Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

*I’ve never been to Dragon con, but the Lady Correia says she and I are going next year.  Not sure DC will survive. 😉 Meanwhile I read this with envy. – SAH*

Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

Pre DragonCon Prep

So the time had finally come.  I was returning to DragonCon after a year’s absence.  It seemed like a fitting reward for surviving this past summer.  What with moving across the country, getting settled into a new house, job, school, etc…

DragonCon was just what the doctor ordered.

But here was the thing: unlike in previous years, I was well behind the power curve when it came to preparations and packing.  When the last week in August rolled around, I still hadn’t ordered the badge ribbons I needed, or the t-shirts, or the really kickass printed leggings I decided I required in my life.  It was like I was putting off my packing and prep.

I suspect it had something to do with the creative slump I’d worked myself into having.  See, I’ve been working on this collaboration project with John Ringo and Chris Smith, while simultaneously trying to finish my novel with Nico Murray in time for DragonCon.  By the end of August, the novel was drafted, and being edited by Chris.  I was pushing for 500 words a night on the collab, but I was bogging down.  I felt creatively drained.  So much so that for 3 or 4 days immediately before Con, I didn’t write a word.  I just curled up with one of my favorite comfort reads (The Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn), and let my brain rest.

That helped stave off the immediate burnout, but what I really need to recharge was just on the horizon.


Where you and 70,000 of your closest friends get together to party for four days in five hotels in Atlanta. Where you realize that you’ve left Earth and landed on your long lost home planet of Geekdom.  Where you meet random people on smoke breaks and they turn out to be lifelong friends who change the course of your personal history.

If you’ve never been… yeah.  It’s like that.

In general, attending a Con has the effect of recharging my creative batteries.  I knew that DragonCon would do more than that.  I just needed to get there.  So late on Wednesday night, I packed up my clothes, costumes and express-shipped internet goodies.  It was game time.

Thursday 1 Sept 16

En Media Res

For over a decade of attending DragonCon, I’ve been a “Thursday to Tuesday” kind of girl.  However, during the past several years, “Wednesday is the new Thursday” has become more and more of a truism.  I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see DragonCon becoming a week-long event in the next 50 years or so.  Certainly this year, it was impossible to dismiss: there was programming on Thursday, thus Wednesday had become the new start of the Con.

EZ and I flew in from Baltimore at 11:30am.  On the flight, my intrepid husband and “designated drinker” (I don’t imbibe alcohol) had four airline drink tickets which he redeemed.  However, for one reason or another, the flight attendants weren’t able to actually bring him his drinks until we were about 20 min out from Atlanta.  Undaunted, my love soldiered on, to include downing an entire mini bottle of Jim Beam and chasing it with Coca-Cola as the flight attendant looked on, waiting to clean up.

Grown up vacation had arrived.  🙂

We got our bags and hopped the MARTA down to the Peachtree Center Station.  When we emerged onto Peachtree Street enroute to the Westin, we could already see costumed congoers lining both sidewalks.  The annual geek invasion of downtown Atlanta was well underway.  We managed to roll our luggage uphill to the Westin and into the lobby without incident.  At this point, the love of my life had to find the restroom (I blame the Jim Beam), and so I moved on to check in.

The check in line for the Westin stretched across the entire lobby floor back nearly to the restaurant.  I’d never seen it that bad, not in any of the years I’d stayed there.  Fortunately for me, I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, so I got to cut to the head of the line.  I’ll be honest, I felt a little guilty…

No.  No I didn’t.  I might have felt smug, though.  It’s a character flaw of mine.  I’m working on that.  Slowly.  🙂

In any case, I checked in to my room, my friend Marisa’s room, and my friend Seth’s room.  We were hoping to get all of the rooms on the same floor.  We succeeded with mine and Marisa’s, but Seth’s was on a lower floor due to the type of reservation he’d made.

We dumped our bags, and almost immediately got a message that Marisa was inbound to the Westin.  So we went downstairs to meet up with her, give her her room keys, and do the traditional squealing and jumping up and down that comes with meeting up at DragonCon.

Once the squealing and jumping was handled, lunch was the next order of business.  Meehan’s Pub is located right next door to the Westin, and has the best truffled macaroni and cheese on the planet.  Although I will say that this year’s wasn’t as good as I remembered.  I don’t know whether that’s due to me building it up in my head, or to a change in staff or recipe, but whatever,  I still ate all of it with a smile.  We discussed the plan for the rest of the day and decided to delay getting badges until about 7pm or so, since that was when EZ’s best friend, Seth (Seth whose room I checked in) would arrive.

Shortly after lunch, my friends, Bravo and Alpha texted me that they were arriving.  Bravo and Alpha are the internet codenames that they use.  They were travelling with their daughter, Whiskey, and their roommate Charlie.  They’d arranged to share Seth’s room, so it worked out well that I was able to give them keys.  We got them set up, then they headed off to get badges and give blood.  In the meantime, Marisa, EZ, and I walked over to the Hyatt to drop off some items in Barfly Central (BFC).

If you’re not familiar with BFC, it’s become an institution at several cons that are well attended by fans of Baen Books.  “Barfly” refers to the denizens of “Baen’s Bar”, which is an internet bulletin board.  Though much of the discussion has migrated from the Bar to Facebook and other social media, the term has stuck, and Barfly Central is where you can find many of those fans at cons such as DragonCon, RavenCon, Chattacon, etc.

Dragon’s BFC is held in the suite “owned” by Tedd Roberts, aka Speaker to Lab Animals.  Speaker is a very good friend and bit of a mentor for me.  (I have a lot of those).  He was sharing the suite with his two sons, Stephen and Brian (whom I continue to mix up), The Evil Penguin (aka EP), and Doc Wohlrab.  During the evenings, they open the living room part of the suite to those who have a “Baen Barfly” ribbon to come, hang out, drink, smoke (on the balcony), chill, and whatever.  They also allow me to hold my Corsets&Kilts party there.  I was very excited to see them, especially Doc, Speaker, and Chris, my wonder twin and writing buddy.

Afterwards, we went to the Marriott to pick up my badge.  Now, since I was listed as an “Attending Professional” this year, I had to pick up my badge at the VIP Badge Pick Up location.  On the way there, we ran into Jerry and his lovely wife Dora.  Jerry and EZ proceeded to tease me about my lofty new status until I thought I would burst.  It was, however, all in good fun.  They desisted soon enough.  I just had to make a few threats.  😉

Next, we went to the Sheraton to pick up badges for everyone else.  While we were there, Seth texted that he was on his way.  We had him tell his Lyft driver to drop him at the Sheraton entrance while Marisa and Stephen (Speaker’s son) went to go get their badges.  Afterwards, they were kind enough to bag drag Seth’s ridiculously heavy luggage up the hill from the Sheraton to the Westin while EZ and Seth and I stood in the badge line.

Once that was complete, we made the obligatory stop at the liquor store, where Seth purchased wine for Marisa in thanks (not sure what, if anything, he bought for Stephen! If nothing, I’m sure he’ll make it up next year!).  As it turns out, those thanks were highly necessary, because Seth’s bag held not 1, not 12, but 40 12oz. Cans of AMP energy drink.  He and my husband like to mix it with vodka.  Grown up vacation indeed!

At that point, I think we might have gone back to Meehan’s for dinner, where we were joined by the inimitable Cathe.  One of the jokes of the weekend was set when she was describing her accommodations at the W hotel nearby.  It seems that the bathroom lighting at the W resulted in a perfect stripper-silhouette whenever someone took a shower. Now, keep in mind that Cathe has an extremely dry and twisted sense of humor.  She’d just finished joking about performing experiments on people.  So when she summed up her dissatisfaction by saying mildly “it’s a modesty thing,” with a perfectly deadpan face, EZ, Seth, and Marisa didn’t know whether to laugh or run.

Which is pretty much par for the course with Cathe.  She’s fantastic.  🙂

After dinner, I think we headed up to make it a relatively early night.  I think.  I honestly can’t remember much.  I do remember thinking that I was exhausted, and it was only Thursday.

Friday 2 Sept 2016

Corsets, Kilts, Pies, and Blood

Friday morning, I woke up wanting two things.  One, I wanted some of the drinking chocolate that Chris had brought for me from the  Hot Chocolatier in Chattanooga, TN.  Two, I wanted to hang out with Marisa and Alpha.  I sent out a few text messages to coordinate these things and soon met up with everyone downstairs by the Starbucks in the Westin lobby.  I ordered some steamed milk, and proceeded to use all of the chocolate that Chris had brought (sorry, buddy.  But as EZ says, you only YOLO once, right?) to make drinks for myself, Whiskey, and Bravo.  So delicious.  After that, we headed out to get lunch at the food court in the Peachtree Center Mall.

A new addition had joined the ranks of delicious eateries there:  Panbury.  Panbury is a hand-pie shop specializing in savory pies.  Though their sweet peach mini was to die for as well.  My hands down favorite, however, was the “Steak and Stout” pie.  Oh my goodness.  I think I ate 6 of them over the course of the weekend.  So delicious.

On this occasion, however, I wasn’t overly hungry (see massive amounts of drinking chocolate, above) and so elected to try one of the smaller pies for my first time.  The Jamaican Chicken Patty was also delicious… but I would later discover that the Steak and Stout was better.

At around this time, it was close enough to 1pm for us to decide to mosey over to the AmericasMart to see the newly opened vendors halls.  Halls.  3 of them, for those of you keeping track.  DragonCon is not your average little Con with a Huckster’s Room.  Just something to keep in mind.

As was the crowd wrapped all the way around the building waiting to get in.  So we decided to try to get in another way.  The Westin has a skybridge to the AmericasMart Building 1.  This year, Gaming resided there.  However, we were successful in finding another skybridge route that led to Building 2 and the vendors.  I managed to locate Glennis and Thomas at The Missing Volume before getting a text from Marisa.  She had broken off to meet up with her friend and roommate Kristin, and was looking to find us.  Alpha and Charlie, too, had broken off to go up to their room to get something, and wanted to know how to get to the vendors as well.  The route was somewhat convoluted, so I told both groups to meet me on the 6th floor of the Westin and I would walk them over.

Big Mistake.

When we got back to the skybridges, we were told the vendor area was at capacity and were funneled out through Building 3.  Which we were apparently never allowed to set foot into.  So someone at the AmericasMart made a mistake, and we were the recipient of a good few sharp words as a result.

But no huge problem, at the end of the day.  Since we couldn’t go shopping, I decided to break off from the group and go give blood.  I like to do this at DragonCon every year, since it’s one of the few times that I can give blood without impacting my flying schedule.  So I headed over to the Hilton and went to do that.  The process was remarkably simple and quick, and I collected my t-shirt and a sandwich and some juice and was on my way.

Big Mistake #2.

I got dizzy.  Not falling down dizzy, thankfully, but head-hurting, I-should-have-eaten-more-cookies-and-had-more-juice-before-standing-up dizzy.  Fortunately for me, the hero of my story and his stalwart sidekick (EZ and Seth, in case you weren’t paying attention) were close by, and they headed to the Hilton to pick me up.  We hung out for a little while, they drank more drinks, we got some food (Noodle Cafe this time… also delicious!) and then I met up with Doc to go down to the Armory for a private tour.

If you’ve not checked out the Armory at DragonCon, I highly recommend it.  They have some seriously cool weapons on display, both firearms and bladed weapons.   Thanks to Toni Weisskopf, we were able to get a private tour and have our questions about both blades and guns answered by the experts.  It was truly enjoyable, and I made several new friends.  After a lot of talking and storytelling I headed back to the Westin to get ready for Corsets&Kilts

If you’re not familliar, Corsets&Kilts is a party that takes place at DragonCon, as long as one of the founders is there to throw it.  The original founding pair are me, the Ringmistress, and Boy Casey, the Godfather.  We’ve had others stand in from time to time when one of us is unable.  This year, once again, Doc Wohlrab stepped in as the Docfather and did an awesome job.  As before, BFC hosted the part, the lovely Ginger acted as our mixologist, and we had a blast.  Corsets were stuffed, Kilts were dangled, and there was plenty of “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” almost-but-not-quite-over-the-line naughtiness.  An old friend, Tasha, was there, and it was so delightful to see her and catch up.  Thank you once again to everyone who participated and made the evening such a success.

Afterwards, I was all too aware of the early show time for the parade in the morning, so EZ and I went back to the Westin for sleep.

Saturday 3 Sept 2016

Medical Mercenaries and Zombies

Saturday morning dawned bright and early.  Which is kind of a stupid phrase, I suppose.  If it was dawn, it was, by definition, early.  And at DragonCon, 6am is sacrilegious early… unless it’s late.  Then it’s fine.  But I got up then anyway.  Or thereabouts.

Okay, it was 7.

Which was a problem, because I had to be in BFC at 8am in order to meet the rest of our DocWagon group that was walking together in the parade.  The night before, Speaker had informed me that he was going to pass, due to a pulled muscle, so we had one extra wristband.  This worked out well, because we had a last minute addition in the form of an actual Flight Doc named Kim.  He’s a barfly and an old friend of Chris’s, and I was happy to give him Speaker’s extra wristband.  However, Chris had an eye injury that morning, and so he wasn’t able to walk with us either.  Which sucked, because now our DocWagon group lacked a decker.  But we soldiered on, and Alpha ended up wearing his wristband, as her own had gone MIA.

We marched in the “Everything DragonCon” section up front, which meant that we were walking with Michael Jackson and “Weird” Al Yankovic cosplayers.  It was a lot of fun, and the weather was perfect, as opposed to the blazing torture of years past.  We waved to thousands of kids, walked our 1.1 mile route, and ended up in the Marriott.  At which point, I kicked it into overdrive and took my privately scouted egress route back to the Westin.

See, the parade started at 10am.  The Black Tide Rising mass signing was at the Missing Volume at 11:30am.  I had to be at both.  So I’d figured out that I could take the habitrails from the Marriott to the Peachtree Center Mall, stop to get more pies, then duck down into the MARTA station to get under Peachtree Street while the parade was in full swing.  Then I came up the escalator, had to fight through a small portion of crowds in order to get to the intersection, when I could turn away from the crowd and walk back a block to the street entrance to the AmericasMart.

It worked better than I could have imagined, and I was actually early for the signing!  Once the other contributors and our editors showed up, we had a blast, signing a ton of books and just generally cutting up with one another.

The Baen Roadshow was next, and I had the honor of talking about Black Tide Rising and how I found out that my story had been accepted.  Toni also had Chris Smith come up and talk about his story, which was fun for both of us.

Following the Roadshow, I headed back to the Westin in order to pick up Whiskey, who was going to accompany me to my first few panels of the con.

The first panel was “Apocalyptic Throwdown: Aliens vs. Zombies”, by the Apocalypse Rising track.  The panel was organized like a debate or a game show in which both teams had to support the position that their style of apocalypse was the “best”.  I was team Zombie, which was, in my opinion, the more difficult position to take.  I’d MUCH rather fight zombies than aliens.  We don’t know anything at all about aliens!

Team zombie was, alas, the loser by split decision, despite my shameless usage of the cuteness factor of Whiskey sitting in the front row.   I pointed out that the crucial pathos of zombies is that they’re the remnants of people you know and love, like her.  🙂  It won us points, but not, in the end, enough.

But the panel was super fun!  All the more so because Speaker was on it as well.  Congrats Speaker, on your throwdown win!

The next panel was right next door, and it was entitled “Zombies, Rot On.”  The moderator didn’t show, so I ended up pinch hitting.  Once again, I have Speaker to thank.  About a month or so ago, he published an article on Sarah A Hoyt’s blog about moderating.  I took his advice to heart and did my best.  Both of the other panelists were both grateful and complimentary, and the congoers seemed to have a good time as we discussed the enduring popularity of zombie fiction.

After that, I returned Whiskey to her room and found some food.  Pie again, I think? Maybe?  Then we headed back to the AmericasMart and the 4th floor for what was probably my favorite panel of the Con: Alt History’s “Steamy Steampunk Reading Hour”.

I had written a short story especially for this panel.  I haven’t written erotica or anything like it since I was in college, but when Nico asked me to do this reading with her, I decided to come up with this.  It’s a spin-off short story about a side character in our novel titled Over The Night Horizon.  The story is called “Beautiful Boy”, and you can find it here if you like: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XVW_hEHc_0hEN5gKgNBYrGnQBGK-MMoVfwlR2b-oM4U/edit?usp=sharing

(Please note, there is a brief mention of suicidal ideation and behavior consistent with an eating disorder.  Also some serious sex.  Please don’t read it if it’s not your thing.  Thank you.)

Nico read a selection from our novel, another panelist whose name I didn’t get read from hers, then I read from my story.  Then the moderator had a fourth panelist Skype in to read from the Victorian equivalent of Penthouse Letters.  Wine was passed around, giggles were legion.  The text messages my husband sent me during my reading are priceless (and private!  Sorry!).  A rollicking time was had by all.  I devoutly hope that I contributed in some small way to lots of people getting some that night.  🙂

After Steamy Steampunk, we made our way back to the Hyatt and the Marriott to walk around and party.  Seth made a friend named Matt.  It was Matt’s first con, and he brought along a bottle of rum to share.  This, it turns out, is a surprisingly effective technique for meeting people at a con.  Matt seemed to have a LOT of friends.  🙂

I ended up back in bed sometime around 3ish.

Sunday 4 Sept 2016

Crossing Cultures and Elevator Friends

In a cruel twist of fate, I had another panel at 10am on Sunday.  I managed to get up early enough to make myself presentable… though I did have to wear a mask.  🙂  In seriousness, I dressed up in a renaissance-inspired tailed bodice and a beautiful mask from Maxx Empire back in the day.  I brought two more masks with me as visual aids.  Visual aids for what?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

As I’ve mentioned, my friend Nico and I have written a novel.  It will be available on Amazon soonish.  I’d give more concrete details, but I don’t have them.  In any case, it’s a steampunk setting… but not your standard Victorian steampunk.  It’s more like, late Renaissance, early Age of Discovery steampunk.  With vampires.  And cursed jewels.  It turns out that Nico is rather bored of Victorian steampunk, and if I’m honest, so am I. This conversation turned into a suggestion to the Alt History track about a panel, and the “Beyond Victorian: Alt History in Other Cultures and Eras” panel was born.  Nico and I were both featured as panelists alongside two other gentleman and the moderator.  It was really fun to talk about all of the exciting historical cultures out there to play with, and who had pretty fashion to emulate, etc.

After that, Marisa, Kristin, and I went shopping.  I purchased this ah-mazing leather pirate captain’s coat thing that looks really, really good over jeans and will be my standard con wear for the forseeable future.  🙂  Thanks to Kristin for facilitating my purchase when I realized I’d left my credit card in the room.  Electronic money transfer for the win!  And thanks to Rory at Crimson Chain Leatherworks for hooking me up.  Literally.  🙂

Lunch was then in order.  I headed back to the Westin to change, then over to the Hyatt.  Along the way, I met an Elevator Friend.  An Elevator Friend is someone whose acquaintance you make in an elevator at DragonCon, and then you see them later and you both remember each other.  In my case, my Elevator Friend was named Dante, and I convinced him to come to my next panel: “First Contact Improv!” by the SciFi Lit track.

“First Contact Improv!” is a game-show style panel moderated by my friend Speaker.  In it, the panelists have to tell a first contact story using prompts from the audience and their own packets.  Hilarity often ensues.  Especially because when Chuck Gannon had to leave the panel to see if his novel had won the Dragon Award (It didn’t, but he was stoked to be nominated), I volunteered my new friend Dante to participate!

Yes, being friends with me is hazardous.  Why do you ask?  🙂

Dante, however, did great.  He rolled with the punches and even did some can-cans on stage with me and Michael Z. Williamson.  The panel was complicated by the fact that the sound was wonky, and none of us panelists could hear the others.  But we got a few laughs anyway.

Once the panel was finished, Dante, Marisa, Kristin, and I went down to the bowels of the Hyatt to finish eating (me and Dante) and see some panels (Marisa and Kristin).  Marisa and Kristin’s panel didn’t work out, so the four of us went back to meet up with EZ and Seth at the Westin.

I had another panel at 7pm in the Hyatt, so we said goodbye to Dante and went to hang out in the Hyatt bar.  The five of us managed to get a booth (magic!) and we sat and laughed and laughed and cut up about everything that had happened for the last three days.  Seth told a story about a drunken fun house mirror encounter in the men’s room somewhere (he never again found that men’s room).  Kristin, Marisa, and I examined the irony of telling someone to go F— themselves as an insult.  We enjoyed some gorgeous costumes as they wandered by, and we joined in singing Happy Birthday to some guy whose only wish was to have everyone in the bar join in and sing to him.  Happy Birthday, dude.  🙂  I hope you had a great one.

My 7pm panel was titled “The Best of Military Science Fiction” by the SciFi Lit track.  I found myself seated between two of my biggest mentors:  John Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson.  I find that I’m often seated between those two whenever the three of us are on a panel together.  I’m wondering if this is a theme.

This was a fantastic panel.  We had such a good time discussing what makes good MilSF, what doesn’t, how we write MilSF and what we look for in our stories.  John talked a lot, because that’s what John does, but the other panelists all got their say as well.  It worked out really well.  Also, I got to take a selfie with S.M. Stirling, which I sent to my mother.  She’s a fangirl of his.  🙂

Immediately following the panel, we decided to grab dinner (Noodle Cafe again!) and then headed up to BFC for John Ringo’s Sushi and Sake release party for MHI: Grunge.  We hung out there for quite a while.  I was privileged to have a long conversation with Chuck Gannon about my in-progress solo novel, and he asked some questions that were really helpful.  Thank you, Chuck!

I also made a date with my Wonder Twin and writing partner, Chris,  to help me provide emergency childcare for some friends the next morning.  Their other plans had fallen through and both mom and dad had to be in separate places at the same time.  Chris and I agreed to be at their hotel room at 9:30 the next morning to help them out.  Because that’s what family does for one another.

BFC closed at 1am so that the hosts could attend the Cruxshadows concert in the Hyatt Ballroom.  I went with EZ and Seth, and we ended up meeting up with Doc, Jack Clemons, and a few others, including Jenny Ringo.  Jenny had never been on stage for the finale of “Marilyn, My Bitterness”, but we fixed that.  I told her to stick close to Jack and hang on.  He’d handle the rest.

And he did.  I’ve realized that while I love several of their songs, my favorite part of the Cruxshadows concert every year is not necessarily the being on stage at the end, it’s the coordinated, militarily executed effort to get on to the stage at the end.  🙂

That and belting out the words to Rogue’s a capella cover of White Rabbit.  That was cool, too.





Monday 5 Sept 2016

The Mass Exodus and Time to Chill

Monday morning was not the time to try and use an elevator to get anywhere in the Westin.  The majority of the congoers were leaving, it seamed, and the elevators were completely packed.  Unfortunately for me, I had a babysitting appointment to keep.  However, I did luck out and manage to get one of the elevators that hits every floor, instead of the usual express elevators, and so I made it to my babysitting appointment on time.  Chris arrived shortly after I did.

There was Kung Fu Panda and Star Wars Episode 7, and lots of toddler cuddles.  Her mom came back to relieve me in plenty of time for my 1pm panel, so it all worked out great.  EZ and Marisa even got food for me (more pie!).

My last panel was “Secret History: Bet You Didn’t Know It Happened That Way!”, from the Alt History track.  It was a really enjoyable panel, but I’m pretty sure we never really touched the topic.  But no one seemed too disappointed, and I got to meet Eric Flint for the first time.  He asked me if I would be his source for helicopter questions.  🙂  I’m always happy to say yes to that one.  His lovely wife was in attendance, and I had the opportunity to meet her, too.  Very nice people, the both of them.  I feel privileged to have made their acquaintance.

After that, we headed up to BFC to help with teardown, and so that I could meet with Chris Smith and John Ringo about our collaboration.  We had a very productive conversation, and I’m even more excited about the project now.  At some point, when John says it’s ok, I’ll see about posting some snippets to my Facebook page.  So stay tuned for that!

By the time dinner rolled around, EZ, Chris, Marisa, Seth, and I had decided that we wanted some bison, so we walked over to Ted’s Montana Grill.  Once again, the Marisa, Seth, and EZ show had me laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair.  And when you add in Chris’s humor… it’s a wonder I ate anything at all.

The Con was winding down by this point.  The streets were increasingly empty of costumes and nerd t-shirts.  The knowledge that it was almost over had crept in.  But we had one more mission:  secure rooms for next year.






Tuesday 6 Sept 2016

Phone Party: May The Odds Be Ever In Our Favor

Tuesday morning at 9am, the Westin opened up reservations for DragonCon 2017.  Now, up until this year, I’d been reserving rooms outside of the DragonCon block using my Starwood Preferred Guest points.  However, when I tried to do so for DC17, I was told that the rooms were all showing sold out.  The only way that’s possible is if DragonCon bought the ENTIRE HOTEL as its room block.  So.  You see what we’re dealing with here.

The night before, I’d coordinated with Marisa, Chris, and Jeremy to have a Phone Party where we all call in to try and get through to reservations and reserve some rooms.  EZ was supposed to join us, but he was rather epically hungover and sleeping.  So I gave him a pass.  Because love.  🙂

The four of us stalwart warriors (five if you count Penny, Jeremy’s service dog) gathered in Marisa’s room and readied our phones.  At the crack of 9, we hit “send”.  Jeremy was the first to get through.  I waved for him to hand me the phone and spoke with a lovely and helpful young lady who laughed helplessly when I told her what I wanted.

“Have you been getting a lot of these calls?” I asked, my voice amused.

“It just went crazy in here at 9,” she said.

“Yeah, everyone wants to make sure they have their rooms,” I said.

“Maybe I should go,” she said.  “If it’s that good.”

“It’s great!” I said.  “You should go!  But make sure you have a room… On that note…?”

“Of course!” she laughed.  “What can I get you?”

We were able to reserve four rooms via two reservations.  So all of our people were covered.  I later found out that the Westin rooms sold out in an hour and a half.  I don’t know how long the Sheraton took.  The Hilton and the Hyatt both allowed this year’s guests to reserve for next year at checkout, so I’m not sure how many rooms they’ll have available.

That leaves the Marriott for host hotels.  Reservations open up usually sometime in October.  Watch the DragonCon webpage at www.dragoncon.org for details.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.

EZ and I shared an Uber XL to the airport with Marisa.  The flight home was uneventful, as was the drive from Baltimore to my house.  My girls and my cats were super excited to see us.  And we were excited to see them.

Mama had missed her babies.





Final Thoughts

DragonCon 2016 was one of the best Cons I’ve had.  It was my first year as an attending pro, which meant that it was a slightly different experience than before.  While it’s really fun to sit on panels and be involved in programming, I will say that a tiny part of my brain missed being able to sleep in as I like and skip whatever programming I wanted to skip.  As a professional, however, that’s not so much of an option.


So.  Lessons learned for next time:

  1. Coordinate my panel schedule with EZ earlier, so that we can maximize our time together re: meals, etc.
  2. Start building packing lists earlier. I didn’t forget anything crucial, but it was a near thing.
  3. Wednesday really is the new Thursday. Next year, I think we’re going to try Wed-Mon, but leaving late on Monday.  We’ll see how we like that.


Things that worked and shall be maintained:

  1. Don’t stress about spending time with everyone/seeing everyone a lot. It’s Dragon.  It’s not necessarily going to happen. Let people go with the flow.
  2. Learn panel locations and routes ahead of time as much as possible.
  3. Try to be early to panels. And be ready to step in and moderate if necessary.
  4. Dressing up as a panelist is a lot of fun. People appreciate it.


To all of you who spent even a little bit of time with me this year, thank you.  You all made my DragonCon.  I can’t wait to see you next year!

66 thoughts on “Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

  1. Sarah, DragonCon survived GWAR and me for several years. 😎

    There’s a REASON John Ringo set part of Queen of Wands there. They’ll survive you and Lady Correia.

    1. You do know that sounds like a good idea for a panel, right?

      “The Denouncement of Patriarchal White Guys Writing Stories with Guns in Them. Inspired by the Soviet Purges and New York publishing, our panel explores the modern literary view of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Join us and signal your virtue.”

      that could be most fun in the right hands, particularly if SJWs attend by mistake.

      1. Call it the 5-Minute Hate Panel?

        Set it between the Oceania Has Always Been At War With Eurasia Panel and the Emily Litella Memorial Panel.

      1. And only open to Wrongfans. All attendees will be required to present a list of Human Wave/Baen books they own, and encouraged to quote the best lines from various movies and TV shows. Anyone able to recite that last 10 years worth of Hugo Award winning novels will be tossed unless they present mitigating evidence (such as having to stock a bookstore, or teaching a sci-fi as literature course). 😉

      1. That would be the feminist convention that canned Elizabeth Moon (a fairly liberal feminist) for daring to speak the truth?

        1. I’m not saying Moon didn’t speak the truth, but that wasn’t why they booted her. She was ejected for speaking ungood thoughts; whether true or not was entirely secondary to them getting all wee-weed up.

    2. I think the alternate steam punk panel actually included much of these elements thanks to a very open minded social justice warrioress moderator!

  2. Questions Three:

    1. For someone who has never been to a con, and isn’t exactly….. experienced in social-anythings: what exactly does one do at a con? Besides the obvious stuff of looti-, er, buying nerdy stuff, and observing who has the best cosplay.

    2. For anyone who has been to both: who does DragonCon compare to Penguicon? I want to go to Penguicon at some point, as I know some of the inhabitants.

    Now, keep in mind that Cathe has an extremely dry and twisted sense of humor. She’d just finished joking about performing experiments on people.

    3. What is it with us nerds that we are so bloodthirsty in our humor and fiction?

    1. In order to answer #1, I *highly* recommend you read Queen of Wands by John Ringo. A solid quarter to a third of the book is an astral-projection of DragonCon. From the perspective of a VERY shy, socially awkward young girl.

      I haven’t attended Penguicon or DragonCon, but your first clue should be 1 hotel for Penguicon vs. 5 for the Dragon. Second, they shut down a substantial portion of Downtown Atlanta for a parade on Saturday morning, that is organized by DragonCon. It’s a problem of scale, honestly.

      Take a pass on #3, I have no explanation. 🙂

      1. You go to panels, watch movies, attend filks, go to the art show, go to consuite and attend the many parties.

          1. We went to SLC ComicCon for our first, just last year. But we only did one day and no panels, and we consider SLC a perfectly reasonable daytrip.
            So we went with the plan of checking it out, meeting the Oyster, and getting MHI: Nemisis autographed, which all happened, six kids in tow.
            So if logistics are such that a big con is the best option, my recommendation is to have a very small set of goals to accomplish. Especially if you have six kids between one and thirteen with you.
            Also Mr. Correia is pretty darned cool in person, and is not dwarfed by my husband.

            1. 1. Meet cool people, some of them famous or admired by you, and some of them just nice folks you’ve never met yet. Hang out with old and new friends.

              In the old days, part of the fun was hanging out exclusively with people who had similar intelligence and neural styles to yourself, because everybody was Odd. Nowadays, it’s a little of everybody, so it’s more “enjoy shared interests and the variety of people who share them.”

              2. Discuss things on panels. (Yes, I’m from the Midwest, where the audience is just the uncredited members of the panel.)

              3. Leave for lunch/dinner with two people, wind up with twenty or more.

              4. Sing songs. Write songs. Make up harmony parts. Do cool things with musical instruments. Go to concerts and participate in filk circles.

              5. Play games. Dress up. Swim in the pool. Do other fun activities. Make other people watch incredibly obscure movies with you.

              6. Retreat to your hotel room to gloat over all your cool stuff and cool activities. Have sudden attacks of writing. Take lots of showers and soak your feet after all the walking.

              1. 7. Go to lots of parties. The beauty of this is that some people have full-blown room parties, while some people just keep open house with drinks and food. Introverts can pop in and pop out as much as they want.

                The more old school the fan, the more likely he/she will have brought the good stuff in both food and drink. So yeah, hang with the old guys and the Dorsai. 🙂

                8. Romance. The unspoken backbone of a lot of cons. If you’re single and Odd, you can meet a lot of other single people. You can also be introduced to some very reliable single people by friends or friends of friends. Just like parties, however, there are some people who deal with this wisely and some people who don’t.

                The funniest example of this that I know are two friends of mine. They were both observant Jews looking for Jewish people through all kinds of websites and meets. After they finally got to know each other and fell in love, it turned out that both of them had mutual friends who’d been planning to introduce them at the next con they both attended! So it was meant to be…. 🙂

    2. As someone who leans toward anti-social, a lot of these things are what you bring to them. Dragoncon has two things that make me shudder:

      1. Crowds.
      2. Downtown Atlanta.

      Now, downtown Atlanta’s not that bad – I’ve been to much worse – but the traffic – well, driving in Atlanta doesn’t count as NASCAR training, but it should. I’ve driven in Atlanta; I’ve also had dental with without anesthesia. I’m not keen on repeating either experience.

      Both of which means I probably wouldn’t enjoy Dragoncon. Some really enjoyed a business convention we used to attend, but I was sort of “Eh.” Really, I don’t visit bars; the day is filled with wall-to-wall panels; and the vendor’s show is more of a chance to pick up swag than anything else. Other than a Texas Hold ’em tournament I got involved in once, at night I usually go back to my room and read. Then in the morning I listen to bleary eyed attendee’s accounts of pub crawling.

      Yeah, if there’s not a museum around, I’m pretty boring. I’m pretty boring even when one’s around – and that’s my point. I don’t have have a blast at business conventions because of who I am, and I doubt I’d have a blast at a con for the same reason. If someone doesn’t like crowds or this sort of get-together, they probably won’t enjoy a con. The only con to really catch my interest is Libertycon, and that for the trip to the firing range.

      Please note I’m not dissing cons. Some people enjoy them, and more power to them. It’s just that not everyone likes cons, and we should keep in mind that much of the joy at things like this comes from within.

      1. Oooh! Been to the Smithsonian? I went to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum years ago. It was cool.

        (Then there’s the part of Wen Spencer’s Wood Sprites where two nine-year olds…well, I’ll let you read it.)

        1. Never have. Had an opportunity once, but we ended up having a personal tour of a Quaker church in Philadelphia. That was nice.

          Atlanta makes me think of the Cyclorama, with the giant circular painting of the Battle of Atlanta. Probably still a good visit. Back in the 1970s, it also had some Civil War artifacts found locally and one of the locomotives from the Great Locomotive Chase. Don’t know if that’s still there or not.

          The Georgia Capitol Building used to have pretty good exhibits. The time we were there we almost bumped into the Georgia Governor.

          Have always wanted to go to the Fernbank. I think they have one of the Apollo capsules on display.

          Unfortunately, other than Zoo Atlanta, near the Cyclorama, that’s about all of such attractions I’m aware of. I’m sure there’s more. And the last time I was Zoo Atlanta, Willie B was still alive, so can’t say how it is now.

      2. Traffic is not really an issue if you’re in a con hotel, since everything, including plenty of restaurants, is in a 4 block radius. Once you get to the hotel, there’s really no reason to drive.

        1. Ah, but getting there is the problem. This is Atlanta, the city where, in 1996, temp bus drives quit in less than a day after dealing with the traffic. The traffic’s worse now.

          1. Do like they did; take MARTA straight from the airport.

            (Something weird about that airport and my sense of space or directions; I always got lost leaving when I went to pick someone up there, the few times I did that anyway. You probably don’t come and go the same way.)

            1. Even if I was close to Atlanta, I’d be tempted to fly in just for that.

              Let’s see . . . the last time I was close to the airport, we made a wrong turn and had to go round about to get onto the perimeter again. Bumper to bumper going in; not so bad going out – at least, not there.

  3. DragonCon is one of my long-term goals. Sounds like the kind of place I’d have a lot of fun. Plus I’d get to meet some of you guys finally.

    Thanks for posting this, Kacey. I loved your short stories. 🙂

        1. It depends on where in Virginia you are and how your schedule lines up. MystiCon occurs in Roanoke,February 24-26, 2017. Ravencon is in Colonial Williamsburg, April 28-30, 2017. ConGregate meets in High Point, NC (about two hours South of Roanoke) July, 14-16, 2017.

          There are also cons for Anime if you are bent that way. The above list is N-O-T comprehensive*, merely a list of small (1 to 2 thousand, approx) regional cons that offer a good way of getting toes dampened. Baen has a presence at at least two of the above, and if you go to the Barfly Suite and introduce yourself as a regular at According to Holt I am confident you will be made welcome.

          *For example, I just realized I’d overlooked MarsCon, Williamsburg, January 13-15th, 2017. Put a con name in your browser and look for affiliated cons.

    1. Where in VA? LibertyCon is amazing, but you might also enjoy RavenCon in Williamsburg, VA in April.

  4. Sounds exhausting.

    While it’s great to be around people who “get” my jokes, I’m pretty sure I’d rather be fishing.

      1. microcons of less than a 100 people

        Isn’t that the official plan for Worldcom next year? 100 proper fans are all they really need, and it’s too hard to properly investigate and vet more than that anyway…

  5. Great AAR, Kacey! You forgot to mention that your new friend Dante was the famous owner of “Overheard at DragonCon” Facebook page (he really seemed to be down to earth despite his success) . I look forward to seeing you again next year!

  6. There really was something special about this year’s D*C, wasn’t there? I’m merely a private citizen, one might say, but I got to chat for a few minutes with Toni Weisskopf, shake Jim Butcher’s hand at the Dragon awards, purchase some art books from Larry Elmore himself, enjoy some booze at the Pulse in the Marriott as a dozen Harleys and Deadpools gyrated around me, and get in a good few hours of pen-and-ink brainstorming in the quieter hours of Tuesday before making my way back to the airport. Not to mention enjoying plenty of panels and seeing old friends. Needless to say, I’m also one of the crazies who contributed to the Westin’s quick booking for 2017 (I’m done with staying off site– there’s too much great stuff that happens in the evenings for me to be dependent on MARTA, cars, parking garage hours, or my biology sans naps.)

    A more refreshing vacation was never had, and it’s great to hear that others were noticing the magic in the air.

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