I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I’ve also been writing – 2 works at once.  I’ll write about the writing later.  This post is about the reading.  For a writer, reading is part of the job.  To stay involved and current, I’ve got to stay abreast of the trends and immersed in my genre, my only genre – ROMANCE. (Is there another one?)

My budget doesn’t stretch to pricey books these days, which is a big part of the reason that none of my books are pricey.  I’d never ask a reader to pay something for a book that I won’t pay myself.  While life on the short-end of the money line is never fun, there’s never been a better time to be a budget-conscious reader.  I get an email from Kindle Daily Deals and always check the romance deal.  I get an email from BookBub, only about romance deals – because that’s what I chose when I signed up – and I always check that one.  I check in with Dear Author and Smart Biches because both sites focus on romance and feature deals every day.

I ask for Amazon gift cards for every gift-receiving occasion, and thanks to the sites I mentioned above, a $50 gift card can stretch a looooooong way.  If you’re not signed up for emails from both Kindle Daily Deals and Bookbub you should stop right now and sign up.  Seriously.  And, Great Gorgeous Ducks – what kind of romance reader are you if you don’t check in with Dear Author and Smart Bitches every day?  If you do all of this for deals and pay attention, you’ll fill up your e-reader in no time flat and you’ll never be without a lovely love story to brighten your day!

But I boogled away from the point.  Y’all know – I tend to do that.  I’m headed back there now.  The point is that all those lovely love stories are NOT created equal.  Some have been amazing reads that kept me away from writing for periods that stretched much too long.  Others have been books that make me look at my Kindle, shrug, and turn back to my laptop.  All have been romances – because that’s not just what I write.  It’s also what I read.  It’s ALL I read, except for the occasional book by John Grisham. (My day job is practicing law and John does great legal thrillers.)

Why do some romances grab my attention – keep it – and make me sad to have finished the books while others I can take or leave?  It’s all about the SAP.

Sap functions like the blood of a tree.  It supplies food and water to the tree, essentially, helping to keep it alive.  But when a tree is wounded – say a limb is broken by a storm – sap continues to flow to that limb.  Except, the limb is gone so sap leaks from the tree.  Yet, the tree is not “bleeding to death” because in the Spring trees start sending up water, minerals and carbohydrates.  That promotes the opening and growth of buds, leaves and shoots.  So the tree suffers, but it endures until it can grow again.

A good romance novel requires a lot of sap.

The hero and heroine in a romance need to suffer and the reader needs to suffer with them.  The h/h need to find the strength to endure their misery and the reader should find that strength with them.  Then the Spring should come, bringing the promise of hope and growth and a new beginning.  The reader must feel that promise, experience that hope and then it must be fulfilled with budding and growth.  It culminates in a new beginning – a new life of sorts for the hero, the heroine — and especially for the reader.

The cycle of love is why we read romance.  And we don’t want to see it – we want to feel it, right along with the characters.

Good romances have a lot of sap, enough to sweep the reader right into the cycle of love.  Lesser romances may be full of action like a couple being chased by villains or targeted by former lovers or even – Kings.  Those books may have all the action in the world and all that high drama  may even be punctuated by tender kisses or hot and heavy romps under the sheets.    But — who cares?

Without the sap the story won’t carry the reader.  All the car chases, sword fights, murder plots and sweaty sex ever written can’t make up for the sap.  The best plotted, most perfectly written book ever published will fail without the sap.  Lots of folks made snippy comments about the Fifty Shades series – and sadly, some of those folks were writers who carped about the “quality of the writing.” But you know what?  Readers don’t give a re-fried fig about word choice.  You know what readers care about?

That’s right — SAP.

I loved the “Fifty Shades” series because Ms. James got the sap flowing from the first encounter between Christian and Ana and she kept it going for all three books – right through the epilogues.  Sap – romance style- consists of the sweeping, roller coaster of climbs, drops, tunnels, hills and loop-de-loops that the characters go through inside- where it matters – not outside – where it doesn’t.

My goal as a writer is to keep my books as sappy as possible.  And if you want to hook me as a reader you’d best hit me with your sappiest shot.

It takes a good dose of sap to carry the reader right along to the buy button for the writer’s next book.

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