Libertycon XXXI AAR

As always, Brandy and her crew put on one amazing shindig and I had a great time! It was especially notable because not only did I manage to sell a lot of stickers to support my campaign election, but I got to hear a massive HOON! in the process. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Thursday there were calls for a metric butt ton of rain for the entire trip down there. If you don’t know what a metric butt ton is, imagine a bunch of southern boys building a fishing boat about a football field in length then saying “hold my beer” as they prepare for the floods. Well, somehow I managed to miss it all, because I coasted into Chattanooga in record time and actually got into my room before 3PM, which is a record for me. The hotel was air conditioned nicely, which was a stark contrast to the preceding years at the Choo Choo, and they even had a resturant and a bar. Of course, all this good karma comes back to bite me on the tail end of the weekend. But still, to the con!

I immediately ran into old friends and the party began. Dinner plans were made and executed. A bunch of us went to an excellent barbecue place in town called Sticky Fingers. The food was great, but our waited was… ahh… yeah. But still, he tried, and eventually we were back at the hotel to start kicking off the unofficial room parties because Thursday is the new Friday at Libertycon!

Drinks were had but kept it to a dull roar because I was expecting my roommates to arrive at… any… moment… now… where the hell are they? Well, it turns out that they got a late start by about 7 hours and did not arrive until it was almost 9:30PM. They were all cranky, irritable, and generally unpleasant… so of course I regaled them with how awesome and easy my trip was! Because I’m that good of a friend!

I did mention the karma earlier, right?

Friday kicks off with a 1PM panel (seriously, who does this?) that was, fortunately, a popular one. It was a roundtable discussion about John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising universe in which I had a short story. Hilarity ensued when John admitted that, three years later, he still hasn’t read my story in it. They also talked about the novel set in the universe by him and Mike Massa, as well as the next anthology, which I won’t be a part of. Too many terrific authors gunning for a few slots.

After that it was my most challenging panel yet. I had to be a moderator for a panel about YA in Science Fiction. Sounds easy, right? Ha! I had David freakin’ Weber on the panel, and I knew I was going to screw it all up somehow and he would murder me (in a book). Fortunately, I somehow managed to sound like I knew what the hell I was talking about and kept the momentum going and got the audience involved. Next time I will be better prepared!

I found out later that I had the third or fourth busiest schedule of the con. I didn’t know that at the time, though. I thought everyone had as many panels as I did and I was wondering how some of them older writers were going to hang.

From there it was Opening Ceremonies, which I skipped this year because I was hungry. Had a burger from the hotel’s bar and then I prepared for the round table panel hosted by Copper Dog Publishing.

Now, I like the publisher a lot, but I felt bad for him because we had something like 13 panelists and only 5 people in the audience for this one. I had little to contribute because I’ve only been in their anthologies, and they’re no longer doing Sha’Daa anthologies. Again, nothing against the publisher, but I felt that many of us authors could have been doing other panels.

Then it was on to my Author’s Alley for the next two hours. I sold two books (all-time low) but sold a ton of HOON stickers. The artist I was pimping out, Raven Yox, outsold me by leaps and bounds. I’m proud of her, but still… I got my butt kicked by a 19 year old!

And then the parties began…

I’m still a little hazy on the details, but I do recall strolling the entire 3rd floor of the hotel, drinking and finding new friends and old ones. The entire floor was the party floor and it was EPIC. I didn’t party too much though, since I knew I had an early panel the next morning (every… freaking… year…), but I once more proved my prowess by not getting a hangover. My coauthor, Chris Smith, hates me for this.

So hangover Saturday (for everyone else) started with a 10AM panel. Fortunately it was a Four Horsemen round table, and there were a LOT of fans of that universe. So there were a lot of announcements made, cover reveals, door prizes… the crowd ate it up. I’m pretty sure just about everyone walked out of there with some sort of prize. I actually had a large gap in programming here so I cut out with Cubby’s Handler and his new wife to go eat at the local diner. The food was excellent and despite being packed to the gills the wait wasn’t long at all. Met some new friends there (“if they have a badge, sit them with us” was what they told the waitress) and told some old war stories. Evil SEAL Santa is ALWAYS good for a laugh. The tales of Rex are more cautionary, but still a hoot.

Next up was the Sha’Daa round table, which could have been held during the Copper Dog panel. There was nobody there and quite a few of us had conflicting schedules. We wanted to stay but… crickets in the crowd. I did a short reading in the midst of writing Deathlords and then cut out to use the bathroom because diner, stomach, grease equals a disaster.

But on the subject of Deathlords

I promised my publisher that the book would be done by May 1. As you may surmise, May 1 came and went with no book completed. June 1, same result. By this time I was getting desperate, so I gave my word as a Spaniard that I would have it done before Libertycon ended. It was now late on Saturday night, and I was supposed to be at the Baen dinner. But… book… sigh. I needed the publishing contracts, so I made a solemn vow to finish the book before the end of the Chris Kennedy Publishing panel on Sunday.

Room parties on Saturday night went on to the wee hours of the morning. I sold a lot of HOON stickers, got absolutely wasted, played Cards Against Humanity, had fun, met the new Fantasy Lit Track Director for Dragoncon, and had fun. Then we almost had a medical emergency (hey, it wouldn’t be a Libertycon if I didn’t almost go to the ER) when, after stumbling downstairs to the hotel lobby, was offered some foor by a friend. Hell yeah! I was starving! I ate one burger, oh my God it was delicious, and then I started on another. This one…. tasted a little funny. I mention this and they discover onions on the burgers. I was then informed that Krystal burgers only have 4 ingredients: mustard, burger, onions, and cheese (with bun).

Fortunately, they were white onions and not red, so 100mg of Benedryl and I was out.

Then up again at 9:47AM freaking out because I was going to be late to my panel!

10AM panels are the devil.

It took me a while to realize that the meet and greet coffee hour with the authors wasn’t a panel. So I got to meet up with a few authors but… that nagging sensation wouldn’t leave me alone. I suddenly remembered that solemn vow and ran off to continue writing. I only had a few hours left before the deadline!

My next panel was a 1632 panel. Considering the last time I wrote for them was like 4 years ago, I was a bit surprised that I was invited to be on it. Whatever. Eric Flint moderated, so I was able to sit down at the end and peck away at the computer. The word count for the novel climbed higher and higher… could I do it? Would I have enough time?

The panel ended, and I switched out rooms. My next panel was the CKP panel. High noon. Gunslinger’s hand. I had only a few words to go, but this panel was going on. I muttered a few things and Chris mentioned to everyone that I was working on my book. Nobody else bothered me, and then suddenly…

Me: …am I… done?

Chris Smith: I think so, dude (he was sitting next to me watching me write)

Me: I… holy crap. I think I’m done.

Chris S: Yeah, looks done.

Me (pumping hands triumphantly into the air) This book is DONE!

Crown applauds, I read the final few sentences of the book (spoiler free except it gives the title of the next book) and suddenly a huge weight is off my shoulders. I enjoy the rest of the panel because why not? I just finished book 3 of the Kin Wars Saga. Met Jim Minz from Baen Books during this, and pitched him the idea for the Failsafe series (because why not?) and he was intrigued by the idea. Got some business contacts established, and then it was the official end of the con.

Cue sad face. Open meat faucet.

Because after the con is an annual tradition of eating like a glutton at a local Brazilian BBQ place where they will bring the meat until you throw in the white flag. I was stubborn this year (and starving), so I was the last to give up. But after 72 hunks of meat I decided that enough was enough and I… had dessert.


Monday morning came too early and I hit the road. Traffic was atrocious once I hit Virginia, and what should have been a 6 hour drive turned into damn near 9 hours. I had to go in to work as well, so I just went in to work with all my dirty clothes from the con in tow. I figured I would do laundry later.

I had a tremendous time, as always. This con was more professional networking for me than usual, but I won’t complain one bit. I made new friends. I made new fans. Best of all, I got to see my family. I usually look upon the next year with dread because it’s usually a full year until I see them again, but not this year. This year is DRAGONCON! So I’ll get to do this all over again in two months.


Thank you Libertycon. As always, you made everyone feel welcome and hosted one hell of an event.

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