The Official Website of Author L.A. Mitchell

Category: there’s a story there somewhere


On Romance, Stink and Kissing Eyeballs

25th November

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Yesterday, the annual bombardment of perfume and cologne samples clogged my mailbox, slipping from glossy Black Friday ads like seduction bombs delivered by the cosmetic industry. Here’s the thing: as a writer, I save every one of them.

Remember how I always say that music is the short cut to Storyland? If music is the short cut, fragrance samples are the high-octane vehicle that gets me there. Sure, some smell more like the inside of a heiress’s steamy regrets, but sometimes I am able to attach just the right scent to just the right character and magic ensues. One whiff, and I’m right there with that imaginary character.

So in celebration of this olfactory phenomenon of writing (and because some of you may be considering purchasing a fragrance for a loved one – don’t, please don’t – that never works out), I give you the latest four that just tumbled from my mailbox:

Estee Lauder – Modern Muse

Aside from the writerly squees that occurred to me at this perfume’s title and the pitch line: Be an inspiration, this scent is one of your rich characters. Heels most of the time, the target market of every DeBeer’s commercial and just a hint of spice to indicate she moonlighted as a high-priced escort to pay her way through college. No PTA mom here. This chick will cost your hero. And betray him.

Coach – Poppy Wildflower

This character is a kindergarten teacher before she has crayola paint and boogers smeared on her skirt. She’s your little sister, Taylor Swift and Paris in the sunshine all rolled into one. You adore her initial sweetness, but it suffocates after a time. Like headache suffocate.

RLromanceRalph Lauren – Romance

Seriously, could this fragrance be any more targeted to my demographic? The ad even portrays a hunky guy and a woman trotting side-by-side on twin white horses. He leans over for a smooch, but kisses her eyeball instead. To so boldly proclaim that these notes of odoriferous emanation will deliver romance is a heady promise. What does it truly deliver? The perfect balance of everything, with not too much of anything but the glue meant to hold the sample closed. It’s like the Switzerland of Romancelandia. Kinda forgettable. Except for the eyeball kiss. And at $91 for 3.4 ounces, I would have expected something more. The UPS guy, for instance, to give an eyeball kiss upon delivery. Something.

Donna Karan – Cashmere Mist

Oh, wow. The name is already trying too hard, right? It’s like someone shoved a Harlequin novel into a phallic bottle. No man on this ad to suggest anything more than a scent, which is a good thing. This one is your futuristic antagonistic heroine who rose to too much power and must now be taken down. She doesn’t live entirely in her steel-and-glass fortress. Every now and then, she ventures out into the cashmere mist to frolic with squirrels.

Bottom line, don’t throw the samples away and don’t sniff them to death. Even if you dislike the scent, you never know when it will be the perfect connection to a character.

What do your favorite (or not-so-favorite) characters smell like?


Subterranean Inspiration

22nd July

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A huge thanks to everyone who took the time to send their characters to the weekend party. Turned out more like a dysfunctional dinner party, but a success, nevertheless.

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As tempting as it was to concoct a Vortex 10 list that included the perks of last week’s expedition to the Texas hill country, rife with references to bat guano, Pocahontas-style canoeing and peaches straight from the orchard, I’m firmly tapped into my serious side this week. I’ve surpassed the distracting phase of summer and curled back into the routine I’ve longed for for six weeks. Mind-bending, page-counting productivity. So, for now, I offer a small installment of there’s-a-story-there-somewhere:

The Longhorn Cavern State Park represents only five percent of cave formations found on earth, those carved by underground rivers. Similar to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, you’ll not find stalactites and stalagmites, but an intricate system of limestone carved away much as the Colorado river shaped the Grand Canyon.

As exciting and potentially lethal as the physical science of it all was–hundred foot plunges, scorpions and my complete lack of outdoorsy-foresight to wear something besides beaded flip-flops–the human element is what captured my interest most.

In an area known as the Subterranean Ballroom, a rich and varied history unfolded. The Civilian Conservation Corp of the 1930s cleared away debris and found the remains of a confederate stronghold, including weapons, dynamite and some unfortunate souls still in uniform. During Prohibition, industrious locals crafted a raised wooden floor and stocked a limestone bar with the county’s finest bootlegged whiskey. Free drinks to the sheriffs from nearby Marble Falls and Burnet ensured everyone present had immunity from the law. The perfect irony of small-town justice.

A nearby ante-chamber known as The Church attracted the fervent Christians of the area, who felt closer to God in sixty-eight degree comfort. Ballroom stragglers who never quite made it out the night before found that closeness in slumber, laid out on the back pews.

Legend has it, Sam Bass, the notorious outlaw responsible for the Union Pacific gold train robbery in 1877, hid his stash from the Pinkerton Agents and the Texas Rangers in these vast caverns. The fortune he amassed during his short, but lucrative train and stagecoach-robbing career remains a secret of the caves.

Thankfully, the only snakes I tripped over happened to be the industrial cords to the cave’s mood lighting. I left with only a fleeting sensation of white crickets in my hair as an afterburn of the adventure.