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We All Float Down Here, Georgie…

Libertycon XXX AAR – The Update Version

Libertycon was a blast as usual, with plenty of programming to go around for everyone. Steampunk? They have authors for that. SF? Same. Fantasy? Oh yeah.

Brandy Bolgeo Spraker and her crew of loyal minions once again did an amazing job of putting together a fun and creative convention. This year the Chattanooga Choo Choo kinda screwed just about everyone on their rooms and it cost them, with half of the con attendees being forced to stay at the Marriott instead. This was a ton of lost revenue on their part and I can tell you that Libertycon XXXI will not be at the Choo Choo. Where then, you may ask? Nobody knows yet.

So we rolled into Chattanooga around 1600 hours on Thursday, per the norm, and we find our roommates almost immediately. They were happy to see us but we almost immediately parted ways since we had dinner plans with bestselling author Doug Dandridge, Larry Southard, and Seamus Curran. Once again, as is becoming a Thursday night tradition, we descended upon Lupi’s Pizza in downtown Chattanooga and had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. I’m not a beer fan but they even have good beer. Afterwards I found some old friends and got many hugs. I also got our badges early this year, which was nice. I hate waiting in lines. Ask the poor girl at Chick-Fil-A. I wandered over to the not-yet-open consuite and said hi to Vonnage and Subdude, then wandered around catching Pokemon (don’t judge me) for the next hour before I decided to call it a night.

Day One

Friday I didn’t want to get out of bed but finally got up and moving around 0800. We went over to the Frothy Monkey, a new boutique-style restaurant located within the Choo Choo.

Side note: the Choo Choo used to offer a breakfast buffet in their dining area, which was always frequented by us. This year there was none, but they had the Frothy Monkey, so I wasn’t going to murder anyone… yet.

I’m turning into a big coffee snob (Starbucks couldn’t beat that into me, I wonder why?) and the Frothy Monkey had this amazing latte that was banana flavored. They drew hearts on it and everything (someone told me the waitress was hitting on me. I reminded him that I was probably older than her dad). I then scarfed down this awesome omelet (many sins can be forgiven if the omelet is good enough) and make my way over to check-in at con.

While I had already gotten my badge, this is the best place to find old friends on the first day of con. I ran into, dang, just about everyone and exchanged more hugs (I’m a hugger, what can I say?), then was told that I have to attend this panel on stealth in space. So I followed fellow Four Horseperson of the Anthology Mike Massa (long story) over to watch some really neat guys talk about stealth in space and how hard it is to hide a fully-powered space ship.

Stealth in space

Stealth in Space panel

I already knew the reasoning (ships bleed heat, and an IR scanner would spot that thing from a looooooooong way away, especially if you already have a pre-scanned image of the area to compare it to) but I wanted to hear what Chuck Gannon and the others had to say. While there I did have an idea about how to stealthily bomb the hell out of a planet, but it would require lots of math and a little bit of luck.

From there it was on to Opening Ceremonies, where I caught a glimpse of Guest of Honor Kevin Hearne…

A brief note here. I saw Kevin from a distance at Opening Ceremonies, and then I did not see him again the rest of the weekend. I am a HUGE fan of the Iron Druid so when I had heard that he was going to be this year’s GoH I was excited. Needless to say, between our schedules not working out and never running into the man, I was a bit bummed.

…and got a pretty loud cheer when I was introduced by Toni Weisskopf, the head of Baen Books. My people tolerate me so this is good.

After opening ceremonies I grabbed some food and went to a panel or two as a fan (you never stop truly being a fan) and then started to hit the room parties.

Nathan Balyeat and I have been friends for over 15 years now, so he knows me fairly well. So when I told him that we were going to invent a drink called the “Redheaded Trixie” (in honor of Trixie from John Ringo’s “Black Tide Rising” series) he actually was a bit surprised. Nonplussed, he decided to go ahead and wing it, and we would see what we came up with.

Nathan's Wardroom.jpg

The Wardroom

He nailed it. It was red perfection.

At this point I was on door duty, carding ID’s for anyone wanting to get into the room party. I had a hand stamp and everything, I was official. I was also mildly inebriated (don’t slip your security drinks while they’re working!) but managed to keep out all the underage riffraff. I also accidentally interrupted a deaf 80 year old’s orgy (this is what he claimed, the two elderly women who went in five minutes later backed this, so…. *shrug*), so I guess my security measures were so-so.

It was fun, providing security for my fellow TRMN/IAN members while they did an awards ceremony. It was a successful room party and I was looking forward to the following night.

But first, to sleep!

Day Two

I woke up bright and early and hangover-less, which almost got me stabbed by about 40 people (it wasn’t even March 15!), and went back to the Frothy Monkey for breakfa– haha, nope, no time for that since I had a panel at 1000 hours for something I haven’t written for in awhile now. What’s New in 1632? was pretty good overall, except I was sorta lost since I stopped keeping track of the 1632 series about a year or two ago. Outside of the main series and the ones that Eric Flint writes with Chuck Gannon I really don’t keep up with it any more. Too many side stories and spin offs for me to keep track of.

I actually left the panel with about 10 minutes left because 1) nobody asked me anything, and 2) I didn’t know what they were talking about. I don’t think I’ve ever cut out early on a panel before. I felt a smidge bad but that quickly disappeared when someone asked me why I wasn’t going to the 1632 mass autograph session. When I told them that I had sold a single short story 3 years ago to their electronic magazine, Grantville Gazette, I was informed that I should go anyway and support my fellow authors.

Look, I can be a cheerful person in the morning, but I need food in me first for that. Since I was scheduled for an OMG o’clock panel there was little chance of me getting food or caffeine before the panels began, so my patience was a little thin when I asked said person if they were going to tell the 1632 authors to come support me during my mass autograph session later. I mayyy have come off a bit snarkish but at least the person conceded my point.

branch coffee.jpg

Feed me!

After that I managed to eat about half of a sandwich from the Frothy Monkey (why is they AM service so much better than their dinner service?) before I went to my 2 hour time slot at the Author’s Alley.

Last year was my first year getting on the Author’s Alley, and it was extremely profitable since I sold out. This year I sold more books but did not sell out since I brought more than usual. Still, I cleared out about 75% of what I brought and it was enough to help pay for my cat’s vet bills as well as Odin’s boarding fees. I signed a lot of autographs and really enjoyed running into fans from last year who lambasted me for the ending of Wraithkin. I also was able to announce that Chris Kennedy picked up the rights to Corruptor and the rest of the books in The Warp universe, which was exciting. I also got to talk about my short story in A Fistful of Credits anthology, which was called “Paint the Sky”. Initial reviews have been positive with more than a few telling me that it was one of their favorite stories in the book.

I then went to the Baen Traveling Road Show and scored a free copy of Chuck Gannon’s latest Caine Riordan book, called Caine’s Mutiny. I’d read the first two books of the series and hadn’t finished the third yet, so this now means I have to finish it before I start the fourth book. Got to see some really cool covers coming from Baen Books in the next two years and also hang out with fellow Four Horseperson and Baen author Kacey Ezell. We then made our way through the downpour (yes, it rains in Chattanooga and I was unprepared for such an eventuality) and to our reading, which featured all four of the Horsepersons (Kacey Ezell, Mike Massa, Chris Smith, and myself). We had a good turnout during the reading. Kacey and Chris read from their short stories in Forged in Blood, another anthology that all of us are in, while Mike read a snippet from his current collaboration with John Ringo, titled More Than His Salt. I shocked the heck out of everyone by reading the opening of DarklingWraithkin’s sequel. I’ve never seen people actively giddy about a reading from me before. It was strange.

4 Horseperson

I apparently suffer from RGCF, or “Resting Grumpy Cat Face”. It is oftentimes fatal. The guy on the right? Chris Smith. We wrote a book together.

From there the four of us high-tailed it over to the Freehold: Written in Blood panel, where Michael Z. Williamson had us sign more of those cursed book plates. Book plates, for those who don’t know, are little stickers that authors sign and people then buy to slap inside the cover of the book that they were all in. It’s usually done when a book comes out after a time when the people signing the book plates can get together, hence the need for book plates.

After some good-natured grumbling we all went to dinner with Baen Books and had a marvelous time. I finally broke down and fan boy’d Chuck Gannon, who laughed at me. I’ve known Chuck for a very long time, so it was all in good fun. I then got to talk with John Ringo and Mike Massa some, as well as editor Gary Poole. I pitched an idea/story and Gary said to write it and send it so that’s thrilling news. I just gotta finish up a few things first and then… Captain Annie and the crew of the Failsafe returns!

Made it back to the room party/book release party of A Fistful of Credits, where I got to “officially” meet my brother from another mother, author Jon del Arroz. We joked about taking all the good writing jobs and stealing all the white women. He’s even a baseball fan, which proves to me that we’re related somehow. Granted, he’s an A’s fan, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

From there I party hopped, bouncing from room to room and running into old friends and making new ones. I actually went to bed somewhat early, staggering in and crashing at about 0200. My roommate had ordered pizza as penance for snoring so loudly the night before so we gladly scarfed down some Domino’s before going to sleep.

Day 3

Sunday morning I was up, chipper and ready to roll. My roommates hate my ability to go without sleep and drink all I want and not suffer hangovers, so I get something from the Frothy Monkey before rolling over to my next 1000am panel, which was What’s New from Copper Dog Publishing? I got to run into the musically and lyrically gifted (and perverted) Beth Waggonner, who’s rendition of the “Summer of ’69” almost caused much beer to be spilled the prior Libertycon. We goofed off and talked about the benefits of small-press publishing, as well as some of the drawbacks. Overall it was a good panel.

From there I actually had some free time, so I perused the dealer’s room and spotted a few things I would have liked to buy. Due to budget constraints I was unable to get the messenger bag I wanted. Next year, Miskatonic University bag, next year.

I then had my final panel of the weekend, which was an autograph session with John Ringo and David Weber. I joked around with people in line about being the unwanted third person in the threesome but after John left it was just David and I signing autographs. David is a funny and knowledgeable guy who can remember details of a book he wrote 15 years ago. I ‘m not talking about general details, no. I’m talking specific math details and obscure characters that he mentioned in passing. The guy has one of the best memories ever, and that’s saying something.

Later that night we went out and did our annual Rodizio’s Brazilian BBQ, this time with a group of 36. Last year we only had 18, so word spread somehow. I may have *cough cough* helped with that some, since I invited every Baen author I could find. I again gorged myself on all types of food, including grilled pineapple, beef, lamb, chicken, fish… I had the meat sweats and it was GLORIOUS!

rodizio's

Me with Speaker to Lab Animals, Dr. Tedd Roberts. He’s a Baen author as well and our go-to guy whenever we want to theoretically kill everybody with something exotic.

I paid for it later, but man oh man was it worth it.

Went to the Libertycon Dead Dog Party and talked with Michael Gants again about collaborating on a project we’ve been toying with for over 10 years now. Our schedules have never meshed up but my upcoming schedule actually doesn’t look so bad, so I think in 2018 we might get it done. Lack of sleep finally caught up with me so I went to bed.

Day 4

Breakfast at the Frothy Monkey a final time (they made some money this weekend, I can tell you that) and then it was time to hit the road. I needed to get back in time to pick up Wally from the vet and Odin from the dog sitter. While on the ride home, however, the vet calls me and reminds me that they will be closing at 4pm for the holiday. Since they had neglected to tell me this beforehand when I dropped him off and told them when I was picking him up, this meant that I was in no hurry to make it it home on time.

Stupid…. ugh. I could have spent more time with my friends!

All in all, Libertycon XXX was a lot of fun. Made some new friends and got to see a lot of old ones. Also raised a toast to Gary Roulston, one of my first readers. Gary died last week right before Libertycon and I haven’t had time to process his death yet.

This is something I wrote when I got back from Libertycon Monday evening:

We are born with family but as life goes along a new family emerges that is chosen, and those bonds that are forged are oftentimes stronger than even blood. I love you all and I will be counting the days until I get to see my family again.

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