Symmetry #3 Sociology Class with links


Welcome to the 3rd issue of Symmetry and thanks for reading! I really liked how Raffaele Ienco’s art fit the sad tone of this issue. We saw Matthew die in the first five pages of issue #1 and now at the end of the 3rd we see what’s going on. I was talking to my wife about the different series I write and she asked me whom the villain of Symmetry is. The primary antagonist is the system itself. The Elder Committee is certainly interesting and could be perceived as “villainous” but it’s not clear-cut.


The next issue is the final of the first arc and will answer a LOT of the questions I’m sure you have. We have Michael confronting SOL and there will be some fun twists and turns leading into the second arc.



Had a question online about the Michael’s narrative as recordings for his unborn child. He’s recording more than just the words printed in the narrative text boxes. He’s also recording what’s being shown in the art. This story is his version of events as he’s relating them to his unborn child. It’s his perspective and is intentionally skewed a bit based on that. If you’ve ever gone back and compared memories with old friends, people remember things very differently.



These don’t mean the same thing. Egality is an “extreme leveling of society.” Equality is “the state of being the same quantity, measure or value as another.” One of the Four Pillars is equality, but we clearly see that it’s bullshit. Egality is more appropriate since people are the same economically and everything is first come, first serve. It’s part of the point and perspective of the story.



There’s a difference between these as well. It’s summed up well by this quote:

“Segregation is that which is forced upon an inferior by a superior. Separation is done voluntarily by two equals.” Malcolm X

Researching segregation, it’s impossible to not get hit over the head with the Civil Rights movement and the insane George C. Wallace. I realize he’s a relic of his time, but this guy could have been President.

“I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” George C. Wallace

In this story we learn about how people are segregated by race, age and disposition. The ENTIRE point of it is to avoid conflict.

From my perspective, the answer to this is yes. All you have to do is read the news and you can see how depraved and violent humanity is to itself. The war of ideas over violence and human nature has raged since the 1600s, when philosopher Thomas Hobbes first speculated that the “natural condition of mankind” was one of violence and conflict. I tend to agree with that, but stumbled across this:

When you read that you’ll see psychologists discussing that it’s not a natural state. I don’t think anyone knows for sure. History has shown that at least a percentage of us are consistently violent throughout recorded events. This link shows murder rates around the world and I found the misconception about the Third World analysis in here very interesting.



I wrote the wolves in the story originally as mountain lions, but Raffaele wanted to draw them as wolves so wolves they are! In editing I frequently will cut down the # of words from previous drafts and in some cases eliminate certain threads or explanations because they bog the story down. My philosophy on writing is that if you can think of a reasonable explanation as to why something happens, then you don’t need to go out of your way to explain it. Point being I wrote a bunch of narrative explaining why the wolves didn’t immediately catch up with Matthew and Elder Sharon in the pursuit. The reason I gave is that these wolves had never seen humans before and were slightly cautious. This was four narrative captions and I took it out because it bogged down the story and isn’t terribly important to what’s going on. Full out wolves run between 31 and 37 mph


That’s it for this issue, thanks again for reading and if you like this book please recommend it to a friend!

Carpe Diem,



Tithe 8 Sunday School


As promised, here is the Sunday School with links!

Welcome and thanks for hanging in with me through eight issues of The Tithe! In hindsight I wish I’d titled this book Samaritan. It seems a lot of people don’t know what a Tithe is or how to say the word. It’s tie-the (like tie fighter followed by a the), two syllables. You can call it whatever the hell you want though as long as you keep reading! I appreciate you =)


Getting a lot of questions about whether this is the end of the series or not. The answer is, unfortunately, I don’t know. Of all the books I write this one sells the lowest number of copies. Might be because people are afraid of what it’s about (I’ve pissed off a fair amount of religious people it seems). Honestly, I don’t know. We’re selling almost three times the number of copies for Symmetry. I love this book, but I have to bow to the gods of economics. I’ll use these characters elsewhere including the Eden’s Fall storyline (see below) but the volume 2 trade needs to sell decently for a volume 3 to be a reality. So…if you want it, please recommend the book to a friend and thanks!




I have a distinct third volume story arc in mind, which takes place in Italy, and, you guessed it, the Vatican. Jimmy and Sam are on the run together and stealing something and Dwayne is reluctantly in pursuit with the CIA. I’ve always wanted to really get into some Catholic history and mythology. This may not end up being what Volume 3 ends up being, but I like the idea and have set it up somewhat that Jimmy and Sam might take off. We shall see!


You might have noticed in The Tithe Volume 1 I referenced “Eden” when Samantha said to Kyle Araman that she found a place in Wyoming that would take them (at the time fugitives) in. I also included in this second Volume Dr. David Loren from Think Tank and that second epilogue of this issue where Thornton ends up in Eden talking to the mayor is a pretty direct tie-in with Postal.


I really, really hate massive forced cross-overs, but we’ve done a few smaller ones and when they’re organic they work well. This one is story driven and the plan is to do a three-issue mini-series called “Eden’s Fall” that will be co-written by myself and Bryan Hill and we want Atilio Rojo (artist on IXth Generation and the Postal: Dossier story) but we haven’t actually asked him yet as I write this…so could be someone else.
The story of “Eden’s Fall” will feature characters from The Tithe, Postal and Think Tank in a single story. I don’t want to give too much away but it will essentially be about some people that want to take out Jim Thornton from this very arc of The Tithe.



I used to be a right-winger, so I find it amusing when right-wingers call me out for being too liberal. This blog site and its reviews of multiple issues of The Tithe I find especially amusing:




Some people have taken me to task for this and let me explain it very simply; I did it because it made for a good story that I wanted to tell. That’s it. I really don’t have an agenda. I’m a centrist; a semi-conservative fiscal and a semi-liberal social person. I equally loathe both parties in our two party system. Conspiracy theories always seem to float around, even when things are on video and fairly clear. Our chief antagonist in this story arc was Senator McKitrick who pulled all the strings. I liked the idea that he saw some of these conspiracy theories and thought that was a good idea and formulated his plan after that.


9/11 conspiracy documentary, long, but free:


Easily debunked:



I skipped the full text page this issue when I found this JFK quote. I sometimes spend hours scouring for the right “quote” but I found this one quickly. I look for these last, after the story is written so I can try and find a quote that I feel encapsulates the heart of what I’m trying to say. I do try to incorporate social commentary in my stories, I know some of you don’t like that but I grew up with the 50’s-80’s science fiction authors and learned about many of the social issues in society from them. Star Trek alone boldly takes on so many social problems from the 20th century. First on screen interracial kiss anyone?

Here is the full JFK quote in his Remarks to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.” JFK September 12 1960.
This quote seems more applicable today to the Islam/Christianity religious drama in our world today, but back then people were concerned that JFK was a Catholic. He was the first Catholic President and before he was elected there was some concern that he would listen to the Pope over the USA’s own interests.



Given the above quote, wanted to give a plug to Stephen King’s book, which I happened to just recently read. Long, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s about a guy going back in time to prevent JFK from being assassinated and how that would affect the world.



I was interested to discover this is how a lot of large firms protect their data from being hacked…they’re not on the internet. China has a closed internet that allows them to more thoroughly control and censor what goes up, but it’s still “connected” and hackable. Hackers are pretty smart though, read this first link if you want to be scared shitless.


FUTURE CRIME by Mark Goodman

This book is a bit dry but talks about the “internet of things” and how someone can be spying on you from your coffee maker. Scary shit. Worth a read. I used a lot of reference from this book for hacking in The Tithe and in Think Tank.



I’m sure you’ve seen how phones are clone-able to listen in on calls or read texts in real time, but there are a lot of interesting things you can do remotely with someone else’s phone. Bottom line your phone is not that secure, regardless of model, so don’t leave nude pics of your significant other on there.



Writing this script I was curious about the process of impeachment. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Interesting stuff.



Given the recent Oregon militia deal up at that Wildlife Refuge I include this list merely for your amusement and education. Reading this list will add you to some FBI watch lists! Fun, fun.



That laser motion detector is legit, I took it from here:



Came across this link when I was sending reference for that page where the FBI Tac-ops guy throws the flash grenade. You never know when you might need to know this (cue the old NBC, “The More you Know” music).



Slight distinction on alcohol from the two different religions. Christianity takes the “in moderation” it’s fine approach, but Islam says alcohol is BAD, m’kay? The Christian explanation is at the first link, the Muslim one the second. If you’re too lazy to click and read, the basic view is the one is that Muslims should not have alcohol in their system when they pray and they have to pray five times a day…so no alcohol!


That’s it for this issue! Thanks for sticking it out with me, I appreciate you reading this and my other books. Phil Sevy has gone on to take over a new Tomb Raider series coming out from Dark Horse so be sure and check that out. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to work with him again.


More writing advice

Want to be a better writer?

1) Read everything. If you want to write comics books, don’t just read comic books. It’s painfully obvious when you get a submission from a writer who only reads comics. Derivative isn’t always good.

2) Live and experience shit. Real life experience always translates into better stories. Look at situations you’ve been in or things you’ve felt and exaggerate them. Change them in your mind from mundane to extraordinary. Great basis for storytelling. Get out of your comfort zone. Do things you wouldn’t normally do.

3) Listen to how people talk. It’s called eavesdropping and can be hella fun!

4) Write multiple drafts. Outline first. A plan is key. Writing yourself into a corner always sucks. Writing is rewriting. Mental block? Write anything to fill the pages, you can always go back and change it later. Progress is key. Study story structure.

5) Read dialogue out loud. You’ll be amazed how stupid stuff can sound.

6) Deconstruct others work you like. Reverse engineer a comic book arc, a film, whatever into a one pager. Then write up a paragraph or two about the characters. What do they want? Why is now important? What do they fear? You’ll start noticing patterns from successful writers.

7) Read “how to write” books by successful authors. I see so many how to books by people who don’t do or are marginally successful in the field they’re teaching about. Read “On Writing” by Stephen King.

8) Intentionally day dream. When you’re sitting in the food court at the mall look around and think up dramatic scenarios that would elevate something mundane to extraordinary. Hostage situation? Terrorist attack? People streaking? Domestic dispute?

9) Imagine conversations with people then have them. How was it different from what you thought it would be?

10) Meet new people. Nothing like learning about someone new’s life to spark the imagination. Talk to people.

Do you want to know when you’ll die?

Would you like to know when you’ll die?
Seems every week someone I knew from my youth, be it David Bowie or whomever, dies. My uncle Jack died a few months ago and he knew he was going to die. Bowie clearly knew he was going to die to. That farewell video Lazarus he recorded is both haunting and beautiful. A great send-off to fans who’ve listened and watched him for 5 decades. Shocked me to see Major Tom was a 1969 release, the year of my birth. I was playing his songs for Jenni this morning to see if she knew any of them and I told her I thought Major Tom was an early 80’s hit.
Having a doctor tell me they want to scan my head to rule out brain cancer was also an eye-opening experience. Fortunately, I do not, but it made me consider my mortality.
Do I want to know when I’m going to die? Not knowing (accident, whatever) would have a certain appeal as there’s no time to dwell on it, more likely less pain. But I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and the Bowie thing kind of pushed me to the knowing side.
I would like to know when I’m going to die. It would allow me to say good bye to the people that mattered to me in a manner I choose. I’d be able to have long conversations with my sons and I think they’d listen more intently knowing I wouldn’t be able to share wisdom much longer. I’d be able to properly dispose of anything (bookmarked links heh) I wouldn’t want people to know about (hey we all have our secrets).
I realize this may not be an option, but it’s an interesting thought exercise. I’m 46 years old, I’ve had a good life. If I found out I was going to die of cancer I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I think I’d quickly come to terms and focus on the things that will matter after I’m gone. The people I love and the living.

How hard is it to be a comic writer?

How many working comic book writers are there in English? By “working” I mean being PAID to write comics regularly…300? 500?
There were 62,000 English novel writers published in print in 2015 who received some kind of advance.
Some interesting statistics on TV and film writers here:
Basically says there are roughly 3,000 regularly paid TV writers. I couldn’t find the stat for film writers, but there are also a LOT of films written and paid for that never come out (we’ve had many).
800 films released theatrically a year on average, most by unique writers or combination of writers. Plus what at least that many made and not released theatrically. I’d guess another multiple of 2 of films paid to be written that don’t ever get made. Let’s say 3,000, but I bet it’s closer to 5,000.
Let all this sink in for a minute.
Summary for paid writers (in English):
Comic writers 300 (500)
Novel writers 62,000
TV writers 3,000
Film writers 3,000
These numbers aren’t exact, I’m just trying to make a point. There are also 1,696 players in the NFL. Two things amaze me:
1) That some people think it should be easy to be a writer in comics and
2) I can’t believe I’m 1 of 300 (or whatever it is).
One way to be guaranteed to NEVER write a comic for someone you’re talking to is telling them that “I can do a better job than the hack you have on it.”
It’s not impossible, but it is hard. You can read my free pitching advice here:
One thing NOT in there I said in a recent interview that I stick by is be prepared to NOT make money for 5 years before you do. If you can’t commit to that, you might want to rethink it. Yes there are people that get in and get work immediately, but the vast majority (and I’ve been doing this for 23 years now) I’ve seen are in it for awhile before they get paid to write. And being a writer in another field first and transitioning over isn’t the same.
Food for thought eh?

Postal original pitch document


By Matt Hawkins 7/1/13


MARK SHIFFRON is a handsome, but nerdish early 30’s man with Asperger’s Syndrome. Living in a geographically isolated small town, he runs the “one-man” Post Office branch. Socially awkward and forced to “learn” patterns to interact with people, he rigidly follows a code of conduct gleaned from reading Sci-Fi novels and comic books. Wanting to learn how to better socialize with the townspeople, he goes through their mail and uses any information gathered to try and help them clandestinely.


His mother JANICE SHIFFRON is a corrupt small town mayor; his father abandoned them decades ago. JAMES MAGNUM, her love interest, is the town Sheriff and equally criminal. They give safe harbor to fugitives; giving them new identities and helping them launder their money, etc., all for a fee of course. Janice loves Mark and considers him harmless. She’s the only reason he has the job and allowed his blissful ignorance. The sheriff does NOT like Mark at all. Mark has siblings, most of who are in on the family business of doing not much and living off some sort of government no show job. With Aspbergers’ Mark has some awareness of what his family does but his mother has clouded his understanding by explaining that they are rehabilitating these people…and from one perspective they are.


The town is a character in and of itself, a remote city in Wyoming (or wherever) and very isolated from the outside world geographically. The only internet access is at the Mayor’s office and at the large house on the edge of town they all live in together..


With miners, ranchers and eccentric, off the grid characters, there are plenty of interesting things to uncover by going through everyone’s mail…NOT including the criminals taking safe harbor there as well. He has a system for doing it and doesn’t view this as doing anything wrong since his goal is to help people. Mark was born here and has never lived anywhere else.   The town is populated by life-long locals and the safe-harbored criminal refugees. They’re all in on the criminal enterprise taking money from the city government. Outsiders are run off by the Sheriff and his deputies.


Everyone knows everyone by first name and the addresses in town are known by intersecting streets, there are no actual street addresses. Mark delivers the mail or people come in and pick it up.


He is in love with MARGARET “MARGIE” BANKS who is the sole waitress at the diner near the post office and eats there every day for lunch. The “family” has dinner together at the house almost every night.


Margie is a Confidential Informant for FBI agent who is investigating this town and Mark’s own investigations both help and hinder hers.

This is difficult since his family has made this town a haven for criminals wishing to start new identities without having to leave the U.S. The criminal enterprise fuels every aspect of local politics as his mother the mayor, his step-father the sheriff and his siblings despite his family’s iron corrupt control over the small town and the criminal enterprise fueling commerce.


“Asperger is considered a high functioning form of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.”



Open inside a small rural church where Pastor Matthew White is addressing his congregation. Well attended, the Pastor indicates that the Sheriff is going to say a few words. As the Sheriff comes up two deputies walk up and down the aisles with electronic transmission detection equipment. The high tech devices should look out of place in this older church. The Sheriff starts talking about typical stuff while his men sweep. Once they’ve done, one of the deputies gives an okay sign to the Sheriff. He shifts the conversation subtly to their criminal enterprise but the shift will not be overt, just “curious” at this stage. The Deputies move up next to a man (Daniel Messersmith) and as the Sheriff nods to them they grab him and bring him up in front of the congregation. The man is screaming that he didn’t do it and that they are making a mistake. He knows the rules, no drugs.   The pastor and no one seems all that surprised when the deputies unroll a tarp and force the guy on his knees in front of the pulpit where people normally kneel and pray for salvation. Sheriff walks down and says they can’t afford to take that chance and he pulls out his old school Colt six-shooter and executes this man spraying his blood on the tarp. The two deputies roll up the tarp and the Pastor returns to his preaching…credits roll.


24 hours earlier our lead Mark Shiffron is at the lone “window” in the small local Post Office branch in his pristine uniform. This is the most organized and clean post office…ever…reflecting Mark’s severe OCD issues. One of the locals comes in and mails an envelope and he brushes up against a stack of certified mail slips. Mark chats with him while leaning over and straightening the slips. As the man leaves, Mark grabs the envelope and uses a steaming device to open the envelope without damaging it:



He reads the letter and then uses a glue type stick to reseal it and it looks like nothing happened to it. This would be bizarre to anyone viewing it, but it seams like it’s a normal activity the way he does it nonchalantly. He has two bins one for “outgoing” another for “process for outgoing”. He tosses this one in the outgoing bin. He turns his attention to the “incoming” and separate “ready for delivery” bins and starts going through all the incoming mail and boxes basically the same way. He finally comes across something that interests him it’s a letter from a wholesale supplier hundreds of miles away saying they can no longer supply the recipient with Sudafed or the equipment he has been ordering. A “cash” payment is being returned as well. The account has been flagged as “suspicious”.


Mark looks up Sudafed and its primary use as an allergy medication. He’s upset that the store would cut off a man obviously in need so starts thinking about how he can help. He does his delivery rounds and stops for lunch at the local Diner where we meet Margie Sherman the woman he is infatuated with and some of the other town characters. This is the only Diner or eatery of this type in town. His mother the Mayor comes in to talk to him and he asks his mother about how they can get allergy medicine for Daniel.


He seeks out the town Doctor and basically starts snooping around to inquire how to help but gets this man in trouble. Daniel was cutting drugs and growing pot and his “mail order” activity got him in some trouble. He was ordering through mail order and paying cash (maybe the letter is to a corporation at that address and he has to figure out what that is first). Point being, the town is involved in specific things, identity theft, maybe a little credit card fraud but primarily in creating new identities for criminals via fake people that they’ve had “living” in the town with fake SSN, etc and they turn these people into those fake people. The cardinal sin of this town is to draw attention from the outside. Daniel has done that and we end with the family asking Mark to watch the children during tonight’s Wednesday night church service where they drag Daniel up and execute him to make an example to everyone else.




The tone is dramatic in the seriousness of the criminal activity and things that are going on, but comedic like Arrested Development with our lead’s naivety and how his good intentions cause regular havoc.




The A story each episode will be what he discovers in the course of his rifling through everyone’s mail and the subsequent “investigation” of it and how it interrelates to the greater criminal enterprise surrounding the town…or how it doesn’t. Examples would include fake ID’s, money, weapons, drugs, love letters, museum artifacts, schematics, list of names, small animals, evidence (hair, fibers, blood), etc.


The B story will be built around the drama of the family and the environment and his relationships with them and his pursuit of the diner waitress.


Episode examples:


  • Mark finds a wad of money to the owner/cook of the local diner in an envelope. He has a crush on the waitress there, Margaret, and eats there for every meal. The cook is not involved in the town criminal activities, but he’s of course aware of them and receives a monthly stipend (like everyone), and the money being sent to him is an innocent, unrelated transaction. Mark stakes out the place and starts following the Cook and recording his whereabouts and activities meticulously.
  • An envelope intended for a local has a passport with the local’s photo on it, but not his name on it. He thinks an error has been made and uncovers part of how the identity operation is done but he tries to “help” by having the passport fixed.
  • An apology letter is addressed with no return address and is stamped from some other small town.
  • A mysterious “meet me at X at Y time” which is completely innocent but his investigation uncovers something else.


All of these spawn investigations on his end where he humorously completely misses the real intent of these while getting people in trouble with the town or putting the entire criminal conspiracy in danger. The interactions between him and his family are constant and ever evolving. This is still a small town and the family loves each other. The evolving story will have Mark being an increasing threat to the criminal conspiracy.




*He drives around in a 50+ year old postal delivery motorcycle:


*The grocery store is a small bodega style store and only gets restocked once a month so lots of things are frequently out of stock. Imagine going into a 7-11 that was half empty all the time except for one day a month.


*There are no franchise or brand name stores in town. That would attract outside attention. All the stores and everything in town is owned by people that live there.


*Everyone pays with cash, credit cards are accepted nowhere. Every other Friday is payday and people are paid at the local bank in cash. This payment also reflects the town resident “bonus” as payoffs for assisting or tolerating the criminal conspiracy.


*He takes undeliverable mail very seriously.


*Mark has to drive 100 miles away to a drop point to meet a connecting truck that gives him the town mail twice a week.





Mark Shiffron – our lead POV character he has slight OCD issues and is extremely naïve but not stupid. Kind of an idiot savant. A more functional rain man. He is the baby of the family and runs the post office as its sole employee.


Janice Shiffron – Mayor, Mark’s mother. She is living with the Sheriff and the two of them run the town and the criminal conspiracy.


Sheriff James Magnum —


Pastor Matthew White –


Deputy Jeremy Cantor – family, married to sister


Rebecca Cantor – Mark’s sister, wife to the Deputy.


Tom Shiffron


Margaret “Margie” Banks – Margie works at the only town eatery and is being run by the FBI as an informant. She grew up here so is trusted.


Dr. Jessie Aarons – A tough as nails older woman who is hiding here from medical misconduct prosecution.


The Town – The Town itself should be a character; very unique in its mix of high tech equipment and small town, middle-America antiquity.

Technology won’t help most people.

I love transhumanism. The idea of cybernetically or genetically enhancing our bodies and brains so that we can live longer and better lives. The technology is coming so fast and furious now. Nootropic (smart drugs) are another aspect of this whole situation. Science making us “more human than human”.

Here’s the problem with it and I talk about this in my writing; it’s expensive as fuck. All of it. What does that mean? It means that those with advantage already are going to have further advantage. I’ve said this before as well, but we’re on a collision course for an actual species split. Imagine the X-men situation (without the ridiculous mutations), but make that the group that has the most money, power and influence. They own all the media companies, the drug companies, and countries for the most part. They control the technology and how it’s used.

Some of the costs of nootropic drugs have dropped but part of that is because there is no proof of efficacy (that they work). Caffeine has been shown to work nearly as well as Provigal (which I’ve tried and the pure stuff is $200 a pill). There will be some dissemination to the lower income ranges based on profession and as a reward (remember that scene in Avatar where the Marine was trying to motivate him to get his legs?), but largely it will be used and controlled by the rich elites.

Scientific advancement is rarely egalitarian. It would be if scientists were in charge, but they aren’t. Do we really want a small group of people that are immortal and (in effect) super-powered? Greg Rucka is dealing with this in Lazarus. I talk about it in IXth Generation and my new Symmetry book deals with socialist ideals. Despite my now left leaning personal ideology I’m not a socialist. I’ve really started to question our worship of the profit motive, but I still believe in a meritocracy. I don’t think being a leftist and a meritocracy-supporter are mutually exclusive despite the rhetoric.

Don’t let things just happen to you. At a minimum, be aware of how the world is shifting around you. I’m really starting to believe that freedom is kind of an illusion. Certainly we have it way better here in the US than a teenage girl stuck living under ISIS rule, but freedom is relative. Most of us create the chains that bind us (family, job, debt, addiction, entertainment). We’re not as free as we think we are.

Wildfire #1 Science Class




Welcome to the first issue of Wildfire!  I appreciate you picking up this book and hope you liked it.  If you did and can spread the word like wildfire (heh), nothing calls attention to a book like a friendly recommendation or word of mouth.  I’d greatly appreciate it.  If you bought this hoping this was an anti-GMO propaganda piece you’re going to be a little disappointed, but I do feel it’s a balanced look at the possible dangers of GMO proliferation.  I’m also not a mouth piece for any GMO company, I’ve never received any money from anyone in this field.  I don’t think they’ll like this fictional story at all, by the way, it focuses on a real, potential risk of letting untested genetic variants into the environment which leads to a mass disaster.  Do you consume GMO food?  Yes, you probably do.  Unless you ONLY eat food that says CERTIFIED ORGANIC on it or specifically says it doesn’t contain GMO then you probably are.  Restaurants and fast food use a lot of it.  The other real issue with trying to NOT eat GMO is that organic food is way more expensive.


I’m sure you’ve heard this term before but what does it mean?

What is genetic engineering? 

Genetic engineering is the name for certain methods that scientists use to introduce new traits or characteristics to an organism. For example, plants may be genetically engineered to produce characteristics to enhance the growth or nutritional profile of food crops. While these technique are sometimes referred to as “genetic modification,” FDA considers “genetic engineering” to be the more precise term. Food and food ingredients from genetically engineered plants were introduced into our food supply in the 1990s.

That definition is from the FDA’s website which also has some interesting commentary on how they test these products and how they’re “safe.”  Note also that it says 1990’s.  Truth is, you’ve been eating GMO food for decades and you probably didn’t even know it.  Is it possible that this has contributed to the obesity problem we’re facing now?  In my personal opinion, the answer to that is both yes and no.  The biggest cause of obesity is sugar intake and food manufacturers have systematically been adding sugar to EVERYTHING over the past few decades because we as consumers like it better.  But I’m veering from the main topic.  Here’s the link for the FDA:

GMO includes animals as well.  There are genetically altered fish, chicken and beef and yes you’ve probably eaten that already as well.


The prevailing argument is to create more food to thwart growing populations and world hunger.  There’s a statistic I read that says worldwide a child dies from starvation about every 2 seconds.  That’s hard for us in the U.S. to fathom since we’re all so fat and well fed for the most part, but take a trip to India (I did) and you’ll see some starving people.  There are starving people here in the U.S. as well we just choose not to notice them.

How would they increase food yield?

  • 1) Insect resistant plants –- farmers lose a lot of their crops to insects who eat them.  Creating insect resistant GMO plants would either kill the insect if it ate it or make it unpalatable for them.  Either way, they stop eating it and the farmer’s yield goes way up without having to use more water, more land and the biggest plus being they don’t need to use as much pesticide to kill the insects.
  • 2) Herbicide tolerant plants – the idea here is you make plants that are resistant to certain kinds of weed killer.  That way you can spray your crops and only kill the weeds. This is one of the more “controversial” pro arguments.
  • 3) Disease resistant plants – Same thing really, but we lose a LOT of crops to various plant diseases like blight, browning, etc. You design plants to resist these.
  • 4) Cold tolerant – Design plants that can grow in colder climates and you vastly increase your farmable land
  • 5) Drought tolerant – Opposite of 4) but same concept that would open up areas of usable land and use less water.
  • 6) Longer shelf life plants – This means designing plants to rot or “go bad” more slowly.  This allows additional time for distribution and more time for it to be consumed.

These all sound great and are the utopian ideal of it all.  The issue isn’t just food growth as we currently grow more food than we need, but getting the food to areas that actually needs it.  In the U.S. alone, enough food is wasted to currently feed a large % of the parts of the world that need it.  This comes down to that thing my mom used to say when I was staring at food I didn’t want to eat.  “There are starving kids in Africa, you should eat that.”  My response was always, “then send it to them.”  Ah the wisdom of children!  Distribution is a huge problem.  Most countries would prefer to grow their own food than have to import it and be susceptible to the whims of the world market economy.  Many of the “ideals” of GMO would allow countries to grow more of their food.


The primary argument against GMO is that we’re releasing unregulated, un-thoroughly-tested variants into the environment without knowing what the long term effects might be.   There’s a great concern over the environmental effects and how it might affect us that consume it as well.  All good things to discuss!  Let’s look at some of the arguments:

  • 1) Direct effects on humans who consume – This includes possible tissue/organ damage, compromised immune system, increased fat and enhanced allergic reactions.  These are legion and the most immediately concerning.   The biggest issue with this is the unknown.  The “allergens” thing is interesting. I don’t recall many kids with peanut allergies back in the 70’s, but there seem to be a lot of them now.
  • 2) Cross pollination – This is a real problem as plants have seeds and these seeds tend to float on the wind to far distances.  We’ve found GMO breeds of corn in Mexico thousands of miles from where they were initially planted.  Organic farmers and some countries do not want GMO strains and having the seeds float into their crops is troublesome to say the least.
  • 3) Insect resistance – Any time you up your game, nature ups it as well.  If we create plants that are resistant to certain insects those insects will also naturally select over time to override said resistance.
  • 4) Weed resistance – Same as 3) here but for plants. The logic here is the same as why our overuse of antibiotics is a huge issue as well.  It becomes a cycle where you constantly have to evolve these things for this to keep working.
  • 5) Long term environmental effects – This is sort of broad sweeping and covers a lot of detail, but the main concern (and valid) is we really don’t know what these things will do over the long haul.
  • 6) Lack of real testing – This is another issue that is hotly debated but I tend to fall on the activist side of things here.  These things need better testing and government oversite.  European governments are WAY more concerned about this than we seem to be here in the U.S.


Not really.  We’ve not been doing it the way we’re doing it now but farmers have been cross-pollinating breeds and doing genetic enhancement on their own by taking seeds from the stronger plants and replanting those for millennia.


The big 10 are corn, soy, cottonseed, papaya, rice, canola, potatoes, tomatoes, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) and peas.


A free documentary film, very anti-GMO, but informative and entertaining to watch (so much of this shit is so dry).


This is not a complete list, but I was looking at a pages and pages listing and just wrote down the ones whose products I know I’ve used recently:

Blue Sky, Coca Cola, Hansen, Kraft, Nestle, Procter and Gamble, Libby’s, Ocean Spray, Kellogg, Nature Valley, Nabisco, Hershey, Lifesaver, Quaker, Pepperidge Farm, Campbells, Frity Lay, Hostess, Heinz, Crisco, Kashi, Peter Pan, Smuckers, Skippy, Hormel, Progresso, Eggo, Boca, Marie Callender, Morningstar Farms, Stouffers, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Aunt Jemima, Duncan Hines, Beech-Nut, Enfamil, Good Start, Similac, Isomil, Yoplait, Land O Lakes, Keebler and Dannon

Carpe Diem,

Matt Hawkins




Some pitching advice

1) understand that no one will be that excited to read your pitch. This is because we read so many bad ones that the expectation is that it won’t be good. If we’re excited after we read it that’s a good thing.

2) it may take a year for someone to read your pitch. Editors, writers, publishers, agents and managers are busy people. Proper follow up is once a month check in unless the person tells you differently. If they tell you check back in August and it’s May then check back in August. Best thing is to use the same email thread. When I see I told someone something already there’s a guilt factor to push it to the top of the list.

3) everything matters. Punctuation, grammar, spelling my name right…we get that you’re sending it out broad but what you need to get is that when reading these things we’re looking for a reason to say no. For this reason I encourage people NOT to use dialects in samples or pitches sent out.

4) keep it short. No one wants to read your 10,000 page story bible. Most places have submissions guidelines on what they want to see. These may differ from company to company. You should modify your pitches to target companies and give them what they’re asking for. Again, as mentioned above we’re looking for a reason to say no. The more you give, more likely find a reason.

5) know who’s reading it. If you send me your children’s super-hero romance story set in the Stone Age you clearly never researched what I’m interested in. Look at the companies that do material similar to what you’re pitching.

6) have a logline. If you can’t pitch your story idea in a couple sentences you’re not cut out for this business. You have to be able to pitch your idea in less than a minute or two tops. Why? Because you need to grab people’s interest. Think Tank is the story of a slacker genius who designs weapons for the military but doesn’t want to do it anymore…but they won’t let him quit because he’s too valuable. It’s okay to use other existing franchises to explain your concept.

7) understand that no you’re not the only one with that idea. It is so common to receive multiple very similar pitches. Why? Zeitgeist. You got the idea because you saw X movie, read Y book, saw Z internet meme and x+y+z = the high concept core of your idea. This is fine, btw. Just execute better.

8) less plot, more character. Convoluted plots are bad and don’t make your story smarter. Twists are great, but don’t overcomplicate. Every great existing movie out there can be pitched in less than a minute and you get the basic idea. Try pitching Alien then try Prometheus. Alien = simple plot, great characters and execution. Prometheus less so. When you pitch, pitch the character, who they are and why we care. That’s more important than your beat be beat plot.

9) be prepared to “hurry up and wait”. If someone responds asking you to tweak your pitch with some notes you get to do this. Just because you turn something back around in 24 hours the person reading it might take months to get back to you. Variety of reasons, low priority, busy, whatever. In this situation when someone engages you at all, ask them how you should follow up.

10) be courteous and understand that you don’t really matter to the person on the other end (yet). Hard pill to swallow, but humble goes a long way. If you get angry, that’s understandable. Happens to me every week. Go work out, walk around the block, yell in your car…whatever. Taking that out even partially on whoever is reading your thing just gives them a reason to ignore you.

11) pitch verbally to friends and family. If they get lost or ask questions that’s YOUR fault not theirs. Even if you answered the question they have already, it wasn’t clear enough. You should listen to these and adjust. If you feel like you did answer that question, answer it twice in two different ways If you see people tune out, remember where it is and try and adjust. Again, keep it short. Movie pitches are usually 10-15 minutes long. Don’t do voices in verbal pitches.

12) thank the people that “pass” on your project. Most people don’t respond at all, they’re giving you the courtesy of a no. It is okay to ask why, but if they don’t respond to that don’t follow up, let it go. If they give you a reason ask them if you can adjust and resubmit.

This is not a complete list just some things I think about.