Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Reno 2011 World Science Fiction Convention site-recon report and photos

Husband Steve here: Welcome to our Reno 2011 Worldcon site-recon report. We're not doing this in any official capacity, but since we were in town anyway, and have worked on a con or two or five ourselves back in the day, we knew there were people out there who would be starved for information.

We spun by the Peppermill Hotel and Casino (Quiet hotel), spent quite a bit of time crawling around the Atlantis Hotel and Casino (the party hotel, and the one connected to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center) and checked the exterior layout on the convention center itself. We took lots of photos of these things and we'll try to lay the photos out with our observations in a way that may be useful to those attending or working on the convention.

Rather than clutter up our "gateway" blog, with this special-interest stuff, we decided to post them on Chris' blog, which hasn't been that busy lately (get posting, Chris!).

So, since we're taking over her blog... Before we go on, a brief word from our sponsor: I know this isn't sf/fantasy (which Chris has published plenty of, by the way), but Chris, under the pen-name Christy Evans, has a new mystery series launching through Berkley Prime Crime this fall, featuring a mystery solving female plumber's apprentice/amateur detective. You can see her gorgeous new cover for the first installment, "Sink Trap," and read all the details on "Christy's" blog. Two more installments are already in the pipeline ("Lead Pipe Cinch" is scheduled for April 2010), with more to come if enough of you nice folks out there buy the books.

Please check it out and spread the word. Thanks!

Now, on to the recon!

(Click on any of the following photos for larger-versions. If anyone involved with the convention needs the full-sized originals for any reason, I'd be happy to share.)

There are two official hotels for the convention, the Peppermill and the Atlantis. Both are located on Virgina Street, Reno's "Main Street" that runs from the convention center back into downtown and the "old-Reno" convention district.

The entire convention facility is located quite near the Reno airport, and has excellent freeway access. (For those considering driving from the Northwest, it's a long but not-awful days drive for us from Lincoln City, Oregon. Which means it should be the same or better for people in Portland, Oregon and points south. Seattle people will either need tag-team drivers or to plan an overnight stop somewhere. Vancouver (B.C.) people will really need two days.

It's also a day's drive from L.A. or San Diego, or pretty much all of California.

It's very centrally located for anyone on the west coast.

Okay, first we dropped by the "quiet" hotel, the Peppermill Hotel Casino. This is an older hotel, but it's recently undergone some major remodeling, and the locals seemed impressed with its new, Vegas-styled facade, seen here.

We didn't take the time to go inside, so all you'll get are some exterior shots here.

The Peppermill really isn't that close to the Atlantis and the convention center. Here's the view from the Peppermill's front parking lot of the Atlantis. It might be considered walkable, but just barely. I understand there will be shuttles. There's also lots of free parking. Does "lots" mean "enough" when it comes to convention week though? I'm not sure. Maybe someone else will have better answers.
The Peppermill has a multi-story parking structure (all parking for the Atlantis and Convention Center seems to be single-level lots), and we drove to the top to give you some idea of the distance between and the overall layout of the convention site. There are a large number of eateries, fast-food joints, and convenience stores in-between.
Here's a closer look at the Atlantis layout. The Casino is in the lower level of the Atlantis, and naturally, to get anywhere, you've got to go through it. The second level is all non-smoking, with more casino space, meeting rooms (I'm not sure how much the convention will be in these, and how much will be in the convention center), restaurants, arcade, and other stuff.

The Sparks Reno convention center is just beyond in this photo, and is connected to the hotel by a skybridge and several crosswalks. A second skybridge connects the hotel to a large parking lot on the other side of Virginia street. The Convention Center has its own parking as well.

Here's a closer look at the parking bridge. It's a large bridge, with stuff inside, as you'll see later.

Here's the front of the Convention Center. Not a great shot, but it was hard to photograph because of trees. It's bigger than it looks.
One thing that really impressed us was how centrally located the Atlantis and Convention Center were. Pretty much ANYTHING you could want is within a mile. Dozens of chain restaurants and fast food outlets. Several large grocery stores, including a Grocery Outlet, Safeway, Whole Foods, and more. Two big-box book stores, one of which is seen below. A Super-Wal-Mart. A Michael's Crafts for party supplies. Office supplies. It's all there. It's all close.
Another shot of the convention center and the Atlantis, giving some idea of proximity. There's a sky-bridge from the second (meeting room) level of the Atlantis to the convention center, but it looks like a bit of a hike, and the convention center itself is long and thin. Bring your comfortable walking shoes.
Here's a better look at the Convention Center skybridge.
Here's the back of the Atlantis tower, with more parking. Also in this area is a curious thing, an old style motor-court hotel that appears to be part of the Atlantis. I'm very curious if the concom has any special plans for these rooms. (Chris here: According to the Atlantis website, these rooms are "pet-friendly." If you travel with your furry or feathered friends, you might want to check this out.)
Here's a not-very-good photo of some of the Atlantis Casino decor. There are escalators to the second level back there, though it's hard to tell in this shot.
Token shot of the casino floor. They gamble in Reno! Who knew?
This is the Atlantis registration desk area, seen from the rear of the hotel. It's a bit cramped in here, so lines may be a problem.

The registration desk seen from just inside the front door.
Remember I said there was stuff inside that parking skybridge? Well, this is it. There's a non-smoking gaming area, an Oyster-bar, some other food and drink, and a nifty little seating area at the far end (more on this later). This may be a good place to hide from some of the convention crowds during the day or evenings. Bad news is, there's a greenhouse effect that can make it warm during the day. Should be fine at night.
Here's the view from the parking bridge of the Convention Center. That's Virginia Street in the center.
Here's that little conversation area I mentioned. There are a couple such areas in the hotel, unusual for a casino. I like.
Below is the Atlantis buffet. Not as big as some of the Las Vegas ones, but looks pretty nice. No, we didn't have a chance to try it.
This sign offers an overview of the dining options in Atlantis currently. Of course that could change by convention time. The Manhattan Deli is apparently brand new.
Below is the Convention Center and skybridge as seen from the second level of the Atlantis. The skybridge connects directly to the programming room area of the hotel, which is nice if they have programming in both locations. Also, note the crosswalk on the left. Could be useful if the bridge gets too crowded.

A slightly different angle. Note the parking.
Above is the program-room lobby area just at the end of the skybridge. The hotel was perhaps more upscale than I expected. I hope everyone is on their best behavior and doesn't break anything!
Here's a map of the second level, showing all the programming rooms. There wasn't much going on at either location that day, so we didn't have much opportunity to check out the program spaces. One smaller room was open however, and we did get some photos.

Above is another programming lobby area. Everything is wide, more lobby than corridor. Of course, this being a convention, things may get filled up exhibits, fan-tables and the like, but at the moment, it all looks quite spacious.
Here's the smaller program room I mentioned. I assume it's pretty typical of the hotel.
Another angle. For the record, this is one of the "Treasures" rooms on the rear of the hotel. See the map photo for to get a better idea of where this is.
This is the "Grand Foyer" another lobby area on the second level, near the Napa Bistro. Quite nice.
Above: the Napa Bistro.
Here's part of the arcade, also on the second level.
Here's a view from one of the glass elevators in the Atlantis, showing more of the layout.
From the elevator looking into the spa level and indoor pool there. There's also supposedly an outdoor pool, but we didn't manage to find it.
A look at the Convention Center from higher in the Atlantis.
Looking down from the elevator to the parking skybridge.
A guest room hallway on the third level of the tower. I assume this is typical. No, we didn't see any of the rooms.
Looking down into the elevator atrium area. There's another nice seating area in the trees behind the elevators.
The afore-mentioned seating area.
Looking up at the elevators.
Of course, we know what concom, artists, dealer are REALLY interested in. Here are some shots of the loading docks and doors on the rear of the convention center. We figured somebody might find them useful.

Finally, just because these came out cool, and it really isn't apparent from our other shots, Reno is located in some very beautiful country, and we got a wonderful sunset after a little rainstorm that rolled through during our visit to Atlantis. These photo were actually taken from our room in the Circus Circus Casino downtown, where we stayed this trip. It's just a few miles from the Peppermill in old-Reno.

Questions? Comments? Go for it. We'll do our best to help.

We're also likely to be making other trips through Reno before the convention, so if you have specific information requests, we'll try to help as best we can.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Staying Flexible; or Keep On Keepin' On

The other day at work I needed to get in a bottom drawer of the file cabinet. I squatted down next to the drawer, pulled it out, grabbed the papers I needed and stood back up. Now this doesn't sound like much - unless you've taken a look at the pictures in the sidebar and you know I'm somewhere on the shady side of 40 (very shady!) and rather round. Not a lithe physical specimen.

One of my office mates expressed admiration for my ability to do what amounted to a deep-knee-bend and stand up without pulling myself up on a chair. At the time I told her it was someting I had always done, so I was always able to do it. As long as I don't stop doing deep knee bends, at least occasionally, I will still be able to do them.

So tonight, when I was trying to figure out why the writing was going so slow, I made the connection: I am doing something I haven't done before.

Up until now, I've written single books. I've done a book in nine or ten weeks while working a full-time job. It isn't impossible. But I have never had multiple books back-to-back. I've always been able to take a few weeks off, or work at a more leisurely pace, between books. Yes, I've always had another project waiting for attention, but I didn't have to keep up the 10-week pace.

Then a three-book series came along. When I set my deadlines I figured 10-weeks, plus an extra couple weeks in case of emergencies, one week for an already-planned vacation, and an extra week for the holidays. What I didn't plan for was the lack of experience at maintaining that 10-week pace.

It was like trying to run a steeplechase based on my experience doing knee bends. Same basic anatomy, totally different skill set.

Or to strerch the running metaphor a little farther, what I naively set up was three back-to-back sprints. What I needed was a marathon. I knew I could do an all-out assault on the manuscript as I sprinted to the deadline. I'd done that before. I didn't know how to pace myself for a long-haul and set my goals accordingly. I didn't know how to run that writing marathon.

I need to learn the marathon skill set, and I'm taking this lesson to heart so I can plan better in the future.

And I'm starting to train for the marathon that helps defines a long-term writing career. Even though I may write in sprints in the future, I am learning that different projects require different skill sets.

Just like knee bends and hurdles.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Secret Identities

Months ago I posted about having a new identity as "Herbie's Mom." At the time, I said it would be cool to have a secret identity, and I still believe that.

Well, this month I got a temporary secret identity. It was fun to be undercover, but it's time to make it not-so-secret and to announce some cool news.

My cool new un-secret identity? Christy Evans, Mystery Writer.

And the news? I am currently writing the third book in Christy Evans's new series for Berkley Prime Crime. The first book of the Lady Plumber Mysteries, SINK TRAP, is already in production and will be released in October. Book two, LEAD PIPE CINCH is turned in, with a tentative release of February 2011, and CRAWL SPACE is due next month for release in June 2012.

This is a new genre for me to write, but it's actually taking me back to a genre I have loved all my life. SINK TRAP is dedicated to my Uncle Darrell, and his enabling my mystery addiction.

I can't remember a time when I couldn't read and always assumed my mother taught me in self defense. After all, you can only read The Little Engine That Could, or the latest Humpty Dumpty Magazine so many times before you run screaming. Teach your kid to read, you're spared many hours of the same story over and over.

Mom, however, refuses to take any responsibility. She says I taught myself when I was about three - not that she wasn't relieved, but she still blames me.

Anyway, there I was at three, four and five, devouring anything I could get my hands on. I quickly went through all the beginner books and started in on bigger and better things. In the process I discovered Nancy Drew and read every one of them in the course of a few months. (It was a long time ago, there weren't as many titles as there are now, okay?)

From Nancy Drew I moved on. I read the Walter Farley Black Stallion series before I knew what a series was, and sampled many others. We didn't have a school library, but the public library - a branch of the L.A. County system - was only a few blocks away and the teacher walked the entire class to the library every couple weeks. I of course went back several times in between.

By the age of ten I had finished with the children's section and was beginning to explore the adult section in an effort to feed my growing addiction for words, sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters.

Uncle Darrell wasn't really my uncle - he was my mother's uncle. He was nearly fifty when I was born, a life-long bachelor who lived with his widowed father, my great-grandfather. We always visited Grandpa and Darrell after church on Sunday afternoon, and those are some of my favorite memories.

Darrell never treated me like a child. When he and his two sisters did the vocabulary quiz in the Reader's Digest I was allowed to join in. He encouraged me to play chess tournaments at his local club, and I don't think he ever said I couldn't do something because I was too young. Or because I was a girl. For obvious reasons, I adored Uncle Darrell.

I don't know if Perry Mason was an appropriate read for a ten-year-old girl, but Uncle Darrell thought it was. When I picked up a Perry Mason mystery one Sunday afternoon and started reading he offered to lend it to me since he was finished reading. He told me I could bring it back the next week.

From that moment on I was hooked on mysteries. Where I had liked Nancy Drew, I loved Perry Mason. I didn't want to be Della Street when I grew up, I wanted to be Perry Mason. Every week I would trade Uncle Darrell the book I had finished for a new one, which I would eagerly dive into the minute I got my mitts on it and not come up for air until I reached the thrilling courtroom conclusion where the bad guys were trapped and Perry emerged victorious once again.

Nothing lasts forever, and eventually I ran out of Perry Mason. But by then I knew where the mystery section of the library was and I could find other writers. Earl Stanley Gardner is gone, and so is Uncle Darrell. But the love of mystery they instilled in that ten-year-old girl lives on.

And now, much to my delight, I get to write a mystery novel - actually three mystery novels! - and send them out into the world for other readers to share. I can only hope that someone, somewhere, will fall in love with my heroine, the way I did with Perry Mason.