The Love Letter: Coming to My Senses + Olfactif

Jean Honore Fragonard The Love Letter, early 1770's


I am delighted to announce that February’s sample collection from the niche perfume subscription service Olfactif will feature perfumes from Coming to My Senses and some notes and surprises from me throughout the month. If you want to get to the good stuff you can skip everything below and just go here. This is the story of how it happened:


I first discovered Olfactif on Twitter, when one of my non-perfumista friends–or so I thought–tweeted about receiving her monthly box of samples. Wait, I said, your what? Yes, she said, it’s a subscription service for niche perfume. Every month a new box arrives with three samples. There are stories and perfumer interviews on the blog, and a discount if you buy a full bottle.


What? I said, again. How did I not know this? So off I went to the website where among many amusing, helpful things I read this, in the FAQ’s:

     There are only three rules when trying a perfume. Uncap the vial, smell the               wand, then:

     1. If you like it, put it on.

     2. If you’re not sure, put it on.

     3. If you hate it, definitely put it on.


Yes! I said, aloud, to an empty room. Yes!


The site goes on to explain that perfume is very different on skin than it is on paper or in the vial, so you should always try it on and give it time to expand before you judge it. Which is true. But it is also true that when you are first starting to explore perfume you should definitely put on the one you think you hate. Hate is a strong emotion. It indicates you’re already involved with the scent in some way. And–perhaps not just with perfume–it’s remarkable how quickly hate can flip over and become love. Some of my favorite perfumes are scents that first made me draw back in disgust and then, perversely, come back for a second sniff. Any perfume person can tell you the same thing.


I immediately wrote a fan letter to Tara Swords1 the brave and witty person handing out this advice. Hello! I said. This is terrific! I’ve written a book that makes some similar points. Maybe we could do something together?


It took some gumption for me to write that letter. I was nervous about it. So I was surprised and very happy when Tara wrote back to say, essentially, why yes, I’ve read that book and have been meaning to contact you. That’s pretty much how this collaboration has gone from beginning to end. A true back and forth connection.


It was Tara who suggested we collaborate on the February collection. She’d been looking for a non-traditional way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and thought Coming to My Senses would do the trick. This made me very happy, not only because I think Valentine’s Day should be about more than a very narrow definition of romance, but because I’ve always thought of Coming to My Senses as a love letter. This little project allows me to send you all another one.


1 Can we pause a moment to note what a great name Tara has?  She’s practically a Tarot card.


Image: Jean Honore Fragonard, The Love Letter, early 1770’s



Recording (part of) Coming to My Senses, and a Question for You

Whale Ear Resized


I love to read out loud. I always have. It’s been a joy to read from Coming to My Senses at my book events, and audience members often ask me if the audio book is available. Alas, it isn’t. In most cases, the publisher owns the audio rights to a book. If they don’t sell the rights to an audio book producer, there’s no audio book. So far, that’s the case for mine.


In the meantime, I decided to find out how hard it would be to record a small portion of the book. Not very, it turned out. In fact, Joel Block over at The Block House made it easy (and affordable!). So after getting permission from my publisher, I recorded the first chapter of CTMS last week in one take. I learned a lot about breath control, super-sensitive microphones, and how I might edit my work in the future (oh dear). It was so much fun that I decided I’d like to record a few more brief passages. I have my favorites, scenes I’ve read more than once at events, but I’d like to give you a vote, too.


Is there a scene or passage from Coming to My Senses that you’d like to hear me read aloud? Please let me know. 


As soon as the recording is ready–probably sometime in the next couple of weeks–I’ll put up a link here and you’ll be able to listen and download it for free. I hope you’ll like it.


Image: A fossilized whale ear V. gave me several years ago.








Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going (I Think)


Those of you who still come by now and then will have noticed it’s been very quiet around here. Things slowed down last spring and summer and then this past August they came to complete stop. It took me longer to quiet down on Facebook, but I’ve been almost completely absent over there, too. (Though very present, for reasons I’ll explain, on Twitter.) Once I stopped posting I found it very difficult to resume. I even considered taking down the blog altogether.


But as soon as I let myself imagine quitting I began to have ideas for blog posts and other ways I wanted to continue communicating with you all, so I’m clearly not done over here. I do think, though, that the way I use this space is going to change, and I want to see if I can explain a bit about how and why and to say something about where I’ve been and where I’m going.
Read the rest of this entry »

You Are Invited: Coming to My Senses August Book Events

L Heure Attendue Vint Ad


With great excitement and that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling, I present to you the dates, times and places for the West Coast COMING TO MY SENSES paperback mini-tour! (Tour name suggestions welcome.)  I will be leaving Austin and heading to the West Coast in early August for book events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle .

Please share this post freely with interested friends. I don’t get a chance to meet readers in person very often–some days it feels like I barely leave my office–so I’m hoping to see as many of you as possible.  (P.S. I’m talking to local writers at some of these events and hoping some of my favorite perfume bloggers will turn up, so there will very likely be more than one writer to meet!) (P.P.S. I am planning something for those of you who can’t be there or don’t live in any of these cities. I grew up in a city few people visited.)


Green Apple Books and Music, Thursday, August 1, 7 p.m
I’ll be reading, sharing a few rare perfumes, and having a conversation with Anne Zimmerman, author of the M.F.K Fisher biography, An Extravagant Hunger and editor of two collections of Fisher’s work including this lovely collection of her writing on wine and spirits. Anne and I have had many conversations about women, pleasure, writing an memoir so I’m sure the interview will be a lively, thoughtful one. There will be time to chat and sign books afterwards. (And I hear there’s an excellent dim sum place right next door!)


The Scent Bar Saturday, August 3, 4-6 p.m.
The Scent Bar is the brick and mortar version of LuckyScent, one of the best hard-to-find perfume boutiques in the U.S. and pretty much a character in CTMS. I will read, share perfumes and L.A. Times journalist and noir author Denise Hamilton will be interviewing me. (Check out her latest novel, DAMAGE CONTROL)  In addition to being a writer, Denise is a fellow perfumista well-known (and envied) for her vintage perfume thrift scores. We’ll also be soliciting stories of perfume and transformation from the audience. It should be quite an evening. Drinks and appetizers will be served!


The Perfume House, Wednesday, August 7, 6-8:30 p.m.
The Perfume House is a very special boutique full of rare perfumes, including some that have been discontinued or reformulated. They will be preparing a packet of perfume samples to give away with each book purchased and I’ll pick some rare things out to present at the event. Note: Because The Perfume House is an intimate space, we are ticketing this event.  IT IS FREE, but please register here if you want to come:

(We needed a way to make sure we wouldn’t be turning people away and to start a wait list so if a crazy number of people want to come we can find some other way to accommodate you all.)


Third Place Books, (Lake Forest Park Branch),  Monday, August 12, 7-9 p.m.
I’ll be reading, then having a conversation with local writer and blogger Tara Austen Weaver, author of The Butcher and the Vegetarian and the wonderful blog, Tea and Cookies, where she celebrates many of the small pleasures and connections I write about over here. Tara and I got to know each other over on Twitter during an exchange about writing, pleasure, fear and taking chances so I know it will be great visit.  There will be rare perfumes to sniff, and of course I’ll be signing books.

Can’t wait to see you all!

Book Giveaway over at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Katie Gibson was one of the first people to give Coming To My Senses an official, oh-my-god-a-stranger-read-my-book review and boy, did I get lucky. She is a smart reader, a generous reviewer and a delight to read. This weekend she’s giving away a new paperback copy of CTMS. Do check out her blog, Cakes, Tea and Dreams, whether or not you want to put your name in the hat. I think you’ll be glad you did.

And stay tuned over here–as soon as I get through my next deadline I’ll have some things to give away here, too. And summer events to announce!