Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 661, March 11, 2012

A great artificial hysterical fuss.

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

Anarchy, Murder and Mayhem for Fun and Profit
by Joe Collins

Bookmark and Share

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

What would be the best way to start a revolution, and not get caught?

I have spent twenty-plus years in the computer industry mostly in the software development end of it. One day, this story premise came to me in a moment of inspiration: What if a piece of software was directing the assassination of certain people? That story premise eventually became my first published novel, KILL CODE.

But, a story idea is far from a book. So I asked myself the question: who to kill and why? The answer came to me when, on the recommendation of a close friend, I had started reading The Libertarian Enterprise. I also read Claire Wolfe, Robert Heinlein and numerous other figures in the field. Because of their writings, politically, I switched from being a Conservative Republican to a libertarian—notice the small 'l,' leaning towards anarchy. In any event, the solution became obvious. The logical conclusion was to write that the software was assassinating those annoying and frustrating government officials that we always have to deal with, sometimes on a daily basis.

But there was a problem that bothered me in taking out random government officials. My interest and training in unconventional warfare with a focus on analysis of systems to disrupt them, just wouldn't allow for random killing. So, who would best be assassinated to cause the disruption of a corrupt government in say, a city? The people who ran the government in various positions, abusing their powers along the way. That's not to say the software in charge of the assassinations wouldn't be directing the deaths of other government officials occupying positions that have annoyed me over the years.

The next step was to write the damn thing. Over a period of ten-years, I had a number of false starts, one of them ending up halfway through a completed novel before having to stop. This really didn't bother me very much as I knew I could reuse it somewhere else—writers are the best recyclers that I know of when they re-purpose material that they have written that didn't work out for some reason or another.

The problem was that I couldn't figure out the characters—making them interesting and flawed in a way that made the story go forward.

One day, on a whim, I went to the shooting range and shot a bench rest shoot. These guys are hardcore to the max about their shooting to the point where they bring several rifles, reload their shells after shooting a round and obsessively cleaning their rifles. I showed up with my basically stock Remington 700 PS in .308 with a fixed fifteen power scope.

Everyone signing up for the match, was required to write down our cartridge information. I'd fiddled around with my rifle and found that it shot Federal 168 grain BTHP the most accurately of any factory load. When it came time to write down the bullet weights and expected type and weights of the powder I'd be shooting, I got more than a few strange looks when for the powder information, I put down, "Whatever Federal stuffed into the shell."

I won the bench rest competition for my class, beating out three other people. To a man, they had spent more on their rifle rests than I'd spent on my entire rifle system. These anally retentive shooters were impressed with what I could do with a rifle that I'd paid $800 for. A bunch of them wanted to give me an award for taking the most recoil—after shooting hundreds of rounds of .308, I walked cockeyed for two-days afterward.

I was most impressed that I'd shot a half-inch group at a hundred-yards, and an inch-group at 200 yards. It wasn't anywhere near the .025 groups that other shooters shot with their high dollar .22 PPC and 6mm PPC rifles and custom loaded ammunition.

I'd shot CMP/DCM at a competitive level, but that was years ago and with iron sights. Intrigued by the bench rest shooting game, it came to me, my main character could be a bench rest shooter and an ex-assassin. Further research on bench rest shooting revealed that the record bench rest group was a hair over inch and half at a thousand yards which was more fodder for my main character.

As a premise for a TV show or novel, bench rest shooting wouldn't make a lot of money or collect a lot of sponsors. It's not that exciting to watch and the shooters tend to be overweight, and elderly men with too much time on their hands—no young studs or bikini beauties. It also takes hours and hours to shoot a match and is like watching snail races. So, my main character had to find some other way to make a living besides shooting—he'd done the assassination gig, but there were a number of obvious problems with that particular industry.

I'd spent years working in a coin and gun store. I know it sounds strange, but the owner of the place had shot in National Matches and sold me any shooting supplies and guns at a deep discount. He had made his money in the coin business and since there was a lot more money to be made in the coin business than the gun business, it helped fund the gun part of the store.

The off shoot of all this was, now I had my main character. Leo Marston was going to be a coin store owner which paid for his shooting hobby. This had the advantage of my being able to ask strange coin questions to my ex-boss, like values, how coins are graded, and much more.

So, I had my flawed, ex-assassin main character. Who would be his partner?

I have a very good friend, a NY Times Best Selling author, Cindy Gerard who writes 'adventure romances'—please check her out if you get a chance. She occasionally needs help with technical information on the military, firearms, explosives, etc for her books and I read a bunch of her books over the years. I know I'll never be as good of a writer as she is, but I could give it my best shot. She has sold the crap out of the books she wrote so I decided that there had to be some romance in my book, at the least, a hat tip or two to her. Besides, it's well know that women buy a great deal more books than men, not that I expected my book to be considered a romance, but it could help to throw in an few romantic touches.

The other main character, consequently, needed to be female, but what would Jackie Winn's back story be? I'd always been a hacker of sorts, and in my salad days, I enjoyed cracking open computer systems for the hell of it. So, my female character would be a hacker of sorts.

How about the other main character, the software? Who wrote it, and how did it, say, pay for itself, how did it hide from the authorities, etc. Some news stories and research answered those questions which I'll leave for the readers of my book to learn for themselves. I knew it would hide behind a made up terrorist organization to conceal its motives.

Who would be doing the killing? As a fanatic history buff, I was fascinated with WW I—mostly because my grandfather had fought in that war. The war was essentially started by a group of assassins called "The Black Hand." Perfect! Now, I had the name of the group of assassins and the idea came to me to have Leo be an ex-member of that group. Each assassin had a special way of killing and would intersect with my main characters in various ways throughout the novel.

After a dozen false starts while trying to write the first scene, mostly involving crummy writing on my part, I managed to get it written. From there, it moved so fast that I could barely keep up—I learned more about the characters than I ever imagined as they revealed themselves to me. One of the reasons I write is that I'm the first to see what happens in a story and I had a blast writing this book. I also got to research a number of ways of murdering people which probably has put me on the watch lists of a number of various government agencies.

My wife and Cindy Gerard helped me edit my extremely rough writing into something resembling English. Other beta-readers also contributed in making sure everything fit together.

I spent two-plus years trying to market it to the big publishers. The process is sort of strange in that you need an agent to try and sell to publishers, however the best way to get an agent is to have a deal already in place with a publisher. My book was a little far out there, in the vein of Daniel Suarez—which was marketed for years on the Internet before being picked up by a big publisher. So, no luck with getting either an agent or publisher.

Perusing the Internet, I found a guy by the name of Joe Konrath who had been wildly successful in selling his books, that he had self published on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Eventually, I decided to go the same route, though getting the cover, editing, layout, a web site and everything else that a published book needs was more than a trail and almost drove me to drop the whole thing on more than one occasion. After a lot of trial and error I managed to get something that looked decent and professional looking book.

In all the years I have been trying to get published, opening the box containing my first novel was quite cool.

Sales have been all right, not enough to retire from my three jobs, but the fact that I'm published has inspired me to write as much as I can fit it into my small amount of free time.

There will be two more books in the Kill Code series, and I have several more projects I'd like to get accomplished in the near future.

Below is one of the marketing blurbs for my novel:

Voltaire said, "An ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination."

In KILL CODE, author Joseph Collins poses this very question. Tyrannicide, named for the killing of tyrants for the common good, is a very sophisticated piece of software directing a band of cunning, professional assassins killing politicians and government workers who violate their oath to the Constitution.

Two inadvertent targets being hunted by Tyrannicide, not for who they are, but what they know, stand in the way of Tyrannicide: Leo Marston, a retired sniper assassin trying to keep his murderous past buried and Jackie Winn, a computer hacker who unwittingly unleashed Tyrannicide on the world. Together, they must risk all to stop Tyrannicide from its goal of tearing a gaping hole through the foundation of American society and end up discovering more about themselves and each other than they could ever imagine.

More information, including the first chapter and links to purchase it can be found on my web site at:

Was that worth reading?
Then why not:


Big Head Press