A new season of True Blood is almost upon us. My daughter introduced me to , the first of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, a few years back but, to tell the truth, although somewhat taken with it, I didn't get very much further. I can't recall a single spine-tingling moment. Not one scene made me think twice about fetching something from the storage shed in the backyard after dark. I can't remember a single line of it today.

That is certainly not true of Bram Stoker's original, . Images from that novel imprinted on me like Mother Goose on a gosling. The castle. The wolves. The three sisters. Lucy and the shape at her window. Renfield and the flies. Mina Harker. Dr. Van Helsing. Of course, reading it at the tender age of 13 might have had something to do with it. I was raised in 1950's central Illinois on roast beef and mashed potatoes and canned peas. It's likely that the first I ever heard of garlic was in the pages of Dracula. And we had none.

But down on the corner, in a very big house, lived an Irish Catholic family with a daughter about my age. I envied her. I envied her name - Marka. Exotic. I envied her religion. Catholic. Mysterious. Forbidden. I even envied her hair. Black. My entire family was one ubiquitous shade of Lutheran beige. I remember she invited me to church with them one time and that I wanted to go, but I have no memory of actually having gone. We might have been better friends, but she attended a Catholic school so, at a time when we might have been huddled together by our lockers whispering secrets and gossip, we went our separate ways.

It was Marka, of course, who saved me from a fate worse than death. She snuck a spare rosary out of her house and loaned it to me and I snuck it up into my room and clutched it like the talisman it was until I went to sleep.

I have to admit that I did read , and that I did like it. It actually had me looking over my shoulder once again - surely there is someone else out there who has cast a swift look behind them while brushing their teeth at night - just to be certain. Because vampires, as we all know, the real ones, can't be seen in a mirror. And would there be anything more terrifying than turning from a mirror to discover that there is, indeed, something standing there?

I can't imagine being afraid to look over my shoulder these days. I don't remember where I lost the rosary years ago. Still, the fascination with the vampire has never left me. Because I will watch True Blood again this summer. So maybe something did creep in through my safe, stolid midwestern window all those years ago. Be careful what you read at 13. Or is it too late?