Saturday, September 2, 2023



Alt text: It's a globe with a big red question mark on it. You're pretty sure someone lacking in graphic design skills made it using Microsoft Paint.

THE BOOK HAS BEEN FOUND! CONGRATULATIONS TO MONICA! Thank you to everyone who played :)

It was in an alcove on the 6th floor of the Maiden Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, a place I have never been but which seems very cool!

Okay so I'm a huge nerd for travel and geography and the TV show The Amazing Race. So way back when my first ever novel released (the work-for-hire title Venom, published in 2012), I did a "virtual treasure hunt" where I released clues to the imaginary location of Venom somewhere in the world. I assume this is how Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? worked, but full disclosure I have never seen that show or played that game, so if you're expecting something just like that, you might be disappointed.

It was a lot of fun and I learned that my readers were way smarter than I thought when they repeatedly "found" my hidden copies using only one or two clues. (Wherever you are, super-smart Kathy from Canada, I hope you are happy and thriving!) 

So, this hunt is harder and structured differently. You will not be able to win using only a couple of clues. (Not even you, Kathy!) You're going to need the early clues and the later clues. But you can't just wait until all the clues are posted if you want to win, because the early clues are going to take time to figure out too. Maybe not much time, but sometimes a win is just about being a few seconds faster than someone else. And just to be clear, you don't have to have read Hellfinder to play and having read the book will not give you any kind of advantage. (Though feel free to imagine yourself jetting around the globe with your badass grandmother and a hot Icelandic boy if you'd like).

On the fence about whether you want to participate? I have not done a lot of promotion for this, so it's possible you may be one of only a few people playing, or even the only person! I'll leave the contest open until 11:59 Pacific time on Sept 2, so if you want to play but have other stuff to do, feel free to check back later and see if the book has been found.

Okay, enough blathering. Here are the rules:

  • You must be 13 or older or have a guardian's permission to embark on this virtual treasure hunt.
  • The treasure: I am (pretend) hiding a fancy hardcover copy of Hellfinder somewhere on the planet. It is in a very mysterious and (hopefully) hard to guess place.
  • In order to win the prize, you have to guess the location of the book I have hidden by using the clues I will provide. New clues will be provided every 10-30 minutes from 12PM Pacific onward. I will provide up to 8 clues if needed. I will add the new clues to this post, but may also put them on IG, Twitter, or FB, depending how spammy I'm feeling. This post is the only place where you'll be able to see them all at once.
  • Guessing the location of the hidden copy of Hellfinder is going to require 4 pieces of information: country, city, structure/park/area, and then specific hiding place. You can provide these in any order and it's okay if you spell something wrong as long as you're close enough so I know what you mean. Guesses must be in English because I am a sad American who only speaks one language.
  • In order to guess, I'm going to have you email me at pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com, subject line WITWIH. This is so that there's no uncertainty about who was first (as opposed to people are guessing on multiple social media platforms), and also so if you're 75% right but just a little off, you don't give that information to other people who maybe haven't been hunting as hard as you.
  • Every hunter gets a max of 3 guesses total throughout the whole contest, so don't waste them.
  • If you email a guess or message me on social with partial information like "Is it in Reyjakvik?" I am not going to reply. Your guess needs to be emailed and contain 4 pieces of information. For all emails with 4 pieces of info I will reply to tell you either that you've won, that you're right but someone else beat you to the book, or that you're not right. So no hints, sorry. Also no, it is not in Reykjavik.
  • Please feel free to email if you have logistical questions or you just wanna say hi :) NOTE: I will not be available from 2:45PM to 4:15PM because I have a meeting, but I suspect if anyone is playing that someone will have found the book by then. If not, I will review guesses and update this post by or before 4:30PM Pacific time.
  • If no one has found the book by 4:30PM Pacific time, you can keep guessing but I'm gonna stop staring at the screen and go for a run. I'll check in every couple of hours to review guesses and address any questions that might arise. I will leave the contest open until 11:59PM Pacific time today September 2nd. 
  • If no one has located the book by 11:59PM Pacific time on 9/2/23, I am going to reveal the answer and keep the book and use it for a future contest.
  • US winner wins signed hardcover of Hellfinder or $20 gift card. International winner wins $20 gift card. (This is because it would cost me like $60 to send a hardcover overseas and I only paid $17 for my copy of the book). Gift card selection may be limited. I will try to accommodate, but I need for it to be a site I feel comfortable sharing credit card info, so if we can't agree on a gift card I will PayPal you $20 US for your prize.
  • DISCLAIMER: I am the only judge of this contest and I triple-checked all my clues and ran them by a friend, but I did rely heavily on online research to set this up and it's possible your searching might lead you to a different answer than I intended. It's possible you might think the clues should've been in a different order or that something in the rules wasn't clear. I worked hard on this and I will edit this post and do what I can to make things right if someone points out an error, but ultimately I'm human, I'm doing my best, and this is just a fun game on the internet. I make the final decision on who wins. I am Law :)

Reminder: If you have logistical questions email me, because I have no idea how comments for Blogger even work anymore!


CLUE #1:
You’re starting this hunt in Iceland, where Rory and her grandmother have most of their adventures in my YA supernatural adventure novel Hellfinder. But I’ve hidden the book in another country. In fact, you’ll have to fly over 5000 kilometers from Keflavik airport to your destination country. I hope you packed snacks! 

CLUE #2:
The book Hellfinder begins in Paris, with Rory and her gram baking Christmas cookies in a posh apartment overlooking the Seine. But you’re not going to Paris. You're traveling to one of several cities (and I do mean several!) that some people have referred to as a “Paris of the East.”

CLUE #3:
Perhaps, like me, you were surprised to find out how many different cities have been called “Paris of the East” at one point or another. I found more than 20! But only one is the location of the hardcover Hellfinder. If you take the number of letters in this country’s name and divide that by the number of letters in the name of the capital city (American English spelling for both), the answer is 2.5.

CLUE #4:
Hopefully you’ve made your way to the right country, but now you need some local money. Paper money. A tenner would be helpful.

CLUE #5:

E B      R E E A P P R D      O T      B C M I L      R S T I A S

If you're using a screen reader and this one is hard to interpret, it is meant to be 5 short strings of letters...that mean something.

CLUE #6:
You're looking for a place that might not be the best for dancing, but the legends around it inspired the country’s first ballet!

CLUE #7:
You’re so close now, but your competitors are closing in and this place has several floors. And to go farther, you have to answer a riddle. Oh no, stay calm. You got this.

In Hellfinder, Rory and her grandmother travel to Iceland where they stay briefly with Henning, a childhood friend of Gram’s. Henning has been known to collect the occasional odd pet. He only had one cat and one falcon when Rory visited, but he told her his close friend, Isleifur, keeps several animals. All of Isleifur’s animals except for 3 are cats. All of his animals except for 4 are falcons. And all of his animals except for 5 are horses. How many animals does Isleifur have total?

Now, take the total number of animals Isleifur owns, and subtract that number from the total number of seasons of the TV show Supernatural. And then take your answer and subtract the number of letters in the first name of the main character in the first book I wrote as Paula Stokes. And then add the number of books in Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. And that number is your final answer. Have I ever told you Curse Workers is one of my favorite series of all time? I should re-read that.


Hellfinder is hidden in an alcove on the [final answer] floor of this building. Hurry and find it!

Remember, in order to officially guess, you have to email me your guess, subject WITWIH? Country, city, name of structure, alcove on [answer] floor

Also reminder that today is the last day to get a signed bookplate, bookmark, and stickers in my Hellfinder pre-order incentive, and that hardcovers can only be ordered direct from the publisher. (Sorry, Regal House press is also not able to ship internationally).