In the Ashes: A War Screenplay


Editor’s Note: This is the twenty fourth in a series of interviews and story excerpts spotlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island. The first 22 can be read in this collection here, yesterday’s 23rd here, and an index of 8 newly-released stories can be found here. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” 

Most importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.

1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?

My father has always been a reader.  To this day my mother implores me to take some of his books home with me when I visit because there are just too damn many in her house.  I grew up with his ever increasing library in the room right next to mine and started reading Heinlein, Asimov, and Tolkien among others. I grew into Stephen King – my father was never a fan – then grew out of him again. The older I got the more I started reading non-fiction and became something of a military history buff. George Lucas made me love the movies.  Harold Ramis and Bill Murray kept me coming back. Oliver Stone helped me to realize movies can lie to us.

2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?

I grew up thinking I was a Ronald Reagan conservative, but I’m now more of a Penn Jillette Libertarian.  It’s much easier to label what I’m not, and that’s a statist or progressive of any kind.

3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?

My formative years were spent listening to my father’s endless political arguments with friends at the dinner table. Rush Limbaugh then showed me how the newspapers can report facts and still get the story completely wrong. George Will’s intellect has always frightened and amazed me.Lately I’ve re-discovered Milton Friedman.  I listen to Russ Roberts’ podcast every week and read James Taranto and Jonah Goldberg when I can.

4.  What are your writing goals?

I want to tell a good story and write authentic characters that people care about.  If I can get that right I’m pretty sure everything else will fall into place.

5. Where can people find/follow you online?

@realtomweiss on Twitter. Because, you know, there are a lot of fake me’s floating around.

6. What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?

I used to play chess competitively until I found another game of skill, poker. I’d like to win a World Series of Poker bracelet one day.

An excerpt from the script “In the Ashes“:





TWO IRAQI MEN, early 30s, dressed in begrimed coveralls and work boots, tinker with a nondescript white 4-door sedan.


The garage door is shut, its interior lit harshly by bare bulbs and portable lights shining where the men are working.


MUSTACHE MAN, sporting a thick full growth obscuring his upper lip, is at the driver’s side door. 9-FINGER MAN, missing his left index finger and sporting a few nasty scars on both hands, works on the trunk.


These men are constructing a moving bomb. Concealing explosives in the car’s interior.


UTHMAN, 40, jet black hair slicked back and wearing a dress shirt and slacks, smokes a cigarette on a stool next to a clean, organized workbench. He pays the men no mind.




MAJOR MARK THOMAS stands in front of the whiteboard, a Google Earth shot of Baghdad projected on the screen next to him.


Mid-30s, he is over six feet tall and casts an impressive shadow in his military uniform, his head shiny from a fresh crew-cut.


Animated, he enjoys talking to the thirty high-school kids in front of him.



It looks like we’re running out of time. Let me take one more question.


A PRETTY GIRL in the third row raises her hand and MAJ THOMAS calls on her.



So after this…surge or whatever, is over with, everyone can come home, right? We’ve been over there for years…



Counterinsurgency takes a long time.



Since I was in junior high.



But the thing to understand is that the only way for us to lose is to quit.



But why are we there in the first place?



As long as we commit ourselves to helping the Iraqi people stand on their own two feed, they’ll have a bright future.


MRS. WILLETTE, mid-50s and looking every bit like she’s been a high school social studies teacher for 30 years, stands up from behind her desk.



Let’s give the Major a warm round of applause.


Polite applause, interrupted by the bell.


Mrs. Willette offers her hand to MAJ THOMAS as the students file out of the room.


REBECCA THOMAS, mid-30s, dark brown hair framing soft features, weaves through the students to join them.



Thank you for coming in today.



I used to love it when you’d bring in a guest speaker. No homework.



And thank you for making me feel old. When do you head back?






And how much longer will you be in Baghdad?



A twelve month tour turned into fifteen with the surge, and I have eight left.



Be careful, please. We’re praying for you.



Thank you Mrs. Willette.


MAJ Thomas slides an arm around Rebecca.



We’re going to run. Lots to do before I leave.



Be safe.


Smiling, Mrs. Willette watches the pair out of the room.

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