Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas...Unless I Tell You.

Hello everyone,

Now that I'm decently over my post-con introversion, it's time to tell you all about how The Novel Experience Event (TNEE) went!

Travel both to and from Las Vegas went smoothly and I'm happy to report that I didn't suffer from jet lag while I was at the con.  Although, afterwards was a bit rocky.  I can also say that I escaped con plague, which is always a plus!

It was my first time going to Vegas and I didn't know what to expect.  Most people just think show girls, gambling, and drunken elopement when they think about Vegas and while all of these were certainly options, there is a lot more to Vegas than what we think.  I shall now tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of my experience in Vegas.

Let's begin.  Firstly, on the trip to Vegas, I finished reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (Read my review here).  Upon arrival at McCarren International, I had an easy time getting through the airport and retrieving my bags.  And yes, there are even slot machines in the airport!  I was able to find the cab waiting area with ease and was promptly whisked away by a friendly cabby who made me fear no more or less for my life than your normal New York City cabby.  The ride to Planet Hollywood was quick and straight forward, costing me less than 10 bucks.

Planet Hollywood...Oh, where to begin.  When the cab dropped me off, there were no automatic doors.  In fact, they were pull doors...and while there was a gentleman who worked for the hotel standing just inside the door (watching me) he did not assist me or my three bags through the door.  The signage was a bit confusing, so I could not figure out where I was supposed to go to get to my room (north or south tower).  Eventually, I found a nicer, more helpful gentleman than the jerk who watched me struggle with the doors and he found out exactly where I needed to go.  However, he did not offer to call a bellhop for my convenience and there were no baggage carts to the visible eye.  So, I struggled with my three bags all the way to the Blues Brothers Suite where I stayed with a friend.

Upon settling in, I left with some readers and author friends to go to Culinary Drop-Out at Hard Rock.  It's an adorable place with a half indoor, half outdoor layout with braziers and sofas.  Our waiter wasn't exactly what I'd come to expect considering the way the restaurant staff is described, but he was friendly, knowledgeable, and provided excellent service.  I ordered sweet tea, which they didn't have, though they made a delicious attempt at it for my pleasure.  At our waiter's suggestion we ordered the pretzel and provolone fondue appetizer.  The appetizer was amazing and I had to keep count of how much I ate so I didn't hog it all, LOL!  For my entree I ordered the grilled cheese sliders, which I was really excited about...but they were a disappointment.  My sliders were made on very thick bread that had either been toasted for too long or left to cool for too long.  Either way, they were very hard and difficult to eat, which took away from the flavor entirely.  I didn't end up finishing them.  To be fair, everyone else seemed to really enjoy their meals.

After that, we went back to hotel room and played a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity.  I had just enough time to go support a friend getting a tattoo (yes, TNEE does have resident tattoo artists and yes they are amazing...they also have a corsetiere, who is even more amazing).  Then, it was bedtime...  The hotel's beds were pretty fantastic...

Next day (Thursday) I got up and ready.  While I loved our epic bathroom, I promptly discovered that the water in Las Vegas and my hair are not friends.  Normally, I don't care about my looks enough to care about my hair -- except when it's so bad that I feel greasy after getting out of the shower.  I vowed to resolve this, ASAP.  I registered early for the con and went in search of breakfast.  I hit the Mirage Mile Mall, which is attached to Planet Hollywood and found a jem of a surprise.  Just look at how the interior looks!  I got so caught up in exploring that I didn't have time to sit and eat, so breakfast came to me in the form of a Starbucks panini (don't judge me) and a venti Chai (One of many while I was there). 

I had just enough time to eat and get back in time to prep for my YA panel with Brad Keene, Ava O'Shea, Jennifer Lynn Catz, Bianca Sommerland, and Kristen Strassel.  The panel went wonderfully and I tip my hat to the authors involved.  Following the YA panel came a SF/F panel with J.M. Gregoire, Amber Benson, Tameri Etherton, KC Klein, and Michelle C. Reilly.  This panel also went very well and thumbs up to the noobies for doing so well.  Also, hooray for everyone involved, both panel and audience, for not fan-girling it out in the presence of Amber Benson (who some of you might recognize from Buffy). 

After the panels, I had lunch with Michelle C. Reilly at Blondies in The Miracle Mile then it was time to get my tourist on!  With my trusty buddy, author TJ Michaels in tow, we hit the Walgreens around the corner for a few quick things (including new shampoo to strip all the gunk from my hair).  Then, it was off to Bellagio to see the Japanese flower garden in the conservatory.  We found the Bellagio so lovely that we took a little walking tour of the inside.  It was at this time that I started to realize there is more to Vegas than the casinos.  The buildings!  As a lover of architecture and art, I could not get enough of how the Bellagio (hotel, casino, mall) was a fabulous marriage of both.  After we got our fill of the Bellagio, we headed out toward The Flamingo to see the animal habitat.  On the way, we got a chance to see the Bellagio fountain display.  I learned a few things about the streets of Vegas: there are buskers and homeless people everywhere, get used to it; there are a ton of cosplayers to take your pictures with; there is no simple way to get from Point A to Point B, so plan ahead to spend twice as much time walking than you thought you would.

At The Flamingo, we found the habitat -- which wasn't as exciting as I had hoped it would be, but was still stocked with some lovely little critters.  By then, we were hungry and TJ had to be back for a panel, so we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Cabo Wabo in The Miracle Mile.  The salad I ordered was pretty good, the tortillas and guacamole were to die for.  Our waiter was a little shady.  I mean that literally and figuratively -- he wore sunglasses the whole time and he also disappeared for an exorbitant period of time, which shorted me the dessert I'd been eying and made TJ have to leave early while I stayed behind to pay the bill and catch her up later.

After that was all squared away it was prep for a night out.  A group of authors and readers made our way to Serendipity 3 at Caesar's Palace (home of the thousand dollar sundae).  I wasn't terribly hungry because I'd just eaten with TJ, but I had some sweet potato fries -- which had the best chipotle sauce to go with them) and a spiked frozen hot chocolate (which was massive and totally worth the $20 dollar price tag).  The waitress here was also the best one that I had the whole time I was in Vegas.  Caesar's is HUGE and the outside is so cool!  There's even a cute little Buddhist shrine by the restaurant we ate at.  one thing I did learn?  There are chapels at almost all the hotels... 

It was back to the hotel in our evil shoes and then some more Cards Against Humanity -- which went unfinished as we were all pooped.  Back to bed!

Friday morning went much better for my hair...at least I thought so until the waiter at Cheeseburger dropped a syrupy fork in my hair at breakfast -- that's after he spilled the syrup container all over my breakfast. XD  Syrupy hair aside, breakfast was your typical breakfast which I was not disappointed by.  The walk back to the hotel provided me a little shopping experience at the sparklies store.  I have no idea what it was called, but everything was sparklies.  I got my tiara for the upcoming AAD Tiara Ball and then some excellent earrings and a goodie for one of my friends back home.  All at 50-75% off because I'm a shopping diva!!!

After breakfast I had a Cross-Genre panel with KC Klein, JM Gregoire, Amber Benson, Brad Keene, Rebecca Fisher, and Marie Sexton.  I have to say Ms. Sexton's shoes were fabulous, I think I told her that like five times...  That panel went well once it got started, we probably could have kept talking...  Apologies to the panel after us for running a pinch over!

After my last panel it was time to get to business!!  I set up my table for the mass signing and grabbed a bite to eat at Chipotle (I still like Moe's better) and stopped by the Sketchers store with TJ.  Then it was the VIP preview.  For those of you that are not aware of how TNEE works, the mass signing is open to the public, but you can pay for a VIP pass which allows you access to all the panels, parties, and outings, as well as a chance to have time all to yourselves with the authors the day before the mass signing.  I got to have some lovely, in depth conversations with fans and that's why I like the VIP day better.

After the VIP preview, I teamed up with some more readers and authors and we headed out to the Luxor to expereince the Titanic Exhibit.  This was an amazing exhibit with scale recreations of sections of the boat, articles that were brought up from the depths, a massive piece of the hull on display, and a creepy chunk of ice with hand prints in it.  One of the quirky parts of this exhibit is that you're given a ticket at the beginning telling you what passenger you are.  At the end of the exhibit you check your name against a memorial wall to see if you lived.  My nineteen year old, recently married passenger lived.  My new husband lived.  My dog Frou Frou died.  Upon further inquest, I found that the baby I'd been carrying while on the Titanic was born safely afterward but ended up dying a few days later.  Then I got in a horrible debilitating accident, my husband divorced me, I ended up contracting an awful illness, and then died the same day my husband got remarried.  I feel bad for this poor girl!  I did get a piece of genuine coal from the Titanic and my assistant gifted me some White Star Line coasters.  I'm still sore I didn't buy myself some First Class china though...

After Titanic, I needed my spirits raised, so my assistant took me to see more sights.  A night of exploring the various architecture and splendor of the hotels, watching some street performances, and trying my hand at the slot machines ensued.  My highlights: the Lucky Cat and the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan; a night time techno display at the Bellagio Fountain, the casino and restaurant level of New York, New York, the facade of Excalibur, the surprise that the Luxor was Egyptian themed!, the massive golden lions of the MGM, and the futuristic look of the facade of the Aria.

Friday was another quick Starbucks breakfast and then I spent most of the day glued to my seat for the TNEE signing.  Yes, it was a bit slow.  But, it was also the weekend of Easter, it was being held out of Romance Ink's normal territory, and Planet Hollywood sucked on all fronts with EVERYTHING.  They would not promote the event, they would not let TNEE promote for the event, they misdirected and misinformed people attempting to find TNEE, and they also sucked with giving TNEE attendees a good room deal.  We paid the full price for rooms, which was $189 a night...which is steep for anyone -- not to mention the higher prices for food, transportation, and entertainment in Vegas.  Plus, they charged us upwards of ten dollars just to use a bottle opener!!!  Meh!!!  Are you getting the idea that I hate Planet Hollywood?  Because I hope you are...  My point?  Never stay there...

Back on track.  There is some mixed content going around the internet about TNEE, I personally didn't find it to be a waste.  I met a number of new readers, networked with many authors and bloggers, had a fabulous time in Vegas and got a chance to do some book shopping myself.  As for the other political things that are going around.  As someone who knows the staff and con director personally, I know exactly what happened and I personally think much of what is being said is slanderous.  Rules were posted then either ignored or broken.  General etiquette was pushed to the wayside.  I still intend to go to TNEE and AAD in future years and I encourage readers and authors of all backgrounds, preferences, and genres to also attend so long as you're willing to follow simple and fair rules.

After the signing, I went to see Ka, which is a Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM.  And OH EM GEE....I cannot, in words, express to you how I feel about this show.  I'd just make all sorts of squeals and exaggerated expressions.  Needless to say, it was incredible.  When you first walk in, you feel like you're being seated in some post-apocalyptic underground industrial complex, which is only emphasized by the outfits worn by the staff, the random plumes of fire, the belching mist, the the sounds of miners deep below.  Then, the story unfolds...

Ka has an actual story line, which is a little different than some of the other Cirque shows that just have a thematic element.  Despite this, Ka still manged to touch the humor, intense beauty, and deeply human aspects that I have come to expect from Cirque du Soleil.  I had thought from reading about it that Ka would be Asian inspired, but it borrowed from a number of cultures from all over the world and created entirely new cultures depicted in the show.  It's the largest and most complex of the Cirque shows, taking up a full eight floors.  I had been a bit apprehensive because this is a floor show without a water feature, but they make use of some intense acrobatics and the stages actually move and rotate.  There are also a number of scenes that imply water, which are so amazingly done you don't miss the water features.  As someone who is hard of hearing, I was so pleased to find that the seats actually have speakers built into them, so I had no trouble hearing any of the sound effects, speaking, or the great musical score.  My favorite parts are opening ship, the bird, and the rainforest.  My only complaint is that a few of the scenes at the beginning were just a pinch drawn out, though I have a feeling that's because they were stalling for time while other things were being prepared behind the curtain...

Thoroughly stoked from my Ka experience, I finished up my last night in Vegas by grabbing some amazing hush puppies at New York, New York; taking a stroll through the Venetian, grabbing some dessert in Paris, and then having a midnight snack at Oyster Bay in the Miracle Mile Mall...where a rainstorm in the middle of the mall totally freaked me out!!!

One last night at Planet Hollywood -- topped by random charges to our cards -- we left for the airport.  I read The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney (read my review here) on the way home and that was that!

I'm totally going back to Las Vegas the first chance I get.  Although I'm totally not staying at Planet Hollywood.  :P  You should totally come next time!!!!