Sunday, November 6, 2016

November Update!

I think I need to start doing updates and less cat picture posting. Okay, maybe not less cat pictures, but at least updates:

Good: finished a bunch of work today. Yay!

Better: finished watching The Crown. Not only visually stunning, but characters and the characters were relatable. Brilliant writing and the supporting cast was perfect.

Best: had dinner with my dad and stepmom. Talked biz and gave them pressies from Vegas. Dad loved his keychain from Caesars #giftsyouredoingitright

Bad: having a liver ultrasound after blood tests came back with high liver enzymes. Hoping at best it's just my thyroid out of balance or at worst that it's just a gallbladder.

Worst: the lovely calico down the street has gone missing. There were posters up when I came home from dinner. Bless her heart, I hope she comes home soon. She's so friendly and sweet.

I hope everyone is done voting with early or absentee ballots. I wouldn't want to be in Election Day lines!

Monday, October 24, 2016

My journey to Nerd Nirvana and back...IT'S VEGAS BABY!! My Vegas Vacation 2016

So it's been a really long time since I've updated. A lot of that had to do with losing Chester. I used to post weekly pictures of him and Milly and even though I never stopped taking pics of Milly, posting them here reminded me how much I missed Chester. So I stopped. I didn't stop writing, but I stopped publishing temporarily to concentrate on my day job and my health.

I'm not sure how much I'll actually be back since my health has been declining steadily. The monster that is lupus has become very active and worsened, even more so over the last couple months. I'm on a new medication that will hopefully not only make me feel better but possibly put me into remission. I'm supposed to give it six months to start to work and so far I'm not hating it. More on that later!

Back in 2014, I had a really hard decision to make. I could go to GayRomLit (which I had just paid for and promised to share a room with a fellow awesome author!) or I could go to Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in Las Vegas since their Fan Festival was going to happen right over my birthday in Vegas at the Rio. I really wanted my husband to go but he was over protective of Milly and decided he would stay home with her.

It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to head to Chicago to have an amazing time, but vowing if I had a chance again to head to Vegas for Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival, I would drop everything and go.

Low and behold, in December 2015, faint stirrings of rumors began that Fan Festival planning was brewing and by God, if they had to wheel me in on a stretcher, I was going.

So hubby and I talked and unanimously agreed. We were going to Vegas, baby! And while we are at it, we're dragging my baby sister along (who is a player and fan as well!) and then afterwards we're going to have a well deserved vacation.

Before we get started on my tales of wonder, I'm going to give you a rundown on my game so you're not completely lost.


::MAJOR NERD ALERT::

I'm going to give you a basic run down of the game. It's what is called an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called Final Fantasy XIV. When it first came out, my hubby decided after hearing a bunch of bad reviews and then playing Final Fantasy XIII, he would skip the game. It was buggy and just not the intense and beatiful Square Enix usually brings to the table (Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy XII and other games in the series, etc) but they hired a new designer by the name of Naoki Yoshida (aka Yoshi-P) who decided to rebuild the game from the ground up. 

Had I heard this when Yoshi-P was actually doing the work, I would have been skeptical. In books, if something has gone that terribly wrong with your manuscript, usually you scrap it and start anew. But Yoshi-P had a vision, of what would be like a new game...which became Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. 

It's pretty damn awesome. That's another reason I haven't been around as much or released as many books. Since my health has been in a terrible downward spiral, I've had less energy and I've unfortunately had to rely on more medications that have made me tired, loopy and worst of all, foggy-brained. It sucks, however, my husband dragged me in front of the PS4, sat me down and said, "Play." And I haven't stopped since. It was something to do while I was recovering from the effects of Methotrexate on a weekly basis. It was fun to talk to people while in game and very soon, I was hooked.

I play a Miqote, which is a cat race.

 

Duh! Did you think any differently? :) 

From the moment I saw the game, I had the urge to pick up an axe. My husband tried to steer me toward being an Archer/Bard (a support class DPS) but I was feeling the axe. I had a lot to choose from (Paladin, White Mage, Scholar, Summoner, Black Mage, Dragoon, Monk though Dark Knight, Astrologian, Ninja and Machinist came later in other patches)  I started out as a Marauder, got my soul crystal for Warrior and even though I've leveled all my other DPS and Healer and Tank classes, Warrior always stuck with me. Maybe because I'm a lupus warrior XD

Which brings me to something else about the game. You can also play as many different races, change your appearance and you also can switch jobs. This is my first MMORPG so from what I've heard in other games, once you pick your job, you can't switch but here, you can be a healer (so you keep your party going with healing) or a tank (which means you stand in front of the enemy and take all the damage) or DPS (which stands for "damage per second" and basically you kill our enemies) I'm currently a WAR and fairly well geared too. 

Something else that is really awesome about this game is how LGBT friendly our game is. I rarely see hate in game and when I do, it is shut down hard. There's a marriage option in game and it doesn't matter what race, gender or color you are, if you want to get married, you can. Even Yoshi-P said when he announced the marriage option was coming out that there would be no restrictions

Now, through out this journey, I'll be using in game names (IGN) for all the people involved. Mostly because that's how I know them. I met my husband online and it has taken a really long time for me to stop calling him Archchancellor.



Are you ready?
(me with my raid team in our contest winning picture)

T-minus 4-months:

It is announced that tickets will be going on sale for Final Fantasy Fan Festival 2016. CUE EVERYBODY FREAKING OUT! Where do we stay, who are we flying on? I'm so excited! I did figure there should be some time to mosey about and then grab tickets to this. After all in 2014, they didn't sell out, which was one of the reason why I was still debating at the end to head to Vegas. I had spent the last three years apart from my husband on my birthday to go to conventions. I wanted to spend this one with him!

On the day of the tickets sales, we log in using our special code e-mail to subscribers only. There is some very complicated queue system that I will never understand but we secure tickets for all three of us. AWESOME! Yay! It's a damn good thing we logged in right away. Tickets sold out in four hours. O.O

BUT WE ARE GOING! Somehow. Someway. We'll get there with my sister, even if I have to call in sick for her to school. OMG OMG OMG we're going!

I will watch her while you're gone.

The next few months are spent meticulously planning for maximizing our time in Vegas. It's also about the time I realize I'm going to have a Benlysta infusion right before the festival. Ugh. I would have liked a week out for recovery time but there's not much I can do. I have to stick to the schedule.

My blood tests haven't improved that much and also my liver enzymes and other tests show my kidneys aren't working like they should be. I solider on, taking each day and week as they come and try not to think the worst.

About this time, I start having a never-ending period. Over the course of the next few months, I am diagnosed with uterine polyps, scheduled for a D&C and then popped back out, not even realizing this was surgery, though minor. I think I would have waited because it did require recovery time, but probably not because it had to be done due to blood loss. I was getting dizzy and still have issues today.

There have been some tense moments over the past few months with my health. Am I okay to go? I see a couple of my doctors before I leave and they all tell me to take it easy but have a great time. *thumbs up* I'm good to go.

T-minus 1-week:

The storm of the century Hurricane Matthew is headed our way. We are scared shitless because this storm just took out Haiti and the Bahamas and is headed our way. While saying prayers for the lives lost, we hunkered down for the storm. We figured if we needed to rebook the flights, we would. We just wanted to stay safe and we watched with wonder as this powerhouse hugged the coast of Florida and moved off.


T-minus 1-day:

Due to DOT laws, all deliveries were shut down and my doctor's office couldn't get my Benlysta. There was only one dose left and due to the schedule, it would go to another patient. I told the nurse I would be on stand-by in case the patient couldn't make it. Around noon, I got the call I could come receive my treatment. Yay! Apparently the previous patient had brought her sick kid along with her to the appointment. O.O whut? Who does that? The whole office is full of immunocompromised patients where a cold can turn into a killer pretty quick.

God, I don't remember much past that, except throwing clothes in a suitcase and playing online while chatting with friends all jealous that we were going.


Lift-off! (or are we there yet?)

We wake up at a reasonable time and spend some time with Milly. This is always the hardest part of leaving. We made reservations ages ago for her to board and this is my most hated part of the trip. I knew going into this vacation that Milly would be boarding for the first time without her brother so I let the folks at Best Friends' Pet Care know she was on her own this time. It's hard to believe that he's gone and it's been 2 1/2 years since we said goodbye to him.


After dropping Milly off (with lots of hugs and snuggles and kisses) we fill up the car with our bags and we're off. Flying out of Orlando is really easy and painless. Once our bags are checked and we see only 10-15 minutes wait for security, we decide to have a bite at one of the airport restaurants, which I could have done without because airport food taste like plastic no matter where you eat. But soon, we are whizzing past security and directly onto the plane to first class.

Okay...so I thought we were going to take off but...no? Emergency maintenance. Geez, I thought that only happened in game. We kept being promised fifteen minutes until take off, which turned into two hours. The waiting wasn't a huge deal, except we missed our connecting flight. They hadn't rebooked us at all, which they swore up and down on the ground in Orlando they had when they realized they couldn't make up time in the air. Not only was I very sick from the treatment and having to keep my head on straight to get us on the next flight, when American did rebook us, we were split up and stuck in middle seats.

American Airlines fucked up. BADLY. I was so sick, stuck next to a jerk who refused to move and crowded me deep into my middle seat. Right then, I promised myself I would never be that person who splits up two people like that. I've always given up my seat for someone else. I lost a little faith in humans then...until the guy on the other side of me offered me his biscotti when he saw how much I liked mine.

I was nervous at this point. If this flight was any indication of what the rest of my trip was going to be like with things going wrong, I was going to be miserable. But worry not! This is Final Fantasy Fan Festival 2016 and Hildebrand and Godbert would never let a lady such as myself fret!


As we landed, dead tired, our limo was awaiting us and I almost cried with happiness. We got our room upgrade to a suite, with a sitting area and a huge spa tub in a bathroom that is the size of my master bedroom at home (not exaggerating here) I also can't seem to upload a picture that isn't sideways for some reason so here's a picture of our feet.

 
Cruising in luxury!

We got some last minute items at CVS on the strip next to the hotel, saw some shady night life and found a crepe place inside the Paris. I needed dinner, since dinner on the plane was for first class only so we grabbed the snack. I scarfed down my ham and cheese crepe, grinning the whole time.

VEGAS!! I have arrived!



Day 1: A day of rest and lil sister arrives...or not?
 


This day was planned way ahead of time. I knew I would need as much recovery to be able to enjoy my time at the FFXIV Fan Festival. We took it pretty easy all morning, just chilling out because my sister would be arriving in at 11pm that night and a dearest friend IGN Jane Jangles, would be picking her up at the airport.


Now, when we checked in, we weren't warned of remodeling, otherwise we would have made sure that we could have a room that would have less noise than others since I would need lots of rest today. So while they were switching rooms for us, we met up with a long time game friend IGN Rei Toro. She's an awesome White Mage (healer) and we ate with her while we waited for Jane Jangles to show up.

I knew Rei would probably be cool in person (hey, she's Canadian) but I didn't know she'd be that cool! :) we had a great lunch and then wandered around to get checked in for the fan festival.


A proper tribute to Harchefaunt

Afterwards, we just kinda wandered and rested while we waited for Steph's plane to arrive..except she was caught in maintenance in Houston, like we were. I was pretty confident they would take off no matter how late, because the airline didn't want to pay for 200 hotel rooms. Finally after hours of waiting, I passed out hard but my husband supervised my sister checking in. Big thanks to the Jangles for picking her up. In my coma-like state, we agreed to meet for breakfast, or at least I think we did.

Day 2: It has begun! Or...how to live on crepes and Pedialyte.

OMG, my 40th birthday is soon, but damn, my ass is sore and tired and I'm feeling like 90. Like fuck this. When did I get old? I need coffee to even open my eyes...okay, I'm being dramatic but between the time change, my lupus treatment and staying up late waiting for my sister, I was tired.

Hubby dragged me out of bed because soon, very soon, there would be a keynote where major announcements for the game would be made.

BOOM! I'm out of bed, grabbing a cup of coffee and my meds for the morning and creamers. I'm downstairs in a flash, grabbing breakfast with my sister and Rei. The dear and awesome Jane saved us seats in the fifth row to see what would set the tone for the festival -- which was the trailer for the announcement of the next patch.





OMG, I can't wait! Coming Spring 2017

The pulsing excitement in the room was absolutely breathtaking. Before long, the memes were up, the videos were online and my reddit, FB and discord chats were all lit up with Yoshi-P talking at the keynote, with Koji Fox translating. Our new patch is coming out and the new job has been confirmed. Last year was Dark Knight, this year looks like...Red Mage? 

FYI, Koji Fox is MAJORLY talented. He does all the localization for Final Fantasy XIV. Not only does he do his best to translate Yoshi-P's fire rapid Japanese, he also tried to put the energy and joy that you can easily read off Yoshi-P expression into his translation as he's speaking. Not everything translates perfectly but one of my favorite lines ever is "Please look forward to it." which is a way of saying we're excited about this upcoming event and hope you are too! YES WE ARE!

Okay, so I head back upstairs to rest. Damn it, as much as I want to be racing all over this hotel, I need a rest, so I hide out in the room while hubby goes on a treasure hunt! I text him, cuz I'm a little hungry too...and those fucking crepes are calling my name. I head back down to the convention hall and...

FAT CHOCOBO LINE IS SHORT. The merchandise line is still fucking long but I was never going to stand in that. So I grab hubby and we geek out and color in our books while chatting with my sister in the primals line. You have to have a full group to head over there so they are just waiting for us to be done.

We're finally at the front and I realize what the fuck did I get myself into? This thing is eight feet tall. I have a serious fear of heights and no joke, they gave you a rickety staircase that I'M GONNA DIE CLIMBING THANKGODIVEGOTLIFEINSURANCE.

 

You want me to go where??

We head to the Primals gaming line and while waiting in the last few minutes, they have the cosplay competition and OMG!! So cute!!

We have a lovely dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Steak and then I'm too pooped to pop. We missed the concert tonight but we absolutely will not miss it tomorrow because it's PRIMALS LIVE.

Hubby goes to gamble a little while I head back upstairs to pass out. I keep wanting to watch a movie, especially the Secret Life of Pets, but I know I'm just gonna snore my way through it. After a bath and some pedialyte, I'm out.

Day 3: Wherein I disappoint myself.

Okay, so I'm a huge fan of Koji Fox. Some of his translations are down right amazing, pulling on US pop culture references (Like a fight in game is called "It's Never Lupus" in which you fight a huge crab -- cancer, get it?) and other amazing pop culture references. Like one boss is named after David Bowie...I could go on and it was the one panel I couldn't miss!

*splat* face down on the bed after breakfast and I couldn't even move. I was exhausted. I thought a little nap would help me some but I slept through his whole panel. So sad!

After I woke up, I got my blood tests back. Not looking good. My liver enzymes are up, kidney function is still down. I'm not sure what this means for future treatment but I decide I need to enjoy this moment and worry about this when I get to the doctor's office. I also know this means I can't drink AT ALL. Not even sips either. :(

Lil Sis and friends decided to head for McDonald's with Jane and friends so I headed for...you guessed it, crepes. Yas. So much yasssssss. After that, it was watching the letter from the producer where he answered questions. From his answers, we all know now that Yoshi-P enjoys watching us be in pain...as if the Mhach raid wasn't enough proof of that.

And then...Primals Live!! Because we don't want to miss it, we eat at the very amazing noodle and rice bowl shop I had heard about in the hotel but never had a chance to try. It was amazing. Jane works at a Asian Fusion eatery so he could hand out advice on what to try. Everything was delicious.

The tribute to Harchefaunt kept growing. 

We never wanted to music to end. With Koji Fox live on vocals (yes, he also sings the songs in game) I danced even though I hurt and thought I might pass out. It's these moments I wanted to remember and enjoy. As the set ended and the FFXIV staff came out and said their goodbyes, no one wanted it to end, but when the show is over, it's time to go home. As people got up and left, Yoshi-P came running back out onto the stage and yelled "Please look forward to it!" and everyone cheered!

As we walked out, I held my husband's hand and squeezed it. "Best vacation ever!" I said. "Same," he said. And it was.

I'm not going to lie, I am also looking forward to that crepe I'm about to scarf. I swear this is my last one.


Day 4: It's so hard to say goodbye...

Everyone is taking off today. Across my FB feed, all I see if notes of goodbyes and 'see ya in game' and we head downstairs for a final crepe with our dear friend Rei. We linger a really long time because we don't want to lose our new met friends who are so damn awesome. We buy Rei a mimosa and hug her hard because...she's Canadian. Enough said.


So for this whole vacation, I have felt like I have been moving from one restaurant to another and that's okay with me! We're on our way to a late lunch at The Palm. We're huge fans of the one here in Orlando so we figure the one is Vegas will be same but on steroids (cuz trust me, everything tastes better on roids.)

O.O The service was terrible. The food was average. At least Jane's crab was good or they might have had an angry kitty howling in the kitchen. After our late lunch, we have to say goodbye to Jane now and I'm just heartbroken. Steph heads off to say goodbye and then we lay down to rest because...

WE'RE GOING TO PENN AND TELLER.

 
We were so close, we were almost on stage...wow.

Halfway through the show, I realize why my husband and sister love these guys so much. They're all left wingers to the max and they all put on an amazing show!

Okay, so pro-tip: Teller actually talks outside the show and I don't know if anyone noticed when he does talk, everyone shuts up. He instructed us on how to line up for selfies and everybody obeyed. Penn still does his old school so make sure you bring someone who knows how to take pictures in your group. Ours turned out fuzzy because I went to sit down.

We get back to to the hotel with a horrid Uber driver (his car stunk of strong perfume and he had rap music with swearing in it turned up way loud. It's one of my favorite songs, but minus the swearing dude, while on the job) He tried to chat up my husband in a creepy way. My husband pretended to be on the phone.

We head out for one last crepe but on Sunday... THE CREPE SHOP CLOSES EARLY. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOES. It's okay, you can order them through room service!

 
Nutella and caramelized bananas. I added strawberries to mine.

At 4am, I waved goodbye to my sister outside the Paris hotel. I didn't bother to change out of my night gown. I'm certain this is not the strangest thing that has been seen in Vegas. I head back upstairs and fall back to sleep when my sister texted me that she was all checked in at the airport.

Day 5: Empty nest


OMG. The kids left and what are we going to do with ourselves? Well...it is Vegas so we decide to do SHOPPING! We wander around the strip, enjoying the sights and sounds and digging into delicious food and stepping outside the crepe zone. There's a Mexican/Chinese take out at the Cosmopolitan that I wanted to try but Hubby dragged me away from. There is so much to do and see throughout the strip. I'm not a gambler so for the most part, I just want to enjoy the sights and shopping. It's a relaxing day full of crepes and we finally sit down to watch Secret Life of Pets. Damn, this movie is dark. Just a little tiny bit. O.O


Day 6: When I finally start to relax! Until...

::JACKHAMMER:: OMG, not again. Seriously, if I had known the hotel would be under construction while we were here, I would have a booked a different hotel starting Sunday. Maybe one still in the Caesar's group, but not this one. Even though THOSE FUCKING CREPES.

I'm barely waking up when my husband comes rushing out of the bathroom. "There's no water."

O.O "What??"

"No water. All the water has been turned off."

After a panicked call to reception and with tons of reassurance that they left us a letter (they didn't) and told us upon check-in (they did not) and we would receive a food and beverage credit for water (ugh, not enough) we head out. They are not telling anyone about the noise or no water because I informed a nice couple coming out of the lobby if their room was between 5-14, your water is out. They looked surprised and a little pissed before running back to reception. Ugh.

Anyway, we head for In-and-Out. Yum. OMG, I missed this.

We get an Uber back to Caesars and wander some more. During this time, I see we've lost a member of our raid team and I send them this picture, which quickly became a proposal of a replacement.

 

It's official. You've been selected to be our new ninja! Congrats! May the odds forever be in your favor...or something.

So it's our last night and hubby is knackered and so am I. After buying a few last minute gifts for my dad and family, we mosey around and pack our bags. After a quick salad at Gordon Ramsay Steak (I almost cry when I realize I have no more room in my tummy for a last minute crepe) I head upstairs, totally tired out.

Day 8 - Our journey home

This day is fairly relaxing, with a limo ride to the airport and first class check-in. We head for the lounge and with an hour to wait, we snack and have beverages before we board our plane.

 

Five hours in a tin can sucks. I think we would go to Vegas more often if I didn't have to fly that far. I see why people from California head there all the time. It's fun! After hours of traveling, we finally get in way late. After picking up milk, I head over to pick up Milly. She's sleepy but so happy to see me! I feel the same way, my little princess.

All in all, this was a great trip. The whole time, I had so much fun! Between our suite and first class, and then having my sister there and going to the fan festival, it was the perfect vacation. I felt like that the whole time. It was a dream come true.

If you like reading about the crazy times on my vacation, please visit my other posts about when I visited England, went on a cruise and to Yaoi-con. They will not disappoint you, I promise.

As far as my writing, I'm still plugging away though my day job and health are top priority. I have been working on the next book in SOCA/Dangerous Affairs series (even though SOCA in real life has been absorbed into another government agency in England...and what about that Brexit...hmmm) plus another series that isn't really romance. We shall see which one jumps up first. And I promise, I'll try to keep this more updated, even if it is just random geeky updates XD

So...please look forward to it! Lori Toland, over and out.