Attention Book Lovers: 10 great sites to find your next great read

Girl ReadingLooking for your next book to read? Amazon and Barnes & Noble can recommend titles based on your purchase history. You probably already knew that, though.

But did you know there are a lot of offbeat, interesting sites out there specifically targeted to us readers? Below is a list of sites I like, in no particular order.

1. What Should I Read Next? answers the obvious question. Type the last book you read and enjoyed and it returns a suggestion list with tags that allow for even deeper searches.

2. The Book Lamp: Home of the Book Genome Project
Similar to how Pandora matches music lovers to new music, helps you find books through a computer-based analysis of “written DNA.” Their mission statement: “To be the best in the world at applying science to the written word.”

3. Good Reads is a free website that connects readers and book lovers. This online community allows users to create as well as peruse other member’s bookshelves, reviews, and book ratings. You can create book clubs and groups, and my personal favorite — lists! Want to see what Good Reads Members consider the best Florida Mysteries or the Scariest Books by Stephen King?

4. WattPad is a free website that connects writers and readers. Members post short stories, novels, poems and even fan fic. There’s complete works and works-in-progress, by both undiscovered and published writers. Users are able to comment and like stories or join groups.

5. Opening the Book (aka Which Book) is a really cool site. By clicking sliders to set the degree of your preference for Happy/Sad, Funny/Serious, Expected/Unpredictable, No sex/Lot’s of sex, Short/Long and much more, this website enables those combination of factors to suggest books which most closely match your interests.

6. Book Gorilla sends you a daily email with the best deals on books that match your reading genres and preferences, including bestsellers, 99 cents and freebies!

7. Book Bub
With over a million subscribers, is an e-mail newsletter operated out of Cambridge that’s essentially a “daily deals” mailing list for avid readers. It offers free or discounted downloads of what co-founder Josh Schanker calls “acclaimed books” in digital form.

8. All Readers, while in desperate need of a modernizing face-lift, is definitely unique. Browsers can search books based on plot, setting, character, and writing style, in addition to traditional search parameters. So, if you liked a specific plot, you can find other authors who write similar kinds of stories. For example, if you just loved the mystery about the murder of a lawyer on cruise ship in the 1990’s where the investigator loves her Mom but hates cats, you can actually search for a crime story with that kind of plot and main character. Cool, huh?

9. The Book Reporter Network is a sleek website that posts thoughtful book reviews, compelling features, in-depth author profiles and interviews, excerpts of the hottest new releases, contests and more every week.

10. Book Browse is a glossy, online magazine for book lovers, that includes reviews, previews, “behind the book” back stories, author interviews, reading guides, and much more.

For more information, check out the following articles:

“17 Ways to Find a Good Book to Read” by Alex Morris,
“20 Unique Ways to Find Your Next Favorite Book” by Leigh Boyer,

Why do people ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?”

canstockphoto14000841Last summer, I attended a dinner and the keynote speaker was a very popular author. He was entertaining and motivational and, when he finished, opened the floor to questions. One would-be-author in the audience raised her hand and asked him, “Where do you get your ideas?” He seemed almost offended by her question and told the young woman that you never ask an author that question.

That response puzzled me and has brewed in the back of my mind ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked that question, albeit rarely from another author. But it made me wonder why people ask it. It’s just so open-ended and unanswerable that I often wonder, “Do they really expect an answer?”

I think yes, they do. And I think the answer that they often expect ties back to the author’s life.

You see, I believe non-writers — whether they’re readers or not — are often in awe of us who do. They can’t believe someone can come up with the plot twists and the witty dialog and all the drama that makes-up an entertaining suspense-thriller or murder mystery, much less any compelling piece of fiction. They have no understanding of the hours on top of hours we spend at our computers writing and editing and revising. They don’t know that we lose sleep, neglect our friends and family, burn through reams of paper. They never see us obsess over finding that perfect word. They only see the thrilling, enthralling roller-coaster ride of the end product. If we do our job right, we make writing look easy.

To them its sexy and extraordinary. And, I suspect they wonder if our personal lives are filled with all the murderous intrigue, sexual melodrama and duplicitous characters we write about. So, what they’re really asking is, “Is your life as exciting as your books?”

canstockphoto14386385Going forward, I’m going to answer: “Yes. And, no.” I think that’s about as succinct an answer I can come up with to a question that’s so open-ended it’s unanswerable. It’s also honest.

My ideas come from the world around me.

They originate from my friends’ lives and my family history, though they are exaggerated reflections of things I see, hear and remember. The characters in my books are never a perfect representation of any one friend — but some of their personality traits and quirks breathe life into those characters. Stories that my friends tell me sometimes find their way into my character’s history. Then there’s funny, sad, angry, emotional things they say that becomes dialog. Kimberly Bradford from Prey of Desire was inspired by a girl I dated in college, who owned a rotweiler and took care of her grandfather. However, the specifics of Kimberly’s relationship with her grandfather more closely echoed memories I have of my own grandparents. And Mallory, Kimberly’s best friend, was inspired by another girl I knew in college who made a living by rear-ending people in expensive cars. Mallory doesn’t do that, per se, but that’s where the spirit of her character came from.

My ideas come from reading books, watching TV and going to movies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, if I wrote that <<insert movie/book/TV episode here>> I would’ve changed the ending. Then BANG I have a new idea for an ending to a book. Sometimes a headline or news story just lends itself to become a great hook for a murder mystery. When I heard Fred Neil‘s “The Other Side of This Life” for the first time, I immediately thought of a road trip, which led to The Designated Survivor. In fact, the original idea for that book hit me while watching the Ellen Degeneres show. I had this idea for a comedian like Ellen leaving the airport and somehow having to take a trip with a crazy fan who has a body stuffed in the trunk of his car. Of course, the final story is quite different, but that’s where the idea came from.

My ideas come from just living. In fact, I’ve been watching the world around me for so long,  I’ve collected 15 college rule notebooks filled with scribbles describing plot ideas, and murderer motives, and character names. There’s 40 years of living in those notebooks, and I thumb through them from time to time. Now those bits and pieces go into an app on my tablet, but still….

I’m not nearly as interesting as the people I write about. My life is not nearly as mysterious and eventful as the plots in my books. But people are going to ask. And some day, when I’m the keynote speaker for a dinner at a writer’s convention, I’m going to say, “Hey, that’s okay. Ask away. I’ve got an answer.”