The Year in Review: 2022 By the Cards
If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, then you know that at the beginning of 2022, I put together a vision board using tarot cards using Radleigh Valentine’s Angel Wisdom deck. (See photo below.) The idea also came from Radleigh, who has been my tarot teacher for the last three years. The object is to select a tarot card that best represents your intentions for each month.
At the beginning of each month, I reported on the card of the month, and even tried to maintain the theme of the card throughout the month in each subsequent newsletter.
It’s rather astounding how each month produced some form of manifestation of each card, although not always the way I had originally envisioned it. It seemed fitting to conduct my review of 2022 through the lens of the cards—what I envisioned, and what came to be.
By the end of 2021, I had decided to become a professional card reader and Reiki practitioner. I was already working with clients, but I was going all in—an Etsy store, scheduling system, even designing and publishing my own oracle deck. I had accepted that my writing career as I had known it was over, and although I still wanted to write the occasional novel and had one on submission via my literary agent, it was time to move on. Thus, when I put together the vision board, I thought about the kind of business I wanted, along with some other life changes.
I selected The Magician for January: “What you need to be a success will manifest.” What better way to kick off 2022? It was my way of setting the tone for the year (and the Major Arcana number for the card is Roman numeral 1). I spent most of the month making additional revisions to the manuscript following several rejections from publishers. I also outlined a schedule of tasks for the oracle deck, and was already ahead of the outline.
February was all about The Empress: “Creative projects will be very successful.” I harnessed that energy with the manuscript revision as well as the oracle card deck. The Empress also represents abundance and prosperity. I connected with a Reiki Master via Instagram, and received distance Reiki specifically targeted at unblocking the energy surrounding my finances. Additionally, I was doing card reading and Reiki sessions for clients, and wouldn’t you know it, Radleigh Valentine opened a class for building your own tarot business—of course, I signed up for it, using some money I’d received for my birthday (abundance and prosperity!). I remember February being a very productive month, and I felt well on my way.
The card for March was the Ten of Water (Cups in traditional tarot). This card depicts a family walking under a rainbow. It could mean a loving marriage, a good relationship with children, even a “happily ever after.” For me, it was specifically about being with family and friends. My husband and I traveled to visit his family and friends in Texas. From there we went to New Mexico, where we attended a Celebration of Life for our dear friend Jon, whom we lost the previous August. After two years being separated from loved ones and social connection, March marked the beginning of re-entering a world of hugs and human interaction, of dining out and being in the world. We left Montana in winter and returned in spring, and I could feel the change of season, both literally and metaphorically.
I also started the tarot business course, but took a break from it to travel. Revisions completed (at least, for that go-round), the manuscript was back in my agent’s hands and back out on submission to publishers.
For April, I selected The Wheel (known as The Wheel of Fortune in traditional tarot). The Wheel signifies “a very positive change in your life”—new beginnings, travel, relocation, buying a house, a turn of fortune, etc. My husband Craig and I had a second trip planned for the end of the month—this one was to a city and state that we thought we were going to move to. We had both been there before, but this time we wanted to look around, try to picture ourselves living there.
Here's where things didn’t manifest the way I expected. For one thing, there was a significant shift in my life—my father passed away. On one hand, he was 93 years old and thus it didn’t come as a surprise. On the other hand, I don’t think you’re ever quite prepared to lose a parent. He died a couple of days before Craig and I were scheduled to take our trip. Because my dad had requested not to have a funeral or memorial, we decided to take the trip anyway. And although we had made the most of our visit, we noticed something important: we weren’t feeling that heck, yes in terms of it being a place we wanted to live. One of the major lessons from our time in Maine was to pay close attention to that feeling. We had ignored that when we’d moved to Maine—forced our feelings, in a way. Prior to our trip, we’d believed that this other city was going to be “the one”—discovering that it wasn’t had left us disappointed and a little befuddled. If it wasn’t Maine, and it wasn’t this place, and it wasn’t Montana (for me), then where? And yet, listening to our intuition this time was quite gratifying.
In terms of fortune, two things happened: for the first time in many, many months, I’d reached 400 sales units of my backlist. For years, whenever I saw my monthly totals, I lamented how I used to sell hundreds of books per day. But I chose to see this as a big win, and to celebrate it.
The second thing was that I contracted Covid. Our trip had coincided with the ending of the travel mask mandate (even though we still masked in airports and on the plane). After successfully avoiding Covid for two years, I was mad as hell that my streak had come to an end. The night we flew back to Montana, my throat was on fire, and I was down for the count for several weeks. Which leads me to May…
May’s card was the Six of Air (Swords in traditional tarot). The image on the card depicts a family in a boat rowing to safety, the storm clouds behind them. Back in January, I’d envisioned several things: following our reconnaissance trip, I thought we’d be making plans to officially move there. I also thought by May of 2022, we’d be looking at the pandemic in the rearview mirror, hence “the end of a challenging time.”
And yet, here I was in the throes of Covid-19, my dad having recently passed, and back at square one in terms of trying to find a place to live that fed both Craig’s and my souls collectively. My tarot and Reiki business was on hold, as was my attention to the business class. Moreover, I’d gotten news from my agent regarding the manuscript: she’d exhausted all her contacts regarding publication, and had gotten all rejections. This wasn’t as much a reflection on my book as it was the publishing industry still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
And yet, May was a turning point. As I healed from Covid, I made the decision to self-publish what came to be All of You. That decision lit a spark within me. Suddenly I felt the way I did when I first self-published Faking It twelve years prior—like I had nothing to lose. I felt confident that I could sell it, that it would make its way to readers.
Something else within me healed. As I resumed the tarot business course, I discovered a recurring theme as I completed the preliminary exercises: As much as I enjoyed card reading, as much as I enjoyed being of service to others, my heart’s desire still resided in writing and publishing. And then the big breakthrough came: I finally stopped being afraid of getting my heart broken again. Because, as I said in my conversation with Tiffany Yates Martin, writing and publishing is a business of broken hearts. Like in romance, there was no avoiding it. All I needed to do was re-calibrate my expectations.
Oh, and I decided to take up a new hobby: crocheting. I’d been wanting to learn for a while, and having covid made me stop putting it off. YouTube was a godsend. I watched countless videos, and fell in love with it. I found the practice to be reflective, even meditative, perfect for a writer.
Next came June and mid-year. The Ace of Earth (Pentacles or Coins in traditional tarot) is about a windfall of wealth and/or prosperity, or a new job or career opportunity. Back in January, I’d envisioned being immersed in my business and doing well. I’d envisioned a clientele, my oracle deck to be ready for publication, and perhaps even a space outside of my house to conduct readings and/or Reiki.
However, June saw opportunities of a different kind. I set a publication date for October 11 (I liked the numerology) for All of You, and immediately went to work promoting it. The previous year, I had designed a cover for the book so I could better visualize it—I’d never thought I’d actually publish the book with that cover. Yet my husband turned the cover design into something professional and beautiful. I kept working on the novel—revising, editing, and proofreading. Additionally, I landed podcast interviews and for the first time could fully talk about my experiences with rejection, and my healing breakthrough. I felt completely reborn.
And what of my tarot business? I kept seeing clients, kept posting weekly videos, but I knew something significant had changed within me. At first, I tried to find ways to merge the two endeavors, including setting up a Patreon that mixed tarot readings with writing and storytelling. But every idea felt too forced. I was in love with writing and publishing again. I was excited about the future. Oh, and guess what: remember when my sales units surpassed 400? Well, they kept going up. It was as if once I had unblocked the thing that had been truly holding me back, everything else unblocked as well. I was indeed feeling more prosperous, not only financially but also creatively.
July is always “the month in my way.” Between the anxiety from Independence Day fireworks (and where I live, the noise continues well before and after the 4th) and the dog days of summer, I don’t get much done. Knowing this, I had selected the Seven of Earth (Pentacles or Coins) to represent July. It’s about giving the seeds you planted a chance to grow, and giving yourself a rest and time to plan for what’s next. And that’s exactly what July was all about. I continued to learn to crochet. I planted more seeds for promotion. I looked ahead to what book(s) I wanted to write next. I put the publication of my tarot deck on hold.
August resumed with the Page of Earth. In tarot, a Page either represents a student or someone youthful. It could also represent someone learning something new, taking a course, going back to school, etc. Back in January, I had selected this card with the intent of setting up online courses. I had figured by August that my oracle deck would be in the world, and I would teach others how to publish their own. I also considered tarot classes for beginners (I already taught one class in person), and maybe Reiki classes as well.
Instead, I felt as if I was re-learning the publishing business and getting reacquainted with the market. I was also reading a lot and became active on BookBub. The image on the card depicts a woman sitting at a desk, surrounded by books, with one open in front of her. I was certainly feeling the energy of books, and it was a loving, comforting energy.
September! Fall! My favorite time of year! The card for September was Three of Earth. “Do what you love! Recognition for the highest quality of work.” I wasn’t doing what I’d thought I would be doing when I selected the card in January, but I was officially a novelist again. I was an author. And I was already getting advanced feedback on All of You: “This is Lorello’s best.”
Moreover, during a road trip to Great Falls, Craig and I discovered our heck, yes as far as relocation was concerned. And although I’m not yet ready to share that publicly, we were elated by the revelation.
October, the month Craig and I got married and honeymooned (six years ago) was represented by the Two of Water (Cups), which is the card of love, romance, and union. “Falling in love or the resurgence of a love relationship.” I was not only celebrating my wedding anniversary, but also my resurgence of my love relationship with writing/authorhood. The launch of All of You, and readers’ excitement as much as my own, made October a magical month. (Craig winning a High Plains Book Award the same month was also delightful.) Together, Craig and I felt like we were finally back on the track where we began. We felt like a power couple again. We were excited for what was to come.
I selected the Nine of Earth for November. For some reason, I always think of my grandmother when I see this card (specifically from this deck). It’s about being successfully self-employed. Back in January, this was what I wanted for my tarot business. When November arrived, my backlist was now selling one thousand units/month, and I was over the moon about that. All of You got excellent reviews and feedback, and I was especially selling a lot of print copies. I immersed myself in NaNoWriMo, and finished five days ahead of schedule with a first draft of a new manuscript.
Oh, and Duran Duran got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
November came with sorrow as well. One of my beloved uncles passed away. I was devastated, especially since I couldn’t get home for the funeral. As well as everything was going, some things had yet to work out. I was awfully homesick, and that continued well into December, especially when Craig made an emergency road trip to Texas when his stepdad had a massive heart attack. (Thankfully, he’s OK.) Although I fully supported his going, I was resentful of the fact that he was able to be with his family in a time of need and I was not. Needless to say, despite my keeping up appearances on social media, I was quite depressed for the two weeks he was away.
Which brings us to the final month of 2022, and the final tarot card: Nine of Water (Cups). Radleigh says this: “Nine of Water, wish comes true; what you want now comes to you.” Thinking from the end, in January I wanted all my “wishes” to come true by December.
They did. But they were different wishes from what I had initially intended. At the time of this writing, All of You is poised to be one of the top-selling books at This House of Books. I have multiple manuscripts awaiting me for 2023. I’ve crocheted a hat, a scarf, a cardigan, and a sweater. (Fingerless gloves next; perhaps even a blanket.) I have an additional vision board for our relocation plans. My backlist continues to sell. I cut my hair. And although I didn’t get to see Duran Duran live or go home this year, I’m hopeful for next year.
I’m still grappling with the losses of Jon and my uncle and even some lingering issues with my dad. I’m still homesick for the northeast coast. I’m not yet at the sustainable level for what I affectionately call “Elisa Lorello, Author 2.0.” But I am optimistic and grateful and so very blessed.
And what of the tarot and Reiki business? What about that class?
I’ve decided not to resume the tarot business in 2023. Nor the class. Was it a waste of time and money? Certainly not—that class led to my breakthrough and healing. So did reading tarot, both for myself and others. I’m grateful for all of it. Tarot and Reiki still play very important roles in my life, and I’ll never give them up.
In fact, I’ve got my cards selected for 2023’s vision board. Which cards? You ask. Well, tune in to my newsletter next year. I can hardly wait to see how they manifest.
I’m briefly pausing from getting psyched for All of You’s launch (October 11, baby!) to share that Saturday, October 1, marks six years of marriage to the day for Craig and me. (I know, right? Like, when did that happen? How did it all go by so quickly?) To celebrate, Craig and I decided to give our co-penned novel, You, Me & Mr. Blue Sky, a cover makeover and do a Kindle sale for our anniversary month, effective October 1.
We also kind of wanted to renew our vows to this book. Let me explain.
In April 2016, while on an overnight trip to Seattle to see Paul McCartney in concert, Craig and I joined some folks at Lake Union, our publisher at the time, for lunch.
“We totally want you to co-write a novel,” they said. “A he-said-she-said, but not too rom-com.”
Craig and I agreed, excited by the idea. When we were platonic friends, we’d tossed around the possibility that perhaps we could co-write something. Our Facebook banter had become like good jazz, each one riffing off the other.
This was all talk at this stage, however—no contracts were signed.
Later that year, on a road trip to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with Craig’s family, an idea came to us, and we could hardly wait not only to write it, but also to pitch it to Lake Union and watch them do their magic.
We wrote the manuscript in 2017. We did indeed use the he-said-she-said trope, but with a twist—a third character named Mr. Blue Sky, who happened to be a guardian angel with a penchant for 1970s pop culture. This third voice interjected between the other two, and functioned as a sort of Greek chorus. Craig and I had a great time writing it, and we challenged ourselves by switching roles, meaning I predominantly wrote in the male character’s POV and Craig in the female’s POV. We took turns writing Mr. Blue Sky, and especially had fun with those chapters. We then sent it to my literary agent Nalini, who signed Craig as well.
She pitched it to Lake Union.
They passed on it.
They also, subsequently, dropped us.*
Enough time has passed where I can look at this moment with some detachment, say “them’s the business,”** and be OK. But at the time, the rejection was the arrow to my chest that bled for years. As much as I stress the need to stay in a business mindset, I so often use love relationship metaphors when speaking about said business. This was the moment when Lake Union divorced us, left us for newer, shinier authors, and let me tell you, I was completely unprepared for it. I wanted to stay happily married, couldn’t believe I was being passed over, wanted to prove my love and loyalty and capability to keep on being a successful author.
After additional submissions and rejections to other publishers, Craig and I decided to publish YMMBS ourselves, our first book under our Lancarello Enterprises umbrella.
But first, a move across country. Which wasn’t going so well. But we weren’t ready to admit that to ourselves or each other.
Craig and I were in a dark place all around. Our royalties had decreased to the point of no longer being sustainable. We were stung by the rejection, and adrift without a publisher. Our creative wells had run dry. And our new home had yet to take root (it never did, through no fault of its or our own).
We released YMMBS in January 2019 (my birthday, to be exact), and by then we were so burnt out on the business that we barely cared. We did little to no promotion. We didn’t schedule a tour until months later, and did it in our then-former residence of Montana (and I ended up not accompanying Craig; a different story altogether).
Of course, I put on a different face. Made it seem like the launch had a good jump out of the gate.
And yet, we loved this book. We were proud of it. Within the coming year, it would earn a Finalist position in two awards. And those readers who stuck with us loved it as well. One reader loved it so much that she posed with it—and her book club—at her wedding.
We just weren’t capable of expressing that love at the time, or putting it in action. We didn’t have the bandwidth.
Fast-forward three years.
We moved back to Montana. We made peace with our parting with Lake Union. Craig joined forces with a new publisher, and I tried other things until I finally returned to my first love and went all in on Elisa Lorello, Author 2.0 with re-calibrated expectations.
We were on to new books and new ideas. But we occasionally looked at You, Me & Mr. Blue Sky and wished we’d done a better job of setting it up for success.
It might not be possible for YMMBS to have a second first time (see what I did there?), and I certainly don’t want anything stealing All of You’s thunder, but our anniversary seemed like the perfect time to renew our commitment to it. To make amends for its lackluster entrance into the world. To cut the energetic cords of rejection and resentment and burnout that had surrounded it.
Just like Craig and I do every year on our anniversary. We recommit. We renew. We cut the cords of yesterday and look forward to tomorrow while giving thanks for today.
We know Mr. Blue Sky approves, and is cheering us on.
*By the time we officially submitted YMMBS, both Craig’s and my last couple of books with Lake Union didn’t sell well. From a business point of view, that’s pretty much the nail in the coffin in terms of future prospects with the same publisher, regardless of how good the manuscript is.
**There’s a load of privilege in this post, and in our life. I never want to lose sight of that. We lived a dream so many authors never get to actualize. So please don’t interpret any of this as a “poor-me” tale.
Want the snazzy new paperback (and who wouldn't)? You can order it through This House of Books, and you can even request for both of us to sign it at no extra charge!
NOTE: MAKE SURE YOU SPECIFICALLY REQUEST THE NEW COVER! Use the ORDER COMMENTS text box on the online order to specify that you want the new cover and/or a signed/inscribed copy. (You can also call the store direct!) And please allow several weeks for the new design to take effect and be delivered. (At the time of this writing, the old cover is still showing on the website.)
For the Love of Books
Today is National Book Lovers Day. I have some thoughts about being a book lover, both from a writer and reader’s perspective.
If you’ve been subscribing my newsletter, listening to a recent podcast interview I did, or keeping up with my husband’s blog posts, then you know I’ve been experiencing a bit of a Renaissance in my writing career. I’ve regained my tenacity. I’ve re-calibrated my expectations. And, most importantly, I’ve recovered the joy.
I’m writing again.
The ideas are lining up like planes on a runway, waiting their turn, just like they used to. I’ve even designed book covers and taped them to a vision board to assist in their manifestation.
I’m reconnecting to the writing and reading community. Although I wouldn’t go as far as to say I burned bridges, I did pull back quite a distance when things weren’t going so well. It feels comforting to see so many books in my newsfeed again, to take part in the conversations, and to be engaged simply for engagement’s sake.
I love the book I’m about to birth into the world. I love the books I’ve already written that have been reaching new readers. And the older I get, the more comforted I am when I am surrounded by books, be it at a bookstore, a library, or my own home.
I’m also reading again. A lot.
Not that I ever stopped reading. More like scaled back. Read fewer books more slowly. To look at it retrospectively, I think reading was actually painful for a time. I so longed to create these stories and characters and settings that I almost couldn’t bear to take part in others. Soon, what began as painful turned into something more therapeutic. I missed reading. And I figured that even if I wasn’t currently writing, even if I didn’t have a single good idea, I could celebrate others’ good ideas. I could appreciate the act of reading. I could bide my time, and my ideas would show up somewhere in the pages of other books.
Which is pretty much what happened.
I read for professional reasons, too. If I was officially diving back into this business, then I needed to know the market. If I needed to get comfortable with the craft again, then what better way than being a student of it again through reading?
Reading, like writing, has become immensely joyful again. And as I reflect on these last five years, offering insight and advice for writers who may find themselves in my position, I would tell them to keep reading. Even if it was painful. Read through the pain. Read because eventually the pain turns to peace. It turns to power.
Put another way, it’s act of love.
I'm so excited to officially announce that my twelfth novel and fourteenth book, ALL OF YOU, will launch on October 11, 2022.
This one is special (well, they're all special). I began writing this book in 2014, and it kept getting pushed aside for other projects. Add to that major life changes, a career crisis, a pandemic, and a resurgence of confidence and commitment, and ALL OF YOU is finally ready to be born into the world.
I'm completely in love with this novel, this story and these characters. (See the synopsis below.) My husband put it this way: "Her whole heart is in there," and he's not wrong. I'm also digging this cover, a joint effort between my husband and me.
Stay tuned for upcoming interviews and information. And although time already passes too quickly, bring on October!
Former teen pop star Joey “Paisley” Parker has loved her lucrative career as a music producer and audio engineer. However, ongoing changes in the industry and consumer consumption threaten her livelihood, and she’s faced with walking away before she turns fifty. Yet before she does, she agrees to produce one more album: the British quintet Taro, who came of age with Joey in the 1980s and saw stardom rivaling the Beatles. They want to attempt one more comeback, and they believe Joey—who owes much of her musical inspiration and ambition to Taro—is the only producer who can make that happen.
There’s just one problem: Taro’s bassist Garrett Chandler, twin brother of the late drummer Gavin Chandler who died before his twenty-fifth birthday and was the love of Joey’s life. To work together, Garrett and Joey need to set aside bad memories and their shared ghost. Moreover, as a drummer herself, Joey offers to fill in for Taro’s deceased band mate, much to Garrett’s resistance.
With a crowdfunding budget, a home recording studio on Long Island, and a little help from her friends, Joey and Taro are a long way from the rock star life of glamor and excess they once knew. Yet day by day, they are making something special. Furthermore, Joey finds herself at the dangerous edge of a professional boundary by getting personally close with the band and an intimacy she’s never experienced. She is especially alarmed by the chemistry between her and Garrett, both in and out of the studio, which threatens to betray her ethics altogether and put the album and Joey’s reputation in jeopardy.
Ultimately, Joey risks losing a life’s worth of credibility and achievement, as well as ending Taro’s career permanently. Worse still, she fears losing herself and the connections she’s cultivated, which, she’s learned, is as powerful as the music she makes.
Using her signature style of heart and humor, Elisa Lorello has crafted a seasoned story of the love you need, the music you make, and the life that happens between the notes.
The Sixth Man: A Tribute to Jon Ehret
My husband Craig and I just finished a two-week road trip that, among other places, brought us to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we attended a Celebration of Life ceremony for our friend and honorary brother, Jon Ehret, who passed away suddenly in August, 2021.
My husband gave a beautiful eulogy, a sort of exclamation point to a blog post he’d written last year. I stood by his side as he delivered it. Afterwards, Jon’s wife, Laura, invited others to share memories or stories about Jon. I felt called to come forward on my own and deliver an anecdote off-the-cuff.
I’ll tell you that story here in just a moment, but first, let me explain the title of this blog post.
In basketball, there are five starting players from each team on the court. The sixth man* is the first person off the bench when a player takes a rest and is considered a singularly important player. This player is typically not the superstar. He likely doesn’t have sneaker deals or TV commercials. But he comes onto the court and gives everything he’s got. He’s the consummate team player—he’s in it for the win rather than the glory. He has a job to do and relishes the role.
I didn’t know Jon for nearly as long as Craig did—Craig introduced us in 2015 during a trip to Seattle; he and Laura were living there at the time—but he almost instantly became like a brother to me.
I already have five older brothers. Even my twin was born three minutes before I was. I didn’t think I needed a sixth.
Jon showed me that I needed him as my sixth brother.
And he was a sixth brother much like the sixth man in basketball. He showed up when needed, came off the bench and onto the court, and shined during those minutes of play. A star performance without the glory. A team player, through and through.
He did it in email exchanges, such as the one when I picked his brain about digital photography—I was toying with the idea of taking it up as a hobby—and he delivered so much more than the rundown of what a decent camera costs. He did it on subsequent visits, when he allowed himself to be both vulnerable and empathetic in conversation, while extolling the virtues of good food and good music. He did it at our wedding (which he and Laura traveled across the country for), when he helped Craig set up tables and chairs at the venue, and gifted us with two high-end bottles of champagne.
Oh, and he was tall. Like, basketball-player tall.
Which brings me to what I shared with those who gathered last week to celebrate Jon. Hopefully I will tell my story with more eloquence here than I did there.
Jon and I shared music fandom. You all know by now that my band is Duran Duran. Jon’s was The Who. Given that Jon fell within the age range of my siblings, I have, at the very least, an average knowledge of The Who and perhaps a slightly above-average appreciation for them. Jon could’ve said the same about Duran Duran, I surmise. We swapped stories about memorabilia finds, best concerts, musical talent, and more. We each respected and appreciated the other’s fandom.
When Duran Duran came to Everett, Washington, just outside of Seattle, in 2016, I scrambled to buy tickets online. I was pretty proud of myself for scoring twelfth-row floor seats. We let Jon know we got them, and thus would be in Seattle, hoping to line up another visit.
Jon called us back.
He scored third-row center.
Suddenly my twelfth-row seats were looking pretty shabby.
I playfully fumed at him: “Damn you, Ehret!”
He laughed and replied amiably, “I know how to manipulate the system.”
I was mostly happy at the prospect of Jon going to see Duran Duran and perhaps getting a birds’ eye view of my fandom. (Did I mention how tall he was?) I was happy about the prospect of Craig and I getting to see our friends again. On top of everything else, Jon and Laura and Craig and I were great double-daters.
Jon called me shortly afterwards. “I’ll trade you tickets,” he said. “Your seats for mine.”
I went slack-jawed and wide-eyed. I think he could almost see it.
“That third-row-center fan experience is for you, not for me,” he said. “You need it way more than I do. Those are your guys.”
That was Jon. Selfless. Simple. A superstar without the glory.
We did trade tickets, Craig and I went to the show, and it was, indeed, the fan experience I’d always dreamed of. As special as these things come. One of the best Duran Duran shows ever.
We didn’t get to see Jon and Laura on that trip, and they didn’t get to attend the show. I can’t remember why. But one month later, they came to our wedding, and celebrated our second anniversary with us in Maine.
That was the last time we got to see them together in person.
A Celebration of Life isn’t only about remembering the person who’s passed. It’s also about the people left behind. The shared love and gratitude for having known him/her. The stories. The memories. The artifacts. The messages. The signs. It’s literal celebration of life. And in this day and age, when death has hovered over us like a monsoon that just won’t let up, we need that sunshine.
I didn’t have my sixth brother in my life for long. But oh, what a mark he made.
*Yes, women also play basketball, so “the sixth man” as a term is antiquated. But I hopefully illustrated why it worked in this context.
2021: The Year in Review
I wrote some reflections--lists, actually--based on journal prompts, and decided they would make a good end-of-year blog post. Here they are.
What were my biggest achievements for 2021?
What were my biggest challenges for 2021?
How have I developed as a person?
What did I learn in 2021?
How would I describe 2021 in three words?
What aspects of 2021 can I leave behind?
What aspects of 2021 can I bring with me into 2022?
What seeds of opportunity are being planted?
So here's to gratitude and optimism. May they be the bridge from this year to the next.
*Update on said manuscript: I asked my agent if I could have it back for some additional revision and tweaking. She said yes. Now's a good time to do so because shopping for a publisher at this time of year pretty much grinds to a halt. The good news is that I'm still in love with the story and the characters, and it's already in really good shape. The other good news is that there is room for improvement, and it doesn't need much. (Biggest change thus far: the title!) I'm looking forward to spending my January 2022 on it.
**OK, so obviously this isn't my achievement, but shout-out to it being a highlight of 2021. It really is a great album, and was worth the wait.
***That might sound silly, but I like story structure. However, I like it in the revision stage as opposed to the pre-drafting stage.
If you subscribe to my newsletter (and if you don’t, now’s a good time), you’ll know that I’m taking a mental health break this month. But I wanted to share this milestone—an anniversary, if you will.
Eight years ago on this date, I launched my memoir Friends of Mine: Thirty Years in the Life of a Duran Duran Fan.
If you looked solely at the numbers, you might say its success was modest, at best. Mediocre, even. It didn’t chart in any best-seller categories. Its sales-to-date haven’t warranted any plaques, and it hasn't won any awards or honorable mentions (except for cover design, and rightfully so).
And yet, I consider it one of the most successful books I’ve ever written.
That last bullet point is the one I’m most proud of and most moved by. Ninety-five percent of my Twitter time is spent conversing with fellow Duranies (the rest is about books and cats, if you’re wondering), and so many of them found me (or I found them) as a result of this memoir. We support each other creatively, laud each other’s projects and triumphs, and seek solace in each other during difficult moments.
It very well might be my only book that still generates conversation (see podcast links below).
I wrote and published Friends of Mine during a time in my life when I was on a fast track to the top of the world. And what’s happened since its release is enough to fill the pages of another book (SPOILER ALERT: a rough draft of said book is already done). Nowadays, when the fate of my author career is still unknown and unresolved, I know one thing for sure: I want to publish that second memoir. Preferably by 2023, ten years after Friends of Mine.
Because we’re still on this journey, Duran Duran and me. As I write this, I am surrounded by posters and Funko Pop figures; memorabilia and that photo of John Taylor and me holding each other’s books in 2012—I’m about four months away from the age he was back then. That alone is hard to wrap my head around. We’ve quarantined together. Felt our way through the darkness. We’re emerging on the other side with music to show for it. With writing. With something to celebrate.
So today I raise a glass (or a mug with JT on it) to my favorite band, still going strong 40 years later. They’re still the band to dance to when the bomb drops. Still the band to swoon over. Still the band to write about, to be inspired by, to blast in the car with the windows down. Still the soundtrack of my life.
Dare I say, still friends of mine.
WANT A SIGNED COPY OF FRIENDS OF MINE? Make a special request when you order from This House of Books, and they will ship it to you. (Make sure you specify your request in the Comments on the website's order form, or call the store directly and let them know. Also specify whether you want a personal inscription.)
When I announced I was leaving all platforms of social media last fall, I truly didn’t know when—or if—I would return. At the time, it felt rather permanent, and I was OK with that. It might be dramatic to say I took a leap into the unknown, but as an author who is expected to be accessible to her readers, to maintain a “platform” (and oh, is that a loaded word), and who was social distancing with the rest of the world, it really was a big thing.
Fellow authors called me brave. Others speculated that I would be back in a week. Family and friends were sorry to see me go. I’m sure others felt the opposite.
I made it approximately 120 days.
120 days doesn’t seem like a long time, but here’s how I spent them:
Aside from missing keeping up with close friends and extended family, I was rather surprised by how much I didn’t miss the constant checking in, counting Likes, and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. To say nothing of the fact that I was less outraged, less stressed, less riled up on a daily basis. I hadn't noticed how those feelings would linger throughout the day until they no longer did. And above all, I neither missed the time suck nor being glued to my phone.
And yet, I also struggled with pandemic fatigue and low-grade depression. Moreover, despite the fact that I was writing again, my confidence continued to flail, and doubts about whether I would resume writing as a career continued to pester me.
It’s no secret that the Bernie memes following the Inauguration brought me back. Twitter especially was a treasure trove for them. I couldn’t resist.
I wound up sticking around on Twitter, especially after I Muted and Unfollowed a lot of accounts that had contributed to my initial reasons for leaving. It made a difference.
When I "officially" returned to Twitter, I noticed some of my online behaviors had changed. For one thing, I observed a general lack of boundaries. I became hyper-aware of people over-sharing, being passive-aggressive, and acting in ways I suspected they wouldn’t in a face-to-face situation. And I saw myself more clearly, too; or, more specifically, my past social media self when I read things I previously would have commented on or Retweeted. I was now more conscious of what I was sending into the ether, so to speak. I withhold more now.
I was also more observant of the mundane. That's not to say that the mundane is a bad thing. Sometimes mundane and simplicity overlap, and there’s almost a peacefulness to it. Other times it's just… well, mundane.
Some negative behaviors returned, unfortunately. My productivity went down again. So did my pleasure reading.
Eventually I began wafting over to Instagram, mostly to catch up with my twin brother’s cats’ account (they have ten times the followers I do, dammit), but soon I found myself scrolling, stopping, lurking, reading, and dropping an occasional comment at others’. Yet I didn’t feel I had anything to say or add on my own account. I really didn’t want to get on that train again.
What’s the train, you ask? The one where I have to be ON. Where I have to crack the code of what a “successful social media presence” is for an author.
And of course, there’s always the elusive “create epic content.”
Oh, and did I mention they also all say to “be yourself”?
Here’s the thing: The more I try to put any one of these practices in place, the less successful I am. The other day I posted a 7-tweet thread about the next manuscript I’ve chosen to work on. I expected a moderate amount of Likes, even replies. I think I got one.
Likewise, hours before writing this blog post, I tweeted something that came to me during my morning walk that had amused me to no end—actually made me laugh out loud—and… crickets.
And yet, when I replied to a question about great songs with a harmonica in it (Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You”), I got close to 50 likes, a couple of Retweets, and a few replies. (Granted, the questioner has over 750,000 followers, so that might have helped.)
Which tweet was the more authentic me? To be honest, it was the latter. I put too much thought into the former. Wrote what I thought I was supposed to write as an author on social media. Made a conscious attempt to elicit a response, and of course was let down when I had none.
So what’s an author to do—especially one who writes fiction, and not specific genre fiction like Romance or Horror or Fantasy?
And why, if it’s all so stressful and such a time suck, did I just return to Instagram?
Short answer: I don’t know.
Long answer: I may be trying to reinvent myself. And yet, when I say “reinvent,” I don’t mean shedding my authentic self. But the world has changed over the last fifteen months, and certainly I have changed over the last five years. I’m finally recovering from the whiplash all that change gave me. And I might be trying out what this new skin feels like, as well as being maskless again—in more ways than one.
And if there’s anything I wish to go back to—or, more suitably, to re-purpose—it’s the Ben & Jerry’s adage: “If it’s not fun, why do it?” I used to put that on the heading of my course syllabi at the beginning of each semester. I used to have a bumper sticker tacked on my vision board in the office space of the house I rented in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, when I took the leap of leaving teaching and becoming a full-time author. I lived it every chance I could; if not literally then in intention.
I’m curious to see if I can have fun on social media—not to sell books, attract followers and newsletter subscribers (although hey, if it floats your boat…), or win the attention of influencers, but simply for fun’s sake.
I’m daring to defy every best practice that cautions against making yourself your ideal reader and follower, and I’m totally making myself my ideal reader and follower. After all, I taught the kind of class I would want to take, and I’ve written the books I wanted to read.
Overall, I’m taking another leap by emerging from the bubble. And like the first leap in, I have no idea if it will last, or for how long. But here’s to what happens in the meantime.
(All that said...)
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The Monster is Out of the Cage
Very early in my teaching career, when I was still learning my craft, I’d had a disastrous first essay assignment with my students. I’d mistakenly believed one of my jobs as a teacher was to edit their papers, and the result was, as a student bluntly referred to it, “a bloodbath.” (I’d even used red pen. I’d thought teachers were supposed to use red pens.) I hadn’t taught them as much as I’d corrected them. I hadn’t guided them as much as I’d crushed them. They were deflated, as was I. I had thought I was doing it right, only to discover I’d not only done it wrong, but also that I’d probably done damage.
When I confided in the professor who became my mentor, he didn’t chastise me, but politely showed me the errors of my ways, and offered suggestions on how to improve. And by doing so, he’d freed me to become the kind of teacher I aspired to be.
For the second essay assignment, due right around Halloween, I was now inspired and even confident. Dubbing the assignment “The Monster is Out of the Cage” (and following it with an excessive amount of exclamation points; like I said, I was young and had a lot to learn about my craft), I offered a completely new approach to the learning objectives. I had derived the title from the manager of the New York Mets referring to catcher Mike Piazza, who finally had the batting performance the fans and team had been waiting for during the 2000 Subway World Series with the New York Yankees.
Drawing on Stephen King’s essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies,” I offered my students to write their own “Why We Crave…” essay, filling in the blank.
The students loved it. And the topics were varied. Why We Crave Love. Why We Crave Football. Why We Crave Music.
Their writing came alive, as did they. Moreover, they came to understand the objective of the assignment: what we in the field described as a causal analysis.
“The Monster is Out of the Cage” had been an apt title for the assignment in many ways, and it set the course for the remainder of the semester, which ended way better than it had started.
Dare I say, this is how I’m feeling these days.
It started last month, when I devoured Glennon Doyle’s memoir Untamed. Yes, I nodded as I read, putting the book down every few minutes to record the moment in my journal next to me. Yes, yes, yes. Somehow, in the last two or three years, I’d given too much of myself away, forfeited too much, sacrificed in order to compromise. I was hardly aware that I had, and then when I was aware, I was angry at myself for having done it so willingly, consciously or subconsciously or unconsciously, against my nature. I’d thought I was beyond all that, especially at this point in life. I thought I had more wisdom.
I didn’t want to be caged anymore, however that metaphor applied. I wanted to let my free spirit be free again.
Or perhaps it started even earlier than that, when I made the decision to leave social media (which is at forty days and counting). Because since leaving, I have, indeed, felt freer. I’m writing again. Heck, I’m reading again. I think I read ten books all year. I’ve read ten books in the last 30 days. Closer to fourteen in the last two months.
I’m learning how to be a writer again. Heck, in some ways I feel as if I’m even learning how to write again. Moreover, I’m learning how to be an author again.
And, despite being so sheltered these days, I feel like I’m finally learning how to live again.
After at least two years of not knowing if I would ever write a book again, if I would ever even want to write a book again, the desire is back, and (at the risk of jinxing myself), the doing is back.
October 22nd’s Why I Love Singlehood’s Zoom event with my co-author Sarah Girrell and This House of Books (SEE BELOW) was when I really ran wild. Sarah and I had so much fun reliving our writing process, revisiting The Grounds and those characters we knew and loved so intimately. Just as I had done with The Second First Time the week before, I reread Why I Love Singlehood and reconnected to all the things I (we) loved about it, all the things that still made it good, and all the things where I could say in hindsight, without judgment, “I was young. I still had a lot to learn.”
Best of all, the event stirred the creative pot for Sarah and me, made us start asking the what-if questions. Sifting around for a story.
I was back in my element, back in my joy. It showed in my smile and my raucous laughter. It showed in the way I vigorously talked with my hands. It showed in my enthusiasm for the subject and for my friend, and all those who participated.
My husband and I always laugh at the scene in the movie Wonder Boys, when the late Rip Torn’s character (referred to only as “Q”) kicks off the academic literary festival with this booming declaration:
“I. Am. A. Writer.”
We know that guy. I, having been in academia for so long, have met that guy several times over. But in the wake of the Zoom event, I feel myself wanting to roar those very words from my natural habitat.
So yeah, the monster is out of the cage. Like Grover and Cookie and Herry, she’s a friendly monster. But she’s walking around, unleashed. I don’t really know where she’s going or where she’ll end up. But with each step, she feels a little more free to write her own story as she goes. She’s a writer, after all.
My Story is Their Story is Your Story
I was delighted to discover that fellow Long Islander and author Marci Brockmann devoted her most recent “Book Talk Sunday” show to my novel, The Second First Time. (See video below.) As part of her review, Ms. Brockmann surmised that Sage and Jonathan’s story mirrored my own love story with my husband, Craig.
So now it can be told: Yes. And no.
“Paralleled” might be a better word choice than “mirrored,” for one thing. And there were definitely… er, similarities.
Imagination picked up from there.
I was, indeed, heartbroken at the time. I also had been contracted to write Pasta Wars (late 2014-early 2015). One of my story goals was to cheer myself up. Yet in the middle of writing it, I came across the New York Times article and intimacy questionnaire Ms. Brockmann mentioned, and inspiration struck: I decided to give Craig’s and my failed romance a different outcome. If I couldn’t have a second chance in real life, then I’d give it one on the page.
Thus, The Do-Over was conceived.
In fact, the idea was so powerful that I put down Pasta Wars smack in the middle of a fast approaching deadline and wrote approximately 35,000 words of The Do-Over in two weeks
And then something else happened.
Just a few weeks after those 35,000 words, Craig and I got back in touch, cleaned the slate, and re-established our friendship. Two months later he flew to New York; we spent the week together, and by the end we knew we’d be spending much more than that.
And yes, we did the questionnaire, but we were already in love by then.
That same year, I was contracted to write The Do-Over as part of a two-book deal with my then-publisher, Lake Union. By then those 35,000 words had morphed somewhat and the story had lost a little of its original spark. Having gotten my own real life do-over (and waaaaaay different from what I’d envisioned in the fictionalized version), I had lost the emotional intent and thread, and thus Sage’s intention and obstacles became muddied as well.
With the assistance of Tiffany Yates Martin, the fab developmental editor who had worked with me on Adulation, She Has Your Eyes, and Love, Wylie, we found the thread, and Sage and Jon embarked on their road trip.
One more change was made: The Do-Over became The Second First Time.
In its delivery, The Second First Time was something quite different from its conception. And in a way, that disappointed me. But shortly after its publication, when I read it to Craig (something we like to do with our books, and with each other), I found myself proud of it, with deep affection.
A review from a reader named Joe Miller particularly touched me:
“A compelling treatise, tenderly and engagingly written with life-changing realities. Had this book been available during my 52 years as a military chaplain and pastor, I would have bought multiple copies to have on hand as required reading with follow-on discussion for individuals and couples who came to my office for guidance in relationships and personal growth. I look forward to reading more of Elisa Lorello’s books!”
Likewise, I truly appreciated Ms. Brockmann’s video review because she received what I strive to achieve in every novel I write:
Moreover, she connected to her love story as a result of reading Sage’s and Jon’s. That, too, was confirmation that I achieved what I especially strive for when I craft those characters and dialogue and scenes:
What’s really important and special and profound is ultimately not what the book means to me, but what it means to you.
Because once I’m finished writing it, once it’s been edited and proofread and designed and produced and published, it’s no longer mine.
And thus, your connection, your experience, and your interpretation surpass mine. As it should. Because you carry its light, and share it, and sustain it.
When Duran Duran wrote and recorded “Ordinary World,” it was just a song. When they released it into the world, it became more than a song. For me, it became a lighthouse. For others, a lifeline. For others still, an embrace.
Its whole became far greater than the sum of all of us.
Books have this same magical power of transformation. But the magic can only happen when you wield the wand in the act of reading them.
You are the magician. You are the magic.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.