Sneak Peak: "Personal Effects: Sword of Blood" prequel

As you know, my print debut -- the supernatural thriller Personal Effects: Dark Art -- will be in bookstores this June. (Be one of the first to own a copy by pre-ordering here.) While there are no current plans to release Dark Art as a podcast novel, I am crafting two novella-length, podcast-exclusive works to celebrate its release.

In a "first-ever in publishing" innovative twist, these complementary stories are prequel tales. The first to see release, Personal Effects: Sword of Blood, will debut in May. Chronologically, this novella takes place in late October 2008, a week before the events seen in Dark Art.

Sword of Blood follows the adventures of Brinkvale Psychiatric art therapist Zach Taylor as he pursues a deadly secret concerning Gertrude "Spindle" Spindler, a relentlessly cheerful elderly woman with a dark past. Confined to Brinkvale for life, Spindle has crafted what she calls "the grand design of nine," and invites young Zach to unwind its meaning. Zach soon descends into a world of mystery, psychics and hidden subcultures...

Below is a sneak peek of Personal Effects: Sword of Blood, an unedited excerpt that describes the horrific setting for the Personal Effects series: the subterranean Brinkvale Psychiatric hospital, strangely known by locals as "The Brink." You'll soon learn why, as you take a tour of one of the facility's most disturbed levels...

Chapter Three

The rest of the afternoon was spent scanning patient artwork, posting it to the “special programs” section at Brinkvale’s website, and making my rounds in the deepest patient level in The Brink. Somewhere along the past century, this eighth sub-floor of Brinkvale acquired the nickname Golgotha, after the place where Jesus Christ was killed. Rumor has it that a priest who once worked here named it so because Golgotha was a place that sparked eventual rebirth.

The priest was also apparently addicted to self-administered electroshock therapy, so I take that interpretation with a proverbial grain of salt.

This level of The Brink was reserved for the violent, mind-shattered lifers that no other New York institution wanted. They rarely had family. They never had visitors. When Freddy Krueger has nightmares, these are the people he dreams of.

My heart breaks when I come here. From a therapist’s perspective, It’s exhausting work. A great many of these people are too sick to understand that they’re sick. Others never unlearned their predatory, destructive proclivities, and never wanted to. A handful had made breakthroughs years ago, and were now trapped here, wracked and wailing with guilt, damned for the rest of their days.

In this criminally underfunded and understaffed facility, Golgotha was the floor that received the fewest resources. If you want to step a century into the past and see what living in a madhouse was like, just hit the “8” button on Brinkvale’s elevator. The screams alone will make your skin crawl right off your bones...

--J.C.

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