Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Forget New Year's resolutions. Write a Wish List instead!

Yes, I know I'm not perfect. There are bad habits I'd like to break. I want to exercise more. I want to eat more vegetables. I want to lose weight. And I'd like to write every day and blog every day and start that vlog I've been meaning to start.

But I don't write New Year's resolutions.

I don't like the idea of them. It just seems so negative. They're all about what you don't like about yourself, things you want to change. They make you feel bad about your past. And that negativity continues when you inevitably fail to keep some of those resolutions. Then you feel doubly bad about yourself, first for the things you wanted to change, and then for your inability to change them.

That's why instead of writing New Year's resolutions, I write Wish Lists. These are lists of things I want to do or have. We're not talking about an Amazon Wish List. Many or even most of the things on them can't be bought. They're just whatever you wish for in the future, whether it's success, good health, a quiet place, or anything else you dream of.

I usually write a Wish List at the start of summer or a week or two before my birthday. The idea came to me when my husband told me he gets me lame presents because he doesn't know what I want. Now he has a list. Not everything on it is something he can give me, but that's okay. There are things he can, and things he can work out sort of giving me. Like he can't give me good weather to take more walks, but he can go for walks with me.

So instead of focusing on the negative, write a Wish List and focus only on the positive. And every time you wave your own magic wand and make one of your wishes come true, you can cross it off your list.

One summer, my family got together and wrote a list called "The Summer of 100 Wishes." It was fun crossing things off that list, like movies we wanted to see or trips we wanted to take. We probably did 50 things we wouldn't have done if we didn't have that list to spur us on.

My latest Wish List, which I wrote before my most recent birthday, includes things like "See a great stand-up comedy show." I was happy to cross that off my list after the opening night show at this year's New York's Comic Con.

So forget about making New Year's resolutions. Forget about feeling bad about yourself. Instead, make a Wish List.

What would be your top five wishes for 2014?

Monday, December 30, 2013

What Was and Wasn't Lost That Day

My mother is on the left, here pictured with her mother and younger sisters. Judging by the age of her youngest sister in this photo, this is probably from 1951, when my mother was 15. 

My mother’s story begins with running, a hand holding tight, a lost doll, and a dead body.

These are parts of the first memory she could recall, something that happened to her when she was only two or three years old, possibly even a bit younger.  

Like her mother, my mother was born in Jerusalem. My grandmother, however, was born when Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule; while my mother was born under British rule.

My mother was the middle child of seven siblings to survive to adulthood. She had three older brothers and three younger sisters. She also had three sisters she never knew who had lived and died in infancy before she came into this world. She was born on the very last day of 1935, so it’s possible that her first memory is tied in with the riots that took place Jerusalem’s Old City during the November of 1937.

On the first day she could remember vividly, she was a little girl, just a toddler, sitting on a bus with her grandmother, Savtah Bat-Sheva.

My mother, second from the top left, with her parents, sisters, and a baby (perhaps one of my cousins). My great-grandmother Bat-Sheva is on the right.

My mother remembered my great-grandmother— the one I’m named after—as always being dressed meticulously. She had a printed housecoat that she wore around the house, but when she went out, she wore a black dress with a white apron. While the housecoat was something she had been bought in a store, everything else she wore was tailored and handmade. The apron had lace on it with intricate details that she had crocheted herself. The scarf on her head was also her own handiwork. Between all that close-up crafting and her almost constant reading, her eyesight was very poor, and she had to wear thick glasses.

They sat on the number 11 bus in Jerusalem, side by side, on their way from my mother’s house to her grandparents’ house on the other side of Jerusalem. Occasionally, Savtah Bat-Sheva spoke a few words to her in Yiddish, the only language my great-grandmother could speak. My mother held a little rag doll in her hand, a gift from her grandmother. Had her grandmother made it herself? Probably, although there’s no way of knowing now. The only thing that matters is that it was a gift from her grandmother, who sat beside her and smiled down, her eyes, behind her thick glasses, shining with love.

As they passed She’ar Yaffo (Jaffa Gate), they suddenly heard shouting outside the bus. People were running. They were in a panic. They shouted, “Pogrom! Pogrom!” 

Other people were running behind them, angry men in Muslim attire, and they were shouting, “Itbakh Al Yehud!” Little Tova didn’t know that meant “Slaughter the Jews!” but she could tell the men were angry, and the people running away from them were terrified.

The bus stopped, and the doors swung open. Savtah Bat-Sheva held Tova’s hand tight, and Tova held her little doll’s hand tight. Young and healthy adults got off the bus and started running away from the Old City, away from the danger. A group of people carried bodies onto the bus. Some of those carried on were moving and groaning, but there was one bloodied person who was perfectly still. What was wrong with him? Why wasn’t he moving? Little Tova didn’t understand, but years later, she realized that the man had probably died from his wounds.  

The driver swung the doors closed. He drove as fast as he could on Jaffa Road to the center of Western Jerusalem and didn’t stop until he reached where Binyan Klal stands today. He opened the doors. “Quickly, quickly!” he shouted at the elderly and the women with children still on the bus. “Get off! I’m taking these people to the hospital!”

Savtah Bat-Sheva picked little Tova off the chair and pulled her to the door. Tova held her grandmother’s hand tight in one hand and her little rag doll tight in the other. They got off the bus and found themselves in a streaming river of people heading in both directions. Half the people were running away in a panic from the Old City. The other half were running toward the Old City in the hopes of finding their loved ones safe or to see what they could do to help. Little Tova saw legs running, everyone running.

But what about her dear old grandmother?

The thing my mother remembers the most about that day is that her grandmother ran.

How was this possible? Her Savtah Bat-Sheva, this old woman who spent most of the day sitting and crocheting or readingrunning

But Savtah Bat-Sheva ran, then, ran for her life and her granddaughter’s life. 

And Tova had to move her tiny feet faster than she had ever moved them before to keep up. 
Her grandmother held her little hand tight, and Tova clutched her little rag doll tight. 

Then the rag doll slipped from her little hand. It fell into the street. Tova cried out, “My doll!” 

She reached back, but she couldn’t see it. There were too many people running around them. She wanted to stop. She wanted to go back to get her doll. But Savtah Bat-Sheva held her hand tight and continued to run. She ran and ran until little Tova finally reached her grandparents’ home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

 My mother didn’t know exactly when this event took place or exactly how old she was at the time; she only knew that it was her first memory and she was very little. In a video interview I made with her, she asked me to try to work it out based on historical resources. So I looked it up.

The riots of November 1937 weren’t the first or the last of the riots, but she hadn’t even been born when the Jews of Hebron were massacred in 1929, and she would have been too young at the time of the riots that took place between April and November of 1936 to remember them. It could, however, have happened later. The Arab Revolt lasted until 1939 when they were stopped by “Charles Orde Wingate, an officer in the British army. Wingate, pro-Zionist and a Christian, organized Special Night Squads of Jewish volunteers to combat the attackers.” So my mother could have been anywhere from almost two years old to over three at the time of her first memory. (Source: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/riots36.html)

How does an event like that shape a person? 

You might think it would make them fearful, but my mother was fearless. You might think it would make them suspicious of other people, but my mother loved and was loved by almost everyone she met up until the end. 

During one visit to the hospital, my brother asked an orderly where my mother was.

“Who?” the orderly asked, not recognizing the name.

“The charming woman,” my brother replied, having no better way to describe her.

The orderly smiled and knew exactly who he was talking about.

If anything, I think it made my mother appreciate life all the more. It made her see it as a miracle. And even in the worst stories she told—stories of riots and war and death and destruction (with the exception of one story that I plan to get to later)—there was also a sense of wonder that life, the miracle of life, goes on.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Mother's Stories

My mother, Tova Hacohen Wachtfogel, at age 72 during a visit to the United States for my son's bar mitzvah
A few weeks before my mother died in Jerusalem, she told me in a telephone conversation that stretched all the way to the United States about sitting down with her sister Sarah and reminiscing about the past. That day they had talked about the time they spent in Tel Aviv in the late 1950s, two young and beautiful ladies in a young and beautiful country—all three with ancient histories and fascinating stories—sipping coffee in a café.

My mom worked back then as a journalist, a children’s page editor, and a publishing assistant for the newspaper owned and run by her father and brothers. Her work didn’t make the front page, but, there in that café and everywhere she went, she had a front seat to history.

“You need to write your stories down,” I told her over the phone. “I want to read them, and I know I’m not the only one.”

Several years earlier, I had interviewed my mother for a book I was writing, which was a fictionalized version of her life in Jerusalem before, during, and a few years following Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. My mother had been twelve years old at the time of the war—a bat mitzvah girl—and the book was a project I was working on for a publisher who specialized in gifts for Jewish girls. The publisher had loved the story . . . until she asked me to add historic facts. The historic facts didn’t agree with her less than Zionistic friends, and her demand that I rewrite history to suit them didn’t agree with my principles and journalistic integrity, so the project fell through.

But I still had all these stories I had gathered when I was researching the book, and they were wonderful stories.

Perhaps it was for the best that the project fell through. Even before I started working on it, I had wanted to write a book about four generations of women in my family that spanned from the very early 1900s until the present in the Holy Land.  I wanted to write that book, Bathsheba's Daughters, because these women had great stories, stories that deserved to be shared. And a few weeks before my mother died, when we still hoped she might be with us for at least a few more years, I wanted her to share more of her stories. It was the greatest inheritance she could possibly leave behind.

“I’m not a writer,” my mother replied, this from a woman who was a journalist for decades.

“But you’re a good storyteller,” I told her.

“I’m not that good a storyteller,” she replied. “You know who’s a good storyteller? Your Aunt Sarah.”

“You are,” I said, although I suppose modesty prevented her from admitting it. “And if you don’t want to write your stories down, you could hire someone to write them down for you.”

She told me a great aunt of mine was doing that, paying someone to listen to her life’s story and turn it into a book for her kids and grandkids. “You should do that, too.”

She said it was a good idea and implied that she would think about it.

I’m sure she did. I’m sure it gave her a reason to want to stay around just a little longer. My mother was the kind of mom who would do anything for her children. Anything.

But God had other plans.

So now it’s up to me, the daughter who writes, the collector of stories.

When we were sitting Shiva for my mom, a few people came to me with stories. Stories about my mother, my grandmother, and my great grandmother. And I grabbed those stories with both hands.

I knew, for example, that my grandmother had been a bit of a rebel when she was a teenager, but I didn’t know that she would lean forward when the seamstress was measuring her for dresses, because she wanted the hemline to be higher than her parents would permit. I knew that my great grandmother was funny, creative and smart, but I didn’t know that under her bed in her old age she kept a green plastic shopping basket that contained a chess set, and I didn’t know that she would pull out that basket and play chess when a young distant cousin came to visit. Even in her old age, she still had a playful side.  

I shared the stories I had collected, too, but there were so many of them. I couldn't possibly tell them all.  

I told them about the book I had worked on and the book I had planned to write.

“I want to read that,” they told me. “Publish it, and I'll buy a copy.”

I promised to post the stories on my blog, and that is what I hope to be doing from time to time over the following weeks. Maybe if I write enough of them and collect enough photos and other material from my family, I’ll put it all together as that book I was planning to write, the one about four generations of women in the Holy Land.

I hope you’ll forgive me for this little detour. I know I usually write about writing, designing books, comedy, and geek stuff. But these stories about the women in my family deserve to be told. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A story of Planes, Trains, a Taxi, Walking, Ice Skating, and Hitchhiking!

You know the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Our return home from Jerusalem was a story of Planes, Trains, a Taxi, Walking, Ice Skating and Hitchhiking! 

The roads in and out of Jerusalem were closed on Saturday night because of all the abandoned cars still stuck in the snow. At 7:30 they opened to public transportation only, so we arranged to get a taxi to Ben Gurion Airport at 3 AM. The taxi picked us up, but it kept slipping and sliding on the road from my sister's house. At one point near the entrance to Jerusalem, the taxi got stuck. We got out and pushed. The driver told us to get out and walk up ahead to meet him, so there were were in the middle of the night, stomping around in deep snow and slipping on the glassy ice for about half a mile. Two ultra-orthodox men in a car behind us offered to give us a ride, so I climbed in with my daughter and son, and they took us up to the taxi. My husband, on the other hand, decided to run to the taxi instead. The taxi driver yelled at him, "Don't run!" because he was afraid my husband might have a bad fall and hurt himself, but somehow he managed.

We drove between the cars, buses, trucks, and other abandoned vehicles that were still stuck at the sides of the road. There were almost no other cars there. The closer we got to Tel Aviv, the more cars and the less snow we saw. I called my sister when we arrived at the airport to tell her we had made it. She said we were lucky, because they announced that the road out of Jerusalem was again closed to all traffic at 4:30. She said we were probably one of the last vehicles to make it out that morning!

We took an El Al plane to Zurich, Switzerland, spent five hours in the airport there, and then took a Swiss Air flight to Newark, NJ. This is a video I shot in the train at the airport in Zurich. There's something surprising on the train, so I decided to record it and share it with you. Pretty cool, huh?

The entire journey, from the time we got the taxi to the time we got home, took about 25 hours. What an ordeal. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't been through it myself. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow in Jerusalem

Pictures of snow in Jerusalem on December 13, 2013. The dog belongs to my sister. The smile belongs to my niece, Shir.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Snow in Jerusalem

I came here to see my mother one last time, but I was too late: she died after the plane landed but before I could make it to the hospital. My brother told me the last time she smiled was when he passed on my message that I love her, and she said, "Tell Shevi I love her, too."

It rained on the day she died. It's been raining most of the week. When my sister and I spoke at the funeral, the clouds cleared, and a ray of light shined down on us. Today we got up from sitting shiva, and it snowed. 

My mother was an amazing woman. She lived through hard times and was a witness to history. She was a journalist, the manager of a business, a mother, and a teacher, but more importantly, she always had a smile and a kind word for everyone she met up to the very end. I wish you could have met her. You would have loved her. Everyone did.

I hope the snow and ice clear before Saturday night, or we'll have a hard time getting to the airport for our return flight. Please wish us a safe trip home.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Won #NaNoWriMo!

I did it! I wrote 50,000 words in a month! Now to finish this novel. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guerilla Market Your Book! A Guest Post by Peter Adler

Today I'm delighted to present a guest post by Peter Adler, author of Wyndano's Cloak. I asked Peter to share his tips on getting your book into bookstores and face-to-face sales.

Guerilla Market Your Book!
by Peter Adler

Author Peter Adler
In this era of online book marketing, it’s easy to forget the tried and true sales techniques of the past. That would be a shame. The old ways are not only effective but are immensely satisfying. 

Today, I’ll focus on the direct approach, where you engage face to face with potential customers. The ways this can happen are virtually infinite, and are only limited by your creativity and reluctance. 

The more conventional direct approaches include making a presentation at a bookstore, setting up a table at a convention, fair, or outdoor market; or appearing at a library show. Less conventional direct sales techniques utilize guerilla marketing. Let’s look at both conventional and less conventional approaches, emphasizing the latter.

Bookstore presentations fall into two categories:

1) A formal talk, which can include reading an excerpt, showing a video or slide show, and even having a party. One author I know pulls in two hundred or more children to do face painting. She gets donations from local businesses for the food, drinks, and raffle. The events are so well received in her community that she gets media coverage. Talk about bringing attention to your book!

2) Setting up a table and greeting customers as they walk into the store.

I’ve done both types. The most successful for me was the second approach, which I describe in depth in these two posts: Art of the Meet and Greet Part I and Art of the Meet and Greet Part II

If you decide to pursue a convention, fair, or outdoor market, but not a bookstore event, take a look at Part II anyway. The techniques I describe will be helpful. Hands down, I’ve sold more books with meet and greets than any other method. They’re fun, and I’ve made lasting contacts. 

For example, I’ve met librarians, teachers, and book-club members interested in having me do a presentation. I met a book blogger who bought and reviewed my novel, Wyndano’s Cloak. I admit, I was a bit terrified of what he’d say; he’d told me in no uncertain terms that he only reads adult suspense thrillers and mysteries, and he would tell me exactly what he thought of my book. Fortunately, he loved it. Not only did he post his review on his blog, Amazon, and Goodreads, but he approached me later for an interview. Then he came back a month ago and asked me to appear at a new indie bookstore, where he coordinates events.

The best part of meet and greets is the interaction with the customers, particularly children. Their excitement at reading books, their excitement at meeting an author, these are priceless. Several have written to me afterward, and as a writer, you know there is nothing better than touching the heart of a reader. Yes, readers who find me online can write to me too, but trust me, that live connection is deeper, more meaningful.

Which brings me to Guerilla Marketing. 

Listen up, folks. You’ve got to walk around with your Kindle! It’s a serious conversation starter.

While waiting for a concert to start, I was reading on my Kindle.  People who haven’t seen them are curious. I ended up demonstrating how it worked and showed the guy next to me what my book looked like. He took down my book info. At the very least, it was exposure. 

One day, I walked into my bank with my Kindle, housed in a green velvet cover my wife made. The teller asked if it was a Kindle, and we got to talking. I asked her what kind of books she likes. Don’t bypass that question. It’s your way of gauging if this person might like your book. With a bashful expression, she confessed she liked young adult fiction and Harry Potter. Bingo! That was my opening. I told her I wrote in that genre and showed her Wyndano’s Cloak on my Kindle. She said that it was exactly what she loved to read. The next time I came in, I brought a copy of the hardback. I ended up at a different window from hers, but I held up the book. She came over and asked if she could look at it. Her eyes were aglow when I left. Long story short, she bought it for her Kindle, loved the book, posted a review on Amazon, and loaned it to another teller. Every time I see her, we talk books and she asks when my next book will come out.

This being my first year in our new house, I had no idea whether children would show up for Halloween. In the past, they never did, but a hunch told me I better ask my neighbor. He said I could expect three bags worth of kids. It was an hour from sundown. I high-tailed it to the store, snagged candy, dashed back home, and started setting up. I already had the new book cover on our wall, so people would see it when I opened the door. I joked with my wife that it was free marketing as I handed out treats. All of sudden she cried, “You’ve got to print copies of the new cover and first chapter! And wear your Renaissance costume.” 

Our dining room window looks out on the front doorstep, so I set up the hardback and new cover on bookstands there. When children and parents came to the door, they saw the display. Free exposure! I gave out the chapter sample to the older kids, who seemed dazzled. They asked me what I was dressed up as. I replied, “The Mage of Aerdem,” referencing the fantasyland in the book. Everywhere else they got a few pieces of candy. Here they got a signed chapter from an author.

If you try any of the above, be polite, and never hard sell. Have fun. Enjoy making connections. Imagination is our stock-in-trade. Put it to use in your marketing. The possibilities are endless!

* * *

About the Author: A. R. Silverberry has won a dozen awards, including Gold Medal Winner in the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Awards for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction; Gold Medal Winner in the 2010 Readers Favorite Awards for Preteen Fiction; and Silver Medal Winner 2011 in the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book, Children’s/Young Adult. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. Wyndano's Cloak is his first novel. Follow him at the links below!
A. R. Silverberry’s Website

Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears—of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever. She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen's family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning. Wyndano's Cloak may be Jen's only hope. If she’s got what it takes to use it . . . 

Monday, October 28, 2013

T.A.R.D.I.S. nails

$10 manicure in a favorite color, $10 lunch at a favorite sushi restaurant, a favorite tee, and sparkly jewelry: life is pretty good.

I've finished writing my part of Shop Poor, Eat Rich: How to Feed a Family Well on a Shoestring Budget. Now I only have some editing to do, and then my Facebook friend, Marla Bowie LePley, will add her recipes. So I thought I'd spoil myself a little. Better to do it now, before NaNoWriMo takes up all my time rewriting the second book in the Gilbert the Fixer series.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The start of the second book in the Legend of Gilbert the Fixer

Here's what I have so far of the first chapter of Why It Still Mega Bites, book two in the Legend of Gilbert the Fixer. I'm going to be doing a complete rewrite of the rest of the book for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), because I figured out some things I can do to raise the stakes (and hopefully make it even funnier). Enjoy!

“Stop worrying, Gil!” I tell him. “Nothing bad is going to happen tonight.”
“Why did you say that?” He looks back at me, but only for a second. “It’s like you’re daring the universe, and the way things have been going lately, it seems the universe has it in for me.”
Cheese and crackers, he walks fast!
Feels like I have to take two steps for every one of his just to catch up, and it’s hard with all these people out for a night on the town in the way. And it’s cold. This vintage black velvet jacket is so cute, but it’s not very warm. Good thing I bought these cute little black boots last week. Glad I didn’t go for that pair with high heels. I wouldn’t be able to run in those. “Your Uncle Ian isn’t going to find you.”
“There you go again, daring the universe.”
“You’re a scientist, right? There are like a billion people—“
“Less than ten million, and that’s the entire city of New York, not just Manhattan.”
Sigh. My new best friend forever is like Google. He has an answer for everything.  “And in the miles and miles of places he can be at any given time,” I ask him, “what are the chances that you’re going to be in the same place at the same time?”
“Given that he’s looking for me?”
“Okay, yes.”
He stops, stares at me, and frowns.
I can see the calculations going on inside his head behind his eyes. He’s probably multiplying the number of people in the city by the number of blocks, by the number of minutes in the night, or something.
He’s cuter than he used to be, now that he’s a vampire, his zits are gone, and I made him cut his curly dark hair. But he’s still not my type at all. He has the nicest eyes, though, so big, brown and kind. Not dark brown, but milk-chocolate caramel with little bits of gold. They remind me of my dog Cookie’s eyes. Well, Cookie’s eyes before I became a vampire, and he wanted to kill me. Even when he’s mad, Gil doesn’t look like he really wants to kill me. Gil has the prettiest long dark lashes, too. Wish I had lashes like that.
“There’s no real way of knowing,” he says. Oh, good, not an exact number. Of course, that probably means he realizes how ridiculous he’s being. “But it’s certainly much higher than if we hadn’t left the hotel. We should go back.” Maybe not.
“We went out twice last week,” I remind him. “You were worried about your Uncle Ian then, and did anything bad happen?”
“Yeah!” He looks around us. We’re surrounded by people, but they’re all too busy going somewhere to care about us. Still, Gil gets close so he can whisper in my ear. “The man in the train station, and the old lady in the alley.”
Oh, come on. “I mean to you. Did anything bad happen to you? Did your Uncle Ian track you down and stick you somewhere so small it makes your old room look like a palace?” He’s said it so many times that I don’t need his eidetic memory to repeat it word for word.
He smiles one of his narrow-eyed sarcastic smiles. “You know what they say. ‘Third time’s a charm.’”
Oh, boy.
“I agree with the Admiral.” It’s Captain’s voice with his English accent coming out of Gil’s wristwatch. Of course, he’d agree with the guy who invented him. “It would be safer if we returned to the ship.”
“It would be safer if we spent all night in bed rolled up into a ball,” I say. “But that wouldn’t be much fun.”
“Guess that would depend on who you’re rolled up into a ball with,” Gil replies. “That’s two votes to one. We should go back.”
What do I say? I love the hotel, but I don’t want to be stuck there forever. And I’m sure Gil doesn’t either. “I get that you’re all about the future, but maybe just this once can you try to enjoy the moment? Please? Look around you. Look at the people. Don’t they look—“
“I was going to say colorful.” And they do. It’s one of the things I love about being a vampire, how all the colors of everything are so amazing, especially living things. There are all these colors that human eyes can’t see. They shimmer and glow, and there are so many of them. The crowd is this beautiful, shimmering, rainbow flowing around us.
Gil looks to the left and right. I know he sees it, too. And even though he tries to hide it, I see one corner of his mouth go up in a bit of a smile. He loves it. He’ll never admit it, but he does.
And then there’s the way people smell like different foods. Funny, though, everyone here smells kind of the same.
“And don’t the people smell—“
“Gil!” I laugh and whack his arm with my handbag, not hard, just a little whack.
He laughs, too.
“I was going to say like chocolate. They smell like chocolate.”
“That’s not the people. We just passed the best chocolate store in Manhattan.”
Is he kidding? Really? “Then why don’t we buy some?”
He sighs. “I bought chocolate for my Uncle Ian there.”
Groan. “This is ridiculous.”
“We should head back to the hotel.”
“No, you only get two nights off a week, and I don’t want to—“
A light flashes red on his watch, and I see words scroll across it. He has a text message. He turns his back to me to check it. I try to get in front of it to see, but he keeps turning so I can’t. When he turns back to face me, the text is gone.
“What’s it say?” I ask.
“What’s it say?”
“Giiiiiiiillllll . . .” I can make him crack. I just have to stare at him long enough.
He crosses his arms and looks away. Then he grumbles, “Mr. Ramirez says the ladies in room 1204 want Mario to fix their Internet connection.”
I laugh, but I try to do it only on the inside. Poor Gil. Those girls from the bachelorette party will not leave ‘Mario’ alone. I had to go and give vampire charm to the one guy in the world who would consider it a curse. “You’re right. We should head back to the hotel.”
“I only get two nights off a week.”
“But we wouldn’t want to disappoint the ladies in room 1204.”
“Yeah, we would.”
We’re approaching a corner, but I really want to head back for some chocolate. I can smell it everywhere, and it smells so good.
Ooh, I have an idea.
I grab Gil’s arm and pull him back into a little boutique that sells fancy dresses. I keep pulling him, until we’re both standing in a poorly lit corner at the back of the store. He looks nervous.
“We’re not going clothes shopping for you again, are we?”
“No, in fact, I’m going to make that up to you. Those clothes I bought helped me get a job, so I have money now. I’m going to go back down the street to buy chocolate, while you wait. Unless you think your Uncle Ian is going to find you here.”
“Oh, yeah, I bought him a little black dress from this boutique for his birthday. He wears it all the time.”
I laugh. He’s so funny. I picked the right guy to be my best vampire friend forever, I really did.
I start heading to the door.
“Chocolate covered pistachios or apple and cinnamon white chocolate, please,” he calls out to me.
They have chocolate with cinnamon? Ooh, I love cinnamon! “You got it.”
Gil steps back into the shadows, and I step outside.
I retrace our steps around the corner and back half a block down Broadway. Ooh, that chocolate smells so good. Here’s the store, so bright and shiny. Now where does this line of people end? Oh, cheese and crackers, it goes all the way down the block and around the next corner.
This could take forever.
Unless . . .
My friends, Rob and Jessie, always say, “If you got it, flaunt it.” I have vampire charm. I just need to figure out who to use it on . . .
That big guy in a fancy suit with big cowboy boots and a big cowboy hat. A guy that big must be from Texas. I just need to casually sidle up to him and play the damsel in distress.
“Oh, heavens to Betsy, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Not a bad Texan accent, even if I do say so myself.
He turns to look at me and smiles.
I blink back fake tears.
His smile turns into a look of concern. “Is something wrong, little missy?”
“My best friend told me this place sells the most amazing chocolate, but this line is so long. I don’t think I’ll be able to buy anything and get back to the hotel in time. Oh, I could just cry.”
“Well, I would hate to see such a pretty little thing like you in tears. Why don’t you join me in line? You other fellers wouldn’t mind, would you?”
I look wide-eyed at the people behind him, my lower lip quivering like I’m about to cry. The big Texan looks at them, too. After a few seconds, they shake their heads.
“Thank you!” I say and flash them a big smile. They smile back.
Vampire charm, it works every time.
I step in line next to the gentleman from Texas. “You’re my hero.”
He looks down at me and blushes. “Well, shucks, little lady. It weren’t nothing.”
It still takes a few minutes before we finally get to the counter. He indicates that he wants me to go first. I thank him.
Gil said he wanted either the chocolate covered pistachios or the cinnamon apple white chocolate. I’m going to surprise him and get both.
The woman at the counter puts the two little light-blue containers in a bag, rings up my order, and tells me how much I have to pay.
“Cheese and crackers, that’s expensive.” Gasp. I cover my mouth. Can’t believe I said cheese and crackers out loud! I should never, ever, ever say that in New York. Back home it’s cute, but here it just makes me sound like a hick who should have stayed in Hicksville.
The big man is looking down at me and grinning so wide.
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, darling.” He hands his credit card to the woman behind the counter. “I’m paying for hers,” he tells the woman, “and I’d like the biggest box of truffles you got for me.”
“Oh, no,” I tell him. “That’s way too generous! I can afford to buy my own. I was just surprised, is all.”
“No, I insist.” He turns back to the woman behind the counter. “And I want you to put a little box of truffles in the little lady’s bag, too.”
I try to protest, but he refuses to hear it.
“You called me a hero,” he says, “and that has been the highlight of my entire trip. Now let me pay for your order, so I can feel like I actually deserve that title.”
The woman carefully puts together a small box of truffles, puts it in the bag with the chocolate I ordered, and hands me the bag. The big man turns his back to me, as he asks the woman about the different truffles and decides how many of each he wants in his own order.
Oh, what the heck.
I put one hand on the counter to help me jump up so I can give him a peck on the cheek.
He turns to me in surprise, blushes, and gives me a big smile.
Oh, wow, he has a gold tooth.
I smile back and wave. Then I slide past the line and out the door.
Better rush. Gil is waiting for me. So many people in the way. You’d think this was a Saturday night, not Monday. I pause to let a large group of people heading the other way pass. This might be a good time to count my blessings.
I could start with these gorgeous new boots. And my new blue jeans. And this stylish black blouse. And this vintage black velvet jacket that I love. And Gil, of course. I could not have found a more perfect best friend forever, even if he does have a huge ego. Of course, he’s super smart, so I guess he has a right to think he’s the guy who’s going to fix the world. Maybe he will, who knows? And I’m so lucky to have a job where vampire charm helps me get great tips, even if some of the guys who eat at the café just want to look at my boobs. And I’m really lucky to be living in the hotel, even if it isn’t the nicest room.
Mom always says that I should “Choose to be happy.” Until about a week ago, that hasn’t been easy. Everything I owned fit in this little handbag. But all that has changed. Now I have Gil. I even have his amazing friends, well, except for Jenny. She hates me, because she has a crush on him. I know she does, even though she won’t admit it. She’d probably stop hating me, if she realized he loves her back big time. Wish I hadn’t promised him I wouldn’t tell.
Enough of that. Breathe in . . .  
Ooh, that chocolate smells so good.
I have a great best friend forever. I have chocolate. I have everything. I am happy, because I choose to be.
There’s a break in the crowd, and the sidewalk is almost clear now. I make a dash for the corner.
When I get back to the boutique, Gil is still hiding in the back.
“I’m surprised you’re not wearing a costume by now,” I tell him, talking again in the New York accent I’ve adopted. “There’s a big pink hat at the front that would look divine on you.”
“Laugh all you want,” he replies, “but I have every reason to be, you know, careful.”
I hold up the bag of chocolates. “So do you want to eat these outside? Or do you think we should head back to the hotel so you can share them with the ladies in room 1204?”
He shudders and walks up to take the bag from my hand. He looks in the bag and tilts his head in a puzzled expression, just like my dog Cookie. “Wait, you bought all of this with your tips?”
No need to tell him the truth, but I don’t exactly have to lie. I shrug. “What can I say? I am a very good waitress, and it pays well.” Because I am, and it does.
“I guess, but shouldn’t you be saving your money?”
“Well, you never know what’s going to happen.”
“Sounds like a better reason to spend it.”
He shrugs, reaches into the bag, and pulls out the chocolate-covered pistachios.
“Can’t we open the cinnamon apple white chocolate first?” I ask sweetly.
He sighs, puts the light-blue container in his hand back, and takes the other one out.
I take his elbow, and we step out onto the sidewalk.
His eyes dart around in every direction, his body tense. Then he relaxes and opens the container. I guess he didn’t see his Uncle Ian. Why would he? It’s just ridiculous.
He hands me a piece of chocolate. It’s a tiny lumpy off-white cube with little bits of sparkling golden apple showing through the white chocolate in places.
I pop it in my mouth and let it melt. “Oh, my gosh, that’s so good! You’re right. I think that’s the best chocolate I’ve ever had. I just love the cinnamon.”
“I’ll remember that,” he replies. Of course, he will. He remembers everything. He pops a piece of chocolate into his mouth and smiles. “It has this weird salty-spicy taste it didn’t have before. I kind of like it.”
“See?” I bump elbows with him. “There are advantages to being a vampire.”
He rolls his eyes. “Yeah, well, they don’t exactly make up for you ruining my life.”
“I’m working on it.”
He starts walking quickly through the rainbow river of people crossing the street and on the sidewalk again. He seems a bit more relaxed, though. I guess that little piece of chocolate helped. I know chocolate usually cheers me up.
And he really doesn’t have anything to worry about. Nothing bad is going to happen tonight. That’s just in his head. His ridiculously brilliant head. Wish I was half as smart.
Again I have to walk in double time just to keep up with him. I fall a few steps behind.
Suddenly he stops, and I bang into him.
“What is it?” I ask.
He points down the block ahead of us. “That’s the dog that used to follow me home.”
What dog? All I see are people.
A man and woman step into the street, and there it is. It’s big, and it has long thick silvery fur that shimmers under the lights of the city, but . . .
I gulp.
A shiver runs up my spine, and my heart skips a beat.
“Gil, I don’t think that’s a dog.”
“What do you mean?”
I look up into the dark sky. Yup, there it is. “See the full moon?” It shines pale gold between the tall buildings, like a perfectly round spotlight. “I do believe that is a werewolf.”
He looks at me, his eyes narrowed again. “Why would a werewolf start following me home when I was twelve?”
That’s a good question. Why would a werewolf follow him home? And why would he run into that same werewolf tonight of all nights, when I’m trying to convince him he doesn’t have to worry about his Uncle . . . 
“No!” he shouts.
“Funny, you have the same look on your face that you did in Bucky Bee’s when I told you you were a vampire.”
“No! My Uncle Ian cannot be a werewolf. It doesn’t m—“
“Make any sense. You’re using a lot of the same words, too. But look on the bright side.”
“What bright side?” he shouts.
“At least this time, it’s not my fault.”
The werewolf is staring at us. It sits on the concrete, raises its head, and lets out a long and loud howl. Cheese and crackers, that’s creepy.
“Why did it do that?” Gil asks.
I shrug. “Any ideas?”
“Just one: run!”
He grabs my hand. We dart between the people. I look over my shoulder. The werewolf is coming after us, but it doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Why isn’t it in a hurry? I have a bad feeling about this.