Utopia or Bust!

Hi, my name is Rachel and last week I had the most epic seven days of my life and now I've had to go back to real life and it's hard. 

It's so hard. 

The struggle is real, people!!!!! 

Let's start at the beginning. That might make it easier for you to understand how great my week was. 

First, I should say that every summer for the last three years, Zach and I have taken a trip to Nashville, TN, where I've taken part in UtopYA Con!! UtopYA is this amazing annual conference for authors and readers. I don't make it to a ton of signings, but UtopYA is always a priority!! I love it. The environment is incredible and so very inspiring. There is just nothing else like it out there. 

But this year, something extra cool happened, when my good friend Amy Bartol said, HEY! Let's go to Mumford and Sons FIRST. 

See, here's how this came about. Mumford and Sons became a band. Then they started releasing music worldwide. Then I fell irrevocably in love with them. So irrevocably in love with them that probably no band or music or musician will ever be able to unseat them. I love a lot of music, but I have never loved music like this. I had my first legit emotional connection with one of their songs. It's true. 

Hopeless Wanderer.

That song is my jam. For life. 

Anyway, two years ago, they came to Kansas City, which is only 2.5 hours away from us. Zach and I got tickets with our friends AJ and Kristen. I got so excited for the concert that I planned to leave an entire week early. I packed up the car all ready to go. I even got the sitter to come over.

When my husband, my exasperated patient husband, broke the news to me that it was the following weekend, I went into a Mumford depression that took some wine to get over. But no big deal, right? We were still going to see them! We still had tickets. We still had a hotel room. We were good to go.

Except we weren't!!! In that time, that short time between that weekend to the next, Ted, the bassist, got a freaking BRAIN TUMOR and they had to cancel the tour!!!! 

In that tiny, one week span of time, there was a BRAIN TUMOR!!!!!! 

They obviously had to cancel the show. 

And I obviously didn't get to see them. 

I was a wee bit devastated.

Then I actually slipped into a depression. That was the worst. And when they rescheduled the show months later, we couldn't go see them. I think we had dance. (Back when I was a crazy dance mom. Oh, the seventh circle of hell good old days.) 

You guys, for two years, I mourned the concert I would never get to see. I can't even tell you the hole in my heart from my missed opportunity. I've seen so many good shows in my life, but I just knew nothing would ever be as good as that Mumford show. 

But the story doesn't end there. This spring Mumford announced that they would be touring the States again. Cue my reaction. That went something like this: YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There was some cheering! Some major grinning! And maybe, possibly, potentially tears of joy.

Except... Get. This. We were already locked into UtopYA, which had a concrete date and time, which was also in Nashville. That was happening. I was in. All the way. But the thing was, Mumford and Sons were playing at Bonaroo- in Nashville- the weekend BEFORE UtopYA. Aka the weekend BEFORE I was going to be there! THEN. As if that wasn't bad enough... They were going to be in Iowa, which is right next door to Nebraska and their venue was only a few hours away from me, the weekend I was going to be at Utopya in Nashville! Do you see the problem here???

I could have literally passed them on the road to Nashville, but never heard them play. 

I had a second bout of Mumford Depression. 

And you guys. That's no fun. 

So, one night while I was whining my ass off voicing my mature frustration to some of my friends, Amy spoke up and was all, HEY RACHEL! Mumford is going to be in my state the day before UtopYA, how about you come up here first, see the concert with me and then we caravan to Nashville together. 

Amy Bartol to the rescue, everyone!!!!!! She saved me. And her mutual love for Mumford only makes me love her more!!!! Seriously. That was the best concert ever. 

Here is my drive to Michigan. I started Love and Decay, Season Four. Aren't you excited for that???         

Fun fact about me! I love to write in the car!! I call it my mobile office. I got 11,000 words written on the way up there! Woot woot!

Zach and I got to Michigan super late Monday night and checked into our hotel, then ate a super crappy meal at Buffalo Wild Wings, because it was the only place still open. We got there late because we spent the day hunting down beers along the way that we can't get in Nebraska. FYI Nebraska has a really terrible selection of beer and my husband is basically an aficionado. A beer connoisseur, if you will. 

This is us hunting for yummy and rare beers. 

We had a lot of fun in Michigan on Tuesday!! We ate horrible Mexican food and drove around the greater Flint/Clarkston area in search of good beer! And we found some!! All in all we had a pretty awesome Beer Haul. 

Tuesday night we met up with Amy for the concert!! It should be said. The world should know. That I love that woman!!!! For real. I told her during our week together, that I might tell her I love her more than I tell that to my husband. :) 

She is amazing. 

And the concert was amazing. More than Amazing. It was life-changing and epic and perfect and they played so many fabulous songs from their old albums and their new. If you ever get a chance to see them live TAKE IT. And invite me to go too.

This is Amy and me at the concert!!! 

And this is us with Zach!!! He was such a trooper! He put up with hours and hours and hours of standstill traffic and Amy and me cackling about everything we thought was funny- which is a lot of things by the way. He just loves me so much. 

Also. I love him!!! He's the best kind of man.

This is the start of the show!! There were SO many people there!! But the sound was amazing and nights in Michigan are perfect. It was like 60 degrees outside. The sky was clear. There was this lovely breeze. 

And you guys. Mumford was on stage playing ALL OF THE SONGS THAT I LOVE!!!

Except Hopeless Wanderer... which broke my heart. But I've watched their Road to Redrocks concert like a bajillion times and I knew they didn't play it for that either... so I didn't really have my hopes up. 

But still. That's my dying wish. Mumford playing Hopeless Wanderer live. That's all I ask for. 

 We were up crazy late(especially for me because I'm old.) Tuesday night. We had to drive around forever looking for a place to eat because we didn't eat before the concert. And we found this grungy little diner that was open 24 hours and served the worst best breakfast food ever.

It was the best because I was famished and I just needed sustenance before I crashed face first on my pillows.

And then I died.

Just kidding. I didn't really. But I did have to wake up the next morning and realize I had just seen Mumford live and then I had to go on living the rest of my life.

But you guys. MUMFORD!

The rest is just kind of anticlimactic at this point. :)

I'm being dramatic. I know... I'll move on.

So after driving all day Monday, then our epic late night Tuesday, we got up Wednesday morning and caravan-ed with Amy all the way to Nashville.

UtopYA Time!!!!!

The thing about Utopia(It got a name change last week) is that it's filled with the most wonderful people of all time. For real. My favorite authors are there. My favorite readers are there. Janet Wallace is there. And she is fabulous.

We hang out. We talk all things industry. We have incredible, moving, life-changing, inspiring keynotes. We go and sit on and discuss panels. We eat the best meals and drink with the best people. And it's basically like summer camp for adults only with alcohol. And the things there completely change and further your career.

If you haven't gone. You need to.

If you have gone. You need to come back and hang out with me!!!!

Here I am hanging out with some of my favorite people of all time.

This is Jamie Magee and me. I love this woman!!! When we talk on the phone it's never less than four hours. We seriously talk about everything. She has such a unique insight into what we do. And the way she writes is really inspiring to me. I got to spend four days with her and meet her adorable daughter!!! It was the best!!

Here I am again with Amy. Because we are inseparable. But Heather Lyons is in between us this time!!!! I love that woman too!! See? I just know the best people. I really do. Heather and I have been friends online, but we finally-FINALLY got to meet in real life and we found out something super cool. We're actually soul sisters. :) For real though. She is wonderful. And my life is better because I know her. I cannot wait to hang out with her again. 

There are so many other people that I forgot to get pictures with. Tammy Blackwell. Amy Evans. Janet Wallace. Regina Wamba. Michelle Miller. And her hubby Jonathon. Mindy Hayes. Jessica Surgett. Rebecca Donovan. Denise Grover Swank. Delphina Henley. Chelsea Fine. Stephanie Erickson. Amy Miles. And Rick Miles. I met Adam Kunz! Stacey Marie Brown.And the list goes on and on and on. 

I told you UtopYA has the best people! I wasn't lying. 

I met Kim Holden too!!! And she is the sweetest. I'm convinced there's not a nicer person on the planet. 

I was on a panel about serials. I talked a lot about Love and Decay and my process of how I write it. It was so fun!! Then on Saturday, there was an all day signing and you guys. I sold out of 5 Stages AND Love and Decay AND Bet on US AND I only had two copies of Reckless left!!! I took a ton of books! 

But somebody bought them all! 

I couldn't believe it!

Here I am getting ready to sign books. 

I met so many cool people. It was such a good day. 

Then Saturday night was the award show. And something so crazy happened. The Five Stages of Falling in Love won Best Contemporary Book of the year!!!!! I mean, WHAT!!!!

This is Zach and me before the awards show. I love making him take selfies with me. He does not love it. :) But like I said... he loves me. So he puts up with me. Also check out this picture... there's a photobomb within a photobomb. Lol!

Then the award happened. And you guys... I was shocked. And I'm not being humble or nice or sarcastic or anything. I was legitimately stunned. I have no idea how I got up on stage. Or what I said. Or if I said anything intelligent or coherent or relevant. I can't even remember what came out of my mouth!! It's just white fuzz in my head.
I never expected to win. Not in a million years. 

So a huge thank you to everyone that voted. And to God, and my husband and my kids and my mom and my street team and panel and my agent and my publicist and my editor and everyone else I forgot to thank on stage. (I did thank some of them. And I think I made a joke about Zach... but like I said. Major Blank Space.) 

But here's a picture of me accepting the award. So at least I know I made it up on stage!!!!  

Here's a picture of Amy and Heather too. Because they're incredible and super talented. So of course they win awards!!! 

I'm so proud to call them my friends. 

My street team was also there!! And they're not really just my street team anymore. A TON of them have gone off to become these super successful writers. I could not be more proud of them. I love them soo much and they're just making names for themselves and kicking ass. It's incredible.

Here I am with a bunch of them! This is after the awards.

Aren't they gorgeous??? From left to right, then back to front. Catarina- my amazing, patient admin, Kelly, Theresa Kay(check out her book, Broken Skies!!!), Me, Stormy Smith(GO READ Bound by Duty!!!!), Alex Tuttle(Pick up Spark of Light by Elizabeth Tuttle FAST) Lenore- the most fabulous beta reader on the planet, Caylie Marcoe(Seriously, go get Choose Us right this second!!), Carla, Regan Claire (You MUST READ Gathering Water!!!), Leigh and Kat Nichols(By now you should know that when I say go download Family Secrets, I really, truly mean it!!!)

I told you they were amazing.

Utopia was just... incredible. And I'm so blessed to have been and experienced everything and gotten to weave that into the fabric of my life. Those four days were the only way it was possible for me to move on after Mumford. I needed something equally as epic to push me forward. And I got it!!! 

After Utopia, Zach and I headed home, but made a quick overnight stop in St. Louis to celebrate, to decompress and to hunt down some more beer. 

This is our EPIC beer find. Not many people in the world have Love Childs 1-5. Thank you St. Louis!!! 

It's okay to be jealous. :)

 On the way home, I started my next adult contemp!!!! It's called Every Wrong Reason. And you guys... Whew. I'm so excited to give it to you. Cannot wait to start showing you bits and pieces of it!

Now we're back and I somehow have to figure out how to live normal life again.

It's hard.

I just want to stay in my Utopia bubble forever!!! But I have kids. And other responsibilities. And well, mostly kids.

And I love them too. :)

Here's my award, up close and personal!!! Isn't she pretty?

And here I am practicing my closed mouth smile. All of my friends have really good closed mouth smiles. And I look like a huge goober when I cheese it up. This is my more professional look.

I'm pretty sure I still look like a huge goober...

 And here are the REAL stars of the show!! My book haul!! Zach came back with epic beers. I brought back the books. The precious-es.

So pretty.

And here are my Rebel girls' books. I told you they were amazing!! I'm so proud of them and all of their hard work. These books are just proof of how special they are. Keep it up ladies!! I want a stack twice this big next year!

And that's it. That is my very cool seven days of insanity. But in the best way possible.

It's going to be really hard to top this year.

But I cannot wait to try!!!!

I even have my table already. Do you have yours?? Come hang out with me next year!!! I'll sign books and we'll take selfies. I know you can't wait! :)


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