Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Writing and the Rule of Three

I’m a reader…a writer…but definitely not an arithmaticker.

Numbers make me shudder. They tend to lurk in the boring part of my brain. Although my formal education is in pharmacy—which is all about numbers—my happiest moments are spent tickling the right side of my brain, making it jiggle until the words fall out. I retreat from the rigors of numerical stringency and mathematical regulation every moment I can, to run free among the open fields of word play.

And yet…the numbers follow me wherever I go, like nasty little shadows.

I first noticed the rotten little things when I started querying. I blame it on Query Tracker. The website makes it so easy to obsess over stats and percentages and all ten of those numerals in every possible combination—from response statistics to requests. Getting carried away with the statistics made it infinitely easier to tolerate the agonizing wait for responses.

Although I haven’t queried in a while, I have been writing—and I’ve found that the numbers are still lurking around every corner. Lately though, it hasn’t been a random gang of numerals. It’s been one particular number. Always watching, always waiting, always showing up where I expect no numbers at all.

Three. It seems to be a magic number. (Cue the School House Rock music.)

Why does three seem to show up in nearly every story I write—or read, for that matter? Perhaps it’s because, structurally, three is a very strong number. Think about it: archways and pyramids are based on triangles. So is the system of judo my kids are studying, with triangles present in everything from stances to joint locks. Strength comes in many forms and the number three is a solid presence in that strength.

Three data point give us our location in time and space. Three points on a map show progression. Three legs of a tripod give a camera a level sense of stability, leading to clearer pictures and more solid images.

All of these things--strength, setting, progression, focus--are things we want in all of our studies. It's a universal goal of writers to incorporate these elements into our work.

That School House Rock song is really like an earworm now: three’s a magic number.

The Number Three and Writing

Despite the left-brained quality of numbers, three is present everywhere in our writing. For instance, take a look at the foundation of our stories. No surprise to see the number three echoed throughout basic story structure.

  • beginning, middle, end: every story needs them
  • three act story arc: it’s how a story moves from beginning to end
  • three plot points: it’s what is happening--gives the story a reason to be written.

And what about the Almighty Trilogy? I have yet to see a story “duology” or “quadrolgy” or whatever they may be called. Some things are too bizarre, even for fiction.

Look closer into the details of the story you’re writing, and you’ll find threes everywhere. Even the characters themselves work best when we identify the importance of three.

  • hero, quest, villain/ hero, heroine, obstacle: the essential cast of players
  • goal, motivation, conflict: the blueprint of each character

What about romantic tension? Three is a key element when a build-up of emotional climax is needed (and, to be clear, it’s always needed.)

  • romantic triangles: so much more fun when there is no clear choice
  • third time’s the charm: what’s better than the near misses the couple experience before landing that first kiss on the third attempt?

The idea of three will find its way into every sentence, every line, every phrase. One such way is through the use of rhetorical devices.

  • Anaphora: this heavy-hitting device uses repetition to emphasize ideas and increase emotional impact. I could go with any number of brilliant quotes from King or Churchill, but instead I’ll choose a more contemporary example.
"I want her to live. I want her to breathe. I want her to aerobicize." (Weird Science, 1985)
If that doesn’t illustrate the example of building to a climax, then nothing will. :)
  • Epistrophe: similar to anastrophe, but the repetition comes at the end of the sentence.
  • Asyndeton: also leads to a building-up effect and reaches maximum impact when three ideas are linked, but their conjunctions omitted. (Many references cite “three or four” ideas but, to me, the fourth can make the sentence too cumbersome.) If you want an example, just re-read the above introduction to rhetoric.

The Rule of Three

Three is a very important concept when it comes to writing. When in doubt, remember the Rule of Three:  omne trium perfectum. “Everything that comes in threes is perfect.”

So, maybe School House Rock did more than come up with a catchy little song. Three really is a magic number (yes it is, it’s a magic number). Maybe the song eventually gets overrun by ranting hoards of digits that stampede mathematically across the rest of the verses, but even that doesn’t subtract from the brilliance of the original idea.

When it comes to writing, three is the most magical number there is…and numbers don’t lie. They're too left-brained to do it convincingly.

Ash Krafton is a USA Today bestselling author who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at

Friday, January 26, 2018

From the Bottom Up: Leading America out of the Morass

Almost 250 years into our nationhood, the United States of America is mired in a morass of massive proportions. It would be nice to say that the morass is of a strictly political nature, but it would be inaccurate. Our morass is political—let there be no doubt—but it is also physical, ethical, academic, and economic. (Add another adjective here.) As we approach our sestercentenial, our roads, bridges and cities are in an appalling state of disrepair; a significant number of our elected officials are either under investigation for ethical breaches or have already been expelled; our primary and secondary schools are failing at an unprecedented rate and our colleges and universities—although still strong—are prohibitively expensive. Worse still, the disparity between rich and poor grows daily, and our leaders (word used with great misgiving) seem more focused on the stock market than stagnant wages, lost jobs and growing unrest with gender and race inequalities and other social ills.

My father used to say that if you want to get the mud out of the water, you need to get the hog out of the spring. Of the many hogs in our spring, the biggest and fattest hog—the one that is most responsible for the mud that flows thick and murky in our water—is the lack of governing taking place at the federal level. How is it possible, I ask you, for any of these problems to be fixed when our national government, paralyzed as it is by partisanship, egoism, and the complete absence of listening, does nothing but breathe hot air and vitriol?

The answer is to turn on its head the usual paradigm of leadership; instead of leading from the top down we need to lead from the bottom up. Our people remain our strength and the only path out of the abyss. We live in a democracy, albeit one gravely threatened by the influence of power and wealth, but still a democracy, in which our elected congressmen, senators and executive officers are a mere election away from irrelevancy.

Leading from the bottom up needs to involve more than just voting, however. We need to listen to one another, especially to people with views that oppose are own; we need to respect one another, and to treat every person with dignity; we need to look out for one another, especially for the people at the margins of our society; and, above all, we need to shake off the complacency that has led to inaction. Acknowledgement of the problem is the necessary first step to resolving it.

If you are not ready to merely shrug your shoulders and accept the status quo, you can lead us to becoming the country in which you want your children and your children’s children to live. Open your mind to what someone else has to say and, more importantly, to what they do, ignoring his or her gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, and political persuasion. In this day and age of sound bites and social media, it is the walk we walk that defines us. Having said that, action begins with talk: words matter. Speak carefully and post with caution; one hateful comment, retweeted and amplified by the incredible power of social media, can be a potent and destructive force. Social media is a tool, and, like any other tool, it can be used for a variety of purposes, good or bad. You choose.

Leading from the bottom up is not going to be an easy or quick task, but many hands make light work, and the more hands we have, the faster we will be able to get that hog out of the spring.

 Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sacrificing Sapphire (Sapphire Dubois Mysteries Book #4) Release Day!

The day is here!

Sacrificing Sapphire, the fourth book in the Sapphire Dubois Mystery Series about the heiress who captures serial killers, is finally out and available! The eBook is available for all formats via most eBook retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, or Buy Direct.) And the print is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble (order online or at the store.),

The journey to get here, from staring at the blank page to the book being published, has been as much of a roller coaster as ever. I'd like to thank my agent, publisher, (Diversion Books) and readers for getting me this far. Four books in, one more to go! It's be an adventure, that's for sure.
I'd also like to send a special thanks to the ARC reviewers, who have absolutely exceeded my expectations this time around with their kind words! See HERE!

Here it is guys:

Book 4 in the Sapphire Dubois Series: SACRIFICING SAPPHIRE!

Beverly Hills’ heiress and hunter of serial killers Sapphire Dubois is back in this ferocious, festive, and funny mystery—one where her marriage, her life, and the life of a little girl are at risk in a madman’s twisted sacrament.
Sapphire Dubois is about to celebrate her first Christmas in Beverly Hills with her new husband, Detective Aston Ridder. She has assured him that her days of defying death to save victims from serial killers are over. But after three months of marriage she hasn’t kicked the habit. Sapphire feels compelled to check out a lead—two women with similar descriptions have vanished from the same location. After breaking her promise, the daring crime fighter gets abducted by the very killer she was hunting.
While a distraught Aston scrambles to find his missing wife, Sapphire wakes up in a bizarre reality where she is now the victim, forced to play a part in her abductor’s sick ritualistic game. Soon she realizes she’s not alone; a little girl is imprisoned with her, and Sapphire is her only chance of escape.
Sacrificing Sapphire combines rich L.A. sass and smarts with thrilling psychological suspense.

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sentencing Sapphire Book Club Begins on Wattpad

It's that time again!
With book four of the Sapphire Dubois Mystery Series, Sacrificing Sapphire's December 12th release being just around the corner, I'm starting the Sentencing Sapphire on Wattpad! Yay!

Both Book Clubs for Stalking Sapphire (book one) and Silencing Sapphire (book two) are still open on Wattpad, so if you haven't read them yet, now is a good time.

The Sentencing Sapphire Book Club will work a bit different than its predecessors. This time around, I have divided the full book into two sections. Part One will end with a few food-for-thought book club questions. After a short break, Part Two will be posted and followed by a special treat JUST for Wattpad readers! Stayed tuned for details.

So, without further ado, here it is...
The Sentencing Sapphire Book Club on Wattpad is officially open!

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Books That Captured The Imagination

In honor of National Book Month, I'd thought it would be fun to think back on the books that first sparked my imagination--the stories that pulled me in and remember the authors who bear some responsibility for my writing today. (God have mercy on their souls)

I've always been a reader. My taste and preferences may have shifted over the years, but I really can't recall a time when I wasn't reading something for pleasure. My college years were a low point because all the "boring required reading" took time away from "the good stuff." But, my first reading memories were back in junior high school, when I found science fiction.

Arthur C. Clarke, H.G Wells, Issac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury created entire worlds I could climb into, with fantastic creatures and futuristic machines that threatened to control all mankind. It was all pretty heady stuff for an adolescent geeky kid. War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Sands of Mars, I Robot, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked this Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man were standouts from those days.

These futuristic stories came to me during the peak of the Gemini and Apollo space programs. (Ask your parents if this reference pre-dates you) Watching real-life manned space flights and witnessing man's first steps on the moon made the outer space stories feel less science fiction and more science fact. I was hooked.

Soon after, I included classic horror into my reading addiction. I can say it was an addiction, even in those early days, because I remember grabbing a book and getting lost in it during any free time I had. I knew I was helpless over my addiction when I was waiting for the bus after school. I was deep into Bram Stoker's Dracula and at some dramatic point in the book, the school bells sounded, and I jumped and slid off the wall I was sitting on. Stoker, Shelly, and Poe were a gateway drug to Jay Anson, Thomas Harris, Ann Rice, and Stephen King.

I still dive into horror and fantasy on occasion, but at some point, mainstream fiction became my primary reading preference. It started with Ian Flemming and the James Bond adventures. What kid doesn't imagine playing that role? Supplemented with Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle, Fredrick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal, my reading list was filled with fast-paced, high-stakes adventures in exotic locations.

I'm not sure when I turned to crime--I mean--turned to reading crime fiction. I remember reading Micky Spillane and Raymond Chandler when something resonated, deep in my brain. The free-wheeling private investigator, the guy who tracked down a Maltese Falcon, or got justice for the little guy, was a man you could count on to do the right thing, no matter the personal sacrifice. Elmore Leonard's dialogue blew me away,  Walter Mosley's gritty urban basement clubs and after hours dive bars explored post-war race relations as Easy Rawlins searched for a missing woman. Although, more recently, Danny Gardner's Negro and an Ofay blew the doors off urban-noir and took it to a higher level. Check that one out when you get a chance.

I worked in the California prison system for nearly three decades. The stories there propelled me into the true crime and procedural genre titles. In Cold Blood, The Black Dahlia, Helter Skelter, and the Onion Field gave a backstory to the day-to-day prison drama I saw. The Onion Field Killer and the Hillside Strangler were on my caseload for a time and these books provided a peek into another dimension of the convicts I saw on the prison yard. Additional clues into what made them "tick."

Procedurals with a tight edge remain my drug of choice. Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, couldn't write fast enough, so I decided to start writing my own. I attended a session at a Mystery Writers Conference and Michael Connelly's advice was simply, "Write the books you'd want to read." And three published books in, I'm having a blast. I haven't stopped reading, now that I'm writing. I'm probably reading even more than ever. There are more new faces; debut authors, incredibly brilliant women writers, and persons of color in the crime writing world, and it makes it a better, richer place. I love nothing more than picking up a new book and getting caught up in a fresh character and unique plot.  I'm enjoying the work of some really sharp, talented writers, and I'm glad to be a part of this community. And it's a great time to be a reader.

How about you? What books have been an influence on you?  Happy reading!

James L'Etoile has twenty-nine years of law enforcement experience in prisons and jails across the country. An experienced associate warden in a maximum security prison, chief of institution operations, hostage negotiator, and director of parole, James is the author of At What Cost, Bury the Past and Little River. You can find out more at