Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Freudian Moment

So I was talking to Mean Bitch Mel the other day. "Then I need to segue-way (sp?) to the next scene," she says.

"You need to what?"

"I need to segue-way."

"What's that?" I ask, my palms beginning to dampen.

"Maria, you know, segue-way."

"Uhm, I've never heard that word before."

"You're kidding. You've never heard the word segue-way?"

Oh, God. It's Fifth Grade all over again...

Seque-way back to 1969... I'm sitting in 5th grade Science class at Ascension Catholic School. It's mid-afternoon. It's hot and humid, because this is central Florida. Sister Immaculata (yes, that was her name) was writing characteristics of mammals down on the chalkboard.

Mammals have hair on their bodies... Mammals are warm-blooded... Mammals give milk to their young...

I raise my hand. "Sister?"

"Yes, Maria Palacios?"

"I think you made a mistake."

Beedy nun eyes stare me down. "Oh?"

"Yes, sister. We're mammals and we don't give milk to our young. We have to feed our babies out of bottles."

A huge collective gasp erupts. I slowly look around the room to see 29 pairs of 5th grade eyes looking at me in horror. My best friend shakes her head and looks on in sympathy.

What? What have I done? I ask myself, sliding down in my seat.

Sister ignores my question and keeps writing on the chalkboard. Thirty minutes later, the bell rings and Sister asks me stay after class. The sweat is pouring down my back as she hands me an envelope addressed to my mother. The entire bus ride home no one looks at me.

I give the envelope to my mother, certain that I'm about to be expelled for some crime against God and mammals. My mother reads the note from sister, then pats her bed and asks me to have a seat. She then gives me the "talk". Mortified, I find out that, uhm, yes, all mammals do give milk to their young, along with a whole bunch of other stuff I'd never even knew was possible. (note: I grew up in the Cuban household version of Leave it to Beaver...)

I trudge to school the next day wishing that I was a better actress, because my mother wasn't fooled by my dramatic coughing fit that morning. Gradually, all the kids forgot about it. But I never asked a question in class for the rest of 5th grade. Or 6th, for that matter.

Of course, that was 36 years ago and I really don't give a rat's ass what someone thinks if I don't happen to know something and have to ask. But it's funny, how the physical reaction is still there. Which of course, means that deep down, I must sort of care.

Since Mel and I had this conversation, I've heard the word segue or segue-way used at least 3 times. Which leads me to wonder... Am I really that unobservant? Or is this some sort of world plot against me?

Friday, September 22, 2006

What were they thinking??

I'm so disappointed in Macho 1 and Macho 2 (That would be JP and Ozzy of the Hispanic Team in this season's Survivor) They actually threw last night's immunity challenge so they could vote out poor Billy. There they are on the left, gloating.

Now, don't get me wrong. Poor Billy needed to go. He was on the lazy side and couldn't keep up in the challenges. Plus, he never really fit in with the other 4 members. As Billy put it, he fits in more with the heavy metal culture, than the Hispanic culture. But at this point in the game, it's all about numbers. Cecelia and Cristina realized this ( of course, they did. They are women) But Macho 1 and Macho 2 are thinking with, well, I don't know what they're thinking with, but it obviously isn't the grey stuff on top.

The fun twist to their evil plotting is that they were stupid enough to send Yul (of the Asian team) to Exile Island. Since the Asian team is kicking some major butt all around, they figured they would send the strongest member to Exile Isle to "weaken" him. Of course, it took Yul all of about 3 seconds to find the Immunity Idol. Ha! I can't wait to see the looks on the Macho boys faces, when Yul pulls that one out.

On a brighter note, last night's premiere of The Office did not disappoint. Not one bit. It was hysterical!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Imperfection, Thy Name is Hero

For the longest time, if asked who my favorite romance hero is, I've always responded the same way: Justin Alistair, the Duke of Avon. The devilishly imperfect, cold-hearted, arrogant, pleasure-seeking, revenge-obsessed hero of Georgette Heyer's, These Old Shades. I even quote the book in my RWA Online signature, because it's one of the best romance lines I've ever read.

The line comes in the final scene where Justin is trying to convince Leonie (the heroine, who also happens to be his ward) that he isn't the right man for her by cataloguing all his weaknesses. His reputation is damanged, he's never been faithful to one woman, he's selfish, weak, spoiled, he's too old for her, etc... He then finishes this little speech by telling her she's worthy of a better husband than he.

"I would give you a boy who might come to you with a clean heart, not one who was bred up in vice from his cradle."

"Ah, Monseigneur, you need not have told me this! I know-I have always known, and still I love you. I do not want a boy. I want only-Monseigneur."

"Leonie, you will do well to consider. You are not the first woman in my life."

She smiled through her tears. "Monseigneur, I would so much rather be the last woman than the first."

Sigh... at this point in the book, I'm crying. No matter how many times I've read it. Because despite all of Justin's calculating schemes to use Leonie as revenge against his worst enemy, in the end, he risks everything, gives up everything for love. And in doing so, wins me over every time.

Which brings me to The Taming of the Duke. I've just found a hero who can light a candle to Justin Alistair. And coincidentally enough, he's also a duke (maybe I have a thing for dukes?) I don't know how Eloisa James pulled it off (well, I do know, because she's ridiculously talented), but she did. She made me fall head over heels in love with an alcoholic duke with a protruding gut. Doesn't sound too romantic, does it? But Rafe Jourdain, Duke of Holbrook now has a place alongside my beloved Justin as Favorite Hero.

The Taming of the Duke is the 3rd in the sisters series and we meet Rafe right away in book one, Much Ado about You. Now, I liked Rafe instantly from the beginning. He's a big teddy bear of a guy who dutifully embraces his guardianship to 4 young women he's never set eyes on. But he's also an alcoholic. And Eloisa doesn't pull any punches here. He's let himself go, his estate go, and while he still manages to keep it all somewhat together, he's not the sort of confident Regency buck we're used to having as heros in our historicals. Everytime Rafe takes a drink, we cringe. We never know exactly what's going to come out of his mouth.

Other than the fact that both Justin and Rafe are dukes, slightly older (Justin is 40, Rafe is in his late 30's) and both men fall in love with their younger wards, I wondered how two men, who seem so different on first glance, could both be so appealing to me. Rafe is slovenly and unkempt. Justin is so meticulous in his appearance, that he almost comes off as foppish (almost!). Rafe could care less what society thinks of him, Justin is all about image. Rafe's self esteem is rock bottom, while Justin thinks the stars revolve around him.

But on deeper examination, and on all the levels that count, I find both men very similar. And more importantly, they embark on a character arc, that in the end, reveals the true man deep inside. And it's that lovely character arc, done so subtly, and so well, that makes me fall in love.

Both my heros are uncomfortable in their role as duke-Rafe, obviously more so, while Justin's discomfort with his title is more subtle, but it's there. And both men eventually grow into their noble roles, taking on the responsibilities of the title they were born into.

Rafe uses alcohol as a crutch, while Justin uses his need for revenge. In the end, both give up their crutch. Partly for the heroine, and partly because they have to. The crutch just doesn't work anymore.

And lastly, and most importantly, both men go the ultimate distance for love. Justin sacrifices his need for revenge, letting Leonie's needs come first. He tells her he isn't worthy of her, that she deserves someone better than him. But of course, in Leonie's mind, there is no one better (smart girl!) Rafe must battle the bottle and his low self-esteem in order win Imogen's heart. He thinks so little of himself that he woos her in the guise of another man. But ultimately, to win her, he must do the thing he fears the most--reveal himself completely, with all his faults and all his vices.

Both men have to grow into the man that the heroine sees deep inside, or as screenwriting guru Michael Hauge puts it, into their essence (If you didn't go to his workshop at Nationals in Atlanta, make sure to listen to the tape. He was fabulous!)

And that's what I think is ultimately the most satisfying part for me in a romance. Seeing that imperfect man grow into the man the heroine needs him to be. The man the heroine "sees" from the beginning and loves and knows is there. It's that journey of self-discovery that makes me sigh, cry, laugh, etc... because without it, the romance just isn't complete.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I found my Steve!

I was having a terrible time putting a face to the hero in my current wip. I always give my characters "faces" and here I was, halfway through the rough draft, and still no face for my most important character. My hero! So after a lot of inspiration and help from my friends over at the Title Wave blog, I finally found him.

Dermot Mulroney, who, coincidentally, I've always found a little wooden, but no more. Now that I've "given" him my hero's personality, I'll never think of him as anything but Steve!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I can almost smell Fall...

Only 3 more days and 14 more hours left till Survivor!

Bursting my bubble a bit, I've just been informed by Mel and Erin (who shall both, henceforth, be known as The Traitors) that they aren't going to be watching Survivor this season. I don't believe it for one second. Erin says it conflicts with Grey's Anatomy, but GA comes on at 9, and Survivor comes on at 8. So what's the problem, Erin?? And Mel, well, she'll cave in. I guarantee it (insert wicked laugh here).

This Tuesday is the premiere of Dancing with the Stars. I got hooked on it last season. I can't wait to see Jerry Springer make a total fool of himself on national TV. Oh, wait. He's already done that on his own show.

Highly recommended--from one of the Traitors, that is-- is Studio 60. (She got the pilot show from Netflix ) It's scheduled for Monday nights, which is good, because my Thursday night DVR recording schedule is getting pretty full.

Then of course, there's The Office and a few more shows that I absolutely have to watch. But, it's beginning!

And on a slightly different note... Today was my day to blog on Title Wave. Go check it out. I need some help with my hero!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm almost there!

Yeah, right.

How many times do you fudge exactly where you are? I do it all the time. My kids are sooo on to me.

"Mom, where are you? Practice was over 5 minutes ago."

"I'm right at the corner of John Knox Rd and Meridian." (or at least I will be in about 5 minutes)

"Hmmm.. okay."

In the opening scene of the movie Sideways, the lead character is just getting out of bed when he tells his friend he's almost there... this goes on while he showers, stops by the local coffee shop, is on the freeway with no traffic, etc... It's a funny scene and it really rang a bell with me.

My nephew Ryan and I discussed this little phenomena on the drive down to Destin last weekend. He's says its a product of cellular phones and our fast paced lifestyles. We're in constant communication with each other which makes us feel accountable for our every move. What do you think?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Off to the Beach

It's been a rough week, but today, we're heading to the beach!

Growing up in Melbourne, Fl, I always took the beach for granted. I mean, everyone went to the beach everyday, right? Ha! After graduating college, I moved to Arizona. The mountains were breathtaking and the weather was almost perfect. But there was a part of my soul that longed for the water and the sand, and yes, even the humidity. Hard to imagine, but true.

Now I live just 2 hours from some of the most beautiful beaches in the US. Today, we're heading out to Destin, where we'll do a side trip to Seaside. That's where The Truman Show was filmed. My entire family (parents, sister, hubby, nephews, kids) will all be together to celebrate my dad's 74th birthday tomorrow. I can tell you in advance, that a good time will definitely be had by all!

Happy Labor Day everyone!

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