The parking lot at the Greek Orthodox Social Hall wasn't jam-packed when I arrived at the Festival of Mystery an hour before the doors opened, and I was lucky to snag a space close enough to watch the line grow...in the rain.
It's a festival tradition that the first 100 people receive a bag of free books.
People know this. They've been coming for years. They arrive early and claim their spaces in line (and by claim I mean cut in front of you). Since the rain was pouring down and there were clearly not 100 umbrellas in line, I killed a few minutes in my car.
Then as car after car after car pulled into the parking lot, my heart started beating fast, and I turned into one of those aforementioned "people" rushing from to claim a spot.
Despite the fact that I've painted mystery readers as crazies who cut in front of you (only one woman cut in front of me, and with her eyes, she challenged me to call her on it - I didn't), I had a nice chat with two Pittsburgh natives during the 45-minute wait for the doors to open. They were friendly and fantastic, as most Pittsburghers are.
And the authors were equally awesome. Here are some highlights and shoutouts:
Wendy Corsi Staub
I have it on good authority that I'm Wendy's favorite customer. Okay, maybe not, like top favorite, but I'm up there.
Earlier this year, I discovered her Lily Dale series about Calla Delaney, a teenage girl who loses her mom to a terrible accident and moves to live with her strange grandmother in a town full of psychics and mediums. I loved, loved, loved the series and picked up a few more books with psychic protagonists Monday night.
There's something cool about meeting authors. Until Monday, Wendy was a list of books, a picture on the back cover, but now, she's a beautiful, giggly, friendly, funny woman who pushes antibacterial handy wipes on her customers in the name of swine flu.
And bottom line, she's a great writer.
It's official. If I'm Wendy's favorite customer, I'm Jason's safe stalker.
I say safe because it's not creepy or anything. At least I hope not. Of all the authors I've had the pleasure of meeting, it seems I bump into Jason most often.
Last year, when I joined Backspace, I read up on the authors and was interested in Jason's series about Henry Parker, a crime-solving journalist. I ordered one of the books and loved it only to learn Jason would be in Pittsburgh days later for the 2008 Festival of Mystery.
I introduced myself, tried to keep the oh-my-gosh-I'm-talking-to-a-real-life-published-author giggles under control and bought another book in the series. Fast forward three months to the Backspace conference in New York where I said, "Hey, Jason, remember me?"
The first three books in his Henry Parker series are out, so grab them. Two more are on the way this fall and winter.
I seem to be in ramble mode today, so I'm going to cut this off and come back tomorrow to tell you about the other authors I stalked - only in a good way - at the Festival of Mystery.
P.S. C'mon Pens!