Compassion International

Thursday, December 5, 2013



Secret codes are more than fiction in SHADOW CATCHER. There is a real secret message encrypted into the acknowledgements using a 150-year-old cipher technique.

If you're the first to crack it, you'll win a $200 Visa gift card!

Maybe you've already read SHADOW CATCHER and you thought the acknowledgements section sounded a bit gushy. You were right. I meant everything I said, but I also embedded a secret code in the first paragraph, and that requires some particular phrasing. Now I'm offering a prize package to the first person to crack my code.

The winner will receive:
  • A signed, numbered copy of SHADOW CATCHER (one of the fifty given to me by Berkley Books)
  • A signed WRAITH audio book
  • A collectible WRAITH hardcover signed on 9/11/11, AND...
  • A $200 Visa Gift Card

This will not be easy. Let's just say I have some experience with codes and codebreaking and I'm pretty good at it, but I hid everything you need within the pages of SHADOW CATCHER. To give you a boost, here's the first hint:

I used a Playfair cipher to encode the message. Lord Playfair's favored method has been adapted several times over the years, but I used the one currently shown on Wikipedia to make things a little easier. You can find it in the article linked to this phrase. A Playfair key looks something like the sample grid on the left. I'll let you read the article and learn how to make one.  

Just to be clear, this sample is NOT the grid you need.

The puzzle pieces that will help you create the key grid and find the ciphertext in the acknowledgments are hidden in the book. In fact, there are additional clues hidden throughout the book that should lead you to those puzzle pieces.

Now, this is a competition and there is a prize to be won, so here are the ground rules:
  1. The physical book has no bearing on the clues. You can crack the code with a Kindle version just as well as you can crack it with a paperback, as long as you have the acknowledgements and the text of the novel. In case you bought the audiobook - which does not have the
    acknowledgements - I will include the first paragraph of the acknowledgements below.
  2. Only one prize will be given. Teamwork is always encouraged, but if you work with a partner, you'll have to split the spoils.
  3. I will release periodic hints via the Stealth Ops app. It's free and has a lot of Nick Baron extras, so check it out.
  4. To win: Be the first to message me with the decoded message via the James R. Hannibal Facebook Page. You will need to send the two words of the decoded message as well as the next two decoded letters that follow them. 
The format will look like, "Drink Ovaltine YZ."
Remember to message me. Don't post the answer on the main page.

Okay. Get Cracking.

God Speed,
James R. Hannibal

SHADOW CATCHER Acknowledgements first paragraph:

An army of selfless heroes carried this work from idea to publication.  Cynthia, my wife, is the greatest hero of all. She is my inspiration and my unwavering encourager. This beautiful, amazing woman counseled me through fits and frustration and she patiently read a hundred drafts of the same story, still remembering to laugh at every joke. Next and much more imposing is my best friend John Carroll, who listens, critiques, sacrifices, makes fantastic book trailers, and never gloats when he outshoots me at the range. Surrounding the three of us, and comprising the beating heart of this army of heroes is my family from both sides of the aisle. I am blessed to have more support and love to bolster my military service and my personal endeavors than any man I know.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


We all know that graphics are fantastic for getting your point across. The problem is that it is easy to make graphics - even accurate graphic - very deceiving.

For instance. I found the graphic below on Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns website. This beautiful graphic compares states using a range of colors from cheerful lemon yellow to foreboding blood red. On the home page, the link title for this map reads, "Find out whether your state is doing everything it can to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," implying that the red states are practical war zones where "dangerous people" have easy access to guns.
After clicking on the link, you find a similar deceiving title followed by the fine print that only makes passing mention of what the map actually depicts, and then bold text that implores you to "Demand Action to end gun violence from Congress and your governor."

What this graphic really depicts is how the states are coming along in locating and submitting missing background check records demanded by those running the national database. It has absolutely nothing to do with gun violence. It does, however, show that Texans are just as good as New Yorkers at keeping records - and we have a lot more gun sales to keep up with.

Let's compare Mayor Bloomberg's graphic to another graphic from Zara Matheson at the Martin Prosperity Institute. This one depicts actual gun violence rates per capita by city and compares them to the violence statistics of entire countries.
WHOA! That lemon yellow section in the northeast doesn't look so safe anymore. And look at all those dangerous blood red states - with the exception of New Orleans - and we can all agree on the issues there - the blood red states have the fewest and smallest bubbles of all. Most have none.

Add in this year's ten top scoring states for gun control laws (by Brady Campaign score) - California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York,  Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Pennsylvania - seven of which aren't looking too good on MPI's per capita violence map, and we begin to get a much better picture of the real world.

Mayor Bloomberg's site puts up a deceitful map and then tells you what to think. I'll just give you these graphics and statistics and let you draw your own conclusions. That is the luxury of truth.

Thanks for Reading,
James R. Hannibal