Holy shit. How do I even begin to encapsulate this past weekend into an after action report? A few of you incredibly talented individuals have been casting everything into the format of a fantasy story. To be honest, I find this not only delightful, but completely appropriate. LibertyCon IS a fantasy land. It’s a world where legions of amazing volunteers labor to create a comprehensive program of incredibly high quality content that is both mind-blowingly educational and side-splittingly entertaining. Where Con Chair (and my dear friend) Brandy Spraker makes problems and obstacles disappear with the apparent ease of a master sorceress speaking an incantation. Where a professional and high-quality hotel staff labors to ensure that the details are covered.
But most of all, it’s a land where you’re surrounded by family. Even if they’re family you haven’t met yet. And it’s enchanting, and fantastic.
Glory of glories, C, my eldest daughter and LibertyCon companion, is old enough to drive!! We made the 10 hour trek down from Virginia with no problems and arrived in time to join the Barbers and the Massas at the Boathouse for dinner on Thursday night. The food was spectacular, the company moreso. That day, Griffin Barber and I had received word that we had a fully executed contract with Blackstone Publishing for our co-written SF Noir novel, Second Chance Angel. So Griffin and I had an additional reason to celebrate, as well.
Following our amazing meal, we headed back to the Chattanooga Marriott, which was the site of the convention for another year. I thought that the hotel staff overall did a great job facilitating our weekend, and would recommend the venue, should anyone ask. The rooms were comfortable and clean, the food at their restaurant and bar delicious, and the staff professional and personable.
Upon returning to the hotel, I found myself caught up in a whirlwhind of hellos and hugs and joy of seeing beloved friends after a separation. I caught up with my coauthor Marisa Wolf and her husband JC, my other coauthor Chris Smith, Speaker and Eeps and their family members, The Chris Kennedy Publishing Crew, as well as too many other dear friends to mention for fear of leaving someone out. C and Chris Smith’s daughter M found each other, and got settled in to the hotel room that they were to share by themselves without adult supervision. All our babies all grows up!
I think I went to bed around midnight with my heart full.
Friday morning I woke up and texted Boy Casey to see if he was still alive. His original plan to fly out for LibertyCon on Thursday night had been thwarted by airline delays, and so he’d engaged in a Grand Adventure in order to arrive. I’ll let him tell the full story in his own AAR, but suffice it to say that he was alive, well, and in need of a ride from the Chattanooga Greyhound station.
So I got up and drove out there to get him and bring him back to LibertyCon. Despite the fact that he hadn’t slept, he was ready to party, and so party we did… after a stop through the Chick-Fil-A drivethu. Naturally.
When we returned, Casey and I were joined by Chris Smith, C and M, my friends T, B, and O, Marisa and JC as we indulged in another LibertyCon tradition: the pilgrimage to the Hot Chocolatier. I had my usual European sipping chocolate and a chocolate pot de crème covered with a whiskey cinnamon crème. It made me cry.
Programming started well in advance of Opening Ceremonies on Friday. First up for me was the round table panel for the Four Horseman Universe. Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey led the motley crew of us 4HU authors as we discussed what’s going on in the popular military SF shared world universe, and what’s on the horizon.
As usual, the panel disintegrated into hilarity multiple times, but Chris was able to get us back on track as needed. I guess that’s why he’s the Factory Boss. 😊
Following the panel, we had a mass signing event. During this event, Chris produced a huge banner of the covers of Assassin and Hunter that he’d had made at the request of a fan. The particular fan (who I won’t name out of respect for his privacy, though he may identify himself if he wishes) wanted Marisa and I to sign the banner, which he’d then display in his home. Marisa and I were both overwhelmed with gratitude for the generous and amazing fans we’ve been fortunate to have. Thank you, Hunter, for all your love and support. We honor you.
Up next for me was another roundtable panel (in fact, that was the majority of my con, which was fantastic. I love roundtables!) This one was for TERRA NOVA, a new anthology edited by Tom Kratman and set in his Carreraverse. I read an excerpt of my story “Desertion”, and discussed the anthology along with Tom, Monalisa Foster, Chris Smith, Justin Watson, and Mike Massa. Then we did more signings, and moved on to Opening Ceremonies.
I had the honor of meeting Uncle Timmy Bolgeo at a previous LibertyCon, but I’m sad to say that I didn’t know the man well. I am, however, good friends with his daughter Brandy, the current con chair. Opening Ceremonies were, fittingly, an emotional memorial to the man who founded and led LibertyCon to become the amazing family reunion it is. Gray Rinehart turned on the waterworks with his tribute filk to Uncle Timmy, and Brandy’s heartfelt welcoming speech perfectly encapsulated what her dad had meant to so many people.
Master of Ceremonies John Harkness did a bang-up job of following that opening. Per tradition, he announced the name of every. Single. Guest. LibertyCon has the highest guest to attendee ratio of every con in the country, so it took a hot minute and he pulled it off with style.
After Opening Ceremonies, Gray treated us all to a concert, which was followed by yet another roundtable. Only this one was for *my* anthology, NOIR FATALE. I had the pleasure of moderating the panel of contributors that included Chris Smith, Guest of Honor Sarah Hoyt, Griffin Barber, Mike Massa, and Bob Buettner. We had another signing afterwards, and I got a little medical attention from a fan and former flight doc, who was kind enough to manipulate my kinked neck afterwards. 😊
LibertyCon is, indeed, good for the body and soul.
That was the end of programming for the day for me. What followed was a blur of greeting and conversation. More socializing and fun, creating and maintaining connections. At ten or eleven that night, I met up with Tom Kratman, Monalisa Foster and Justin Watson. C and M joined us, as did a few other friends I’ve mentioned already. We went down to the City Café for midnight chow and a strategy session. Tom, Monalisa, Justin and I were planning to meet with the incomparable Toni Weisskopf for a pitch session on Sunday, and we wanted to be sure we had our ducks in a row. Waffles with ice cream and strawberries. Amazing.
Back to the hotel, more hanging out with friends, and then finally bed, since I had a 10am panel on Saturday.
After breakfast with Marisa Wolf, the promised 10am panel was… you guessed it! Another roundtable! This one was a lot of fun. We discussed the upcoming FREEHOLD: RESISTANCE anthology edited by Michael Z. “MadMike” Williamson and set in his Freehold universe. I got to sit next to the lovely and talented Jessica Schlenker, and the equally talented, quite handsome, but not quite as lovely Jamie Ibson. We had a ball explaining just exactly how we’d managed to put together this volume, which is less of an anthology than a collaborative novel told from multiple points of view. It was, as MadMike said “A brass bitch to edit”, but it’s turned into something really special, and I can’t wait for it to come out. I actually have two stories in this one: “StarCrossed”, a really cool, sweet, scientific love story cowritten with Dr. Rob Hampson, and “FNG”, a psychological horror tale straight out of my nightmares.
Next was the Baen Travelling Roadshow and Prize Patrol. This panel is always really well attended, especially at LibertyCon, where word has gotten out that they give away free books. I had the opportunity to talk about NOIR FATALE, and Toni unveiled the cover art for GUNPOWDER AND EMBERS, my collaboration with John Ringo and Chris Smith, due out in January 2020!
After the Roadshow, Chris Kennedy Publishing was up with their Year Ahead panel (which ALSO provides free books!) This was an outstanding panel, but CKP puts out so much new work every year, it really needs to be a 2 hour panel. I had the opportunity to talk about THE WORLD ASUNDER, and what’s next for the Psyche of War universe, as well as hint at some developments in the 4HU.
But perhaps the most exciting part of CKP: The Year Ahead was the announcement of a whole new imprint: Beyond Terra, wherein I am honored to get to play in Dr. Chuck Gannon’s amazing Caine Riordan universe, along with Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, Kevin Ikenberry, Mike Massa, and Griffin Barber. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write Murphy’s Lawless, a sort of Kelly’s Heroes meets Band of Brothers in Space. I can’t wait.
After that, I hustled up to the Tennessee River Room to crash Griffin Barber’s and Kevin Ikenberry’s reading. Both men are like brothers to me, and I’m so thankful they let me do so. Griffin and I both read from SECOND CHANCE ANGEL, and announced to the small crowd that it would be forthcoming from Blackstone Publishing, probably some time in the new year.
Griffin and I joined our families and attended Baen’s annual dinner, where we spent an enjoyable time absolutely monopolizing Bob Buettner’s attention. Bob is a consummate gentleman and an amazing conversation partner, so I have zero regrets. I highly recommend doing the same, should you ever be in a position to do so. 😊
After the Baen dinner, I headed upstairs for the 9pm launch party for ALABASTER NOON, the stunning conclusion to the Four Horseman Universe Omega Wars arc. Down the hall from the launch party, my good friend N was hosting the IAN wardroom party, and I flitted back and forth between the two.
Until Brandy Spraker caught me and said that she needed a picture with her Badass girls now.
When Brandy Spraker tells you that she needs something at LibertyCon, you give her what she needs.
So we headed down to the lobby, met up with Marisa, Toni, and T. We sat and took our Badass picture, and then K. Barber joined us. As did L. Massa, and Cisca Small… and more and more ladies, until we had an absolute cabal of giggling, cackling, raunchy, sarcastic, put-me-in-stitches women hanging out together in the Marriott lobby. It was fantastic, and a highlight of the con.
At some point, however, Brandy was summoned to the karaoke room for something. So, of course, we all came along. And then… well… there was karaoke. A LOT of karaoke. We jumped and sang along with Fritz to “Tubthumping”, we sang Pat Benatar and Lady Gaga, Jim Minz whirled me around the impromptu dance floor to a song I can’t remember right now. Special shout out to con photographer Kenny, who has a set of golden pipes, and to Karaoke lady Sara(h?) who kept us going three hours after she was supposed to stop. THANK YOU!
Towards the end of karaoke, I had a quick meeting with John and Chris about our book and its sequel, and I think you guys are going to be pleased with what we decided. But at that point I was deliriously tired, and so I headed to bed.
Sunday morning, the only thing on my schedule was the 10am Kaffeklatch. Marisa Wolf and I stopped in and made an appearance, but it was quite crowded, and so we headed up to the restaurant to have a phenomenal breakfast buffet. We were joined by a rotating group of friends, and it was one of the most enjoyable meals I had there.
Afterwards, it was back down to the lobby to hang out with more of my friends, until our pitch session with Toni at 3. No announcements yet, but exciting things in the works, and it’s always fun and educational to talk business with the best in the game.
From there, more socializing and strategizing with friends until it was time to head to Rodizio for meat faucet. It was fun, but honestly not as fun as previous years… mostly because the restaurant was so hot and it took forever.
Afterward though, we headed back and met up with the CKP crew for more hanging out. I ended up cornering Mark Wandrey and Marisa Wolf, and we had a really great plotting session for ALLY, the next Depik book in the 4HU.
Finally, it was time to do one more lap, say goodbye to everyone, and head up to my room for bed. It had been a whirlwind con, and I shall miss it tremendously for the next three years.
If you haven’t heard, I’m headed to Japan for my last assignment in the USAF. So I won’t be back for LibertyCon 33, but you’d best believe I’ll be there as soon as I’m back.
They are family, after all. 😊