Friday, September 18, 2015

Van Gogh Gone Cover Reveal

It's here, my friends! It took a little longer than I planned and we had a few last minutes changes, but I LOVE how it turned out.

Best YA Spy Book of 2015
Van Gogh Gone by Robin King (Remembrandt #2)

The model, Marli, looks amazing as Alexandra, Thanks to the amazing Summer Nicole Photo for taking the photo of the model. Also, a shout out to Classy Cosmetics for doing the model's makeup and to Bryn Allred for making the model's already beautiful hair perfect for the cover. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Upcoming Event: Lehi Author Night

Lehi Library is hosting an author event on Wednesday, September 23 at 7pm at the library. They will "Shine the Light" on local authors, including me! Some of the other authors that will be presenting and selling books at the event are H.B. Moore (Finding Sheba & others) and Stacy Henrie (A Hope Remembered). It is going to be fun to hear how all the authors got their start and if you are interested in their books, they will have copies to buy that night.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

40 Clean Reads for Teens

I've done it again. I know. It's another book list. The last list I did for Delicious Reads, Top 24 Books for Teen Boys, was so successful that I decided it was time to put together a list of books that any teen could read. I've been arranging a list for a while now that includes books I would feel comfortable having my daughter read when she is a teen (even though she is currently five years old). 

These books would get a PG rating (no swearing, sex, drugs, alcohol, or too much violence). Does that make these books boring? Heck no! It just means you can read them without being offended, embarrassed or guilty about the content. These would be perfect reading for school, teen book clubs, or anyone that likes to read good, clean young adult novels.

PG Rated Books

About four years ago, I started giving all the books I've read a "Robin-Approved for Teens" tag at the bottom of my reviews in GoodReads. I'm still adding to the list, but I pulled from it my favorite ones to make this list for Delicious Reads. I'd love help adding more to my list on GoodReads as well. You can add books to the group by joining it. It's called Clean Teen Reads (Robin-approved).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

And the winners are . . .

Thanks for everyone that participated in the GoodReads Giveaway. We had over 1,242 entries! I'm so excited to have new readers and even more excited to have everyone read Van Gogh Gone (Remembrandt #2) when it comes out in November.

Teen Spy Suspense Book Clean Read

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The LAST Remembrandt Giveaway

In celebration for the completion of Van Gogh Gone (Remembrandt #2), we are doing another giveaway through GoodReads! Even if you've already read Remembrandt, enter the giveaway as gifts for friends and family (all copies will be signed by the author). Van Gogh Gone will be released this fall so if you haven't read the first book, this gives you the perfect opportunity to find out all about Alexandra and what's really in the basement of Brown University. I can't wait for you to read it.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Remembrandt by Robin  King
by Robin King

Giveaway ends August 25, 2015
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

If you are one of those readers who likes to put a face to a name, check out my top picks for who should play who in the Remembrandt cast.

Because Daly likes to read about himself.
(Photo by Summer Nicole Photography)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Giveaway of Storm Moon by Teri Harman

I love Teri Harman! Her poetic writing just makes for a beautiful read. I finished the first two books in The Moonlight Trilogy and I've been waiting for the 3rd book to finally come out.

Blood Moon, Black Moon, Storm Moon, Witch Fantasy

Her book launch is next week at The King's English (August 8, 2-4pm) in SLC. I love this little book store. Enter to win a copy of Storm Moon, the 3rd and final book in Teri Harman's witch fantasy series. The ebooks of her first two books, Blood Moon and Black Moon, are on sale right now for only $2.99. Get caught up on the series and read the 3rd book with me after it comes out next week. I know this one is going to be good. Win a copy of her new book here.

Find on more about Teri Harman and her books on her website at

storm moon, black moon, blood moon, witch fantasy
Teri Harman, author of The Moonlight Trilogy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

And the official title of book 2 in the Remembrandt series is . . .

It's been almost 8 months since my first book, Remembrandt, came out and Remembrandt 2 is done! At 84,533 words, this book is quite a bit longer than Remembrandt. I also spent much more time editing, researching and writing this baby. I'm so happy with how it looks now, but I know it will be even better as I work with my editor to polish it more. 

In celebration of completing the book, I figured it was time to announce the official title. Here goes:

Author Robin King announces title of 2nd book in Remembrandt series
“Espionage isn’t just her job, it’s a work of art.”

SO what do you think of the title? Do you like the little teaser for the book cover in the background? And the tagline . . . I love the tagline!

And here's the summary:

Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Stewart finally has a life worth remembering - a Spanish tutor who gives perfecto a new name, a roommate that could double as her sister, and a special role in a secret spy organization that exists in the basement of Brown University.
But when her colleague, Daly, returns from a recent trip to Moscow accompanied by a man she never thought she'd see again, Alex is ripped away from her life in Providence and sent across the globe in search of a stolen piece of art.  In desperate need to find the Van Gogh painting, she will do anything to find it. Anything.
From Barcelona to Paris with only Daly at her side, the bonds of friendship are stretched as the duo uncover a truth neither one of them saw coming. Finding the painting could mean discovering a part of Alex she is ashamed could even exist, but without it, she could lose everything. The world around Alex threatens to corrupt the memories she holds most dear and the person she loves the most is at stake.
 If you haven't read Remembrandt, you will want to get your hands on a copy before the sequel comes out. Van Gogh Gone will hit the shelves this fall.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Remembrandt Cast of Characters

People often ask me if I had a certain person in mind when I started writing a character for Remembrandt. The truth of the matter is: I just made them up. I didn't have a celebrity or friend that I imagined looked exactly like my characters. In fact, some of the characters changed appearance while I was writing the book (green eyes changed to blue, blonde hair became brown).

Now that I am working on revising book 2 in the Remembrandt series, I've come to discover that what I picture certain characters in my book look like may not be how they are portrayed on the page to my readers. When I started attending book clubs, I decided that it would be fun to create a Pinterest board of possible people that might fit as a CAST if I made a Remembrandt movie.

You requested. I answered! Here are my top picks for characters in the book:

Jason Statham, Josh Zuckerman, Jonathan Goldsmith
For those curious, William and Daly are models and I couldn't find their names anywhere (please let me know if you find out who they are!). Alexandra is a sweet gal I know named Marli who modeled for the cover of Book 2 (to be revealed soon . . .). Elijah is actor Jason Statham. Millard is Josh Zuckerman (from the new 90210). Golkov is actor Jonothan Goldsmith.

Is this anything like you pictured these characters? Send me your suggestions!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Tribute to Gilbert Blythe

A Tribute to Gilbert Blythe
Dear Gilbert,

Before I could even read, I often found my mom lying in her bed late at night reading Anne of Green Gables. I remember the dictionary she kept on her night table because the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, had an extensive vocabulary. What I didn't know at the time, was that those books would be made into a television film adaption in 1985. What I also didn't know was that you would enter my life and I would never be the same.

A tribute to Gilbert Blythe
First Edition of Anne of Green Gables
The first time I watched Anne of Green Gables, I coveted red hair and I was somehow jealous that those scarlet braids found there way into the hands of a dark-curly-haired-hazel-eyed boy. I didn't care that you were a bully. Those of us who read Montgomery's words, knew that wasn't your intention:

"Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly... Gilbert Blythe wasn't used to putting himself out to make a girl look at him and meeting with failure. She SHOULD look at him, that red-haired Shirley girl with the little pointed chin and big eyes that weren't like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school. Gilbert reached across the aisle and picked up the end of Anne's long red braid, held it out at arm's length, and said in a piercing whisper: 'Carrots! Carrots!'" 

#Ihateyou #I'mgoingtomarrythisgirl

Though it took Anne several movies/books to figure it out for sure, I always liked you. Your intelligence, witty comments, willingness to give up Avonlea school because you thought Anne needed it more after Matthew died, and never stopping to earn Anne's forgiveness and trust  - those qualities basically gave me high standards to look for in a future partner. 
"Gilbert had also sprung from the boat and now laid a detaining hand or her arm. 'Anne,' he said hurriedly, 'look here. Can't we be good friends? I'm awfully sorry I made fun of your hair that time. I didn't mean to vex you and I only meant it for a joke. Besides, it's so long ago. I think your hair is awfully pretty now - honest I do. Let's be friends.'"

Thank you for rescuing Anne from her re-enactment of the Tennyson poem before she drown. Every girl needs a hero.

I will be always grateful for you showing me that movies can be just a good as books. Jonathan Crombie will forever be in my heart as the only actor who could ever be you on screen. The world will never be quite the same without him.

Last of all, Gilbert, thank you for teaching me that the best things in life are worth the wait. You never gave up on Anne and your willingness to fight for her and love her despite her turning you down so many times, is something we all wish we had. You taught Anne that she didn't need to look for her dreams outside of herself. You helped her discover "it's not what the world holds for you, it what you bring to it."
Your Kindred Spirit,

Robin (with an "i")

If you are looking for an Anne of Green Gables-inspired romance set in a nowadays spy world, check out my romantic suspense book, Remembrandt and its sequel, Van Gogh Gone, coming September 2015! You'll have to let me know who you think is Gilbert.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Delicious Dish: Mini Fruit Pies - Recipes and Picture Instructions

Everything is better when it's done in the mini version, right? Then why not pie? For our amazingly fun book club for The Devil in the White City, we decided to play off of the idea of the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. That meant we had to have our very own BOOK CLUB FAIR! And what's a fair without some homemade pie?!

Author Robin King, By Robin King
Mini Apple and Cherry Pie

Check on my guest post on Delicious Reads with recipes and instructions on how to make your own mini pies!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Star Wars Party with R2D2 Cake

When I'm not writing, I have a few hobbies that I like to do. They are fun, help expand my brain, and are a creative outlet. Though I've never felt like I was very talented at art, I do love to create. When my sister-in-law asked for my help with my older brother's surprise 40th birthday party, I was all in! I love parties and I love surprises. Star Wars themed? Count me in (yes, I do like a dash of sci-fi every now and then).

Then I volunteered for the cake, because, well, I really wanted to make the party special for my brother. You only turn the BIG 4-0 once. So I decided to channel my inner Cake Boss and got to work. This isn't my first cake. I've done several cakes before this one, but none quite like this.

Can you find the cake?

What if I said that it was an R2D2 cake?
No, that is not an R2D2 toy. It's a cake!

Don't believe me? Look closer.
R2D2 Cake
The legs are made of rice crispy treats. The dome is also made of rice crispy treats using a bowl as a mold. The rest of the body was a delicious fudge chocolate cake - probably the best tasting cake I've ever made. Find the recipe on my blog here

 I used B-Side Blog for cake decorating inspiration and Cute Sweet Things Blog for more ideas and the pattern for the legs. The rest I just looked at the original R2D2 and kind of made it up as I went along. All the exterior pieces were made from marshmallow fondant. I coated the legs and head with melted white chocolate (so the fondant would have something smoother under it) and the cake body with chocolate butter cream frosting

Here's some of the other pictures of the food and decor:

I found FREE PDF of the food labels here and
added some of my own in Photoshop using a Star Wars font.

Jar Jar Links

Thermal Detonators

Vader Veggies

Wookie Cookie Salad

Princess Leia Buns (cinnamon rolls)

Princess "Lays" (Lay potato chips)

Death Star: My awesome nephew carved this out of a watermelon!

Palpatine's Pizza (bagel bites)

Use the "forks"

R2D2 Waters (link to FREE Droid water bottle labels here)

We found the poster at our local Hobby Lobby
and a friend made little labels for the candy bars in the bowl that said,
"Happy 40th Birthday"

Yoda Soda (any green drink will do)

Mason jars with Star Wars labels glues on the lids.

One last look at the R2D2 Cake.

The Best Chocolate Fudge Cake for Stacking or Layering

Very Dense and Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake


Heat oven to 325 ºF. 

Grease two 8 inch layer pans (line layer pans with parchment or waxed paper before greasing and flouring...I use Pam for Baking).

In a small saucepan, combine:

1 cup water
1 teaspoon instant coffee 
½ cup cocoa
2 sticks butter

Bring to a boil, then cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, combine:

2 cups self-rising flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar

Blend well to combine.

Pour cocoa mixture over flour mixture and mix on low until blended. 


2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk*
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix on medium speed one minute.
*(make your own buttermilk by combining 1/2 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice with 1/2 cup milk. Let stand for 5 minutes)

Pour into pans. Bake until cake tests done with a toothpick.

I used the Fudge Chocolate Cake for the body of R2D2 in this fun cake I made.
See more about how I made the cake and decorated for the Star Wars Party here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Goodreads Giveaway. Goodreads picked five random people to receive a signed copy of Remembrandt and a bookmark. 

And the winners are . . . 

Erin (Odessa, TX)
Debbie (Joplin, MO)
Sandy (Madison, OH)
Catherine (Bozeman, MT)
Jessica (Saint Thomas, Ontario, Canada)

I hope you enjoy reading Remembrandt!



Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Signing - March 21, 3-5pm @ Pioneer Book in Provo, UT

I'm so excited to join some amazing authors at a book signing event at Pioneer Book in two weeks! There will be books to sign, giveaways, and food! The authors that will be joining me are Janet Kay Jensen (author of Gabriel's Daughters) and Pamela Stott Williams (author of What Took You So Long).

Book signing with Robin King author of Remembrandt

Book Title: Gabriel's Daughters 
Author: Janet Kay Jensen
Book Summary: Wrestling with issues of polygamy, homosexuality, and modernity, Gabriel’s Daughters examines them through the lives of the large, loving, and polygamous Martin family. The story is told primarily through the eyes of Zina Martin, a young girl who—upon discovering she is impregnated by her “sterile” teacher and will soon be married off to a man three times her age—escapes the enclosed polygamous town of Gabriel’s Landing, Utah. Zina then embarks on a journey of self-discovery, yet she can never fully escape the longing she has for her family and even the controversial and outdated lifestyle she once lived. Through both tears and triumph, Gabriel’s Daughters reveals a moving story that not only acts as insightful social commentary but also prompts readers to re-evaluate their lives.

Book signing with Robin King author of Remembrandt

Book Title: What Took You So Long 
Author: Pamela S. Williams
Book Summary: In this unusual, grown-up love story, John Marchbanks and Lainie McGuire are two never-marrieds in their late thirties, both happily active in the LDS Church and their careers. An attorney and a convert with many talents, John concludes from past experience that he was never meant to be married. Lainie, lifelong Latter-day Saint and dedicated people person, is a breast cancer survivor who appreciates every day, even a bad one. However, she believes she is damaged goods and that no man will ever want her. Just as John realizes that he loves Lainie, he is diagnosed with malignant melanoma. What they learn about themselves and each other through his treatment and recovery helps them see that life is really all about living it up despite setbacks, celebrating joys and delights while they can together.

We will be signing at the coolest book store in Provo called Pioneer Book:

Book signing with Robin King author of Remembrandt
Judge this book store by its cover!
Pioneer Book in Provo, Utah

What Took You SO long, Pamela Williams, Gabriel's Daughters Janet Kay Jensen

Hope to see you there!



Monday, February 9, 2015

Good Reads Giveaway: 5 FREE Copies of Remembrandt

I'm so happy that this is happening right now! As a thank you to my readers and supporters, we are having a fabulous giveaway on Good Reads right now. I hope everyone enters this contest because even if you have already read Remembrandt and have your own copy, you can win to share with others. Thanks again, everyone!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Remembrandt by Robin  King


by Robin King

Giveaway ends March 03, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Parable of the Pink Gloves

As I watched two six or seven-year-olds walking toward the crosswalk this morning, I noticed the boy had on pink gloves and no coat while the girl had on a pink coat with her hands stuffed in her pockets. It was obvious she had given her gloves to him on the long walk to school. As they crossed the crosswalk, I listened to the conversation of the unlikely pair.

"Why don't you have your coat?" the little girl asked the boy. 
"I forgot it," the boy said.
"It's ok," the little girl replied. 

Then she did the sweetest thing I've ever seen. She took one of her hands from her pocket and put an arm around the boy's shoulders. As I watched the sweet scene of the boy in pink gloves and the girl with her warming arm walk across the crosswalk and toward the school, it got me thinking. How often do we keep on our "pink gloves" when we could be sharing them with others? We've got other ways to keep our hands warm. 

Are we willing to sacrifice some of our own comfort to help another? Not only did this sweet girl give up her gloves, but she took her warm and protected hand from her pocket to wrap her arm around the boy's shoulders to keep off some of the cold. 

If we take this analogy even further, what of the boy? The gloves were pink. Girly pink! And yet he accepted the help from the girl. Yes, his hands were cold, but many people would have suffered to protect their pride. This humble boy didn't. What about us? Do we turn aside help because of pride?Why can't we admit we need the help?  

I thought when I became an adult that I would be able to use my wisdom and knowledge to teach children and help them grow. Strangely, it's the children that I'm learning the greatest lessons. Every time I see a pair of pink gloves, I hope I'm reminded of this scene of a thoughtful girl and her gift of warmth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How Hit TV Pilots Can Help Us Write Novels Agents Want

I recently discovered something really interesting: some of my favorite TV Shows all started out with the same director of their pilot episode (first show of the series). I decided to do a little research on the director and found he came to make seventeen out of his nineteen pilot shows get picked up by a network and stay successful. For writers, this is like having a first chapter sent to an agent and having seventeen out of nineteen agents request to publish your book just from the first ten pages. How cool is that?

Now who is this crazy successful director? His name is David Nutter and he is my new idol.

David Nutter, Director

Before I go into the stuff I've read on him and how he has made his these shows successful, I think we all need to know what shows this director has worked on:

Millennium (1996)
Sleepwalkers (1997)
Roswell (1998)
Dark Angel (1999)
Smallville (2001)
Dr. Vegas (2003)
Tarzan (2003)
Jack & Bobby (2004)
Supernatural (2005)
Traveler (2006)
The Mentalist (2008)
Eastwick (2009)
Chase (2010)
The Doctor (2011)
Arrow (2012)
The Advocates (2013)
The Flash (2014)

Now I bet you can look at that list and pick out at least three or four shows that have been your favorites. He's actually been the director/producer on many other shows (including X-files, Game of Thrones, and ER). How's that for a list?

A pilot is most commonly thought of as the first episode of a television series… the first story in a series of many more stories… and while this is often the case, it’s not entirely accurate. The truth is: a pilot, whether in script form or actually produced, is a selling tool used to illustrate what the TV series is about and how it works.  In other words, a pilot is designed to convince network or studio executives that this series a good investment of their money and airtime.  Some pilots never even make it to air… they’re simply used to get the series “picked up,” then discarded. The first few chapters of our books are just like that. Hopefully our editors let us keep most of what we have written, but either way, our first ten pages are what sell our book to agents and publishers.

So what makes Nutter's pilots successful and how can that help us make our first chapters shine and step out of the slush pile?

1.) A Likable Main Character - Does that mean the main character is good looking, perfect in everything they do, makes the right choices, and has super powers? No (though that may be true for some of Nutter's pilots). Nutter says that one of the common threads in all of his pilots is that the main character has a void in their life and "it's that deep emotional thing that the audience can grasp onto that I try to bring out as a director." 

Take the pilot of "Arrow" for example. In the first episode, we meet Oliver Queen. We find out the billionaire was a player who actually ran off with his girlfriend's sister and that sister died on Oliver's boat when it capsized. Does that sound like a likable character? Not exactly. But then we see that he was shipwrecked for five years and he has changed and we like him because he wants to bring justice to those that have poisoned his city. We find out he still loves the girl he left behind, protects his family and friends at all costs, and has to hide how much he has changed from the ones he loves - even pretending to still be a playboy so that he can moonlight as a hero. Now we can like him because all of us at one time or another has had to hide a part of who we are and we've all made mistakes and want to make up for them. Every one of us has family or friends that we would do anything for. 

I watched many of Nutter's pilots and read several articles from the director himself. Then I put together a list of what I believe makes his shows successful. Now some of these are pretty much self-explanatory or you've heard before, but I think when you take into account all of these ideas and use them when you revise, you can make your novel and, specifically, your first first few chapters - your pilot, if you will - successful.

2.) Quick Audience Connection with Main Character - Everyone wants to be able to relate with the main character of their show. That's why we keep watching. The audience needs to identify with something early on with your main character. If your characters are generally unlikeable, even if you think they're interesting, it won't carry a reader/viewer to the next scene. Nutter did this with the series "Flash" in the character of Barry Allen. Straightaway in the first episode we see this awkward forensic scientist who clumsily walks into people in the street and talks fast, but notices things like Sherlock Holmes. The first time he's on a crime scene we already like him because he ignores what everyone says and gets right into the dirt to find the killer. 

Barry Allen in "The Flash" 
3.) A Character with a Past (Deep Characterization) - Few pilots start off with the main character's birth and the audience seeing him grow up to be the doctor or super hero. Most pilots start somewhere in the middle of the story, and rightly so. BUT, every character has a past and we need to see bits and pieces of it right at the beginning. We don't have to have all the answers. We just need a glimpse of their past or how they got to where they are when we first meet them. Maybe it's something they think, a look between two friends, or something someone says to that character that lets us in on who they are. Every character we write isn't just a character. Character refers to the essence of who anyone in your novel truly is on the inside. Is he or she a good person or a bad person? A hero or a villian? Character is the spirit of that person, while characterization is the quantifiable result of who they are. Every character we write should have a back story and several pages of characterization. Does that mean we share that in our first chapter? NO! But it will influence how we write the character.

Max from "Roswell" telling about his past.

4.) A Compelling Story - I know this is kind of obvious, but true more than most of us think. If you don't have a good story to begin with, doing #1-3 won't matter. When choosing scripts that he has directed, Nutter said, "I guess the simplest answer I can give you is that I've got to fall in love with it. It’s got to move me in some way. I've got to be touched emotionally by something. It can’t be just flash and no substance or, ‘Just the facts ma’am,’ without any heart. And at the end of it I say to myself, ‘Do I want to watch the next episode?’ That’s really what it’s all about."  

5.) A Variety of Emotions - 
Whether we are a female or male, we are all drawn to emotion. It drives us in our decisions, it gets out blood flowing, brings tears to our eyes, and makes us laugh. Think right now of your favorite book or movie. Now think of why it is your favorite. I can guarantee that there is some kind of emotion associated with it. Lust. Anger. Joy. Heartache. These feelings are what make us come back for more. And this is where we find good writing - in the emotions.

The main difference between TV Shows and novels is that in TV shows the emotions have already been read from a script and interpreted by actors and directors on the screen for us to see. In novels, we have to write what we want the reader to interpret as emotions. We do this through the tone of our words, the setting, dialogue, and the actions of our characters. 

Laurel in "Arrow" telling Oliver off after he returns.
So to sum it up, your "pilot" chapters of your book should have: a likable main character, quick audience connection with the main character, a character with a past (deep characterization), a compelling story, and a variety of emotions. 

Now get that agent to "pick up" your book!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top 10 Things I Learned in 2014

Author Robin King

1. Life has meaning in its imperfections. Perfection is overrated. If any of you have read my book, you will know that this is a quote taken from Remembrandt. Many of us are perfectionists. We don't want to admit that we can't do something that is just right. We won't sing in front of people even though we love it because we don't sound like Taylor Swift. We won't invite people over because our house doesn't look like a showroom. We won't join in on a basketball game because we know we can't shoot worth beans. We won't go out onto the dance floor because we're awkward and uncoordinated. We won't run a race because we aren't fast.

I'm the same way. There have been many times in my life where I didn't try something new because I was worried I wouldn't be able to do it right. Writing was that way for me. I had been journaling and writing for over fifteen years, but it took me that long to have the courage to turn that writing experience into a book.

Signing contract

Be imperfect! Embrace imperfection! My favorite people are the ones that make mistakes and allow me into their lives to help them through it or laugh about it and move on. Or they own those mistakes and turn them into strengths.

2. You don't have to be the best. Just do YOUR best. This year, I have learned that it okay to stink at things. I ran a marathon this year - my 11th actually. I felt like I tried to train as hard as I could. But, a leg injury held me back. Now I could have just thrown in the towel, but I decided that I just needed the accept the fact that I wouldn't be the fastest one - I just needed to do my best. Now, was it the best race I've ever run out of my 11? NO! But it was the best that I could do at this time in my life. Read more about it in my post on "A Marathon of Lessons."

My 11th marathon was not my best, but it was the best I could give this year.

3. Let it go! Yes, yes. I know you are all sick of that song. You know why I love it still? Because it's so true. Not in the sense of letting your magical freezing power show, but in how we tackle the relationships in our life. I'll admit, that I'm not one to hold a grudge and I'm pretty quick to forgive, but there are a few times this past year or two that I could have held onto something - I even had a right to hold onto it, but in the end I decided that carrying a judgement or anger toward someone or something, no matter how justified, is only hurting myself. So let it go. Release yourself.

Author Robin King
My daughter often reminds me to "Let it go!"

4. Nature is medicine. What do I mean by that? I mean that being outside and enjoying the world around us can be a cure for lethargy, depression, and stress. I had the opportunity this past June to visit Lincoln City, Oregon. Though much of the time there was spent doing family reunion activities, I took several mornings to go a run by myself near the beach. Each time I would take time to breathe in the ocean-laced air and the cool breeze. One morning I found a secluded spot on the beach where I could sit on a rock and contemplate. I stared out over the ocean waves and felt a peace that I can't even describe. I came back to Utah so refreshed and ready for whatever life could throw my way. Since then, I have made sure that several times a week I go outdoors and do something, whether it is taking the kids to the park, going on a walk or run, hiking in the mountains, or just sitting in my front yard. Our bodies need the sun and fresh air. We also need the reminder of the beautiful creations around us. I think nature helps us to take a look outside ourselves and, in turn, it gives us its own medicine to help us make it through the day. Next time you are having a hard time, get outside! I promise it will improve whatever is placed in your way.  

My view at the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon. 

5. Don't always play Devil's Advocate. It's my greatest fault. You know what I'm talking about. Your spouse is talking about how he thinks that the HOA shouldn't make you keep your garbage can out of sight. Now you really actually think that it is a silly rule most of the time, but you argue that keeping them hidden makes the neighborhood look nicer. Pretty soon you're adamant that garbage cans should only be seen for the 10 minutes it takes for the garbage truck to loop your block and your spouse thinks we should keep them on our porch with a big sign that says "This is my property. Close your eyes if you don't want to see it." You get the idea.

Why is it that we have to take the other side of so many discussions? I've been working on this a lot this past year and I have to say that it PAYS TO AGREE. I'm not saying that we shouldn't voice our opinions, but I think many arguments could be avoided if we looked at the things we agree about first before we jump in a "devil's advocate" role and start arguing for the other side. Just try it. The next time you are at the dinner table and your significant other brings up how amazing Obamacare is and how it is going single-handedly save our healthcare system, look at the points you agree with first before you argue for private healthcare. I know, it will be hard at first, but believe me, we all want people on our side. It shows that we care about and understand them.

Our 14 year anniversary in July - after all these years I'm finally learning not to play "devil's advocate."

6. Chaos is acceptable. In fact, it can make for fun and excitement. I love a clean house. I love it when my kids sit quietly in their seats at church with their arms folded and their eyes on the speaker. I enjoy eating dinner while we are all sitting around the table with engaging conversation and dabbing our faces with napkins. Let's by honest, that happens maybe 10 % (or less) of the time. Toys are always on the floor and my 4 year old and toddler can't sit staring at the back of a church pew or someone's head for more than 2 minutes. At least every other dinner, someone spills a drink and one sibling "accidentally" kicks another one. Though I love peace, chaos is part of my life. And it's ok! Which brings me to my next thing I learned . . .

Sometimes this year my house looked like this (for Elijah's baptism) . . .

And other times it looked like this . . .

7. Just go with it. Really, friends. If things are chaotic, accept it and move on. If your child decides they really want to wear the jeans with the frilly dress to school, LET THEM. If your husband really wants to watch Planet of the Apes (and you have no desire to), do it with him. Do it FOR him.

Now, I don't mean to let people walk all over you which I have let happen plenty of times in my life. What I mean is that if someone really wants to do something, and it isn't going to hurt you to go along (or you don't really care either way), then let them have their way. Be the bigger person. I've found through several experiences this year, that I'm happiest when those around me are happy. Sometimes I have to remind myself what is worth fighting over and why, but generally I've found that in the end, I'm just as happy going to the park as going to the swimming pool, so why not do what the 8-year-old wants? Yes, I would love for my pre-teen boy to wear designer jeans, cut his hair short and play competitive soccer, but he only likes elastic-waist pants, enjoys the swoop of his hair over his forehead and the making of Minecraft videos. So I just go with it. I still trim his hair on the sides and remind him to go outside and play when he's been on the computer too long. Sure, I still cringe a little when his hair falls into his eyes or get jealous when I see his friend wearing a snazzy tie to school. Oh well. In the end, I actually didn't think Planet of the Apes was all that bad. Interestingly enough, I saw two teenage girls the other day wearing jeans with a frilly dress. Shows you how much I know.

I wanted to go to the pool, but the kids wanted to hike the 'Y' - sometimes it's better to just go with it
(even if two of you have on flip flops and we only had one water bottle).

8. Let people choose. Forcing only creates tension. This one relates a little to #7, but has been a BIG realization for me this year, not just with my kids, but also with friends and adult family members. No one wants to be forced into anything. No one. I know we all want to just grab our husbands and make them hang their pants in the closet instead of over the bathroom door. We want to carry our 8 year old from the couch to the piano bench and make him practice. "Get your seat belt on!" has been a phrase shouted a little too often to the back of our van. But my 4-year-old has taught me a great lesson this year: everyone wants to make decisions on their own. I have had to learn to ASK instead of TELL, NEGOTIATE instead of DEMAND. I have been trying to give people options instead of just telling them what to do. This has been really hard for me. As an adult, you feel like you know what is best. The problem is, we aren't experts and we can't read people's minds. Maybe she's not wearing her seat belt because the strap is too tight. Maybe his pants aren't hung in the closet because they were airing out. Maybe he's not practicing piano because he can't figure out the notes on his own and he needs help. I have had to learn this last year to ask politely for things to be done and if they aren't happening, I have learned to ask why. I'm still learning this great lesson, but I hope that writing it out will remind me that it's something I need to do.  

She won't wear her seat belt, but she does remind me to stop and smell the roses.

9. Bad things happen to everybody. Bad things happen to good people. Challenges are POL (part of life). When I taught school, I used to tell my students that for everything we did in class some would be POC moments and others POL moments. POC stands for "Piece of Cake." There were so many times this year where things were POC and I had fun (birthday parties, our family reunion, running some races, writing conferences, date nights, book club), but there were several moments that were POL and I didn't enjoy (changing diapers, cleaning up messes, folding laundry, fixing broken things, taking kids to the doctor, working). I think when I recognized the things that were just Part of Life, it made them easier.  Sometimes we just have to do things because they have to get done - cleaning, house upkeep, yard work, giving baths, cutting hair, washing clothes, making dinner, earning money etc. All these things eventually have to get done. It's just a part of life.

My sweet and loving Grandpa Charlesworth passed away this year. 
Another side of this is that bad things happen to everyone. I have wonderful, spiritual, giving, beautiful friends and family members who have had cancer or miscarriages, spouses have passed away, children have died, mental illness has been unimaginably difficult, jobs have been lost. All of these things happened this last year to people I know. Good people! Sometimes things just suck. It's true. What can we do about it? Well, after we cry out all the hurt, we can do two things: we can let it get us down or we can let it make us stronger. Whether we survive cancer or heartache or children making poor choices, we can choose how we respond. We are all survivors. Which brings me to my next lesson . . .

Alana required a lot of holding this year and it was hard, but I learned to cherish it.
10. Happiness is a choice. I had a few hard hits this year. A hurt leg. Painful training. A baby that needed to be held all the time. A few challenging kids. Car issues. Money issues. Insurance issues. Family health problems. There were times where I could have easily thrown in the towel, crawled in a hole, and cried myself to sleep. I feel like I've been blessed with the ability to stay calm and collected amidst a storm. BUT, I've also been told a few times in my life that I'm "unfeeling," which is a defense mechanism that my brain takes on when most people would probably have a nervous breakdown. I like to keep my emotions in check. It's just who I am. But I do FEEL. Just as much as the next person. And when things got tough this year and I wanted to throw in the towel, I made a choice - not to let it get me down.

How? Did I just flip a switch and say, "I'm going to be happy now?" Um, I don't know of anyone who can do that. No, though I did apply some of the other life lessons I learned this year, what I did the most was find things that made me happy to replace the times when I could have been down.

**I DANCED: When most of the kids were in school and no one was watching, I would blast music from my phone and dance in the living room with my baby (I apologize to anyone who may have been looking in the window. I never said I was good at dancing . . .)

**I RAN: The chemicals released while exercising and the chats with good friends while running always bring a smile to my face.

**I READ: I love good books! I may not have had a lot of time sit down and read like I wanted to do this year, but audiobooks have become my friend.

Reading in the tub - bad for books, great for happiness!

**I WATCHED: Yes, I did watch TV. Like a good book, a show on Netflix or Hulu, one that has excitement or comedy can turn a chore (like laundry) into an entertaining endeavor. Now, I'm not saying to become a couch potato (I'll admit that about 90% of the things I watched this year were done while cleaning, cutting coupons, sewing, or editing photos, etc.), but the distraction of a good show can bring us out of ourselves, and hopefully put a smile on our faces.

**I MEDITATED: Okay, I know what you are picturing. No, I didn't sit cross-legged with a mono-toned hum in the middle of my living room floor. Honestly, sitting for more than a minute at a time with five kids is nearly impossible without someone shouting, crawling on me, or demanding something. For me meditation happens while doing dishes or driving in the car. You just have to take a few minutes of either silence or, my favorite, oceans sounds (remember what I said earlier about nature?). I have the cool FREE app on my iPhone called Ambience where I have downloaded soothing sounds. My favorite is called "Pacific Ocean." Sometimes I put on my headphones and turn this on when I need a few minutes to regroup. I also use it while I write because it helps my mind concentrate on the story. Having trouble sleeping or falling asleep? I turn on my ocean sounds and, in minutes, I am out like a light.

**I WROTE: Before this year, I didn't know how much fun it was to just write. After a challenging day, starting a scene to a book or finishing a chapter had me wishing I had more hours in the day. During the summer, I convinced my son to do a few writing activities a week with me. Sometimes it took us 10 minutes and other times it took us 30, but we used some writing prompts from this book called The Write-Brain Workbook. Even if you aren't a writer (my son hates to write), it was fun to take the ideas and stretch myself. Afterwards, we would read each others' writing and give ourselves a good laugh.

My distracting writing buddy.

**I SANG: My poor children have to listen to me belt out songs on the radio in the car or show tunes around the house. I don't care. I love to sing and it makes me happy. Whether it is music, art, karate, organization - find something that makes you happy and do it, no matter how good you are.

Singing at my book launch of Remembrandt. I know I'm not the best, but I love it and it makes me happy!

I think the hardest part about happiness is making up our minds ahead of time to be that way. Now that I know what things make me happy, I can go back to the list and choose something that day that makes me happy. FIND YOURS! We can CHOOSE to be happy.

I still have a lot to learn. I'm imperfect, I'm not the best, my life is chaotic, but you know what? It's just POL. I'm just going to go with it and choose to be happy. I hope you do too.