Books by Tom Reeve


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Deleted Scenes: The Dreaded Infodump

In my early drafts of Full Coverage (before meeting my awesome editor!) I fell into the same trap that many indie writers do. I described things in way too much detail and let the world building kill the pacing and drag the story down. In this Deleted Scene, we will go over one of the most egregious instances of this and what I did to fix it. There will be some mild spoilers involved in describing this scene so if you haven’t read Full Coverage: An Action Comedy yet, please go and check it out on Kindle or Paperback on Amazon first and then come back here.

The Scene

This scene was the original beginning of the book. Kyle has been captured by the Latin Yakuza boss he was hired to kill and is chained the floor of the “event” cell with a machete stuck in his enhanced arm. In the final version of the book these events take place in Chapter 2, but this was the original start of the book until Rev 08. For comparison, the final released version of the book is Rev 10.

Why It Was Cut

Below are the first 952 words of Rev 05 of Full Coverage, which was the first version of the completed book that I felt comfortable sending out the friends to beta test back in October 2015. Right off the bat, I get sucked into over-describing everything. It takes 874 words before the first action by a person occurs and even that is just wiggling a machete by an unnamed character. All of it is just super in depth description of everything in the current scene down to minute details like the color of the pills Kyle is taking. It takes 1,599 words before anyone says anything and 1,708 words before our main character does anything. This is not a gripping way to begin an “action” novel for a reader who has never heard of you.  Would you stay with a book that takes nearly 7 pages before the main character does anything? It’s all world building and it totally drags.

What Was Changed?

Unlike the previous deleted scene, most of what is in this one actually made it to the final book in some form. The pills and enhancements Kyle has all stayed and the plot of this scene remained pretty much intact. The big change was in not dumping a ton of info to describe every odd/new/weird thing that is present in the scene all at once. Instead, I moved those descriptions to places in the story where they actually affect the plot and trimmed down on the length of time spent describing them. The reinforced eardrums for example, are now described when an explosion goes off next to Kyle instead of just being dumped into the middle of scene. His plasticized skin is mentioned when he gets stabbed and so on.

The other big change was in moving this from the very beginning to Chapter 2. That way instead of just hearing about all the destruction and havoc Kyle caused we can actually see it and his flaw (lazy approach to his work) first hand.

The Deleted Scene

Below is the original opening to Rev 05 of Full Coverage up until the first character action (the drop of sweat doesn’t count as a character). Please learn from my example of what not to do and do not start any book with an infodump like this:

A single drop of sweat formed on the brow of Kyle Soliano’s head just below his neatly trimmed, lightly gelled, short spiky black hair. The drop of sweat then started its journey down his forehead, sliding over his perfectly tanned skin. Unlike a natural skin tan, this not the result of careless UV exposure, but was instead caused by pills designed to increase the melanin in one’s skin without the need for risking cancer. These pills were dark brown.

          The drop of sweat curved around Kyle’s eyebrows and orbited around one his new eyes. Both of them had been recently replaced after he lost his previous ones during an ill-fated bout with a flamethrower. He had decided to try green this time.

          These new eyes had not been transplanted from anybody else, living or dead. Instead, they had been custom made for Kyle using a bio-printer, a type of 3D printer capable of printing human tissue. The model that had printed these new eyes for Kyle had been a very high-end version that was also capable of printing electrical circuits at the same time. Each eye featured a printed in antenna, camera and screen that provided an internal heads up display that only Kyle could see linked to his phone.

          Kyle’s head jerked back and the drop of sweat rolled towards his ears. The reinforced eardrums inside his ears could withstand a grenade going off at close range, standing next to a jet engine at full blast or an indie bass player’s devastating eight minute long feedback solo. The pills that provided this effect were pearly white.

          Gravity pulled the drop of sweat down over Kyle’s neck. If his captors had not removed his shirt, the drop’s journey would have ended there as it was absorbed and dissipated into the atmosphere by the sweat wicking and bullet resistant fabric. Fortunately for the drop of sweat, that shirt was lying in the far corner of the twenty by twenty event cell that Kyle now found himself chained to the floor of. The shirt was covered in a small amount of Kyle’s blood and a substantial amount of blood from the first five people who had tried to capture him. The sole survivor of that group now stood to the side of the shirt glaring at Kyle, clutching at an arm that had managed to stay attached despite Kyle’s best efforts.

          The drop of sweat slid across Kyle’s chest towards his left arm. Plasticizers in his skin served as a slide for the sweat and as an additional barrier against the occasional knife, all while giving Kyle’s chest that extra bit of shine. The pills that replenished this armor coating as it was gradually shed off were clear.

          As the drop of sweat continued down Kyle’s arm it did not encounter a single body hair. Just like all people who could afford it, Kyle took pills to prevent unwanted body hair from growing in the first place. A special accessory cream was required in any areas where hair was still desired, like the top of Kyle’s head, but full Chihuahua looks on new users who skimped on the accessories were still commonly seen in public. Those pills were purple.

          The drop of sweat ran down Kyle’s shoulder and over his enormous bicep. The rock hard muscles in Kyle’s body were not the product of a dedicated workout regimen. In fact, Kyle hated going to the gym and had not been inside one in years. The muscles bugling underneath his skin were the result of his favorite pills, which were loaded with enzymes to convert fat into muscle. Gyms were for hippies and poor people who couldn’t afford the good drugs. Kyle loved cheeseburgers and he was always too lazy to go to the gym consistently. One little pill took care of both problems as it allowed him to get ripped from eating cheeseburgers without needing to lift weights like a chump. These pills were dark green.

          Enzymes that convert excess fat into muscle are not naturally occurring in humans, so Kyle had to take the cheeseburger pills  every other week to replace the ones that were flushed out of his system. If he didn’t take any of his pills on the prescribed schedule, the effects of all of them would eventually wear off. The more unnatural a modification, the more often the pills had to be taken. The most unnatural pills came in suppository form to allow for better absorption into the bloodstream through the intestinal tract. Kyle did not take any of those pills.

          The drop of sweat continued down past Kyle’s elbow where it ended it’s journey as it mixed in with the blood seeping out from the wound surrounding the sword stuck in his arm. His blood was dark and thick, like red syrup, fueled by pills that made it extra dense and oxygen rich for better athletic performance and increased diving depth. These pills were black and had to be taken in conjunction with the cheeseburger pills since a normal human heart would not be able to pump the sap-like fluid through a person’s veins, much less a six-foot-five Samoan who was on his knees with a sword stuck in his arm.

          The owner of the sword wiggled it around again but it remained stuck in one of Kyle’s silicate reinforced bones like a knife stuck in a brick during a failed infomercial. When Kyle got new limbs printed, he always opted for the silicate reinforcement for his bones in addition to the plasticized reinforcing for his skin. Gray pills had to be taken once a month to keep the amount of silicate in his bones at optimal performance levels.


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How I Changed Kyle from an Asshole to an Antihero

When I was first outlining Full Coverage, my original idea was to make Kyle a total asshole in order to show how when compared to an insurance company even a total asshole like Kyle seemed like a good guy. This was not a good idea. Writing a book filled with nothing but self-centered assholes isn’t very fun and it wouldn’t have been fun to read either. It’s like watching a sporting event between two teams you hate. The only thing you can root for are injuries and maybe a meteor.

This led me to put a note in my OneNote outline sheet saying: Error on the side of FUN. If it isn’t fun to write it won’t be FUN to READ!

Even with this new focus on making things fun, my early readers consistently told me that I needed to make Kyle more likable. While doing some research on how to do that, I found this article called: Of Assholes and Antiheroes: Morality in ‘Borderlands 2 over at popmatters. It’s a really neat analysis comparing Max Payne (antihero), Kratos (asshole), the Vault Hunters (antiheros) and Handsome Jack (asshole). Sure it’s about video games and not books, but the idea is the same.

In order to change Kyle from an asshole to an antihero, I first needed to make him quirky and make sure that the targets of his violence were somehow justified. The new one sentence description of Kyle became:

Kyle is a cheeseburger obsessed slacker assassin who is out of a job.

This one sentence captures his main quirk (obsession with cheeseburgers), his flaw (slacker), his profession (assassin) and goal (out of a job, so he needs a new one). If you are having trouble defining a character, try to distill them down to a single sentence to capture the core part of them first and then expand from there.

In order to keep the reader rooting for Kyle, he was no longer allowed to shoot innocent bystanders or use them as human shields to save his own ass because that would make him an asshole. However, Kyle could still kill and be a dick to the people trying to kill him since he is an antihero after all.

Additionally, the other part of making readers empathize with a character is by showing your character suffer repeatedly but not give up. Even though Full Coverage is a comedy, Kyle suffers a lot. *** MINOR SPOILER WARNING *** He loses his job, he loses his insurance, women won’t sleep with him, bars/clubs won’t let him in, his body changes, a bunch of his limbs and other body parts are blown off/cut off/crushed/etc. *** END SPOILERS *** This was done on purpose to make the reader empathize with the character and to make it that much sweeter once Kyle fights his way back to the top.

Another good example of this is in this Lessons from the Screenplay video about Independence Day. President Whitmore repeatedly fails and gets his butt kicked the entire movie. That makes it all the better when despite all those failures he still manages to deliver a kick ass speech and go up against the aliens in the last battle of the movie.

The popmatters article is also useful when creating good villains. If you make the villains dicks to the main character in addition to whatever other evil they are doing, it makes it much more satisfying when the hero takes them down.

In Full Coverage, the best example of this is *** SPOILER WARNING *** Trevor. Whereas the other assassins are motivated by money or revenge, Trevor is going after Kyle because he knows he’s in a weakened state and he thinks Kyle will be an easy target to pad his stats with. He takes advantage of Kyle’s situation and goes after him, in the process violating an implied assassin’s code (I really should have put in a narrator joke about him violating the Hitboard terms of service by doing that, doh! Next book!) by going after a person who came in to interview for a job, presumably without his boss’ knowledge. He hacks Kyle’s implants so he can taunt him verbally and spams Kyle’s vision with pop-up ads for farm porn to taunt him through his own eyes. Trevor isn’t just some assassin out to kill Kyle for a buck who keeps things professional. Trevor completely disrespects Kyle and is a total dick to him while he tries to kill him. That makes it very satisfying for the reader when Kyle does finally take him down. *** END SPOILERS ***

A couple of people have told me that this fight felt the most personal/violent out of all the ones in the book, and showing that personal animosity between the characters during it is probably why.

I hope you found this post helpful. May all your antagonists be quirky and suffering and may all your antagonists be total dicks.


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Deleted Scenes: My Michael Bay Moment

Over the course of writing Full Coverage, I wound up cutting out a lot of stuff that didn’t work. Now that the book is out I thought it would be fun to do some “deleted scenes” posts to take a look at what got cut out and why. There will be some mild spoilers involved in describing this scene so if you haven’t read Full Coverage: An Action Comedy yet, please go and check it out on Kindle or Paperback on Amazon first and then come back here.

The Scene

The excerpt below is from Chapter 21 in Rev 05 of the book, which was the first draft I sent out to my friends to read back in November 2015. For comparison, the final version of the book is Rev 10 and the text for that was done in March 2017. This scene would have taken place right before Chapter 15 in the final version of the book.

In this scene Kyle goes to a PrintStop, a futuristic version of Kinko’s that has 3D printers in it, to print out the parts for his silenced pistol and some knives for the hit he is about to do. While he’s there a couple of Latin ninjas ambush him. They then fight it out, pulling freshly printed weapons out of the printers as they try to kill each other. Sounds like it should be awesome right? It wasn’t. This chapter was universally disliked by all the people who read that draft of the book.

Why It Was Cut

The simplest explanation for why this chapter was cut is that there are no lasting consequences. The plot and character arcs are not affected in any way by what happens here, it’s just a long pointless consequence free action scene. It is my Michael Bay moment. Kyle doesn’t change as a character at all from this scene, and he doesn’t even get hurt enough to have to switch his insurance again. My original idea was that this would raise the stakes a bit by revealing that ninjas were hunting him down during his last job, but it’s already been well established by this point that other assassins are trying to kill him so this scene adds nothing new that we didn’t already know.

The other big problem with this scene is that the opponents are just faceless, nameless ninjas who are little more than redshirts in the overall story. Seeing a hero take on a bunch of nameless baddies with freshly printed weapons would probably be cool visually, but in text form reading about what the first ninja did, then what the second ninja did makes it feel impersonal and boring especially since the overall stakes are not affected. This is why all the assassins get named pretty quickly after they are introduced in the final version.

What Replaced It?

This entire chapter was replaced with a single paragraph describing Kyle going to the store and changing the file names on his weapons so he could print them on site. The fact that I was able to cut this chapter down to a single paragraph and not lose anything story-wise shows just how superfluous it was. I now refer to this as my “He went to the store” rule. If you can sum up the events of a chapter in a single sentence and not lose anything plot or character arc related, it should be cut.

What Was Kept?

Despite almost being totally cut out of the book a few elements were kept and moved to other parts of the story.

  • Kyle did still go to the store to print out his weapons
  • The joke about Kyle having to change the filenames of his weapons to print them stayed
  • Kira killing someone by stabbing them in the eyes with their own jawbone was kept, it was just moved to a different chapter and a different assassin meets that fate in the final version. #jawpwned remains!
  • In this scene, Kira gets a finger blown off which would lead to her arguing with her insurance about being out of network in Illinois in the following scene. That gag was changed to refer to the possibility that Kira might need to drag Kyle across state lines if he got hurt in Illinois instead.

The Deleted Scene

Below is the actual text of this deleted scene. This is from a very early draft that I wrote before I started working with my awesome editor, so the quality isn’t anywhere close to what is in the final version. Passive voice and tons of “was’s” abound here. But that’s what early drafts are for.

Kyle spun around a third time in his chair. He could hear to the two clerks behind the counter in the back end of the store giggling about some cat video while the only other customer in the PrintStop was clear on the other side of the large table in the middle of the store with her back to him. Just the way he liked it.

The trip to Chicago had been uneventful aside for Kira nearly crushing the hand of a TSA agent who tried to slide a finger between her butt cheeks. They had checked into the same hotel with neighboring rooms so that Kira would be less likely to accidentally shoot him in the middle of the night. Kyle found her consideration for his well being very comforting.

The two of them had scoped out the Charity Health building and lobby area of it earlier that morning. Security at the company was minimal. Except for one enhanced guard at the front desk with visible metal printed-in knuckles and presumably some other sort of standard security guard style weapons by his side there was nobody visibly dangerous inside. A badge with a picture on it was all that was needed for entry and it served as an access card to operate the elevators as well. Conspicuously, not everyone showed their badges and only one was needed to open the elevators for multiple people.

He and Kira had split up for the rest of their first day in Chicago. She had gone to go pick up a rental motorcycle and the weapons she had stashed away the last time she was in town. Kyle had gone to the nearest PrintStop, a chain of commercial 3D printing shops, to print out the knives and silenced automatic pistol he had emailed himself before flying over. Bullets were still easy to buy in Chicago but buying a weapon here to fire them was not and he had wanted to avoid any unnecessary hassles at the airport that might happen if he tried to bring weapons in from San Francisco.

Kyle folded the waiver form he had just signed promising not to make any weapons on the PrintStop printers into a paper airplane. He tossed it at the recycling bin and instead it flew into the wall just under the “No weapons allowed” sign.

He was seated in front of a direct metal laser sintering printer loaded with a titanium-steel composite, perfect for knife edges and silenced firearms. The DMLS printer used a high powered laser to sinter  two micron thick layers of metal powder into solid objects. Each pass of the laser was followed by another pass of a roller depositing another fine layer of powdered metal on top of the previously welded layer. This layer was then hit with the laser and fused into layer below it. The process repeated until all the parts on the tray were completed at which point Kyle would pull them out of the powder and clean them off.

Through the tinted window on the cover of the machine Kyle could see the flare of the welding laser passing over each layer of metal dust, fusing it into the shapes he desired. The printer had already completed printing out five customized throwing knives for Kyle. The grips had been custom designed to fit and balance in his hand perfectly. A small collar at the base of the blade made them useful for stabbing as well as throwing. The DMLS printer PrintStop had was a low-end model and it was taking about twenty minutes to print each batch of parts Kyle sent to it even though they were relatively small.

A faster arc weld extrusion metal printer was also located on the other side of this particular PrintStop, but the only other patron here was already using it. It didn’t matter though, the arc weld extrusion machine was faster but it had lower resolution. Those printers operated by pushing a metal wire through a plasma arc, liquefying the metal and dripping it on to the surface below like a hot glue gun. It was significantly faster than sintering tiny layers of metal over and over, but it sacrificed accuracy and smoothness. Surfaces like the inside of the a gun barrel would come out jagged on the inside, which was not helpful when you were trying to hit your target. The other printers in the store only worked with plastic and rubber, neither of which were particularly good for making small concealed weapons.

Despite the store’s policy on weapons, their only safeguard against making them appeared to be a file name check that scanned the names of the files being sent to it for keywords. Kyle had gotten around this safety by giving his knives and gun parts family friendly sounding names such as ‘GIFTFORORPHANS’ and ‘BUNNY’.

Kyle had started assembling his custom sized silenced pistol under his jacket just in case one of the clerks happened to glance over at him. Having a table full of gun parts and knives laid out in front of him would cause unwanted attention.

The parts were printing out in alphabetical order and only two remained for the last job. Kyle loaded up another set of five throwing knives named ‘TURTLEHAT’ and the slide for his gun, now safely renamed ‘YOUTHSOCCERTROPHY’, and started the print. Fifteen minutes remained until build completion.

With no more need to safeguard his seat and fifteen minutes to kill, Kyle headed over to the coffee shop across the parking lot from the PrintStop to grab some coffee.

Freshly caffeinated he returned with a half empty cup of coffee in his hands. One of the clerks, a freckled redheaded kid who was probably still in high school was checking one of the plastic printers in the front of the store. The other clerk was no longer visible. He was probably checking inventory or something in the back, no big deal.

Kyle sat back down at his station and checked the status on the printer.

TURTLEHAT X5, YOUTHSOCCERTROPHY – 99% COMPLETE

He peered into the smoke tinted shield on the cover of the machine to watch the final few layers get burned in. The true shape of the slide and throwing knives lay hidden under a pile of powder.

The printer beeped in completion and the part tray moved back upwards towards the cover. Kyle put on a glove, carefully reached into the powder and pulled the wire mesh tray out of the machine. Metal powder ran off the sides of the knives and the gun slide as he pulled them out of the tray and took them to the cleaning station.

Kyle rinsed off the slide with water and then alcohol. After double checking that everything was clear he turned his back to the clerk to finish assembling his gun. Someone would only be able to tell what he was assembling if they looked directly over his shoulder.

Before he could attach the slide to the rails on the gun handle something flew past Kyle’s hand, knocked the slide out of it and pinned it to the wall next to him. Kyle looked up to see that a throwing star had pinned the slide into the wall and cut into the mounting rail, damaging the metal slightly at the point of impact. If he tried to re-attach it to his gun it would jam on the first shot.

“What the hell?” Kyle shouted as he spun around towards where the other customer had been sitting. A second throwing star was already on the way towards his head. Instinctively, Kyle shielded his face with his left forearm. The throwing star slammed in, puncturing Kyle’s skin and stopping as it hit the bone.

He pulled the star out and checked the wound. It was a minor perforation, nothing some seal-all couldn’t close up. Kyle sighed as he realized that there would be no need to tell his insurance company about this injury.  His bank account was safe, for now.

As his finger ran over the rough surface of the throwing star he realized it must have been printed with the arc extrusion printer on the other side of the store. His eyes then turned to the other customer standing across the table from him.

The other customer was a woman wearing a black burka that covered her from her face to her toes. In her right hand was a third throwing star.

The woman threw her last throwing star at Kyle and he dove to bottom of the table in the middle of the room to avoid it. As Kyle peeked around the corner of the table he could see her pull off the burka revealing the close fitting back clothes underneath.

The mask remained. That was no burka, that was a ninja.

“Shit!” Kyle exclaimed as he stumbled back to the cleaning station and grabbed his throwing knives out of the tray. He punched the ‘Retry’ button on the printer and then dove back to cover against the table.

“Hey! Hey!” The freckle faced store clerk with the cheesy company mandated bowtie yelled at the ninja. “We do not allow the printing of weapons here!”

The ninja reached into the build tray of the arc weld extrusion printer and pulled out a freshly made sword with jagged edges all around it. She smacked it against the side of the printer to knock off the loose bits of metal off it. In one quick sweep she decapitated the clerk.

As she wiped the blood off the sword on the clerk’s shirt Kyle saw the unmistakable profile of the sword. Too short and wide to be a kitana, it was definitely a machete.

“Oh fuck me.” Kyle gulped out as he realized he was dealing with Latin ninjas.

“The Hideki clan says time to die asshole.” The ninja calmly said to Kyle as she let the dead body of the clerk fall behind her. Even with her mask on Kyle could make out the trademark mix of Japanese and Latin features around her eyes. She was definitely part of the Hideki yakuza family. There must have been a brother or some other asshole relative who wanted revenge for Kyle’s last official job.

Kyle started to panic, but instead he clenched his grip around a throwing knife with each hand and let the rage at at his current situation take center stage. If this was the roadblock to getting a new job, then so be it. He could take out one vengeful ninja, no problem. If he couldn’t handle a single ninja by himself he didn’t deserve a new job as an assassin anyway. It was time to earn his cheeseburgers.

“How the hell did you know I was here?” Kyle shouted as he flung two of his throwing knives at the ninja. The first one was deflected as she batted it away with her machete. The second knife she punched out of the air with her fist.

The distinctive clinging sound of the second knife as it made its way through the ninja’s skin and bounced off the metal underneath echoed through the store. This ninja’s bones were reinforced. She had been popping some metal laced suppositories early today.

Thankfully after his previous encounters with metal boned assassins Kyle had purchased several clips of armor piercing ammunition after he arrived in Chicago. Now he just needed to hold out until he could finish putting together a gun he could fire them with.

“Our admin ninja friends at Hitboard told us all about the job you took. You’d be surprised how small a world it really is.”

“Fucking ninjas.” Kyle muttered to himself as he grabbed two more throwing knives out of his pockets. He was going to have to complain to Hitboard about that break in confidentiality. In his mind he visualized a bunch of ninjas discussing things at a work party where you couldn’t see anyone but somehow the beer kept disappearing.

He glanced back at the display on the printer. Ten minutes remained until the new slide for his gun was done.

The smiling ninja walked around the table towards him. His throwing knife had broken her skin and torn the clothes on her arm. Even if she had reinforced bones and muscles it looked like her skin was normal and she wasn’t wearing body armor, not on her arms anyway. Kyle spun both knives so that the tips were facing down. Chances of landing a killing blow were low, but if he could cut her enough times she would bleed out.

“If you think I’m going to let you stop me from enjoying cheeseburgers again you are in for a big surprise!” Kyle bellowed at the ninja. She was now only ten feet away. Kyle ran towards her to close the gap.

The ninja swung her machete for Kyle’s head and he ducked the blow. The swing had left her left forearm exposed and Kyle capitalized on it by jamming one of his knives into her arm just below the wrist. Kyle shoved his body weight into the knife and cleaved a a path down from her wrist to her elbow in between the metalized ulna and radius bones of her arm. Blood spilled out on to Kyle’s fingers. The thick molasses like consistency of the blood told him that this ninja was hyperoxygenated like he used to be. His plan to bleed her out with a thousand cuts would take longer than anticipated.

Once his knife got stuck at the ninja’s elbow Kyle tried to stab her in the eye with his opposite hand. Her eyes wouldn’t be made of metal and they represented a nice soft path to her brain.

The ninja’s blue eyes turned away before his knife could catch them. If he had still been taking the muscle enhancing drugs he might have been able to hammer the knife into the side of her head to try and cause a concussion by denting the metal into her brain but he wasn’t strong enough for that anymore. Instead, the knife skidded harmlessly off the side of her head taking nothing but some hair and a piece of her ear with it.

Kyle attempted to reposition the knife to make a try for her throat but the ninja kicked him in the ribs and tossed him on to the table in the center of the store. The force of the kick knocked the wind out of Kyle and one knife out of his hand. He felt up along the sides of his chest with his empty hand and concluded that he had nearly broken a rib. Another shot to the chest would cost him at least a month in mortgage payments to get fixed. He hoped that this ninja was less accurate than Kira was.

The ninja hacked away at Kyle with her machete but he was able to roll away from it. After four strikes the jagged edges of the machete got caught in the wood of the table, buying Kyle enough time to roll off the table and retreat.

Kyle was catching his breath when a second ninja leapt out of the recycling bin he had failed to throw his paper airplane into. The ninja threw a pair of throwing stars at Kyle and one caught him in his right calf before he could dive to the safety of the far side of the table.

He pulled the star out and tested the flexibility of his right foot. The star had hit high in his calf but hadn’t severed anything. It would hurt to move but he could still move. He would need to go out and buy some seal-all to close up all these wounds after this but his savings were safe so far.

His eyes scanned the immediate vicinity for things that could be used to block the throwing stars. He settled for one of the empty metal printing plates sitting in a rack above the cleaning station. Kyle ran for the cleaning station and grabbed a tray with his empty hand, batting away two more throwing stars from the second ninja in the process.

The second ninja reached into the fused deposition printer next to him and pulled out a pair of freshly printed plastic sai. This FDM printer worked by extruding a plastic filament through a heated tip in a process similar to how the arc weld extrusion printer worked. The plastic model and support materials were extruded down layer by layer, with the hot molten top layer fusing into the layer below it. Plastics were the only material that worked in this printer, along with a water soluble support material for making overhanging features. This printer could also be set to honeycomb the inside of the parts in order to make them lighter and stronger.

The two sai were made of a translucent plastic. Kyle guessed that it was probably polycarbonate, the same type of material used for bulletproof windows. They had undoubtedly been honeycombed on the inside for strength and to lighten the weapons allow for quicker strikes. A performance enhanced ninja would have no trouble driving them through Kyle’s stock material skull.

Regardless, it would be safer to go after a ninja with plastic sai instead of one with a jagged metal machete. Kyle ran at the second ninja.

The second ninja tried to stab Kyle with one of his sai but Kyle was able to block it with the printing tray. The tray got caught in between the blades of the sai and Kyle threw the tray aside to yank the sai out of the ninja’s hand and send it towards the wall.

Kyle fended off the other sai with the throwing knife in his other hand and was doing an admirable job of it until the second ninja slammed his metal reinforced foot down on to Kyle’s right foot. Several of the bones in Kyle’s foot were crushed and he screamed in pain as he fell down to his knees. The second ninja then causally flicked the knife out of his hand with his sai and stepped over him.

“Your head will make an excellent trophy.” Said the first ninja as she walked over to him, holding her machete over her shoulder.

Kyle fought off the shock of the pain coursing through his foot and scanned around for anything he could use. The second ninja had lifted him up by his shoulder and placed him against the side of the plastic FDM printer. As he hit the side of the machine the side of his right arm felt the outline of the last throwing knife hidden in his pocket.

The DMLS printer beeped and Kyle could hear the motor spinning as the printing tray rose up. His gun slide was done but getting to it would be difficult. Kyle brought his hand close to the opening of the jacket pocket holding his last knife. If he could take out the second ninja and assemble his gun he could shoot the first one and then call Kira to get out of here.

“Oh, your gun is finished.” The second ninja said as he realized what the beep meant. “To bad that you won’t be able to use it. Any last words?”

Kyle looked at the first ninja as she raised her machete to cut his head off. He looked back to the second ninja and summoned all of his remaining strength.

“No, how about you?” Kyle said as she grabbed the knife out of his pocket and slammed it up through the bottom of the second ninja’s jaw directly into his brain in a classic example of the Demenska technique. If Kyle got out of this alive he would have to tell Vitron about it.

The first ninja brought her machete down towards Kyle’s neck and he pulled the limp body of the second ninja in front of him to block it. The machete sliced in and jammed on the metal vertebrates of the second ninja’s spine. Kyle pushed off with his good leg and shoved the body of the second ninja on to the first. All those metal bones sure made him heavy.

With the ninja occupied Kyle hopped for the metal printer. He opened the door and yanked the slide out of the tray full of powder, cutting the edges of his fingertips on the throwing knives buried alongside it.

The first ninja threw the body of her dead comrade off of her and leapt to her feet. Kyle blew off the metal powder from the slide in her direction and tried to backpedal with one foot. He accidentally pushed down with his injured foot and fell backwards into the door of the store as pain shot up his leg.

He slammed the slide on to his gun.

The ninja broke through the metal powder cloud and came screaming at him.

Kyle slammed a clip of armor piercing rounds into his gun and fired.

The bullet penetrated through the ninja’s forehead and clinked off the backside of her metal skull. The internal richochet scrambled her brain on the inside and killed her instantly. Her machete dug into the wall just above him next to the doorway as the body fell forward.

Kyle swallowed and took several deep breaths. He was alive, but fixing his foot would probably take another month off of his cash reserves.

Then the door he had been resting against opened up and he fell backward on to the sidewalk outside. Reflexively he pointed his gun upwards.

“Wow, you look like shit. What happened?” Kira asked as she pushed the tip of Kyle’s gun away from her face.

“Ninjas.” Kyle said, still breathing heavily. “They were looking to avenge their boss. My last official target.”

“Great. Well, that complicates things.”Kira said as she lifted Kyle back up to his feet. “Don’t forget to take a picture of this, taking out ninjas always does a resume good.”

“Thanks coach.” Said Kyle. Kira held him up as he took pictures of the two dead ninjas and uploaded them to Hitboard.

#additivemassacring

Suddenly a ceiling tile dropped down and another ninja dropped down after it just a few feet away. Kira went for her gun but the ninja slashed it out of her hands with a machete. The gun hit the wall along with Kira’s right ring and pinky fingers.

“Why you motherfucker!” Kira yelled at the ninja as she let go of Kyle and he dropped to the floor. The ninja’s eyes opened wide as he realized that it would have been safer to stay in the ceiling.

The ninja let out a yell and took another swing at Kira with his machete but she batted his arm away, pulled down his mask and reached into his mouth. She then kicked him in the chest as hard as she could. The ninja went flying backwards as she tore his jaw out.

Gurgled attempts to scream came from the ninja’s now free flapping tongue as Kira walked over to him. The ninja looked up at Kira in horror as she slammed the back end of his jawbone through both of his eyes and into his brain. The gurgling stopped and the body fell over.

“Daaaaamn.” Kyle said from the floor of the store. He then pointed his phone at the disfigured ninja and took a picture. “Don’t worry I’ll credit and tag it for you.”

#jawpwned

“Thanks! Now let’s go get us both fixed up.” Kira said as she picked up Kyle with her left arm. She put her severed fingers in her pocket and the stumps where they had been into her mouth to try and stop the bleeding. “Lousy ninja, now I have to call in some replacement fingers.”

“Do you want any frames, tinting or other effects for this one?” Kyle asked as he got ready to upload the image to Kira’s Hitboard profile.

“Got anything in orange?”

“Southwestern sunset it is!” Kyle said as he applied the filter and uploaded the image.


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Launch Report: Full Coverage

It’s been a little over a month since Full Coverage: An Action Comedy launched so I thought it would be fun to take a look at how well my first attempt at self-publishing a book went. Here are the overall totals between launch on 4/1 and today 5/9:

Ebooks sold: 32

Paperbacks sold: 15

Kindle Standard Pages Read: 2,402

Full Coverage is 234 “Kindle Standard Equivalent” pages long so that 2,402 pages read means that 10.26 people (2,402/234) read it on Kindle Unlimited. Why the 0.26? Because Kindle Unlimited only pays authors for pages read, and a few people started it without finishing the whole book.

That gives me 57 readers total in the first month, sweet!

The total income for all versions came out to $109.90. Not too bad for a first attempt, but not nearly enough to break even on even just the marketing costs so we’re still in hobby territory at this point. Hopefully as I publish more books and add an audiobook version to this one that number will creep up over time.

The kindle version peaked in the rankings on 4/28, getting all the way up to #38,054 out of the over a million books on Kindle (top 3.8%), which was good enough to get me into the top 100 for Satire for a few hours and all the way up to #86! Amazon updates their rankings hourly so you need a good sustained push of buyers every hour to stay up top, which is really hard if nobody has ever heard of you. So I feel pretty good about hanging with the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and Kurt Vonnegut, even if it was just briefly.

2017-05-09 Kindle Ranking

86 in Satire Book list 04-28-2017

The paperback version did quite well and peaked at #80,206 out of over 8 million paperbacks stocked by Amazon (top 1%). This is probably because Amazon sells a lot fewer paperbacks than kindle books, but it’s still pretty cool.

2017-05-09 Paperback Ranking

All in all, I’d say this was a pretty successful first book launch. I think next time I’ll wait till the book is actually on sale before telling everyone about it since about 1/3rd of my kindle sales were pre-orders and it would help me more in the rankings if those came later in the month. Next time I might be a little more aggressive with my marketing budget earlier and try to get on some podcasts or something to spread the word, but overall I think this method worked pretty well.


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A Tale of Two Facebook Ads

When Full Coverage first went on sale on April 1st I started running Facebook ads using the ad below. Let’s call this Ad # 1.

2017-04-09 Ad 1

On mobile, this ad looks like this. Notice how the entire lower subtext is removed from the ad.

2017-04-09 Ad 1 Mobile

I setup my ads using the Facebook Ads Insights tool and generally following most of the advice on this series of Youtube tutorials by Miles Beckler. My interests are all set to scifi and comedy authors who showed up when I searched for them using the Insight tool. After a week I checked out how my ad was doing and it’s performance seemed low to me. Over the course of an entire week only 46 people had clicked on it and I was only getting enough clicks to use around 28% of my ad budget, which I had set to $20 per day max. The gap on April 5th is a day where nobody clicked on my ads.

2017-04-09 Ad 1 Performance

Curious if I could do better, on April 8th I did some Googling to see if I could find better examples to work with. Using the very generic search phrase “facebook book ads” and looking at just image results, I noticed that a lot of the example ads had questions on them. Things like “Like Mermaids?”, “Love Thrillers with a Supernatural Edge?” popped up.  One of the few times I’ve actually bought something off a Facebook ad was when I saw one for a band called Invocation Array asking if I liked Nightwish and Sci-Fi. I did so I clicked their link and bought their album off Bandcamp. Armed with a questioning state of mind, I created Ad # 2 with the following text and left everything else the same.

2017-04-09 Ad 2

On mobile, the bottom subtext is again cut off and it looks like this:

2017-04-09 Ad 2 Mobile

I let both ads run together over the weekend and I checked in on them the evening of Sunday April 9th to see if anything was different. It turned out that Ad # 2 had kicked the crap out of Ad # 1 and gotten more clicks and gone through more Ad Spend in two days than Ad # 1 had over the course of an entire week. All from just changing two lines of text.

2017-04-09 Head to Head Ad Performance

Based on these results I disabled Ad # 1 and I’ve been letting just Ad # 2 run since yesterday. It’s starting to level out, though at levels that are a lot better than Ad # 1.

2017-04-10 Ad 2 Performance

I’ll be checking in on the ad every couple of days to make sure that it keeps doing well, but it looks like I’ve found a winner.

There is one weird difference that I’ve noticed between the ads though, the demographics between them are very different even though the target audience and interests are identical for both of them. Ad # 1 was pretty much an even split between men and women and had something of an inverted bell curve for age distribution.

2017-04-09 Ad 1 Demos

Ad # 2 on the other hand seems to be going after the older male demographic almost exclusively. I’m not sure what exactly is causing this since the two ads share the exact same target audience settings. Maybe Facebook is picking up on the “sci-fi”, “action” and “cheeseburgers” words in my text and pushing the ads towards dudes? If so, that would seem to indicate that some parts of the ad targeting are beyond my control.

2017-04-09 Ad 2 Demos

I hope you found this dive into the inner workings of Facebook ads interesting. If you would like to see more stuff like this please let me know. Thanks for reading.