meet Terry Brennan

Today is Fiction Friday and Karlene is hosting for us at her blog, Homespun Expressions. Be sure to run over there for links to fun fiction.

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Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Terry Brennan. Terry answered the call I put out to authors, and after the first 30 seconds of surprise (on my part) he had me laughing. The poor man is stuck being spotlighted on a pink, purple and green blog--but he's got a good sense of humor, just like Rick Higginson does, so I didn't worry about redecorating for him. :-) I have to tell you, this is one of those books I'm drooling over. In fact, my whole family is.

And now, here's Terry...

Over the past 35 years, Terry Brennan has accumulated a broad range of experience in both the profit and non-profit business sectors.
His 22-year, award winning journalism career included:
*Seven years as a sportswriter and editor with The Philadelphia Bulletin, at the time the largest-circulation afternoon newspaper in the nation;
*Leading The Mercury of Pottstown (PA), as its editor, to a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing;
*Serving as Executive Editor of a multi-national newspaper firm – Ingersoll Publications – with papers in the USA, England and Ireland.

In 1996 Brennan transferred his successful management career to the non-profit sector and served for 12 years as Vice President of Operations for the Christian Herald Association, Inc., the parent organization of four New York City ministries, including The Bowery Mission.

Now Vice President of the National Organization on Disability in Manhattan, Brennan also won the Valley Forge Award for editorial writing from the Freedoms Foundation. His two adult sons and their families live in Pennsylvania. Terry, his wife Andrea and their two adult children live in New York City. His first novel, The Sacred Cipher, was published by Kregel Publications and released in July of 2009.

The Sacred Cipher
When New Yorker Tom Bohannon uncovers an ancient scroll containing a dead language that has been lost in the sands of time, he doesn't fully comprehend the danger that's about to unfold. Though Tom and his team of ragtag scientists and historians want to decode the ancient text, others don’t want the cipher revealed. And they are prepared to kill to keep it hidden.
From a market in nineteenth-century Alexandria to a library in present-day New York to the tunnels beneath Jerusalem, the secret of the cipher is gradually revealing itself across the globe. And for those in its path, life is about to change - forever.

Here's an excerpt from The Sacred Cipher:

1889 • Alexandria, Egypt
Only three types of buyers entered the Attarine—the foolish, the fraudulent, and the forewarned. The foolish, who acted on whim instead of wisdom and expected to fleece an ignorant Egyptian native; the fraudulent, expert in identifying well-crafted forgeries, anxious to pass them on for great profit; and the forewarned, who searched for treasure but were wise enough to employ someone who knew the ways, and the merchants, of the seductive but evil-ridden Attarine.

Spurgeon knew the risk. But treasures awaited in the twisting, narrow stone streets snaking away from the Attarine Mosque.

He had Mohammad, he had a gun, he had money—and he had God.

Peering down the darkened alley, Spurgeon worried that, maybe, he didn’t have enough.

Mohammad entered the alley and disappeared from view. The alley was gray-on-gray, denied sunlight by overhanging, second-floor balconies adorning almost every building, their shuttered windows barely an arm’s length from each other. Joining with the dark was a riot of refuse, crazed, cadaver-like dogs and powerfully pungent, unknown odors.

The Attarine District was home to the greatest concentration of antiquities dealers in Alexandria, both the illicit and the honorable. A person could buy almost any historical artifact along the ancient streets of the Attarine. Some were even genuine. And Charles Haddon Spurgeon was on a treasure hunt.

He held his breath; he held his heart; and he stepped into the dark.

At the first fork, Mohammed Isfahan was waiting. Spurgeon’s heart slowed its pounding pace. Mohammed confidently led the way, weaving in and out of the shoppers and the strollers who clogged the tight byways. It was early morning, before the sun began to scorch the stones, and Spurgeon was grateful for the moderate breeze off the Mediterranean. At his size, the heat sapped his strength and soaked his shirt within minutes. Though the morning was warm, Spurgeon hoped to get back into his hotel, under a fan in a shaded corner of the dining room, long before the withering heat began blowing from the Sahara. On one of his regular trips to the Middle East, Spurgeon was trolling for ancient biblical texts and Mohammed, recommended by the hotel’s concierge, promised he knew where to look.

Now fifty-six, he was England’s best-known preacher, and he grudgingly accepted the considerable influence and power he had earned as pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Church for the last thirty years. Spurgeon was the first to admit preaching was his passion.

But Spurgeon was also the first to admit that books were his weakness. He typically devoured six books per week and had written many of his own. Now, scuttling through the twilight of the dusty alley, Spurgeon sought to slake that hunger in the shops of the Attarine.

Rounding a curve in the street, Mohammed paused alongside a curtain-covered doorway, pulled aside the curtain, and motioned for Spurgeon to enter. Inside the shop, not only was the atmosphere cooler, but it also carried the rich scent of old leather, soft and smooth like musty butter. Mohammed bowed reverentially as the proprietor emerged from the rear of the shop. He was a small man of an indeterminate age. What defined him were hawk-like, ebony eyes overflowing with wisdom, discerning of character, and surrounded by a brilliant white kaffiyeh. Mohammed spoke rapidly in Arabic, bowed again, and then stepped back as the proprietor approached Spurgeon.

“Salaam aleikum,” he said, bowing his head toward Spurgeon, who was startled when the man continued in perfectly cadenced English, “and peace be with you, my friend. It is an honor for my humble shop to welcome such a famous man under its roof. May I be permitted to share with you some tea and some of our little treasures?”

Wondering about the origin of the shopkeeper’s English, Spurgeon responded with a bow of his own. “Salaam aleikum, my brother. You honor me by using my language in your shop. But I must ask, how have you any knowledge of me?”

“Ah, the name of Spurgeon has found its way down many streets. I am Ibrahim El-Safti, and I am at your service. My friend, Mohammed, tells me you are interested in texts that refer to the stories of your Nazarene prophet, is that correct?”

“I would be honored to review any such texts as may be in your possession,” said Spurgeon. He took the chair and the tea that were offered by El-Safti and waited quietly as the shopkeeper sought and retrieved three books. While Spurgeon studied the books, one in Aramaic, one in Greek, and the last in an unknown language, Mohammed and the shopkeeper retired through the doorway, stepping outside the curtain.

Spurgeon slipped into a scholar’s zone, focusing intently on the words before him. But the breeze turned, pushing aside the curtain in the door and carrying the words of Mohammed and El-Safti into the shop and up to Spurgeon’s ear—one well-trained in Arabic, among many other languages.

“What of the scroll?” Spurgeon heard Mohammed ask.

“Do not speak of that scroll in front of this infidel,” El-Safti countered, his voice stronger and more virile than it had been earlier. “You know what our tradition holds; this scroll would be of great benefit to the infidels, both the Jews and the Christians. We are to hold it in trust and keep it out of their hands at all costs.”

“You speak like an imam,” Mohammed said. “No one knows what is on that scroll; no one has been able to translate its meaning. How do we know what it contains?”

Spurgeon forgot the books in his lap. He heard a more interesting story floating on the breeze.

“If it can’t be read, is there any difference in whose hands it rests? I believe the English preacher would pay handsomely for the privilege of owning something he doesn’t understand. Ibrahim,” said Mohammed, “look at me. It could pay for your daughter’s wedding.”

“Do not tempt me, Mohammed,” El-Safti said. “That scroll has remained here for two generations, and no one has ever requested to see it. Quiet, now, and let us see what may interest the Englishman.”

Spurgeon attempted to return his attention to the books, but his eyes were pulled back to the men as they entered through the curtain. El Safti reverted to his perfectly subservient composure as he stepped before Spurgeon. The only thing out of place was an amulet — a Coptic cross with a lightning bolt flashing through on the diagonal—that slipped from the neck of his robe as he came through the doorway.

“Do these books meet with your interest?” El-Safti asked.

Spurgeon rose from the chair and handed the books back to El-Safti. “I am disappointed to tell you, my friend, that you may have been swindled. The book in Aramaic is a fraud, and a poor one at that. The Greek, I have two copies in my library. And the third is in a language I have not seen before, but does not appear to be Semitic. Tell me, do you not possess anything more authentic?”

A moment’s silence passed through the shop. El-Safti’s pitch black eyes flickered with offense.

“My humble apologies,” El-Safti said. “Your reputation as a scholar is well earned, Dr. Spurgeon. But perhaps I do have something that you would find interesting. It is very old, but of indeterminate age.” El-Safti walked to the back of the shop. “It is an infidel’s mezuzah, nicely etched, wrapped in a very colorful piece of Moroccan silk.”

Disappointed in the books, Spurgeon’s interest increased at the mention of silk. His niece’s birthday would be upon him when he returned to England. Perhaps there was a prize here, after all.

El-Safti slipped into a small closet at the rear corner of the shop and could be heard snapping the hasp on a lock and moving a chain. Silence, then a stream of Arabic epithets, as El-Safti recoiled from the closet.

“Forgive me,” he said, his wild eyes looking first at Spurgeon and then at Mohammed. “It is gone. The scroll, it is gone.”

First fear, then unbelief, fought for dominance in El-Safti’s weathered face. His hands trembled as he wrung them together.

“Allah has punished me for my greed,” El-Safti said, slipping back into Arabic. “Mohammad, remove this infidel. And hurry back. We must think. We must find the scroll. We must find it before it is lost forever.”

Three days later, Spurgeon wandered through the Alexandrian bazaar, his work for the trip complete and his passage for London booked on a ship leaving the next morning. But his mind kept drifting back to El-Safti and the nearly hysterical look on his face when he discovered this mysterious scroll had disappeared.

What could have caused the man such fear? he wondered, his hand exploring vibrant textiles and metal trinkets as he strolled through the bazaar. It appeared he was willing to sell. Even if it had been stolen or lost, why react so severely when he was about to sell it anyway?

He was about to turn a corner and walk away from the bazaar, when a soft voice coming from a shaded corner of a building caught his attention.

“Effendi, Dr. Spurgeon, please, may I have a moment of your time?”

As Spurgeon turned to the sound of his name, an elderly man in well-worn, but once-fine, clothes stepped out of the shadows, bowing deeply from the waist.

“Please forgive this unwarranted intrusion, but I knew of no other way.”

“How do you know who I am?” Spurgeon asked, taking no step toward the man, who looked more like a beggar than a prince.

“You have walked these streets many times, Dr. Spurgeon, searching for treasures in books and letters. What has been more memorable for my people, why you are well known and highly regarded, are the many kindnesses you have done for our children, so many who have been healed by the doctors you sent. It is why many in this city watch out for your safety.”

Spurgeon’s curiosity spiked. “So, what can I do for you?”

“More than likely, it’s what I can do for you,” said the old man. “A few days ago, you were in the Attarine. There was some discussion about a scroll. Allah be praised, I believe I may be able to help you.”

The old man, whose face was deeply wrinkled and the color of old leather, pulled from within his kaftan a brightly designed piece of silk. Spurgeon took a step toward the elderly Arab, then another, joining him in the half-light of the building’s shadows in spite of a gnawing unease.

“I had the good fortune of being in the Attarine at the same time you were in the shop of one El-Safti,” said the old man. “I think you were quite fortunate that the document El-Safti sought was no longer in his possession. I think, had you purchased this document, you never would have left the Attarine with it in your possession.”

“So you stole it?”

“Effendi,” the old man demurred. “I am only the recipient of Allah’s provision and a defender of your highly esteemed person. If, however, you have no interest in this trinket, perhaps I should take it elsewhere?” As the man began to return the silk-draped object back into the depths of his kaftan, Spurgeon quickly stepped even closer and laid his hand on the man’s arm.

“Please, my friend,” Spurgeon said, looking into the old man’s peaceful eyes. “It would not be appropriate to send you away without at least examining the gift you bring me.”

“Many thanks,” said the old man. He bowed his head but never took his eyes from the Englishman. ”Here, please join me by this table so that I may display to you this treasure.”

Overcoming his reluctance, Spurgeon stepped to the small table that stood in the shadows of the building. The old man opened the silk cover, a purse of some sort, withdrew an engraved metal tube, and laid it on the table. Moving closer to the table, Spurgeon began running his fingers over the silk purse, fascinated by its color and the strangeness of its designs, symbols of long, swooping lines dancing across a blood red sea.

“Ah, yes, it is a beautiful purse, is it not?” the old man said. “But I believe you may be even more intrigued by what is inside.” With that, the old man took hold of the handle on the side of the cylinder and, turning the metal shaft that extended through its center, began extracting a rather plain, parchment scroll. What was on the scroll, however, was far from plain.

Spurgeon leaned over the table, adjusting his spectacles for a better look. The parchment itself, probably sheepskin, was remarkably well preserved, indicating a majority of its life had been spent in a dry climate, not here in Alexandria where humidity would have destroyed it. On the surface of the parchment were written twenty-one columns of symbols arranged in seven groupings—three vertical rows of symbols in each of the groupings. It was an odd construction. Spurgeon, however, was more intrigued by the symbols themselves, a series of simple, yet stylistic, characters. “What is it?” he asked.

The old man shrugged.

“I don’t know what language that is,” said Spurgeon “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it. Tell me, what do you think it means?”

“Forgive me, Effendi, but I do not have a great deal of time,” the old man said, turning to face Spurgeon. “I have a desire to dispose of this treasure. Perhaps you would be willing to take it off my hands for, say, three thousand piastres?”

Spurgeon ran his fingers over the cylinder and entered into the obligatory negotiations.

By the time each had argued, cajoled, and conceded, Spurgeon purchased the purse and the metal tube for fewer than fifteen hundred piastres, only a few English pounds. Spurgeon was quite satisfied with himself. He had just purchased a fine gift, the beautiful silk purse, for his niece’s birthday. Wrapping the tube tightly back into the silk purse, Spurgeon covered it with a discarded section of burlap and tucked it under his arm. Turning to leave, he was startled by two things: first, that the old man had already disappeared into the bazaar and, second, the lurking presence of Mohammed Isfahan, pressed into a darkened doorway across the street.

Spurgeon’s walk back to his hotel was much more brisk than usual, in spite of the heat.

1891 • London, England
With a speed that belied his bulk, his umbrella lying on the ground, Spurgeon regained his feet and began running downhill, looking for lights and praying for help. He turned twice, skidding on the stones but not breaking his pace, until he came to much-needed rest in the darkened alcove of the apothecary shop on Weston Street.

Spurgeon loathed his dread. He mocked himself: where was his faith? Yet hidden from the light, he drank in the night air in the deep draughts of a desperate man and tried to free his mind to make a clear decision. Every shadow became a warrant for his destruction. He held the package loosely, tucked into the large pocket of his woolen overcoat, afraid to grasp it too tightly that his anxiety might transmit some signal to those who were in pursuit. Yet he dared not let it go.

The tide waited for no man and for no ship. If Spurgeon intended to reach the Thames on time —and the cutter sent from the trans-Atlantic steamer Kronos—he had to find a way out of this doorway. He was more convinced than ever that he had to get this package, his precious scroll, on that ship.

Lord, you are in control, he silently prayed. So why am I so frightened for my life?

Spurgeon pressed himself deeply into the doorway, seeking the darkness. He held his breath to quiet his gasping, but still his heart hammered in his chest. His eyes, wide with alarm, darted from corner to shadow to alley to street. He strained to extend his ears further into the night. All this he did while holding himself rigidly still.

A movement, a sound, and his life could end in an instant.

At any other time, the streets of London would have held a great hope, a feeling of fulfillment, of calling, of destiny. These were his streets and his people, and he had moved through them and walked over them for so long they had almost become a part of him, except for tonight. The streets were the same. The city was the same. The fear was new.

Rain slanting hard behind the wind drove the sane and the sensible indoors. From the shelter of the darkened shop’s doorway, Spurgeon willed himself to silence. The street was empty except where the rainwater sluiced along the gutter in the middle of the cobblestones. But Spurgeon no longer trusted emptiness. He scanned every dark space for some sign of movement.

Curse the pies and the pastries and Mrs. Dowell’s cooking. Once a symbol of growing affluence and influence, Spurgeon’s girth now slowed his legs when he needed speed and sapped his endurance as he ran for his life.

Twenty minutes earlier, Spurgeon had stepped out of his parsonage in Newington, Southwark, and into the driving rain. It was a walk he had taken scores of times before, in good weather and foul. It was a simple task, after all. Walk down to the Thames, where the cutter would dock. Meet his old friend Captain Paradis. Exchange a package and some good wishes. And be off again for the warmth of the fire waiting in his study. A simple task.

Spurgeon walked quickly down Great Dover Street, toward Weston Street and the Thames, trying not to look over his shoulder. His umbrella helped deflect much of the downpour but also restricted his vision. As he turned into Black Horse Court, by habit, his gaze swiveled to the rear. For weeks, his anxiety had been fed by a foreboding that he was being watched, followed. With the rain pounding on his umbrella, he failed to hear the fast-approaching hoofbeats on the cobblestones. The horse missed him, but the front wheel of the livery wagon caught his shoulder as it flashed past, driving him back to the wall and down to the sidewalk. Spurgeon may have thought it an accident except for the arrow that thudded into the wall next to his head, and the second that clipped his coat as he twisted to look at the first.

He had fled for his life, leaving both his umbrella and his dignity on Black Horse Court. Now, here he was, not far from his church and his world—cold, wet, hiding in the dark, terrified of some unknown, but very real, threat.

Spurgeon often wondered if the scroll he held in his pocket would lead others to pursue its path, bringing them to him. Now he had his answer.

Soaked to the skin, remaining in the dark, Spurgeon twisted his head to the left and tried to look up the street. A shadow moved on the right in a garden, and another on the left in the lee of a stable. But what Spurgeon focused on was the shape coming around the corner and toward his hiding place. Please God, Spurgeon mouthed in silent prayer. The shape slowed and stopped halfway down the street. Spurgeon waited. The door opened and closed, and the shape slowly moved forward. Spurgeon waited. Only as the hansom came abreast of his hiding place did Spurgeon toss himself out of hiding, arm raised. “Cabbie!” Startled, the hansom driver reined up. Spurgeon was already scrambling through the door and into the cab. “Shad Thames, the docks at Curfew Street—quickly, please—we must get there before the tide.”

A snap of the whip just as Spurgeon spun his head. The cab rocked forward, so he would never be certain. But snatching a look out the rear window as the cab began to move, Spurgeon caught a momentary glimpse of what appeared to be two men clothed in kaftans and kaffiyeh, running in the shadows of the buildings on either side of the street. Two arrows thumped into the back wall of the cab, their pointed barbs his only companions as the cabbie raced to the river.

You can purchase The Sacred Cipher from Amazon and CBD.

Terry is giving away a copy of The Sacred Cipher. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment and check back on Thursday, September 17th to see if you've won. If you want to guarantee that you're notified if you win, then leave your email address in the comment, otherwise, you can just check back and email me through the button in my sidebar. OR you could sign up to have Patterings updates delivered to your inbox. If you do, it will give you a bonus entry in the giveaway, otherwise you can enter twice--once for each post you leave a comment on. :^)

Don't forget about the other giveaway currently going on here at Patterings! Candy Arrington is giving away a copy of When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life. Be sure to leave a comment to be entered.

See ya tomorrow with a great interview with Terry!


  1. Please enter me for Mr. Brennen's book. It sounds so intriguing. Thanks.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  2. Sounds like a wonderful book. Please enter me in the drawing.


  3. Anonymous3:38 PM

    Ii would love to be entered in your draw. The Sacred Cipher sounds amazing.

  4. Please enter me

  5. I would love to win a book, please enter me into the drawing.


  6. The Sacred Cipher sounds like a great book. I would love a chance to win.

    New follower here!


  7. Please enter me! I am a follower and the book sounds wonderful!



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