20 years of Ruin Mist by Robert Stanek

Meet Robert Stanek

Beyond Words. A Look at Robert Stanek's Books, Life & More.

About Robert Stanek's Writing | About Robert Stanek's Children's Books | On Writing & Helping Others | The Books | 20 Millionth Reader
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Meet Robert Stanek is part of the WRS Network. A prolific author, Robert Stanek has written many books for young people and adults. Renowned for creating beautiful, vibrant scenes full of wonderful color, Robert Stanek has been called a living legend and national treasure, his words and illustrations have captivated the hearts and minds of millions over the past thirty years. As a combat veteran who is partially disabled and father of a daughter with Down Syndrome, he is a vocal champion of veterans and the disabled. He also is a champion of books and libraries, frequently donating his time and resources to support related causes.

Get Robert's books at Barnes & Noble.

Robert Stanek is the creator of After the Machines, Bugville Critters, Magic Lands, and Ruin Mist. On Facebook, he posts regularly to his author page. You'll find him on twitter @robertstanek.

His blogs include: Around the Town Books, Books & Things and Read Indies. Find his blog archives here.  Robert Stanek at the county park

Some people wear one hat or two, Robert has always worn many. His hundreds of written works as William Stanek (primarily nonfiction) and Robert Stanek (primarily fiction) are well known, less well known are the thousands of iconic photographs and hundreds of canvas paintings he created for World Galleries over the past 30 years. With the permanent closing of the physical galleries in spring 2021 due to the worldwide pandemic, Robert and his wife stepped out from behind the scenes to support the online initiatives for 360 Studios, @24 Studios, 1North Studios and Studio 2. You'll find three decades of their creative work at:







As a notable writer, photographer and artist, Robert has met presidents, kings, a queen, a few princes and princesses, and yet it was a meeting with Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush in the early 1990s that he remembers most vividly. Both were trustees of the National Awards program at the Freedoms Foundation at the time, and he had recently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his wartime service to the USA and the George Washington Honor Medal from the foundation. “It was an honor,” Robert says, to have those great men shake his hand and mean it when they congratulated him for his achievements, but for Robert those moments marked a beginning, for in his view he had not yet achieved anything. And so he set out determined to make his mark on the world. Decades later, most would agree he has indeed succeeded.


For decades Robert never talked much about people he knew in the industry but recently he  talked about Oprah, JK Rowling and others and his long-time friendships with Brian Jacques, Beverly Clearly, Walter Dean Myers, and his Pulitzer-prize winning forefather, author Wallace Stegner.


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Select Praise for This Mortal Coil 

Delinna Alder calling fire

Robert Stanek has written quite a few books over many years. Although Robert Stanek doesn’t really keep count, sometimes his publishers will ask when they’re editing his bio and that’s how he realized 2020 was the year his 250th book was published. He’s been writing stories most of his life, though a professionally published author only since 1995.

When asked recently about where he gets his ideas from, Robert Stanek said, “I’m getting a bit long in the tooth, but the young man I once was got ideas from everywhere. I used to wake up with my thoughts spinning. New characters. New stories. New plot turnings. Someday I hope to get back to that place in my life where ideas flow like water over a falls.”

Justice Department Identifies Ten Amazon Staff Accepting Bribes

Robert Stanek's Guide to Publishing & Being an Author:

Traveling the Writer's Road | Taking Your Work From Print to Film

Selling Rights to Your Books | Viewpoints on Rejection Letters

Understanding Bestseller Lists | Finding Success as a Writer

How Far Indies Have Come in so Few Years | Understanding Book Sales Data

Understanding Publishing Today | From 4th Grade Musings to Published Pro

Don't Quit Your Day Job Just Yet | Tours of Duty - Write What You Know

Using Twitter Effectively  | Now Appearing... Places Books Have Been

How I Made This Crazy Thing Called Writing a 20-year Career

The Road To Success is Paved with Potholes | Climbing Mountains

Understanding Long-tail Publishing and Hybrid Authors

What It's Like to be Wildly Successful as an Author

Shopping, Dragons, Independents, Oh My!

Protecting Your Books from Pirates

Printing Your Own books | Amazon's Rotten Core

Supporting Veteran Authors Who Support Veterans


Life a Beach Buster Bee from Bugville Critters


Robert Stanek photo collage

Close Up:Celebrating Wallace Stegner & Robert Stanek's Shared Heritage & Successes

Uncle Wallace, as Robert Stanek knew Wallace Stegner, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972, the National Book Award in 1977, but on an ethical basis refused a National Medal from the NEA in 1988. Robert's forefather was like that, always working against the grain, and in that they shared common ground. Looking back, in fact, it’s remarkable how much common ground they shared in their decades-long careers as writers and in their everyday lives.

Wallace Stegner was a tall man both in stature and legend. Robert had the tall part down pat. Like his wife of 31 years, Wallace's wife of 52 years, Mary, was short, rising only to his shoulder, and as instrumental to his work as the air he breathed. Uncle Wallace was an adopted son of Utah, as Robert Stanek was of Wisconsin. Their home states were where they grew up and what they thought of as home even though as adults they chose to live elsewhere. Robert split his time between Washington and Hawaii when he could, just as Uncle Wallace travelled between homes in California and Vermont.

Wallace and Robert had hard-scrabble childhoods. They were moved about by their parents, to the countryside in their youth. They experienced the worst of poverty, the failings of their parents. They learned early that you didn't complain, that you must keep a stiff upper lip, and that you never abandoned anything you started. Wallace and Robert fell in love with the West, each in their own way. All of these things influenced their lives and made their writing unique.

Uncle Wallace schooled Robert regularly against succumbing to the trend du jour of headquarters, aka the American publishing houses in the east. He was to write whatever the hell he wanted, theme du jour be damned. Writing their way came with a heavy cost; they paid heavy penalties for being out of step with the literary establishment. Wallace was impatient with Robert's early writing, always wanting it to be more staid and literary. Once Wallace understood that Robert saw writing as a challenge to the soundness of his character, as Wallace did, Wallace embraced it heartily. Although Robert's work was eventually published and/or distributed by nearly every major American publisher, he still did it his way and bent the publishing world to his will just as Wallace did—and when headquarters wouldn’t bend enough Robert went independent just as Uncle Wallace told him he should do when it was time.

Credited as the co-creator of the modern creative writing industry, having taught writing first at Iowa, Harvard and Wisconsin, and then at Stanford, where he built the prestigious program, Uncle Wallace blazed trails by teaching young people to write literature. As a respected and skilled teacher himself, Robert gave instruction on new technologies and is credited with transforming the computer writing industry with his plain language style. A style that Microsoft eventually adopted for its own, having been unable to bend Robert to its will to write in Microsoftese, that unknowable language only Microsoft itself truly ever understood. Millions of training courses taught by Microsoft and others used Robert's words as their foundations.

Uncle Wallace wrote short stories, fiction and nonfiction. His more than 30 full-length works include 13 novels, with the Pulitzer Prize winning “Angle of Repose” and the National Book Award winning “The Spectator Bird” being among his best known works. His eight works of nonfiction include an autobiography, a biography and a book on teaching creative writing. Wallace Stegner believed steadfastly in the American West and in later years in its preservation, which he wrote about in essays and several collections. Thanks to his words and encouragement, conservation and the environment are constant themes in Robert's own work as well and especially in Robert's Bugville Critters books.

Most of Uncle Wallace’s correspondence from his long, storied writing career, both personal and professional, were kept and curated by his wife, Mary, and are now shared by the Special Collections Library at the University of Utah. But Robert knows personally that the collection doesn’t contain all of Wallace's correspondence. Uncle Wallace threw a long shadow over Robert's life and career. Wallace is a reason Robert became an editor and columnist for the school newspaper in the 4th grade and never stopped writing afterward. Robert wrote to challenge himself and prove his character every day, just as Wallace did. 

Wallace challenged Robert to succeed on his own, on the merits of his work, and he did. Robert signed his first contract and broke into publishing on his own in 1995 writing nonfiction, nearly 2 years to the day after Uncle Wallace passed away, having written many original works of fiction that garnered Wallace's approval but were as yet unpublished. Wallace told Robert to never lose the writer’s voice he’d found and encouraged him to always keep challenging himself, to prove his character through his writing, to write more about his life and experiences, and to most especially continue his crusade against the literary establishment. This was at odds with the way Wallace's son, Page, wrote. Page was an academic at heart and a historian, who also taught creative writing for many years, but mostly published scholarly works.

Robert's forefather Wallace Stegner told him winning the Pulitzer was impressive but it didn’t really help sell his books or pay his bills, nor did the National Book Award, nor the three O’Henry awards, nor the two Guggenheim fellowships. It wasn’t that he didn’t like fame, hobnobbing with the elite, or his charmed life. He appreciated the accolades bestowed upon him, but it all became a distraction from his writing. His works in his lifetime sold hundreds of thousands of copies, they did not sell millions. Because of this, he often took on projects for the money, which is something he told Robert not to be afraid to do. The craft of writing is about the writing. Professional writing is work. Professional writers write to pay the bills and pay the bills Robert did as he wrote for major publishers across several decades.

Robert never wanted Uncle Wallace’s academic career, awards or social calendar. Sure Robert taught in colleges, hobnobbed with royalty, met and dined with presidents and generals, was paid thousands to speak to captains of industry, but he always preferred the simple life, regular folk and the quiet comfort that comes from routine. The simple routine of putting words to paper is Robet's routine, and that’s something Uncle Wallace would have appreciated as he always wanted to do more writing and less hobnobbing.

The name Wallace Stegner never became a household name in his lifetime. Nor has he become a literary celebrity, despite three biographies written about his life and career. He is thought of as a great but uncelebrated writer. He was okay with that and with what he’d achieved, just as Robert is okay with what he's achieved. Over the past 35 years, Robert Stanek written hundreds of original works and they’ve been translated into 57 languages and counting. He says he'll take millions of copies sold over fame and celebrity any day.

Traveling in France some years ago, Robert couldn’t help but smile and remember Uncle Wallace when a Parisian acquaintance told him that the American west was all cowboys riding the range and how the cowboy hat and boots he was wearing were just like the ones the real American cowboys wore. Uncle Wallace would have understood the irony in that statement because he rejected these superficial aspects of Western mythos, telling Robert more than once that the idea of the cowboy alone on the range was completely false. The West wasn’t about rugged, self-reliant individuals, it was about people coming together and cooperating to accomplish much more than they could alone. Robert, with Wallace's help, has surely accomplished more than he ever could have alone.

The many books of Robert Stanek, the american novelist.

The most popular imagined lands by Robert Stanek include stories that take place in Ruin Mist and a BIG little place called Bugville. When Robert Stanek brought Ruin Mist to audio in 2005, the books catapulted to #1 on Audible for FOURTEEN consecutive weeks and then stayed on the Kids & YA Top 10 for the next THREE YEARS. Robert Stanek's books have been written about and recommended by the YA librarian staff at VOYA, Publisher's Weekly, Parenting Magazine, the Journal of Electronic Defense, The Children's Bookshelf, Children's Writer, Popular Series Fiction for Middle School and Teen Readers: A Reading and Selection Guide, and other fine publications and periodicals.

Wondering where to start reading Stanek's work? Consider "The Best of Robert Stanek" list from OverDrive's "ContentWire for Libraries"...

#1 The Pieces of the Puzzle
#2 Keeper Martin's Tale
#3 Bugville Collection #1: Visit Mom and Dad At Work, Go to School, Have a Sleepover, Visit Garden Box Farms
#4 The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches
#5 In the Service of Dragons
#6 Journey Beyond the Beyond
#7 Stormjammers: The Extraordinary Story of EW Operations in the Gulf War
#8 Bugville Critters: Every Number Counts
#9 Absolutes & Other Stories
#10 Exploring Ruin Mist: Special Edition for "The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches" and "In the Service of Dragons"

Got Critters? Bugville Critters

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  250th book celebration
Bugville Critters
Visit the all new William R Stanek website
15 years of bugville critters
40 years of writing
40 #1 bestsellers in tech
All around the world
All around the world

Robert Stanek and his daughters
Robert Stanek and his wife
Robert Stanek wife and children
Robert Stanek and his children
Robert Stanek and daughter
Robert Stanek with his family
Robert Stanek and kids having fun

Three sets of Ruin Mist books for readers to choose from.

Awards, Accolades for William Robert Stanek's Books

Awards, Accolades for Technical Books

6-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award for outstanding commitment to technical communities worldwide.

Series Editor for the award-winning Pocket Consultant Series

40 #1 bestsellers in their respective categories

Multiple awards for excellence in technical writing. From the Communications of the ACM, books that have received top awards for Excellence in Technical Writing include: Windows Command-line Administrator's Pocket Consultant, Windows Server 2003 Inside Out, and Windows Scripting Bible.

Multiple awards for outstanding contributions. From the Communications of the ACM, books that have been recognized as outstanding include SQL Server Pocket Consultant, Windows Server Pocket Consultant, Windows Pocket Consultant and Windows Server 2008 Inside Out.

Awards, Accolades for Ruin Mist / Kingdoms & the Elves / Service of Dragons

In 2002, Keeper Martin's Tale and Elf Queen's Quest by Robert Stanek were instant bestsellers spending 26 weeks on the Amazon.com Sci-Fi/Fantasy Top 50 list.

Review by the YA Librarian Staff at VOYA - the leading magazine for YA librarians - regarding the original series by Robert Stanek: "Dramatic illustrations draw the reader into the Tolkienesque world of Ruin Mist, plunged into darkness after a Great War five hundred years past. Blaming magic for their demise, the Kings of Men have decreed that all things magical be destroyed. Yet despite their efforts, the magical Dark Lord is slowly returning to power. Stanek augments the beginning of this complex tale with illustrations that are sure to attract fans of graphic novels and classic Tolkien alike."

Foreword Magazine: "No matter how fascinating a fantasy world is, it fails if not animated by a compelling story and Stanek gives us not just one, but three, tales. A prolific non-fiction writer, Stanek's focus on instruction influences his fiction with a penchant for clear and simple prose. He also prefers swift, action-oriented scenes. Solidly built. Stanek moves among his main characters with ease, always switching at a climactic moment to maintain suspense. The accessible, brisk language keeps things moving."

Ruin Mist was featured in the Publisher's Weekly Cover Story in April 2009. Nearly a million people have read the Ruin Mist books. The books are available via Amazon, Audible, Playaway, OverDrive, and more than a dozen other retail and library partners.

Books by Robert Stanek have been written about in several printed books including The Complete Idiots Guide to Elves and Fairies, Ancient Art of Faery Magick, and  Popular Series Fiction for Middle School and Teen Readers: A Reading and Selection Guide (Children's and Young Adult Literature Reference).

Awards, Accolades for The Pieces of the Puzzle

The Pieces of the Puzzle was an instant Top 10 Mystery Bestseller and a #1 Fiction Bestseller on Audible in 2005.

Awards, Accolades for Bugville Critters

Follett Early Learning recommended. "A series of stories that address all major issues of growing up, and features Buster Bee and Lass Ladybug. Combines facts about the natural world with instructive and entertaining fiction."

Foreword Magazine recommended. "Author Stanek has a long list of best sellers, including technical publications and fiction for adults and teens. The bright, colorful illustrations are reminiscent of David Kirk's Little Miss Spider books and will captivate the young reader for whom the book is intended. This series, The Bugville Critters, helps children sort out real lessons about life, family and the natural world."

The Audio Book Store recommended. "Robert Stanek is one of our most featured and respected Kids & Young Adults, K-12 Educators and Kids authors."

Parenting Magazine "Recommended Series"

Awards, Accolades for Stormjammers

The Journal of Electronic Defense recommended. "EC-130s have participated in every significant combat operation US forces have been involved in for nearly two decades. Now, thanks to this book by former Compass Call "crew dog" Robert Stanek, readers can ride along with Stanek and his Grey Lady Compass Call crew during 32 combat missions from January to March 1991, during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. It is impossible not to share the relief and pride of the individual crew members when the attack missions they protect exit Iraq safely because the Iraqi air defense command and control nets were completely defeated by Compass Call's powerful, targeted jamming."

Other Awards, Accolades

Robert Stanek's books have also been featured in Children's Writer, The Children's Bookshelf, Writer's Digest, The New York Times, and other fine publications and periodicals.


Military Commendations

Robert Stanek served in support of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Provide Comfort and other conflicts. His distinguished accomplishments during his 11-year military career earned him 29 commendations, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

The military honorsand medals of Robert Stanek.

Why Robert Talks About His Military Career?

Stanek in Yellowstone National parkRobert Stanek's forefathers fought and bled Red, White and Blue in every war the USA has ever faced, from the French & Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War that shaped our nation to WWI and WWII that saved our world from tyrany to the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanastan and beyond. Although many of his ancestors never came home from the battlefield and many others took the battlefield home with them and were never the same again, he's proud of this heritage of service and sacrifice, and he's proud to have served his country in dark hours. His service to our nation taught him a great deal about duty, sacrifice and honor.

Robert says he gave his youth and his health to these wars and conflicts, his family suffered greatly, and yet he would not trade these experiences, for they forged him into who he is today. Because of his service, he says he will always know that when the darkest of hours arrives he will not hesitate. When asked, he answered. When called, he went. When death stared up from the void, he did not fear. He gave because it was his duty and because he felt it was the right thing to do.

His accomplishments during his military service earned me 29 commendations, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal. When he left the military, he was one of the most highly decorated in the command. The base commander and his supervisors loved it when he put on his dress blues and participated in the various parades and celebrations on base, especially Memorial Day and the 4th of July. Robert says he's met royalty. A crowned prince, a princess of a city state, a queen. He's met and dined with presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and a few generals, including Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf. They've offered their hands to shake, given toasts in his honor for his duty. Duty, honor and country mean a lot to Robert, and these themes resonate in his many books.

Yet the main reason Robert says he talks openly about his combat service is to help those who, like him, have taken the battlefield home with them, to give them hope, to let them know that they can use their pain to accomplish many things. He survived a crashlanding, being shot, being stabbed and yet he is still here. "Physical wounds come with consequences, and yet the wounds of war are not always physical, and not all wounds are from combat," he says. "As wounded warriors, we suffer, but we need not suffer in silence." This message of hope in the face of adversity and pain is powerful and heartfelt. 

DFC Memorial tribute to Robert Stanek

Books by Robert Stanek

35 years of books

About Robert Stanek's Writing | About Robert Stanek's Children's Books | On Writing & Helping Others | The Books | 20 Millionth Reader
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