Posts Tagged ‘Judaism’

I actually don’t have anything worthy of devoting a blog post. But if I don’t regularly post, I start to feel like I’m not doing something I should, and that isn’t a pleasant feeling. Thus, I’m giving everyone a quick update on what I’m doing, how certain projects are coming along, and what dark magic I’ve been using lately.

So with that little preamble, let’s get started.

Writing Projects

So, for the past week or so, I’ve been working on a mermaid horror story. Yeah, you read that right. A mermaid horror story. I saw an anthology announcement with a theme of ocean horror, and I thought that it looked good. Especially since the word count actually allowed me to spread my wings and work without feeling like I’m sacrificing story for length. Anyway, I’m about halfway through and hope to be finished with the first draft soon. After that, a quick trip to a beta reader, a quicker edit, and then submission. Hopefully the editor or editors like the anthology.

As for the other writing projects, I’m going to be editing and submitting the Robert Johnson story I wrote, “Window Audience Blues,” in May. Then I’m editing River of Wrath for a submission call in June. And with the last beta reader for The Pure World Comes supposed to be getting back to me soon, I should be able to edit that and start shopping it around soon. And I wrote another article that I submitted to a horror website. After that article on the spider web scene in The Fly, I think I have a good chance of getting it published where I submitted it.

So yeah, lots of editing and submissions in the near future. Hopefully, along with the stories I’ve already submitted here and there, I’ll get at least a few acceptances.

Other Writing-Related Work

Besides my own projects, I’ve been handling a lot of stuff on my plate. Most of it is administrative stuff, like answering emails or planning on various projects. It takes up a good chunk of the time I devote to writing, but it’s necessary to get it all done. And if all these projects I’m working on in secret pan out, who knows? It may lead to more writing time or other benefits.

On a less secretive note, my plans to attend various events in the next couple of months appear to be moving forward. I hope to put out a blog post (and probably a YouTube video) later this week with the latest on those. Not the most exciting thing I could report, but considering how nice it is to have these events and whatnot, I’m excited for them.

Life in General

Between my day job and Passover, I’ve been even busier than usual. Heck, sometimes writing and the administrative stuff I referred to just a moment ago have to take a back seat! Add in that people my age in Ohio are almost eligible for the vaccine, and my dance card is just about full!

I’m not complaining. I know that things could be a whole lot worse and I’m glad they’re not. And if things go as planned, they should get better. I’m actually planning a vacation for the fall that I’m really looking forward to, that’s how optimistic I am about the future. Details, obviously, to be shared when I get a bit closer.

So That’s What I’m Up To Right Now

Life is busy, but it’s good and looking better. I hope this post didn’t bore or disappoint you. If things go as planned this week, I should be able to post something more interesting either Friday or Saturday at the latest. In the meantime, I hope you’ll stick around and continue to support me.

And if you don’t, you’ll find swarms of spiders appearing in your home. That’s the black magic I’m working with today. Check out my work using the links below, read it, and let me know what you think! Or your arachnophobia will go into overdrive this week!

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

I don’t know if this past week went on forever or went by so quickly. All I know is, Passover is just a few days away and it’s going to be busy preparing for the holiday.

Okay, enough complaining. As you know, I had a new story released last week. “Agoraphobia” follows a young man with severe anxiety who is forced to leave his home when a hurricane bears down on his area. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. It’s a short, deliciously creepy horror story and I’m quite pleased with it.

And I’m happy to say, the short story has been well-received. Not only have I been getting a lot of people downloading copies, but since the release there’s been an average of a review a day for a total of seven. And even the lowest, a 3-star review, has been very positive. Here has been some of the responses to “Agoraphobia:”

Another great story by Rami Ungar, this one is more traditional horror. (not that there’s anything wrong with non-traditional horror!) As another reviewer said, you can’t say too much about a short without spoiling, so I’ll try to be brief.

Peyton lives alone in a well fortified house. Suffering from Agoraphobia, and secure in the knowledge that his house is safe from everything, he even ignores the coming hurricane. But, alas, it turns out his residence isn’t quite the castle he thought it was. A broken window leaves him with a water soaked carpet and – are those footprints?

Great read, good pacing, with some twists at the end. Highly recommend!

Joleene Naylor, author of the Amaranthine series

An intriguing short story of a man who has problems, sadly those problems are about to get worse. The author does a great job making this short story feel longer with complete content in a short space.

PS Winn, author

I would include more reviews, but as Joleene says, you can’t say too much without spoiling the story. Anyway, thanks to everyone who has read the story so far and has taken the time to leave their thoughts online for others to check out. Your reviews help other readers decide if they want to read it, so it means a lot to me.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with the response to “Agoraphobia.” And now my goal is to get more people reading it. I’m not expecting thousands of readers and adaptation offers, but I would like to make a little splash and expand my audience. We’ll see what occurs (though, being me, I always hope for the best).

If you’re interested, I’ll post links to “Agoraphobia” down below. If you decide to read the story, please let me know what you think somehow. A review, a tweet, or an email works. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback. And as I said, when you leave your thoughts in a public place like Twitter or Amazon, it lets others know and helps them decide whether the story is right for them.

And if you’re interested, I have a lot more stories you can check out on my Amazon author profile. Novels, short stories, and short story collections, plus some of the anthologies I’ve been lucky enough to have stories included in. I got them all and then some. Click this link to check them out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a busy Tuesday ahead of me. Work, shopping for Passover, and a beta reading for a colleague. Hopefully afterwards I can work on my mermaid horror story. Until next time, stay safe, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Goodreads, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

This morning, I checked my memories on Facebook, and what popped up in 2018? No, not an embarrassing photo from that year’s Purim celebration. I killed the person who took the photo and destroyed their phone’s SIM card before they could post it. No, it was the announcement that my novel Rose had been accepted by Castrum Press, a publishing company based out of Belfast, North Ireland.

And over the course of today, it just kept hitting me. Three years. Three whole years. It felt like so much longer (and not just because of the mess that was 2020). And given all that happened with the book over those three years, it only feels right to blog about it.

So if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I first wrote as my college thesis and which later became my first novel published with a publisher. The story is a Kafkaesque fantasy-horror tale about a young woman who wakes up with no memory of the past two years. She then finds herself transfigured into a plant/human hybrid by ancient magic, setting her on a path of no return.

As I said, a lot happened with Rose in the three years since Castrum Press accepted the novel. The novel itself went through a heavy editing and rewriting process that lasted about fifteen months, from March 2018 to June 2019 when the book was released. Characters were changed or written out, plot points were added and pulled out, and at one point two-thirds of the book needed to be thrown out and rewritten. Yeah, that happened. Word of advice, don’t add flashback scenes that have nothing to do with the main plot of the story, let alone make one-third of the book flashbacks and the other third somewhat dependent on the flashbacks.

But it was worth it. The book came out soon after my twenty-sixth birthday, and people started reading it. Soon, I had some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and they kept growing. In August, I had a reading at Brothers Drake, a local bar and meadery, or distiller of honeywine. In December, the audio book released, narrated by the incomparable Sarah Parlier, who made chills go up my back with her narration. 2020 came in, and the book continued to do somewhat well. I wasn’t making Stephen King money, but I was doing okay for an author of my skill and reach.

Honestly, though, the fact that anyone’s reading Rose at all, especially with so much good horror out there, is incredible. Yeah, people enjoy it, but I had to do a lot of plugging over the course of these three years to get people interested, let alone willing to read it. That’s part of the author lot, truth be told: you gotta do a ton of work to let people know your book is available. No one’s going to do it for you, at least not without compensation.

Well, I’m not complaining. All the work has paid off. More and more people are reading Rose, and are leaving reviews. I just got a new four star review today from an author I know through Twitter, which made my day. It makes me happy. And I’m hoping, with continued work, some devoted fans, and a few conventions/author events, Rose will continue to do well.

If you would be interested in reading Rose, I’ll leave links below for you to check out. And if you end up reading it, I hope you’ll take the time to let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it not only helps me, but your fellow readers in the long run.

That’s all for now. I’m off to enjoy the weekend. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, Shabbat Shalom, have a great weekend, and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Okay, technically this film is a 2019 film, but it’s being released in the States in 2021, so that’s the designation I’m going with.

Also, just a little background for my non-Jewish readers: in Judaism, it’s traditional that when someone dies, the body is constantly watched over and had Psalms recited over in order to comfort the soul of the deceased. The person doing this is known as a shomer, or a guardian. Usually this is done by friends and family of the deceased, but occasionally people are paid to be shomrim. This is all explained in the movie, I just wanted to put it upfront here.

And to complain that nobody ever hired me to be a shomer while I was job hunting. Seriously, I have experience with dead bodies and I charge reasonable rates. I would have been great at it!

Okay, onto the review. The Vigil follows Yaakov Ronen, a Jewish man who has left his ultra-Orthodox community for a more moderate style of Jewish living after a terrible tragedy befalls him. His old rabbi asks him to be a shomer for a man who has recently died. Desperate for money, Yaakov agrees, but soon finds himself up against an ancient evil that oppressed the deceased in life, and is now looking for a new victim to torment.

Wow, this movie did not disappoint. It took what could have been just regular popcorn horror movie fodder and made something really amazing out of it. Camera work and lighting is used really effectively to build a tense, creepy mood. There are these long, uncomfortable moments where we’re forced to watch as Yaakov uses his phone or gets comfortable around the body, which is laying in the living room under a shroud like something out of the Victorian era. You really get to know the folds and creases in the blanket, and it makes things creepy and disconcerting.

The monster of the movie, a Jewish demon called a mazzik,* is also well done. I’ve said this before, but showing too much of the monster can backfire on films, especially in popcorn horror films. Thankfully, the filmmakers keep the mazzik hard to see throughout the film, and that only adds to the terror. Like no matter what, you can’t truly see, let alone comprehend, this creature.

Add in some mind games right out of the movie Oculus and a couple of nods to Nightmare on Elm Street, and you’ve got one hell of a scary film.

It’s also a deeply personal film. Yaakov, played with powerful pathos by Dave Davies, is a very sympathetic character. He’s dealing with PTSD, he’s struggling with himself, his faith, and making his way through this world. The events of the film really force him to confront what he’s been dealing with and it’s amazing to watch.

I could find something to dislike with this film, but I would be nitpicking. On a scale of 1 to 5, The Vigil stands at a solid 4.2. Creepy and dark, led by a lead you can identify with, you won’t be able to turn away. The film is currently available through Amazon, so grab a seat, pour some kosher wine, and get ready for an unnervingly good time.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back soon, believe me. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And yes, I think we can be sure mazzik and the plural mazzikim is the source of the name for the comic book character and the character we love and adore in Lucifer.

I first heard about this film last month, described as The Call of Cthulhu meets small Norwegian island and with Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and Chopping Mall fame heavily featured in the marketing. The trailer looked cool, so I mentioned it in a post about cosmic horror becoming popular, and patiently waited for it to come out. I watched it evening, so obviously I have to write a review about it.

Based on a short story by Paul Kane* and influenced by the works of HP Lovecraft, Sacrifice follows Isaac Jorgstadt and his pregnant wife Emma as they return to the tiny Norwegian island where he lived until he was a child and his mother took him to America. As his mother has recently passed, Isaac now owns the home and has come to see if he can sell it. However, between the townsfolk’s bewildering behavior, unearthed family secrets, and strange dreams, Isaac and Emma find themselves in the crosshairs of a powerful cult worshipping an ancient and terrible god.

Pandemic or no pandemic, I think we can call this the first good horror film of 2021.

First off, the movie was really well done. The strange behavior of the townsfolk adds to this feeling of unreality in the story, which is heightened by frightening imagery and occurrences. The tension between Isaac, who becomes more and more enchanted by the island, and Emma, who is just freaked out, compounds the uneasiness we feel. And the slow-burn nature of the story ramps up in just the right way in the third act.

I also like the way HP Lovecraft’s work is incorporated into the story. Images and statues of Cthulhu–or as he’s known in the movie, “The Slumbering One”–abounds; Isaac’s name in America is Pickman, a reference to Pickman’s Model; dreams play a prominent role in the film; and of course, we get the occasional tentacles. You really enjoy stumbling across all these references and being like, “I get that!”

I always enjoy when cosmic horror is incorporated well into a non-Cthulhu Mythos film.

Excluding Barbara Crampton’s attempt at a Norwegian accent and one line that could be misconstrued as offensive to certain belief systems,** I only had one problem with the film. During the climax, the ending was epic and scary, and then that final shot felt…anticlimatic. I would have liked to see a shot of the Slumbering One or his tentacles or something. Just something more Lovecraftian and scary to end the movie with. Is that too much to ask?

All in all, though, this was a creepy and enjoyable ride. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.1 As of right now, it’s only available from iTunes, but I say it’s worth the cost to check out.† Especially if you can pair it with some good calamari.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to birth my own nightmares. Until next time, pleasant nightmares (or as they say in the film, “dream well”).

*Whose work I need to check out.

**That better have been a put down on female genital mutilation and not on bris milah or similar rituals, I’m just saying.

†Hopefully you have an easier time playing the movie than I did. Still not sure if that was my iTunes player or my computer, but I had so many issues with the streaming.

So, I’ve been living in this new apartment for two and a half days. And I’ve been adjusting pretty well. Unlike my skeleton roommate Jonesy, who had a bit of a miniature freak out after arriving in the new home.

He then fainted.

Thankfully, he adjusted after a while. Now he’s just hanging around until I can find a permanent place to put him.

Jonesy’s hysterics aside, the move has been easy. As it was in the same complex as my old apartment, getting all my stuff from one to the other wasn’t too hard on me or the movers. Getting stuff out of the boxes was a simple task. Honestly, the hardest task so far has been putting up a shelf on the wall of my bedroom, but that was mostly because of issues with the tools.

Anyway, I imagine I’ll be done moving in and turning the apartment into my new realm of nightmares by Saturday. I’m still putting together a new bookcase (the one I bought secondhand in college fell apart during the move. Apparently it wasn’t meant to last more than seven years, which I didn’t know when I bought it), and I have yet to put up my wall art, masks or Jonesy. But after that, I plan to film a tour of my new home, particularly the home office (I love having my own office in my home). And after that?

Well, I hope I can get back to my routine. Kid you not, I have not been doing any serious fiction writing for several days and I miss it. Part of that is the move, but there’s also various projects I’m working on, including Agoraphobia, that are taking up my time. I’m also waiting on feedback from some alpha and beta readers so I can work on the next drafts. And today I went back for the work for the first time since last week, so that took up some time.

Oh, and I need to sleep. Seriously, I make Jason Voorhees look like a harmless little rabbit when I’m sleep deprived.

All that being said, I wouldn’t say that this time spent not writing has been wasted. I’m coming to like this bigger apartment, as well as decorating it to my unusual tastes. The work can be exhausting, but it’s satisfying, in its way. And those other projects are coming along well. Agoraphobia‘s ready from a text standpoint, and I’m talking with an illustrator for a cover. I heard back from one beta reader for The Pure World Comes, and she said she loved the story. And my dad read another story I wrote recently, as his perspective as a rabbi was required for this story. He said he enjoyed the story and we’re going to find time soon to talk over the phone (or maybe Zoom?) and discuss the story.

I look forward to getting back to this. And yes, this is an accurate representation of what my writing sessions look like.

And I’ve done a bit of work for a new story set in the world of “Mother of the King.” Still need to do some outlining, but I’ve laid the groundwork, so hopefully a first draft isn’t too far behind.

So yeah, time hasn’t been wasted. And once all the moving in is done, I’ll be able to get back to a routine and continue telling stories that terrify the crap out of people.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s been another long day, so I’m looking forward to a nice, long nap. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you’re a stalker trying to find my new place, do so at your own risk. They still haven’t found the remains of the last stalker who broke in, after all.

Well, they did find a finger. But hey, I was sleep-deprived.

You know, I still remember when it took me months to write a short story. Or it felt like months. It might have been less. But it took a lot longer. I didn’t always have that great discipline when it came to writing, so projects took a lot longer than they do now. I guess that’s growing up and getting experience.

Well, at least it doesn’t take that long to get stories written now. Because, guess what? I just finished my first short story of 2021!

Can I get a GIF of Kermit the Frog being totally excited right now?

Was that necessary? Not at all. Did I enjoy putting it in there? Quite.

So, I’m sure you’re curious about the short story I’ve written. The story is called, “The Divorce from God,” and is unusual for my work because it draws very strongly on my Jewish heritage. Yeah, I may be Jewish, but that doesn’t appear in my fiction very much. Probably a number of reasons for that, but I guess there’s just not many stories I feel like telling where my heritage could fit comfortably in.

However, this story was inspired by a recent scandal in the ultra-Orthodox community, so this time the Jewish heritage fit in quite well. In case you weren’t aware, back in 2013 an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was arrested for some serious crimes. You see, in Judaism, a woman can only get a divorce if her husband gives her a document called a get. Without that, she’s forever tied to him. And sometimes, husbands will hold that over their wives, leaving them with few options. Women stuck in this situation are known as agunot, or chained women.

I bring this up because the rabbi I mentioned was being hired by these women to kidnap their husbands and torture them until they granted the divorce. And the guy charged thousands of dollars for his services, too! He got away with this for decades, protected by his victims’ unwillingness to testify or by the charges being dropped. However, after one of his victims came forward, the FBI pulled a sting and he and his cohorts were arrested. Most of them are still serving their sentences, last I checked.

Click here for a great article from GQ magazine on the scandal, which was essential for my research.

I first heard about this story last year when I heard that a movie was being made about it. The story immediately inspired me with ideas. And then, about a week ago, I heard about an anthology of Jewish horror being published later this year, so I thought, “Might as well write this story now. It’s a good fit.”

It was a good night of writing, all told.

And hopefully, once I’ve done some edits, it will be. I’ve already sent it to my dad, who’s a rabbi and who’s agreed to take a first look, to give his feedback on the Jewish aspects of the story and if I do a good job explaining those aspects for a non-Jewish audience. After that, I’ll probably let a beta reader or two take a look at it and do some edits before sending it in for consideration. Fingers crossed, the editors will like it.

For now though, I think I’ll celebrate with a cup of tea and a late viewing of Die Hard 2, which is probably the best of the Die Hard sequels. Tomorrow, I’ll probably talk about my next major project. Or watch and review a horror movie. Or both. We’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

My latest Tarot reading. What it indicates…only I can tell.

About five years ago, I bought a Tarot deck and a how-to guide on how to use the cards. And after a few readings, I used it infrequently, maybe once a year. Until recently, that is. A book I read and really enjoyed featured Tarot quite heavily, as well as a few friends and acquaintances who read the cards (including one who mentions it on her blog quite regularly), spurred me to try reading the cards again. Which became something of a regular habit. And then I hit upon the idea of doing readings at the Indie Author Book Expo in Iowa last month. I bought a second deck (never use a deck for yourself and for others. It mixes energy in all the wrong ways).

And I’ve come to an opinion on Tarot. One I would like to share with you.

But before that, let me tell you about Tarot if you’re unfamiliar. Tarot cards are like playing cards, but instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs as the four suits, there are wands, swords, cups and pentacles (sometimes called disks). In addition, there are twenty-two trump cards called the Major Arcana, for a total of seventy-eight cards. Originally used as playing cards, the cards started being used in cartomancy, or fortune telling through cards, in the 18th century, with each card having a different meaning, often several meanings, and affecting the reading.

So yeah, I’m breaking the Torah’s prohibition on fortune-telling. But I already break the prohibition of consulting spirits at least twice a year, and God hasn’t struck me down since, so I think I’m fine.

In any case, Tarot isn’t supposed to tell the future. Many users will attest that Tarot is supposed to be used more for insight and guidance, like asking for advice. Perhaps it’ll tell you what could happen in the future, but like the future, that could change from day to day. That’s what I say, anyway.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, what are my thoughts on Tarot? Well, before this week, I would’ve maintained that I’m undecided, and that perhaps the cards do have something to them, but it could all just be coincidence and humans looking for patterns where there are none.

But on Sunday, I had a reading that proved scarily accurate. So far, it’s been very on the nose about events that have occurred this week, to the point I shouted a very naughty word to my otherwise-empty apartment. Now, I’m not sure. Perhaps there is something there, like with the haunted locations I visit. To say the least, it’s weird.

Whether or not there’s anything to Tarot, I can’t lie that it has an effect. At the Expo last month, I did a reading for a young woman asking something near and dear to her heart of the cards. The reading the cards gave her seemed to lift her spirits and give her hope, and she seemed very interested in buying a deck of her own. I hope things work out for her, and I’m glad I was able to put some joy in her day.

So, I’ll keep reading the cards. I’ll use my Gilded Tarot deck (a reading of which is pictured above) for myself, and the Ghost Tarot deck (pictured to the right) for others. Besides being something I could do at conventions and expos, it’s fun and does give insight. Never a bad thing.

Do you have any experience with Tarot? What are your thoughts on it?

This story is set in the Cthulhu Mythos (and may or may not involve the big tentacled guy. I aim to keep you guessing).

Well, this has been a productive day. Today I finished a new story!

“What Errour Awoke” is a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos.* The story follows Taylor Molton-Reed, a graduate student at my alma mater, Ohio State. One day, while teaching a class on the famous British poem The Faerie Queene, the description of one of the monsters in the poem awakens repressed memories in one of his students of a certain Great Old One (I’ll let you guess which one until you actually read the story). The student later relates to Taylor what he remembered, beginning a chain of events involving this particular eldritch monster and its plans for the people of this world.

This story was actually inspired by my own studies in college. I read the Faerie Queene‘s first book in one of my British literature courses, and remembered one of the monsters in it quite particularly. Years later, after I’d gotten deep into Lovecraft’s canon and became familiar with many of the entities in the story, I found myself thinking back on that monster and thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a minute! That sounds a lot like such-and-such entity!” Thus the idea for this story was birthed.

I had a lot of fun writing this story. For one thing, it’s set right in the Cthulhu Mythos, and there’s a certain thrill for me when it comes to writing stories set in that world (possibly because I’m an entity right out of that world?). For another, the majority of it takes place during our current pandemic. so it was cathartic to write about. I’ve compared the coronavirus to a Lovecraftian entity in the past, so writing about it in a Cthulhu Mythos story felt especially apropos. And finally, I had a lot of fun applying something other than the writing courses from my English major to a story, and modeling certain parts of the story after the first book of Faerie Queene.

In fact, I liked this story so much, I decided to put this into that collection of short stories I’ve been working on and switch out one of the weaker stories in it. That’s how much I loved it, and how confident I am readers will enjoy it.

Now, for the stats on the story. “What Errour Awoke” totaled out to 63 pages and 17,880 words, the last 13 pages and 3,880 words written over the course of this afternoon and evening (yeah, I went on one hell of a writing binge). This puts it at a novelette, so I’m two for two on getting at least one short(er) story done per month for the rest of 2020. Hopefully I can keep that up with the next story, which I’ll likely finish in May.

Speaking of which, what’s next? Well, I’ll be reaching out to some writers I know who may be able to give me some valuable feedback on how to edit “What Errour Awoke.” And while they’re doing that, I’ll be starting work on the last story for that collection, a novelette or novella set in my beloved Victorian England. Believe me, it’s going to be a strange one. A wonderfully strange one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a late Shabbat dinner and an Avengers movie calling my name. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares.

*Which means, if my parents ever read this story, they’re not going to get any of the references and think I made up more than I did for this story.

So today marks the 13th anniversary of my bnei mitzvah, when my sister Adi and I were called to the Torah in official recognition of reaching adulthood in Judaism.* According to the Gregorian calendar, anyway: August 19th, 2006. The anniversary date on the Hebrew calendar falls on August 26th this year, and the Torah portion my sister and I read from, Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), will be read in synagogues on August 31st. It’s a whole lot of complicated, I know.

The point is, the date I pay attention to, August 19th, 2006, has its anniversary today. Thirteen years ago. A full half of my lifetime ago, and close to half my own sister’s life ago.

I’m not doing anything to mark the occasion. The thirteen-year anniversary isn’t really that significant in Judaism, and I’m not in the mood to do anything special beyond maybe some ice cream and wine (the celebratory foods of the exhausted working grown ups). I barely remember that weekend’s festivities, truth be told, beyond going off-script and laughing like a lunatic during my speech (but it was poorly written, so it was probably an improvement). Still, I thought I’d at least talk about it.

Because honestly, I feel more like an adult now than I ever did at thirteen.

I don’t know when it happened. Becoming an adult became a gradual process, not just something that happened overnight. It started in college, while I was paying rent and bills while also balancing homework and trying not to stress out about my grades. And then I started looking for a job, had an internship abroad (which gave new lessons to the art of budgeting), came back and had the existential dread of living on my dad’s couch for eight months looking for a job. I found a job, started paying rent again, paid more bills, worked forty hours a week. I got a license and a car, I learned to balance fun and asserting my independence with work and learning to submit when necessary.

And I began to understand how the world works. How insane and nasty it can be, and how much we have to do to make it seem pleasant for more than a millisecond or two.

What did I know at thirteen? I was still wrapping my head around the idea that other people will never like horror or anime no matter how much I talked about it. I was sure I would be a famous author by age twenty and living in Beverly Hills by twenty-five. And I was sure the world was a mostly-good place where good eventually triumphs over evil, and the nastiness I saw everyday would eventually balance itself out.

Look how well that turned out.

Not to say I was completely clueless or naive back then. I did know one thing back then, and that I wasn’t an adult, no matter how well I read from the Torah or what my rabbis (aka my parents) said. I knew I couldn’t survive on my own. I had only so much understanding of my own finances, of how to take care of myself. I knew I would be dependent on my parents and others for at least the next five years. No matter what, I wasn’t ready for adulthood (though, like every teen, I couldn’t wait for the freedoms of adulthood).

I guess I can sum this up by saying I’m glad it took as long as it did for me to reach adulthood. I was able to enjoy being young while it lasted, and I wouldn’t be anywhere near as competent as I am now without all those years to learn and mature. At the same time, that slow change from kid to adult helps me be a better writer, and understand those younger than me (even if I have no idea what the kids are listening to these days or what video games are popular).

So I guess it took another thirteen years, but I can finally say, I’m a grown up now. And I think I’m doing alright.

*Just a note for those not familiar with Judaism and/or the Hebrew language: a bar mitzvah is for a single 13-year-old boy. A bat mtzvah is for a single 12-year-old girl. A bnei mitzvah is for multiple boys or a mixed-gender group. And a b’not mitzvah is for multiple girls. Also, many adults have bnei mitzvahs, especially if they converted in adulthood or otherwise were unable to have a ceremony in their teens. Just thought I’d mention it.