Website History


Many who visit this website have asked a variety of questions concerning how it came to be developed and maintained by a fan, how did Terry become involved in it, and what is in store for the website in the future. I hope to answer some of those questions here.

First, because you as fans have a right to know where your information is coming from.

And second, because it is a story that speaks to the power of dreams.

I began reading The Sword of Shannara when I was 13 years old. It was my first Terry Brooks book. My mother, a devoted reader, brought it home to read at the suggestion of one of her coworkers. I vividly remember the novel sitting alone next to my mother’s sewing machine while she finished another novel, the brick-like paperback already incredibly ratty from multiple reads. I picked it up one chilly October night, sat down next to the fireplace, and began to read its opening sentence as flaming 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 age to eat. Before The Sword of Shannara, I had only read the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, which I 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, and there is a certain magic in the land that lends itself easily to one’s immersion into a fantasy novel. 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 edition I had was a first printing paperback with no mention of The Elfstones of Shannara.

Weeks passed, and Christmas approached.

You can imagine my utter joy, after furiously tearing through Christmas paper and the box representing my last gift, to find first printing paperback editions of The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara. I can still remember the fresh smell of the new paperbacks and the glint of the flashing Christmas tree lights off of the foiled titles. Even now when I read a new book that I have been looking forward to, 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.

Several years later in 1990, my mother came home from work one day with 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 tangibly seeing it physically: 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. I had seen the cover in my mind and I couldn’t wait to get it.

One cannot know my astonishment when I viewed the original cover to The Scions of Shannara. 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 with the shade of Allanon at its center. I shrugged off my confusion quickly though 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 of 1996 following my freshman year that I decided to teach myself HTML and website design. It was done in an attempt to keep some sanity against boredom. 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 after a lot of trial and error—mostly error—I had a nicely-wrought, simple website that Terry’s fans began to visit.

After building the varying sections of the website over three months, I returned to school 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.

Thrilled, I made plans to attend the event.

I saw Terry several times over those next few years whenever he published a book. In the meantime, my website grew not only technically but in content. I was lucky. Terry lived in Seattle and every year I was given the chance to attend his Seattle event and report any new information about his writing ventures. I had access to news most people had not heard. The internet was still in its infancy in 1996, and my website was beginning to grow out of the early stages of development into a mature presence. More people came to the website, the initial bulletin board saw steady post movement, and I began to realize by 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 gain every year.

The fateful irony being if Terry and I hadn’t occupied Seattle at the same time in the late 1990’s, this website would likely not be run by me.

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 saw Terry every year.

I got no reply from her or from Del Rey.

It was around this same time that two of Terry’s daughters visited my website and left wonderful comments in the guestbook. I didn’t know this, but they made sure to tell their father about the website. For years they had been telling him to build an official website. Terry hadn’t done it. He didn’t want to devote huge amounts of time to the development of a website when that same amount of time could be spent writing.

Meanwhile, and for reasons I can’t quite comprehend other than a need to be there, 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. The Dune universe had always intrigued me and I wanted to meet Frank’s son. As I walked into the fantasy section of the store before the event, Terry just happened to be perusing the shelves. I had the author that put me on the path to reading in front of me—alone&mash;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 supported an unknown author named Terry Brooks and his new book in 1977.

The final brick for my future was laid a month later in October 1999. I attended the Seattle Angel Fire East event, where I gave Terry a similar letter as the one I had sent Del Rey, offering my web services. We talked for some time about it after his signing. During our talk, I noticed Terry had the new Steve Stone covers created for the relaunch of the Shannara series. I asked him if I could borrow them to scan 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, he 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’s official webmaster—a dream that had taken root within me years earlier—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.

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 cover to The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch, and I went speechless. Ice. Rolling green fields. A flying airship under azure sky. Terry noticed my awe and asked if I was okay. 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.

I am still very much awed at the idea of working and being friends with the Terry Brooks I grew up reading. It’s something I am reminded of from time to time. He is a close friend now, one of the humblest people I know and a mentor in many ways, and that sense of wonder doesn’t drift too far from me. The website has gone through several different designs and continues to grow intricately as more and more people come to it. Terry has touched many people through the website, as I hope I have, and there have been some fond relationships that have grown from its inception. It will continue to grow—to evolve as magic does—and I hope to be of service to Terry and his fans for many years to come.

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 fellow gentleman, concerned about family, friends, and fans, and he is uncompromising when it comes to the goodness he brings the world. He lives his life with magic. He believes that those who remain optimistic 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 Wishes,
Shawn Speakman
Writer of The Dark Thorn

Updated: August 21, 2010