Personal Musings: 2016 Wrap-Up (And What to Look Forward to in 2017)

So, I was seeing lots of people writing 2016 wrap-up posts, so I figured I should do the same, even if it is a bit late. (And, also, this allows me to get something new up here while I keep working on a pair of longer posts that are taking longer than expected.)

So, 2016, the year that seems to be so many’s favorite to hate on–for now. What did I think of it? Well, no year is perfect, whether one is looking at it from a purely personal perspective or a global one, but, overall, 2016 was a great year for me.

To start off with the personal side of things. In 2016, I completed my Master’s Degree in History, with a 160+ page thesis on the Horthy Era in Hungary. It was a huge labor, which took nearly a year and a half from early research to final product. But it was a great adventure, a truly different type of writing from anything else I’ve done (other history papers included), and I am very proud to have written something that I think adds something to the historical debate about that period, whether or not others read my thesis. Writing that paper has also pushed me to plan a trip to Hungary, which I will be taking in about a month and a half from now. But that’ll be a part of my 2017 wrap-up.

I also completed my third novel, tentatively titled The Scarred Princess, which was a new experience for me as well. I began writing it with no outline, just a rough idea, outlining and revising as I went, and I finished the first draft in just over a year, my fastest ever (this while working on the thesis.) I also tried other new things with this book, including the darkest scenes I have yet to write, writing my first book with a single viewpoint, and exploring both themes and types of relationships that I had previously not given thought to writing. That book is currently undergoing my second “solo” revision, with the aid of feedback from members of my tiny, fluctuating, writing group, and I hope to have it ready for beta readers soon.

Next, of course, is my taking my writing career on a new course, that of self-publishing (or rather, indie publishing, as I often see it referred to.) I’m not going to go into my reasons for this again, but I am glad I made this choice, as it truly does grant me more freedom in so many aspects, while of course offering its own challenges. That career begins in earnest in just a couple of months, with the release of my first book, A Greater Duty, and it’s hard to put into words how exciting it is to be so close to getting that story, which has been in my head for over a decade, into the world where others can hopefully fall in love with it.

And, I shouldn’t forget, since making the decision to go it my own way, I’ve made several great writing contacts on the various social media I frequent, which I believe and hope will make my true entry into the writing world a success. Specifically, I’d like to thank Brian Niemeier for taking the time to give me extremely helpful advice regarding getting my book ready for release. And, I got to be a guest on Geek Gab, a weekly podcast on which he is one of the co-hosts (and I anticipate being on once again, close to A Greater Duty‘s release date.)

Still on a personal note, but a different angle, I fulfilled not just a lifelong dream of mine, but that of thousands of my ancestors, by making aliyah to Israel back in August. Moving anywhere, let alone to a different country a 12 hour flight from where you grew up, is never easy nor simple, but so far, thank G-d, it has gone well, and I believe my Hebrew has improved at ulpan (intensive Hebrew learning program), and I’ve had the opportunity to experience a very different life and society here. How many people who grew up in New York City can say they’ve done farm work? While not something I’d like to do long-term, it is an immensely satisfying activity, not only for the ideological reasons of planting and building the land here, but just in the sense that physical labor, especially one which regularly yields visible results, is something I think more people should try, even for a limited period of time. There’s just under a month left, after which I will have further new experiences as I continue to integrate and make my place here in the Jewish State. But that, too, is for 2017.

Other accomplishments: I began writing a weekly history column for a local (no longer local, for me) Jewish paper, and it has been enjoyable and enlightening for me–plus, I apparently have some fans now. (Hopefully they’ll buy my book.) I expect to continue with it for as long as is feasible, which will likely be until I (G-d willing) start my year and a half of (voluntary) army service here. After that, who knows?

And, while I started with parkour/ninja warrior classes in 2015, it was in 2016 that I finally began to beat some of the tougher obstacles, and I really hope that I haven’t lost more than a little of what I gained over just about a year of training. I suppose I’ll find out in April, when I visit NYC for two months, and of course go to as many classes as I can, along with returning to Krav Maga, my first high impact physical activity.

And hey, I can’t forget the family trip to Utah & Las Vegas (first time that I, my parents, and siblings, all flew on a plane together.) Specifically, I’ll mention climbing Angels’ Landing (which we later learned is one of the world’s most dangerous hikes), and shooting an MG42 machine gun in Vegas.

On a less happy note, 2016 was also the year that I lost my final grandparent, my paternal grandfather, Grandpere to us. He was, in several ways, a larger than life figure for us grandkids, stereotypically Frenchey, still with a very noticeable accent despite having lived in New York for decades. He was always fun to be around, and we’ll be quoting “Grandpere-isms”, his amusing catch-phrases, for the rest of our lives, I expect. His passing also made me yet more cognizant of what it means to lose ties to the past. He and his family survived the Holocaust in France, hiding on a farm of southern France, and over the last few years Grandpere, with assistance from several family members and along with the grandchildren of the farmers who had saved his family, got the necessary work done to ensure that they would be listed among the Righteous Among the Nations in Israel’s Yad VaShem Holocaust museum. Just a month or two ago, not long after his passing, my father, uncle, and sister, traveled to France to take part in a ceremony honoring the farmers, finishing an important project he had begun. There are numerous stories he told about that time, which I can’t get into here, but it really drives home that when we lose an elderly person, we lose both them as a person and the link to a different time they provide us. In an age when people are trying to move us away from laudable ideals of the past, it is important to cherish those links we have.

Returning to positive aspects of the year, this was the most fun I ever had following a political campaign, and it was the first election of my lifetime that I was genuinely excited to vote in. I have also become more aware than I previously was about what is going on in the world today, and my general political views have continued to crystallize. I imagine in the future, I won’t be able to stop myself from being more political publicly, but that’s for another time. Suffice to say, 2017 looks to be just as interesting–and entertaining. I am very hopeful.

So, to wrap up, what can you expect from me in 2017?

First off, this site will be redone in some fashion, made nicer, more professional looking, and I will make even more of an effort to get even short posts up fairly regularly.

More exciting, of course, is the upcoming release of my first book. Once the cover art is done, I’ll be able to set a release date (not too long after that), and I can’t wait. I believe my work will find an audience, and I am optimistic about my writing career. What’s more, I expect to release a second book (not the sequel to my first one, for a number of reasons) later on in 2017. I’m one more “solo” edit before I revise it along with a professional editor, so it’s quite far along. I am very, very excited to finally, after many years, truly launch my writing career, and do my darndest to make it my full time job, by which I support myself and my future family, as quickly as possible. I also anticipate becoming more active in the writing circles I have been frequenting, once I truly become a part of it.

As mentioned above, I also will become yet more independent this year, as I leave the kibbutz and start paying rent for the first time (once I find a place…), and in August, G-d willing, I will start a short stint of service in the Israeli Defense Force. And if anyone has a problem with that, or with my possibly living in parts of Israel some term “illegal settlements”, I could not care less. I may not talk a great deal about politics on Twitter or Facebook now (something which may well change over time), but this issue is something I will be completely open about, because it is a key part of my identity. (Can you see why I I’m not too keen on entering the publishing industry, where I could be put on a “wrong people list” simply because of service I plan on doing and where I hope to live?)

That’s it, I think, as far as my plans go. Hope this didn’t ramble on too much, and I look forward to spending 2017 with all of you, reading and writing quality sci-fi and fantasy fiction all the way through.

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