Getting to Know the Bees


There’s so much more to being a bee than meets the eye.

I’m spending my week at a bee identification workshop, learning about the diversity of Missouri bees and how to identify representative species. Mike Arduser, Missouri bee expert, is teaching the workshop.


I spent a day collecting with Mike last summer, when he completed a survey of wild bees at two of Kansas City Missouri’s prairie reserves, Jerry Smith Park and Swope Park’s Rocky Point Glade.

A whopping eighty-nine bee species were identified during that survey, including twenty specialist bees and two new species for the state. Jerry Smith Park, in particular, was determined to be a “high quality, functioning tall grass prairie remnant of regional significance.” You can read a summary of their findings at the KC Parks web site.

My decision to attend the bee identification workshop is part of an ongoing effort to re-tool and explore new research opportunities in the Kansas City area, including short term projects that my Avila students can complete as part of their capstone experience. Not only is Jerry Smith Park interesting from a biological and conservation standpoint, it’s very conveniently located, just a few miles south of the Avila campus.

All that to say, I won’t be on line much this week, because Missouri bees will be getting all my love and attention.

I did want to share a piece of news from a couple weeks ago that I never got around to mentioning here: Apex Reviews posted a very nice 5 star review of Sword of Shadows. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“Author Karin Gastreich hones the technique of her first installment into a masterful work of prose, providing us with a truly breathtaking world and unforgettable characters….Gastreich’s world is filled with imperfect heroes and charming villains, all forced to navigate a world in which the rules of wartime have changed the game.”

The full text of the review has been posted on Goodreads, and you can read it here.

That’s all for now. Next week, classes start (Aaaaaaaaagh!), so I will definitely be back with more news.

Writing Beyond Inspiration


The sage bee is one of many Missouri native bees that I’ll be getting to know better next week.

Well, this is it! 2017 is here with its unique, yet-to-be-revealed set of challenges and blessings. I’m getting things into gear, updating my syllabi while trying to rest just a little more before reality hits full throttle next week.

On the writing end, I’m prepping for a new round of queries for The Hunting Grounds, my brilliant paranormal thriller that’s missing just one thing right now: the right home for publishing.

My autumn round of queries was not without its successes. I had some places express sincere interest and/or give me good feedback, but in the end nothing quite panned out, and that’s okay. It’s times like this that I fall back on my most reliable mantra: Trust in the fate of your novel. 

I have, of course, continued to rework The Hunting Grounds even as I query. After all, there’s always room for improvement.

Over the holidays, despite being seriously ill, I managed a major rewrite of the opening chapters. This week, I’m tackling some persistent issues with the closing scenes. Once I’m done, I’ll send out the next round of query packages, hopefully by the end of this week. (If not, it’ll have to wait until mid-January, as next week my time will be fully dedicated to learning how to identify Missouri bees.)

I’ve been reflecting today on how the flavor of a rewrite is so wholly different from the first (and sometimes second) round of crafting a novel. The heady adrenaline rush of that initial inspiration is often simply gone. Issues of mechanics and delivery come to the forefront, and while a new idea may spring up here and there, the ‘novelty’ of the novel has definitely worn off.

A lot of writers don’t like this part of the journey; they find it tedious and annoying. Sometimes it is. But in general, I’ve always enjoyed the post-inspiration rewrites. In fact, I’ve come to believe that the moment when we seem to lose our inspiration is absolutely crucial to crafting a quality novel.

For me, that cloud of inspiration immerses me in the novel. I walk with my characters and live their experiences even as I’m writing. This is not a bad thing, but as long as I’m “inspired,” the story is still, on some level, about me. It’s not that the characters don’t have autonomy and make their own choices, but I’m so close to their experience, it’s hard sometimes to see the forest for the trees.

When I throw off the rose-colored glasses of inspiration, it means I’m ready to bring the novel to the level it was meant to be. Attachment to ‘precious’ words and passages loosens up. I can cut here, tighten there, fill in the details in other places, because I’m no longer distracted by the emotional ups and downs of my poor characters, who suffer constantly at the hands of my cruel imagination.

Do I wish I’d had the manuscript in this state of polish when I started querying last August? Well, yeah, but like I’ve said so many times, at some point you have to trust in the process.

New year. New edits. New round of queries. And so the cycle continues.

Wish me luck.