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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.
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

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