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Thursday, June 2, 2016

27 Years Ago I Met the Most Beautiful Girl in the World

27 years ago I met a woman in a bar. No, not my wife. Her sister. She was tending bar in Tacoma when I stopped in for some beers. It was my first day back to the states after being overseas in Japan for a few years.  I was taking a few days R&R on my way to Survival Training and then Air Combat School. Since it was a slow night, the bartender and I talked on and off for hours. As I was getting ready to leave, she said, You leaving already, thought you’d be here for a while longer, you should stay. At my hesitation, she popped open a beer, put it on the bar and said, This one’s on me.

It’d been a long flight, a long day, but I sat back down. I knew she wasn’t interested in me. She was a newlywed with a baby at home. As I started drinking the beer, she said, You see, I called my sister over an hour ago and told her she had to come here to meet you, then I called her a few minutes ago and told her if she wasn’t here soon, I wasn’t going to speak to her for a week. That answered my immediate question but only created more. I was about to ask why she wanted her sister and I to meet, but the answer was obvious. Some sort of blind date or something. I hated blind dates/fix ups.

The bartender saw my hesitation, said, Trust me, you want to stay, you two were meant for each other. Things got a little awkward between us after that because I was thinking how could she possibly know that or anything else about me. She’d only known me for a few hours, and I wasn’t that interesting. But the question answered itself almost immediately when the most naturally beautiful woman I’d ever seen entered. She lit up the room, turned every head, in nothing more than faded blue jeans and an old t-shirt.

From the first glance between us, there was a connection. I felt it and I was sure she did as well. It was electric. Within ten minutes, I knew she would either irreparably break my heart or be the love of my life. She was smart, funny, sexy, and refined. Sitting beside her at the bar, I couldn’t look away from her gaze. There was something in her eyes that I saw in my own eyes every time I looked in the mirror. It was perhaps a longing, perhaps something else.

She wasn’t just a beautiful woman or one of the most beautiful women. Truly, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my life. It was a natural beauty. One that radiated from within on a face painted with nothing but red lipstick.

We talked until closing. At the end of the night, we exchanged numbers. This was before cell phones, so this was the number to her sister’s place and my room at billeting. I asked her if she wanted to go to Seattle with me the next day as I was going to do some sightseeing before I went on to training. She said she couldn’t go, would call me, that we should try to meet the next evening before I left for Spokane.

I didn’t expect to see her the next evening, or possibly ever again, so I was crestfallen when we parted ways. The next day was agony. By luck or chance, I had just returned to my billet when a call came in. It was her. She asked what plans I had for the evening. I didn’t have any and we decided to meet.

I took her to dinner and dancing. Her sister and friends chaperoned later when we went for drinks afterward. We parted ways with nothing more than a kiss, but it was like a lightning strike. I knew I was falling in love with her, and she with me.

When I went to Survival Training in Spokane, she visited a few times and I drove to visit her in Tacoma a few times. At the end of those few short weeks, I asked her to come with me to Air Combat School in Arizona and be my wife. For her it meant leaving everything and everyone behind. It also meant having to move with me to Germany a few months later. She said yes without hesitation. She’s been my wife and best friend ever since.

The chemistry and electricity between us have never faded. She’s the one person I can’t wait to see when I open my eyes in the morning; the last person I want to see when I close my eyes in the evening. She’s the one person I talk to for hours every day about everything and nothing at all. She’s my heart, my compass, my North. The person whose hand I can’t wait to feel in mine.

My only regret in 27 years of marriage is that I haven’t asked her to marry me again. This is something I plan to do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lifetime Achievement Award – 30+ Years of Books

Huge THANK YOU to readers and others who submitted me for an award for distinguished contributions in writing & American Letters. As a past recipient of awards for excellence in writing, merit and distinguished accomplishments, I'm honored to be nominated. I’ve written nearly 200 full-length works since I completed my first novel in 1986, but it wasn’t until 1995 that I had a breakout hit that established me as a bestselling author.

I wrote those early books for Macmillan and have since had books published and/or distributed by Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Microsoft, O’Reilly, McGraw Hill, Pearson and others. My books have sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide and been translated into 34 languages, with well over $150 million in sales.

That type of success is the stuff of Willy Wonka’s wildest dreams. Still, as I wrote about in “How I Made This Crazy Thing Called Writinga Career”, wild success doesn’t always mean riches for the writer. Although bookstores, publishers, agents, Uncle Sam and others got the Lion’s share of the wealth, I remain tremendously grateful to my publishers and everyone else in the business who made the dream possible.

In my career one of the things I’m most proud of is my work to give back and to support my fellow writers. Giving back to communities across America and the world is something I’ve written about in “It’s GivingTuesday!”. It took 20 years but my goal to give away $1 million in books to libraries and schools was finally achieved in 2015.

In the early days, I gave back to writers through Writer’s Gallery and other outlets I maintained online, including Internet Daily News (one of the earliest online dailies). In 2007, I launched Go Indie to support independents (writers and bookstores). Other resources include #AmBlogging #FreeToday and the Read Indies blog.

As I look back at my career, I’m also very glad that from the beginning I did something for myself by starting a publishing company. That company began operations in 1995 and I used it to learn about the publishing side of the industry, which is very different from the writing side. By 2004, I knew enough about the industry and was ready to spread my wings and go into self-publishing. I hired a great team and put them to work running my business.
In the beginning, we had quite a large team, that team has whittled down to a few core members, but remains in the business of bringing my works, and the works of a select group of other writers, to the world. They've helped get dozens of translations for my fiction works, which are now available in nearly 100 countries around the globe.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much my traditional publishers and those I worked with in the industry hated (loathed, really) my self-publishing efforts. But my efforts were wildly successful from the start with Keeper Martin's Tale quickly becoming a bestseller at (2002) and The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches rocketing to #1 in Fiction at (2005) where it remained a Top 10 Kids & YA bestseller for over 180 weeks (2005 - 2008). 
Today, the industry has changed so much that without self-publishing I don’t know where I’d be. Strange how things can turn around so dramatically. What was once forbidden fruit has now become one of the best ways for writers to earn a living.
Thanks for reading,
Robert Stanek

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ruin Mist Turning 15 Soon: 15th Anniversary Ahead.

The 15th anniversary of Ruin Mist is fast approaching. It was on August 7, 2001, that the first installment of Keeper Martin’s Tale as a serialized novel was released in e-book format through Ingram Digital, with the full-length novel arriving in print on January 9, 2002. For 26 consecutive weeks after release, Keeper Martin’s Tale was a Top 50 SciFi & Fantasy at Amazon. Keeper Martin’s Tale was followed by Elf Queen’s Quest, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, and Mark of the Dragon.

In February 2002, illustrated children’s editions of the books were released as The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches. With The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches #1, #2, #3 and #4 quickly becoming children’s / YA top sellers. When The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches books were released on in 2005, the first book became  a #1 Fiction bestseller. After 14 weeks a top the fiction list, it became one of Audible’s all-time top grossing audiobooks to that date with The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches #2, #3 and #4 also becoming bestsellers in Fiction and Kids & YA. 180 weeks later The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches books were still topping Audible’s Kids & YA Top 10.

To date, the Ruin Mist books have sold well over 1 million copies and select books have been translated into multiple languages. The Ruin Mist universe encompasses 22 core books and a number of companion works, including a graphic novel, several full-color books celebrating the extensive artwork featured in the books and more.

Ruin Mist Chronicles Books for Adults
Prequel  - Dragons of the Hundred Worlds
Keeper Martin’s Tale
Kingdom Alliance
Fields of Honor
Mark of the Dragon
Guardians of the Dragon Realms
Dark Path - Elf Queen’s Quest

Kingdoms & Dragons Books for Children’s / Teens
Breath of Fire, Living Fire (Prequels)
The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches #1 - #4
In the Service of Dragons #1 - #4
The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door
A Legacy of Dragons
Memories of Fire

Battle for Ruin Mist Comics & Graphic Novel
A Daughter of Kings

Ruin Mist Companion Books
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ruin Mist
Ruin Mist Heroes, Legends & Beyond
The Art of Ruin Mist: Heroes & Villains
Teacher’s Classroom Guide to Ruin Mist
Student’s Classroom Guide to Ruin Mist
Magic of Ruin Mist
Ruin Mist Journal: The Kingdoms
Ruin Mist Journal: The Alliance
Battle for Ruin Mist: RPG
Keeper Martin’s Guide to the Fantastical Beasts and Faerie Peoples of Ruin Mist

Ruin Mist: Magic Lands
Journey Beyond the Beyond
Into the Stone Land

Ruin Mist: Magic Lands Companion Books
Teacher’s Classroom Guide to Magic Lands
Student’s Classroom Guide to Magic Lands

The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches Omnibus
In the Service of Dragons Omnibus
Magic Lands Omnibus
Guardians & Dragons: Breath of Fire, Living Fire, The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door, A Legacy of Dragons, Memories of Fire
Complete Ruin Mist Chronicles:  Keeper Martin’s Tale, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, Mark of the Dragon, Elf Queen’s Quest
6-Book Boxed Set Ruin Mist Chronicles: Guardians of the Dragon Realms, Keeper Martin’s Tale, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, Mark of the Dragon, Elf Queen’s Quest
7- Book Boxed Set Ruin Mist Chronicles: Guardians of the Dragon Realms, Keeper Martin’s Tale, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, Mark of the Dragon, Guardians of the Dragon Realms, Elf Queen’s Quest

Learn more about Ruin Mist at http://www.ruinmist.com, and Learn more about the author, Robert Stanek, at Look for more 15th anniversary news and fun ahead.

Thank you readers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It’s Giving Tuesday! A Goal Finally Reached After 20 Years… A Time for Change

Giving Tuesday is a time to show support for favorite causes and charities. Most people who know me know that I’m a vocal advocate of veterans and people with disabilities. As a veteran with disabilities, related causes and charities are something I support unabashedly whether it’s the Wounded Warrior Project ( or Special Olympics ( 

My daughter Sapphire has Downs, so it’s another reason that giving back, supporting related causes and charities for people with disabilities, is so important to me personally and my family. One of my daughter's favorite causes is Day of Champions. She's participated in every Day of Champions from the first to the most recent one, the 13th, in May 2015 and my family has been there as well. This year the Kiwanis Club stepped in to help and provide assistance, making the event an even better one for the nearly 600 kids with special needs who participated.

Another cause that I support are books for schools, libraries and families. Anyone who knows me probably knows this too. 

What you may not know is that every year since my first book was published in 1995, I’ve quietly been giving away books to schools, libraries, communities, charities and other organizations. It started with the publication of my first book Electronic Publishing Unleashed, which was quickly followed by Web Publishing Unleashed.

As part of my contracts and payment, I received 25 copies of each book from my publisher. This was written into my contracts. So a few days before publication I suddenly had box after box of these big, doorstopper books. Weighing in at around 1000 pages, there were 5 or 6 books to a box and I had no idea what to do with all those boxes of books.

Each book had a cover price of $49.95 so 25 books was $1250 at retail. Selling them probably would have been a great way to generate cash and pay my bills, especially as these boxes of books were quickly followed by other boxes of books, like my books FrontPage Unleashed and Windows NT Pocket Consultant.

I didn’t want to sell the books, however. I kept two copies for my library, gave away 2 or 3 copies to readers, and donated the rest to organizations where the books would be put to good use whether these were schools, libraries, learning centers or whatever.

Over the years, I expanded the book giving to include my fiction works and other works by RP Media authors. As I have about 100 or so professionally published books and even more published through RP Media, this has meant giving away thousands and thousands of copies of my books to schools, libraries, learning centers and other places where the books could be used to help others. As year by year RP Media matches my giveaways with the books of other RP Media authors and has a library of over 1,500 titles, the total reach is even greater.

I’ve received lots of heartfelt thanks from those I donated books to but none more so than from students in classrooms in Puerto Rico who never before had books of their own. Entire classes wrote their individual Thank Yous and it made all the hard work worthwhile.

Digital has opened up entirely new ways to ensure everyone has access to books. Through Ripple Reader, Epic and others, I’ve been able to participate in programs to provide free access to books for classrooms and teachers, but one of the most unique efforts I support is Project eShelf, which provides free access to hearing and speech impaired children in Scotland including St. Columba's Girls National School in Douglas, Cork.

My goal when I began this work was basic: simply to give back in a meaningful way. Over the past 20 years, these efforts have meant giving away over $1,000,000 in books to schools, libraries, communities, charities and other organizations worldwide. 

When I started this work all those years ago, a $1,000,000 goal was unfathomable. It seemed a great reach, but it was accomplished one step at a time. Baby steps at first, then larger steps and new paths opened. The goal reached and with less means to provide support, I will quietly step away from the effort now, though my books will remain available in specialized free access programs for schools and libraries.

My hope though is that I’ve inspired you who are reading this to pick up where I leave off. Want to give back and support books and reading? There are many ways you can do this right now:

First Book (
Books for Kids (
Reading is Fundamental (

These organizations are nonprofits that provide books to children. There are many others as well, and much you can do if you want to forge your own path as well.

I also encourage you to support Wounded Warrior Project ( and Special Olympics (

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Odd Jobs on the Road: Random Thoughts About Family, Time & Money

I'm a child of the '60s and '70s. I come from a family of five. My mom raised us kids by herself. Four girls and me. My dad (who fathered three of us), a wealthy business man who lived elsewhere and spent more time deciding which house or boat or car he was going to buy than with us kids, never paid a dime of support. While we walked around in patched clothes and duct-taped shoes and our bellies growled, he lived a life of leisure moving between his houses, buying cars for cross-country road trips, and motoring the Gulf of Mexico in one of his pleasure boats.

Growing up we weren’t just poor, we were nearly penniless. My mom worked odd jobs when she could, here and there. She wasn’t an educated woman, but she tried and did what she could. During my childhood, that (mostly) meant cleaning rich people’s houses for less than half of minimum wage and sometimes a holiday bonus of $10 if we were fortunate.

What it was though was cash money. Cash money that (mostly) helped to keep a roof over our heads, if not always food in our bellies. My mom was too proud and stubborn to accept welfare or charity. I think she felt that if she couldn’t do it on her own, those things we didn’t have, even if it was food for our bellies, didn’t matter.

I thought it did though and even though I had older siblings who were gone as much as they were present, I felt it was my responsibility to help where I could. The first real job I remember working was when I was nine. My little sister helped sometimes, but mostly she just followed me around like little sisters do. My first job was easy: collecting soda bottles and junk other people discarded. The soda bottles went to the store for a refund on the deposit. The junk went to a neighbor who collected and fixed things. He paid cash money if I found something good, so I always looked for something good. His dimes and quarters were gold in my pocket.

By ten, my older siblings were out of the house and I was in the business of washing cars, raking lawns, cleaning windows and mowing grass when I could, and I remember being paid in quarters—when I got paid at all, because sometimes I just did things for free so I might get paid the next time. Those quarters, I took them to the store and bought a loaf of bread or a bag of flour when we had no food in the house to eat. Flour was something that was cheap and went far. (Mix flour with water and pour it in a skillet and you have an inexpensive pancake. A pancake that fills a belly.)

By twelve, after we moved from the city to the country, I worked with my mom at auction houses and flea markets on weekends, holidays and during the summer and sometimes as a gardener’s helper. I loaded, packed and unpacked, fetched, did odd jobs for the auctioneer, my mom and others. At times, it was rather like my junk collecting business. My mom collected things, much bought in cheap, auctioned lots and sold as odds and ends at flea markets. Odds and ends that helped make the difference between having a roof and food, and not.

At fifteen, I got my driver’s license and drove around my mom’s old station wagon until I found work in a town a few miles away. I worked 20 – 30 hours a week until I graduated high school. Two things happened during high school that changed my life.

The first: My dad took a sudden interest in me and invited me down to the Gulf Coast to work for him. He was in the construction business and wanted to teach me the trade.

I suppose I should have been angry with him for all the lost years, but I wasn’t. I worked with him and his work crews the whole summer, doing roofing and siding. Long days in the unrelenting sun, up at five, quitting at sunset. But boy how we lived because when the sun got too hot to work outside--and it often did--we would go out to eat lunch at a restaurant. And when we came home in the evening, we came home to ready meals and plenty of drink all around. Weekends were events. Fishing rodeos. Road trips. Barbecues. It was a wild, rich life.

At the end of the summer, my dad gave me a 1970 Dodge truck, which he said was mine to keep as a bonus for the work I’d done. The truck though came with strings. He wanted me to stay and not return home to Wisconsin. Tempting as it was to stay, I couldn’t leave my mom and little sister behind.

I took the truck and drove the 960 miles home. A friend from my dad’s work crew went with me and we took turns driving. Getting the truck home meant I could get to work without taking the family car, and that let me work more hours.

The following summer, my dad invited me down to the Gulf Coast again. He said he’d bought me a car. A beautiful, black ’73 Ford thunderbird with a massive V8 engine—a classic car for the time (1982). It was any sixteen-year-old kid’s wet dream and it was mine too.

I worked with his crews doing roofing and siding, up at five, down at sunset. And we lived like kings. After the summer though, my dad again didn’t want to let me return home. He wanted me to stay and live with him. I couldn’t do that, but this time I was less worried about my mom than my little sister. I was the one who protected and watched out for her, and I’d already left her behind for two summers.

One morning, I went out for a drive and drove the 960 miles home. After that, I didn’t go back to the Gulf Coast. I stayed at home in Wisconsin and worked and went to school.

The second: During the early spring of my senior year, my mom moved away upstate with her new husband who she’d been dating and my little sister, leaving me to fend for myself. I lived with friends and others where I could until I graduated. Even though I was a straight-A honor student who loved biology, physics and calculus as much as computers, I had no prospects after high school. I spent the summer after high school living with friends and sometimes in my car and working whenever I could.

In the fall, with nowhere to live and no means, I joined the Air Force. Along with acing my SATs in high school, I’d also aced the ASVAB (the military aptitude test), scoring the highest the recruiters had even seen: 98’s and 99’s in every category tested. So the military seemed a rather logical path for me to take when the choice became either live in a car or do something else.

A few months after I signed up, I drove the 176 miles up to Green Bay to visit my mom and sister, and to deliver what few possessions I had, mainly my car. The dodge truck, they already had and were using as their primary means of transportation.

Although I was supposed to head off in short order, I was able to delay until February. After boot camp, I attended the Defense Language Institute and specialty training in Intelligence that took me through my first 19 months in the military. From my paycheck, I sent home what I could to my mom (who was now divorced again). My first duty station was in Japan, so every few paychecks I also bought something I could send home. Things I knew my mother would love: fine china cups and plates, collectibles, and more. Everything my mother always liked from the auctions we worked together when I was a child, but much of which, I think, was later sold off little by little to pay for what was needed.

A problem with my mother was she didn’t know how to say no. If someone needed something, she gave what she could even if it sometimes meant going without herself. It was always like that though and even though I’ve helped pave my mother’s way for nearly all of my life, she still lived the meager life she always had before. Everything I gave her always seemed to be going out somewhere else, usually to one of my siblings who even when I helped pave their way still went to my mother for more to pay the rent or this or that bill or for airline tickets or to fix a car. I’ve always wondered where the takers thought the money came from—the money I sent my mom for her needs. Money enough to have bought houses and cars that is gone. Just gone. 

More musings next time on the Board of Education and Crazy Things My Mom Said That I Believed.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please share or comment.


Robert Stanek

Monday, March 9, 2015

From the Incubator to the Crib: When Joy Turns to Heart-Wrenching Sorrow and Sorrow Gives Way to Acceptance

Raising a child with disabilities requires patience, compassion, understanding. The difficult circumstances made my wife and I question having other children. Still, when my wife got pregnant unexpectedly, we saw it as a blessing and a joyful surprise. Even more joyful was later news that everything with the pregnancy was proceeding normally.

A normal pregnancy is a term doctors use, as opposed to an abnormal pregnancy. This time, all it took for me to fall in love with our child, was an ultrasound picture taken at about six months, showing our child’s beautiful face and cute, little fingers. Until that picture, I had doubts about whether this really would be a normal pregnancy for my wife and our child. I wished it to be, but that doesn’t make it so.

I could tell my wife was just as relieved as I was and we seemed to be in the home stretch, until everything went terribly wrong. My wife was rushed to the hospital in preterm labor. The doctors did what they could and gave her medication to try to stop the labor.

It was a tense 24 hours, with lots of pacing and hair pulling, but my wife and child made it through and the preterm labor was halted. My wife was sent home from the hospital and ordered to stay in bed for the next few weeks.

Bed rest isn’t something we were unfamiliar with. My wife was prescribed bed rest several times during her previous pregnancy.

Bed rest worked until it didn’t and my wife was rushed to the hospital about a week later. This time, the doctors were unable to stop her preterm labor. My wife gave birth in a hospital room swarming with doctors and specialists.

At barely 32-weeks in utero, our child, who we later named Jasmine, was born way too early. Jasmine was tiny and blue, and she wasn’t breathing. She was handed off immediately to a neonatal specialist who tried desperately to clear her lungs and get her to breathe.

I cried, and I’ll admit to crying to whoever asks, when she finally breathed. But I never got to hold baby girl Jasmine that day and neither did my wife.

My wife and new daughter spent several days in the hospital together. At barely 4 pounds, Jasmine was in the neonatal care unit, inside an incubator, and my wife was in a hospital recovery room.

When my wife was finally discharged from the hospital, I’ve never seen anyone look sadder than she did when she had to leave baby girl Jasmine behind.

Day after day, week after week, we visited our baby girl in the hospital, watched her in the incubator. My wife would stay all day and often into the evening.

Several weeks passed before we could actually hold baby girl Jasmine. Eight weeks would pass before we could finally bring her home. Those days and nights were an agony, but nothing compared to the heart-wrenching moments when Jasmine wasn’t breathing.

Until next time

Robert Stanek