Thursday, October 12, 2006


posted by Michele

The scent of warm, glowing jack o’lanterns on a warm autumn night: true Halloween pumpkin, spiced with nutmeg, glowing peach and murky clove.
Doesn’t that sound nummy? It’s what I smell like right now. It’s my new favorite scent, called, JACK.
I’m not a perfume person.
In fact, I get very ill around strong perfumes and must remove myself from the offender. I think it’s the high alcohol content in most colognes that does it. I rarely wear scent myself, yet I adore it. So I found a place that sell essential oils mixed to perfumes (no alcohol, very high oil content), and I’m in love.
The sense of smell has to be my favorite of the five senses. It’s rare you’ll see me NOT smelling something before I buy it. (Yes, even a plain old box of cereal.) If you can smell the cereal through the box, it’s too sweet, has too many preservatives, and that’s a big no-no for me. I smell fruit, and candles and sometimes sweaters before buying. I’ll swoon over the dry sweet aroma of expensive chocolate. Vanilla sends me over the top. A new book? Wonderful. But I avoid the perfume aisle like the plague.

I love the delightful surprise of standing in line by a man who smells spicy and darkly enticing. Man scents do it for me. But oddly, I’m hooked on a spicy man. I’m reading through my current manuscript and I paused over my heroine’s noting that the hero was richly spicy, like a Moroccan market. Hmm… Will readers tire that every single one of my heroes smells like a spice cabinet? I think I need to explore more scents.

So I’ve got a shelf full of wonderful, spicy samples right now. I’m trying a new one each day. A man smelling of cinnamon, bitter almond and neroli? Num! And fiery! In fact, that particular sample is called INFERNO, and it does burn. Seriously. I put a bit on my arm and developed a flaming red patch. It’s the cinnamon oil, but I love it enough to forego a little pain. I think my alpha male hero would too.

So if you’re interested in my scent discovery, it’s the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Tons of decadent scents waiting for you to explore. What about lush, creamy vanilla, the sweetest kiss of honey, a vital throb of husky clove, poppy, and blood red wine? That one is called BLOOD KISS, and I think my vampire hero is going to smell like that.

So what is your favorite scent for your man? Your fictional hero? Are scents important to you when you read? Of the five senses, which is your favorite, and which do you indulge in most?


scrapperjen said...

I like a clean smelling man - a little soap and touch of cologne. MMMMMMM!!!!!!!! When I'm reading or writing, I don't think smells are quite so important.

Wow - good question...

Betina Krahn said...

Aghhhhh, Michele! You have struck my Achilles heel. I have no sense of smell. No, I don't know what happened to it-- it just slowly withered and died. May have to do with the hay fever meds I took in my 20's and early 30's. All I know is I woke up one day after Don died and it was gone.

I mourn it. Daily. Candles, flowers, clean sheets, vanilla, baking bread, Christmas greenery. . . nada. I've replaced that missing input with an increase to texture and sound in my life. So if you see me stroking something inappropriate-- cut me some slack, okay?

I have written all around my problem. . . even created a hero with a too-keen sense of smell that overwhelmed him at times(The Marriage Test). Gave him a cook who could charm and revive him. sigh.

Curiously, I sometimes get phantom scents. . . not sure where they come. Most frequently. . . and strangely. . . they are related to sick people. And men. Go figure. Once or twice I've had a brief, unexpected burst of scent that quickly burns out and I'm left trying wildly to recapture or prolong the experience.

I once tried various perfumes to see if any might have a component I could detect. I'm not sure if the oils got into my bloodstream or what, but with one or two I got a generalized, low-level perception of sweetness that seemed to come from everywhere.

I've been to doctors and had scans and read widely about "anosmia." But you know-- I have an idea and I'm going to try that web site you mentioned. Who knows, Michele? Maybe one or more of their special brews would be absorbed through the skin and work for me! Cool!

:) Betina

Debra Dixon said...


I love fall scents, the air after a rain, a clean house. I'm toddling off to that place immediately.

For perfumes I've always been a "White Shoulders" girl. However, oddly, RWA's big national conference has knocked the perfume out of me. Through the conference I became aware of those folks who have serious allergies and the effect of so much perfume and botanicals on them.

At first I just abstained at RWA Nationals, then at large conferences, soon I wasn't packing scent when I traveled and now...

I rarely wear perfume. And I miss it! I think I'm going to try some scents again, while still being respectful of others in large packed-in group situations.

Yay! A reason to go dabbling in the pretty smells!

Debra Dixon said...


I had no idea! Especially that you could lose your sense of smell at such a young age. I know that sense of smell seems to go away in older folks. My two oldest grandparents in their eighties complained of it. Made cooking difficult. My grandmother had to watch everything like a hawk and stay in the kitchen because there'd be smoke and flame before she ever realized something was burning.

Have you seen that Hugh Jackman movie in which Ashley Judd goes to see a doctor about having the part of her nose that's connected to scent and scent memory removed?

Helen Brenna said...

Michele, I love scents written well in books, but I'm not that good at it myself. Sight, first. Touch, second.

I like a man that smells fresh, like Jen said, although I do like the warmer spicy male colognes.

Betina, wow, I had no idea either that people lost their sense of smell. I've always heard it was dampened by smoking, but didn't know you could lose it.

Deb, I miss wearing perfume too. Never heard of that movie, either.

I sometimes light candles at my desk while I'm writing. I think it helps to think about scents in the scenes.

Michele said...

Oh, Betina, I couldn't imagine not being able to smell. So can you taste? They say the biggest part of taste is smell. If you can't smell it, it's very difficult to taste. Interesting.

Have you read Oliver Sacks? I'm sure he's got some writings about amnosia. I think he wrote about a woman who had it, but then got her sense of smell back, briefly, and she ate like a wild woman because finally she could taste her food again, but then slowly, it drifted away again. Very sad. I'm so sorry for you!

I'm a toucher, too. I can't possibly walk through a store without touching everything. Oftentimes, a shirt will be purchased because of 'texture' as opposed to actual visual appeal. I like soft stuff. :-)


Michele said...

Yes, Helen, candles are good! Though I've been freaked of late about all the claims of lead poisoning from wicks, and general air pollution from candles. I try to buy soy. My mother gave me a weird candle, recently. It has a wooden wick, and 'crackles' as it burns. Smells richly gorgeous orange and just a touch of cream. Like those icecream dreamsicles.


anne frasier said...

oh my god. i think i'm going to spend hours at the alchemy lab. thanks, michele!!!

i love scents of all kinds, but i'm really sensitive to them. i can leave a hair salon in a stupor because of the hair products they use. in another hour i have a migraine. then two days in bed with a bucket.

Michele said...

I feel your pain, Anne! Those stupid perfume pullouts in magazines can give me a wicked headache.

Isn't that weird how something that can smell so good, lure us in, attract us, can then lash back at us with such a tormenting pain?

It's like a deadly flower or a gorgeous, yet wild, panther.


Helen Brenna said...

Oh my god, Anne, I can't imagine getting that sick from smells. We must inhale particles and such. Do you still go to stylist shops to get you hair done, or go to someone's home?

Candace said...

A few years ago in Paris I visited a perfume shop that had been recommended to me as "the" place to find the perfect scent. The idea was that the trained perfume staff would select the scent that was destined to become your signature scent. They take into consideration your coloring, your age, the oilness/dryness of your skin, as well as what they called its texture--and who knows what else.

They must have tried a dozen different scents on me--to the point that I couldn't smell anything anymore. While I could smell, though, everything I liked, they didn't. I'm drawn to the rich spicy florals but those are, appaently, all wrong for me. I'm blonde, I am "of a certain age," and my skin is oily but light. I should choose my scents from the citrusy florals. I let myself be persuaded (and I couldn't smell by that time, anyway) and left with a bottle of somthing the name of which I can't remember.

I only used it a couple of times; it smelled kind of acidic to me and Joe said it was too baby sweet. So, I tossed it and went back to my inappropriate spicy floral.

anne frasier said...

michele, i know!! how can something that smells so good make me so sick??? it's very strange. we should be repulsed by it!

helen, i go to salons, and it's always horrid dealing with a new person. i have to explain that i can't tolerate many products. the person i've been with now for a few years will pull off a cap and ask me to sniff it. :D the thing is, i can't tell if it's going to knock me out for a half hour or so. but she's patient with me. we've found several that don't bother me at all, and we stick to those. one smells like lavender, which is nice.

anne frasier said...

oh, man. i'm going to have to order several of these even at the risk of being knocked flat on my ass.

Jazz Funeral:

Bittersweet bay rum, bourbon, and a host of funeral flowers with a touch of graveyard dirt, magnolia and Spanish Moss.

there was another called zombie i think i'll have to sample.

very cool!!

Betina Krahn said...

Aha! This is where not being able to smell things actually comes in handy. Other people choke and fan at salon odors. . . I just sit and inhale and exhale. . . like a lab rat. . . oblivious to the dangers around me.

Of greater benefit is the inability to smell poopie diapers. I never mind changing my grands. . . my son will sometimes hand one of his darlings to me while gasping and choking. I carry the little stink bomb to the changing table and dispatch the offending Pamper without distress or hesitation.

See, there's a silver lining to every cloud.

:) Betina

Jaye Wells said...

That is one of the coolest web sites I've been to in a long time. I am so going to order samples. Thanks for the fantastic resource.

anne frasier said...

oh jaye! that is right up your alley!! i'm thinking of the great story your wrote for clarity of night!!

candace, i've always wondered about those places that design a signature scent. and you are so right about reaching the point where you can't smell, so you can't judge!! i've done that with scented candles. ended up buying something that smelled awful the next day just because my nose had shut down or been tricked.

betina: haha!! yes, that kind of nose would come in handy in a dirty diaper situation. but i'd be afraid everybody would always say, oh, let betina do it. and if you came upon a dead body in the woods, you wouldn't know it until you were right on top of it. ;)

Michele said...

Anne, Jazz Funeral sounds right up your graveyar—er, alley. :-)

That is weird that a place would proclaim to design your scent, when...they don't have your nose. I think what we project as a person to others is very different sometimes than who we really are inside. And maybe some perfume with grave dirt in it really does it for us, but wouldn't the ladies at the church luncheon be shocked! :-)


Betina Krahn said...

I went, I saw, I ordered.

I can't wait to sample "Carpathian Mountains," "Bliss," and "Brisingamen."

I'll report back if I'm able to perceive any of these via blood and skin. I know that sounds nutty, but I do think my otherwise capped-off receptors have been stimulated that way before!


:) Betina

anne frasier said...

i ordered too!! six samples! and a t-shirt! the one that says all great truths begin as blasphemies. heh!