Musings on Life, Writing, and the Free Territory of Ascham

Amid the Fires

Strange blog title, right?

Well quiet down my imaginary and riot-prone audience and I will spin you a tale or yarn regarding this strangest of blog titles.

I smile benevolently down from my chair, allowing a moment for the imaginary to calm (which they promptly ignore and continue their unruly ways).

I swivel the chair, raise and lower it, my chickens run about my feet clucking and doing whatever it is chickens do. Except the one with the eyepatch. But that’s a story for another day.

Finally I catch the notice of someone in the crowd and before I can so much as contemplate scooting rapidly away in terror, I am surrounded by a sea of angry and entirely illusory faces.

I wave my hands in what I hope is a threatening manner but ultimately comes across as futile and rather unmanly.

My mouth opens, a scream forming from the depths of my soul. No sound emerges as I peek open an eye. The crowd has ceased their susurrus of angry noises.

The imaginary audience, bless their small brains and little hearts,waits with bated breath for my words.

Confidence breaks through after several attempts at speech and proceeds apace with nary a hint of voice-breaking or high-pitched terror.

To those of my fans (all two of you) who noticed my Facebook status a few days past and gazed in wide wonder at the news that I was published I most sincerely apologize. I might’ve fibbed a bit there in the name of drawing attention to myself.

Here’s what really happened.

Imagine my surprise when I am suddenly accosted by a friend.

He says to me out of the blue yonder, “What’s a book with a character who wears a gas mask?”

I stare in confustication, taken aback by this strange request before ultimately responding that I was stumped.

He repeats the question several times with the same result.

Finally he asks, “Hey you’re one of those writer types as what are always nattering away about ideas and such. Why don’t you just invent a book for me?”

With furrowed brow I inquire as to the reason for this strange necessity.

Well, it turns out his brother is participating in World Book Day or some other amazingly good-natured holiday (Christmas step aside) and must needs dress as a character from a book. The brother’s dilemma is thus: he desires to appear as a character wearing a gas mask and a trench coat, but knows of no book with that peculiar requirement.

Creative juices start squirting around in the confines of my brain case, while nerve clusters and other bundles of ganglia fire off in random patterns. An idea emerges.

First comes the setting: London at the height of the Blitz.

Then the rudiments of plot: A gas masked killer stalks the streets at night leaving precious little evidence and all too many victims in his wake.

Characters follow: A brave army nurse, a downed Luftwaffe pilot and a man who’s lost his mind in the fires of war.

Then the plot emerges fully in all its glory like an alligator emerging from the sewers of New York City: Luftwaffe pilot is forced to ditch his burning plane over London at the height of the Blitz. He staggers into shelter in the home of an army nurse who takes him in out of love for her fellow man and overcomes her hatred for the enemy. They grow to love each other over the course of the novel. Then a terrified neighbor knocks on the door, reports a killer stalking their neighborhood. The two intrepid young lovers begin a game of cat and mouse as the bombs fall. Finally, in the ruins of a burning warehouse, the two confront the killer. He stands in his trench coat and gas mask and the big reveal happens. He’s a normal man whose mind has been shattered by the demands of war. They capture or kill the man after a tense standoff and everything ends happily ever after.

Now the title surfaces and we come full circle to the beginning of this post: Amid the Fires.

If that doesn’t have New York Times Bestseller List written all over it, I don’t know what does.

I put the entire episode from my mind, my brain sinks back into the stupor it usually is mired in.

The next day, my friend comes back to me and says, “Guess what?”

I struggle with the impulse to respond with: “Chicken butt.”

Still chuckling at my ingenious joke, I finally respond, “I got nothing. What do you want?”

He says, “So my brother, right, he’s in class and get this: The teacher knows that book.”

I sit there flabbergasted.

He continues on, oblivious of my state.

“My brother gets up to give his presentation and rattles on about the book and its characters and all that. The teacher at the end says “Yeah, I’ve read that book. It was a bit dark and gloomy but it was really good.”

My mind has just been blown. Laughter guffaws out of my mouth, drawing many funny looks from those around me as I tearfully try to explain the situation to my colleagues. A laughter blast radius expands from my cubicle.

A question bubbles to the surface of my brain soup, “Who did your brother say wrote the book?”

My friend says, “He used your name. And wait, this gets better.”

“After proving her idiocy the teacher then proceeds to say that she has read that book along with several short stories published by you in the New Writer’s Magazine.”

And that ladies and gentlemen is how I came to be a published and well-known author whose stories are dark and gloomy but good.



  1. Ulysses

    *Loud laughter, and enthusiastic clapping*

    Fantastic post, really made me laugh a lot! What you described Really ticks all the boxes of a best seller, and actually sounds really cool. I think that you are going to have to write that book now right?

  2. Keeley

    Hahahahaaha oh that is amazing! Gotta love teachers. But now you have to write that into at least a short story you know.

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