Out of Context: new weekly writing prompt

As you know from my previous posts, the weekly Weekend morning writing activity came to an end upon reaching the 50th week, but that doesn’t mean I will stop from posting at least once a week. What I will do, is just change the rules with a new series that I hope you’ll find interesting.

So here are the rules:

  • the genre must be fiction, preferably fantasy
  • the content will be based on one random sentence I heard during the week (in a conversation I wasn’t part of)
  • the post must be weekly, during the weekend, but there is no longer the restriction of posting only in the morning
  • the length is flexible (it can be as short as a haiku or as long as a short story)

That’s it in a nutshell. If you have any suggestions on how I can make this writing activity even better, I am eager to hear each and every one of your ideas!

Posted in An author's view, Bookish stuff

To Read List 2019

So many things can happen in a year, both expected and unexpected. The same can be said about the reading list I had planned for this year. Now that it has come to an end (already!), I see what a strange turn the original 2019 reading list took. Books were taken out and books were added. The outcome, to be frank, I am pleased with.

So without further ado, here’s my 2019 reading list now that the year has come to an end:

  1. L’étranger (Albert Camus)
  2. The Assassin’s Blade (Sarah J. Maas)
  3. Throne of Glass (Sarah J. Maas)
  4. Crown of Midnight (Sarah J. Maas)
  5. Heir of Fire (Sarah J. Maas)
  6. Queen of Shadows (Sarah J. Maas)
  7. Empire of Storms (Sarah J. Maas)
  8. Tower of Dawn (Sarah J. Maas)
  9. Kingdom of Ash (Sarah J. Maas)
  10. La terre sauvage (Julia Verlanger)
  11. Harry Potter et l’école des sorciers (J. K. Rowling)
  12. In Defense of Globalisation (Jagdish Bhagwati)
  13. The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss)
  14. A la recherche du temps perdu (Marcel Proust)
  15. North and South (Elisabeth Gaskell)
  16. C’est la vie – The French Art of Letting Go (Fabrice Midal)
  17. Stupeur et tremblements (Amélie Nothomb)
  18. La Théo des fleuves (Jean Marc Turine)
  19. Coeur d’encre (Cornelia Funke)
  20. Chansons d’amour médievales (Rodica Stanciu Capota)
  21. Dreamwalker (J. D. Oswald)
  22. Royal Assassin (Robin Hobb)
  23. Inferno (Dan Brown)
  24. Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  25. Exercises de style (Raymond Queneau)
  26. The Fork, the Witch and the Worm (Christopher Paolini)
  27. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Yuval Noah Harari)
  28. Mademoiselle Scaramouche (Jean Michel Payet)
  29. La socialisation (Muriel Darmon)

So this means I’ve read 24/29 books from my list this year. And some of them were quite consistent.

What excites me most is having read all in a year Sarah J. Maas’s whole 8-book series A Throne of Glass, and it has become my favourite series (and author) yet.

On a side note, I find that many of the books, and this great series in particular, very inspiring for my own creative process. For once, I actually invested time in worldbuilding and plotting ahead. I’ve been starting to put some distance between myself and my comfort zone which is being a discovery writer and just going with the flow. And to my surprise, it can be just as much fun!

To cut to the chase, I wish you a happy 2020, full of great books and inspiration, as 2019 proved to be for me.

Posted in An author's view, Out of Context

Miss, I didn’t understand anything – Ooc #10

“And you see this is why dragons prefer to nest on castle towers or on cliffs and not in the forest or in some swamp like other minor lizards. Then there is the problem of weather. You see the sun, how’s it shining up on the horizon, you can see it through the leaves. Don’t tell me you don’t see it.”

“But it’s night…”

“And how brightly it is shining! I received a letter, once, from the sun. It was delightful. He asked to meet me under the willow. You know the willow, the one where the fairies, go to party, so everyone else avoids because they think they will cast dark magic on them? They’re very nice. I’ve seen them play with the neighbouring witch. You’ve met her, haven’t you? Lovely girl. I think I met her two hundred years ago, and she still looks as young as the first day. I wish I had her hair. Look, even yours is falling off! Mine has fallen already, there’s none left!”

“But you’ve still got…”

“And the treats! Don’t forget the treats. Cookies and cupcakes on flying plates, and colourful top hats on foxes’ heads. Even now when I look at the clear sky I can see the rainbows from that special day. They would show up in dozens!”

“But it’s raining tonight…”

“Not to mention the dozens of shrooms, we would go out into the rain forest and pick them up, then mix them with the swamp water and dream well every night. Do you remember, dear? Of course you don’t, you were too young to remember, but you had such a good time. My best friend’s girl came too, and I used to make her a princess out of a story book. Of course, she was a princess anyway, but I made her special with a nice haircut. And you were the bandit. Oh, how much fun we had in the caves!”

“Miss, I didn’t understand anything!”

Posted in An author's view, Out of Context

Then, which way do we go? – Ooc #9

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

“Yes, the man at the inn said the vegetation would start to dry up if we went this way. I can even see how the leaves are falling.”

“That’s because it’s autumn, genious,” joined in a third person.

“Well, yeah, but the branches are becoming more and more dry and gray. Looks like they’re about to crack.”

“Hmm, it could be.”

The three adventurers stopped arguing and kept moving forward through a forest they knew little of. Deep within, each of them was scared, but neither would admit it. If you paid attention, you could notice it in the heavy steps they took and in the way they gripped their weapons, as if they were afraid they might be snatched. The forest did get darker and more lifeless as the man had told them.

“Why are we even doing this again?” asked the first person.

“Because we’re desperate and need to live off something,” shortly explained the second. “There isn’t much else three orphans like us can do in the world other than mercenary jobs. Lucky us we can do even those.”

“I agree. The other thing we could do is become highwaymen, bandits, and I would much rather avoid that. Laws are there for a reason.”

“Okay, sure. You two have a point. But this is probably the most dangerous thing we’ve ever done. That man mentioned something about spiders and moving corpses. I’d prefer facing a group of goblins.”

“Even after they stole you and almost ate you?”

“Even so. Oh, the road is splitting up ahead.”

“There’s bodies on the ground to the left. Must be the living dead. And to the right there’s a whole lot of webs, I don’t think we can even walk past them. They’re too thick.”

“Then, which way do we go?”

The three of them were left wondering. The man hadn’t told them the road would come to a fork, so they had to decide a course of action all by themselves. Before they even came up with ideas, something else happened. A scream of terror could be heard echoing through the forest. A different voice followed, screaming just as well. The three adventurers opened their eyes wide and looked at each other.

“There’s someone else here. And they need help.”

“It’s coming from the webs. You said yourself we can’t get through.”

“Do you intend to leave them to die? What if it were you in their place? Do what you want, I’m going.”

Before waiting for an answer, the adventurer disappeared behind the webs, cutting through them as he moved forward, closer to the sound source. Whether his fellow adventurers followed or not, he didn’t check, for he had other troubles ahead. Not too long after entering the webbed area, he met with the source of the sound, and was left petrified by what he saw.

A spider, a giant one five times his height, towering above him at only a few steps distance. Its many eyes turned to watch the newcomer. In a matter of seconds, more spiders, tall enough to reach his hips, formed a circle around the prey. Then the mother of all spiders let out a shriek that sounded very much alike as the shouting people the adventurer had heard. It turned out there had never been any people shouting, but only a trap set by the mother and her offspring.

Stunned beyond all rationality, the adventurer fainted.

Posted in An author's view, Out of Context

Then I’ll come with you – Ooc #8

“Wait up! Stop… wait… hey!”

The huntsman stopped and turned around, facing back the village he had only just left, and turning his back to the forest full of danger. His brows knitted into a frown.

“What is it, kid?”

“You forgot this shiny thing of yours back at my place.”

“The Path Crystal! I could have never forgotten such an item, give it back here, you thief!”

“Take it, I didn’t steal it. Promise.” In a rage, the huntsman took the small orange crystal from the boy’s hand and it started glowing stronger than before. “Woah! It’s even more beautiful now.”

“Go home, kid. This thing is none of your business.”

“You said earlier you’d be going on a mission for the king, right?”

“A dangerous mission. Who I’m doing it for is irrelevant.” As he spoke, the huntsman began turning around, ready to leave. However, the boy’s next words made him freeze midway.

“Then I’ll come with you!” You could feel his excitement coming out from every pore. The boy also began jumping happily, already making the first step deeper into the forest. The huntsman turned back around and pushed his free hand against his shoulder to stop him.

“There’s no way you’re coming with me. You’re young and this is a dangerous trip.”

“I don’t care of the danger. I can protect myself!” As if to demonstrate it, he took out of nowhere a beautiful dagger. An heirloom of a royal family long forgotten. Could he be… “Besides,” he added on the sad tone. “Nobody here likes me. They think I’m useless and foolish because I do things differently. I want to prove them wrong, show them I can do something important and do it right! I know I don’t belong here.”

“And so you decided to tag along with me.”

“Yes! I really want to come.”

The huntsman paused to think for a moment, scratching his beard. He gazed once again at the boy, then at the dagger he was holding, then back at the boy again. His grip was firm, and his face serious. He reminded him of himself, not too long ago.

“No second thoughts?”

“I swear!”

“In that case, we’d better get moving. There’s a long way to go.”

“So you’re letting me come?” The smile on the boy’s face was the most precious thing the huntsman had seen in too long. He smiled back.

“Don’t make me change my mind.”

Full of excitement, the boy followed, sheathing back his dagger and looking around the forest. So far it was an area he knew well, better than most villagers in fact, but soon they would enter a darker place, one he had never dared venture out to. The huntsman next to him felt his slight fear, and knew how to exploit it.

“Do you know what we’ll be up against?”


“Let me tell you then. There will be wolves, really big ones with fangs like daggers. Luckily, these ones are immune to the common sickness so we don’t need to fear getting sick from them.”

“How come they’re immune?”

“Because they’re in fact werewolves, and they’re so much stronger than normal wolves. They’re the worst of their kind. Then we’ll have to face grotesque creatures like goblins and trolls, decaying corpses that pull you neath the ground, harpies, imps and… show I continue?”

“I think I can picture it well enough.” The boy swallowed as he was trembling, his eyes wide open and fixed on a point somewhere ahead, never looking down to see where he was stepping. To break him from that trance-like state, the huntsman put one foot before him as an obstacle for him to lose balance. It worked, and the boy was close to hitting the ground when the huntsman caught him midair.

“You’re not changing your mind now, are you?”

Standing back up, the boy looked the huntsman in the eye and spoke: “No way. I said I’d be coming. No second thought now.”

The huntsman liked the boy. He really reminded him of himself, back in the days.

Posted in An author's view, Out of Context

I traded five lions for those papers – OoC #7

Among the maids in the assassins’ quarter of the castle, rumour had it that one of the nobles was thrilled for having received a very generous gift. This particular noble was also known as the Beast Tamer, so that made it easy to guess the gift was some sort of beast.

“I wonder what happened exactly. Who would give that awful man any gift at all? For all we know, he might use those beasts he received against us. He never liked the assassins, nor us, poor maids.”

The other woman nodded and opened her mouth to speak, but before she did, the two of them found themselves under one of the assassins’ shadow. The brooms they held in their hands fell to the stone floor as they were startled. He who stopped next to them was the familiar figure of one of the more elegant and cunning assassins, the one who had the habit of entering the maids’ conversations and hearing the rumours from them. In return, he gave information himself. The same would happen today. He spoke in a whisper:

“I’ll tell you what happened, for I was there.” The two of them gasped and immediately covered their mouths so as to reduce the noise. “The baron had got his bloody dirty hands on some important documents, never mind what exactly. They are documents we have searched for beforehand, but found them missing from the original location. It turned out the baron was quicker than us, and he seemed to know that we were interested in them. As everyone knows, stealing from the baron is a crime not one person ever got away with, nor will. The only option was negotiation. I traded five lions for those papers. He would take no less.”

“Five lions! Lord, where did you get them from?”

“I have my sources,” he winked, causing the maids’ cheeks to flash red. The assassin’s face then went grave as he spoke again. “I wish I needn’t trade such useful pawns, but he knew how desperate we are for this intel, not to mention he’s an annoyingly good negotiator. Anyway, enough about that. You wouldn’t happen to know where I might find the Master Assassin, would you? It’s urgent,” he winked again.

“He just left his office an hour ago. He seemed to be looking for someone, but refused to speak with anyone on the way. Something felt odd.”

“He must have noticed my disappearance. I never told him. Which way did he go?”

“That way.”

“Up or down the stairs?”

“I don’t think he took the stairs. I caught glimpse of him as he turned around the corner where the tapestry is, but when I turned around the corner, he wasn’t there.” Before continuing to speak, the maid looked left and right to check for eavesdroppers, then continued in a hushed voice. “There is a secret passage behind the tapestry. Us maids always use it to get around without disturbing. The Master knows each corner of those corridors, but he only uses them in case of emergencies, I noticed.”

“Thanks. Brenda was it?”

“It’s Bianca. Close.” The maid blushed, while the other one next to her had already begun cleaning again, knowing she had no more place in the conversation.

“Thank you, Bianca. You were very helpful.”

Posted in An author's view, Out of Context

Leave him, he’s gone anyway – OoC #6

A flash of lightning struck from the sky. Upon looking up, the warriors could see the blood red storm clouds gathering menacingly. Those that were left alive, anyway. It had been a tough battle, and they were swimming in the blood of their enemies… and their kin.

One in particular was concerned with something more than the gathering storm. He was looking for other survivors. Moving limbs, moans hidden beneath piles of corpses, whispers in the gloomy night, cries of help, anything that screamed life. For minutes he searched, and searched, almost giving up hope.

It was then that he saw a man, crippled of one leg and plenty of fingers and a nasty crack on his temple where his skin broke, his forehead swollen. Not to mention the dried blood that made him beyond recognition. He was struggling his way on his one remaining foot, getting hold of spare weapons to lean on. The soldier in search of life prepared to run and give a hand, but as soon as he made the first step he was pulled back by one of his fellow survivors, forced to turn around.

“Leave him, he’s gone anyway.”

“But he’s alive. We need to…”

“We need to let him die here and give him the burial he deserves. It will only cause him more pain to be rescued in that condition.”

“We can’t just leave him!”

“Yes we can. That is an order.”

In defeat, the good-hearted soldier let his shoulders fall and began walking back to the camp with the few remaining living from his kin. Tonight they would feast for victory, but his mind would be elsewhere, to the man he would have wanted to save.

As he walked away, he glanced back one last time. The crippled man was nowhere in sight, camouflaged by all the corpses he had fallen onto, half sunken in a pool of blood.

Posted in An author's view, Out of Context

I don’t remember the crazy fountain – Ooc #5

“Are you sure we’re following the road as we should?” The man was concerned as he looked to his side to see his son, in the bloom of youth, confident and proud.

“The Map never lies. It got me out of dragons’ caves, numerous dungeons and a handful of prisons, it will take us to the heirloom.”

“Yes. Trust, trust, trust the Map. The Map knows best.”

“See? It wasn’t given the gift of speech if it wouldn’t use it well.”

“Fine, but do look at what it shows from time to time. Don’t just listen to the things it says. Give it here for a moment.”

The boy obeyed his father’s wish and handed him the magical map. In an instant, the plain yellow paper full of personality drew on itself with an invisible pen, giving their location and all that was around. It showed the kingdom an hour’s walk behind, the forest path, a couple of stranded woodcutter cottages and any other point of interest. At the end of the road they took was the cemetery, where they were bound to find the royal family’s heirloom, as promised by the map. On the road there, however, was an obstacle, symbolized by splashing water. It was strange, for there was no river or body of water anywhere in a few miles.

“What is that, Map? I don’t remember the crazy fountain being in this corner of the kingdom. Explain yourself for not warning us beforehand.”

Intrigued, the young man snatched the Map from his father’s hands and had a look while the Map gave its vague and unsatisfying answer.

“The Map was not asked about obstacles. So, Map did not mention obstacles. You wanted the destination and the shortest way. Not the clearest, not the safest.”

“Are you implying that this road is not safe? My goodness, for all we know there might be bandits round the next tree.” All a panic, the father began searching with his eyes for any sign of life. He turned around, stared at bushes to catch the slightest movement, tilted his head upwards to spot any strange colour pattern in the trees and listened for sounds as faint as the breeze. He was startled the moment his son spoke out, just a little too close to his ear.

“Father! That is not the crazy fountain, it is one of the magic wells of wonder. Stories say there are only three of them throughout the nine kingdoms. I didn’t think we might ever come across one in this kingdom.”

“Finally some good news, but still! If it is one of the wells of legend, then we might not be the only ones around. People are bound to be looking for it.”

And he was right. Only a couple of minutes later, the two of them were ambushed and surrounded. A curious and dangerously looking troupe of men pointed their swords at them. Swords stained with blood. It was a few hours fresh, it would seem.

The boy quickly hid the Map in his travelling sack and raised his arms. He did have a concealed dagger, and so did his father, but they would stand no chance against so many foes. He didn’t even see them all, for fear of moving a muscle and alarming them.

“Your names and intentions, now!” exclaimed a sturdy man who was most certainly the leader.

“We’re just travellers, on our way to mourn a grave,” said the boy in a low voice. With his hands still up, he pointed in the direction of the graveyard, someplace forward. He kept his calm, until a sound made him go pale like snow gleaming in the winter sun.

It was a laugh, loud and clear. He coughed to cover it, knowing it was the Map playing tricks on them and endangering their lives purposefully. The father frowned, but joined in the game and coughed as well, then moaned and spoke as dramatically as he could.

“Oh no, I thought we had escaped the plague! My son, you don’t think we have taken it from these men?”

“No father, but we might risk giving it,” another cough, this time strong from the throat. Another, even more powerful laugh from the Map followed, and the father coughed once more. “Risk giving it to them.”

There was confusion among the bandits as the Map laughed again. With every moment it became a deeper, louder laugh than reached their ears with an eerie reverb. It didn’t even sound like the Map anymore. It sounded like a demon, coming from the Underground. The earth shook, and without a wasted moment, the bandits scrambled one by one, all but the leader who was left in confusion. They screamed for angels to protect them from those demons, thinking the father and his son were demons in disguise, they prayed for the unholy to be trapped in the fiery pits of the Underground and for defence against the plague, certain they had indeed been exposed to it a moment earlier. It was a funny sight.

The leader, however, was not fooled, and pointed his sword at the two of them who were starting to take steps backwards. The boy found his back to a tree, and the Map hidden in his sack shrieked dramatically as it was squished.

“What’ve you got there, boy?”

The sword’s pointy end was nearing his chin while his father stuck his leg amidst the outgrown roots of a tree. Perfect timing, the boy thought. Getting a hold of his wits, however, he managed to speak in a clear voice, forcing it to sound so deep it was unnatural. If any of the cowardly bandits had been in the area anymore, they would have had another shock.

“Do you know how hierarchy works in the human world? You should know the humans borrowed the system from the devil. He has minions, like myself, to carry out his malevolent deeds, and I, in turn, have my minions. Would you like to see this one in my bag? Or should I let my other lovely minion fall from the sky with his acid tears? I’ll let you choose.”

“This is nonsense speech. I don’t buy your lies worth a bent copper penny.”

The sword’s point neared, and the boy’s father was still desperately trying to free himself from the roots. They only seemed to get tighter, as if they had a will of their own. Those kind of trees only did that when a rain was nearing. And indeed, a rain set in in only a matter of seconds.

A particularly large drop hit the armed man’s nose and made his eyes go wide. The impact had not only startled him, but also itched on a scar he had on that particular spot. Put together with the boy’s story about a devil minion that cried acid from the sky, he became terrified the next moment. He ran off screaming how it was true, the devil existed, and these two people were the devil’s pet demons. As he went further back into the forest, he also screamed repeatedly, “The Plague, the plague, the plague!” as if he were now certain he had caught it too.

The Map laughed again, a lovely and a faked innocent laugh. In frustration, knowing that the Map had brought all the danger upon them, the boy slammed his back to the tree behind, putting the Map to silence with a weak ouch. He helped his father out of the root trap and they were back on the road, laughing about the situation as the rain grew thicker.