Many people who visit the website for Terry Brooks—and some people here at Suvudu, for that matter—have asked a variety of questions concerning how I came to be involved in all of this, being, essentially, a nobody.
It went a little something like this.
I began reading my first Terry Brooks novel when I was 13 years old. My mother, a reader through and through, brought home The Sword of Shannara to read at the suggestion of one of her female coworkers. I vividly remember the novel just sitting alone next to my mother’s sewing machine as she finished another novel, the brick-like paperback already incredibly ratty from multiple reads. I picked it up, sat down next to our fireplace one chilly October evening and began to read the first words as orange and yellow light etched each word into my mind:
|The sun was already sinking into the deep green of the hills to the west of the valley, the red and gray-pink of its shadows touching the corners of the land, when Flick Ohmsford began his descent.|
I feverishly read the novel, barely finding time even at that young age to eat. Before The Sword of Shannara I had only read the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, which I had enjoyed but found to be not much of a challenge. Terry gave me that challenge with a 700 page novel, and soon I was entranced by Elfstones, ancient evil, a Druid, and a quest.
I finished Sword in less than a week.
My parents were overwhelmed at my pace, though not surprised at my choice of books. I grew up in the wilds of Washington State, with Mt. St. Helens looming over me like Mount Doom, and there is a certain magic in the land that lends itself easily to one’s immersion into a fantasy novel. I wrapped myself in that magic even as I read the magic on the page, and I doubt I will ever forget that first experience.
The amusing thing, when I look back on reading Sword, is that I had no idea there were sequels available. The Sword of Shannara ended nice and neat, and the version of Sword my mother had brought home was a first printing paperback with no mention of The Elfstones of Shannara. Weeks passed, and Christmas loomed.
You can imagine my utter joy, after furiously tearing through Christmas paper and the unconsequential box of one of my last gifts, to find first printing paperback versions of The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara. I can still remember the fresh smell of the new paperbacks and the flashing Christmas tree lights glinting off of the gold/purple foiled titles. Even now when I read a new book that I have been looking forward to for some time I have that same sense of nostalgia dating back to that Christmas morning. I disregarded my other gifts in favor of opening The Elfstones of Shannara to begin reading. My life-long addiction to reading was firmly set at the hands of Terry Brooks that Christmas day.
Several years later in 1990, my mother came home from work one day and had some interesting news; The Scions of Shannara, a new Terry Brooks book, had just been published in hardcover. At that age, I had no idea what scions meant. My mother pronounced it Sky-Ons, and I had a very precise moment where I saw the cover before actually physically seeing it: swirling, beautiful colors by a new artist, an airship drifting over a land marvelous in green texture and icy grace, a sense of magic about the cover that I just couldn’t shake. Unbelievably, I had seen the cover in my mind before actually observing it.
This happens sometimes with me. Don’t ask.
One cannot know the astonishment I had when I viewed the cover to The Scions of Shannara for the first time. It was about as different from my vision as a cover can be: dark, black, set on the most desolate of earth with characters gracing the cover. It was cover art depicting the Hadeshorn, painted by the fantastic and dearly missed Keith Parkinson. I shrugged the cover discrepancy off quickly, however, because I had the new Shannara novel in my hands. I read it in two days. The faulty cover vision I had, however, remained with me for years.
I graduated from high school, and I was accepted into the University of Washington in Seattle to begin my undergraduate work in biochemistry. It was during the summer following my freshman year in 1996 that I decided to teach myself HTML and website design. My proverbial voyage into HTML began as an attempt to keep some form of sanity against boredom. I find it ironic that the separate paths Terry and I both took to working with one another began through a wish to keep the insanity at bay–my desire to do something productive with my boring summer and Terry’s need to save his sanity from law school by writing Sword.
The first website I attempted was not a personal website as so many people start with, but a dedication website to my favorite author. I taught myself graphic design, organizational layout, navigation, and soon I had a nicely wrought, simple website that people slowly began to visit. After building the varying sections of the website over three months, I returned to school in Seattle in September. It was when I was buying that quarter’s school books at the University Bookstore that I saw Terry Brooks would be doing a signing/reading. Overjoyed, I made plans to attend that event.
I saw Terry several times over those next few years whenever he published a book and went on tour. In the meantime, my website grew not only technically but also in content. Luckily, Terry lived in Seattle and every year I was given the chance to not only hear him read from the book he was currently working on, but I absorbed all new information about what he was doing with his writing ventures. I had access to news most people had not heard. The internet was still in its infancy as a tool to disseminate information, and my website was beginning to grow out of the early stages of development into a mature presence. Even the publishers had not gotten into that publicity game yet. More people came to the website, the initial bulletin board saw steady post movement, and I began to realize in 1999 I had a worthy website to maintain and a promise to keep to Terry Brooks fans who couldn’t get the information I was lucky enough to listen to every year.
Then over a period of a few weeks in October 1999, several important events happened.
I decided to initiate a dialogue between myself and Del Rey, Terry’s publisher. I wrote a letter to Shelly Shapiro, long-time Del Rey editor and illustrator of Terry’s 1990’s maps, and offered my services as an official webmaster for the author. I expected no payment. The website was already on the internet with a fan base, and it made sense for me to be the official webmaster since I too lived in Seattle and I saw Terry every year. I got no reply from her or from Del Rey.
It was around this same time that both of Terry’s daughters visited my website and left wonderful comments about it. They made sure to tell their father about it. Behind the scenes, they had been telling him for years to build his own official website. Not wishing to devote huge amounts of learning and time to building a website himself, he knew he had to find someone who could facilitate his web presence.
Meanwhile, I decided to go to the release party at University Bookstore for Dune: House Atreides, the first prequel by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. As I walked into the fantasy section of the store before the event was to begin, Terry was perusing the shelves. I had the author that put me on the path to reading and eventually writing in front of me—alone—and available to answer any questions I could come up with. We ended up talking for 20 minutes before the event. That conversation was a blur, but Terry was there to support Brian—a return favor to the Herbert family for when Frank Herbert came out to support an unknown author named Terry Brooks in 1977 with the release of his new epic fantasy, The Sword of Shannara.
A month later I attended a book signing with Terry for his release of Angel Fire East, and I gave him a letter, similar to the one I sent Shelly, offering my web services to him. He remembered me and we talked for some time about the letter after his signing. During our talk, I noticed Terry had the new Steve Stone covers the artist had done for the paperback relaunch of the Shannara series. I asked him very politely if I could borrow them and scan them for the website. It turned out he trusted me enough to let me do so. He had one condition: I had to return them to him at his next signing two days later. I agreed, happy.
Unbeknownst to me, the letter I had sent Shelly at Del Rey had made its way into Terry’s hands and with my new letter in hand from the event left our meeting to do some research. He went online and viewed other websites dedicated to him and he chose my website as a perfect example of what he wished to have as his official website. We reconvened two days later at Third Place Books in Seattle and instead of telling me the news, he introduced me as his new webmaster with Del Rey’s approval. I was pretty close to speechless. My dream to become Terry Brooks’ official webmaster–a dream that had taken root within me years earlier, although I didn’t fully understand it–had come to fruition.
Over the next two months, Terry and I set up the URL and I designed a new website for the occasion. It was unveiled January 1st, 2000 as many of you already know.
After the 2000 New Year holiday, Terry invited me to his home for a meeting and we discussed several different ideas and concepts for the growing website. He then showed me the beautiful cover to The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch, and I went numb and speechless.
Terry noticed my wonderment and asked why I was holding my breath.
I then told him the story of Sky-Ons from years earlier, and he laughed. Our meeting and working together was not by chance, because the beautiful cover artwork I was holding in my hands was the exact vision I had had when I was younger, nearly a decade earlier. To this day, I know he believed my story.
Over the last nine years, I’ve met many great authors, editors, publicists, fans and booksellers. None of it would have been possible with the wide-open door that working with Terry has given me.
Through all of that, it has brought me to Suvudu, brought me to developing many other websites, brought me my own stories to tell, and brought me to all of you guys…
Even though I am overjoyed at my success, I am still very much awed at the idea of working and being friends with the Terry Brooks I grew up reading—still awed at the bestselling authors I’ve befriended over the years. It’s something I have to remind myself every now and again. They are all close friends now, mentors in many ways, and that sense of wonder doesn’t drift too far from me.
Hopefully that sense of wonder will see my book published one day. The Dark Thorn, an urban fantasy which I am almost finished writing, is a combination of Terry’s Word/Void and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books. We’ll see what happens.
Without the generosity of Terry, none of this would have been possible.
Without hard work on my part, none of this would have been possible.
In conclusion, this is not merely about a dream, but about a dream fulfilled. A dream fulfilled because of hard work, tenacity, and a passion for something I truly believe in. Terry’s work is impressive, but the man is more so, larger in so many ways I can’t even begin to relate here. He is a gentleman, concerned about family, friends, and fans, and he is uncompromising when it comes to the goodness he brings to the world. He lives his life with magic. He believes that those who remain optimistic and use the passion they’ve been born with, they can achieve anything.
He’s right. I’m proof of it.
The future is to be written. Terry enjoys his fans very much, but his magic burns brightest when you all believe in your own. Always remember: Dreams are what you make of them. Their reality depends on your faith and hard work.
Best Holiday Wishes,