,,,and boy do my legs ache! Seriously! I walked, stood, ran, and/or shuffled for three days. My legs will never feel like a part of my body again, and I simply couldn't care less! I had a BLAST! Malice was amazing!!

Funny story here. I'm sitting outside one of the panel rooms, getting my day in order, checking the mini guide book they handed out, making sure I'm in the right spot and trying to decide what to do next, when this sweet lady walks up and sits down with me and we start to chat. Her name tag is turned around, so I don't know who she is or where she's from but I can tell from that accent she knew where to get good grits and eggs for breakfast where ever it was she called home (and probably from her own kitchen). She asks if I'm a writer and I told her I was a wannabe. She asked what I wrote and I said mostly short stories, some flash fiction. So we chatted about that for a few minutes. She talked about writing exercises she did with the kids in her class. We were having a great chat. I kept looking at her tag, hoping it would somehow turn around so I could see her name. I didn't want to be rude by asking, "So, who are you?" Well, a few minutes pass and Kathryn Wall walks by in a gorgeous green suit and the two of them start to talk. This sweet lady introduces me to Ms Wall and then says "Oh, I didn't introduce myself did I? I'm Patricia Sprinkle." I nearly fell out of my chair! I don't know why I didn't recognize her, but I didn't. Once she told me who she was, I was mortified! There I'd been sitting around with her talking about my stupid little stories and my feeble attempts at writing flash fiction. I don't remember exactly what I said at that point, but I can about promise it was something stupid like "OMG! I LOVE YOU!" or something equally as embarrassing. She was very gracious and didn't do a thing to make me feel stupid. I normally don't need much help in that endeavor. Later, she walked past me and said, "Hey Laine! How are you?" I was floored again! So I guess I didn't make such a bad impression if she saw me and spoke instead of running in the opposite direction.

Ms. Sprinkle is one of my mom's favorite authors. Mine too, but Mama LOVES her. In fact, when Mama heard I'd met her, she asked me, "is she as wonderful as I always thought she'd be?" Yes, Mama, she is!

I also met another of my idols--Margaret Maron. What a magician of words she is! I cried a little bit when I spoke to her. Now I know how those girls standing in front of Elvis felt. I always laughed at them for crying and being so silly. Elvis doesn't do it for me like Margaret Maron does I guess. I understand them now, and I'm sorry for calling you all names these many years.

Carolyn Hart--what can I say? Amazing woman! Her books are like a 'how-to' guide to mystery writing. I got a copy of YANKEE DOODLE DEAD in my bag. Thank goodness. I would have hated for her to see my personal copy of that book! It's so dog-eared, highlighted and the binding is just barely holding on for dear life.

I got a chance to chat with Cathy Pickens. I grew up just down the road from the town she renamed Dacus, SC in her books, and Mama was one of those 'mountain folk' she talks about in her books. I read SOUTHERN FRIED a second time after I realized where she was really from to see if I recognized anyone. I think I know who Nebo is, but Ms. Pickens would neither confirm nor deny that guess. Some others I met....Denise Swanson--what a sweetheart! Laura Durham--what a hoot! SO MANY OTHERS...I think I'll be bleary eyed for months to come. I would love to personally thank them all for providing me with so many examples and so many more hours of wonderful joy. It was amazing to meet them, get a glimpse into their world and sure up my own desires to be one of them!!

There were a couple of people there who were less than gracious, but over all, it was like a big happy club and one I'm so determined to join!
THANK YOU ALL for your inspiration, your examples and sharing your talents and love of all things mysterious! We, the fans, salute you!

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