At the end of this week, my husband and I will journey to LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN, where I’ll be signing copies of my novels, speaking on panels, and giving my first public reading of Nightmare Lullaby. (I can’t wait!) Over the past several years, Chattanooga has become our favorite day-trip destination. Here are some reasons I’ve given my heart to that sweet city.
I’ve already proclaimed my love for DragonCon, that sprawling four-day Mardi Gras for the geek-inclined that invades Atlanta every Labor Day, but that festival has its flaws. LibertyCon is much smaller, and while it may lack the rich diversity of DragonCon’s track and panel offerings, it also lacks the massive crowds and the claustrophobia they create. I don’t have to stand in a line extending around a city block to see a panel. If two panels that interest me take place back to back, I don’t have to choose between them; I have ample time to get from one to the other. The Dealer’s Room may be only a fraction of the size of DragonCon’s labyrinthine marketplace, but I can maneuver through it with ease, and spend a decent stretch of time browsing Larry Smith Bookseller, where just about every science fiction and fantasy novel on the current market can be found. My favorite purveyor of costume apparel, Holy Clothing, also has a rack in the LibertyCon Dealer’s Room.
Another favorite aspect of LibertyCon is the generous appreciation the staff and the guests show the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. We’re a favorite attraction of theirs and they let us know it, in attendance and applause. Further evidence of this Con’s generosity is Author’s Alley. While other Cons charge heavy fees for a dealer’s table, Author’s Alley gives writers an opportunity to rent time and space at a table to sell and exhibit their wares. For small-press writers like me, this is invaluable.
I love both the vast DragonCon and the cozier LibertyCon, each for what it is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend both.
Since 2012, my husband and I have followed a tradition for the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday: instead of battling our way through hordes of shoppers at one or more of Atlanta’s various malls, we spend the balance of the day in Chattanooga at our very favorite used media store. We’ve visited the McKay locations both here and in Nashville, and Chattanooga’s store is bigger, with a much more extensive selection. They also have an incredibly generous trade policy. While many used media stores will exchange only DVDs for DVDs, CDs for CDs, and books from a particular genre for others of the same genre, McKay gives us a set amount of credit for all the things we trade in, and we can use that credit to buy whatever the heck we want. We average three trips to McKay every year (Black Friday, LibertyCon weekend, and around my birthday), and I’ve been known to come away with between sixteen and twenty books without having spent one penny.
No bibliophile could fail to jump at the chance of free books, as long as she could find a fair amount of old material to trade in. I relish the chance to try out titles that intrigue me, knowing that if I find them disappointing, I won’t think, “Well, that’s $8.99 I’ll never get back.”
This little place stands right across the street from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel, where LibertyCon is held. Their menu boasts as many different varieties of hot chocolate as the imagination can conjure, and I’ve only just started working my way through them, having tried cinnamon, pistachio, and Mexican (spiced with pepper). If this weren’t enough, delectable desserts sit on display behind glass to make the mouth water and the heart yearn. Since I have a sweet tooth the size of a continent, I can’t resist the place. As much as I love the various chocolate dessert creations, I have to recommend the whiskey-butterscotch bread pudding with fresh whipped cream. A bread pudding that isn’t ruined by raisins! Be still my heart.
I am not a fan of hamburgers. I’m no vegetarian, either, but I don’t like my meat ground up into fatty bits. So why should I name a burger joint among my five beloved aspects of Chattanooga? Because fresh grilled chicken can be subbed for any burger, opening up an array of tasty possibilities for my chicken sandwich. My favorite is black-and-bleu style, spicy blackened chicken covered in a bleu cheese spread. Is it Friday yet?
(Urban Stack may be my favorite Chattanooga eatery, but I should send a shout-out to Sugar’s Ribs, my husband’s favorite, offering flavorful fall-off-the-bone ribs with a variety of sauces. Yeah, we eat well whenever we visit “The Noog.”)
When we’re in Chattanooga, we’re tourists, so why shouldn’t we do tourist-type things? We’ve seen both Ruby Falls and Rock City; the falls may be beautiful, but my heart really wants a return visit to the surprisingly charming Rock City. This year we hope to work in a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium. I’ve been before, and it’s amazing, but for me the real treat will be seeing my husband’s eyes grow wide with wonder.