Friday, February 27, 2009

The Shades of Love

I've been wanting to share this for a week. Wasn't sure how to go about it. So, I'll just spit it out.

Here's Terry's Tip for Feb. 27. I recently finished reading three great books ... The Given Day by Dennis Lehane and The Road by Cormack McCarthy.

Dennis Lehane wrote Mystic River. I started that book (my son, Matt, loves Lehane), but the language was tough to take.

I was amazed by The Given Day. It's a wonderful story, epic in proportion, intimate in family.

But what shocked me was the lyricism of Lehane's writing. His wonderful turn of phrases, sparkling word pictures. It reads like the best Steinbeck. But I loved how he intertwined smells into his scene tapestries. Smells ... something I ignore too frequently in my scenes. But how strong, and powerful and seductive are smells.

The Given Day is a rough story in spots, Lehane is gritty, but I didn't want it to end.

The Road is absolutely mind-blowing. McCarthy has a style like none other I've ever seen. No chapters, for one. He creates a foreign, forbidding world and enchants you into its center. Two characters you ache for. That's all I can tell you without giving too much away. It's spectacular.

The third book? Yesterday I finished reading The Shack. Wow! What a revelation. My wife got it from the library and we all read it before it was due back. Now, I've got to go out and buy myself a copy. There's just too much in there to absorb, and remember, in just one reading. Fascinating.

Odd thing ... all three books are about love. Expectations of love in The Given Day. Responsibilities of love in The Road. And the gift of love in The Shack.

It's all love. Two are enslaving. One is freeing. We all have a choice which one, or two, or three we would like in our lives.


Pretty cool, this writing stuff.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

State of Who's Union?

One of the great benefits of history is that it gives us perspective ... perspective of not only what happened in the past, but why it happened. And a perspective with which to measure and assess the present.

I listened to all of President Obama's State of the Union speech last night. It is certainly clear to all Americans that "Now is the time ..." for perspective.

Over the last two years we have endured what may be the greatest economic collapse in the history of this nation.

No one knows for sure where this fiscal disaster will stop. What we do know is that the rate of decline continues to accelerate. One third of the total jobs lost during this two-year recession have been lost in the last three months. The last quarter of 2008 saw the greatest decline in home values in generations. Home values in many California communities have declined 50% ... 35 to 40% in many Florida communities.

We are suffering through an economic cataclysm of historic proportions. Only history will tell us if this time is, in fact, The Great Depression.

At the same time, our nation has undergone the greatest political cataclysm since Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence.

Last month, I watched all day as our nation inaugurated an African-American man as President of the United States. Make no doubt about this point ... that day was the change of an age. Nothing will ever be the same again.

The age of the Baby Boomers has ended ... at least their control over the age.

When I was a boy, African-American men and women in the South could not chose their own seats on a bus. They could not eat in "white-only" restaurants; they could not drink from "white-only" water fountains.

A colleague of mine, a man who must be at least 10 years my junior, told me recently his grandfather was born a slave. Imagine that. A grandfather who was born a slave.

And, today, we have an African-American man as President, and there has not been rioting in the streets or acts of civil disobedience ... or the secession of states to form their own union.

This is a new age ... something we have never seen before.

So, we are living through the greatest economic and greatest political cataclysms - perhaps - in the history of our nation.

Which leads me to wonder ... what comes next? And what will it mean?

In the days after 9/11, the people of this nation were, in the vast majority, willing to surrender some of their rights for security - whether real or imagined. We were all afraid of what would come next. I know, living in New York City, I was. And we wanted the government, the military, to protect us from these mad terrorists.

Now, in the first days of his Presidency, Mr. Obama has closed the detention camp at Guantanamo and ordered an end to torture during interrogation. In the days after 9/11, putting suspected terrorists in detention anywhere, and using extraordinary measures to protect our citizens, may have looked a lot more palatable. Today, in hindsight, they look like big mistakes.

So, last night, I heard our President - and God bless him and help him make wise decisions - say that he wanted government to dictate what proper business practices would be in this new age; that he wanted government to determine how banks should function; that he wanted health care for every citizen; that every student has the right to go to college; that he wanted to tax the richest 2% of Americans to help pay for his plans.

And ... all this is the face of the largest spending bill in the history of this nation - the $1 trillion economic stimulus package - that was passed by Congress in less time than it takes to renew your driver's license at the DMV office.

Yes ... we need to do something to try and shore up the economic disaster that threatens the very fabric of our society. Doing nothing is not an option.

But, what I wonder is, what will history tell us, once we have a chance to shine the light of perspective on this time?

Will it tell us that the Federal government made all the right decisions, spent all its money wisely, resurrected economic growth - and then got out of the free market system?

Or, will history tell us that we just entered a new age. The age of a socialist America?

I listened to all of President Obama's State of the Union message last night. And what I heard made me fear even more for the future of this nation.

I'm concerned that, in the name of economic stability, we are inviting socialism to replace democracy. That we are ready to jettison our republic in favor of expediency.

And I fear for our future. Good intentions in dangerous times have led us to disastrous blunders in the past. And what happens when there is another cataclysm added to what has transpired so far? What happens if, God forbid, terrorists once again defile this nation and its people?

Is that the day we move from the age of democracy and freedom to socialism and dictatorship?

Is that possibility so far away? Or, is Now the time?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Edward Elgar - An Enigma


Did you ever dream of breaking a secret code? Well, here's your chance.

This month, we're going to give you a little sneak peek at one of the plot elements that help drive The Sacred Cipher. And we'll also give you a chance to solve a 100-year-old code that has never been broken.


He was a chemist – in his basement. He was a cryptographer and code breaker – in his spare time. He went to work in an insane asylum – to find the peace he sought to compose music.

Sir Edward Elgar, one of the most beloved and influential English composers of this age … a romantic scientist of music … died 75 years ago.

Elgar passed away on February 23, 1934. Yet, his music is as alive today – as modern and well-known; as ingrained in our society – as the music of the Beatles.

Who is Edward Elgar?

Have you ever heard the Pomp and Circumstances March … the music that is played at every school graduation ceremony? Then you’ve heard Sir Edward Elgar.

But, if you watch much TV, or many movies, then you’re likely to have also heard Sir Edward Elgar’s work. There was a series on television about World War II – Band of Brothers. Click on this youtube connection below and see if this sounds familiar.

This music is Nimrod, one of the “Variations on an Original Theme” Elgar wrote to widespread acclaim in 1899 – his now famous Enigma Variations, some of the most beautiful music this world has ever heard. Elgar’s compositions are vast and varied, far too many to comment on here – his Cello Concerto; the Music Makers; his 1st Symphony and his masterful the Dream of Gerontius (1900).

The 75th Anniversary of Elgar’s death will be celebrated on February 28th by a commemorative concert played by the renowned English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) at the Worcester Cathedral in England. Continuum has just published a book on Elgar, Elgar: An Anniversary Portrait … Introduced by Nicholas Kenyon. The liner notes read:

This collection of essays offers a new insight into the composer's life.

Edward Elgar was a man of many contradictions. He was born an outsider, into a family of lower-middle class, Catholic, origins. Yet his fame, and ability to write music that struck a chord in the national consciousness, led him to adopt a sycophantic attitude towards the Royal Family and high society, even though he always felt ill at ease with them.

Elgar was a depressive with a problematic marriage, who craved recognition, but in many ways he regretted the piece of music which made him famous. 'Pomp and Circumstance' made him the leading English composer of his age, but also contributed to the jingoism which he so disliked during the First World War. Yet, unquestionably, he was the greatest musical genius that England had produced in centuries.

This Portrait, by some of the scholars and musicians that understand him best, offers new light on a wide range of aspects of Edward Elgar's life and work.

Why do I care about Sir Edward Elgar? On the surface, my interest has little direct connection to his music. It has to do with the Dorabella Cipher – a code Elgar wrote in 1897 as a birthday present to a friend … a code that has never been broken.

The Dorabella Cipher is one of the key elements that Tom Bohannon and his team – Dr. Richard Johnson, Sammy Rizzo and Joe Rodriguez – use to solve the mystery of The Sacred Cipher, my first novel which will be published by Kregel Publications and released on July 31.

The Elgar Society ( holds an annual competition for those code-breakers who are attempting to crack the Dorabella Cipher. In 2008 there were seven entries submitted, but the cipher remains a mystery and the £1,500 prize has yet to be awarded.

Can you break the Dorabella Cipher written by Sir Edward Elgar?

If you want to win the prize, perhaps reading The Sacred Cipher may help. But, if you can't wait the five monts until the book is released, next month, we'll give you some more history of the Dorabella Cipher, and some more clues.

And, oh yeah, Sir Edward Elgar is the man who opened the EMI Recording Studios on Abbey Road in November, 1931. You remember Abbey Road, right? Some English group made an album of that title. Can’t quite remember their name.

Click below to see a rare piece of film - Elgar conducting his Pomp and Circumstance at the opening of the Abbey Road Studios.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

January/February Newsletter - Rock & Roll

Are you ready for some Football!

Well … okay … not exactly.

Are you ready for some Rock And Roll?

Here you go, then … something to get you psyched up for the Super Bowl.

Click on the link below and get zapped. It’s safe … it’s clean … and it’s only 29 seconds long. Try it. It’ll get your toes tapping.

WOW … wasn’t that cool?

One of the great folks in the marketing department at Kregel Publications put that together last week as a trailer to the upcoming release of The Sacred Cipher. I’ll tell you … what a rush it was the first time I loaded it up.

And now it seems like there’s more and more every day.

If you go to this link you’ll see Kregel’s preliminary page on presenting The Sacred Cipher. The book is now slated for release at the end of July.

I know … the release date has been a moving target. But I’m told that’s not unusual.

One of the reasons the date’s been shifted from Spring to Summer (I think it will be a great beach read) is that I’ve been working furiously with the Kregel editors on some much needed revisions to the manuscript.

Just imagine what happens when a rookie novelist runs into an editor who was nominated for Editor Of The Year in 2008! That’s right … a whole lot of homework.

But we’re making great progress and, the best thing is, the edits and revisions are making it a much stronger book. It’s still the same story – just told with a good bit more skill – the editor’s, not mine. But I’m learning.

So, here’s your homework for February.

Go check out and search for The Sacred Cipher. Yes! It’s there. (Hey, I am not the Terry Brennan who writes about “Primate Ecology” or “Organophilic Clays” … I don’t even want to think about that.)

Go check out … yes! Nothing on Barnes & Noble, yet. also has the book on its site, at the best discount, but there were some errors in their posting (wrong release date), so it may be down then come up again next week.

But, here’s what I’d ask of any who feel so inclined … go onto one of these sites and put in an order – before the book is released. Talk to your friends, relatives, co-workers, folks in line at the supermarket. Get them to pre-order it also.

Call your local Barnes & Noble. Ask them if they’re going to have it in stock when it’s released in July. If not, why not?


It’s the buzz that makes the book. “Word of Mouth” is the best, most effective, strongest kind of book marketing that exists. Let’s all get the buzz. Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

Or, in the immortal words of Clark Griswold, “If there’s enough money left over, we’ll all go to Disneyland.”

Or, was that John Elway?

Happy Super Bowl. And have a great February.