Sarah M. Chenby Sarah M. Chen

I won’t bother with a holiday post because I don’t want to compete with all the other festive Happy Easter sentiments. So if you need a break from Easter egg hunting, I’ll tell you about my exciting evening last night on Easter Eve. Is that a thing?

I did what I always enjoy doing which is attend a book signing. It was at Pages, a lovely local bookstore near me in Manhattan Beach. I don’t frequent this store enough because it’s always a nightmare to find parking. But the owners are great and they have a big children’s section. Plus my former co-worker, Casey, works there so I get to catch up with him.

Pages in Manhattan Beach

The author who drew me out of my comfy home to brave the beach parking was Harlan Coben. I admit it’s been years since I read this author. I love the Myron Bolitar series, featuring the sports agent, but he hasn’t written a new Myron since 2011. I also love his YA series featuring Myron’s nephew, Mickey Bolitar. I just have too many books to read and for some reason, his went to my back burner.

It’s a rare treat to see Harlan Coben since he lives in New Jersey. The added bonus was that local Manhattan Beach resident, Danny Zuker, interviewed Harlan. Danny is the producer of Modern Family (a show that I hear is kind of a hit). Apparently, Danny Zuker and Harlan went to high school together at Livingston High.

Danny and Harlan
Danny Zuker and Harlan Coben sitting down and chatting.

The bookstore was packed and it was hard to see Harlan and Danny because they were sitting down so I stood in the back the entire time. Both of them were hilarious and clearly they loved joking around with each other. Harlan gave some great writerly advice and even quoted one of my favorite sayings from Elmore Leonard: I always cut out the parts that people skip. Harlan said that’s his number one rule. He imagines a knife to his neck and if his writing starts to turn dull, the knife nicks him. His stories are always adrenaline-fueled for me so clearly he takes that rule to heart.

Danny asked if Harlan is ever afflicted by the insecurities most writers suffer. Am I a hack? Is anything I write worth reading? Harlan assured him that he suffers from that as well. It was good to hear since only an hour before I’d been banging my head against the wall as I struggled with my current WIP.

During the Q&A someone asked who his favorite authors were. He deftly evaded that question because he said whomever he mentions, it will inevitably end up on Twitter and then Dennis Lehane will call him and be like, “Hey, thanks a lot, man. I guess I’m not your favorite anymore.”

Harlan told a funny story about how he used to plug an old fraternity brother of his who’d written a book and asked him to read it. He told people at every signing to buy this guy’s book. He even blurbed the book. Turns out it was Dan Brown. For weeks, Harlan’s book would be #2 on the bestseller list right underneath Dan Brown.

After the talk, I stood in line like everyone else to get my book signed. When it was my turn, I reminded Harlan that we’d met 8 years ago at the Crime Bake Conference in Dedham, MA where he was the guest of honor. He actually said that he noticed me standing up in the back of the room and that I had looked familiar. Of course he could have been lying but that made my night.

Crime Bake 2010
2008 Crime Bake Conference in Dedham, MA – me and Harlan Coben
Harlan and me
2016 Pages in Manhattan Beach, CA – me and Harlan Coben

After the signing I thought about how far I’ve come since 2008. I was just starting to write seriously then and was a wide-eyed mystery conference newbie. Since then, I’ve had 14 short stories published, spoken on numerous panels at several conferences, and have a noir novella due for release in less than 2 months.

On the other hand, Harlan has published 12 novels and written 2 television series in Europe since 2008. But I’ll get there. I have no doubts. Especially with a blurb from Harlan on my upcoming noir novella. Because we’re old pals now, right? Hey, it could happen. And look what it did for Dan Brown.


Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. Her crime fiction short stories have been accepted for publication online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Dead Guns Press, Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Spelk, and the Sisters in Crime/LA anthology, Ladies Night. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is coming out May 2016 with All Due Respect Books. www.sarahmchen.com




  1. What a neat experience. I’m glad you were able go reconnect and sounds like it will be an advantage with your book also! Great pictures. And I like your “But I’ll get there, I have no doubts” attitude. That spells success for sure. Enjoyed reading about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes you will get there, I have no doubt. It is so energizing to spend time and listen to people who have made an impact on our lives. Thank you for sharing yours. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There are so many authors out that wouldn’t be so easy to reach, Sarah. It’s great to hear his signing was busy and that you took time out to go to it! That signature just might become a very important one for all sorts of reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful post, Sarah, very encouraging! We all need that uplift and when it comes from fellow writers, whether in person, via social media, or on blogs like this, each bit is special. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, and all the best with your writing endeavors — with or without a blurb from Mr. Coben :)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gayle. Yes, it’s always a great energizing boost to attend book signings and feel in sync with fellow writers, no matter how famous. Thanks for reading and commenting, Gayle.


  5. Great story about Dan Brown. And glad you wrote something that wasn’t Easter related. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Seriously, I have a friend who was buddies with a poet in Cleveland who teaches creative writing at John Carroll University. My friend Gary tells this story: The poet opened one of Brown’s thrillers to page one and began to read. And threw the book down in disgust, complaining that Brown’s opening paragraphs were telling, not showing. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a funny story, Mike. I honestly have never read Dan Brown. I usually don’t read big action-adventure thrillers. I’ve heard mixed reviews of his books so what your friend Gary says doesn’t surprise me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was so impressed that you asked him to blurb your book. Sounds like you didn’t. I wouldn’t have had the nerve myself. Hopefully he did remember you! It’s funny how people in the same orbits can have success later on in life. Here’s to your success!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest, I didn’t even consider asking about the blurb until I wrote this post! I was so focused while standing in line on reminding him about Crime Bake and if he didn’t remember how i’d say I even have a pic of us as proof. Yeah, very coincidental that many talented people came from that school. Jason Alexander went there too.


  7. I am so jealous! What a wonderful thing to have happen to you (meet Harlan Coben twice). He is one of my very favorite authors and I have read and re-read his books. I love his twists and the characters, especially Myron Bolitar. I have no doubt that you are on the fast track and that your name will be just as famous as both Harlan Coben and Dan Brown (another of my very favorites). Thank you so much for sharing this Sarah. It made my day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad, Linda! I love his Myron Bolitar series. Yes, he’s such a great writer and knows how to keep the story moving along with twist after twist. And you’ll be happy to know his next book will be a Myron Bolitar book. Someone asked when the next Myron is out and he said he’s writing it right now! I think he said it’s called “Home.” Thanks for reading!


  8. How fun for you to connect with someone you admire. And even have the pictures to prove it. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of his stuff–now I’ll have to give him a try. Definitely ask for a blurb!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. His books are hard to put down, they’re really good! I like his Myron Bolitar series and he’s been writing more standalones that I would coin domestic thrillers. I would start with his standalone “Tell No One” which they adapted into a French film.


  9. It sounds like you had an exciting time. I have had the opportunity to meet 3 pretty famous authors and some others who are famous, but that I haven’t read their books. These 3 I have read all their books. Sue Grafton, Jeffry Deavers, and Hank Phillipi Ryan. Hank has become more famous since I first met her. I also love going to book signings of the local authors. I have gone to Joe’s, and I have gone to Bob Yoho’s. There are a few others too. I have had a few book signings myself, and they were pretty successful. Maybe someday I will be to one of yours. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’d be great, Cher’ley! I’d love to be able to attend one of yours or any other Wranglers. I love book signings, especially meeting a writer I truly admire. I was pretty tongue-tied when I met George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, and Lee Child (not all at once – I think my head would explode or something). Coincidentally, the other picture I have of Harlan Coben from 2008 Crime Bake has him on a panel with Hank Phillipi Ryan. Thanks for reading, Cher’ley!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Crime Bake is a fun conference. 3 C is another fun one, and of course, the WV Writers’ Con. Not sure which one I will go to this year.. Cher’ley


  10. Love bookstores, love book signings, love your post. I’ll admit I haven’t read anything by Harlan Coben (though I did read The DaVinci Code). Congratulations on your accomplishments since 2008. You’ve been working hard.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.