Back in 2010, Richard “Rick” Phillips of Ahwatukee self-published his first novel and found himself staring at boxes of books piled in his garage.
And over the next 10 years, he’s become a best-selling author with more than a million books sold and an Amazon ranking as its top best-selling science fiction author.
Imagination has had everything to do with his success, as attested by his 14 techno-thriller and fantasy books that fans eat up on Amazon and Kindle.
The Roswell, New Mexico, native creates worlds and captivating characters that have engrossed a legion of readers and listeners and impressing reviewers and other authors.
Three of his books have been translated into German and Polish.
His latest book, “The Time Seer,” is the fifth and latest in The Endarian Prophecy epic fantasy series.
Phillips, who writes from his Ahwatukee home, is editing his latest tome, “Prophecy’s End,” the final book in The Endarian Prophecy that will be available by year’s end.
In his decade of writing novels, Phillips has also penned nine volumes in The Rho Agenda series, beginning with “Once Dead” and ending with “The Meridian Ascent.”
Last August, his sci-fi and fantasy novels Amazon surpassed the million-reader milestone. He has sold 100,000 more since then and a dozen of his 14 books have reached #1 on Amazon or placed in the top 10 bestselling list.
For Phillips, writing fiction started as a hobby of sorts.
“The fantasy novels originally started when I was in the military; I was just playing around,” said Phillips, who qualified as an Army Ranger after his 1979 graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “I set that book aside and after I left the military, started my science fiction series.”
Phillips served as an officer in the U.S. Army, graduating in 1989 from the Naval Postgraduate School with a master’s degree in nuclear physics.
He finished his thesis while at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, moving on to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a Military Research Associate before completing his tour of duty as an Army officer.
After he got out of the Army in 1996, he became a project leader in high-tech projects for General Electric, Lockheed Martin Space Operations and General Dynamics.
“I published my first two books in 2010 and by 2013 had multiple best sellers and was making more money than I was as a senior project leader at General Dynamics, so I decided to write full-time.”
He and Carol, his wife of 38 years, moved to Arizona from Maryland. Carol founded AZ Bread Co. in 2004 and the couple settled in Ahwatukee. She sold the business in 2015.
Despite his current success as a best-selling author, Phillips still recalls his attempts to get published after his initial self-publishing venture proved disappointing.
“When I finished the first sci-fi novel, I spent a lot of money self-publishing it only to have 2,000 beautiful copies of the book sitting in my garage,” he said. “I spent three years trying to sell them. Then, I discovered I could self-publish free through dp.amazon.com, set my own pricing and make 70 percent in royalties, so I did that.”
Over the next two years he sold a few dozen copies a month.
“Then, in 2010, I self-published the second novel in the series ‘Immune.’ I remember how excited I was the first time I sold more than 1,000 copies in a month in September of 2010.
“In October, I sold 2,000 copies; November 3,000; December 14,000; and in January 2011, I sold more than 22,000 copies and I had the No. 1 and No. 2 bestselling science fiction novels on Amazon.”
Phillips recalled those first two books – “The Second Ship” and “Immune” quickly caught the fancy of science fiction enthusiasts.
“The Second Ship” begins in the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico and sets the stage for the Rho Agenda series. The next two volumes became books four and five of the expanded series.
Phillips explained the premise for that series.
“My first series is the six-book sci-fi series called ‘The Rho Agenda.’ Three high-school friends stumble into a cloaked cavern in a remote canyon in northern New Mexico, formed when an alien spacecraft crashed there.
“When they enter the spaceship through a hole in its hull, the onboard artificial intelligence taps into their brains, enhancing their abilities and setting them upon a dark path where millions will die and the course of humanity changed forever,” he said.
He recommends readers experience The Rho Agenda books in the following order: “The Second Ship,” “Immune,” “Wormhole,” “The Kasari Nexus,” “The Altreian Enigma” and “The Kasari Nexus.”
“After I published the first three books in ‘The Rho Agenda’ series, two important secondary characters had become so popular that I wrote a three-book ‘Rho Agenda Inception’ prequel series about them,” he explained.
“An ex-CIA assassin, Jack ‘The Ripper’ Gregory, believes an alien mind is trying to control him. His NSA partner, Janet Alexandra Price, doesn’t know whether Jack is crazy, or something far worse.”
That prequel includes “Once Dead,” “Dead Wrong,” and “Dead Shift.”
When his books regularly topped the charts on Amazon in the science fiction genre, Phillips figured he now had solid numbers to woo a respected publisher.
He not only got his literary agent but also secured his publisher, 47North, with whom he’s been for the last nine years.
“I’d tried for years to get an agent, but I couldn’t get anyone from a big literary agency to read my novel. But when I had the No. 1 and No. 2 bestselling sci-fi novels on Amazon, I took a screen-capture of those rankings.
“Then I wrote a simple email to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the oldest literary agencies in New York. It said: ‘Hello, my name is Richard Phillips and I currently have the No. 1 and No. 2 bestselling science fiction novels on Amazon; see attached screen-capture. I’m interested in representation.’
“That was it. I didn’t send my manuscript nor a cover letter. By the end of the week I had an agent, Paul Lucas, who still represents me to this day.”
Book reviewers have credited his military and science backgrounds – and his auspicious birthplace of Roswell, the long-rumored government research center for UFOs – as adding authenticity to his science fiction and fantasy novels.
His current project involves a heroine named Lorness Carol Rafel and he willingly admits his wife’s personality traits of strength and tenacity influenced him to create the female protagonist in the six-book fantasy series, “The Endarian Prophecy.”
The audio books are released simultaneously as the printed versions.
MacLeod Andrews, an actor and much-lauded voice-over artist with more than 300 books to his credit is the narrator for eight of the nine “Rho Agenda” books Phillips has written.
Yet another passion of Phillips, besides golf – an interest he shares with his wife – incorporates public speaking and writing.
Phillips is a member of three area Toastmasters Clubs. He serves as president of the Ahwatukee Toastmasters, treasurer of Dobson Ranch Toastmasters Club, and is a member of Dobson@Sunset. The latter two clubs are in Mesa.
He said even though he’d been a senior project leader at General Dynamics and had published two novels, he joined Toastmasters after he found himself stumbling through a presentation as a guest speaker at the Arizona Authors Association.
During his 21 years in the Army and 15 with General Dynamics, he explained, “I spoke in public on a daily basis.”
After he retired and switched to full-time writing, “that was great, but I wasn’t practicing my public speaking,” he said.
“A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at a meeting of the Arizona Authors Association, and to my horror, when I took the stage, my adrenaline spiked and I barely made it through my talk. As I walked to my car, I made the decision that I was going to get back on the public speaking horse.
“So, I joined Ahwatukee Toastmasters on May 1, 2018, and it’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
Phillips said participating in Toastmasters renewed his confidence and he enjoyed the experience enough that he joined the two other clubs.
“The people are great and include leaders in our community and some of the best and most entertaining speakers I’ve ever heard. Right now, due to Covid-19, we meet via Zoom, but I’m looking forward to when we’re able to gather again in person.”
He encouraged anyone interested in Ahwatukee Toastmasters to contact the website at ahwatukeetoastmasters.toastmastersclubs.org.