Dark Shadows: Soap Opera Meets Horror

I watched the 1990s rendition of Dark Shadows when I was about 13 or 14 years old. Although it only lasted a season, I was hooked. I read some things on Wikipedia as I was writing this because that site has something on everything. The articles I read said that Dark Shadows paved the way for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I liked for a few seasons) and the soap opera Passions (which I have yet to watch a single episode). The article also said that Dark Shadows is “widely credited” with introducing the “good” vampire. Novel idea, huh? Some authors have made millions on that idea.

Anyway, from what I remember, Dark Shadows had vampires involved with the surreal drama that could only be found on daytime television. I was so fascinated by the show that I started writing a story where my villain would be a vampire too. (Who ever heard of good vampires? Ha!). In my freshman year of high school I started the story of Countercharm. Of course it was not titled yet but I had my idea and I ran with it. The title for Countercharm came to me from my thesaurus. I looked up “magic” and “charms” and “powers” and there it was “counter charm”. I find a lot of my book titles that way.

OK, so I hand wrote the entire book during my lunch breaks at school. (I still have it…somewhere.) Everyday the story unfolded before me. Sydnie Knight met Ron Andres and her world and mine changed. She began her adventure and I became an author. Ron was going to be the vampire villain with his “swirling” brown eyes that would hypnotize her into submission. However, my characters had a completely different plan. I usually have an idea of where I want my stories to go, but they end up veering pleasantly off course and I find myself writing in a totally different direction. And it works! Somehow everything comes together and makes sense. And it’s better than my original outline.

Sydnie was much more special than being a potentially good meal. Her adventure was bigger. Ron still had swirling eyes by the end of the first draft. However, he was no longer a vampire but a person with extraordinary abilities (I will give no spoilers here). So Countercharm became a teen drama worthy of daytime TV with the added spice of otherworldly energy. I think of Countercharm as a modern science fiction fantasy with some magical elements. It’s still grounded in real things and real people but people with special gifts.

It took me 10 years to “perfect” Countercharm. Yeah, 10. I learned a lot about writing during that time. You’re welcome. You would not have wanted to see the first draft. It went through like 3 or more drafts after that first one. I completely changed characters. I actually snatched out a character named Scott because I met a guy during one of the revisions named Scott. And I did not like Scott. He got replaced by a younger, cuter character. Sydnie went from sitting on floating pillows in her living room (because she lived far into the future and there will be floating seat cushions by then) to just lying on the couch (with gravity) reading her and one of my favorite books: A Wrinkle in Time. Several characters lost got lost in the trash. I eventually pulled them out, dusted them off and asked them what happened, then sent them to play in the second book, Countercharm 2: Of Stars and Dreams. Those are a few of the less drastic changes.

So that is how Countercharm came to be. There is so much out there to influence writers, and Dark Shadows was that first inspiration for me. Thinking about it now, I may go back and try to watch the 1970s version of it. According to Wikipedia the original ran a good 6 years, and I hear there’s a Dark Shadows movie in the works starring Johnny Depp as the vampire Barnabas Collins! If he can do what he did with Jack Sparrow for Barnabas Collins, he has a fan in me.

There will be more on my upcoming books soon. And I promise, it won’t take 10 years for those. I’m thinking only like seven.


The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #1) – Book Review

OK. So I’ve finished The Alchemyst #1 by Michael Scott. It is the story of brother and sister Josh and Sophie, fraternal twins who are quickly caught up in the world of magic and mythology and legend by Josh’s employers Nick and Perry Fleming who turn out to be the Flamels, famed alchemyst and sorceress. Fortunately or unfortunately for the twins their destinies were foretold in an ancient book called the Codex and now they are irreversibly linked to a world where myths and legends have more than a grain of truth in them.

This first book of the series introduces Josh and Sophie and the dilemma facing a world the twins are destined to save or destroy because these two have extraordinary dormant magical powers. They must come into their own and learn to control these powers while being chased by a maniacal magician Dr. John Dee and his dark (evil? possibly) allies.

I thought this was a well-developed and well-researched book. The interconnectedness of each character with historical facts was very well done. For young readers, this book gives the opportunity to explore world history, literature, mythology and science without cracking a textbook. Although after reading it I’m sure they will want to look up some of these facts for themselves. I have not checked the facts for myself yet, but it could easily be done.

Although a great story, well paced and interesting, it does become predictable in parts for someone like me who has read many books about fantasy and magic and watched countless movies in the genre. There were places where the answers to a strange new character or place were obvious, yet Josh and Sophie seemed slow on realizing the truth. But for a young reader, this becomes a journey not only for entertainment but for knowledge as well. It will definitely peak the interest of the reader in many different areas including history, art, science and geography.

It was a very quick read for me on the reader on my phone even at over 369 pages. There was a considerable amount of “name dropping”, like one of the characters knowing William Shakespeare. I didn’t care for the characters seeming to know many of the famous people in history myself, but again is a great device to link the fiction to fact and continue to create that suspension of belief that allows us to enjoy reading books like this.

Good book for the target audience of young adults, exciting, very dark in some places, but on the whole entertaining. And that’s why we read.