Posts Tagged ‘Personal Effects: Dark Art


What I’m Reading: Personal Effects-Dark Art

PEDAOkay, so over the last couple of months, I’ve done a lot of talking about the new  novel by J.C. Hutchins, Personal Effects: Dark Art. This is something I was excited about for several reasons. I’m a fan of Hutchins‘ work, I’m a fan of his work in the new media, and I thought the way this story was being presented was a really clever, exciting thing. And now the book is finally out, so I guess it’s time for me to tell you what I actually thought when I read the thing.

Personal Effects: Dark Art focuses on Zach Taylor, an art therapist at an asylum for the criminally insane. Just coming off a major breakthrough, Taylor is given a particularly challenging new case — Martin Grace, an accused serial killer who claims his crimes were not his own work, but that of a mysterious “Dark Man.” Despite this, is making no effort to defend himself. And to make Zach’s job even harder, the art therapist’s newest patient suffers from psychosomatic blindness. As Zach tries to get to the root of Grace’s demons, he begins to uncover disturbing facts about his own family and his own past, and begins to believe that perhaps the Dark Man isn’t just a product of a lunatic’s imagination.

If you look at this simply as a debut novel, it’s pretty good. Hutchins does a very strong job of developing Zach and the world he inhabits. He gives us enough traces of the supernatural early so that when it becomes a major factor it isn’t a shock to the system. The plot is tight and follows a good, logical progression that builds up to a really exciting climax. If it was just a book, in and of itself, I would definitely give it a thumbs-up.

Here’s the thing, though. Personal Effects: Dark Art isn’t “just” a book. Hutchins’ co-creator for this work is Jordan Weisman, a well-known figure in the field of ARGs (Alternate Reality Games), and what you get here is a product that brilliantly straddles the line between novel and ARG. Along with the story, you get a pocket full of items that relate to the the book — cards, paperwork, legal documents, photographs… all kinds of very realistic extra items that relate back to the story. As you’re reading along, the characters sometimes find the same items that you have in your own possession, allowing you to examine them fully to determine what they’re looking at. Other times, you’re given a clue that reminds you of a name on one of the documents, so again, you go back and look to see what else you’re missing.

That’s not all, though. As you read the book and examine the items, you’re directed towards certain websites — sites that really do exist, and give you even more clues. One of the URLs you uncover sends you to a website about the history of the Taylor family, another to a funeral home visited in the book. And while the sites certainly look as legitimate as the death certificats found along with the book, if you delve into the information there, you can find even more bits and pieces that point towards the truth about what Zach Taylor is encountering. Phone numbers mentioned in the book will lead you to recorded messages. Basically, everything that exists outside of the text itself helps you, the reader, to “play along.” In a way, you almost become Zach Taylor, trying to unravel the disturbing truth about Martin Grace.

This is what I love about a great mystery — not just reading, but that idea of joining in the hunt. A really good book will allow you to match wits with the characters, to try to figure out the truth along with them. Bad mysteries cheat by leaving out crucial details. This book does just the opposite, giving you more ways to immerse yourself into the story than any book I’ve ever read. Even if it was “just” a book, it would be a good one. When you add in the extra stuff, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had reading in a very long time.


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 125: Convention Season Kick-Off

Chase is out of town, so Blake and Mike sit down this week to talk about the beginning of the comic book convention season! The guys discuss the current state of comic cons, Mike talks about his experiences at last weekend’s Wizard World Philadelphia convention, and the boys bat around some of the announcements from Philly and HeroesCon in Charlotte! In the picks this week, Mike chooses Power Girl #2 and Blake selects Zorro #14, with a bonus book pick, Was Superman a Spy? Contact us with comments, suggestions, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 125: Convention Season Kick-Off
Inside This Episode:

Plus: Let’s get literary! Chase has work conflicts this week, so Blake gets together with his sister Heather for this special edition of Week in Geek! The sibs discuss the recently concluded Percy Jackson series of novels by Rick Riordan, chat about the currently in-production Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie, and dive into the mythology surrounding the new J.C. Hutchins novel, Personal Effects: Dark Art.

Week in Geek #24: Percy Jackson and Personal Effects

Plus: Blake flies solo for this review of the new Todd Phillips comedy The Hangover. When three guys at a bachelor party wake up to find the bachelor missing, hijinks ensue. But is it funny enough to spend your money on?

At the Movies Episode 7: The Hangover


What do I write about?

What do I write about today?

Well, I could give you a review of TransFormers: Revenge of the Fallen, but I haven’t finished watching it yet. You see, on Wednesday I got together with Mike and Kenny to catch the movie in IMAX. With about 40 minutes to go, though, the theater lost power. The emergency lights came on and a managerial-type came in and told us the movie would start again shortly. Then the power came back, the lights went off, and the screen… turned purple. Then the lights came back on and the managerial-type came back in and announced that, due to the high-tech nature of the IMAX projection system, it would take an hour to get it back up and running, and they were giving us all two free passes to make up for our inconvenience. We went out afterwards to Izzo’s Illegal Burrito to eat and, periodically, shout out “DAMMIT!” to nobody in particular.

So I can’t write about that.

I could write about my car. The air conditioner went out about a month ago, right before school ended for the summer. Then Erin came to visit and I had a class beginning so I couldn’t bring it in to get fixed. Then yesterday, I was told our class today would be cancelled (ironically, because they needed to repair the air conditioner in the school building), so I decided to try to get it fixed. I brought it in and, a little while ago, got the call with estimate: $900, parts and labor. And I thought. I thought hard. I thought about just sweating it out for a while. Then I thought about the newspaper headline which reported that Wednesday’s temperature of 104 degrees was an all-time high for New Orleans, and that we were in a drought. And I sighed and said “fix it.”

But I don’t want to write about that.

I could write about Project Rebirth. I had two very interesting calls regarding that mystery project of mine this week, and both were productive. One really got me fired up. The second left me mildly disappointed, because I found out I wasn’t going to be able to do something I wanted to do. But both of them were good, because it means the project is moving foward and — perhaps more importantly — picking up speed. And who knows, soon I may even be able to tell you just what that project is instead of referring to it by its mysterious code-name.

So I can’t really elaborate about that.

The only other thing I’ve got is to tell you about the podcast I recorded last night. Chase is out working and we still haven’t quite forgiven Mike “I Like My Vampires Shiny” Bellamy for taking off to Philly without us last weekend. Plus, I wanted to talk about books without pictures, which leaves him out. Instead, I rounded up a first-time podcaster to guest-host with me: my sister Heather. Together we talked about the recently-concluded Percy Jackson novels, which I’ve finished, she’s just beginning, and we both love. Then I did something I really wanted to do — I showed her my copy of the new novel Personal Effects: Dark Art by J.C. Hutchins. Being a huge fan of J.C.’s work as I am, I knew that this book was going to come with a pouch full of papers, cards, and artifacts that you could use to play along with the book, along with URLs for websites and phone numbers you could call that would enhance the experience. I was psyched. But I thought it would be fun to show these things to someone who isn’t familiar with the concept and get her reaction. It turned out to be a pretty good little podcast. You can listen to it here: Week in Geek #24: Percy Jackson and Personal Effects.

Beware Your Fears Made Into Light


Reviews ‘n Stuff

Tomorrow, my girlfriend Erin comes in for one of our visits, and I can’t wait. We’re actually going to have a lot going on, beginning tomorrow with going to see The Floating Palace at the Bayou Playhouse (reportedly an excellent play that my sister, Heather, happens to be in). Next weekend, we’re travelling to Florida with my family for my cousin Lauren’s wedding. In-between… well, we’re gonna do stuff with my friends, stuff with just us… we’re gonna do stuff. In other words, I’ve got no idea what we’ll be doing all week. But it doesn’t matter, because we’ll be together.

Writing Life

Yesterday I finished a new short story for the eMuse Summer Madness contest. I’ve been telling you guys for some time now how awesome the work of J.C. Hutchins is, so I had to get involved when I heard about a writing contest centering on his upcoming novel Personal Effects: Dark Art. It’s just a quickie, really, something that popped into my head and I worked out really fast, but it was fun to take on a different story. I’ve also been hard at work on two things connected to Project Rebirth, and I’m getting more and more excited about it. Yeah. Still cryptic. Yeah, I know.


I’ve also been firing away on the reviews over at Here are some recent ones I’ve turned out:


What I’m Reading: 2009 Edition

In the past, I’ve always compiled a year-end list of the books I’ve read during the past year. However, I’ve noticed that my good pal Walt Kneeland, on his awesome Comic Reviews By Walt blog, keeps a running list on his website throughout the year. It’s something that never occurred to me before, but I like it. So therefore, I’m going to keep this post updated frequently, whenever I’ve got something to add to the list. I’ve also added the links to the right-hand column of the page, right beneath my Twitter Feed, so you’ll be able to access it easily if that sort of thing floats your boat. I’ll do the same with my movie lists. And y’know what? If it’s a book I’ve reviewed, I’ll even link to the review. I’m all about service, friends.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ve read so far in 2009:

  1. Speaker For the Dead; Orson Scott Card, 1987-A
  2. Look at My Striped Shirt; Phat Phree, 2006-B-
  3. You’ll All Be Sorry; Gail Simone, 2008-B+
  4. Tales of Beedle the Bard; J.K. Rowling, 2008-B
  5. Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street; Michael Davis, 2008-A
  6. Tales From Outer Suburbia; Shaun Tan, 2008-B+*
  7. Kingdom Come; Mark Waid &; Alex Ross, 1996-A+*
  8. Infected; Scott Sigler, 2008-B+
  9. Archer & Armstrong: First Impressions; Jim Shooter, Barry Windsor-Smith, 2008-A-*
  10. Sheldon: Nerds on Parade; Dave Kellett, 2008-A-*
  11. Mini-Marvels: Secret Invasion; Chris Giarrusso, 2009-A*
  12. Tiny Titans: Welcome to the Treehouse; Art Baltazar, Franco, 2008-A-*
  13. Fool; Christopher Moore, 2009-B-
  14. A Slobbering Love Affair; Bernard Goldberg, 2009-B-
  15. It’s Not Easy Being Green; Jim Henson, 2005-B
  16. Love and Capes Vol. 1: Do You Want to Know a Secret?; Thom Zahler, 2008-A+*
  17. Starman Omnibus Vol. 2; James Robinson & Tony Harris, 2009-A*
  18. Before You Leap; Jim Lewis, (as Kermit the Frog), 2004-B
  19. The Graveyard Book; Neil Gaiman, 2008-A
  20. Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street; Warren Ellis &; Darick Robertson, 1998-B*
  21. Tales of the Green Lantern Corps; Len Wein and others, 2009-A*
  22. JLA/Avengers; Kurt Busiek & George Perez, 2003-B+*
  23. Enemies and Allies; Kevin J. Anderson, 2009-B+
  24. Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament; S.G. Browne, 2009-B
  25. Shade’s Children; Garth Nix, 1997-B+
  26. Superman: Panic in the Sky; Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson & Roger Stern, 1993-A*
  27. JLA: Salvation Run; Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham, 2008-B*
  28. Contagious; Scott Sigler, 2008-A-
  29. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Douglas Adams, 1979-A
  30. The Complete Peanuts: 1969 to 1970; Charles M. Schulz, 2008-A*
  31. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet; William Shakespeare (probably), 1597(ish)-B+
  32. 3 Geeks: Going to the Con; Rich Koslowski, 1997-B+*
  33. 3 Geeks: An Eclectic Potpourri of Reading Pleasure; Rich Koslowski, 1999-B*
  34. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Douglas Adams, 1980-B+
  35. Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs; Molly Harper, 2009-B+
  36. The Complete Peanuts: 1971 to 1972; Charles M. Schulz, 2009-A*
  37. Star Trek: Countdown; Mike Johnson & Tim Jones, 2009-B+*
  38. Life, the Universe, and Everything; Douglas Adams, 1982-B
  39. So Long and Thanks For All the Fish; Douglas Adams, 1984-B
  40. “Young Zaphod Plays it Safe”; Douglas Adams, 1986-C
  41. Sheldon: Pure Ducky Goodness; Dave Kellett, 2006, B+*
  42. Dust and Shadow; Lyndsay Faye, 2009-B+
  43. The Lightning Thief; Rick Riordan, 2005-A-
  44. Nina Kimberly the Merciless; Christiana Ellis, 2009-B+
  45. The Sea of Monsters; Rick Riordan, 2006, B+
  46. The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius; Judd Winnick, 2009, B+*
  47. The Titan’s Curse; Rick Riordan, 2007, A-
  48. The Battle of the Labyrinth; Rick Riordan, 2008, A-
  49. Sheldon: The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly; Dave Kellett, 2007, B+*
  50. The Last Olympian; Rick Riordan, 2009, A+
  51. Personal Effects: Dark Art; J.C. Hutchins & Jordan Weisman, 2009, A-
  52. Was Superman a Spy?; Brian Cronin, 2009, A-
  53. “All You Zombies”; Robert A. Heinlein, 1958, A
  54. The Strain; Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan, 2009, B+
  55. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Demigod Files; Rick Riordan, 2009, B
  56. G.I. Joe; Chuck Dixon, 2009, A-*
  57. The Dark Half; Stephen King, 1989, B
  58. The Long Walk; Stephen King (as Richard Bachman), 1979, B-
  59. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (Deluxe Edition); Alan Moore, 2009, A*
  60. Franklin Richards: Not-So-Secret Invasion; Marc Sumerak & Chris Eliopoulos, 2009, B+*
  61. Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Deluxe Edition); Neil Gaiman, 2009, A*
  62. Starman Omnibus Volume 3; James Robinson, 2009, A*
  63. ABC Warriors: The Meknificent Seven; Pat Mills, 1978, B*
  64. Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs. Death; John Wagner & Alan Grant, 2005, B*
  65. Preacher: Gone to Texas; Garth Ennis, 1996, B*
  66. Preacher: Until the End of the World; Garth Ennis, 1997, A*
  67. Preacher: Proud Americans; Garth Ennis, 1998, B+*
  68. Earthcore; Scott Sigler, 2005, B+@
  69. Personal Effects: Sword of Blood; J.C. Hutchins, 2009, B@
  70. Dark Entries; Ian Rankin, 2009, B*
  71. G-Man: Learning to Fly; Chris Giarrusso, 2009, A*
  72. Drood; Dan Simmons, 2009, A-
  73. FlashForward; Rober J. Sawyer, 1999, B+
  74. Danse Macabre; Stephen King, 1980, B+
  75. Peter and Max: A Fables Novel; Bill Willingham, 2009, A
  76. Kabumpo in Oz; Ruth Plumly Thompson, 1922, B-
  77. UR; Stephen King, 2009, B+
  78. It’s Hard Out Here For a Shrimp; Pepe the King Prawn, 2008, B
  79. Kronos; Jeremy Robinson, 2008, B+@
  80. “The Red-Headed League;” Arthur Conan Doyle, 1891, A
  81. 7th Son: Descent; J.C. Hutchins, 2009, B+
  82. Cakewrecks; Jen Yates, 2009, B+
  83. The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks; Max Brooks, 2009, B*
  84. Batman: The Long Halloween; Jeph Loeb, 1997, A*
  85. The Monstrumologist; Rick Yancy, 2009, B
  86. Half-Minute Horrors; Susan Rich (ed.), 2009, B
  87. Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men; Molly Harper, 2009, B
  88. Animal Farm; George Orwell, 1945, A
  89. The Colour of Magic; Terry Pratchett, 1983, B
  90. Living Dangerously With Saturated Fats; Dave Kellett, 2009, A
  91. Just After Sunset; Stephen King, 2008, B+
  92. Abducted to Oz; 2003, Bob Evans & Chris Dulabone, F
  93. The Dude Abides; 2009, Cathleen Falsami, B+
  94. Nocturnal; 2007, Scott Sigler, A-@
  95. Title Fight; 2009, Scott Sigler & Matt Wallace, B+@
  96. Lost; 2001, Gregory Maguire, D
  97. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus; 1902, L. Frank Baum, A
  98. “A Kidnapped Santa Claus;” 1904, L. Frank Baum, A
  99. A Kidnapped Santa Claus; 2009, Alex Robinson (based on the story by L. Frank Baum), A*
  100. The Gift of the Magi; 2009, Joel Priddy (based on the story by O. Henry), B+*
  101. The Fir-Tree; 2009, Lilli Carré (based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen), B-*
  102. Haunted Christmas; 2009, Mary Beth Crain, B
  103. “Scrooge & Cratchit;” 2002, Matt McHugh, B+
  104. More Holmes For the Holidays; 1999, Martin H. Greenberg (ed.), B
  105. North Pole Lost and Other Holiday Stories; 2007, William H. Cooke, D
  106. The True Gift; 2009, Patricia MacLachlan, B
  107. The Night Before the Christmas Before I Was Married; 2009, Adam Maxwell, B-
  108. Purgatory; 2009, Tim Dodge, B@
  109. Archie New Look Series Vol. 3: Moose and Midge in Break-Up Blues; 2009, Melanie J. Morgan, B*
  110. Mini-Marvels Ultimate Collection; 2009, Chris Giarrusso and others, A*

*-Graphic novel or comic strip collection
“”-Short Story

Last updated on December 31, 2009


I’ve Been Committed

My own "Dark Art"

My own "Dark Art"

Okay, I’m gonna keep telling you about this stuff until every one of you has committed yourself. I know I said I wasn’t going to take part in the first “assignment” in J.C. Hutchins’ The Brink alternate reality game, which of course is part of the lead-up to his new novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, but I couldn’t control myself. So I picked up my pencils and multicolored Sharpies and crafted the work of art you see to the right of this post. I fully expect the Metropolitan Museum of Art to come calling at any moment.

Once you’ve created your own “patient artwork,” you can upload it at The Brink site to “commit yourself” to Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital. But that’s not all! You can also write a brief history of your character, the patient at the Brink that will represent you in the ARG. For example, my patient profile reads as follows:

My patient papers

Patient believes himself to be some sort of comic book “superhero.” Patient was discovered in Central Park assaulting anyone wearing sunglasses, screaming, “SHOW YOUR EYES! SHOW YOUR EYES AND SHOW THE TRUTH!” Attempts to identify the patient or locate next of kin have been unsuccessful.

Yeah, I know. I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell Erin — I very often conjure up things that I work into my stories that I think might be fun to come back to later. This is one of those. I can very easily imagine a story involving this character some day. But in the meantime, I’m more than happy to have him waiting for me in The Brink.

Also, when your artwork is processed, J.C. himself sends you your patient’s paperwork, in a format suitable for printing out and showing your friends — that’s the thumbnail you see above. And, if that wasn’t enough, you also get this handy-dandy stamp that can be used as an avatar or other word-spreading purposes.

Get yourself committed

Am I pushing this hard? Damn right I am. Because I genuinely believe in J.C.‘s work — the guy is a great writer and he deserves the attention. And also, because this really is a new way of storytelling, and that in and of itself is something I’m always in favor of. So c’mon. Go to the Brink and take a look.


Are You Committed Yet?

Not long ago, I told you guys about the upcoming novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, by the always-awesome J.C. Hutchins. But maybe my feeble description wasn’t enough for you. Maybe you need to hear more. Hey, I understand that one. Instead of taking my word for it, why not listen to a couple of guys who have spent years making you afraid of the dark?

Still not enough? Good grief, you people run a hard bargain. Okay, here’s my final offer (for now). Check out Episode 81 of the ARG Netcast — a podcast dedicated to the burgeoning field of alternate reality games — for an interview with J.C. himself  about the new book and the game that’s slowly emerging surrounding it. C’mon, everyone. You like scary stories? You want in on the beginning of something big? Join us at The Brink!


Join us at “The Brink”

Your Invitation to The Brink

Your Invitation to The Brink

I know I’ve told you guys before about the super-cool work of author J.C. Hutchins. Hutchins is the genius behind the epic 7th Son podcast novel trilogy. This summer, his next work is going to hit bookstores — Personal Effects: Dark Art. But just as J.C. helped to revolutionize podcast novels and  — let’s be honest — was one of the major influences that made me a believer in the New Media, now he’s going to do something totally original with his foray into print.

Personal Effects: Dark Art is the story of an art therapist named Zach Taylor who works at the legendary horrific Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital, known to many as “The Brink.” The book itself is going to come with several “personal effects,” items that belong to the patients, that you can use to help immerse yourself into the world of the story. And as if that wasn’t enough, now you can become a part of the experience online as well.

Head to “The Brink” Page of J.C.’s website to learn how you can become a patient at the Brink. Share some of your own artwork, join the online community, and become a part of what is sure to be one of the coolest publishing experiences of 2009. This looks like it’s going to be a sort of hybrid between a book and an ARG — Alternate Reality Game — and these things are always a lot more fun if you get in on the ground floor. Having no artistic ability myself, I won’t actually be participating in the first “assignment,” which is to contribute your own patient artwork, but you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens next.

May 2023

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