AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books

What stories smell like

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Scent memory is so much stronger for me than anything else and association is equally important. I have a few colognes I wear when writing certain characters. There are scents that can drive me completely away from a story or emotion. I’ve had a lot of life changes in recent years, personal growth left a new me who was never completely comfortable smelling like old me.

I spent a good nine months shopping for new cologne. Lots of samples, lots of fails. I’ve mostly resorted to CK One and CK Be because I enjoy smelling like 1996 and they are easy unisex scents.

But after so much trial and error I think I found two. Commodity’s ‘Book’ which looked interesting, obviously from the name, but also someone described it as smelling exactly like their grandparents’ house in the Pacific Northwest (shelves of books, evergreen forests, and a little marine air). And holy smoke does it ever. It smells like a hippie farm where I spent some of my childhood. Simultaneously greenly crisp and woodsy, and also like old books and worn wood (in a good way).

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The second one is TokyoMilk Curiositie No 68 ‘Tomorrow.’ Described as “marine salt and cypress” it smells exactly like a trip to the north Pacific coast: salt air, damp old trees, and sweet moss.

Now I smell both strange and delicious, genderless, and very much like home. These scents make me feel settled and comfortable, much more like myself than years of lavender and grapefruit (also good, but never quite perfect). I’ll keep the CKs for when I need to be less exotic, but what a delight it is to smell like a room full of old books in a Pacific coast rainforest.

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‘Book’ is a fantastic scent entrance into my next task of finishing the next Queen City Boys book, Bad Reputation. The main character, Shane, comes to Seattle from a small coastal town, more used to woods than concrete. To sit and write this story smelling of home, of coastal forests, and feeling a wistful sense of a missed home feels exactly perfect, the scent memory I needed to connect to my own words.

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