There's Something About the Number 26...

What's your favourite number?

Mine's 3. And 7.

Yes, I have two. But after tomorrow, I might change it.

When I was 12, my sixth grade teacher challenged us to predict our futures. I fully expected to be a crown prosecutor and have a blue convertible VW Beetle and a blond-haired, blue-eyed 6' 1" surfer husband—who, by the way, I would marry at 26.

It wasn't an arbitrary number. My 12-year-old brain figured that, four years past a four-year university degree, my inevitably successful and adventurous self would be ready to settle down. 26 seemed like the magic number: old enough to do anything, and yet young enough, too.

Even though I foresaw my future husband with surprising accuracy, life rarely follows one's childhood predictions. I met him when I was 19, and within a year he proposed. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure if I wanted to settle down so quickly. Twenty-Six, that estimable milestone, was still SIX years away. But, he was ideal, even if the timing wasn't. I took him off the market.

26 weeks, or about six months, into my first real job (salaried employee), I began noticing spots where the shine had begun to wear off. It takes a while at any company before you can distinguish between personal opinions and the truth. No organization is perfect, but my awareness was sharpened enough that I made note of concerns in my journal. I vowed to stick it out at least a year—another 26 weeks.

That job taught me a lot, and I'm grateful for its flaws, which led me to 3.5 years with a phenomenal team at Trinity Western University. It was during that time that I turned Twenty-Six. 

I stood up (figuratively); I looked around. "26 is where it's at," I remember thinking. I was advancing my problem-solving and creative skills, working with people I liked, making friends I loved, and had a home, patio garden, and budding manuscript which gave me rest and restoration.

In The Year of Twenty-Six, I...

  • managed a team of 6 while holding 2 titles (2 - 6, get it?)
  • spent a weekend in La Connor on my first solo retreat, writing a record 7,500 words/day
  • adventured a glorious 3 weeks in Italy, fulfilling a lifelong dream
  • got rear-ended and upgraded my 21-year old clunker to a 2010 Matrix
  • attended my first writer's conference, fuelling the start of my writing career
It was a very good year.
— Frank Sinatra

When I transitioned June 2015 into full-time freelance writing and design, I knew it would be a short-lived season, since we planned to start a family soon. So it was important to make the most of it. Sure enough, 26 months later (Aug 2017), we conceived. 

Tomorrow, I'll be 26 weeks. It seemed like an apt time for reflection, since my fractured mind always seems to converge around the number. I'm past halfway through this pregnancy, and while this window seems to be the most productive and the least painful, I'm fully aware that the home stretch will be the hardest. 

And what comes next? Will she sleep? Will I? How will I feel, 26 days in? 26 weeks? 26 months?

Her due date, no word of a lie, is April 26, 2018. 

If the pattern holds true, I wouldn't be surprised if she came 26 days early—on Easter weekend.

I'm not superstitious. But I feel a certain peace with the chaotic maths of fate. The sum of digits that make up 26— 2 + 6— equals 8. The number of infinity. 

If the mind behind infinity's got my back, I'm cool with that.

#PimpMyBio for #PitchWars

Hello, fellow #PitchWars mentors and mentees! This is my first year participating, so here's my #PimpMyBio.

I write fantasy. For this year's Pitch Wars, I'm entering my genre-blending debut, a history-meets-fairy-tale, multi-POV YA fantasy. There's a thread of romance, too =) 

The book is called The Paper Throne, and it's about a bookworm princess who plans to burn her father's paper throne. She'd rather DYE than host a powerless court. To stop a mercenary coup, Adelicia must spin a textile revolution.

The story is inspired by the shepherds of pastoral Andes, natural dyes, William Morris's Arts & Crafts Movement (any knitters/spinners/weavers out there??), and the famed medieval city of Leuven (known for its linen; current-day Belgium). If you're wondering/worried if there is too much unoriginal medieval Europe influence, let me assuage your fears now. The book is layered with cultural and linguistic diversity...YES, there are characters who speak ESPERANTO!

NOVEL AESTHETIC

The Paper Throne Novel aesthetic.jpg

COMPS:

  • The Queen of the Tearling (b/c tough heroine + multi-POV) 
  • Bitterblue (b/c broken kingdom + enormous responsibility)
  • The Goose Girl (b/c fairy tale re-telling)
  • Uprooted (b/c plants + the dangerous woods)

A BIT ABOUT ME:

Since earning an English Lit degree from the University of British Columbia, I've held a variety of jobs in communications, events & program management. After telling stories from a heritage building, a garden, and a farm, I quit the non-profit field in June 2015 to write my own. Since then, I've immersed myself into perfecting my craft, as well as expanding my portfolio and skills as a freelance web & print designer. 

I am always reading something—even while I'm eating, which is hopefully some variety of noodles, soup, or seafood. Or tea. Because tea is a meal and a delight of its own.

I belong in another era, because I'd love to spend my days working with beautiful yarn, making my own soap, restoring antique furniture, daydreaming in my private library, tending my overcrowded garden, and wandering the sunny meadows of my (imaginary) hobby farm. Alas, I must be content with a sunless patio, three meager bookshelves, and a chirpy Russian Blue cat. For now. 

Hold on and stay calm. #monday #serenity #catstagram #catsofinstagram #kitty #cat

A post shared by Ashley Reiter (@reiterwriter) on

Back to basics. #catsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #amwriting #freelance

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MY WRITING PROCESS

I prefer to write chronologically. That is, Chapter Two after Chapter One. While I enjoy strategy board games (7 Wonders, Small World, Castles of Burgundy, anyone?), my head gets muddled if I jump around in the plot. I outline, to an extent. Then I write. Then I go back to the outline. Then I get stuck. Then I move to pen & paper. Then I transcribe into type. Then I keep typing...

AS A MENTEE

I LOVE to know what I'm doing wrong. Does that sound weird? I relish constructive feedback, because it gives me the opportunity to improve. I. WILL. WORK. You—future mentor—and I have the same goal: to make this book a better one.

MY IDEAL MENTOR

Someone who gets the vision for my story—who doesn't want me to reduce to a single POV, dumb down the vocabulary to contemporary YA (I've ignored advice to remove words like "broach", "atone", and "paragon")  or add an obligatory sex scene. Someone who falls in love with, or maybe already loves, the idea of natural dyes, and a manipulative heroine with a heart of gold. Someone who goes beyond pointing out problems, and offers possible solutions. Someone who resonates with something in common, above! =)

Thanks for reading. Feel free to connect on Instagram or Twitter, I'd love to hear from you!

A Tempered Heart

A Tempered Heart

In glassmaking or blacksmithing, you purposely heat and cool your material in order to increase its strength. Sometimes, you mix it with another material. This process well describes my emotions these past 5 months: the roller coaster of emotions when I receive an agent's request for the full manuscript...only to receive their one-sentence rejection 24 hours later. 

Spring 2017 Books

The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #3)The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved the first book of this trilogy, then I had to fan my flagging enthusiasm for the second. This last book does a better job of focusing on characters that we actually care about, and spins conflict in a natural, fatally human way.

Some may balk at the twist ending, and it does seem like a non sequitur, but I can live with it because ultimately the heroine sacrifices greatly for the sake of others. It completes her epic, virtuous character arc.

Oddly though, I feel like this book stripped the villains of all their menace. So much of their danger in the first and second books is that we didn't understand their motive, and knew nothing of their past. This book reveals all of that, and so there were no twist counterattacks or bends in the plot.

And, I'll be honest, I still don't really understand how the heroine's magic (her sapphires) work. Johansen went into detail about their origin, but it didn't click.

Overall, a fairly satisfying conclusion to a unique and well-defined world. One thing Johansen does well is suck you in. Looking forward to reading more of her stories.
Rise of the Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers, #1)Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

DNF. So much telling, exposition. Warrior heroine longing to be taken seriously, latent magical powers, and half a dozen grizzled men who dote on her? Nope. Those tropes aren't enough to make me sympathize with the MC.

Too bad, because I love the covers on this series, and the author seems to have had success with it.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional SkillsBack to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail R. Gehring
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good in concept, but sadly outdated. The illustrations are from decades past, as is much of the advice and stories. I'm all for reviving the old arts, but I don't see how this is a 3rd edition from 2007. Disappointing. Will perhaps try something a little more recent. Don't bother reading unless you want to feel like you're reading advice that's 40 years stale.
A Cast of Stones (The Staff and the Sword, #1)A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent! A bit elementary in storytelling showmanship, but the complex world building and very approachable MC more than makes up for it. Very interested to read more in the series and find out what happens to young staff-wielding Errol Stone! Let's be honest, I'd enjoy any book involving a quarter staff.
The Hero's Lot (The Staff and the Sword #2)The Hero's Lot by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite good. I devoured this second book in the series. Impressive world building, as the majority of the plot is in "quest mode", campaigning through various realms.

Other cultures are not wrong, just different. Loyalty is relative, depending where you stand. What do you choose to live for, if you know you're going to die?
A Draw of Kings (The Staff and the Sword #3)A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Satisfying conclusion for this riveting trilogy. This author has done a remarkable job of creating vulnerable, relatable, extraordinary characters through multiple POVs. Go find these 3 books and start reading!

I had hoped that the end threads would twist in a satisfying "aha" way, but alas I saw the reveals coming.

Few authors I have read portray religion and faith in such a kind, truth-seeking light. Generally, the trend is to throw in the default corrupt church, influencing state in teeth-gritting condescension. But this treatment was a refreshing surprise. Yes, religion is corruptible, as humanity is, but there are some--such as Martin and Luis and Errol--who engage and wrestle with their beliefs in order to find meaning. That's powerful.
The White Mare (Dalriada, #1)The White Mare by Jules Watson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one probably deserves a more thorough read, as I skimmed a lot of the tactics and political manoeuvrings. The ice princess and flawed hero tropes were done well here, and the Druid first century culture reminded me of The Mists of Avalon.

Some lovely description and world building, and an intimate portrayal of a male-hating, marriage-dreading rape victim. Monstrous to think how prevalent violence against women was in those days.
The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Funny. Hard. So well done. For those who enjoyed the film, you will be pleased to hear that it is nearly identical to the book. That being said, it's still worth reading.

Just like the parables, reading this book shouldn't make us wonder what kind of villains we put up with. WE are the villains. We are the Miss Taylors; so caught up in our own heads we can't see our own flaws. We are the Miss Celias, desperate to be liked and creating our own prisons of fear. We are the Miss Hillys, condescending and manipulative. We are the Miss Skeeters, thinking we are salt and light but in truth naive and complicit.

The question is, will we change?
Little BeeLittle Bee by Chris Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book raised interesting questions on morality. We can be SO right about certain aspects, and entirely blind/selfish/hypocritical about others. But who are we in the hard moments? Do we choose to save others, or save ourselves? The two heroines show their mettle in the extraordinary circumstances, and in the ordinary--and those two realities look very different.

As far as lit fic goes, not my fave, and not enthralling, but I suspect lit fic isn't my best jam. Would give 3.5 stars if I could, but I would recommend reading because it provokes a lot of interesting questions.

The Long Wait

The Long Wait

Waiting is hard. You can distract yourself with make-work projects, spring cleaning, crafts, hobbies, exercise... but eventually, you exhaust your attention span and you're back to waiting.

The last month has felt like an eternity of waiting—waiting on contracts, orders, responses.

Fortunately, the reality of waiting, is that something eventually happens.