“Lance is an epic hero.” So said a reviewer when the first editions of my Lance Chronicles appeared under the “Children of the Knight” moniker. Now, it’s 2018 and the series has been revamped, revised, and re-released. Was I able to substantially improve these books? I sincerely hope so. Is Lance still an epic hero? That’s up to readers to decide. But I can say that Lance’s coming-of-age journey from boy to young man is pretty epic stuff in many ways, especially since this tenacious teen, aided by his adoptive family and friends, fundamentally changes the United States of America. Considering how many people today—especially young people—would like to see America’s flaws put right, I suppose Lance’s chronicles toward that end are indeed epic. But I don’t think his goals or methods are impossible, not if enough Americans stop arguing and work together. I do believe, however, that it’s the youth who must lead this charge for change because older people tend to accept the status quo all too readily.
The Lance Chronicles features a teen protagonist, but is it just for teens? Not at all. The ideas, the challenges presented, the painful truths revealed, and the solutions to some of our most fundamental issues as a country are relevant to all ages. These aren’t children’s books, but anyone in high school and above should find much to like, to hate, to make them angry, to make them cheer, maybe make them laugh or cry. More importantly, these books should provide food for thought, because how America treats her children is problematic at best and we can do so much better.
There is currently a movement afoot to inspire more young people to become involved in the running of this country. Hashtags like #neveragain and #roadtochange have become popular for sharing information and events. Both of these hashtags, in addition to one of my favorites – #wecandobetter – sum up The Lance Chronicles. #NeverAgain has been applied to school shootings, but there are so many ills in this country to which that hashtag should be attached: #neveragain should children be abused by adults; #neveragain should kids be thrown out of school for being different; #neveragain should LGBT kids be bullied in school or kicked to the curb by heartless parents; #neveragain should children be considered adults when they do something wrong, but not when they do something right; #neveragain should our justice system be about winning instead of about justice; #neveragain should our school system be one size fits all when every kid is a unique individual and needs to remain so; #neveragain should children be considered the property of adults or government. These are but a few of the #neveragain issues tackled in The Lance Chronicles.
What about #RoadToChange? Well, the entire series is about change, which never comes by throwing the baby out with the bath water. Yes, the water of America—compared to the ideals that inspired her creation—has become dirty. Of course, it has. America and all her institutions are run by people and people are inherently self-centered. Therefore, our country and institutions have grown corrupt over time. But the baby – The Constitution – is fine. Only the water surrounding it is dirty. That water needs to be cleaned, but the baby preserved. Our democratic republic will function properly as long as the citizenry has enough courage and adaptability to make it so. In The Lance Chronicles, Lance and the other youth galvanize communities to take charge of themselves, not to wait for the government to solve their problems. We, the people, can solve most problems at the local level. We don’t need bigger and bigger government micromanaging our lives, even though many Americans seem to favor that model. Just like big business and big school districts, big government is more corrupt and more unorganized because that’s the nature of human beings. Bigger isn’t better.
The prevailing hashtag for The Lance Chronicles should be #WeOverMe, one coined by Lance to remind us that every choice we, as individuals, make has repercussions within the larger community and even the world. If each of us pauses long enough to consider a pending choice in light of how it might affect others, the world would be a very different place. Lance uses this motto and other common sense approaches to advance the cause of real, positive change that works within the existing American system to clean that bathwater and make the country better. At least, Lance and company believe they’re making it better. Readers may disagree and that’s all good. Healthy debate is what brings about healthy change. Nastiness and uninformed opinions merely promote the status quo. So yes, #WeCanDoBetter in this country. We can make major improvements, especially if the young people unite via social media as they do in these books and demand those improvements. Youth hold real power to “force” compliance from adults, especially in regards to areas that prominently affect them, like our fatally flawed school system.
One adult reviewer objected to the civil disobedience displayed by the youth, but is that so wrong, for young people to demand their voices be heard? Of course not! Yes, it’s wrong for adults to brainwash impressionable kids to mimic talking points from either the right or the left. As Lance points out when he addresses a joint session of Congress, “Most of us live life in the middle.” And that’s true. Youth need to learn how to think, not what to think, another prevalent theme in these books. If kids are taught how to think and how to analyze, they can come to their own conclusions about what might be the best solution to a given problem. If they are simply taught to parrot their parents or teachers or professors, how will they ever learn to think on their own and clean up that dirty bathwater left by previous generations?
When my series first appeared, someone posted this comment, “This looks like a sh—ty idea,” but that person never bothered to read any of the books to determine if the idea worked or not. An actual reader began his review like this (I’m paraphrasing because his blog has been taken down and the review with it, sadly): ‘I began Children of the Knight thinking this will never work, it will never work, and six hours later I closed the book sobbing, realizing that I’d read one of the best young adult books out there’.
There are readers who never found the central premise credible, and that’s okay too. I’m fine with readers disliking my books. Authors who think they can please everyone are fooling themselves. But, at least, people need to read the books they are criticizing before engaging in a healthy debate about what they didn’t like or disagreed with. Again, only through the give-and-take of ideas can positive change occur. There is no single playbook that has all the answers, despite so many people on the left and the right spouting the same talking points as though such a playbook exists.
Yes, there is a major fantasy element in this series that readers must accept in order to enjoy it. In their own small way, The Lance Chronicles are a continuation of The Once and Future King by T.H. White or Le Morte d’Arthur by Mallory. King Arthur promised to return from Avalon one day and my series has him do just that. In the legends, Arthur was a master at uniting warring tribes of Britain under his mantra of “might for right.” So why can’t this same man unite warring gangs in Los Angeles under that mantra? And why can’t he role model leadership for Lance so the boy can go forward to lead a youth revolution for children’s rights? Any book with fantasy elements requires a suspension of disbelief, but the fantasy elements in my series are few and far between next to the real issues depicted, including America’s dismal treatment of Native Americans, which is dealt with in books four and five.
So I urge youth to read these books and debate the issues among themselves. Even though the books are already in release, I have PDF copies that are free to readers who agree to share their thoughts once they have finished reading. Those thoughts can be shared on Amazon, Goodreads, social media, Reddit, or wherever. My goal is to spark debate, for readers to weigh in on the issues and proposed solutions. I will say that some of what Lance and the other youth demand at the beginning of the series changes as the law of unintended consequences kicks in and real life rears its ugly head. So reading the entire series—which is actually one long book broken into five parts—is necessary to fully understand how Lance’s youth revolution creates real, permanent change. Is that change for the better? That’s for individual readers to decide.