Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats. Read the whole essay.
OK, tough guy, you asked for it.
I’m quitting my stupid job to make an album and work on my musicianship for hours a day.
So my question to you is, Why the hell would I want to do that?
Seriously, I can’t figure out why I so desperately need to do it. It creeps up and bites me in the ass every day when I’m sitting in my ugly cube.
I guess a more pertinent question would be, What the HELL am I going to do every day? How do you be creative all day? How do I get up every morning with the energy to create something from nothing, for hours a day? Can I still take breaks for lunch?
Wham. Ugh! Poof! Zouch! Wow.
Geez, man, go easy on me!
That was rough. Lemme get this straight. You are asking me why you would want to quit your job and play music? It makes perfect sense to me, because I’ve done it, and when I did it it made perfect sense.
When I came to San Francisco, I didn’t know anything about earning a living. So you could get work in these temporary agencies and they would send you to big companies. If you were in a band you could get work off and on. You didn’t feel guilty as long as you called in to the temp agency every day and told them you were available. Darn. No office work for me today. Guess I’ll just have to go drinking with my buddies, or go up to Sausalito, or hang out in the sun at Dolores Park. Too bad.
I had gotten work in this one big company and then the temp job turned to a permanent job, which was good for salary and benefits but, duh, it was a stupid menial job. I was in a band called the Repeat Offenders (that’s me in my late 20s on the far left in the top photo on this page; there’s more photos down the page …)
The band had this deal where we would go to the Vidal Sassoon school and get our hair cut for free by students. It was the early 1980s so I go in and she says what’s your favorite color and I say black so she says let’s dye your hair black. So she dyed my hair and my eyebrows and everything and I felt like a new person, a new, spiky-haired new-wave hipster person who could not possibly be working any longer in the legal department of Chevron Corp. I went in to Chevron the next day with my new hair and I resigned right that day. I just told them I couldn’t do it anymore. Because rehearsing and going out late every night was just too much work. I abandoned ship. I cut out. I burned the bridge. I split. I called it quits then and there.
You get to a point where you have to do something.
Now, in my advanced age and great wisdom (ahem) I now see that I was under all kinds of psychological stresses and that quitting my job was a desperation move. It was a little bit suicidal and crazy. I realize now that I had very few coping skills and that I was in the totally wrong job and I really needed help. I needed someone to help me sort out what was going on. But who knew at the time? I thought I was smarter than everybody else!
You may also be making a kind of desperation move. But I understand. You learn by going where you have to go, to paraphrase Theodore Roethke.
As to how to manage your daily routine, I suggest you set yourself a schedule. Get up and just begin playing but don’t try to do it all day. You can’t. Have times to practice and times to write. Write with other people. Form a band. Have a calendar and follow it.
I wish you the best of luck. You can survive. You may have some hard times but you can survive. Here’s to ya!
p.s. Yep, take long lunch breaks. Nobody’s watching.
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
"Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie
Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower. Read the whole essay.
"A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant
A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex. Read the whole essay.
"Black Silk" by Judith Ivory
A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say. Read the whole essay.
"For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale
A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society. Read the whole essay.
"Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner
A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ... Read the whole essay.
"Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen
Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight. Read the whole essay.
"The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal
A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency. Read the whole essay.
"Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time. Read the whole essay.