story spinning, Threadwalkers

Threadwalkers book signing at Warwick’s

Yesterday I had a lovely time at Warwick’s in La Jolla, signing copies of Threadwalkers for their Weekends with Locals event. They open their shop on Sunday afternoons to local authors to bring their books and chat with people coming into the store, and they very kindly offered me one of their spots this month. Thanks, Warwick’s!

Thanks for this snap, Laura!

It was a lot of fun getting to meet people, and also a bunch of my friends showed up to support me, which made the whole day really fantastic.

We took some photos for posterity, and I grabbed a late lunch afterward with some of my friends, and made a day of it. And hey, if you’re still looking to buy a copy, here’s the Barnes & Noble link, the Amazon link, and the Kindle link— and the Kindle edition is currently on sale, so only $2.99. 😀

joanna irl, story spinning, Threadwalkers

New Year, New State

Well, here we are.

It’s 2018, we’ve moved halfway across the country, and life is beginning to show the signs of settling back into some sense of normalcy in our household. J went back to work and I am waiting on school to start and generally speaking we’ve got an idea of the next few months.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen some of our recent local adventures, now that we’re back in southern California.

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Silver and gold sunset

A post shared by Joanna (@joannavolavka) on

It’s been good to be out of the cold weather, and I can already feel my mental health improving. It also helps that not only do I have friends still here, but I actually have, somehow, more friends here than I did when we left three years ago. Some have moved here and others have naturally grown from acquaintances to friends from just being in my broader circle, and I’m grateful for all of them. And, unlike my usual moves where I don’t have a niche (which is an ongoing issue for military spouses, and one that I should probably blog about separately), I also have a cohort to join and which has already been welcoming and happy to meet me.

So all in all, things are good.

And what of the writing?

Well, I’m working on a couple of things. The first is a fresh media push for THREADWALKERS, including a local book launch sometime in the next couple of months. (I’m seeking book bloggers/vloggers/etc for reviews and interviews and all, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please get in touch!)

I’m also working on the next book… It’s not a follow-up to THREADWALKERS but a new thing entirely. It started as a pet project to get some ideas out of my head but has grown into a thing that might turn into a Book. We will see. There’s still a lot of work to do.

What can you expect in 2018 from me?

  • I’ll be going to some conventions this year (would a schedule on my About page be of interest?).
  • New content related to military spouse life.
  • New content related to writing.
  • More travelogue things because you know I won’t stop traveling and that’s what I enjoy writing about here the most.

So there’s the update! If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just get in touch! 

story spinning, Threadwalkers

April Update: Big News on the Writing Front

I know it’s been quiet over here for a couple of weeks, but life has been moving at breakneck speed, leaving me very little time to blog anything for a bit. I’ve got another post coming on Thursday where I’ll talk a little about PCSing with my cats (which is always the most stressful part of moving but I’ve also gotten fairly practiced at it) but in the meantime how about a life update?

Because I have NEWS.

As of last week, I am officially signed with 50/50 Press to publish my debut novel, Threadwalkers. Yay!!

I don’t have any more details just yet as I still need to go through the editing process, not to mention formatting and cover design and all kinds of things I probably haven’t thought of yet, much less setting a publication date, but trust me that I will keep you posted.

I know.

A little about the book: Threadwalkers is a YA science-fiction time travel story, told from the point of view of a 16 year old girl whose life starts to unravel around her as small changes in her past have big implications in the present. And that’s all I’ll say for now! There will be more as I can share it, I promise.

I’m excited to share this story with all of you, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

ALSO check out this AMAZING family portrait by my friend Em Somerville!
Volavka family portrait by Em SomervilleI love it so much! It’s now the featured photo on my “About” page. She even included my dinosaur necklace. ^_^ Thanks, Emma!!

joanna irl, the geek life

I don’t like clowns. Or old dolls.

See? Creepy as all get out.
Photo from:

While watching a season 2 episode of Supernatural last night called “Everybody Loves a Clown” I was confronted yet again with the unsettling disquiet I feel every time I see someone dressed as one. While I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (fear of clowns) I also really don’t like seeing them. I find clowns to be highly disturbing. But why is that?

I never saw the movie IT as a child. Not that in and of itself that’s surprising, but I know some people develop an early fear of clowns through some type of accidental exposure to a horror film. But why is a clown even the subject of a scary flick?

To me, clowns perfectly illustrate the created sense of horror. If we look at the broader question of why things on a written page or a TV screen can scare us, then it starts to make a bit of sense. Horror stories are basically divided into two types: slasher and psychological. Either it’s scary because of the blood, guts, and gore, or it’s scary because it tricks your mind into feeling unsafe. Movies like IT often combine these elements, but I think clowns themselves fall solidly into the mind-trick category. Why is that?

To artificially create a sense of horror, a story teller must first evoke something that seems safe and then turn it around to become unsafe. The familiar becomes strange and therein lies the terror. Our brains are wired for patterns and recognition (which is why we see shapes in clouds or think we recognize people we’ve never met), which helps us remember things and develop relationships and all sorts of other handy things that make our lives better. So what happens when something we’ve previously experienced as safe becomes unsafe?

Think about coming home at night when you’ve left during daylight and forgotten to leave on a light. Does it feel a little disquieting? What if something has moved since you left? Maybe you forgot that you dropped that towel there, but suddenly coming across it in the dark might be enough to really give you a fright. It’s easy to feel “creeped out” in your own home simply because it isn’t exactly how you thought it would be. It’s the feeling of having a curtain-less window at night where anyone can see into the room from outside, but you can’t see them from inside the lit room. Unsettling. It’s the same room and window as before but now you can’t be sure of what’s beyond the light.

Back to clowns. With our brains wired to detect patterns and to read faces, a clown with her mask or face paint goes directly in opposition to that. The expression painted on her face might not match what she’s really thinking or feeling. It might be unsettling to be unable to “read” her expressions correctly. It might also be that there’s something just off enough about the performance of a caricature of a person by a person is what makes the clown frightening. A clown is the representation of something that is supposed to be expected (a human) but is hiding her true identity and attitudes for the sake of misdirection. It’s no wonder people find them disturbing.

Weirdly enough, I think this is the same reason I don’t like old dolls.

Why is this what you get when you wiki-search “doll” anyway?
Photo from:

Dolls are also representations of humans, and generally speaking new dolls are just fine. I’m not afraid of Barbie by any means. But Barbie doesn’t look “real” to me, either. When you’ve got an old doll, though, and it’s started to come apart at the seams, or has lost an eye, or simply looks like a discarded small person, then the creepy factor definitely rises.

I know movies like Toy Story and books like A Little Princess with tales of toys coming to life when the children aren’t present are meant to be endearing (and mostly are– I love Toy Story!), but on some level the idea of a doll that can get up and walk around, though only when you’re not looking, is actually a terrifying one.

I suspect this is why the Weeping Angels on Doctor Who work so well as the stuff of nightmares. They only move when you’re not looking.

Well that’s enough about scary things for one Monday. Click here if you want to read more about coulrophobia. Lots of photos of clowns, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

the geek life

Relaunching the Geek Girl Pen Pal Club

iggppc logo3On January 11, the International Geek Girl Pen Pal club relaunched itself, with a brand new website ( and a whole slew of updates* and improvements.

You can read their full press release here, but the basic reason is that a little idea shared between two friends separated by an ocean exploded into something much larger than anyone could have foreseen. Ten months later, the leadership team (which has grown to five, plus forum moderators) has paired over TEN THOUSAND people around the world with pen pals based on age group and shared interests, dubbed “geek loves” on the site.

Today marks the launch of Round 10, another chance for geeky girls (and guys) to find someone to share the love of handwritten correspondence, all while discussing the latest episode of Doctor Who. Or maybe that’s just me and my pen pal… ~_^

pen pals and owl post

My pal Melissa and I were matched in the fifth round, but it seems like ages ago, and we’ve had so much fun getting to know one another and exchanging small, geeky things that fit in envelopes. Okay, I’ll be honest, it’s a lot of tea and stickers. We both love tea and stickers. And she sends some amazing postcards (see above).

I think when it comes down to it, that’s the reason Geek Girl Pen Pal Club works: sure it’s thousands of people, but at its heart, really it’s a connection between people, and finding a friend you didn’t even know was out there.

On a personal note, I’m currently the resident movie-reviewer on the site, so if you want to read those, check the link in the side bar. ^_^

*I would be remiss to not mention the achievements hidden around the site. Who knew that all those childhood hours spent with my “Where’s Waldo” books would serve me so well?

story spinning

NaNoWriMo Winner 2009

As of last Thursday, I am a 2009 NaNoWriMo winner. As of midnight tonight, I will be a verified winner, which means the site will count my words and then change my little status bar that shows my total word count from green to purple and I will be able to print out a winner’s certificate and all sorts of fun things. I actually can already get to them because of a glitch in the system, but I like to play by the rules. ^_^ I will also have access to a lovely Winner’s t-shirt, which I will add to my Christmas list and hope someone is nice enough to send to me. (I wear a unisex medium, by the way… I’m just saying, in case, y’know? ~_^)

I’m going to keep writing for the rest of the month, though; the story is interesting enough now, and I kind of like my characters, but there’s still a huge gulf in the middle that is supposed to be The Road Trip. I might save myself from this problem by going back and just giving my characters a pair of plane tickets so I don’t have to deal with charting a course. Or maybe they start to road trip, decide it’s not what they want, and go back to get tickets… or maybe they’ll pack their camping gear and rent a car at the Portland airport, since their ultimate destination is northern Oregon. Yes, I think we can just get rid of the Middle of the current story and it will do just fine. Who needs a road trip, anyway? Not these two.

Another cool thing that happened this week was that my little story synopsis was selected by the NaNoWriMo staff to be given to a New York graphic designer to make a cover for my book. Of course, it’s not a “real” cover for publication, but it’s a fun souvenir of my story this year. Plus they’re only picking 30 people out of about 165,000 so it’s awesome that they picked me. It probably helps that I labeled my story “chick lit” this year, too, as I doubt that’s a huge genre… That’s it up at the top, in case you were wondering. I think it’s hilarious. ^_^

Today I didn’t find something good about Hawai’i (which is my goal every day), so I will count the fact that the kitties are now adjusted enough that they’re both hanging out downstairs with me; they’re both sitting on the table at the moment so they can keep an eye on me, I think. I’ve given up trying to keep them off of it, so as long as they don’t get up there when we eat and I wipe it down before I use it, I think I’m okay with this. After all, sometimes you have to pick your battles.

Before I sign off, I would like to issue a general apology: I have been terrible at getting in touch this month, I know. And I’m usually short and slightly irritable when I do talk to people. For that, I apologize. Please chalk it up to nearly 60,000 words before Thanksgiving and lots of time in front of the computer to do it. I promise I’ll be back to normal in December. No, really, I will!

If I don’t talk to you before then, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. ^_^

joanna irl

Hawaiian Sunsets


The sunlight filters through the tree branches behind my back yard and through the medium brown curtains in my dining room, turning them gold and iridescent. The wind has been blowing all day today, so the leaves are flowing across the kitchen walls and the dining room table and it’s just plain pretty. The sky is sort of peachy pink with a little tinge of purple and there are birds chirping back there. My porch door is open (it’s got a screen door) so I can hear them clearly, and the cats are enjoying the smells and sounds. Hawaiian sunsets are unlike any I’ve ever seen. I wish I was close enough to the water to watch, because the sun just sort of melts into a golden pool on a gently moving black horizon. It’s unreal. The Pacific Ocean is really amazing, and so different from the Atlantic. The Atlantic is cold and gray-green and beautiful in its own way, but the water out here is blue in a way I’ve never seen before.

I think I need to go to the beach tomorrow. As it’s going to be 85 degrees, again, that shouldn’t be a problem.

We have curtains in the house now, and it’s making me feel much more at home. It’s so much less like a fishbowl now. Except for the decorative ones in the dining room (where the window just looks over the fenced back yard), we got the Eclipse curtains that block all light and a good bit of noise for the rest of the house. The mini-blinds are thin here and I didn’t like the feeling that the neighbors could see inside. Maybe I was being paranoid, but then again, when I went to visit my friend next door, we discovered her daughter could watch my TV from her window because she was looking down through the blinds. Not anymore! I love my curtains.

This weekend was nice. J was home for the whole weekend for the first time in about a month, so we went out to a nice dinner on Friday night (when you only go out about twice a month, spending more on the place doesn’t seem like as big a deal, y’know?) and then spent Saturday doing the curtains and generally getting things done that needed to be done. It’s nice to have someone here to help me, and I’m much more productive. Sunday afternoon we went down to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and spent the afternoon there, starting with a submarine tour of a coral reef. There are pictures in my photo blog, if you want to see. It was amazing! We spent about an hour under the water and saw thousands of fish, plus a shark, a group of spotted eagle rays, four sea turtles and a spotted eel. I would definitely go back there, especially with out of town company.


Some of the fish came right up to the submarine and swam past the window. The deepest we got was about 104 feet, and the sunlight was filtered so much at that point that everything looked blue, purple and brown. No reds, yellows, oranges, or even really greens. It was wild. And I took far more photos than are posted, which I tend to do when I get excited. At least you only get the best ones that way.

I’m about 80% of the way through with my novel in terms of wordcount, but very far away in terms of realistically finishing the story. I might not even finish. I might get to 50,000 words, put it down, and go pick up something else I’d rather be working on right now. Who knows? But at least I know at this point I’ll make the goal this year. I haven’t lost NaNoWriMo yet, and I don’t intend to start now.

Now it’s time to dive back into the story. That’s why I haven’t posted much this month, for what it’s worth; if I’m going to write anything, it’s better if it can be included in my wordcount. ^_^