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Category: L.A. Mitchell


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?


Behind Fence Number One

18th July

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There is a team of very tired, very hot (as in Texas summer hot, not Channing Tatum hot) men replacing one section of my fence today. Not even two frosty Gatorade bottles from my fridge can allay my guilt at sitting in air conditioning watching these guys labor.

What fascinates me most about this project is what it revealed about my neighbor. I’ve long held the opinion that we would freak if we knew half of what goes on behind our neighbors’ doors. Ten years of living on this street has uncovered everything from snotty Pottery Barn obsessions and cross collections that would put the Vatican to shame to divorces, extramarital affairs, drug use, emotional and physical abuse, life and death, all hidden behind daisies in Terra cotta pots and lacquered front doors. Behind my neighbor’s brass kick plate, Roman door chimes and manicured lawn, I was certain lay more opulence, more orderliness than Martha Stewart’s jail cell.

Boy was I wrong.

Yesterday, the fence came down. My neighbor’s backyard was a biome unto itself. Grass high enough to brush an NBA player’s fanny. Relics of children long gone. A tangled nest where a garden once stood. Why would someone who mows and trims and edges and pots daisies bother with the front and not the back? Rules, I suppose. But it’s more than that.

Everyone has a pocket of chaos in their life: a junk drawer, the backseat of a car, that closet at the end of the hall. Something they don’t want anyone to see. I once wrote a character obsessed with orderliness. The one exception was her purse. At first, quirky, non-purse items would fall out to reveal character. But as the story progressed, the overstuffed bag became a metaphor for all the things in her life she couldn’t compartmentalize. As her trust in the hero evolved, the degree to which she shared her bag’s contents deepened until dark secrets tumbled out like used tissues.

I suppose my neighbor’s chaos is no more than evidence of a busy man who must have two jobs to support his family. A father who doesn’t want to forget the sound of children’s laughter saturating the yard on a hot summer night. A gardener who gave in to the natural world’s relentless ambush.

The writer in me wishes he was hiding something in the tall blades. The neighbor in me does not.

Where are you hiding your chaos?



P90x for the Vortex: Principle 2

2nd March

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In this, week two of beefing up the Vortex’s online presence, I’m tackling Principle 2: Participate in Communities Where Your Audience Already Gathers.

By nature, I’m a wallflower. So this will be a challenge.

First, I Googled keywords: time travel blogs, time travel authors, thriller author blogs, time thriller writers, thriller readers…you get the idea. I picked ten that sounded like something I would be interested in being part of-after all, I write what I love to read. I made an arbitrary list of ten, subscribed or otherwise bookmarked to ensure I would be able to frequent these sites, and tried his step 2 suggestion: expanding my list of ten using web-based  tools. Double Click Ad Planner was no help. I’d have rather flossed Abe Vigoda’s teeth during those ten minutes.

Of course, this is only half the plan. I need to sink my toes a bit in each community, make thoughtful comments and find time to participate. Easier said than done, but I did find some fun places I can’t wait to return to, like the t=time blog. Who knew there were other bloggers out there who loved all things time travel?

Are you participating in online communities where your blog audience gathers? Give us your best find so we may share in the awesomesauce.

Have a super weekend, everyone!


A Mental Pilaf Made From Quinoa, Denim and Bite-Sized Chunks of Dean Butler

21st February

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One should not let an opportunity slip away to celebrate being number one. Okay, so it’s not the number one Publisher’s Weekly three-book-at-auction deal for the week, but it feels good. Ready? Wait for it…wait for it…
Dean Butler shirtless.

Yep. Test it out. Ga-head, Google it. Number one, baby. Woooooo!

I’m completely distracted today because I didn’t get enough sleep last night. I watched the celebrity-fat cinema experience that was Valentine’s Day then was sad that it was a good two hours of my life I’d never get back. Think of the literary masterpieces I could have consumed in that time. Think of the literary masterpieces I could have generated in that time. Not even a gay Bradley Cooper character was worth that.

Anyone here ever eaten quinoa? These little parasite-wormy-like grains love my keyboard. Normally I don’t eat while I write because I get ocular migraines and have to take screen-time-outs, but remember how awesome edits are going? I wanted to work straight through lunch yesterday and my quinoa wanted to jump ship to beneath my M key. Longest game of Operation with a mechanical pencil lead. Ever. And while we’re on bizarre grains, all this week I’ve been eating from a bread loaf labeled Ancient Grains.  Does the mere application of the word ancient make it somehow healthier? What about stoic grains?

Mostly today, though, I’m mourning the departure of my favorite jeans. So instead of working on my gun-chase-through-a-major-urban-area scene, I’m wisely flexing my writing muscle today by writing a missive to the Levi Strauss Company that they will, most likely, never see:

Dear Levi Strauss execs,

I have a been a faithful customer for longer than Madonna has had Devo chest armor. I hung with your brand through years when your designers thought hey, let’s spread those back pockets and make a woman’s ass look larger. I hung with you when your red labels went geriatric large-print and made me look like my backside was part of a presidential motorcade. I hung with you when waistlines plunged lower than The Situation’s IQ  because, hey, nothing is sexier than ass-crack-and, well, women don’t need to sit down anyway. But then you stopped making my favorite number and your outlet sales clerk felt my pain about as much as getting her text allowance cut by five. Jeans aren’t just pants for women. They are a full-on relationship. Thus, I am ending ours. Sure, Calvin Klein’s swanky back pockets are so far south it makes me look like I’m packing heat or worse–bad rap tunes on my ipod; and sure, DKNY jeans are sized for DiNKY elf-like creatures, but I shall prevail in my search.

Sincerely,

A non-geriatric, non ass-crack consumer

Whew! I feel so much better. Thanks for letting me Ranty McRant. Now I can get back to some heat-packing of the fictional variety.


Must-See Flick

16th February

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The first thing you need to know about ‘Til Human Voices Wake Us, a recent favorite movie I’m about to gush on is that there are two versions: the original Australian version, more a romantic drama and slower in pace, and the International/American release, which is a ghosty-thriller version of a romantic drama.

Guy Pierce (of Memento awesomeness) plays Dr. Sam Franks, a psychologist who must return to his rural Australian hometown and bury his father. While there, he faces the one haunting memory from his past he has suppressed, the untimely death of his first teen-aged love, for which he feels responsible. Along his painful journey, he meets a young amnesiac woman named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter) whose personality begins to parallel that of his young love. Much of the story is told in flashback where we see two amazingly talented young actors with an emotional connection that surpasses the two elder actors. At times, I didn’t want to return to the present day, but without both pieces, the story could not have resonnated on so many levels. Sam Franks is also an unreliable narrator-which you know I have a special affinity for-because we are experiencing the story through his suppressed memories. The movie is quiet and haunting and beautiful and poigniant and I can’t recommend it enough. If you see it, do come back and tell me what you thought.

If you love trailers like I do, here ya go…

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Valentine Prophesy: Love At Cabela’s

14th February

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The Google Brotherhood of All-Up-In-My-Blog is now popping up a Google-Related toolbar at the bottom. Fascinating. Google picks up keywords from the website and suggests other sites or videos with related content. Wouldn’t it be great if it helped with author marketability? Oh, wait…that would be too helpful. For now, I’m getting six pictures of Bill Murray in varying poses of disheveled career-dom and links to bob-mitchell videos that highlight the fulfillment of the end-of-world prophesy. Not quite the demographic I’m writing for, but this is all a work-in-progress, is it not?

Speaking of blogs, I just broke one of the (supposed) cardinal rules of blogging: No more than three lines of text before a paragraph break. Man, are you guys in trouble. This rule would have cramped Faulkner. It cramps me. I have faith in Vortexers that their attention span is longer than my attention span while watching the Grammy’s.

Gotta cut this short today so I can do my part to get on the Valentine-gerbil wheel. You may think that since I sailed from Romancelandia, I am no longer a romantic. Not true. I am just into the quiet, the meaningful, the non-materialistic, the unpredictable, the messy, wonderful everyday parts of love. Here are links backs to two of my favorite valentine Vortex Lists and more, if you’re so inclined:

Everything I Need to Know About A Woman’s Heart, I Learned from a Romance Novel

But I Live in Gnaw Bone, Indiana! How Romance is Possible Anywhere. Even Cabela’s.

Next up: My new favorite movie is probably one you’ve never heard of. Looooove it.


The Spiritual Bent

13th February

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“The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty.”  -Annie Lamott
Few characters come to mind when I look for examples of the kind of spiritual nature of the love interest character in my current novel Six. I welcomed the challenge of crafting a medical researcher who creates a biological agent that allows humans to access and alter their own perception of time but who also is a highly spiritual individual. At first glance, these two parts of her fundamental make-up seem mutually exclusive. How can a scientist–someone hard-wired to seek measurable outcomes and tangible results–have an overtly spiritual side that guides her choices?
In pop culture, two characters come to mind: Dana Scully (X-files) and John Locke (Lost). Both of them resonated on a far more spiritually-based plane than those around them. While Scully struggled to find meaning in everything and was forever questioning the status quo of her past faith and her role in her world, Locke had an unceasing faith in his destiny on–and off–the island and never lost sight of the big Kahuna (they were in Hawaii…geez) picture. They had both seen too much not to question everything they thought to be true.
Is it necessary to draw a clear line between religion and spirituality with these characters? Perhaps. The lines between the two blur for all of us at times. I suppose that is the allure of this character for me. We’re all trying so hard to orchestrate the notes of our lives that we forget that the real point of it all is symphony we create together.

I think there’s a strong connection between what we perceive as time travel and the bigger picture we have yet to understand. People who have near-death experiences say that not only do moments of their life “flash” before them, but they feel as if they are there, witnessing and living every memory all over again in the span of mere minutes, even seconds. Time is fluid and folded on itself and more complex that we’ll ever understand in our lifetimes. For now, we’ll leave it to the physics rappers and dancers of the world to sort out. Oh, and the fictional characters in my world.

What other characters in literature or cinema who have a spiritual bent?

Fabio’s Pinpoint Forecast: No Bird Migration Today

13th January

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I’m a little jacked today. And not in a favorable way. I’m pretty sure I’m not quite in harmony with the universe. How could I have just now learned that I can’t lend the same book twice on my Nook? I get the whole go-out-and-buy-your-own-damn-book copyright premise behind it and how it’s in place to protect the interests of the publisher and authors, and to that I say hot damn with buffalo sauce, but how much does it suck that it still, after all this time, fails to simulate my bibliophile tendencies to share the written word with a hard copy? It makes me cringe that I’ve traded technological convenience for my lending passion. Books aren’t meant to be hoarded unless you have sixteen cats, a bathroom packed with adult diapers and a dolly fetish.

I also ventured outside my writing bubble to edit at Starbucks today and remembered why I don’t do that anymore. I adore children, but not when they’re racing a Matchbox car up my leg when I’m trying to get the p-e-r-f-e-c-t opening line perfect. And did I mention how the taste of coffee makes me gag? Oops, wrong drink. So perk-ily sorry for $4.05, Miss. I could have funded breakfast for a hungry child in my community for a month for that nip. And the guy next to me found my screen infinitely more exciting to read than his spreadsheets. Creeeepy. Give me my jammy bottoms and kitty paperweights at home any day.

But lest you think this is a Debbie Downer post, I must share with you in rare Jim-Caveziel-Count-of-Monte-Cristo-style goodness that edits are going swimmingly, Fabio as a weatherman makes me laugh and no one has guessed my hero crush for this book. Why does this make me happy? Because my IR (Ideal Reader) exclaimed, “Him? Are you kidding me? He looks like he’s on smack!” when she learned of his identity. Some things are best kept secret, though if someone guesses correctly, I shall fess up. I am nothing if not honest.

Be good to each other. Write much. Feed a child in your community. Enjoy Fabio’s cold front. And have a great weekend!


The Manuscript Is In the Lifeboat

10th January

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Short one today, Vortexers. I’m pulling one out of the drawer.

Cue girly-scream.

This novel was my close-call, my agented one, my attended-the-major-publishing-house-editorial-meeting one, my doesn’t-fit-what-we-publish one. Three years does a lot for perspective. And experience. And voice. They were right. It wasn’t quite ready. But it will be.

This news story stayed with me yesterday, not because Titanic is cycling on the movie channels or because it’s yet another way for commercialism to find a foothold in tragedy, but because of the human element-as it has always been with the subject. For many, it will complete the journey their ancestors never did.

Other Titanic mentions at The Vortex 


Vortex Drinking Game

9th January

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I know. It’s Monday. How inappropriate to be thinking of spirits so early. But I was catching up on my DVR-ed Person of Interest eppies and had an epiphany: Reese shoots people in the leg. All. The. Time.

This may not sound like a grand revelation; and if you are familiar with his Batman-ish vigilante code, you would understand why this is significant, but it started me thinking about what else we can count on with regularity here at the Vortex (It certainly isn’t my posts-ha!). Here’s your game:

Vortex Drinking Game

Every time you look at Jim Caviezel and cannot help thinking Jesus Christ!, take a shot.

Every time you wish you had a time machine to take you back to before you put your foot in your mouth, take a shot.

Every time someone alters “MacGyver” into a new part of speech (as in “I Macgyvered that dryer vent with duct tape”), take a shot.

Every time you watch Terra Nova and are tempted to feed the Shannon family to the dinosaurs so you can have Jim all to yourself, take a shot.

Every time you see man-titty on a novel cover, in homage to Fabio and Romancelandia, take a shot.

Every time you’re watching a movie that tiptoes dangerously close to the creepy-older guy/too young girl romance (ala Thorn Birds, Portrait of Jeannie, Harum Scarum), take a shot.

Every time you wish Lost would come back, take a shot.

Every time you see a red telephone booth, take a shot.

Every time you see a chatchke that feeds into the Elvis Presley estate machine, take a shot.

Every time you hear a Keith Urban song and wish to go down under (take that how you will), take a shot.

Every time you feel the injustice of an unfair Words with Friends move, take a shot.

Every time someone speaks of the truth and your mind immediately heads for Mulder and Scully, take a shot.

Every time you hear the word quantum, take a shot.

Every time you see a close-up shot of Beth Chapman’s talons or spiked heels on Dog the Bounty Hunter, take a shot. (Seriously, we got that she’s a vixen already)

Every time you watch a Harry Potter movie or a Beavis and Butthead episode with another person who then insists on imitating the unique vocal qualities of either ad nauseum, take a shot.

Every time your watch stops, take a shot.

Happy Monday and Happy Drinking, everyone!