Clockwork Scoundrels 2 – Out Now!

The next episode in the saga of Captain Locke and her crew is available at Amazon!

clockwork scoundrels 2

They thought the Fog would provide an escape. They were wrong.

It has been three weeks since the Misty Morning departed Alterra. Her instruments erratic and unreliable, the airship has become lost to the confounding mists. Supplies are dwindling and the crew is growing edgy.

It seems a great boon when the ship comes upon an isle in the mist, a place free of the Fog, where a small settlement stands. Captain Melanie Locke decides to visit the strange inhabitants to learn how they keep the Fog at bay. But the people of the isle harbor many secrets, and some of them are deadly.

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Steampunk Guest Post

I wrote a guest post on a steampunk blog today talking about how I came to write Clockwork Scoundrels – check it out!

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Clockwork Scoundrels FREE Today!

Get a FREE copy of the thrilling adventure reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Today only!

Here’s what one reader had to say: Clockwork Scoundrels has got all the best parts of an entertaining space western with a steampunk twist. Airships, teamwork, danger, suspense, and a refreshing amount of character-driven comedy… If you love Joss Whedon’s work or the wit of the original Star Wars movies, you will really enjoy this book.

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Clockwork Scoundrels

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Clockwork Scoundrels Available Now

Clockwork Scoundrels is now available! Only $0.99 for a limited time!

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Melanie Locke, the captain of a run-down airship, has never been short on luck, hers is just always bad or worse. Yet even by such lofty standards, business has been especially bleak of late. So when a stranger offers her a lot of money to fly him to a remote part of the country, it appears to be a long overdue boon. But the stranger carries a secret, one that some very powerful people are anxious to get back. Caught in the middle, Mel must chart a path through the maelstrom or risk losing the skies forever.

Clockwork Scoundrels

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Coming Soon: Clockwork Scoundrels

Coming July 7th, 2015

Clockwork Scoundrels

Clockwork Scoundrels


Melanie Locke, the captain of a run-down airship, is flat broke. Her ship is falling apart and soon the crew will be supping on boiled leather (again). So when a businessman offers her a lot of money to fly him to a remote part of the country, it appears to be a long overdue boon. But the businessman carries a secret, one that some very powerful people are anxious to get back. Caught in the middle, Mel must chart a path through the maelstrom or risk losing the skies forever.

About the Series

Clockwork Scoundrels is the first in a series of interconnecting novellas featuring Captain Locke and her crew of misfits as they struggle to survive on the fringe. The novellas play like episodes of Steampunk Firefly, and like Malcolm Reynolds, Mel shoots first, talks tough, and will do anything to keep her ship flying and her crew together.

Sound Cool?

Read the first chapter right now!

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E3 2015: The Recap

Although E3’s primary purpose is to manufacture hype for games we might not see for years, I can’t avoid it’s gravitational pull. It’s just so damn fun to watch the vids and imagine how fun these games will be. Let’s sort out the shiniest treasures of the lot, shall we?

First, some quick thoughts on the conferences.


I abstained from the Sony conference, seeing as how I don’t have a PS4 or an abundance of free time. Some of the choice morsels found their way into my life nonetheless, prompting me to go back and skim a bit (that gravitational pull!).

I find it odd that many outlets are declaring Sony the E3 “winner”, with some of the primary supporting arguments being a remake of FFVII and the announcement of a crowd-sourced Shenmue 3. I guess I don’t understand why Sony is getting props for giving Shenmue the most tepid of support. A bit of stage time during their conference, but no funding? Call me old fashioned, but if Sony really believed in Shenmue 3, wouldn’t they, I don’t know, pay for it themselves? The whole scenario is a bit queer, is all, and also kinda alarming. This is a trend we don’t want to see, friends.

Picks for my dollar: Uncharted 4 looks really fun. The series has never grabbed me somehow, my love for Indiana Jones aside, but maybe this time it will stick. No Man’s Sky continues to impress. Easily one of the most ambitious games being made. Horizon Zero Dawn looks pretty inspired, with a world and art style reminiscent of the 360’s woefully underplayed Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (a game I loved). No real idea what Horizon Zero Dawn is about yet, or why the name is so clunky, but it looks cool.


Halo Guardians looks interesting and the Royal Rumble styled Warzone seems appropriately chaotic, but on the whole Guardians doesn’t turn my head like its siblings of yesteryear. Not sure if MCC ruined me or if I’ve just moved on from the Halo ‘verse. So too, Gears. Another remake/remastered edition. I just don’t see the appeal of repurchasing a game I’ve played years ago, but maybe it’s just me? Seems like a lazy substitute for creating new IP. The announced Gears of Four did look pretty, but similar to Halo, I guess I’m largely over the franchise.

Backward Compatibility is nice, I guess, but seeing as it’s primary value case is freeing up a bit of space in my entertainment cabinet, I personally don’t see it as a huge win. Putting EA on the stage felt like a huge waste of time. So, too, having Bethesda essentially recap what we saw in their conference. Mod support in Fallout 4 is huge, especially if PS4 doesn’t get it, but I need more details before deciding to buy it for the Xbox instead of PC.

Of the new IP, ReCore pushed all my buttons. CGI trailer, sure, but the art style was great, the post apocalyptic world looks interesting, and the follower/companion mechanic seems fun. Ion looks atmospherically creepy, definitely some System Shock vibes. Sea of Thieves looked fun and colorful, but not sure if I’ll ever play it.

ReCoreHololens looks fantastically futuristic but I’m not yet sold on the gaming application. It’s still early days, but without strong developer support and more specifically a killer app (and for me, Minecraft is not a killer app), I’m afraid it will go down like Kinect: a cool bit of tech better employed in other, non-game related ways.

Third Parties

I also watched Bethesda’s (my personal pick for best conference, btw) and Ubisoft’s conferences, and skimmed EA’s. Tasty bites: Dishonored 2, Fallout 4, For Honor, The Division, Rainbow Six Siege, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Star Wars Battlefront.

Top 5 Games of E3 2015

Here are my top 5 games, in reserve order:

5) The Division

The demo’s staging was painfully scripted but the game itself still looks tight. Teams can choose to assist each other against NPC foes or instead take each other out. The endgame, wherein all teams wait for extract, looks pretty intense; everyone is eyeing each other, thinking about odds, and waiting for the bullets to fly. Kinda cool that you can go rogue and turn on your own team, taking all the loot for yourself, but that also seems like pissing in your own pool. Not the best way to engender a good community. I didn’t see any of the RPG elements promised last year. Also still unsure what the meta-game is: are we simply scrounging for better equipment? Hope there’s some story meat on these bones.

4) No Man’s Sky

Probably the only game so far that I would buy a PS4 to play (and with PC support, that’s not necessary). Love that the transition from space to planet happens without loading screens, that you actually pilot through atmosphere. Tooling around the galaxy in your own personal starship, and you can get out and explore? And engage in aggressive negotiations with indigenous species? Looking more and more like it fulfills the promises Destiny made.

3) For Honor

This one came out of left field. Knights vs Samurai vs Vikings sounds like something my son would cook up, but the gameplay looks to match the fun premise. Massed melee combat is reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors, with the added wrinkle of 4-on-4 team battles. Taking out AI soldiers looks fairly ho-hum, but the gameplay slows down when players encounter one another. Sword fights are this interesting rock, paper, scissors exercise of positioning one’s sword through use of the stick while watching cues from the other guy. It looks incredibly tense. There hasn’t been a good multiplayer melee combat game since Rune (15 years ago? WTF, I hate you, Time).

2) Fallout 4

Where to start? Character creation looks simple and streamlined, but more powerful and varied than previous iterations. Vertical movement plays a part this time, in the form of gunships and jetpacks(!). Most impressive of all, the crafting system is DEEP and applies to more than just weapons & armor this time around. You can tear down structures and rebuild them into your own settlement, complete with settlers, traders, and automated defenses, adding a bit of a Minecraft / tower defense vibe to the game.

I could say more, but I’ll just leave this here.

1) Star Wars Battlefront

As a lifelong Star Wars fan, this game makes me feel things.

Battlefront I just can’t get over how good this game looks. The graphics are great, sure, but it is the Star Warsness I’m talking about. Everything looks perfectly like it should. Even the explosions look like practical effects from the films. And the sound design is even better. The roar of TIE fighters, the sound of lasers, the music: those are the easy, obvious things. It’s all the little touches that really seals the deal: the klaxon as the Rebel’s Hoth base comes under attack; the gurgle of electronics inside the TIE fighter, barely heard over the screaming engines; the distinct explosion as an AT-ST is destroyed.

There are reasons for reservations, though. No Space Combat, for one. EA’s history of DLC abuse. The dumbing down for the masses: can’t control the AT-AT’s movements; the Y-Wings that bomb said AT-AT are AI controlled; when a Snow Speeder harpoons an AT-AT, some sort of mini-game kicks in to determine success, rather than the player’s skill in circling the walker.

Concerns aside, I feel the hype flowing through me. And that is why Battlefront is my #1 game of E3 2015.

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Time, That Cruel Mistress

Today was my son’s last day of elementary school.

They have a tradition at his school, wherein the departing fifth graders run through the halls on their last day and all the kids and teachers wave good-bye.

Where has the time gone?

I remember chasing him around when he was learning to walk, pawing the ground and snorting like a bull.

I remember taking him to ride Thomas the Train, and his chest-puffing pride at meeting Sir Topham Hatt, back when every hill was Gordon’s Hill.

I remember buying his first set of action figures and engaging in vast battles in his bedroom.

I remember his first day of school. How big the fifth graders were in comparison. It seemed inconceivable that he would ever be that big.

He barely remembers Thomas now. The trains are boxed up in the garage, one step from leaving our lives forever.

The action figures collect dust in his closet, unceremoniously heaped in bins.

He’s taller than my mother, and making up ground on my wife every day.

He sleeps with a pair of stuffed Spider-Men. Do they know their days are numbered?

I dropped him and his sister off at school last week. Together, for the last time. I didn’t realize it would be the last time, then. It shouldn’t be significant but somehow it is.

Where have all the years gone.

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Pick My Next Book Cover

I am running a design contest for the cover of my next story and you can help me choose!

Vote here

Here’s one of the options:

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Ranking the MCU Films

Part 3 of my multi-saga review of Age of Ultron concludes with a recap of all the MCU movies and a numeric score.

I’ve grouped the movies into tiers, and indicate how many times I’ve seen each in parentheses following the movie’s title.



The Avengers (four) 9.75: the near-perfect superhero movie. Even after the thrill of seeing the Avengers assembled for the first time wears-off, there is so much to love about this film. The steady ever-upward pacing, juggling all the characters and giving them their time to shine, Loki being Loki… the only real negative is wooden Hawkeye and how Cap isn’t quite as awesome as Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man (later rectified).

Iron Man (four times? best guess) 9.5: Gets a slight nudge over Winter Soldier and even was in consideration for the top spot… the first film in the MCU is such a great movie. Easily the best superhero origin story in the MCU, and perhaps in all of film… I’d certainly put it up against Batman Begins, Superman 1, and Spider-Man 1 (Supes probably wins that fight… too much nostalgia). Full of fun, laugh-out-loud moments and soaring bits of action. If not for the forgettable villain (War Monger), Iron Man would take the top spot.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (twice) 9.5: Finally we see Captain America being a super soldier! That boat raid where Cap just annihilates the enemy soldiers, kicking dudes off the boat and throwing them around like rag dolls is so sweet. The elevator scene is easily in my top 5 MCU moments, and Fury’s car scene is intense. As a nemesis, the Winter Soldier isn’t in Loki’s league but he probably gets next billing. Plus this movie does a much better job of integrating SHIELD and the broader MCU ramifications into the tale. Pierce doesn’t quite do it for me as the big-bad, he was obviously rotten from the start. But I love the reveal that Gary Chandler’s character is in Hydra!



Guardians of the Galaxy (once) 9.25: of any movie on this list, Guardians has the potential to move higher on repeat viewing. My initial and thus far only viewing was under less than ideal circumstances: theater was packed and noisy, and the audio was really low. Missed a bunch of funny bits. Tons of heart and plays like a Star Wars flick.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (once) 9: Alternatively soars to the highest of MCU highs and then crashes back to Earth. Wonderful spectacle marred by imperfect pacing, an uneven villain, and too many capes.



Thor: The Dark World (once) 8.75: Really enjoyed the return to Asgard. Loki at his best. Once again, the main villain is a bit of a letdown, but the scene of Asgard under attack is pretty sweet.

Thor (twice) 8.50: Great introduction to Thor, Loki, etc. The scenes of Thor on Earth are awesome. Jane is so-so as a love interest but she isn’t awful.

Iron Man 3 (twice) 8.50: was rather disappointed upon first viewing, but liked it quite a bit more on repeat. Love the ingenuity of Stark outside the suit. Villain is rather lame, and too many suits at the climax.

The Incredible Hulk (once) 8: been a long time since I’ve seen this but I remember liking it pretty well. Hard to think positively on Norton’s Hulk since we’ve gotten Ruffalo’s. Abomination is pretty freaky!


Red Skull

Captain America: The First Avenger (once) 7.75: Film starts slow and then montages through all the interesting parts! Red Skull is rather forgettable.

Iron Man 2 (twice) 7.5: pace is all jacked up as the film inserts too much SHIELD nonsense to build-up to Avengers. Whiplash is the worst Marvel villain. Love Justin Hammer though.

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9 Reasons Avengers is Still the Mightiest

Or, alternatively, why Age of Ultron isn’t as good as the first Avengers movie. This is part 2 in my mega-review of Age of Ultron (part 1 discussed how Age of Ultron was better).

Down and out

Spoilers incoming.

1. Hawkeye: The Sequel

Age of Ultron’s Hawkeye is vastly superior to the soulless doppelganger we got the first time around, but too much time is spent making him not suck that the movie as whole suffers. His family was a cute little twist, and not unwelcome, but once the team gets to his farm, it’s The Walking Dead: Season 2 all over again. The lesson, kids: farms are where intrigue and excitement go to die.

The biggest problem with Hawkeye is how much time is wasted setting up his death. Which, in case you somehow missed it, doesn’t actually happen! And if it had happened, it would have been so telegraphed that the moment wouldn’t have payed off emotionally. It unnecessarily clutters the movie for no real purpose. Better to spend all that time giving Ultron better things to do, I say.

2. Get Outta My Head

After both Avengers films have used mind control against the heroes, if Thanos comes down in Infinity War and starts playing puppet master I just might scream. I was cool with Loki’s mental manipulations the first time around because it hadn’t been done before, and anyway, he’s the trickster god. Warping perceptions is kinda what he does, it’s right there in his moniker. You can’t be surprised when someone like that plays you for a fool.

This time around we get the Scarlet Witch. I admit, I don’t know her skill-set. Does her base package come with that ‘Red Fog’, or was that a premium add-on Marvel grafted on? I don’t really care how or why she could manipulate their thoughts. Mostly I just got pissed that we were retreading old ground.


Mind control is a cheap trick, not just on the characters, but on the audience itself. If the best you can do against these heroes is turn their minds against them, that really says something about the caliber of your villain, doesn’t it?

Speaking of which…

3. Concerning Puppets

For all his talk of strings, Ultron is but a mad dog, slobbering and snarling at the end of a chain. He might scare you a little, but that chain is strong, constructed of the strongest material known to man. No, not Vibranium. Ultron’s shackles are made of the impervious, all-powerful thing called The Script. He’s artificially constrained, put upon for story reasons or, more appropriately, for future story reasons.


Think about it: for all Ultron’s power, all his juicy possibility, what do we get? He kills the 2nd-best version of Quicksilver and cuts somebody’s arm off (awesome moment, though). And… that’s it, I guess? We can assume there was a lot of collateral damage with that floating city trick, but I can’t recall seeing any of it.

Why does he spare Natasha’s life? There is just no logical reason to not kill her. It’s already been established that Ultron sees humanity as a plague, and now one of the Avengers – who have been a pain in his ass since the beginning – falls into his hands. Right after said Avengers just stole his mega-prime surrogate body. How does he not just rip her limb from limb in a fit of anger? The dude has major anger management issues.

Contrast this with Loki, the Avenger’s first villain. Loki’s not really the one-man killing machine that Ultron was supposed to be, but he had no problems getting his hands dirty. Getting a 3D render of that one guy’s eye is still a squirmy moment, and he killed Coulson, a character we’d come to love. And he legitimately tried to kill Thor when he dropped him from the helicarrier. In other words: he did not squander his opportunities. When I consider Ultron, all I see is wasted potential.

4. Weird Science

So I guess I was expecting something different when Jarvis evolved into an actual, physical, character. Vision has his moments, or rather a single moment, of awesome: casually handing Thor his hammer is such a simple yet effective way of indicating he can be trusted, and masterfully pays off the party-time hammer scene which had previously only seemed like a gag.

There was always a twinkle of warm humor as Jarvis interacted with Stark. It’s gone now, burned away by Thor’s lightning during that Frankenstein-esque birthing process. The purple guy that comes out sounds like Jarvis but is absent any of Jarvis’s humanity.


On the whole, Vision is just not that interesting. Maybe that’s because the other Avengers are all flawed in some way (or, in other words, human). Vision is setup as a perfect being, more godlike than Thor in some ways, and ultimately that makes him rather boring.

I miss Jarvis.

5. The Man in the Barn

Was Nick Fury hiding out in Hawkeye’s barn the whole time? Is that where he went into hiding after burning all his stuff at the end of Winter Soldier? What else was he hiding back there? Maybe a Helicarrier under a dusty tarp?

Joking aside, Age of Ultron was the first time it felt like Fury’s presence was not only unnecessary, but kinda unwelcome. He just casually pops in, reminds the heroes they need to do something, then brings the mothballed flying fortress in for the rescue. The whole thing reeks of Deus Ex Machina.

Which is a real shame as Fury has had some real standout moments of late. I loved how manipulative Fury was in the first Avengers, walking a duplicitous line, willing to bend the truth to see the greater good done. And that car scene in Winter Soldier was one of the best MCU action scenes so far. Age of Ultron sent him backsliding into Exposition Dude, there to state the stakes for the audience and then get outta the way. And that sucks.

6. Hero Bloat

Avengers was perfect because it didn’t need to setup any heroes, or even the villain for that matter. All the players had been established in prior films, allowing us to get right to the story. In contrast, Age of Ultron brings back the OGs, adds in a few sidekicks, and then further proceeds to introduce three entirely new characters, plus the villain who’s name is on the title card. We end up with a watered-down version of the Avengers as the ACTUAL Avengers are forced to share screen time with everyone else. What a disappointment: I came to see Thor and Hulk, Iron-Man and Captain America, Black Widow and the Improbable Archer.

And don’t even get me started on the “New Avengers”, seen assembling at the film’s end. Let’s see: Captain America and Black Widow (awesome), plus War Machine (okay), Falcon (meh), Scarlet Witch (bleh), and Vision (eck). I get it: the Avengers are not a static group. But they were only the Avengers for maybe 1.5 movies, and already we’re crowding out the old hands with these new characters that I don’t care about.

I have to admit I’m kinda hoping Thanos comes down and just wipes the floor with them. Kills everyone save Cap. Then the original team can come back together one last time, probably muttering about being too old for this shit. :)

7. For Heaven’s Sake

Or, Why Ultron Sucks: Part 2. Not only did Ultron not put the hurt on the heroes nearly enough, but he goes out like a complete pansy.

Broken Ultron

Forget his metal army for a minute, its just cannon fodder anyway. Why does Ultron put himself in a situation where all his eggs are in one crumbling, city-sized basket? You can say he underestimates the Avengers and I can buy that to some degree. But in that case, why doesn’t he upload a copy of himself to the internet, like some kind of sleeper virus when things start going sideways? Are you telling me that for all his technical acumen, he doesn’t have wifi?

From his previous encounters, Ultron should know the Avengers are a tough draw when assembled. Why not change the game then? Keep replicating all over the globe, ala Agent Smith, causing mayhem, and force the team to split-up? How does the team fight something that lives on the internet, replicating faster than they can destroy, something that literally can’t be fought?

Likewise, the world is crammed with smart devices. What if Ultron turned everything into a surveillance device, or caused plane crashes or hijacked military equipment? In short – why doesn’t he up the chaos factor and at least distract the Avengers from his endgame?

He has access to all of human history. Might that not mean he’s an expert in strategy and tactics? And perhaps even what buttons he can push to rile these guys up? For someone supposedly intelligent beyond human understanding, someone capable of getting whatever resources he needs with relative ease, Ultron ultimately goes pretty quietly into the night.

8. Hot Spring Time Machine

I like seeing Norse gods take baths as much as the next guy, but what was this scene about again? Other than setting up future movies, I mean. It completely disrupts the narrative flow of the movie, fattening an already sagging middle until all narrative momentum is squandered. Given the choice, I’d rather spend more time at the farm.

As a complete but interesting aside: the spirit quest clearly shows the gem from Loki’s specter, the same one that ends up lodged in Vision’s forehead, is one of the infinity stones. Will Vision dissolve when Thanos rips it from his skull to complete the set? Will we get Jarvis back if that happens???

9. Uneven Flow

The first Avengers movie starts slowly, gathering together the pieces one-by-one. Assembling them, you might say. These scenes are like tiny vignettes, summarizing each character’s state of being at the beginning: Cap alone in the gym, Banner hiding out, Stark being Stark, Natasha working (my personal favorite). Tension is steadily stirred into the pot with each successive scene: arresting Loki; Shakespeare in the park; arguing on the helicarrier; the group unraveling; joining forces in New York. Avengers is truly the best comic book movie ever made, perfect in scene construction, tone, and treatment of the characters.

In comparison, the sequel is like a younger brother brought up in the shadow of an over-achieving sibling: much of what is wrong feels like a response to the first movie (ahem Hawkeye). Age of Ultron has flashes of brilliance that eclipses anything in the first movie (that first act!), but it ultimately disappoints because it never realizes its great potential.


The movie starts with a bang and masterfully segue ways into that awesome Avengers Tower party scene. But then it stumbles. The Scarlet Witch-induced visions dampen the pace, and if that’s not enough, we get to revisit Thor’s vision a second time. Too much time is spent at the farm, and precious screen time is wasted setting up Hawkeye’s “death”.

The best action scene comes about the 2/3 mark, when Cap goes up against Ultron on the highway. Then we get that clunky Vision birth scene, and move into the climatic show-down, which is full of amazing action and laughs but ultimately falls well short of the mark because the stakes don’t feel real. Ultron isn’t going to win, that much is clear. That’s not really a surprise – the conventions of the genre are clear and you know what to expect going in. But the victory still feels too easy, too clean. A truly heroic, sacrificial death by someone that matters to us would have gone a long way here. If you keep raising these impossible stakes but ultimately there are no consequences, all the tension goes screaming out of the balloon.

And when the movie ends, the Avengers just kinda disband? Thor’s return to Asgard is a given, but Stark’s peace-out is a surprise, and I guess Hawkeye was given his walking papers because he’s nowhere to be seen. We’re left with a hodge-podge collection of secondary characters, ending the film on anything but a triumphant note.


I’ve shared why Age of Ultron is the superior flick and also why it’s still the apprentice. In the last post, I’ll rank it alongside the rest of the MCU films. Tune back in to see where it lands.

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