The Official Website of Author L.A. Mitchell

Category: craft

On Romance, Stink and Kissing Eyeballs

25th November


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?

No, It’s Not a Coaster Near My Keyboard, But It Could Be

18th February


Out of the thirty plus books I have on the craft of writing, one stands out among the others. Between texts about everyday life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and rah, rah books by Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron on how life wouldn’t be worth living without the written word, one modest yellow-jacketed book is never relagated back to the shelf. The spine is frayed. Its top left cover is torn to a spot with an unidentifiable cloud of funk across the title. Reminants of a price tag or food, not sure which. The book? A most unlikely text to be chosen as one of my constant companions in writing.

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray.

I’ve never heard it referenced in any craft articles. Workshop presenters never spouted it’s genius like they have the GMC bible or others we all believed we needed to purchase to gain an instant ticket to ride the trail to publishing success. I picked this one up six years ago, when I thought harnessing time was the answer. More time, more writing. Not necessarily always the case, but that’s a topic for another day…

Robert Ray, a college professor of literature and writing, created a dynamic 52 week program to help the writer to produce a finished novel one weekend at a time. Although my left brain craved the structure and promise of such a simple idea, that’s not the reason it ultimately stays with me. His capacity for depth, scene building and the ultimate, seemingly random way he attacks creating a story from start to finish, leads you to realize, when you come to the end–made perfect sense all along. Always encouraging the writer to look behind and think ahead in moments writing isn’t possible, he is like a personal instructor sitting beside you, his tone firm and knowing. Completely understanding.

Mood::Silently overwhelmed

Music:: Everybody by Keith Urban