Saturday, December 24, 2016

My year in a letter! Merry Christmas

 Dear Family, Friends, and Fans!!!

Wow! This year has been so amazing. I have been so blessed in many, many ways. I have had ups and downs just like every other year, but I have also been given many opportunities and blessings this year to balance it all out.

To start out 2016 I had some excellent reviews posted about The Ring of Remaliha and one was in the Deseret News. This was a fun experience to have since I didn't solicit the review.

I also had a fun book signing at the Garland Library in Garland, UT.

In May I was able to attend my first LDStorymakers Conference. I had a wonderful time with good friends and I even met a few famous ones.

Nan Marie Swapp, Me, and Michelle Wilson
Brandon Sanderson and Me
I learned so much and actually had a literary agent ask for another manuscript. Unfortunately nothing came of that, but I have lots of hope for the future.

In September I was able to take the trip of a lifetime with my best friend, Dawn, and my dad. We spent sixteen days in Europe visiting six countries. 

We got the last three premium seats (flying standby does have its perks)

and started in Amsterdam touring the city. I have never seen so many bikes in one place in my life.

welcome to Amsterdam

And then we took a tour of Northern Holland.

Zaanse Schans windmill city.

After Amsterdam we took a flight from AMS to Berlin. Our visit in this city was so much fun, more so because we got to see Li Toeppe. She was an exchange student that stayed with my family my senior year of high school and a great friend. This was the best part of Berlin.
My dad, Li, and me.
Brandenburg Gate or Checkpoint Charlie.
It was really neat to have the chance to walk from East Germany to West Germany. A humbling experience.

The Berlin wall.
After Berlin we took a train from Berlin to Prague. As cities go, Prague was my favorite. There was something about the city that I loved. I really enjoyed the architecture and history of the city.

Prague from across the river.
St. Charles Bridge 

After a day and a half in Prague we took another train to Vienna. I was really excited to see Vienna because of what I wrote about in my WW2 books. Seeing the University and the sites of the city brought my books to life.

Me at the University in Vienna.

At the train station.
From Vienna we took another train to Munich. We didn't stay in Munich, but instead rented a car and drove through the Bavarian countryside to see the castles (Schloss).

Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Neuschwanstein
You could see 

Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau

So heading up to Neuschwanstein there is a path that goes to a bridge that gives a beautiful view of the castle. This bridge is crazy! I'm not a fan of heights, but this bridge pushed me over the edge. As soon as I stepped out onto it the boards gave just enough to put me in an absolute panic.

Schloss Lindenhof.
The Bavarian countryside and castles were one of my favorite parts of our trip. I told my dad that I wanted a castle. Don't think that will happen, at least not in this life. :)

From the castles we drove to Salzburg. Another visit that made my books come to life. I loved Salzburg. The city was enchanting and full of life.

Our hotel just outside Salzburg.

View from the fortress.

We took a tram up the mountainside. Crazy high, freaky high, terrifyingly high. Yeah, after the stupid bridge near the castles, this wasn't the best experience, but the view was amazing!!!

View from the tram.
From Salzburg we drove south toward the Italian coast. We stopped off at Golling Waterfall in Austria. We also stopped at Aquiliea, Italy where they have Roman ruins that date waaaaaay back. It was really neat.

Golling Wasserfal
Ruins at Aquiliea
From Aquiliea we drove down to Venice, parked the car in the big lot right as you get on the island and took a boat bus into the city. This whole place is on the water. It really fascinated me. We had fun exploring the cities and canals.

Piazza San Marco.
Our very expensive gondola ride. 

No photos! Oops!

After a day and a half in Venice we drove across the top of Italy toward Milan. We didn't go into Milan, but stayed outside the city and spent the day near the lakes in Arona.

From Milan we took a flight to Paris. Short flight, early morning. Paris was absolutely amazing. We spent three days and didn't even see a portion of the sights. Day one we got to go up to Disneyland Paris. 

Day two we explored some of the city. We tried to go to church, which was just around the corner, but they were having stake conference later than we had time available. We had an appointment at the Louvre. We stopped at the Arc de Triumph just before our visit to the Louvre.

Arc de Triumph
The Mona Lisa. Crazy how much excitement there was over this small painting.

Day three we got a chance to see the Eiffel tower, all the way to the top. We even ate one of the best meals I had in Europe up there. The view was crazy awesome as well and of course made my stomach twist in knots from the height. I didn't think it looked so big. It is!!!

We also got a chance to see Notre Dame. The inside was amazing. There was a spirit there that I thought was missing in many of the massive cathedrals that we visited. 

Seeing the city lit up at night was a neat experience as well. We flew home from Paris and luckily my dad got the last premium seat to Seattle. We were grateful that the seats were open and we made it home.

This trip was so awesome. I wish we had more time to see more of Europe. I hope to visit more countries in the future. I am grateful for the opportunity we had to travel and I'm grateful that I could take my dad along, though we about walked him to death. I'm also very grateful for our wonderful friend, Caitlin who babysat the dogs the whole sixteen days. You are a life saver, Caitlin. It was an amazing trip!

This was an excellent start to my fall. Come October 1st my third book Crossing Lines hit the Deseret Book shelves.

On October 1st I was able to participate in a book signing at the Portland Deseret Book for ladies night. It was great evening spent with the wonderful folks there at the store.

Toward the end of October I was able to attend the Northwest Writer's Retreat in Rosario Beach, WA. I love this retreat because it's a chance to renew myself and learn more about my writing craft. I love spending these days with my writing friends.

When I got back to Portland, fall had struck leaving my car covered in leaves.

My year has been filled with flying (for my job), flying for fun, writing, conferences, and book signings. I did get some writing done between editing. For November NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I actually met the 50,000 word goal. Though I didn't write it all in November, I did write and I have another book to add to the many to edit and hopefully someday publish.

At the beginning of December I had the chance to fly home for another signing at the Deseret Book in Logan, UT as well as spend some quality time with my family in Utah. It was a beautiful beginning to the Christmas season.

Shauna Wheelwright and Me at the Deseret Book signing. Thank you, Shauna!!!

This is the first year that I have had a line. In Flight Attendant lingo, that means I have a full schedule and no reserve days and because of how much Portland has grown I have enough seniority to get days off that I want, for the most part. This year is my first with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years off. I've loved this Christmas season and have felt the bounteous joys of the holidays and blessings of this time of year. 

I have been watched over and blessed in so many ways and I'm grateful for all that the Lord has given  me. I've been so so very blessed. My year has been amazing and full of joy. I am so glad to be here in Portland, for my friends, family, and co-workers. For my job that allows me to do the things I love and see so many awesome places. And of course my little boys who keep me warm on these cold winter nights!!!

I'm grateful to all my fans who support my writing and continue to encourage me. I hope to have lots of good things come about in the next year. Thank you all!!!

Merry Christmas! May the Lord bless you all!