The Space I Take

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– on the Genie’s overlong absence, perfume writing, and real life roadblocks

Ladies, gentlemen and fragrant entities –

It’s been far too long. I have in the past six months removed myself from social media to a greater or lesser extent due to work issues (my first major freelance assignment, now completed) and life issues, and somewhere along the way, perfume fell by the wayside in the sense that I for good or for ill didn’t and couldn’t … write about it. I’ll be getting back to that one.

Future Music

A new novel will, Dev willing, find its way into the world of publication in two languages this year, Danish and English. It will be a prequel to Quantum Demonology, with a very different narrator and a very different story.

In publishing, there’s a phenomenon called The Follow-Up Act. In layman’s terms, the Difficult/Impossible Second Novel. Since Quantum Demonology was in a sense handed to me on a platter of id and dissociation, what this means is the second book in the series (which in terms of story arc is actually the first, and makes QD the third) has caused me more grief than I ever knew existed. This time, the stakes are higher. This time, I have something to prove, which always gets a writer in trouble, and this time, some aspirations of achieving what I hoped for with the first, thanks to a Danish publisher who could be a soul brother in terms of common inspirations, idols and predilections. Not to mention being a Capricorn with plans for world literary horror domination, quite a few connections and an epic talent pool of writers to urge that outcome along.

Sibling rivalry also plays its part. My beloved sister is a journalist, an often incisive columnist for one of Denmark’s largest women’s magazines and a published novelist. I’ll be damned and dipped in tar and feathers before I let her have that last distinction on her own, because why should she have all the fun? Luckily, she agrees. We write nothing alike and each have our own literary preoccupations, but by Golly, we’re going for it. Because we can, bolstering each other’s porcelain egos and talents with sisterly bubble wrap as we go. It’s what these two sisters do.

Fragrant Epiphanies

All along, perfume wafts in my wake. New releases have made my heart sing in ways I never thought it could by their sheer virtuosity, and other possible ones that just might also set the heartstrings quivering. I bought two hotly coveted perfumes in the past few months, one Estée Lauder’s Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, and the other L’Artisan Parfumeur’s genius Seville à L’Aube. Next on my list is another favorite FBW, perfectly appropriate for the spring exploding forth everywhere around me as I type: Hermès 24 Faubourg. I’ve ripped through three decants and every single sample I have, which tells me it’s love. But having just upgraded my shoe collection, that’s not happening just yet, no matter how much I wish for it. And more indie perfumes for my FBW list: Envoyage Perfumes’ astonishing floral symphony, Fiore di Bellagio, Olympic Orchids’ White Cattleya, DSH Perfumes’ Giverny in Bloom and Fleuriste, Neela Vermeire Crèations Pichola, Aedes de Venustas’ Oeillet Bengale, Iris Nazarena, Palissandre d’Or, Cierge de Lune and.

And.

The perfumes I’ve loved in my absence: my arguable HG, that intransigent, unapologetic bad-gal masterpiece that is vintage Robert Piguet Bandit. It has the effect of a hydrogen pulse bomb on the Dude. Should I ever doubt the towering genius that was Germaine Cellier or the delicate touch of Aurelien Guichard who reorchestrated it beautifully in 2007 to comply with modern IFRA standards, it takes just one sniff. I dare not contemplate what would happen if I ever encounter vintage Balmain Jolie Madame, or Vent Vert. I. Shall. Be. Toast. Bandit in the modern eau de parfum is on my FBW shortlist, if only so I can spray with abandon and let the world think what it will of that perfect, naughty, borderline disgusting/wrong note of cold ashtray.

Amouage’s Sunshine Man knocked the gender-bender out of the ballpark for me and has rapidly become my Favorite Masculine/Schmasculine Stupid-Happy-Delirious Perfume of All Time. It’s a lavender-almond cookie with an electrifying jolt of Curaçao/Cointreau/Grand Marnier that somehow all adds up to making me feel, well, deliciously delirious, maybe? It also has salubrious/salacious effects on the Dude, who loves it on me and nowhere else.

Aedes de Venustas’ Palissandre d’Or, a silky-smoothly burnished spicy wood unisex wonder, is as transparent and as glowing as maroon silk chiffon, and has become something I crave very badly, which does not bode at all well for my wallet.

The Case Against TAG

Yet something I’ve also found myself doing with increasing frequency lately is pondering that space I take in the blogosphere, the state of the perfume industry and the hair-raising amount of new releases, new brands, and new brands of headache to consider, and what – if any – role I should try to fulfill.

I’ve been writing about perfume for almost six years, as part of the – let’s call it – second wave of perfume bloggers that began somewhere around 2010. In that time, I’ve seen the social media landscape around blogging in general and perhaps perfume blogging in particular change in ways that emphatically do not appeal to my comfort zone. That sweet-smelling (?!) world has become so much nastier, no matter what I do to convince myself otherwise. Some of my mainstays from those early days are still very much around and are as awe-inspiring as they’ve ever been. A few more have had to quit the blogosphere due to real-life issues, and I miss their particular voice and perspectives on this thing called perfume.

All of these things somehow all add up that soup of contemplation I’ve been stewing in for so long, and in the past year or so, a few things more have given me long, hard pauses for thought.

I began to write about perfume for two big reasons. First and most importantly, to become a better writer. At the time I began my first perfume blog on Blogspot, I was heading toward the finish line of my novel Quantum Demonology, and thought it might do me good as a writer to find an outlet for all those girlie sensibilities the hard-boiled QD protagonist would have mocked to infinity and beyond.

I dare say that YOU – if you’re reading this – have forced me to up the ante and succeed in ways I could never have imagined that August night in 2010 I cooked up the idea to become a perfume writer.

Thank you. For bearing with my idiosyncracies and predilections, and for being with me this far.

On that note …

I’ve also been the victim of trolling on more than one occasion in the past year or so in particular. I’ve received more or less “anonymous” emails blasting me with vitriol and undiluted verbal hydrochloric acid for daring to redefine perfume writing on my own terms and in my own way, for not knowing enough about my subject matter, for shoddy, slapdash research into my subject matter (FWIW, some of those reviews required over a full month of research to write with any degree of credulity), and a blatant inability to locate even the most “obvious” notes in the perfumes I’ve reviewed. Some of these mails have gone so far as to state I should just STFU already ‘if you can’t write like ‘normal’ perfume bloggers!’

There IS such a thing, and I didn’t know?

O.M.G.

I realize an entire segment of online entities out there take great pride in destroying reputations, credibility and what in social media has been dubbed ROI, or Reach of Influence, on the mistaken assumption that our entire self-worth rests solely on the opinion of such human pondscum.

As a perfume blogger, I could not have cared less. There is no shortage of blogs out there to read or to watch on YouTube, and no shortage of compelling perspectives and quality prose. I link to the best of them.

But as a writer, I was devastated nearly into giving up the ghost altogether, and that conclusion almost did me in. If I can’t write, if I am silenced into nonentity or figuratively ball-gagged into shutting up, then just kill me now.

I do not, and have never that I’m aware, ‘write about’ perfume. I write to express my impressions or to communicate the experience said perfume gave me. You may beg to disagree, and that’s perfectly all right. Should I sometimes – as indeed has happened – be inspired by a particular perfume so stellar I feel compelled to write my review as a story and you take offense at that, then by all means unsubscribe and read something else. My perspective is a novel writer’s and storyteller’s perspective, and I can’t and won’t change that, not even to shut up the trolls who take offence at my approach or indeed anything else about me.

But with the arrival of more and more and more and more …. blogs, vlogs and the general proliferation of the perfume community, I have had to question what I as a perfume writer can contribute to the conversation.

As I stated before, the conversations we’re having about perfume have changed. Likewise, the relationships between brands and perfume bloggers has also changed. I was shocked to learn that at Pitti Fragranze last year, some bloggers walked around with price lists for reviews, which was somewhere around the point where my own brain imploded.

Call me old-fashioned. But a paid review in my book = no credibility whatsoever as a reviewer. In any size, shape or form.

I began with a passion – my own passion for perfume, and my passion for verbiage. That passion is not, nor will it ever be for sale. I couldn’t live with myself if it were. You may choose to believe me when I say that a rave is a rave because I think something is great/stellar/incredible, or you may take issue with the – indisputable – fact that certain brands on TAG always get raves. For one simple reason, and I state this with my hand on my heart and swear on my cat’s fur: because they’re always that great. Emphatically not as a compliment to a brand that provided me with a sample free of charge.

But more than anything, I’ve thought about that space I take, thought to utilize it better and more, thought to do whatever I could to entertain, or illuminate, or sometimes even confuse/bemuse my readers, and that has happened, too.

No one is renumerating my time or my efforts in trying to find the words to match my nonverbal impressions of a perfume.

More to the point, no one cares. Or do they? If you’ve read this far, do you?

Let me know in the comments! And let’s continue the conversation – about perfumery, about the blogosphere, and about… that space we take.

Illustration: yours truly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Content Diva

  • blackcattiara
  • Being the thoughts of a (kind of) 1%

This is me, now: A chronic case of guilt, circumstantial distraction and an ever-increasing (and guilt-inducing) backlog of Things That Must Absopositively Be Reviewed Yesterday. Surely, some not entirely benign occult, alchemical sleight-of-hand is involved in the way the samples in my sample box seem to generate ever-larger amounts of liquid and libidinous progeny every time I blink? And yet another force – also morally ambiguous – colludes with my compulsion to write anything that isn’t a perfume review?

As of today, I have not one, not two, but four different book projects all coming to a boil. Two novels, a sequel and a historical novel, one prequel novella and last but never least, another book, but that one is a secret for now.

So if you’ve found the Genie rather lacking in updates these days, this is why. Mea culpa. Alas, my leaden guilt trip suitcase does not have wheels, but I’m hoping to upgrade…

Yet in the last two weeks, several events conspired to rattle me out of my brain-in-the-clouds mode and land me onto Planet Perfume with a loud and odiferous thud.

The first of these was an incisive blog post by one of my longest-running blog idols; Gaia of the Non Blonde. Whether reviewing eyeliner pencils or perfumes, her concise yet precise reviews have never, ever steered me wrong, even if our opinions – or our mileages – vary, as they sometimes do.

The blog post was intriguingly titled The Problem With Blogging – 2014 edition. Go read it. I’ll wait – and get back to that in a moment.

The second was even more shocking, and with all my experience in social media, you’d think I’d be far past surprising by now.

No.

Lo and behold, into my inbox ticked a TAG comment in need of approval, and I quote verbatim:

i see you put a lot of work

in your website, i know how to make your blogging easier,

do you know that you can copy any article from any website, make it 100% unique and pass copyscape test? For more details , just search in google – rewriter creates an unique article in a minute

Yes, it was a definite spam comment, and as such did not get approved. More to the point in this morally relativistic, anything-goes-in-the-blogosphere decade was my utter, old-school blood-curdling horror in realizing that somewhere out there, people are stealing blog content lock, stock and barrel (this has happened to at least four bloggers I know) and also reworking existing blog content to fly under the radar of Copyscape (who monitors for such things) as well as Google search algorithms for your blog, thus ranking you lower in the Great Google Relevance Page Rank. Or to put it in everyday terms: stealing not just your content but the influence and reach you have personally (and hopefully, organically) acquired by years of blogging to the virtual page, tweeting, sharing on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and everywhere else a readership is made.

The rock-bottom line is this one: why even bother to write a blog post, maintain it at some cost to both your personal life (presuming you have one) and your purse if you can just steal it and hog someone else’s credit – not to mention, ruin their credibility?

Dear readers, I almost gave up the ghost right them and there. Note the qualifying almost. Because if I had, a) you would not be reading this post and b) that would mean those §!”#€%&/?§! (insert your own epithet here) thieves had won.

Over my dead, decaying Diors!

The problems with bloggers

It’s no secret that certain sectors of the luxury blogosphere have undermined all semblance of reliability and honest opinion by their practices of kickbacks and paid (and therefore dishonest) reviews. I’m calling it as I see it to say that fashion and beauty blogs are especially ripe for suspicion. That thin line between paid advertorial content and blogging is becoming ever thinner and harder to dissemble, as Gaia rightly pointed out.

There’s a difference in both style, angle and audience between fashion, beauty and perfume blogs, which each have their own considerations. I’d also like to add I have no issues with monetized blogs, meaning blogs that carry relevant advertising links and banners. If you can make even a modest penny from clicks to other websites, then more power to you.

Yet one pink elephant in the room is this one: bloggers matter, even in our sweetly scented corner of the world, no matter what perfume houses or (certain) perfumers might argue to the contrary.

People read those posts, watch vlogs on YouTube and discuss reviews and perspectives on the many fragrance-related groups on Facebook. Ordinary (or not so ordinary!) people and perfume consumers sometimes even let reviews influence the size and scope of their lemmings.

While this might not have an effect on a given perfume house’s bottom line to any substantial degree, the opinions of perfume bloggers have indeed greatly increased – and in some cases built – a brand’s reputation.

In this day and age of instant access to anyone anywhere, when the six degrees of separation rule shrinks by the minute, reputation is where the bottom line starts and sometimes ends. And like it or not, agree or not as you please, in an age of ever-present social media, reach and instantaneous interaction, reputation isn’t everything – it’s quite literally the only thing.

A Free Lunch

US bloggers are obligated by law to provide a disclaimer on their blog posts stating whether or not they’ve received their samples for consideration and review. Bloggers elsewhere – which would include yours truly in the EU – are under no such obligations. Or are we?

Since I began that ill-advised writing exercise I call perfume writing in 2010, the perfume blogging landscape has changed entirely, as indeed has the perfume industry itself, and I rather suspect we ain’t seen nothing yet. In all that time, I’ve specifically asked for samples precisely twice. The first time nearly killed me, I was so mortified, mortified for a very human reason: who doesn’t love free stuff? Located in a niche-less part of the world, mostly too impecunious to afford to order even sample packs of things I’d like to try, my future as a perfume writer was a chancy thing in 2010.

Yet if not for an enterprising part-time perfumer who took a chance on a voice in the Void and sent her a generous sample pack or generous friends and fellow bloggers, I never would have.. a) written about perfume to the extent I have b) acquired the international network I thank my chosen deities for every day I live and last but never least c) made and forged some of the most important, fulfilling and cherished friendships of my entire life. All from that fabled ‘free lunch’ of free samples.

But are they really? Most of the brands I review are either niche or indie perfumers in Europe and the US who are their own entire marketing and PR teams, and we all know it: there’s no such thing as bad PR.

For that matter, there’s no such thing as ‘free’ samples, either, if my own massive guilt trip is any indication. When I’m contacted by PR companies or perfume houses asking if there’s anything of theirs I’d like to try, I always make a point of stating that I can’t guarantee when anything will be reviewed (or not), just as I’m unable to guarantee a 100% positive review.

And yet… I’ve encountered not a few perfumes and not a few famous ones that I’ve loathed no end. Which is an opinion, not a fact proclaiming the perfume in question as inherently horrible (although I’ve encountered a few of those as well). So even if I’ve fallen at the fence of personal taste and inclination, I can at least have the decency to pay my verbose respects to the concept, at least. In so doing, I’ve realized a few stunning truths: that certain brands’ overall aesthetic preoccupations always – or nearly – allies with my own, meaning I at least like most of them, and also there are other, likewise lionized brands I can’t even stand in the same room.

But here’s the rub: between butterflies and blooms, or perfume houses and perfume bloggers, gratitude is a two-way street.

Even so, some of them seem to think the traffic is only allowed in one direction: it’s all about them. We blasted, wretched, irrelevant, opinionated bloggers are simply the vehicle that will (so they hope?) propel them to the stratosphere of perfumista superstardom and infinite black-inked bottom lines and massive worldwide distribution deals.

I’ve written raves of perfumes that have been blithely ignored by the companies who created them, in spite of tags and utterly blatant, shameless self-promotion. And I’ve written the occasional chilly-to-tepid review that has been plastered all over social media.

As a semi-famous relative and DK writer said to me this past year, the one thing you as a writer or blogger can’t control is how your words are received. You never know.

Or not, for in this dog-eat-dog world I’ve also been privately lambasted by people for having ‘insider access’ to new brand releases which questions both the brand who sends them (because they appreciate my opinion?) and my integrity as a blogger. (WTF?)

It gets worse. Much, much worse.

The Inexcusable

Sometimes – not at all often – it has happened I’ve written a review – a good one, and some time later, received a full bottle (or a large decant) of the perfume in question from a grateful indie perfumer or perfume house. It would be hard to describe just how grateful I’ve been for those extravagant and likely sincere tokens of appreciation, or how happy they’ve made me every time I’ve opened the red IKEA cabinet of doom and seen them glittering in the light, and every time I’ve cherished wearing them as a reminder of the person behind the perfume.

Yet it seems to have become a burgeoning – and despicable – practice among some bloggers to either sell these bottles (some of them very rare) or decant them on at a profit to interested parties. Which is not only an insult of the first order, it’s also a defiant slap in the face to those of us who dearly love those treasures in our cabinets because they were given in good faith and given as personal. It’s something that gives all of us a deserved checkered reputation for questionable ethics, and something I consider the lowest of low blows in human endeavor.

(Im)Moral Suspicions

This blog – The Alembicated Genie – is a proud and l-o-u-d independent blog. Meaning I will never monetize it, since I’m old school and unfashionable and don’t give a flying who knows it – and also precisely… independent. If I rave about something, you can bet your vintage Nombre Noir it’s because I think the perfume in question is that great and good. As the saying goes: your mileage may vary. I have never, I do declare on one super-rare, exquisite and costly perfume I own and adore, received any kind of compensation for any kind of review and I never will.

Having said that, the alter ego of this blog has also written and prepared press releases and copy for a few select people in the industry – for money. In such instances, the Genie as you know her is nowhere in sight, because she has no part of it at all.

The writer that I am is for sale, as all artists are to differing degrees.

The perfume writer and blogger, on the other hand, never will be.

Now, you know.

Reality Checks

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, those thieves who choose to profiteer off the backs of those of us who do what we do for love on our own time and initiative will find they’re not only reported to several relevant authorities for daring to suggest that stealing is a ethically feasible alternative to creating content of your own as well as the radical proposition that blogging should be easy (the very idea! :-O), they’ll also find my content has been bullet-proofed to the best of my abilities.

Because in this day and age of blogvertising, I’m more than a little proud of belonging to the one percent of social media who creates the content my readers will (hopefully) enjoy. From scratch, from the heart, con amore.

Call me the Content Diva. As soon as I get the next harrowing deadline out of the way.

With grateful thanks to Gaia, the Non Blonde, for making me think.

One Two Many

 

 

A while ago, an ongoing debate asked a very relevant question: Are there too many perfume bloggers?

Too many people weighing in with their highly subjective opinions, too much snark and snobbery, too many self-proclaimed experts who apparently don’t know nearly enough about their subject matter?

It was one of those questions that needed to be asked, and also a question I not only had to think about, but think about for a good long time. The fact is, there are indeed very many perfume blogs. Here’s another fact: in 2011, over 1200 new perfumes were released. Most of these will have a very short shelf life and disappear without a trace.

I hate to state the obvious, but honesty impels me: Very many perfume blogs, regardless of the blogger’s expertise and/or lack thereof, will also have a fairly short shelf life and disappear without a trace. I say this not because I’m a raging snob or safely planted in that elevated stratosphere of perfume blogging superstardom (which I’m emphatically not), but because I’m a realist as well as a blogger who has been banging on my keyboard for many reasons on many topics for over three years now.

Take it from me: Blogging on any topic is damned hard work, just as writing is damned hard work. Since you didn’t ask, I will also tell you something else: writing about perfume, that most ephemeral of art forms, is one of the hardest topics of all to write about.

Once upon a time, so all good fairy tales begin, I was so destitute, I couldn’t afford to buy perfume at all. Not so much as a designer imposter. All five of my cherished perfume bottles were empty. For a perfume lover who had never gone without since age 14, this was a very sorry state of affairs. I felt diminished in several dimensions I couldn’t explain to anyone without sounding like a superficial idiot. Whether it was because I felt severely starved in an aesthetic sense or plain and simple masochism, I began to trawl through online perfume retailers just to absorb the fumes by proxy, so to say. I’m not sure how it came about, but I distinctly recall standing in a niche store in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the fall of 2003. This was a store that sold such exclusive brands as Annick Goutal, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Creed etc, and there was T the Total Newbie asking about a certain Serge Lutens, which they didn’t sell.

Somehow around that time, I began to read the few perfume blogs that existed at the time and continued to do so, as I even do today. As I did, I learned all those things I ‘knew’ with my nose if not my brain, and as I became more enlightened, I also became determined never to settle for anything less than olfactory revelations. I wasn’t ordinary, so why shouldn’t my chosen perfume reflect that? The writers who taught me so much and aroused my curiosity for good and bad told me so much about a world I never knew, explained my dissatisfaction with the sorry state of affairs at my local perfume counters, and all the while, I soaked up the words like a sponge to savor later, since I still couldn’t afford to buy any.  What I could do was dream of the day, and surely it would happen some day, when I too might know a little of those genies and stories glittering in a drop of exquisite perfume.

Then, three things happened – all interconnected. First of all, I finally gathered up the nerve to send for the ‘Petit Livres’ of Serge Lutens, so I could sniff what all the fuss was about. I was so unnerved, I then proceeded to write a few of them into the storyline of my novel-in-progress, Quantum Demonology.

Finally, during that last long haul to the finish line of ‘The End’, I started a perfume blog of my own. Why? As a writing exercise! I went on the premise that if you can write about perfume, you can write about anything. This is true, but for other reasons than you might expect.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: that anyone would ever read what I wrote about perfume. I wasn’t aware that I did anything at all different than those bloggers I idolized, didn’t know that I could have my own unique perspective to add to the fray until people whose blogs I read began to comment back on mine.

This is how friendships are forged – on the anvil of a common passion. I am inordinately proud to say that not a few fellow bloggers have become my friends, and have made it possible for me to continue to write about what unites us all – perfume.

I have never written professionally, have no professional contacts with the perfume industry, and I’m not an expert on the subject in the slightest. What I am is first and foremost a writer. If I’ve managed through the words I’ve chosen to convey a sense of what a perfume smells like, what emotions it evokes and what stories it tells me – as all the best perfumes do – then I’ve succeeded.

I write on the time-honored supposition that Your Mileage May Vary. I may rave about something you can’t stand. I may also suffer the rare snark attack when I encounter something I hate, but that doesn’t happen so much any longer. Since I began as a blogger, my tastes have expanded to such a degree, that even if I can’t wear a perfume I review, I can at least appreciate the concept, the execution, the very art it is. I review what speaks to me, and I review only what I want to, even though I’m now privileged enough to receive samples from perfume houses who hope I’ll write about them.

As for the writing part…I can’t write like anyone else. I’ve tried and failed – miserably. I read reviews so flawlessly written, so lyrical, so perfect, I turn green with envy. That never lasts long, since I also believe there’s more than enough room for everyone. But the moment I sit down in that sanctified space to indulge my inner aesthetic inclinations, I have no choice but to put it all behind me and write as only I can. I learn as I go, and I never know where I will go…writing a review as a narrative, writing as a journey, writing as a tightrope walker between that first word and that last sentence, and I can’t go back but only forward.

I think the wannabes, the snark monsters and the posers will eventually give themselves away for what they are. I believe that what passionate perfume blog readers want to read is a genuine voice and an authentic perspective that comes from the heart and is written con amore – with love. Love for the subject, love for the revelations, love for that ephemeral, ever-changing art that is…perfume.

Whatever you love…if you love it enough, if it fills your multiverse and makes your heart expand, if it makes your world go round and makes you feel a better, greater, more beautiful person, you’ll want to shout it from the rooftops, sing to the clouds…sing it out to us all! Share your love…there’s more than enough room for everyone, even you and even me.

Which is why I do it, after all!

The real question is…why do you read it? 😉

Image: Worth1000.com

Butterflies On Blooms



– on the complex relationship between brands, bloggers and bother



If any one phenomenon has utterly changed my life around for better and for worse in the past five years or so, it would be that phenomenon known as social media networking. On Facebook I’ve made some amazing connections with people I might otherwise never have known, through my three blogs I have had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with my readers on whatever subjects piqued me enough to write about, and on Twitter I could toot my horn loudly and slather the word around like so much virtual virgin olive oil:

There’s a new blogger out there, people. Watch out, world!

But social media these days are a lot more complex than simple shameless self-promotion platforms – for one thing, they are quite possibly the most exciting thing to happen in marketing since the invention of TV commercials. Brands everywhere have sat up and taken notice…this thing called social media marketing. They’ve joined Twitter, created Facebook pages, held promotional events and competitions for new product launches etc, building a brand identity and online presence through the one thing that distinguishes social media marketing from the old school of advertising:

Engaging in a dialogue with their customers.



Nowhere is that more apparent than in the noisy blogosphere, for no other reason than here is where a brand can be made, made over or pilloried by the new media superstars:

Bloggers.

Ordinary – or not – people like you and I, people with and without backgrounds in professional writing, people who are armed and dangerous with the courage of their convictions and more to the point – are not afraid to put those convictions out there in the virtual world for all to read and interact with. In some areas, those bloggers have become entities in their own right – for better or worse, as in the fashion industry.

If a blog is to succeed, said one of my ‘How to promote your blog’ newsletters, it needs to have a defined focus – one topic or passion that will appeal to others who share that passion. Once upon a time, I thought that was the worst sort of bs. This was until I started writing about perfume and gained far more followers and feedback than any of my other blogs ever had. If you write about a product – as we perfume bloggers do – then you need product to write about.

You need the brand that makes it happen – in this instance, perfume houses who make the juice you get to sample and then to write about. Don’t believe for a moment that those perfume houses could care less about your opinions, because trust me – they do!

So we have that delicate symbiosis between brands and bloggers, like flowers and butterflies, each benefitting from the presence of the other. Bloggers are the best ever free PR any brand could ask for – and in return, a blogger can get noticed/promoted/read or even get to the point of actually becoming a brand in his or her own right.

On the other hand, we all know it – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And in the world I live and write in, there is also such a thing as personal integrity.

Say…an independent perfume house would like to read what stories their perfumes could evoke in my dubious prose. My email is right on my profile page. I receive an email – would I like to review X, Y or Z?

I am several hundred miles away from anything remotely resembling a brick-and-mortar department store/niche perfume boutique. I’m also relentlessly curious, as well as too poor for a credit card. In due time, I receive samples of X, Y or Z – sometimes entire alphabets – and in turn, I have my own part of the bargain to fulfill: to write what I think, publish the results and sit back to watch the fireworks. Since I’m also on Facebook as well as Twitter, I also share the link, tweet my newest blog entry, and in some cases, email/PM/DM the perfume house to let them know it’s there. They get the PR – and I get the benefit of building my own reputation/brand as a blogger who may or may not have something unique to contribute to the ever-expanding world of perfumed prose.

Actually, I have another nefarious agenda here: I want to write for a living, and I have the hubris to believe I can. If I can write about the ephemeral art of perfumes – a very difficult subject matter, since our sense of smell is so subjective – then it serves two purposes at once: I become a better writer, and also gain a reputation as one.

So what would the brand of Tarleisio be? What can I do to be unique in the perfumosphere? I realized a long time ago that I had to be true to my own voice above all else. In other words, if you want a ‘professional’ review, this is not where you’ll find it. So many other bloggers are much better at proper ‘reviewing’ than I will ever be. You’ll find most of my personal favorites listed on the right of this blog.

My angle is different – I choose to go with the genies in the bottles and follow them where they lead. If that means that I can evoke a sense of what a perfume smells like or what the perfumer/perfume house was trying to say, if you as a reader become curious through my words and my idiosyncratic perspective and passion, then it’s all good. If not, well…there are much better perfume bloggers on my bloglist!

Back to that personal integrity. I have on more than one occasion received a few things that left me cold/unimpressed/disgusted. Since I consider perfume a high art form on a par with any form of creativity, I know from personal experience how much destructive criticism can hurt. Therefore, I try to be fair in how I react. Just because I can’t wear something doesn’t mean someone else might not love it.

So I will praise what I can appreciate – dedication, concept, care of execution – and note what did or didn’t work…for me. If I rave, I rave because I think it’s exceptional enough to rave about. If I rant, it’s because it was a bad idea badly executed.

I have never received any kind of payola for my reviews and never will. I also reserve the right to decide what I review and when I do, which is a lot less often than I’d like. Hence, my whopping backlog of guilt over all the marvels I want to review and all the time I don’t have.

Do I have favorites? Yes. I tend to rave about the perfumers/houses who continually push the limits of what a perfume can achieve, who keep trying and keep challenging not just themselves but their customers. In other words, those who evolve in terms of artistry, just as I try to do the same in my writing.

There is an awful lot of awful out there. What is also out there: an awful lot of incredible discoveries to share. Without perfume blogs, I would never have known about niche perfumes or independent perfume houses, and my life would have been infinitely less rich for it on all levels of my existence. I truly was at the point where I thought perfumery as an art form was dying, since so much of the mainstream left me unimpressed or disillusioned.

I’m not immune to the lure of loot, luster or lucre. I’d be thrilled if I had 2000 followers and an online presence to match. But I blog con amore – for love. For the love of perfume, my passion for sharing that love, and a personal dedication and perspective to writing about it that I try to keep my own.

Just as flowers need butterflies and bees to keep blooming through time, we perfume bloggers need perfumes to write about. Just as no flower is identical to any other, neither is a perfume or a blogger. Which is not at all the same as saying every nectared flower is equally sweet – but then, all butterflies are different, too.

Even this one.

A big thank you to Nathan Branch for bringing this horror story to my attention.

Image: Dottie Dee, fineartamerica.com

Serendipity


On the many strange occurrences that can happen in one day – or a few more than one!

I have learned over the course of a few years and more experience than I even want to remember not to expect too much from Mondays. Mondays are supposedly the days for New Beginnings, fresh starts, new opportunities to create, to do, to go.

I’ve learned better. Mondays, so my reasoning goes, are the days where I can look at a long and endless desert of days before that TGIF moment early Friday morning – that no matter what transpires today, it’s Friday, so how bad can it be?

Today was, all things being equal, not that kind of Monday. Today was a Monday – a humdrum, gray, overcast day, the last in the month of February, that completely blew me away.

Today, I sat down with a professional in my field for a discussion on What To Do With Tarleisio. We went through my online portfolio, discussed a few changes to implement here and there, and she critiqued a few items – good, bad, and spectacular.

The good news is – it’s fabulously not bad! The bad news is…I should be doing something else entirely. And she had some most excellent ideas about that, too. Starting with…

My passion for perfume, my passion for writing, and my passion for this blog.

It just so happens I’m a born communicator. I was fired up today, fired up about possibilities and things that could happen, feeling that breathless kind of ease that comes with being with someone who knows what you’re talking about. I think it helped too I was wearing a heady cloud of Incense Extrème, just in case I needed my stainless steel armor, and that she liked it very much indeed.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing this blog, discussing how it has evolved from my little tongue-in-cheek joke to something that amazes me every single day. I now have nineteen followers. Nineteen is not a huge number, but consider this…a recent study showed over one billion blogs in existence. The vast majority of those die an unnoted death after a while when those bloggers give up the ghost and the thrill of…writing for an audience of one. Of those left – about 1.5 million are updated more than once a month. This includes yours truly. Which means, put another way, that roughly one out of a thousand – give or take my craptacular math – blogs make it through their “audience of one” phase and on to gain a regular readership. Not a few of those are commercially marketed, with clickable ads and so on.

Not this one. I had not one reader when I started. A very loyal, steadfast friend became my first. I commented on other blogs, kept posting as often as I could, kept commenting. I promoted it on Facebook. I began a correspondence with several regulars and have made a point of replying to every comment I get. I gained more followers. And so it went…Along the way, I suspect I turned not a few of you on to Doc Elly, an independent perfumer so far under the radar – and far lower than she certainly deserves with that kind of talent – almost no one had heard of her. I think a few have by now, and I just know even more will!

If something’s good, if something catches my fancy and fires my imagination, if you give me an eighth of an inch, I will happily run with it and shout it from the virtual rooftops of my own imagination:

“Listen up, people! This is great! This is amazing!”

In whatever way I can.

As Ines of All I Am A Redhead reminded me on her own blog today, and Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal did even more, quite possibly the best thing to happen was the faith I’ve had restored in…humanity in general. Perfumistas, perfumoholics, whatever you choose to call us – are some of the greatest people on Planet Earth. We anticipate the arrival of the mailman much more than we ever did before the Perfume Bug bit us where it hurt. We are introduced to worlds, horizons, places and experiences we would never know if not for perfume. We can rant, rave and commiserate over the state of the perfumosphere and the pretentions of marketing. And above all else, we can share our common passion with a vengeance – and connect with those out there, just like us.

For making that possible, for restoring my own faith in humanity, for reading and commenting and commenting back on my own sometimes inane comments, for accepting me as one of your own and asking about me when I was hit by the flu recently – I can thank you the only way I know. Through this blog, that tried to communicate the principle of “share the love”

Because we do, because we love what we do, because we breathe and sniff and exude and share, magic happens. Opportunities arise, the kind of opportunities some among us – that would be me – could never have begun to imagine on a July night during an attack of the “wtf…I’ll create a perfume blog!”

The kind of opportunity that can strike, at any time, at any place, and even on a Monday. Watch this space! I’ll keep you posted!

Image: “Serendipity” by Josephine Wall, 2007.