Spring Conferences

March for Our LivesAfter a year-long break from the con circuit, I’m dipping my feet back into the waters this spring.

April 20-22, I’m attending the Chanticleer Authors Conference in Bellingam, WA. This looks like a great cross-genre conference geared toward the craft and career of writing. Still, I wouldn’t have considered going if Daughter of Aithne hadn’t been short listed for Chanticleer’s 2017 OZMA Award for fantasy fiction. This may be my one chance at a moment of glory as part of my writers journey – I don’t want to miss the awards banquet on April 21!

Then, at the end of May, I’ll be attending WisCon in Madison. WisCon was recommended to me way back when in 2010 while on a road trip to Columbus, Ohio, for my first WorldCon, and I’ve had it on my list ever since. Unfortunately, WisCon conflicts with our own home-grown ConQuest here in Kansas City. But I’m in the mood to try something new this year, so instead of attending ConQuest, I’ll head northeast to check out what our neighbors are doing at WisCon. I’ll participate in some panels and also give a reading there; details will be posted in a few weeks.

Between those two events, I’m looking forward to a stay in Virginia Beach with my favorite writing companions, a group of incredible women who call themselves the Dollbabies.

Most exciting news this week: EOLYN, Book One of The Silver Web is now available in multiple Ebook formats, including Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords! If you’ve been waiting to start the adventure in a format other than Kindle, the opportunity has finally arrived! Book Two, Sword of Shadows will be released in multiple Ebook formats in late April, followed by Book Three, Daughter of Aithne, in May.

And – there’s still time to enter this month’s giveaway for a free Kindle copy of The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman. Visit the giveaway page at Amazon for your chance to win.

That’s all the news about me.

Tomorrow, March 24, a nation of courageous young people will take to the streets to defend our right to a safer nation with less violence and more reasonable gun laws. I’ll be supporting them in the March for Our Lives. I hope you do, too.

Signs of Spring


Bombus terrestris, by Alvesgaspar (Own work), Wikimedia Commons

Friends in the northeast are getting pummeled by one deep freeze after another, but here in the Midwest, spring has made its presence felt. The sun shines bright over warm and breezy days. Daffodils are pushing up through the dirt. Birds defend their territories and build nests, and the grass looks greener every time I glance at it.

This turn of the seasons is mirrored by another, more personal change. I feel altered inside, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually; I’m undergoing a sense of deep cleansing, as if dry brush were being whisked away and the ground cleared for something new. The time to turn the earth, plant seeds, water, and cultivate has arrived.

This is true in my research as in everything else. For my lab, this spring marks the culmination of a 2-3 year process of tearing down and rebuilding my research agenda. It’s been a daunting process, to say the least.

For decades, my life as an ecologist has been centered on the tropics, primarily Costa Rica, where field work and other obligations kept me active and happy for decades. Then in 2015, things started to change. A seismic shift in my personal life led to a thorough re-examination of everything else I was doing, my work as a field biologist included.


Agapostemon angelicus by USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory, Wikimedia Commons

In principle, nothing kept me from continuing field work in Costa Rica. But the fact I was no longer obligated to go there for other reasons meant I could consider avenues previously less accessible to me.

So consider them, I did. The result? Like so much else in life, I’ve decided to bring my science back home, to the Great Plains.

After two-years of reflection, exploration, reading, and a little retraining, I’m starting a new research program looking at wild bee species associated with prairie habitats. What’s more, I’m doing this at a field site that may not sound exotic but nonetheless offers exciting opportunities: my home town of Kansas City.



Hylaeus nigritus, by Fritz Geller-Grimm (Own work), Wikimedia Common

Why Kansas City? Well, for one – as in many parts of the U.S. – the wild bee populations of the greater Kansas City area have not been well monitored and are probably in decline. The Kansas City area, with a number of prairie remnants and restoration sites connected by public greenways and power line transects, provides plenty of potential bee habitats, including nesting grounds and food resources, such as wild flowers.


In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to work briefly with Mike Ardhuser, who did a preliminary survey of prairie remnants and restoration areas in Kansas City. Sampling just four sites over the course of the summer, Ardhuser found 89 wild bee species, including one species new to Missouri! I’m hoping to build on his work by establishing long-term monitoring and more in-depth studies of specific species at the sites Ardhuser sampled, some of which are located just minutes away from Avila’s campus.

The new project has me a little nervous, but also excited. Two great Avila students will be working with me, and we’ll have the help and support of the Missouri Department of Conservation, KC Parks, and Kansas City Wildlands. It’s been humbling, really, to see so people have come together around this project. I can’t help but interpret that as a good sign, and I look forward to the journey we’re going to have together.

I also look forward to hearing all the stories our bees have to tell.


My first bee box_cropped

Everybody has to start somewhere: My first bee box in Kansas City. These specimens were collected by Avila alumna Dusti Travis in 2015.


Expanding Horizons

Eolyn cover flat2 reduced 1 22 16

Eolyn and Dragon are about to fly beyond the borders of Amazon.

It’s been two years (!) since I published Eolyn in its second edition, as Book One of The Silver Web Trilogy. Book Two, Sword of Shadows, came out later that same year, and Book Three, Daughter of Aithne, was released last summer.

All in all, we’ve had a good run. While sales have been modest, the books have received strong editorial reviews and enthusiastic reader response. Daughter of Aithne has been shortlisted for the 2017 OZMA Award for fantasy fiction; the winners will be announced next month. (Fingers crossed!)

This being my first venture into self-publishing, I chose for the sake of simplicity and the size of the market to tie my ebooks exclusively to Amazon, listing all three titles with KDP Select and including them in the Kindle Unlimited program. For the most part, KDP Select has worked to my benefit, but for a variety of reasons, I’ve decided in recent weeks that it’s time to expand the reach of The Silver Web and make the trilogy available to a wider market.

So this month, Amazon’s exclusive claim to the ebook edition of Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web, will come to an end. Starting March 22, Eolyn will be available in multiple ebook formats worldwide, including Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. Preorder opportunities should be popping up soon – I’ll post those as they become available. As we head into summer, Books Two and Three of The Silver Web trilogy will follow Eolyn’s path; those release dates will be announced in forthcoming posts.

That’s the big news for now. I hope you are as excited as I am!

Remember my March giveaway for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust is ongoing; visit the giveaway page on Amazon to enter for your chance to win. Wishing you a great weekend and many magical reads to come!

March Giveaway: The Book of Dust

book-of-dust-uk-663x1024This week, I’m celebrating my birthday with the first in a series of monthly ebook giveaways featuring titles by some of my favorite authors. During the month of March, you have a chance to win the Kindle edition of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dustthe much celebrated prequel to The Golden Compass.

I still remember discovering The Golden Compass, years ago while shopping with a friend in the Boulder Bookstore in Colorado.  After finishing The Golden Compass, I devoured The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass in no time. I loved these books! I couldn’t get enough of the Lyra’s adventures in dark worlds populated by daemons and witches and angels at war. I’m very excited that Pullman has at last decided to give us the prequels to His Dark Materials, and also excited to share the magic with you!

While I haven’t had a chance yet to read The Book of Dust for myself, it comes highly recommended by good friends in the know. Besides, I trust Pullman to spin a great story. Entering the Amazon giveaway is easy – just visit the giveaway page and click the yellow button. No purchase is necessary; the winner will be announced at the end of the month.

If you don’t win this time, please check back in again next month – I’ll have a new title up for grabs in April. Happy March, and good luck!

Kindle Countdown for EOLYN

Eolyn cover flat2 reduced 1 22 16

Cover art and design by Thomas Vandenberg.

I’m a little late getting this out, but there is a Kindle countdown deal running for EOLYN, Book One of The Silver Web. The price has been temporarily reduced to $0.99. Later today, that will increase to $1.99. By the end of the weekend, there will be one more price increment to $2.99 before the Kindle edition returns to its normal price of $3.99 on February 28. If you haven’t started the series yet, now’s your chance! If you already have your copy of EOLYN, please share the magic by spreading the word!


The critically acclaimed Silver Web trilogy will thrill you with gripping battles, heart-wrenching loss, hard-won triumphs, and the ultimate magic of love. EOLYN, Book One of The Silver Web, brings to life a realm of powerful wizards and brutal deceptions where one woman’s journey will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

Read more…

“A tale of female oppression, prejudice, and even deadly seduction, Eolyn touches on issues that are deeply relevant in our own society. At times both heartwarming and heart-wrenching, the story warns young women about the ways in which the world will try to take advantage of them—but it does so in a way that never denies them their magic.” – Apex Reviews

“Gastreich allows her heroes to have flaws—including moments of cowardice—and some victories bring new sorrows. Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes will satisfy fans of traditional epic fantasy with a romantic thread.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Download your copy today!


Not One More

March for Our LivesI’ve been inspired these past days by the eloquence and leadership of the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida – and saddened to the depths of my spirit by the horror they were forced to confront.

So much innocent blood has been shed over so many years. With each new mass shooting, I’ve wondered whether this would be the one that would wake up the American public and most of all, break the cold cynicism of our elected officials.

I don’t know if Parkland will be our long-awaited turning point, but whether this is the final straw or just one more step in a long, arduous journey, we have to keep working toward a solution to gun violence. We have to put an end to this madness before it puts an end to us.

I’ll be marching for our children’s lives on March 24. I hope you’ll be marching with us.

Win a free copy of Paula Brackston’s RETURN OF THE WITCH

Return of the Witch

These boots were made for witching!

I’d like to try something new this year, and I’m inviting you to join me on a practice run. I’ve set up an Amazon giveaway of Paula Brackston’s novel Return of the Witch. No purchase is necessary – all you have to do to enter is follow me on Amazon. The giveaway ends on February 21, so don’t put this off!

If everything works out as planned – that is, people respond, the giveaway runs smoothly, and my magical ebook gift successfully makes it to the Kindle of the lucky winner, then I will host another giveaway next month – and the next month, and the month after that!

My hope is to host a year-long giveaway tour of some of my favorite authors and their most recent works. Authors in cue for this spring include Nora Jemisin, Phil Pullman, Phillippa Gregory, and Guy Gavriel Kay. Have an author or title you’d like to see featured in my year of giveaways? Please mention him or her in the comments below!

In the meantime, don’t forget to visit Amazon and enter for your chance to win a free copy of Paula Brackston’s Return of the Witch. Wishing you a magical weekend!