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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Rumblings of Small Stones...

Hey, just a head's up to those who visit here. I've recently been invited to write over at a great fantasy/scifi site called Speculative Faith. I'll be posting every other Thursday.

My post this week is something that's been simmering on my mind for a long time. Check it out if you get a chance. I'm wondering if you are willing to be like small stones...

Click this link to go to the article: Rumbling of Small Stones.

There's a reason it was a Secret.

It's a Bonus Day here in my hometown of Eldersburg. A little clipper system made it over the mountains and began dumping a nice feathery layer of powdery snow on the area. And so, my school system called out, giving me and my kids the day off. Bonus.

So now, I have time to play with the kids, time to write, time to blog.

I was checking through the bestseller list on Amazon and I saw that #1 on the list was this cool looking book called

The Secret.

The cover looks like an old parchment with a red wax seal. I thought, "Mannnn…this has got to be a fantasy." But I'd never heard of the author.

So I read the synopsis and then the reviews…and, guess what? It is a fantasy. The problem is, the author doesn't seem to know that. Rhonda Byrne presents The Secret as if it's nonfiction, self help. And apparently people are being fooled…in droves.

Let me be blunt: This book is absolute rubbish. It's dangerous. It will give itching ears what they want to hear, promise the moon, and deliver anguish.

Now, I haven't read it, so some might say I'm being unfair. Look, I've read what the publisher says about it. I've read what the author says about it. And I've read dozens of reviews. Here are some of the claims this book makes:

• There's a secret that existed from the dawn of time, a secret that all the great religions and philosophies have had a part of. This secret will allow you to change your life.

• If you learn the secret "You'll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that's within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life."

• "The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is impersonal and it does not see good things or bad things. It is receiving your thoughts and reflecting back to you those thoughts as your life experience. The law of attraction simply gives you whatever it is you are thinking about."

• "This is really fun. It's like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, `I'd like to have this experience and I'd like to have that product and I'd like to have a person like that.' It is You placing your order with the Universe. It's really that easy."

• The author claims that folks who are overweight can be made thin by the secret.

• The author claims that people can ward off disease or cure disease with the secret.

• The author even makes the claim that natural disasters could be averted if people could all align themselves with the secret.

• The author claims that if you see a lady/man you want as your mate, just think it into happening.

Is your blood boiling yet?

Mine is. This is a new age panacea, snake oil guaranteed to cure all your ills. It is hellish fraud. My heart aches for the sick or infirm who might read The Secret. When it doesn't work, how will they feel? Guilt, blame, despair.

In one sense, The Secret proposes to make gods out of ourselves. We control the universe, we pray to ourselves, we heal ourselves, and decide our own future.

In another sense, it reduces people to rudimentary organisms, stimulus response-reflex driven zombies. All we need to do is press the right buttons and the little food pellet plops at our feet.

People are not gods. Nor are they single-cell drones. We are precious, sentient beings made in the image of the one true God. He loves us and waits for us to pray to Him.

Disease, disaster, unmet needs, longings for relationship, horrible tragedy, and all the evil in our society are a result of living in a fallen world. Sin, our sin, broke the world and continues to make it worse. We will never be rid of all this until we reach Heaven. God made a way for people to know this. He made His incredible love known to us. He made a way for us to endure the hardships of this life. He offers us contentment through adversity, NOT the elimination of adversity. And this is NOT a SECRET. This is the message we need to give away through our love and through our words--every day of our lives.

What I want to know is how does a book like this get to #1 on the bestseller list? I suppose, a publisher recognizes the $$$ potential. After all, the public showed its interest in supernatural secrets--and its gullibility--with the DaVinci Code. But it just galls me to see it succeed.

Please read what the publisher has to say about The Secret:

"The Secret is truly the most outstanding book to date that we have published. I am so pleased that Rhonda Byrne was able to bring together this life-changing information so masterfully. This book gives hope for what many have been waiting for-- a shift in the way the world thinks. Its a very exciting time that we are living in, and I as well as everyone at Beyond Words and Atria Books are grateful to be a part of it." --Cynthia Black, President, Beyond Words Publishing


I wonder if the publisher will feel so self-satisfied when the first lawsuits roll in. Can you imagine? The parents of a child who committed suicide over a failed attempt to use the secret. Families whose marriages have collapsed through "secret" infidelities. Clinically overweight or depressed people who throw away their medication in favor of the secret. I truly hope that people will not be duped and experience this kind of tragedy. But I fear they might.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

One of those days...

Speaking engagements and book signings are a blast most of the time. I absolutely LOVE having an opportunity to read my work to kids {and big kids, lol}. I break into English accents and immerse myself in the characters and just generally have a blast! The pic below shows me at a local elementary school. I read snippets from The Door Within and Rise of the Wyrm Lord and made the kids jump a few times. Heh, heh, heh. A great response from all involved. ;-) Most book-related events have gone that way for me, and believe me, I'm thankful. But...

There are times when things don't really go as planned. Take this last Friday for instance. I was at a middle school and speaking to about 250 sixth graders. This is, by the way, the grade I teach at my school, Folly Quarter. So I went there thinking, piece of cake. {He rolls eyes at his own tragic hubris}

So, thinking the event starts at 1:30, I get to the school at 12:50 to set up. I walk in and I'm met at the door by one of the coordinating teachers. She rather cryptically says, "Whew, we were worried you might not make it." Puzzled, I smile and make small talk. It was nice for them to meet me there, I thought. I have lots of medieval/fantasy props that I set up, including a forty foot faux castle wall made of ribbed cardboard.

Inside, several teachers are flying around, helping me set up, shouting out questions like "Where does the candelabra go?" and "What should I do with the dragon hourglass?" Scratching my head and feeling a bit of ice in the bottom of my stomach, I clarify, "We start at 1:30…right?"

"No, we have to start by 1:15 at the latest." EeeeeeeeYaaaaaaaahhh!!!

And so began a comedy of errors. Allow me to list the things that went wrong. Now remember, this is all in one (one hour) performance:

1. My opening English accent joke (that usually gets a roar), goes right over their heads. Whoosh. I deliver the punchline and get…chirp, chirp, chirp.

2. I usually pick a kid to hit the space bar on my laptop during the powerpoint portion of my show. Usually this works out well…but not this time. The kid I chose was way too busy talking to a friend to hit the slides when I asked, so half the show I'd look up and see I was 1-2 slides behind. DOH!

3. I mic my sound system for the Door Within Promo video, but it's an old school. So when the kickin' guitar riffs and thumping bass beat come in--it sounds like a cross between a terrorist attack and a giant who had a bean and beef burrito about an hour back.

4. Half way through my sneak preview reading of Falon's Stair, the forty foot faux castle wall unhooks itself from the stage and begins to do its impression of the Berlin Wall. Down it went. But on with the show.

5. At some point during the performance (I think after the first 10 minutes), several of the sixth grade teachers decide that they should have some extra planning time. So they leave their kids and the auditorium. Now 6th graders are wonderful kids--and this school has a really nice bunch. Buuuutttt...leave them on their own? So it has now become me and the six or seven teachers remaining to handle crowd control. That puts it at about 31 kids for every adult. was a good thing I brought my broadsword.

6. And then, the worst of it all {for me} came during the signing portion. A sixth grader comes up. I glance, see the long hair, the earring, the smile. "Greetings M'lady," I say. "What can I do for you."
"Uh…I'm a guy," he replies. Immediately, I break into damage control. "I'm SO sorry. Mannn, see I have long hair too. If it wasn't for the goatee, people'd make the same mistake with me. Blah, blah, blah." OHHHHggghhhh. I'm an idiot. The kid is like, "No problem. I'm not worried about it." But I know…I've just crushed this young man's spirit. I quickly scan the auditorium for an escape route, a rock to hide under, or a grenade launcher to eat. No such luck. I must endure.

And so ends one of those days...

What are your experiences at signings? For authors--ever had a bad one? Readers: what do you like not like about them? Anyone you've seen who was good?