Aug 25, 2016

"You keep using that word..."

Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

Inigo Montoya is not wrong.

As a writer, I think it's important to stretch my use of language as much as possible. Embrace new words, but keep the prose readable and clear. Except, the speed at which language is changing makes this a far more difficult proposition.

We're all aware of words like IRREGARDLESS, a weird mutation because it's actually a longer word than the one it's been battling against: REGARDLESS. Nothing wrong with regardless. It's a perfectly good word. Irregardless just appeared and now it can be found in dictionaries.

We also have LITERALLY which now literally means exactly what it means AND exactly the opposite of what it means. Which makes it literally, but not figuratively, pointless.

Then there's NONPLUSSED which means the opposite of how it's often used...and like literally is now pretty much interchangeable for both meanings. I'm nonplussed by this whole situation!

See? Confusing, isn't it?

If someone is nonplussed they're supposed to be absolutely baffled. Now though, it means they can also be completely unfazed by something.

You're probably BEMUSED by all this. Or are you? This word is seen more and more as a substitute for amused. And despite similarities with amused it actually means bewildered.

With some words the differences are so subtle it's understandable that it's easier to get them confused. As example of this is MOMENTARILY. If you hear someone saying, "We'll be stopping momentarily to grab some snacks." What does that mean to you?

Originally, it would've meant: We'll be stopping FOR A MOMENT to grab some snacks.
Nowadays, it's also commonly used to mean: We'll be stopping IN A MOMENT to grab some snacks.

Subtle differences but it is two different meanings.

I'll leave you with one more. A pet peeve of mine is the word SUPPOSABLY. Used regularly as a substitute for SUPPOSEDLY. Supposedly is often the correct word in the context of the sentence and I believed that supposably was just another irregardless. Made up. Contrary to my belief, supposably is actually a word, it just doesn't mean supposedly.

Supposedly shows skepticism. It means "according to what is generally believed" but indicates the speaker doubts the truth of the statement.

Supposably means conceivable. Capable of being supposed.

So, there you go.

It amuses me when people assume it's easy to write well, but the complexity of ideas and language in tandem can be far more complicated to deal with than many can imagine. And it's only a good idea to stretch your language if you're doing it correctly.

Are there any words you've noticed get misused or now mean the opposite of what they used to mean?

Let me know.


Aug 22, 2016

Seven Questions for S.J. Cairns

The scintillating S.J Cairns stopped by to shoot the shi...breeze. So, I asked her seven questions on subjects stretching from her international best-seller, SOUL DISCOVERY (check out the book links and my review below!), to stuff that's just silly. Enjoy!

S.J. Cairns

1 - Which actress would you love to see play your main character Sophie in a movie adaptation of your book Soul Discovery?

In the beginning I never put a celebrity's face on Sophie. I thought of a young Katie Holmes, though if an on screen adaptation occurred, I'd want an unknown with bitching acting skills.

2 - Leather or lace?

Do I HAVE to choose?? I'm a leather AND lace kind of girl. Especially of the black lace variety. But I love my leather shit-kickers and jacket. Couldn't give either of them up.

3 - What is your biggest phobia?

My biggest phobia is open water. Drowning isn't fun. A cruise is nowhere close to my bucket list.

4 - On the days you're not feeling motivated, what will inspire you or kick you in the butt to get going?

The prospect of never publishing another novel keeps me writing. I haven't reached whatever achievement the inner me wants to achieve yet, so I'll keep going until I know I have. What's that goal? Not a clue. I figure I'll know it when I feel it.

Also, my writing community is full of amazing people who are ready to act as cheerleaders and to keep each other motivated.

5 - If you won $100 million on the lottery would you still write?

Damn right I would. Not only would I still write if I hit the big bucks, I'd write full-time. Right now, I'm working a full-time day job. While the work helps others, shift work isn't my favourite thing in the world.

6 - Which writer has influenced you most?

The writer who has influenced me the most is Anne Rice. As a semi-youngster, her books were the first I stole from my mother's collection and the first to truly grab at and draw me into the world of supernatural fiction. I've been sweet on the genre ever since.

7 - Paper or plastic (books I mean...physical book or e-reader?)

I'm a paper fan. You go to a book store, get a delivery, feel the weight in your hands, the smell of the paper, an ebook can't beat the feeling of authenticity. While I own an ebook and find value in the technology when buying novellas, testing new authors, or travelling, I enjoy filling shelves with colourful spines. Totally drool-worthy.

Thanks for reading, dreamers and screamers.

My thanks to Sami-Jo for stopping by for a quick chat. You can follow her on social media by following these links:


Author Website/Blog:

Amazon Profile Page:


Twitter: or @SamiJoCairns


I highly recommend you check out her book: Soul Discovery.

Read my review here: Soul Discovery Review

And here's the blurb:

Soul Discovery

Sophie Saterlee has made it her mission to get her life together. Leaving behind an abusive relationship, she's bartending her way through a psychology degree. Ultimate goal? A new, stronger sense of identity.

When a terrifying recurring nightmare begins to poison Sophie’s waking hours and threaten all her progress, once again she’s close to losing everything.

An invitation to a tea leaf reading party sounds like exactly the kind of distraction Sophie needs. But an innocent girls' night out turns into a journey through a complex and treacherous world of magic.

To survive it, Sophie must forge uncomfortable alliances with arrogant Donovan and mysterious Caine. One of them is tied to her past, and the other fills her present. Both men might hold the key to her uncertain future.

There's more going on in her little corner of the world than Sophie realizes, and the truth will change everything.

Follow these links to pick up your copy:

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon CAN:
Amazon AU:

May 31, 2016

20 Facts

I was tagged on twitter by the awesome Mollie Wallace @readheadreader to share 20 Facts with you all. No idea why...but I have learned not to question such things. If you want to check out Mollie's answers go HERE.

And then come back to check out mine.

1. I have 6175 comic books in my collection. I counted them...and bagged them...and filed them. Yes, it took forever.

2. I can't stand the texture of sandpaper or the sound it makes rubbing against wood. It gives me goosebumps...and not in a good way. And yes, I was terrible at woodwork at school.

3. My middle name is Shannon. It's a family surname (great grandmother on my dad's side of the family), as opposed to a girl's first name. My dad also has Shannon for a middle name.

4. Despite being born and raised living no further than about a mile from the sea, I'm not the biggest seafood person. And don't even get me started about sushi...blerg! And, although my dad used to fish, I never really got into it. I did catch one fish, which looked like this...this is not the actual fish. My fish was bigger...

Aaaaah KILL IT WITH FIRE!!! (Don't worry, we released it), I took that as a warning, returned the devil fish to the sea and put up my fishing rod for good.

5. I have been on two cruises. Both were fun and both were filled with Star Trek geeks. I also met George Takei (Sulu), James Doohan (Scotty), and several other actors and actresses from the Star Trek shows.

Hanging out with Sulu with big glasses and a big grin

6. I think the Gurkhas are the baddest mofos on the planet. If you have never heard of them you should look them up. They're the little Nepalese soldiers who fight for the UK army...even though Nepal is not a part of the UK or a dependent of it. A former Field Marshal of the Indian Army was quoted as saying: "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha."

7. I own a kukri. It's a large machete-like knife with a curved blade used by the Gurkhas (see above).

Haven't had to use it on anyone...yet.

8. I'm a sucker for a good "last stand" story. My top three are:

 - The Battle of Thermopylae: 300 Spartans - and 7000 others - face down the might of Persian Empire, but are ultimately defeated
 - The Battle of Rorke's Drift: 141 British Army soldiers defend a mission station in South Africa against about 4,000 Zulu warriors
 - The Battle of Saragarhi: 21 Sikhs chose to fight and defend an army post against 10,000 Pashtuns to give their relief time to make it to the outpost. They succeeded in preventing the Pashtuns taking the fort. All 21 died...taking anywhere between 180-450 Pashtuns with them. Sikhs are badass.

9. Careers I considered while I was still in high school: Librarian and translator. I enjoyed books, research, and quiet, so the librarian thing was interesting to me. I took French for 5 years, and briefly wondered how many jobs as an English-French translator there could possibly be. Turns out there's about 4 jobs. And no one's giving them up anytime soon. lol.

10. I've worked for the railroad since I was seventeen. First in the UK as an Engineering Technician in the Signal Department, then in the US as a Signalman, Testman, and now, Train Dispatcher. A train dispatcher is like an Air Traffic Controller except the chances of trains falling out of the sky are literally zero.

A pair of TRRA locomotives (my railroad), looking over the Mississippi at the St. Louis Arch. Part of the track I control runs right under the Arch grounds.

11. I play guitar, bass, and keyboards. None of them well. Me and my friend Andrew wrote many songs back when we were in our teens and early twenties, but, since you've never heard of our music, you can probably figure out how that worked out. :) I still dabble, but my 12-string only has eleven strings and a warped body.

12. On the subject of was a fun extension of writing stories where I got to dabble in heavy metaphor and trying to make things rhyme. My fact though is that I wrote my first song when I was about seventeen.

13. I have learned huge amounts about writing from comic books. Seriously. While they are often maligned for being "for kids" or for lacking emotional depth, I've found that to be far from the truth. And from comics I discovered my favorite proverb: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and one of my favorite phrases: "Pyrrhic Victory" - a victory at such great cost that it's hardly worth it. Both from The Avengers, by the way.

Pyrrhic Victory!

14. I'm 43. Born February 5th, 1973. I share my Feb 5th birthday with no less than Ronaldo, Bobby Brown, H.R. Giger, Laura Linney, and Hank Aaron.

15. Although I've written stories for decades, it wasn't until the advent of the self-publishing phenomenon that I actually finished a novel length story and released it. That was in 2010. I've written one more book since then and working on a third now.

16. I love Mint Choc Chip Ice cream. I mean, who doesn't, right?

17. I was born in Scotland. However, I've lived in the States for the past...almost...eighteen years. And I am now an American citizen (as of 2014).

18. My best friend Andrew has known me since I was eleven. And despite his attempt to get away from me (he moved to Australia) he's stuck with me. I don't recognize Australian restraining orders. :P

19. I spent 12 weeks one summer, during school break, working in a chicken factory. It was NOT fun. My mum worked there for more than a decade. I learned two valuable lessons that summer. First, never look down on anyone who works in a factory. It's easily the most physically demanding work I've ever done...and I've worked in 100F heat digging trenches and running cable for the railroad. Secondly, don't mess with mum. She will fold you up into unusual shapes even though you're twice her size.

20. I love animals. One of my absolute faves is...*drum roll*

...The Hedgehog!

There's my 20 Facts. Hope you enjoyed. I'm going to tag @SamiJoCairns @MayBBridges @JacquelineBach @LaurieBwrites and see what 20 things they will share. Follow me on twitter @Spartagus or on Facebook at thermopylaebooks


Apr 13, 2016

A to Z Challenge - K is for...


Jack "King" Kirby is one of the single most important people in comic book history. Unfortunately, many people still haven't heard of him. I hope to rectify that here.

Marvel Masterminds

What do The Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Men, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man have in common?

You are correct if you said they are all Marvel comics. If you said they were all created by Stan Lee, you're only half right.

The legend goes...

Stan Lee would come up with ideas, basic outlines and tell them to Jack Kirby. Kirby would then go away and draw a comic book based on that idea. Once he was finished, he'd give the comic back to Lee who'd fill in the dialogue and speech as he saw fit. Often Lee would have no idea what he'd get back from Kirby and has been quoted as saying it was like doing a crossword puzzle, trying to figure out what story the pictures were telling him.

Later, the idea of credit became the subject of bad blood between Kirby and Marvel and, after his death, his family pursued the rights to their father's creations. Ultimately, the family settled out of court and Marvel does credit Kirby as co-creator for the books he worked on.

Aside from creating the bulk of what became the Marvel universe with Stan Lee, Kirby also created Captain America with Joe Simon. And, after moving to DC comics in the early 1970s, he also created The Fourth World which included the character of Darkseid (who is rumored to be the bad guy in the upcoming Justice League movie.)

Kirby's art style

Jack Kirby not only helped create many of the characters we know and love today, but he also created a new style of graphic storytelling that became the blueprint for Marvel artists and an exciting new visual chapter in comic books.

While Batman and Superman looked like this:

Kirby was pushing the depth of the page. Making the characters more dynamic and more powerful.

His style led the eye to the next image, and the characters never simply moved from panel to panel, they leapt, swung, flew, dashed, and battered their way from one page to the next.

Kirby's legacy is undeniable. Both he and Stan Lee changed comic books forever and since we're still discussing many of the characters they co-created, it feels right that he is still celebrated today.

Movie Trivia: In the movie Argo (based on a real story), the CIA mission to rescue Americans from Iran relied on the creation of a fake sci-fi movie. The storyboards for the movie were drawn in real life by Jack Kirby. In the movie, Kirby is played by Michael Parks.


Apr 12, 2016

A to Z Challenge - J is for...

...James Jean!

James Jean is a fine artist who is known in the comic book world for his cover art on the DC series Fables.


Shere Khan and Rose Red

Fables is a series about characters from fairytales and folk lore who are chased from their homeland and settle in a secret community in New York. The "Fables" who can't blend in with humans live in upstate New York at "The Farm."

TV Trivia: The Fables concept might sound familiar to fans of Grimm and Once Upon a Time, two television shows currently showing on NBC and ABC respectively. Both networks had Fables in development at one stage or another in the mid to late 2000s, and both chose to go a different way.

Fables was launched in 2002, under the Vertigo imprint, with James Jean doing cover art. Jean did every cover, except issue #11, until 2009 (issue #81) when he retired from illustration to concentrate on painting.

Fairytales and folklore was a perfect match for Jean's artwork. His dreamy and colorful style were a wonderful addition to the comic book shelves.

Primarily for his work on Fables, Jean was recognized as Best Cover Artist at the Eisner awards six years in a row (2004-2009). In the 23 years of the Best Cover Artist award, he still holds the top spot for most wins.

One of my favorite cover artists of the last 20 years, I actually bought a series of small prints based on his cover work and hope one day to get around to hanging them on some walls.


Apr 11, 2016

A to Z Challenge - I is for...


The Fab Five

Robert "Bobby" Drake was created in 1963 and is one of the founding five members of the X-Men. He has appeared regularly over the last fifty years in multiple incarnations of the X-Men comic books and in other teams like X-Factor, The Defenders, and The Champions. The character has also made appearances in cartoons and movie adaptations.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby initially created Iceman using the Human Torch as the template, except giving him the "opposite" power. In the early books, Iceman had the appearance of a snowman in boots, and only later changed into the more crystal clear version more commonly known today. He also underwent a "secondary mutation" that for a time had him stuck in his ice form.

Cold hearted?

Bobby is an honest, forthright and sometimes cocky character, his status as the youngest of the original X-Men giving him certain allowances for his brash behavior, although he remained that way as he got older.

Throughout his comic book life, Iceman has enjoyed relationships with female characters like Kitty Pryde, Opal Tanaka, Mystique, and Lorna Dane, however, it was revealed in a more recent story that he was in fact gay.

Due to some time-travel shenanigans, a younger version of Iceman was present in the future and it was there that his telepathic teammate Jean Grey discovered that the younger Bobby was gay.

Together they confronted the older version of Bobby and he admitted that he'd been hiding it all those years.

Iceman in the movies

One of the disappointments of the movie incarnations of the X-men is that the original five: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman, while all appearing in the same movie, have not actually all been part of the same line-up. The closest we've come to seeing the original line-up together was in X-men 3: The Last Stand, where all five characters were in the movie, although they never appear together in the same team.

Shawn Ashmore has played Iceman in four of the five X-Men movies so far. Although mostly used as a supporting character, we were able to see Iceman using his ice slides in "Days of Future Past."

X-Men: Apocalypse is due out on May 27th and although it looks like they recast a younger Cyclops and Jean Grey, and added an all-new Angel/Archangel to star alongside the returning Nicholas Hoult as Beast, there's been no word on Iceman making a return.

Maybe in the next movie...


Apr 9, 2016

A to Z Challenge - H is for...



Adam Hughes is an American comic book artist, primarily known for his pin-up style art and his extensive work as a cover artist on a large number of comic books. Including long runs on Wonder Woman and Catwoman.

Cover Artist

Hughes has no formal art training. He learned his trade alongside other artists as he picked up work, first with independent publishers and then DC comics.

His intricate style didn't lend itself well to the quick turnaround required for monthly comic books, so Hughes concentrated more on cover work and in the late '90s began a four year run doing cover art on Wonder Woman for DC, while also doing covers on Tomb Raider for TopCow, establishing himself as a much sought after cover artist.

Sexy or Sexist?

On top of his cover work, Hughes started designing statuettes for Sideshow collectibles, the first of which - Mary Jane Watson (Spider-man's girlfriend/wife) - caused a huge stir because many thought it was a sexist representation of a prominent female Marvel character.

Hughes' work is often scorned as sexist, and sometimes too sexy, especially for a medium that's still often considered geared towards children. However, despite his pin-up style, Hughes often draws women as powerful figures, and although the Mary Jane statue was designed with tongue firmly in cheek, it seems to project a dated image.

Much of the rest of Hughes' designs, covers, and lithographs, continue to retain a more powerful depiction of the women involved, but Hughes never shies away from keeping the artwork sexy. Still very much sought after, he continues to do cover art for a wide variety of comic books...although still, admittedly, drawing mostly female characters.

Real Power of the DC Universe poster
L to R: Catwoman, Oracle, Zatanna, Black Canary, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Vixen, Batwoman (seated), Poison Ivy, Harlequin