This past weekend was my fourth AwesomeCon, which was also the fourth AwesomeCon, period. I’ve seen it grow over those four iterations, and I’m very glad that I’m in the neighborhood. It’s great fun, with great people and great entertainment, including some people, stories, games, and more that I probably never would have encountered without it.

Speaking at this convention is truly a highlight of my year, and has been since the beginning. Despite its size (starting out as a postage-stamp-sized event and growing this year to be a so-far-estimated 50k+ mass of humans, elves, dwarves, robots, and space marines), it’s always been laid-back, relaxed, and focused on fun. I’ve been to cons that took themselves too seriously, or let their success get to them, and AwesomeCon has always been the most welcoming, joyful event I’ve ever been to.

This year, one of my students came along for the ride. Hannah Rose (who can be found writing at my other site, The Catholic Geeks, as well as her own blog Redwing Writing) is one of my more active students, is the president of her college’s writing club, and is eagerly devouring the wider world of geeky entertainment she’s discovering. In particular, she’s hooked on The Dresden Files, and planning to write her senior thesis on that series.

As a consequence, this happened:


That’s me on the left, dressed vaguely like Harry Dresden himself. In the center, dual-wielding her wands, my real-life student is playing a fantastic Molly Carpenter, who in the books is Harry’s student. On the right is Hannah’s real-life father, who is wearing a carpenter’s belt and carrying a Nerf sword in order to be Molly’s father, Michael Carpenter, Knight of the Cross and professional handyman (among other things). Her father and I were really just there to accent Hannah’s costume, but she was quite proud of arranging the coincidence of real life and fictional relationships.

And yes, I have a beard. According to Hannah, Harry Dresden sounds and looks exactly like me, down to the beard and glasses. If I were to spiff up the costume and try to be more accurate, I’d shave and wear contacts. I might actually do that sometime, but with my handicap, cosplaying is actually really difficult so I don’t know if I could keep it up for a whole weekend. Still, I’m tempted to get a better costume and enter one of the con contests with Hannah next year.

(Sadly, they probably wouldn’t let me shoot actual fireballs.)

But Hannah wasn’t content with just one cosplay; that was just Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, respectively, she went as Death and Harley Quinn.

Hannah Death

Yes, that’s Marc Hempel, one of the artists from Sandman. He looked up when Hannah approached his booth, and without missing a beat said “You look familiar. I think I have some pictures of you.”


Hannah Harley

“Hey, Mistah J, ya wanna go have fun at AwesomeCon? Bats’ll never spot us among all the cosplayers!”

You can find more cosplay photos on her new cosplay Facebook page, as well as on her Instagram, which I don’t know how to link to because I’m too old and fuddy-duddy to be on Instagram. (EDIT: You can also read her own convention report on The Catholic Geeks.)

As for me, I got to wander around visiting vendors, enjoying the costumes, talking with old friends, and chatting up the occasional celebrity. I spent a lot of time at the Royal Manticoran Navy’s booth, talking up the Honor Harrington series and getting people to join the series’ official fan club. (I’m on HMS Hector in First Fleet, if anyone is curious.)

I also gave four talks this weekend: “Being Short” (short stories), “Writing the Hero’s Journey” (adapting Campbell for writing), “Evil GMing 101” (techniques for upping your gamemastering), and my general Q&A, “Ask the Editor.” My email inbox has been dinging as a consequence, even before my first presentation was over. I got upgraded to larger rooms this year, and as a consequence no one got turned away due to the room being over capacity like last year. New challenge: filling up those rooms!

I’ve talked before about whose approval really matters, and this was no exception. Sure, it was nice being complimented on my Harry Dresden portrayal (and no one even mentioned my beard or glasses), and a lot better being able to sit and talk shop with Timothy Zahn for most of an hour, but nothing ever compares to having complete strangers walk up to me or email me saying that I’m the reason they now have the courage to try writing for public consumption.

If you want to encourage AwesomeCon to keep having me speak (who knows, they might get tired of me), remember to send them feedback! In fact, send them feedback anyway; let them know what you liked, what you didn’t, and what could be improved.

And as always, if I haven’t responded to one of your emails within a week, keep pinging me. My inbox gets messy.