunting down people was difficult at times, but with a public signing from 10-4am, you’ve GOT TIME!  So hit those panels!!  Check out the schedule here: http://utopyacon.com/2015-schedule/ or better yet, use the Sched App, which you can sign up for, or log in to, just by clicking “sign up or log in to bookmark your favorites and sync them to your phone or calendar.”

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Books and Pre-Orders:

Moving on, I HIGHLY suggest that you bring as many books as you can TO the con

ference as many authors only bring limited quantities.  Though, there is a bookstore on site, it also seemed a bit limited itself last year.

BUT–Pre-order’s are available for a TON of authors!  Check out this pre-order list hosted by Maria Pease. You can check out what kind of deals/sales the authors are offering, and find some amazing swag. Just click the name of the author to go to their pre-order page, and MAKE SURE you write down what books you purchased on a spreadsheet so you don’t forget, especially if you’re buying a lot! Many authors also have deals for those pre-ordering, like extra swag, lower prices, etc., so do check out the pre-orders list.

And, be sure to check out Jo Michael’s Blog Post about giveaways, freebies with pre-orders, and her advice of what to bring/do while at UtopYA.  It’s great!

Likewise, you will acquire much swag and meet tons of authors you haven’t read yet.  So bring cash in case you decide you want to buy their books as well—I met so many new authors and after connecting with them and learning about their books, I just had to have them!  Set a budget and plan accordingly.

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Mailing Books Home:

If you didn’t drive, or you just can’t check anymore bags for whatever reason… so you need to mail them home.  That’s cool, just make sure you send it USPS (regular mail) and tell them it’s MEDIA MAIL (if you’re mailing in the USA ONLY–media mail doesn’t exist for international mailing)!  I highly suggest avoiding FedEx because it’s mad expensive.  USPS is the least expensive, and media mail makes it even less so. But you can ONLY send books media mail—not swag, so I suggest putting on the swag in your checked luggage as it’s light (and make sure you put any and all magnets in your checked bag—I made the mistake of putting my business card magnets in my carryon and the TSA agents flagged it and were seriously nervous about going through my bag).

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Costumed Karaoke:

And did I mention costumed karaoke?  Because, yeah.  That happened, too. BRING AN OUTFIT–you don’t have to sing!!

Minion Love

This year I am saddened to say that I will NOT be in attendance… school is STILL in session and my students are taking their finals through June 19… and since I’m not allowed to take off during finals, it just didn’t work out this year.  Had I been able to come, THIS would have been my karaoke outfit.  You’re welcome.

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The Awards:

The awards are a BIG DEAL at UtopYA.  It’s like a red carpet event; it’s not a sit down dinner event, but there is a cocktail hour prior to the awards, and the hor d’oeuvres are delectable, though you still might want to eat a light meal prior to the awards ceremony. Awards

What to wear?  Well, really it doesn’t matter.  Since it’s like a red carpet event, most people were dressed to varying formal degrees—from sundresses to prom dresses, I saw them all.  I also saw slacks and jeans, so don’t feel like you have to dress up!  It’s not mandatory.  The only thing that is mandatory is that you have a good time, and that’s a given.

And make sure you stick around for the after-hour dance party, which is great fun!

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And over the course of the year I’ve posted a TON of information about UtopYA–check them all out below.

{UtopYA} Panels for Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced Authors, Bloggers, Editors, and Readers

{UtopYA} The Writing Cave and Official Voting

{UtopYA Sched App} – Adding Events and Panels to Your Schedule – Official UtopYA 2015 Post

{UtopYA Con Interview} Victoria Faye of Whit&Ware – Book Branding Blueprint Workshop

{UtopYA 2015} Author Guest Post – Heather Hildenbrand

{UtopYA Con 2015} Millennium Maxwell House Information – Restaurants

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All in all, UtopYA is beyond fantastic! What do I love about it?  Everything!  But especially that authors and aspiring authors, publicists and publishers, bloggers and readers, cover designers and cover models are all in close proximity to one another, chatting, networking, eating, singing, dancing… and the list goes on. It’s like one HUGE slumber party for four days, and mixed in are awesome activities, with keynotes, panels, visiting booths, signings, pool parties, an awards ceremony, dancing, costumed karaoke, and even some sight-seeing, should one so choose–I hear there’s even going to be a tattoo party… yeasssss! I love that it’s a camaraderie of talents where attendees are willing to share their experiences, jump out of their comfort zones, do some crazy fun things, and all the while make long lasting friendships. You’re going to have a blast.  Just. Breath.

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Royally LostFrom Goodreads: Dragged on a family trip to Europe’s ancient cities, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, over-eager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. That is until she meets Nikolai, a guy as mysterious as he is handsome. And she unknowingly finds herself with a runaway prince.

Nikolai has everything a guy could ask for-he’s crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn’t have…is freedom. Staging a coup, he flees his kingdom and goes undercover on his own European tour.

When Nikolai and Becca meet, it’s their differences that draw them together. Sparks fly as they share a whirlwind of adventures, all the while dodging his royal guard. But Becca’s family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say goodbye forever, will his destiny catch up to him, or will they change history forever?

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Royally Lost is a charming, uplifting read that I enjoyed immensely. Though a few aspects seemed a tad far-fetched, overall the novel is very well written, and I found it impossible not to root for Nick and Becca. Having traveled across Europe during my teenage years, much of Nick and Becca’s experiences resonated with me and helped me connect with them from the get go, which made this novel all the more enjoyable.

I am always looking to connect with the characters in novels that I read, and Stanton does a great job making both Nickolai and Becca’s actions, thoughts, and responses extremely believable. Nickolai is also quite swoonworthy, down-to-earth, and perfect in every way—of course, being a prince doesn’t hurt, either. I just loved him, and how Stanton portrayed him as an entity set on changing tradition and helping his people of his fictional country. His ideas for his country are modern and reflect the needs of the people, which was great to see, even though he bumped heads with the traditional entourage of the kingdom. He is a well-rounded individual, and I loved reading his story.

Though generally against tales of instant love, having my own hidden, whirlwind romance as I traveled Europe makes me love this story all the more. While my romance wasn’t of monarch proportions, it was still very similar to Nick and Becca’s, and this not only allowed me to connect with the characters on a level others might not be able to, but also allowed me to put aside my aversion to instant love having experienced something similar in my teenage days—something I had forgotten about until Stanton brought it back to my foremost thoughts.

This is a great story, and as I said previously, while some events may seem a bit far-fetched in some aspects, I really loved it all the same. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon | Kindle (only $3.79!) | Barnes and Noble

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Excerpt:

Nikolai opened his eyes, chilled, as a cloud blocked out the sun. Next to him, Becca slept, her hand curled in his. She smiled in relaxed slumber.

He gently released her hand and looked around. A couple of people lounged on the distant beach and a lone man sat in the sand with a camera aimed straight at him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

Nikolai turned his back to the beach and nudged her. “Becca!”

“Hmm?” She stirred.

“There’s a guy on the beach and I’m pretty sure he’s taking our picture.”

Her eyes sprang open. “What?” She sat up and spotted the man. “You think he’s paparazzi?”

“It sure isn’t a random tourist aiming a long lens at us. How the hell did he know I was here?” Nikolai slid on his shorts.

“Oh crud.” Becca grabbed her clothes and quickly pulled them on. “You think he’s been taking pictures of us sleeping?”

“That and more. Lord only knows how long he’s been here.” He didn’t notice him when they were in the water, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t been lurking in the trees, snapping pictures.

Nikolai stuffed their leftover lunch items into his backpack. How did this camera-wielding jerk find him?

Dressed, with everything packed up, they headed for the motorbike. Their path unfortunately forced them to pass the creep with the camera. Nikolai pulled his baseball cap low and hid behind his sunglasses. He led the way with Becca’s hand firmly in his.

“Prince Nikolai, why did you run from the palace?” The photographer, a short, heavyset man with cameras strapped across his chest moved closer.

Nikolai picked up the pace, but the man stayed with them, walking backward and snapping pictures. This was no official appearance where Nikolai owed the press a friendly smile and kind word.

“Do your parents know where you are?”

He ignored him.

“Your friend is beautiful. Is she the reason you fled? What’s her name?”

Nikolai bristled and fought the urge to shove the man to the ground and bust his camera. He glanced at Becca, her face pink with embarrassment. She didn’t need to be targeted by this oily loser.

“Have you heard that your sister, Princess Alexi, has gone missing?”

Nikolai hesitated for an instant, but then hurried on. The man was lying. He was sure of it, and he wouldn’t let this vile intruder ruin their day.

They reached the bike. He hurried and strapped on the pack and hopped on. Becca climbed up, hugging him from behind. Nikolai liked the feel of her body secure against his. It made him feel better able to protect her.

The photographer kept snapping pictures and wouldn’t back off. “There are rumors that you have renounced the throne,” he baited.

Nikolai stiffened, but didn’t give him the satisfaction of a reaction. He started the engine.

“Where are you going next?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Nikolai grinned, revved the engine, and spun gravel as they raced away.

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About Angie Stanton:

Angie Stanton never planned on writing books; she wanted to be a Rockette. However, growing up in rural Wisconsin, with her brothers’ 4-H pigs as pets, dance didn’t work out. Instead she became an avid daydreamer. After years of perfecting stories in her head, she began to write them down, and the rest is history.

Angie is the author of six books including Royally Lost, Rock and a Hard Place, and Snapshot. She graduated with a Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin, and is a proud double finalist of the National Readers Choice Awards for Love ’em or Leave ’em.

Website: http://angiestanton.com/
Twitter: @angie_stanton
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AngieStantonAuthor

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