It’s a rare treat that my wife and I get to tag along on one another’s business trips. In fact, if memory serves, this is only the second or third trip in five plus years that we’ve been able to accomplish it. She had a meeting in Las Vegas, and who can say no to Vegas? Unfortunately Vegas, particularly the Vegas strip, is not really what I would consider to be a ‘writer friendly’ zone. There’s music everywhere that is constantly interrupted by advertisements, it’s hot and bright outside, space is both expensive and limited, and there are thousands of people wandering around at all hours of the day. As I close in on completing the second draft of my first book, I really wanted to take the time to get out of the house, away from the distractions of normal life (e.g. my dogs), and spend some time working on the book during the day. The problem was finding the right place to do it.
Typically when we vacation in Vegas we stay more towards the center of the strip. It gives easy walking access to pretty much anything, and the hotels are more modernized than the north and south ends. This time we were down at the far end of the strip and the room we were in was obviously outdated. This doesn’t really bother me as a tagalong, but it did make writing a challenge. A dark room with limited light (electric or otherwise!) is not a great place to spend a few hours slogging through a chapter. When all else fails, and in this case it did, I resorted to finding a Starbucks. My closest options were inside the convention center (not a great idea since the yearly Vegas Star Trek convention was going on) and at a mall. The mall sounded just fine to me.
A hot fifteen minute walk later I realized my oversight. A mall in Vegas isn’t like a mall back home. They cram even more into these than usual, have significantly more foot traffic, and cater more to the tourist than the local. The mall had two Starbucks in it: the first had no interior seating at all, and the second had four bar stools looking out over the strip (all occupied) and a few small tables outside (also occupied, despite the 100 degree heat).
After some wandering and Googling, I found another coffee shop in the mall so I headed there. It turned out to be more of a coffee stand than shop, but they had tables. Finally I could make some progress. I should probably mention here that I heard more snippets of “My Heart Will Go On” during my three hours at that table than I have since high school, thanks to constantly running Celine Dion promos. Joy.
Without spoilers, some fairly heavy things happen towards the end of my book. In particular, someone close to a main character dies and it’s a fairly emotional scene. I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to work on this chapter during my time at the mall. I was moving along at a pretty good clip, and feeling good about the work I was doing. I was even tearing up a little bit as I wrote. About this time I noticed that there were a lot more people around me than there had been the last time I had looked up from the computer twenty minutes or so earlier.
A little background. This is the “Fashion Show” mall. I assumed this referred to the countless number of designer brands in the mall. Sure. It also refers to the floor that rises up out of the flat floor to transform into a runway and the hourly fashion shows that take place here. Guess where my coffee stand was located? Yep, about fifteen feet away from the end of this runway. Thank god I hadn’t decided to sit on one of the couches. I would have been in kicking distance of the runway then and I would have had three people trying to sit on top of me for the good seat.
Anyway, so I’m killing this character off, trying not to get too emotional about it, and I have models showing off their True Religion jeans with a crowd while the music blares loud enough to drown out my ear buds. Thankfully the show was fairly short. Unfortunately, I wasn’t done with the chapter when the next one rolled around an hour later. So, I got to experience this not once, but twice during the writing of the chapter. Note that despite only being an hour apart, the two ‘shows’ were completely identical.
Looking back, it was a surreal experience. For one, saying you were killing someone in a crowd of people isn’t something you can often get away with. For another, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to the Convention Center Starbucks. At least the Star Trek people would have been distracting me with more interesting costumes. I’m sure True Religion makes very nice jeans, but I just don’t care. Sorry.
I rarely get this emotional when I write, and of all the days for that to happen, I was surrounded by people. It was also one of the few chapters in the book that I’ve been able to actually crank through in a single sitting, thanks in large part to actually having a full day to do nothing but work on the book.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in Las Vegas, and I always enjoy vacationing there. I think that the next time though I need to do a bit more homework on a good writing spot.