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Like the title says, today (well, at 7pm central) I will be on Reddit answering All The Things during an AMA or “Ask Me Anything.”
The basic idea is quite simple. I make a post to start things off, the ENTIRE INTERNET shows up and asks me stuff, and this evening I answer their questions.
If you have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).
If you do not have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to make one and then drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).
So: possibility of free stuff for the low low price of bugging me on the internet. WHERE IS THE DOWNSIDE?
I’ve been waiting for this ever since I wrote it, but my personal introduction for Hidden Things is now up on Harper Voyager Books, and with it, an introductory excerpt from the book.
I never thought of Hidden Things as urban fantasy (which is the way it’s often characterized) because ‘urban’ doesn’t really come into it very much, and it didn’t seem to have any of the trappings I typically associated with the genre. Vampires, sexy or otherwise, are nowhere to be seen; neither are werewolves. Ditto Chosen Ones, surly street wizards, or talking animal companions. There is magic, to be sure, but no spellbooks. Tattoos don’t factor in any significant way, and everyone’s is hair a reasonable, manageable length, and generally the right color.
My inspirations came from other areas: Hammett’s stories of Sam Spade and Continental Op gave me a frame of reference for early parts of the story, and the style and pacing of pulp science fiction and fantasy writers like Roger Zelazny have imprinted themselves on me so deeply I probably have Doorways in the Sand encoded somewhere in my DNA. Neil Gaiman’s light touch with the supernatural is something I’ve always loved, as well as Stephen King’s gift for characterization.
If you are at all on the fence about picking up the story, I suggest checking it out.
Hidden Things is out today! Here are the latest reviews (that I know of — if you spot one I missed, let me know). Let’s see what people are saying…
Kirkus Reviews, notorious purveyors of the cutting one-liner, gave the book a pretty terrific review, calling it “agreeably creepy” (which makes me smile) and Calliope a “clever, determined, dauntless protagonist.”
Though not exactly a review, the Library Journal gave Hidden Things a great shout-out in their “Hungry for SF” Genre Spotlight.
Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasies and the early books of Stephen King, Doyce Testerman’s fantasy debut Hidden Things (Harper Voyager, Aug.) follows a young woman as she embarks on a surreal cross-country road trip after receiving a phone call from her dead business partner and former lover. This exploration into the supernatural places that lie hidden in the American heartland was a pick of “Books for Dudes” columnist Douglas Lord at the Fourth Annual Librarian Shout & Share program at June’s BookExpo America conference.
The Original Edi won an ARC of the book and wrote about it. Later, she even added a second post to show how much cross-referencing and research she’d put into her read-through. Edi wins the prize for “someone I’d like to add to my ‘reads it before it goes to print’ list.” What an eye for detail!
My Bookish Ways (really gorgeous website, by the way) put up a very touching review of the ARC. The reviewer says lots of nice things, none of which I’m (quite) shameless enough to repeat verbatim, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go and read it.
Library Crystal has a review up that (favorably!) compares Hidden Things to some of my favorite books.
Finally, if you just can’t get enough of these reviews (or want to write one of your own), Goodreads provides, with reviews ranging from five-stars down to no-stars-did-not-finish. (Hey, you can’t please everyone.)
My favorite reviews?
The ones that say “I want to know more; when’s the sequel?!”
So Hidden Things officially releases tomorrow — I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people telling me that they’ve gotten notification their preorders are on the way, which is both very scary and very exciting. There have been quite a few reviews posted already (more on that in another post), but obviously that doesn’t compare to the number of people about to put their eyeballs on the story — I really have no idea what the end result of all that is going to be, so I’m going to focus on what’s going on right now.
This week is going to be kind of crazy.
Today, the Once and Future Podcast has a new podcast up, and it’s me, talking about Hidden Things! Well, it’s me and Anton Stout, and we’re talking about Hidden Things, Adrift, writing, City of Heroes, Tolkein, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, MMOs, fan fiction, lego, Skylanders, tabletop gaming, dice obsessions, and pretty much every other nerdy thing you can pack into an hour and ten minutes.
Wednesday, I will be reading and talking and signing books at the Tattered Cover, a great Colorado indie bookstore. This will be my first public reading, ever, which means I will probably screw it up in some kind of hilarious fashion, and you should totally stop by to point and laugh and post pictures on Facebook.
Thursday, I will be doing an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit’s r/Fantasy, organized by the fine moderators of that subreddit. I will have more about this as we get closer to go-time, but as a pretty rabid redditor I have to say that I’m incredibly geeked-out and excited about this, and I sincerely hope THE ENTIRE INTERNET shows up to ask me questions about… you know… whatever. I mean, it’s supposed to be about writing, and Hidden Things and probably NaNoWriMo and gaming stuff but… whatever.
Thursday will also see me drop by for an interview with Chuck Wendig on terribleminds.com (direct link when it goes up), which will include a short story that I’ll be hosting here. Also, I’ll be countering his baseless slander and accusations with an interview of my own, with Chuck, posted up here on the same day.
Friday, I’ll be doing a reading/signing up at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, another great indie bookseller. I’m excited about this one as well, especially since I really have no idea what to expect from this event, in terms of visitors and audience.
Next week, I’ll also be over at the Qwillery as part of their 2012 Debut Author Challenge.
The object of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge is for participants to read at least 12 debut novels during 2012 - one from each month of the year though you may read them anytime between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.
(Last week, Hidden Things won the Qwillery’s 2012 Debut Author Challenge August “Cover Wars”, which I’m really happy about even though I had nothing to do with it — it’s just cool that other people liked it as much as I do.)
That’s it for now — I’m still trying to sort out September events coming up, but stay tuned.
So, as a lead in to this, let’s take a look at the cover of Hidden Things. Because I want to.
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”383” caption=”Is she not lovely?”][/caption]
Now, it’s hardly a secret that I love this cover, in part because I had a lot of input into the sort of elements I thought should go into the thing. My understanding of the publishing industry (confirmed by many) tells me that having anyone ask the author what they think the cover should look like is a pretty unusual thing and I sent a lengthy email capitalizing on that chance. Thus, I am doubly lucky, first to have been asked, and then to have my input interpreted by someone who is very clearly pretty damned good at their job.
So that may make this contest seem a bit crazy and stupid, to which I can only reply: “It definitely is, and it definitely is not.”
Here’s what I want you to do.
Design a cover for Hidden Things.
Any style, any medium. It can be something completely different, or more of an homage to the official design, or whatever. Sculpt in clay. Use mad Photoshop skills. Snap a picture of a chalk drawing on the sidewalk with your smart phone — I DON’T CARE.
It certainly doesn’t have to be serious — I have a cover already, people — in fact I might give a special prize for the funniest and/or very worst submission. Have some fun, people: make something.
Once you’re satisfied, email me a picture (or video, or flash file, or… whatever) of your submission to email@example.com or post it to my Facebook wall or on G+ or on Twitter, and draw my attention to it somehow.
You have until August 18th.
No, that is not a lot of time. Yes, that means it can’t be perfect. That is rather the point.
Many of you will be saying “Um… Doyce? I don’t know anything about the book, really.” And you’d be right.
So here’s what I’m going to do.
At the end of this post, I will include the exact same email that I sent to my amazing editor when she asked me for cover ideas. If that isn’t enough for you, ask questions in the comments section.
I will have at least three ARCs to give away for this (including ‘cover that made me laugh hardest’), so your odds are… not terrible!
I’ve attached some images to go along with various thoughts I’ve had about the cover. I see a couple ways it could go (and I’m sure there are many others), so here are a few photos and ideas.
1. Creepy Abandoned House
This is the idea where the cover shows us the setting for some of the significant scenes, and focuses on creepy, melancholy abandoned farmhouses. Bob Merco is a photographer from Colorado who likes to do these sorts of shots, and while I’ve never met him, I imagine we’d get on fairly well — if nothing else, I like his photos.
2. Long Road Home
In this concept, the focus is on the open stretches of the midwest and the long road home, but still with a bit of a focus on potentially surreal imagery. Only one image here, but I think it conveys the general idea.
3. Modified Map
Graphically, this is the hardest to do, I think. The idea is to take a basic road map and scribble over it the same way as [SPOILERS] just before Calli [SPOILERS]. I’m no good at graphic design, but I’ve included a map that looks ripe for scribbling.
4. Word Puzzle
On it’s own, I don’t know if this conveys the feel of the story very well, but I still really like it and the scene it’s from, and if it’s not the cover, I would LOVE for it to be the interior cover page [Doyce’s Note: It is!] , so I can scribble on it and circle important words when I sign books. Which important words? Well, there’s twenty-three in the puzzle, all related to the story in some way.
5. Word Puzzle plus an Image
Now, while the puzzle itself doesn’t make a terribly compelling/accurate cover by itself, I saw a movie poster not that long ago that gave me an idea for taking some other image and overlaying that over the text, which I think actually WOULD be kind of cool, if the image behind it was appropriately creepy/spooky. I’ve attached the movie poster, so you can see what I’m talking about.
And aside from that? Sidewalk chalk drawings. Creepy kid’s crayon sketches… there’s lots of different things that would work, depending on what your art people are into. I’m open to whatever, as they are undoubtedly much better at this than I am.
That’s it. Have at it!
I’m still fighting a Montezuma-grade case of ComicCon Crud, but I’ve staggered away from the sickbed long enough to right this wrong.
You see, I kind of stumped everyone with the wordfinder puzzle.
For those that need reminding, I once designed a title page forÂ Hidden Things, inspired by a scene in the book. For reasons that remain an utter mystery, Harper actually decided to use it for its intended purpose, which made me really happy. Here’s my version, which is not as awesome as the version in the final print:
In the original version of this contest, I simply said “There are 23 words in this puzzle that relate to the story. Click on the image to get the big version and print it. Find them all. Circle them all. As one does. Send it back to me. Simple!”
Except it turned out it wasn’t so simple. To be honest, I couldn’t even do it without a list of the 23 words.
So, here is a list of the 23 words:
Click on the image to get the big version. Find all the words. Circle all the words. Send it to me. Win a signed ARC.
Update: WHOA that was fast!Â Congrats to Paul Czege for extremely efficient use of his lunch break.
Those of you who’ve known me a long time know that I’m quite critical of any arguments that try to justify an ebook priced close to or exactly the same as a traditional print version of the same story. Yes, the story is the same, and the editing and formatting work is the same, and it’s entirely fair to want to see that cost recouped, but there is obviously no electronic equivalent to warehousing, shipping, physical printing, material costs of same, bookstore placement, or bookstore returns (an inexplicable practice unique to publishing and brick and mortar bookstores), and it irritates me to see those fundamental differences between the two mediums hand-waved away as “inconsequential to final cost.” They aren’t, and people aren’t stupid.
So, given that, you should understand that I was reasonably happy to see that the ebook and print prices for Hidden Things weren’t similar — the former being a third less than the later. Looking at it from a reader’s point of view, it seemed consistent with today’s market.
But I still would have liked to see the ebook price a bit lower, and it’s possible I might have made a few comments to my agent to that effect. I’m always going to be the guy that misses the days when I could pick up a copy of I, Robot for $1.25.
Understand, this isn’t about ‘moving product’ — it’s about reaching people. I don’t want to destroy the romantic illusion of the self-employed author, but the fact is I have a day job that pays the bills. I’m not excited about the idea that Hidden Things might make money (though I certainly want my wonderful agent and editors to get paid); I’m excited because very soon a lot of the English-speaking world will be able to read a story I wrote, and I think they might like it. People like to go round and round about whether someone is a ‘writer’ or an ‘author’ and what those words mean in ‘the industry’; bottom line, I guess I’m just a storyteller, and if I see a way to tell a story to more people, I want to try it.
Anyway: last week, Harper Voyager let my agent know that they’d decided to lower the price on the ebook of Hidden Things by two dollars (down to 7.99 from 9.99 — very close to half the price of the print edition). Today, that change took effect on all the sites where you can pre-order the book, and I am very, very happy.
Even better, all the awesome people who had already pre-ordered the ebook will automatically get the new, lower price as well, which makes me feel fantastic — as if we’ve been able to hand each of those great, supportive people a couple dollars.
So: if you’re one of those people, here’s that two bucks I owe you, and if you’ve been on the fence about a pre-order, maybe this will help.
(Warning: I’ve got a bunch of use-em-or-lose-em exclamation points I needed to get up on the blog before they go stale. Seriously: leave them out too long and they start smelling like banana peels.)
Three cheers (and an ARC of Hidden Things) to The Original Edi for her submission to last week’s microfiction contest. In addition to the book, I’m also granting Edi the title “Biggest Fan I Have Who Hasn’t Actually Read the Book Yet” - a coveted rank of nobility she will be inheriting directly from parents, who no longer qualify.
(Related: Waiting for your non-genre-reading family members to finish your book? Nerve-wracking.)
There’s a lot of these floating around, considering the actual book’s not out yet.
Publishers Weekly started off with a pretty nice one, calling Hidden Things “a satisfying blend of noir and magic”, which makes it sound like a story that should be served in a highball glass. I approve.
Douglas Lord, who writes the always-fun Books for Dudes column for Library Journal, already gave Hidden Things some love at Book Expo America. I would have been entirely happy with that, but in his most recent round of reviews he had even more to say: “Calliope Jenkins is kind of an asskicker. Independent and sexy (not in a girly way), she’s a private investigator in the VI Warshawsky mold.”
And winning the award for Sentences I Never Thought I’d Write: MTV has some great things to say about the ComicCon panel I’m going to be on next weekend with John Scalzi.
I… don’t even know how to parse all the Surreal and Awesome contained in that one line.
I really really really want to give away at least one if not several ARCs at ComicCon, but I’ve kind of got stuck on the “how”, because I don’t have time to judge anything, but at the same time I don’t want to just hand one out to the first guy who walks up and says “Hey. Gimme a book.”
So, in honor of a dear friend I don’t see nearly enough right now, We Shall Have a Puzzle!
Once upon a time, just for fun, I designed a title page for Hidden Things, inspired by a scene in the book. For reasons that remain an utter mystery, Harper actually decided to use it, which made me really happy. Here’s my version, which is not as awesome as the version in the final print:
There are 23 words in this puzzle that relate to the story.
Click on the image to get the big version and print it. Find them all. Circle them all. As one does. Five of the words have already been revealed, so, really, I’ve done like… half the work for you. (Shut up.)
Be the first person at ComicCon to present the completed version to me, and I will hand you an ARC and a pile of respect, because half the time I can’t find them all.
If you find 23 words, but it’s not the official 23 words (or if you find way more than 23), that will also count, especially if the unexpected words are cool.
Oh, right! Here’s the official times and places for my ComicCon Stuff:
Also, I’ve been informed that Friday I’ll be somewhat easy to identify, as I’ll be the guy dressed up as Jayne, wandering the Con with Kate (Kaylee Frye) and Sean (Wash), and you for damn sure will see me at some panels, acting like the squealing fanboy I am.
Is that it? I think it is.
… crap, I still have exclamation points left over.
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I remember, when I was a kid, riding in a car with green, leathery seats that got very hot in the sun. The car was green as well, although a different shade, and it seems to the me of my memories that most of the cars back then were that color. It was a popular trend, or maybe my child perception was skewed.
At any rate, the car was green, the seats were green, it was summer, the sun was hot, and the seats were hotter. We had the windows open to let the air in and my mom was driving to town on an errand.
The road was a winding black hardtop that looked down into sharp ravines between the hills; drops that seemed (to me) to go down and down farther than anything in the whole world. Every drive, I would look down and out from the tiny back windows of the two-door and think about what it would be like to go sailing off the road and into the ravines, tumbling over and over and finally exploding at the bottom, like on TV. A little morbid, but we lived a long way from any other kids my age — I had to make my own fun.
So, with the sun beating down and my boredom rising, when I saw a goblin shambling along the bottom of a ravine with an old, rusted sword balanced across his shoulders like an oxen yoke, I didn’t bother mentioning it to my mom. Even at that age, I assumed I’d imagined it.
I believed that for the next 23 years.
I think it’s time for another HIDDEN THINGS giveaway, don’t you?
(By the way, the Hidden Things giveaway at Goodreads is still going on, so check that out if you haven’t.)
But enough about that, let’s talk about this giveaway.
So, two things I enjoy quite a lot:
Seems to me we can combine them.
Write a little microfiction story set in the same basic ‘world’ as Hidden Things. That’s it.
Well, no, that’s not it. There are rules.
But… I don’t know anything about Hidden Things, or the setting.
Sure you do. Look to the excerpt from Vayland Rd. for some inspiration, or check out the back cover copy on the Hidden Things page. We’re looking for weird Things hiding in various ways in what we think of as the normal world. Dragons concealed in cornfields. Coy elves running bowling alleys. Bogeymen lurking in abandoned rest stops. A vodnik peering at the neighborhood kids from the slit of a storm drain.
I have more questions!
You do? Okay, ask them in the comments. Regardless, spread the word, because while the prize for this activity is a shiny ARC of Hidden Things, the point is to make some cool stuff and share it with everyone.
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”500” caption=”Get to it!”][/caption]
Stunted Fools, Scary-Ass Clowns, Enlightened Orangutans and other Devilish Charmers: Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Time: Sunday, 7/15/12, 10:00a.m. - 11:00a.m.
Description: “The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.” And these authors’ pens are…very sharp. But, as The Hitchhiker’s Guide so sagely advises, DON’T PANIC. Humor is everywhere you look in science fiction and fantasy. So, wrap your towel around your head to ward off noxious fumes, and join us for an irreverent hour celebrating sly wit and unholy humor with some of the most devilish quipsters, wisecrackers and satirists writing today. Warning: you will snicker. And you may just laugh out loud.
- Richard Kadrey
- Doyce Testerman
- Bill Hornshaw
- Rob Reid
- Ned Vizzini
- Gini Koch
- Nathan Long
- Moderator: John Scalzi (tentative)
I’ll be doing some other stuff at the Con as well (when I’m not busy having a nerdgasm about being back there), but this is the first verified, we-know-what-time-it’s-happening thing. First, I’m pretty keen on the subject; second, I’m really excited about the potential conversation with that group of authors.
I actually started writing a completely different post today (another book review), and then realized that I really, really ought to start talking about some of the stuff going on with my book. (I’m actually fairly bad at the business side of publishing (or bad at business as publishing practices it, which is different). That’s a topic about which I can (and probably will) write a whole series of posts.)
I won’t lie: I’ve been putting this off. I don’t know if it’s nerves or laziness or the bone-deep conviction that something will happen and everything will just go poof and vanish. Even now, as I’m writing this line, I want nothing more than to delete the post and go do something else. Weird.
So here it is:
I have a book coming out in September. It is called Hidden Things.
It’s being published by HarperCollins Voyager, which is a recent… thing (see: not good at pub business lingo)… that brings all of the US/UK/Aus sci-fi/fantasy publishing arms of HarperCollins under the same impenetrable force field.
Now, part of the benefit of working with HarperCollins is (obviously) working with some very smart editors (a quick scan of my inbox tells me they have to pay at least six people competitive wages to control my rampant use of semicolons and argue where punctuation should go in relation to double-quotes1).
But another benefit is the fact that they have artistic, designer-type people who put together book covers for a living, and are quite good at it.
For example, they did this cover for Hidden Things.
I’m pretty happy with it.
…*plays it cool*…
You know what they say about not judging a book by its cover? Well screw that: you should definitely judge my book by this cover — nothing would make me happier.
Right. Sorry about that; got a little excited. If you need a bit more info, here’s a close approximation of the jacket blurb:
“Watch out for the Hidden Things…”
That’s the last thing Calliope Jenkins’ best friend and former lover says to her before ending a 2 A.M. phone call from Iowa, where he’s investigating a case she knows little about. Five hours later, she gets another call, this time from the police. Josh has been found dead; foul play is suspected. Calliope is stunned.
Especially when Josh leaves a message on her phone a few hours later.
Spurred by grief and suspicion, she heads to Iowa herself, accompanied by a road-weary stranger who claims to know something about what happened to Josh and who can — maybe — help Calli get him back.
The road is not quite the straight shot she imagined. Josh was involved in something a lot more complicated than a teenage runaway or deadbeat day, and Calliope find herself on a surreal road tip into — and behind — America’s heartland, hounded by once-magical creatures twisted by living too long just out of sight and the bogeymen in Calliope’s own troubled past.
See, what finally pushed me to the tipping point in terms of talking about all this stuff is the fact that I received a box full of advance reader copies last week, and I finally got to actually touch a hardcopy version of the story — to pick it up and feel the heft of it — and that helped me stop thinking that the whole thing was going to go ‘poof’.
It also reminded me that — more than anything — I want people to read this thing.
And that of course means I need to get the word out.
Which, you may recall, is the part of the stuff I’m bad at. Still, I’m going to give it my best shot. Here’s everything going on right now:
Hidden Things has its own special page on this site, right here, so that if I (or, should I be so lucky, you) tell someone about the book, there’s a handy link for more info. The Hidden Things sub-site isn’t totally done — I still need to finish up the Reading Guide page, but I’m taking a lot of allergy meds this week (stupid cottonwoods) and my brain is too dumb to come up with good questions — most of the pertinent stuff is there, and there are placeholders for the other stuff that I will fill in as we get closer to the date-of.
I bit the bullet, went back onto Facebook, and made up an Author Page… thing… It is here. Please don’t do anything crazy like making up a Facebook account just so you can see the page, but if you already have such a thing, well, you’ll be far more at home on that page than I am.
Finally, there are going to be some CONTESTS that will result in people winning ARCs of the book. As a matter of fact, there are already two contests going on right now, and there will be more soon.
Contest the First: A Simple Click It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All you have to do is:
Next Monday, I’ll gather up the names of everyone who did any of those things, put em in a hat, and pull a name out: that person wins a copy of the book. Simple.
Contest the Second: A Not-So Simple Click
This one is pure Facebook, since it’s not something I cooked up. William Morrow is currently giving away a bunch of themed prize packs of books. Hidden Things is included in the “Mystery/Thriller” package, because (I can only assume) someone at WM has a sense of humor. Go here, click the things that ask to be clicked, and you’ll be entered to win Fabulous Prizes.
Contest the Third and Fourth and So On: Which Haven’t Happened Yet.
In a few weeks, I’m going to ask for a bit more creativity in these contests: one of you will win an ARC for writing awesome twitter-length microfiction; a few others will win stuff (not just Hidden Things, but other stuff) for being all artistic and designery — that one will happen around the same time the San Diego Comic Con, where I’ll be signing stuff and sitting on panels and other things I didn’t do the last time I went. More on that when the time comes — I’d like to do all these things right now, but I’m told I should pace myself and start simple, which I have (I hope).
Actually, I think that’s it. So…
Let’s have another look at that book cover, shall we?
She’s a pretty one, isn’t she?
1 - That actually ended up being a debate I won. Who knew I could hold my breath that long?