In 2000, I co-wrote an original YA Wishbone novel with my friend Michael Jan Friedman (Wishbone Mysteries #16: The Sirian Conspiracy). Wishbone was a very clever PBS-TV show that put a very charming little Jack Russell terrier into starring roles in classic books. I had been pitching to write the character with one editor, but the sum total of her direction for my sample chapters was, “No, this isn’t right. Try it again.” (One of many warning signs of a bad editor; they can’t tell you what’s wrong, but they want you to fix it anyway.) Mike had been writing for a different editor on the books, so I teamed with him and we sold our original (in the Wishbone Mysteries series) in no time.

My effort for that other editor, an adaptation of Frankenstein with Wishbone as Dr. Victor Von, never made it past two sample chapters. Here’s some of that:

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Chapter Two

After circling around three times on the chair cushion, Wishbone settled himself down and let his mind wander, imagining himself in the place of Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant young dog with a great hunger for knowledge. Victor had grown up in Geneva, Switzerland in the late 18th Century, the oldest son of a wealthy and loving family. All his life, Wishbone knew from Mary Shelley’s classic novel of gothic terror, Victor had been fascinated by the science of chemistry, by the mysteries of nature, especially of the awesome power of electricity, as well as the ancient and all but forgotten craft of alchemy, the fabled art of transforming plain metals into gold…

… And of creating life out of that which was not alive!

Of course, Victor Frankenstein kept the last part of his fascination a secret. Most people believed there were things that mankind was not meant to know, and certainly the secret of creating life was one such thing. If anyone were to learn of his obsession, they would surely think him a madman. Still, he knew that when the day came for him to go off to a great university to study chemistry and medicine, he would take with him his secret interest and seek out its answers there.

And that day was fast approaching. Indeed, as Victor sat out in a pasture not far from his home, his nose buried deep in a chemistry textbook while his family picnicked nearby, he was but a day away from taking his leave. Of course, the thought of leaving his father and brothers and cousin Elizabeth was painful to him, but Victor had always felt he was a dog born to fulfill some great destiny, and the excitement of starting the journey down the road to that destiny was almost enough to take the sting from his impending departure.

Even as he studied the book before him, he heard his beautiful young cousin Elizabeth gently scolding his youngest brother. “You mustn’t pull on your locket, dearest Willie, or it will break, and it contains such a lovely picture of your mother.”

Willie looked down at the gold locket on a chain around his neck, open to the tiny, delicate painting of a beautiful, golden hair woman inside it. “But I like playing with it, Elizabeth. And anyway, aren’t you my mother?” Willie, hardly more than a baby, asked.

Victor’s father reached over and gently patted Willie’s shoulder. The boy was too young to understand that his mother had died years before, right after Willie’s birth, leaving the grieving elder Frankenstein to raise his three sons alone. “I’ve explained this to you before, Willie. Elizabeth is your cousin. She came to live with us after your mother…went away,” he said sadly. “She has been a great help and comfort to us and we are most happy she is with us.”

Willie laughed. “She makes me very happy,” he said. “Elizabeth knows how to play all my favorite games.” The little boy began skipping around the picnic blanket and then took off in a dash to where Victor sat studying his book under a nearby tree. “Not like Victor! All he ever does is read, read, read! Don’t you like to play, Victor?”

Victor looked up at his baby brother and smiled indulgently. “I used to play all the time, Willie,” he said. “But now that I am grown up, I no longer have time for games. There is so much I have to learn… and many, many secrets I have to discover.”

Willie shook his head sadly, his golden curls bouncing, a pout on his lips. “That doesn’t sound like so much fun,” Willie said seriously. “You should always have time to play.”

“Perhaps someday,” Victor said wistfully. “When my work is done.”

“Well, I know what I’m going to do,” Willie said solemnly.

“What’s that, Willie dear?” Elizabeth asked, coming to stand over Victor and taking the younger boy’s hand in her own.

“I’m just never going to grow up!” Willie squealed happily and ran off, pulling Elizabeth with him. But before she turned to go, her eyes locked with Victor’s. He could see the sadness in those eyes and knew that his own were no happier. How he wished he could be like his brother, so happy and carefree, deciding to never grow up and be burdened with responsibilities! But even if that were possible, Victor Frankenstein knew that could never have been his fate. He had a destiny to fulfill and promises to keep.

Victor stared blankly down at the pages of his book and thought of the promises he had made to his mother on that awful day many years ago when she had died. The first was the one he had made out loud to her, holding her hand, looking into her once lovely and shining blue eyes, now grown dull and weak by the ordeal that was slowly draining her of life. The doctors had told Victor and his father that there was nothing they could do to save her, that the end was only hours away. All they could hope to do was make her comfortable and Victor sat by her bedside through the night, trying to do just that. Finally, as the morning sun began to peek over the mountains outside the window, she opened her eyes and, seeing her oldest child, smiled weakly. “Dearest Victor,” she said, her voice hardly more than a whisper. “Soon… I must leave you…”

“No, mother,” Victor said, squeezing her hand and trying to put on a brave face. “You’ll get better, I know you will!”

But his mother merely shook her head and said, “We both know that’s not to be. You are such a good son, a fine, sensitive boy. Promise me something, Victor!”

“Anything, mother,” he said.

“Your cousin Elizabeth… I love her as though she were my own daughter. It was always my hope that one day, when you were both old enough, that you would marry her. She is such a wonderful girl… and she loves you so very much. You two would be perfect together. Promise me, Victor! Promise me you and Elizabeth will make my dream come true…”

Victor nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. “Yes, mother. I too love Elizabeth. I will do as you ask, gladly.”

His mother smiled and nodded her head. “That is good, Victor. It makes me happy to know you will have someone to love you always.”

And then there was the second vow Victor Frankenstein had made that morning, one he swore to himself. The vow that still drove him, all these years later, to dedicate his life to his books and his studies. As he watched her draw her last breathes, he swore that he would one day be the man to conquer death so that neither he nor anyone else would ever have to feel the pain he and his family were suffering at the loss of his mother. Let all the doctors and all the scientists of all the world say it was impossible; Victor Frankenstein would find the way!

He was now closer than ever to making that vow a reality. Certainly there was much more he needed to know, knowledge both common and forbidden he needed to acquire. But the university would provide him with the opportunity to do that and he was anxious to begin, even if it meant leaving his family and dedicating his every waking hour to study and experimentation.

A drop of water hit the page of his book under his down turned face and for a moment, Victor thought he was crying at the memory of his mother. Then a second drop hit, and a third, and he realized that it was beginning to rain. He looked up to see Elizabeth and the others quickly gathering up the remains of their picnic lunch. “Oh dear,” Elizabeth was saying. “Our lovely outing is ruined. Hurry, everyone. And, oh, those dark clouds… it looks as though this is to be a terrible storm!”

Victor’s father chuckled as he folded the blanket on which they had been sitting. “This doesn’t spoil anything for Victor, does it, son? You love a good storm!”

Victor got to his feet and turned his face to the sky, letting the rain wash over his snout. “Yes, father. The rain is warm this time of year. You all go ahead and don’t worry about me. I’ll join you shortly.”

While the rest of his family rushed away to the safety of home, Victor remained in the pasture, the rain soaking through his fine clothing until he could feel its wet warmth down to his fur. But he hardly noticed this, his eyes fixed on the dark clouds high overhead rolling towards him, bringing with them the distant rumble of thunder. And then the lightning! Brilliant flashes of white light that made the storm gloomy afternoon suddenly and momentarily as bright as the sunniest noon.

Lightning! How well Victor remembered his father explaining to him the elements of electricity when he was still just a child. So powerful, so destructive that a single bolt could destroy the largest, mightiest oak tree or set aflame even the sturdiest structure. He knew a man could be struck by lightning and die instantly… or rise after the striking and walk away, utterly unharmed.

Lightning! There were secrets to it that mankind had yet to uncover, but its greatest secret, Victor believed, was that of life itself! One day, he would learn what that secret was and only then would he be able to keep the unspoken vow made at his mother’s side.


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