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Somehow even though I’ve been counting down the months until we would move away from Chicago since, oh, 35 months out (what can I say, winter is NOT my favorite thing and there’s a LOT of it up here), this move feels like it snuck on me.

Maybe it’s because we just moved into the current place a year and a half ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve just got so many plates spinning (working and booking and grad schooling and bears*, oh my!) Or maybe it’s that this move isn’t like most of our moves before it, in that we’re going to a place we already know (and have friends waiting for us there) and that we already have a place to live (I’ll get back to that) and that I’ve already got my grad school program lined up to move with me and it has (so far) been a really seamless transition.

In any case, we leave Chicago in 28 days. Exactly 4 weeks from today. As in, 4 weeks from now we will be halfway to our first stop in Missouri and Leena will probably have puked at least once and I’ll already be regretting taking a road trip with cats but it’s too cold to fly with them and we still have to move the car so what can you do anyway except pack them and drive for 4 days straight and hope for the best.

All the same, I’m starting to feel it this week as we begin to experience the “Chicago lasts” before the move. We went to our last (probably, as nothing else is planned) theater show this weekend with the 40th anniversary run of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre.

It’s a very good production and the adaptation infuses enough humor to balance the more serious bits, and the set pieces are gorgeous. It helps that the Goodman is just around the corner from the Christkindlmarket, which opened this weekend, too. I got my gingerbread and cider fix before the show, though I suspect that was not, in fact, our last visit to that particular place.

It’s not all fun stuff, though. I’m planning for my last day at work, my last day at Shedd, scheduling the last vet visit for the kitties, and just did the last big deep clean before we vacate our current place, too.

Then there are the unknown lasts that are a little weirder, harder to pin down. Like when it snowed two Fridays ago and it occurred to me that it might be the last snow we see here (and how much I hope it doesn’t snow on the day we load the moving truck). It might not be the last one, but you never know.

I do know it won’t be the last time I’m in Chicago, though. While I doubt we will ever live here again (see the aforementioned thing about winter), I have friends here I need to see sometimes. But I am definitely looking forward to being a tourist here and not a resident.

The firsts in San Diego are a little different. We’ll see the house we’re moving into for the first time in about a month, for instance. But moving back to a place? This is the first time we’ve ever done that, and it’s actually really nice. I don’t have to find a new vet, a new dentist, a new mechanic– I’ve already got them all!

And speaking of that new house– we’re also doing a thing we’ve never done and moving into a house we rented sight-unseen. That’s because we’re heading back into military housing (though a VERY different scenario than the last time we lived in it). The thought process (and application process, etc) will be a blog post for another day. But we know where we are going and might actually have our first door-to-door move, with our belongings never going into storage. That would be so good.

So that’s it. A lot of lasts and a lot of firsts and in about a month I get to put my parka into long term storage.

I am SO ready.

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*No bears are actually involved in my life currently**, but it seemed the thing to say. Not even the Bears, which will likely be the only one of Chicago’s pro sports teams from my List that I won’t get to see. Cubs, Sox, Hawks, and Bulls– check! But no Bears. Oh, well.

**I feel like I need to stipulate that there are currently no bears because, being a zoo person, particularly who likes working with carnivores***, bears are always an option. And who doesn’t like bears??****

***Bears are omnivores. But you get where I’m going with it. I’m definitely a “lions and tigers and bears” person. And also wolves and sharks and snow leopards. Especially the snow leopards.

****If you don’t like bears, I don’t understand. I mean, have you SEEN a bear?

I’m a month late posting about it, but for my birthday last month, we went camping in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and got an early taste of fall that was so much fun.

We camped in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is home to the second biggest freshwater waterfall to the east of the Mississippi River (the biggest, of course, being Niagara). Our site was near the Lower Falls, and when the breeze was still we could hear the waterfall in our tent at night.

There is a nice hike between the Upper and Lower Falls, but there are also parking lots and short trails with access points and overlooks if you don’t want to hike the 5ish miles (or, as is the case with our visit, if it’s been raining and the trail is too muddy to deal with).

The leaves were just coming into the start of their peak, and the ones around the waterfalls were mostly golden with a few shots of red thrown in. The roads between the UP towns had more autumn color, and I kept stopping the car to take photos.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is also home to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery, which is located inside the park. They’ve got a restaurant and shop, and you can sit outside on their huge porch in rocking chairs surrounding a cozy open-air fireplace while waiting to be seated.

One of the days we were there, we visited Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The Shipwreck Museum has artifacts from about a dozen shipwrecks from Lake Superior, and stories about what brought the various vessels down.

You can also visit the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s quarters, learn about the history of lifesaving efforts on the point, and walk along the beach.

The museum’s signature piece is, of course, the bell of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, from the 1975 shipwreck immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot (which plays nearly on a loop in some parts of the museum). The bell was brought to the surface in 1995, and serves as a memorial for the men who were lost.

The other highlight of the trip for me was a visit to Deer Ranch in St. Ignace. Not only is St. Ignace a quaint, adorable fishing village with plenty of shops and restaurants (and Mackinac Island Fudge to boot), but it’s home to the oldest white-tail deer ranch in the US. For just $5 you can visit the deer, and for $1 more you can get a cup of food (we had carrots and apples).

When you walk through the ranch, there are barns and runs for the fawns, a huge yard for the older does, and then several wooded lots in the back for the adult resident deer, including some leucistic (white morph) deer! Since they are hand-reared, they are pretty comfortable with humans, and many of them enjoyed having their ears and backs petted. (I made so many deer friends!)

And of course there were meals in little local breakfast places and bakeries and cooking on the campfire and all the usual things that make camping so fun. We’ve enjoyed escaping to Michigan, and particularly the UP, during our time in Chicago. While I’m looking forward to getting back to the west coast, the north in summer and fall is quite nice.

HELLO!

If you missed it last week, we had an online book launch for Threadwalkers! It was hosted by my publisher, 50/50 Press, on Facebook, and we hung out with people and I answered questions and we played games for two hours. It was so fun!

We also revealed a change– Threadwalkers got a new cover! Exciting!

Threadwalkers by Joanna Volavka

I really like the new cover image, and think it’s a good fit for the book.

If you want to watch my video answering questions about the book, my writing process and so on, here it is! You won’t be able to see the chat where people were answering questions, but I think it’s still not too hard to follow.

If you want to watch 50/50 Press co-owner Megan Cassidy Hall talk about why they said yes to my book, I’ve got that, too!

And if you want a SIGNED COPY I can make that happen! Just mail me a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) and I will sign a bookplate and mail it back to you! Don’t have my address? Just message me! Yay!

I was also featured on the podcast About the Author, if you want to take a listen!

And finally, this week Geek Girl Pen Pals is hosting a giveaway of the book! Go here to read the lovely review of Threadwalkers from Rosa, and then enter to win a copy for yourself!

Y’ALL. It’s finally here.

My book, Threadwalkers, is finally OUT for purchase on Amazon! WOO HOO!

You can also find it on Goodreads, if you like to track your reading that way.

AND we’re having a virtual BOOK LAUNCH PARTY on Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 so Save the Date! You can RSVP for over here at my publisher’s event page on Facebook. (And be sure to like my Facebook page, too!)

So now that it’s here, here are some updated FAQs:

Can I find it in my country?

There’s a solid chance that YES you can find it in your country! The publisher set it up for the widest possible distribution in hard copy and ebook, so take a look on your local Amazon site before paying for international shipping.

Is it only on Amazon?

For now, yes. In a few weeks, it will be picked up elsewhere, and then I’ll have info for you lovely indie bookstore shoppers on how you can request it (and I’ll be submitting it to bookstores as well).

Will you sign my copy?

I would love to sign your copy! However, please do NOT mail your book to me. Instead, reach out directly and I will either let you know when I will be in your area or arrange something else specific. (For friends and family, email me directly!)

Book signing events???

I don’t currently have any scheduled, but will let you know as soon as I have anything to share! I’m relocating in December, which is taking most of my fall schedule, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be anything.

Speaking of events, how can I reach you to discuss hosting one?

Email me directly or fill out my contact form, and please be as specific as possible. Is it a library, bookstore, school event? Where is it? What time frame do you have in mind? And so on.

What if I have other questions?

I am happy to answer questions either on my contact form, Facebook, Goodreads, or via email.

So here we are!

Thank you to everyone who has already supported the book by purchasing a copy, sharing it online, or generally telling folks about it. I really appreciate it, and you. ❤

HELLO.

It’s been a busy summer. I said that already, didn’t I? But here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s now officially FALL which means…. It’s nearly time for THREADWALKERS!

Along those lines, here are some updated FAQs (and maybe not all are frequently asked, but things that have COME UP) for you:

Release Date?

MOVED UP to October 16! That means it’ll be here in about 2 1/2 weeks! EEK. I’m furiously working on last line edits (making sure the commas are all where they are supposed to be, to the best of my and my editor’s abilities!) and then it’s getting submitted VERY SOON.

Where can I pre-order?

Unfortunately, it’s not currently available as a pre-order, but you can bet I’ll be making LOTS of noise when it’s available for pre-order and then purchase!

Where can I find it to buy?

Amazon, mostly. But you can also request it at your local bookstore! I’ll have more details on that closer to release day. (I know, it FEELS awfully close already.) BUT it will be available in both print AND ebook to ensure that the most number of people possible have access to it!

Lydia asks: What type of tea should I drink whilst reading Threadwalkers?

I LOVE THIS QUESTION from Twitter so I have decided to answer it here as well. The story takes place in the autumn, so a nice chai (or even chocolate chai) might hit the spot nicely! (Feel free to ask me for any other food or beverage pairings, though I will say tea is pretty much my drink of choice for most books.)

I want to review your book!

THANK YOU. I ALSO WANT YOU TO REVIEW MY BOOK.

Where should I post a review? (Amazon, Goodreads, other?)

Amazon is a good place to start, as that will help me encourage sales in the initial release, but I would also appreciate Goodreads reviews (I’ll link it as soon as I have the page for the book live!) and any other press you would like to send my way. Got a question? Just reach out!

Will you come to my library/bookstore/school?

YES (within reason, obviously). My travel is all out of pocket, but if you are, say, within an hour’s drive of the Chicago metro area, and you would like to invite me to your library or bookstore or school, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH. Or if you know I will be in your local area for some other reason, ALSO GET IN TOUCH. I am excited to talk to as many readers as possible, especially students! (PLEASE NOTE that my “home radius” will be changing this winter, so if you are in SoCal… after January, LET ME KNOW.)

What can I do to support the book?

Buy the book! Bug your friends about buying it. Give it as a gift. (See, your holiday shopping list is now DONE. YOU’RE WELCOME.) Post reviews online. Creating buzz is key, and you are all part of my swarm now. D’awwww.

Got other questions? Ask them here! I’ll answer what I can.

Travelogue: Scotland 2017

It’s been a long summer.

I originally saved this draft in mid-August, about a week and a half after I returned from Scotland, but it has sat empty since then because Life has been happening and I just haven’t had the time to really write up a proper recap. My instagram was probably a pretty good overall peek, though! All the same, I’m including a gallery of some of my favorites with a highlight from each day of the trip below, to the best of my memory a month later. Better late than never!

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Day 1, we arrived in Edinburgh six or seven hours later than intended after a very long delay on our JFK layover that meant we pretty much hit the ground running. We had an opening dinner that night and got to hit some of the shopping highlights, but most of day 1 was jetlag and trying not to fall asleep before 8pm. I mostly succeeded.

In the middle of Edinburgh Castle

Day 2 began with a city tour and then a visit to Edinburgh Castle, and it was really neat to get to explore it again after having last been there 11 years prior. The weather was also nice and the crowds weren’t awful, and because the bus had deposited us at the top of the giant hill that makes up the Royal Mile, we were able to explore along its length on the way back down to our hotel, including stops at St Giles Cathedral and other historic spots along the way. We ended the evening eating in a cozy pub on Rose Street near our hotel, hiding from the rain.

St Andrews Cathedral ruins

Day 3 was a bright and early bus trip north to St Andrews to tour the town, visit the ruined Cathedral, and, of course, walk along the Old Course. I enjoyed getting my feet wet in the North Sea and walking barefoot on the beach (which is actually one of the only times I’ve gotten to do so this summer… weird!). I also made friends with a hawk named Bracken whose job it was to keep the seagulls off of the golf course. We ate in a fabulous fish and chips shop for lunch as well. That night we got to attend an event at the National Gallery to view their exhibit on Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Beyond Caravaggio) and for a traditional Scottish dinner with ceilidh (“kay-lee”) dancing.

Holyroodhouse Palace in brief sunshine

Day 4 had a free day, so we decided to stick around Edinburgh and head down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse for most of the day. I hadn’t gotten to see Holyroodhouse on my previous visit, as Jared and I happened to be there during the week of the Queen’s annual residence, so it was neat to explore it for the first time. The Palace is home to a huge collection of art, furniture, and other artifacts belonging to the Royal Family, and the tour book for purchase was worth every penny: we knew something about every room we visited, and were able to find notable specific pieces. The Palace grew off of the old Holyrood Abbey, which is now in ruins but much of which dates from 13th century and earlier.

Setting sail on Loch Lomond

Day 5 we took another bus trip out into the Scottish countryside, this time to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. We began in Stirling, where the castle has been largely restored to look as it might have at the height of its occupation, but which means there are many modern-produced fixtures and the like. It was interesting to see how brightly colored everything must have been when it was new (hundreds of years ago). From there we continued to Loch Lomond and took a short boat trip out into the water. We also ate lunch at a little shop with a garden and very good soup, which was very welcome on a cold, wet day.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Day 6 was our last full day in Scotland, and we headed to the other side of town to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. It’s been retired for quite a while now, but has many of the state rooms, as well as the dishes, serving pieces, art, and other artifacts houses aboard open for public display. We enjoyed a peek into 1980s and 1990s history, along with tea on board with a view of the harbor. We rounded out the night with a closing dinner, including bagpipes, and a lot of good food.

Last Castle view as we packed to head home

So that’s a (very) brief overview of the trip, but I wanted to write it all out while it was still relatively fresh in my mind. There will be more coming soon, I’m sure, as I’m gearing up for the book release and also getting closer to moving (less than 3 months away now, eek!).