A Webmaster’s Tale: It’s Been 20 Years

20! Years!

It is quite strange to say that I’ve been doing something for 20 years besides breathing, eating, and reading. It is true though. I have been the official webmaster for New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks for 20 years.

In October 1988, a 13 year old boy stole a book placed on top of his mother’s sewing machine, a book one of her work friends gave her to read. That boy took the book, sat near a warm fireplace, and began to read. The book? The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. The boy? Me, long before I’d lose my hair. Years later, on a cold 1999 November afternoon, I went to see my favorite author at a book signing with a letter in hand. I’d been maintaining a Brooks dedication website since 1996 and I wanted it to be official. Two days later at another event, he introduced me as his new webmaster.

It has been a fun 20 years. Terry, his wife Judine, and their family embraced me as one of their own. I began reading Terry’s books early, to catch any possible continuity errors that might occur in a series featuring so many volumes. Judine pushed me to write; Terry gave great writing advice. And through it all, we’ve traveled together, met thousands of Terry’s fans on the road, and loved every minute of it. Terry and Judine were at my wedding. And they treat my sons as honorary Brooks grandsons.

It hasn’t all been good during that time of course. I’ve had cancer twice. I’ve lost my father. And in 2016, I lost my mother to cancer, the woman responsible for bringing that battered The Sword of Shannara paperback home.

To celebrate the 20 years in its ups and downs, I decided to buy something to commemorate the work I’ve put in. I didn’t know what I wanted but it needed to be something unique, something no one else has. It needed to have real magic to match up with the magic I’ve experienced. Upon reflection, I also wanted it to honor my mother.

Thankfully, Greg Hildebrandt still had one of the original paintings from the interior of The Sword of Shannara. After the sale of my parent’s home this year — the home where I first read The Sword of Shannara — I bought the painting. It now hangs over my writing desk. A reminder of where that 13 year old boy came from. And his work with his favorite author. But also a reminder of his mother’s love.

Without that painting, that book, that author, that mother, I would not be a writer today. Miss you, mom. I think you’d like this painting a lot.

Today is Cyber Monday. I thought it would be a fun idea to have Grim Oak Press offer my debut urban fantasy novel The Dark Thorn and its pseudo-sequel The Twilight Dragon on sale. They are part of a $30 box, discounted from $60. Included with the two books will be a chapbook featuring the first two chapters from The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey, my new SF&F book. Ironically, the first chapter was the last thing my mother read before she passed away.

It has been an amazing 20 years. Because of all of you. And Terry and Judine. And my mother. And those who make magic possible.

Let’s keep putting more magic into this world!

Best Holiday Wishes,
Shawn Speakman

“The Dark Thorn is one exciting book. From start to finish, there are strong characters, dangers lurking around every corner and cliffhangers that will leave you breathless. A fine tale by a talented writer.” — Terry Brooks