Sunday, November 4, 2018

Interview with Author Ash Krafton

Introduction

Ash Krafton has been hard at work on being her alter ego, AJ Krafton. She released her New Adult debut THE HEARTBEAT THIEF on Kindle in June and is thrilled to have made the Amazon Bestseller lists in four countries so far. Follow #AshKraftonEuroTour2015 as she takes the THIEF on a tour of Germany, Switzerland, and Venice (or follow @ash_Krafton on Instagram).

The Interview

First of all I want to say how much I love your name: Ash Krafton. It may be the best name I’ve ever heard. I know you also write under AJ Krafton. What made you decide on a pen name and how did you settle on AJ?
That's so funny that you say that. I remember getting a rejection from a magazine editor who said she loved my name (but I guess not the story, considering the rejection.) But her email went, "Ash Krafton, Ash Krafton, Ash Krafton. I love saying that out loud!" Writers are a wacky lot : )
I decided to use a pen name for this book because up until that point, my writing has been for adults. The Heartbeat Thief is more of an all-ages (or at least mature teen and up) book so I wanted the different name to make that distinction. The J in AJ represents my family, which is a little heavy on the J names.

Both you and I write NA, a genre that makes a lot of people frown and say: “New…Adult?” How do you usually explain the genre to those who don’t know?

New Adult differs from Young Adult in that the themes are heavier, more mature. It represents the 18-30 year old group, that place in between YA and mainstream adult reading. Often, NA books feature sexual relationships, career/life choices, leaving home, or emotional situations that would be difficult for a younger teen to fully digest.

I chose a NA approach to this story because it's a dark fantasy that explores the phenomenon of death. It contains violence and a sexual relationship (along with its consequences). Now, as the story is also a historical told in the style of Jane Austen, a reader shouldn't expect steamy sex scenes. However, I didn't feel that it was a book aimed at young readers in middle school. A YA tag would mistakenly present it as such.
That being said, there have been several readers who say it's recommended for readers of all ages. I've been reading Stephen King since I was twelve and look at me: I turned out juuuuussssstttt fine. *winks*
How old were you when you started putting stories together, and who got to read them?

I've been writing since I was a kid. Most of the time, my mom would read it and send it into the newspaper. I'd just shrug and think, that's cool. I wasn't really writing for an audience other than my mom.
I started writing professionally when my youngest started Preschool. (He's fourteen now.) My husband is the first reader of everything I write. Then, it goes out to the world.

And my mom still reads my books, too. <3
With a name like Ash Krafton, have you ever considered starting a Detective Agency? And if so, would you hire me if I promised to dump my boring name and change it to something equally cool?

Only if you want to run it. I'm clueless when it comes to mysteries. I never fail to be surprised at The Reveal. Worst part is, I watch a lot: Sherlock, Castle, Miss Fisher, Poirot, Miss Marple, Jessica what'shername from the 80s. And I have NEVER guessed who did it. NOT ONCE. So, I'll go in on the business if you make us look good because I'm fairly certain I'd suck at it.

Some writers read in the same genre they write, some don’t. Do you read NA and Speculative Fiction, or do prefer different genres?

I do read NA and loads of Spec Fic. I love sword and sorcery and epic fantasy. But I also like historical fiction and period writing, as well as poetry.
What is your favorite thing about the NA and Spec Fiction readers?

It's hard to know where their limits are and so pushing boundaries is a fun challenge. No matter how far-out an idea I have, there is always at least one reader saying, "Yeah, and then THIS happens…" and I'm left agape.

Click HERE to Check out The Heartbeat Thief

That's awesome.

Your novel, The Heartbeat Thief comes out in paperback today—Yay! What is next for you?

Um, um, um. A couple things.
Audiobook is in production for the first book in my urban fantasy series, The Books of the Demimonde. BLEEDING HEARTS is being narrated by the sassy and wonderful voice of Kelly Pruner and I can't wait to hear what my Sophie sounds like!
Currently I'm writing a serial about a magician/exorcist who is caught in the battle of Light versus Dark. I hope to make it very difficult for a reader to root for a particular side because I don't think big choices are easy to make.
I've also started work on my next NA title and write in that file when I need to switch gears.

Next week, I'll be blog touring The Heartbeat Thief. Stop by my blog http://ash-krafton.blogspot.com for more details.

A big, big thanks to Ash for letting me interview her!














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 11, 2018

Interview with Author Dr. Suzana Flores

I was lucky enough to get to interview author and psychologist Dr. Suzana Flores. And I must say, I feel a notch wiser for it.

Introduction

As a social-media expert and commentator, Dr. Flores has appeared on national and international newscasts, podcasts, radio and talk shows including "Leiberman Live" on The Howard Stern Show, PBS, WCIU Channel - "The U," National Public Radio (NPR), "Just Jenny" Sirius XM Channel, WGN Radio Chicago, The ManCow Show, Univision Television News, Mundo FOX, Charlotte News WSOC-TV, The Ron Kelly Show, and radio broadcasts out of Germany, U.K. and Canada.
Dr. Flores has been quoted in The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, ABC.com, CBS.com, Esquire.com, Men's Health Magazine, Everyday Health Magazine, Mashable.com, Dame Magazine, The Nation Magazine, SheKnows.com, New Parent Magazine, Hispanic Health & Beauty Magazine, La Raza Newspaper, Newlyweds.com, Upwave.com, Mujeres Sin Censura, and Moms.me.

She can be reached at drsuzanaflores@gmail.com or through her literary agent, Liz Kracht at liz@kimberelycameron.com.


The Interview

Suzana, you’re a psychologist and the author of Facehooked, a book that presents the dangers of social media addiction. Those two things would trigger people to imagine you as a very serious woman but you’re, in fact, an extremely funny person. Do your clients ever see this side of you, and if so, how do they respond to your humor?
I use humor in sessions all the time. I honestly think that it's healthy to find the ridiculousness of certain situations in order to cope with them. I am brutally honest and blunt in my feedback, and truthfully, I'm can even be crass at times too depending on client comfort level and if appropriate to the situation. My clients understand that this is my style and respond well to it. They appreciate the ability to be "real" in sessions and hear someone "break it down" for them in ways they may not have previously considered. Additionally, my clients are encouraged to curse if they wish, laugh 'til the cry, and be as honest about their thoughts and emotions as they want to be, without judgment. Sometimes the best way for us to work through adversity is to either laugh ourselves, laugh at others, or allow ourselves to say what we're afraid to say. True psychological freedom occurs when we lose the self-critic and forget about censorship. What we feel is what we feel - period. We have to allow ourselves to feel raw emotion. Sometimes this isn't pretty and sometimes it's hysterical. 

How did the idea of writing Facehooked come about?
I first thought about writing about social media when I started noticing a new dimension in my clients presentations: Facebook. Day after day my colleagues and I started noticing that for many people, social media started being the platform for which people either started overtly hurting each other or it was the cause of misunderstandings and miscommunications. 
I spent a lot of time in doubt as to whether or not I could ever write a book about this subject. "I'm a shrink Jim, not a writer!" However, my intrigue about the psychological impact of social media got so strong that I'd talk about it to anyone who would listen to me go on and on about it, until finally one of my friends told me to stop talking about it and start writing. I began by interviewing people on their positive and negative experiences with social media, but the point at which I decided to take the book writing thing seriously happened on the day that I had to escort a client to the emergency room due to a toxic Facebook interaction. That's when I realized, fear or no fear, I had to write this book. 

How do you imagine Mark Zuckerberg, being a psychology major himself, reacting if he read Facehooked?
Ha! Well as fate would have it, I recently have been contacted by a few members of Mark Zuckerberg's staff about my book. I can't disclose more information than that for now but I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that he likely knows about my book. 
If he read my book, I think that he would understand what I'm conveying through the case examples and the guidelines provided throughout the manuscript. I emphasize that there are many positive aspects to Facebook, but certain interactions and social media related behaviors can be harmful too. In Facehooked I point out that Facebook is not the problem because Facebook alone can't hurt people; people hurt people. Now that we have this newly found power to connect with each other and instantly interact with each other, we have a responsibility to treat ourselves and others with respect - both offline and within our digital expressions. 

One of my favorite parts of your book is a section titled Facebook: Helping Stalkers Since 2004. Have you ever been stalked on, or outside of, social media by a client?

Great question.  Truthfully, I've been waiting and wondered if anyone would ever ask me this question because it would cause me to self-disclose my own reactions to certain encounters on social media. Yes, I've been stalked on Facebook, but not by a client. When I first meet clients I inform them that one of the rules of therapy is that I will not interact with them on Facebook under any circumstances. The stalking experience I encountered was awful and required a lot of work to completely disconnect from this individual. I will not deny that the experience was one of the factors that inspired the book. I figured that if I went through a tough time trying to get rid of a stalker on Facebook, I wondered how many other people suffered through the same experience. 
Between writing and sorting other people’s brains out, you’re juggling two careers at once. How do you divide your time between the two?

Maintaining a balance between the two is still a work in progress. Writing Facehooked while working a full-time job, and caring for my father who's health was failing at the time (he's doing much better now) was one of the most challenging experiences of my life - even more difficult than writing my dissertation or studying for my licensing exam. Luckily I had an amazingly patient and supportive agent, Elizabeth Kracht. I couldn't have done it without her encouraging words. She has become a very dear friend. 
I've been wrapping my head around the idea of jumping into the writing process once more. Most people don't realize the immense pain, frustration, exhaustion, self-doubt and fear a writer experiences several times throughout the process, and this doesn't even include editing!  One minute I'm jotting down book ideas while enjoying the euphoria of feeling brilliant and clever, and the next minute I feel like slamming the keyboard on my forehead out of frustration. I envisioned myself flinging my computer out the window and accidentally killing a poor bird that was minding his own business, but was flying by at the wrong place and the wrong time.  #DeathByFlyingLaptop. No, the writing process is no picnic…but then I remember the times when I felt "in the writing zone" and it was during those times that I was deeply inspired to write. No matter how tired I was (it could've been three o'clock in the morning) once an idea hit me I wanted to get up and write, and it felt amazing. These moments make the process all worth it. 

Click HERE to Check out Facehooked

Lastly, I’ve heard that the book you’re currently working on is about sex. As a psychologist, do you still get shocked by people’s sexual impulses and endeavors, or have you heard it all?
The next book is partially about sex and partially about romantic relationships.  It is rather difficult to shock a psychologist, but every time I say I've heard it all, I soon regret it because sure enough, someone will share a story that's stranger than fiction. I've heard some incredibly detailed sexual fetish fantasies that were played out in reality, and they've forever influenced the way I look at the power of fantasy. These stories intrigue me, which is why I became a psychologist. I like to examine all parts of the human psyche…both the light and the dark. These elements, embraced together, make us...perfectly imperfect. 

A BIG thanks to Suzana for letting me interview her!
If you're curious to find out more about Facehooked...




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.





Sunday, October 7, 2018

Interview With Author Peter Hogenkamp


Today, I had the honor of interviewing our very own Peter Hogenkamp. Peter is not only an author and an upcoming Wattpad sensation, but he also happens to be absolutely hi-larious!


Introduction

Peter Hogenkamp
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad.

The Interview

Peter, when I think of your name, I imagine it said the way Lois from Family Guy yells “Peeda!” Does this bother you?
Of course it doesn't. I am a huge Family Guy fan--because it's impossible not to be. And Peter Griffin is one of the few people named Peter to whom I compare favorably. You think I want to sing side-by-side with Peter Frampton? (You clearly haven't heard me sing!) Ohhh, baby I love your way, everyday... (Imagine windows shattering and babies schrrrrreeeeeching.)
Is there perhaps another Peter you’d prefer my mind to associate you with?
In keeping with the first question, probably not. I am a huge Genesis fan and for that reason I love Peter Gabriel, but I lack his intensity. Peter Sellers was always a favorite but I don't look good in a trench coat. Peter Dinklage is a great actor but, at 6 feet 4 inches, I don't think I would make a convincing dwarf. Peter the Great was evidently great but I don't think I have the stomach to torture and execute all the people who disagree with me. So, it looks like I'm sticking with Peeda Griffin. (He's bumbling, yes, but well-intentioned at least.)

You’re a physician, an author, the creator of Prose and Cons, and a big family man. How do you find the time to write? And do you even have time for hobbies, like, Bigfoot hunting and playing the didgeridoo?
There is no such thing as Bigfoot--I prefer to call myself a Sasquatch hunter. And I have no idea what the didgeridoo is, but I do like to spend time learning the language of Mordor--which shall not be uttered here.
The Intern is loosely based on the experiences of your own professional life. Which of these characters would best fit you as a physician and why?  A) Dr. Cox from Scrubs. B) Dr “Hi, everybody” Nick from The Simpsons. C) Dr. Quinn – medicine woman. D) Dr. Richard Kimble. E) Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. 
Not even close. I have always loved Dr. Evil, and think I might even pass for him if the lighting isn't good. Plus, we had a similar upbringing:   "My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon ... luge lessons ... In the spring, we'd make meat helmets ... When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds — pretty standard, really."
You and I are both GOT fans. If you were dropped into Westeros or Essos, who would you try to ally with? And how would you, inevitably, be killed off?
Why Tyrion, of course: Who doesn't love a drunken dwarf with witty ripostes? Unfortunately, Tyrion would inevitably talk me in to stealing a dragon from Danirius Stormborn. I would succeed in riding off with Rhaegal, of course, only to fall to my death after consuming too much wine playing the Game of Thrones drinking game with Tyrion. (You drink every time a Stark gets killed.)
What do you tell people your favorite book is?
I tell people my favorite book is Curious George for two reasons: My parents wanted to name me George (after John Lennon) and I am dead ringer for the man in the yellow hat.
What is actually your favorite book?

Click Here to Read THE INTERN

The Lord of the Rings. I know I shouldn't say that--because I'm not a SF/F writer--but I can't help it. I read the book for the first time when I was nine, and re-read it every summer until was out of high school. More recently, I read it to every one of my children (I have 8 or 9) when they got into the third grade. (What third-grader doesn't want to read about the Doom of our Time?) That makes over a dozen times all the way through, and I never tired of it. I also loved Peter Jackson's movie adaptations (and no, I don't want to be compared to him either, I can't match that beard!)
A BIG thanks to Peter "Peeda" Hogenkamp for agreeing to this interview. It was a blast!

Want to read Peter's Wattpad story, The Intern? Have at it. You won't be disappointed.

You can also find Peter at:




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.








Monday, September 17, 2018

PNWA Conference

Just returned from the PNWA conference in Seattle! Had a blast attending and presenting my How to Apply Screenplay Structure to Your Novel workshop!

The downside was that I had to leave my almost two-year-old daughter for the weekend. Tears were spilled and tantrums were thrown...even she seemed a little upset.

The upside was that I got to signs some books, meet many talented writers--both published and unpublished--drink as much wine as I wanted, and spend time with my favorite agent, Elizabeth Kracht (I only have the one agent but if I had more, she'd still be my favorite.)













I'd like to thank everyone who attended my class and stayed, even after I accidentally said: "and this is obviously where the protagonist takes the victim down and saves the killer..."

I'd also like to thank my striped wide-leg presentation pants for obvious reasons.





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.
authormiathompson.com


Sunday, June 17, 2018

On Father's Day, Three Posthumous Lessons from my Father


Bill Hogenkamp was not a flashy man. Perhaps this was a consequence of his being six-foot-nine-inches tall in a day and age in which the average height for men was more than a foot shorter. I've always conjectured that, standing out in a crowd as he did, he endeavored to blend in with modest behavior, a deeply felt sense of decorum, and unflagging civility.

In 2018, sixteen years after Bill Hogenkamp's death, we live in an unprecedented era of unmitigated individualism in which outrageous behavior and indecency are no longer things of which to be ashamed. If anything, the more outrageous and the more indecent the better. And although this all adds up to great sound bytes and unlimited fodder for the late night pundits, it also adds up to a vicious partisanship that has paralyzed our government, and, worse still, a great divide between the red and blue masses that has stretched the very fabric out of which our country has been stiched.

What's the antidote? My father would suggest modest behavior, decorum, and civlity, or, in other words, substance rather than style.

Bill Hogenkamp was not an impulsive man. The one adjective that leaps to my mind every time I think about him is methodical. He used to love to take us hiking, and, for my father, going hiking was far more than getting some exercise. It was exercise, yes, believe me on that one, but it was also an exercise in planning, thoughful execution, and the consideration of many variables. I can remember going on our first hiking trip to Colorado many years ago. As we lived in New York State at the time and did most of our hiking at altitudes of 5,000 feet or less, going up to 14,000 feet was a big deal, at least to my father, and he approached it as such, going to the library to research how to acclimatize to the higher elevation. When we got to Colorado, he watched the weather forecasts closely, and planned out our departure times so that we could summit and descend before the thunderstorms blasted the exposed peaks we were climbing. On the way up, he took careful altitude measurements and calculated our rate of ascent, turning us around on many occasions when we failed to make our self-imposed turn-around time.

How many of the problems that confront us today--a failing health care system, an education system in crisis, and a burgeoning national debt to name just a few--would respond to better planning, careful measurement, and the occasional turn-around when things didn't go to the plan?

Bill Hogenkamp was not an arrogant man. He never bragged about any of his successes, lauded any of his accomplishments, or extolled any of his virtues. He looked at the talent he had been given as a responsibility to help others who hadn't been as blessed, and he acted accordingly. He was a family first kind of guy, and therefore when he brought a couple of teenagers I didn't know on our annual family canoe trip, I wasn't sure what was going on--or happy about, to be frank. When I asked him about who they were and why they were here with us on our family canoe trip, he explained that these boys didn't have a father in their lives but needed one, and that was the end of that. They accompanied us on hikes and canoe trips for years thereafter, until they were grown and had become fathers themselves.

In 2018, extolling one's own virtues has become a national obsession. The problem with this? If we're all so busy lauding our own accomplishments, when are we going to take the time to help others who are less fortunate? Let me remind you that in 2018 the disparity between rich and poor has reached an all time high, and that there has never been a better time to stop bragging about our own successes and start helping the people who've had few or no successes.

My son asked me what I wanted for Father's Day a few days ago; I told him I wanted to go hiking. I think I'm going to break my dad's old altimeter out...

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 peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Writing Lessons from my Mother.


When I finally become a published author, I am going to give my mother the credit. Why? Well, let me tell you why not first. She is neither a particularly good writer, nor does she even like to write. I can't remember the last time she's written anything other than 'Love, Mom' (Keep it short, another writing lesson) on my annual birthday card. Her story telling is reasobably good, but nothing out of the ordinary. And she's never been all that adept at grammar, punctuation, or finding the right word to express what she wants to say.

So, why her?

It's easy. My mother is the most positive person I have ever met in my life, and if there is one attribute I inherited and/or learned from her, it's a positive attitude. And that's why she's going to get the credit. My father will get some too, having passed on to me his love of reading and writing and the desire to find just the right word to say what he wants to say. But there are a lot of good writers out there, good writers that you and I have never heard of, and we haven't heard of them or read their books--not because they can't write--but because they didn't survive the road to publishing, which can be, take it from me, soul-crushing, confidence destroying and many other things I won't say out loud. They lost their confidence, became negative, didn't feel like they could beat the enormous odds, stopped trying to get better.

Thus far, my soul hasn't been crushed and my confidence has survived, despite ten years of heartbreak, unfulfilled expectations, and rejection. Why have I kept on the road? You know the answer; the positive attitiude my mother gave/taught me. Focus on the positve aspects of life. (Something she never told me, keep in mind, prefering to show me by example. Another writing lesson.) And there has been positives, a lot of them, highlighted by signing with a top-notch literary agent, the fabulous Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates.

My mother can help you, as well. Can't find an agent? Stay with it, believe in your self, and don't forget to learn from your mistakes. Can't get a publishing contract? Keep writing, keeping in mind everything the editors told you about where you fell short. Book not selling as well as you want? Listen to the feedback from your readers, and write another book without the same drawbacks.

So, Happy Mother's Day to my mother, 88 years old. And thanks for everything!

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 peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

X-Men: Oppression and the "M" Word

by Dr. Suzana E. Flores

A young Jewish boy walks in a crowd of prisoners heading towards an Auschwitz death camp. Suddenly, his parents are pulled from him. The boy's mother screams out his name, "Erik!" He yells back, "Mama! No! Mama!" Tears streaming down his face and he stares at the disappearing image of his parents. He will never see them again. Overwhelmed by rage and fear, he stretches his hand towards the iron gates. With a staggering force, his mutation surfaces--manipulating the magnetic fields around him, Erik bends the gates open, until an officer strikes him unconscious.

This mythological origin story belongs to the boy mutant Max Eisenhardt, later also known under the aliases Magnus, Erik Lehnsherr, and then ultimately "Magneto"--nemesis of Professor X, enemy of the X-Men, and leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

                                                  Marvel Comics © 

Magneto's life became a living hell in Germany's 1930s as the Nazis began to institutionalize their xenophobic ideology that blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in World War I and its economic collapse. Jews were beaten, sterilized, and barred from interacting with German citizens. Then the Nazis escalated their tyrannical practices to include unspeakable acts of torture and murder.

At this point you might be wondering, "What does Nazi ideology and racism have to do with the fictional stories of Marvel Comics the X-Men? Quite a lot actually.

When writers convey any theory or philosophy their work there is typically some level of truth in order for their work to be believable to the reader. Similarly, comic book writers and illustrators channel real-life experiences onto the panels so their readers may be able to relate to the mythology of their crime-fighting characters.

The X-Men tales embody themes of mutants in search of acceptance and equality in a world that hates and fears them. In the Marvel world, humans see mutants as dangerous freaks of nature and so persecute them, try to contain them, or eradicate them. Parallels between these story lines and the real-life confrontations experienced by marginalized groups in America such as African-Americans, Latin Americans, LGBTQ populations, and various religious (or non-religious) denominational groups are evident.

The mass violence in X-Men story lines mirror the abuse and debasement minorities worldwide continue to face on a daily basis. For example, recent laws or policies aimed to suppress marginalized groups include: detaining individuals from Middle Eastern countries at airports, dehumanizing Mexicans who cross the U.S./Mexico border by calling them "rapists, murderers, or aliens," banning transgendered individuals from using bathrooms because of their identity, or the excessive use of force or wrongful arrest by police against African Americans without reason, provocation, or probable cause--a practice so common it is often referred to as "Walking while Black."

Some X-Men story lines even touch on themes of hate groups that harass mutants at every turn such as: Church of Humanity, the Purifiers, and Humanity Now! By comparison to real life hate groups, one will inevitably think of the KKK, other White Supremacy Groups, or the literally hundreds of U.S. based organizations classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups.

                                                                       Marvel Comics © 

In reality, bias takes many forms and is found virtually in every country around the world. The United Nations human rights mechanisms have had to repeatedly express condemnations of human rights violations around the globe, with equal rights activists struggling against great odds to make the world a better and safer place for ALL of its inhabitants.

Marvel's mutants are a collective metaphor for the minority "other." The X-Men love America--they'd have to. Every day they face oppression by the government and yet they try to protect the humans; try to work with them in the hopes that one day, they will be accepted as equal members of society. As such, the X-Men story lines mirror current day political and social climates.

                                                                        Marvel Comics ©

Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, most Americans agree the U.S. has not been so polarized since the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Just like the X-Men, minorities love America, or at least the idea of America, even when American doesn't love them back. Despite tolerating centuries of hatred, minorities strive to find a place of acceptance and respect in society, even knowing that complete and total equality in America will never be possible for them. And every day, society undermines the struggles of minorities by trying to convince them they have equal opportunities to any Caucasian, heterosexual, male American. When Black people are attacked without provocation, the privileged say, "They must have done SOMETHING to deserve it." When women are groped or raped, too often their clams are ignored or blatantly dismissed, and when refused a job or an opportunity due to their ethnicity, accent, or appearance, minorities are told, "If only you would try just a little bit harder."

This is the reality of minority groups. They are victimized and then blamed for their victimization. Many minorities find themselves in "no-win" scenarios. Yet every day, they take another run at equality. They go out to work, to vote, to make their voices heard . . . if and when allowed.

America continues to be a Darwinian thrash of who receives an invitation to the "We the People" club, but minorities are not ignorant as to why their invitation to the soiree' always seems to get lost in the mail. The current polarization in America has been escalating for decades, and now Americans are feeling its effects on a very personal and very painful level.

In the Marvel world, Professor X makes it his mission to try to liberate the minds around him from taking aggressive opposition with a goal of living in a world where humans and mutants can live together in peace. Magneto, on the other hand, believes in fighting for mutant rights by any means necessary. But in the real world, liberating our minds from discrimination and oppression is our own responsibility and this can only be done when we can gain insight as to what has happened and continues to happen to the oppressed.

I recently did a TEDx Talk entitled "Untamed: What Wolverine Teaches Us About Rage." In my talk I outline how Wolverine (the muscle of the X-Men team) represents the rage we experience when facing personal victimization, and the rage minorities feel when experiencing societal oppression. I address how sometimes in life we need to allow ourselves to experience anger in order to understand what is causing it, and what we can do to change it. Many activists strive to channel their anger to one of positive action, through fighting against oppression and discrimination.

The X-Men remind us of the most important things to fight for in this life: respect, inclusion, and equality. Just like Wolverine and the X-Men, we can be heroes too. We can stand up for ourselves and speak out against injustice. We can all make a difference in the world through making our voices heard, even if only one blog post at a time.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores is a TEDx Speaker, licensed clinical psychologist, and author of UNTAMED: The Psychology of Marvel's Wolverine (McFarland Books) and FACEHOOKED: How Facebook Affects our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives (Reputation Books).

Dr. Flores has appeared on national and international newscasts, podcasts, radio and talk shows. Dr. Flores has been quoted in The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Time.com, CNBC.com, ABC.com, CBS.com, Esquire.com, and Men's Health Magazine.

She can be reached at drsuzanaflores@gmail.com or through her literary agent, Liz Kracht at liz@kimberelycameron.com.

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 www.ashkrafton.com