Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Does an author need a website?

Does an author need a website? Today, I posted a question on my facebook page, asking for input...opinions on a particular website provider called "Squarespace." As I consider a myriad of options, I return to the question,"Does an author need a website?"

My initial instinctual answer is, "No."


To frame the question I will point out that unlike many other industries, authors, even indie and self-published authors have a ready- made storefront in Amazon and other online venues. My indie novel, "Proximity" stands right next to other great action/war novels like "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien or ''Killing Rommel" by Steven Pressfield. I read and thoroughly enjoyed both novels, and have visited Pressfield's site, but I did not buy a book there.

Clearly, using a website to sell books is not the only purpose. Still, pragmatically, it is to create a connection to one's audience...and, even better, potential readers. Today, I have a facebook page and a blog (you may be reading one of these right now!) to create such an online presence. These have a large, though limited footprint. I suspect that my followers in each are already readers. Additionally, I have spaces carved out on Goodreads, twitter (@eodauthor), and Amazon. I need to mature my approach on each one. As I do so, I am interested in book lovers' and authors' thoughts on employing a website to promote my writing and interact with others.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Recipient's Son on blogtalkradio this Sunday!

This Sunday 5:00-6:00pm EDT I will join Navy bloggers CDR Salamander and EagleOne on their program "Midrats" on blogtalkradio to discuss The Recipient's Son. Their program can be found here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/midrats

I previously joined them on Midrats for Episode 40 along with CDR Lippold who was the CO of USS Cole when she was attacked in Aden Harbor. Then, I was able to discuss Proximity. You can listen to that program here: Episode 40.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Recipient's Son is available as an eBook!

The Recipient's Son is now available as an eBook through Amazon.com for Kindle users and through iTunes for Apple's line of iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Annapolis Area Authors Highlighted in The Capital


Theresa Winslow wrote a very nice piece about four Annapolis -area Naval Institute authors to include Claude Berube, author of The Aden Effect, and myself for The Capital. It features in Sunday edition in the Lifestyle section. http://www.capitalgazette.com/lifestyle/

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Recipient's Son - now in stores

The Recipient's Son is now available in brick and mortar stores. It can be found at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million retailers. If your local store does not have a copy they can easily obtain one for you. Naturally, it is available on line through B&N, BAM! and Amazon websites.

I've had many inquiries as to when the eBook versions will become available. All I can say is "soon." I expect those who prefer Kindle, Nook, and iPad will have a copy by Thanksgiving, maybe Halloween. I will announce their publication here.

I'd also like to share a review from The Galveston Daily News written by Mark Lardas. If you don't mind one or two minor spoilers, check out "Author tells stirring tale of man's maturity."

If you just want Lardas' summary...he kindly wrote, "Sensitively told, 'The Recipient’s Son' is a stirring tale of a young man achieving maturity under trying circumstances."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Recipient's Son - Coming Soon!

The Recipient's Son will publish on 15 September 2012. That's a little less than two weeks away!

I hope my readers will continue to follow me on this blog, and through the myriad of other social media avenues I employ. Right now you can also follow me on the following:

Twitter: @eodauthor

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorStephenPhillips

Amazon: amazon.com/author/stephenphillips

I will continue to post about EOD topics for those who are fans of Proximity, and will share my reviews of various books. I also intend to post on subjects relating to the U.S. Naval Academy.

If you are interested in a signed copy of The Recipient's Son, please contact me by sending an email to eodauthor@yahoo.com and we will correspond to make arrangements.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review via Goodreads - Generation Kill by Evan Wright - An Unarmored View of the Iraq War

Generation KillGeneration Kill by Evan Wright

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

When Rolling Stone correspondent Evan Wright covered Operation Iraqi Freedom, there could be no unit more appropriate to embed with than the 1st Marine Reconnaissance Battalion. Through Generation Kill” he shows that RECON Marines possess the strange dichotomy of all specialized forces, superior skill born of disciplined training that simultaneously breeds a machismo that is adolescent and irreverent. The units’ unsurpassed professionalism was displayed as they adapted to mission sets that were never intended for RECON – mechanized “movement to contact” in unarmored HUMVEES. The Marines dealt with these demands through comradeship only accessible to those who endure combat together, with the relief valve of dark humor, and at times, open castigation of their flawed superiors.

Wright is able to bring this view after two months riding with RECON from Kuwait to Baghdad and back again. He chronicles firefights and respites, heroism and jingoism. The whole story is raw, showing flawed and sometimes inept decision makers, and the impact of civilian casualties on the RECON Marines psyche. The reader emerges with great sympathy and respect, and a deeper understanding for the Marines’ service – the difficult decisions and personal sacrifices made in the most horrific of environments.

It should be noted that Generation Kill has a companion HBO mini-series and that the platoon’s CO, Nathaniel Fick, also wrote a memoir entitled One Bullet Away. All three paint a mutually supporting picture of RECON’s actions in Iraq.
Generation Kill is recommended as an important firsthand account of the earliest stages of Iraqi Freedom, to include foreshadowing of the longer war to come. It is a must read for anyone considering service in the Marine Corps, especially in the infantry or RECON battalions.

Generation Kill the book, mini-series, and One Bullet Away can be purchased at Amazon.com

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review via Goodreads: Layer Cake

Layer CakeLayer Cake by J.J. Connolly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the tradition of "Ocean's Eleven" or Elmore Leonard novels,  Layer Cake's unamed first person narrator is a criminal the reader quickly admires. He is a good guy in a bad trade, a drug dealer who keeps a low profile, operating in the middle of the narcotics trade,  between mafia dons and street pushers. His goal is to make his fortune and retire by age thirty. As his birthday approaches, things get in the way of his plans...

Layer Cake is an enjoyable read. Those on the left side of the pond will need to plow through Brit slang, but you can still follow the dialogue through context.

Add this one to your summer reading list.

Note: I read a Kindle version with this paperback cover.

View all my reviews

Layer Cake  is available from Amazon.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Research When You Write!

I served for a few years as a graduate thesis adviser. During an introductory lecture,  I recommended to my students they pick a topic of which they are knowledgeable. This way they would have a strong foundation to start from.

Writing fiction is similar. There is a common phrase,  "Write what you know." Not every writer follows this rule. For example, I am always impressed with the literary skill, the imagination, of those who write fantasy and science fiction. Thus far,  I am not in this category. My first two novels are on subjects that I know intimately.  

Proximity follows a fictitious version of a  U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) detachment that I served on. The Recipient's Son takes place st the U.S. Naval Academy during the time that I was a midshipman there. The main character is even assigned to the same companies and lives in the same rooms where I dwelled. This is because for me, there are subtleties of living as part of 14th Company that are unique. Describing them served as a touchstone to my experience. It gave me a point to start from.

From that foundation,  it is important to maintain authenticity.This is accomplished through detailed research. For example, in The Recipient 's Son one of the main characters lives on a sailboat. To make sure even the most discerning eye is convinced of the stories realism,  I conducted exhaustive research on the sailboats available during this time frame. I started by looking at common boats of the right size and price. I wanted something that a JAG with a small inheritance could likely afford. After I settled on a Beneteau 43,  I searched for diagrams and photos on the internet.

A second layer of research that is important to the book's accuracy is verifying days and dates. For example, if an author writes that a character went to Mass on June 25, 1989,  it had better be a Sunday!

Finally, it is important to make sure that your writing does not include technology that was not yet available. For example,  I noted to a group of midshipmen in the class of 2012 that when I was a plebe we used an intranet at Navy,  and (at least I) had no knowledge the internet.

So,  do your research...it will make for a much more interesting book and prevent readers from thinking,  " Hey, wait a minute!"

Saturday, June 30, 2012

FAQ: What job opportunities can an EOD tech expect after his time in the Navy?

Serving as a U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician is about the best job on the planet. After all, we’re the guys who “Blow shit up!” Still, everyone must move on eventually whether it is after their first enlistment or upon retiring from a 30 year career. The skills one learns as an EOD Tech are invaluable, and thus make the individual highly sought after. Most important, “Blowing shit up!” does not have to end after Navy  life.

Here are perhaps the three most obvious examples.

Law Enforcement (LEO) – One can easily move into the law enforcement field at any level from federal to local. You can serve as a member of a police department bomb squad, dive team, or both. (Note: In some cases bomb squad and dive teams fall under the fire department) EOD Techs often serve as member of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Teams because they have a proven ability to all the required skillsets. Former Navy EOD Techs can serve in the FBI as Bomb Techs (http://www.fbi.gov/news/videos/mp4/bombtech.mp4/view) or in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Bomb Appraisal Officer (BAO).  There are similar positions in the ATF, Secret Service, …and  myriad of other government agencies.

An important thing to recognize is that if you decide to join law enforcement, one may need to go through a police academy, and may need to spend time as a patrolman or “beat cop” before applying to a specialized unit. Similarly, the FBI may require you to work as a special agent before becoming a bomb tech.

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) – The world is covered with unexploded ordnance – munitions that failed to detonate when expended or that are in a storage configuration and due to age or other necessity must be destroyed. UXO companies send teams to find and render safe and/or dispose of this ordnance. In many cases, the task is simply picking up ordnance from a post-war battlefield, gathering it to a single location, and detonating it. Naturally, one has to know how to handle each type of ordnance encountered. This work is similar to military life in that one is often on site in a foreign country for months at a time. Due to the danger involved, it pays very well.

Government contracting – First, U.S. Navy EOD Technicians receive a security clearance. This alone makes them valuable to government contractors.  Sometimes it is easier to train an individual who has a clearance than to get a clearance for someone who has the needed skills. Naturally, the possibilities are multiplied if the former Tech decides to work for a contract that does EOD work, like providing equipment or training to EOD Techs whether foreign or domestic.

These are just three major categories...there are a wide variety of opportunities for EOD Techs in the civilian world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Like a Good Sermon, Succinct but with Impact.


Mark Mallon is a complicated guy, a former seminarian turned unemployed blogger, who revels in sex and wrestles with diabetes. Mallon’s devotion to the precepts of Roman Catholicism make him judgmental. To be fair, he is self-aware, and thus recognizes his own foibles which are blogged in a viscerally exposed writing style he calls ‘unzipped.’ When combined with his genuine honesty, Mallon’s analysis of others is brutally blunt. Thus, his friends sense that they can never live up to his expectations.

Post Marked by Mark Trost lacks a recognizable plot arc and at times feels repetitive until the reader realizes it is a mantra, like a rosary that must be completed to fully realize its benefit. Additionally, Trost weaves Mallon’s life through first and third person narratives, and the aforementioned blog entries. The format stands as a metaphor for the book as if Trost is saying, “I am not like other writer’s... deal with it, but don’t bitch to me about it.”

The writing is Post Marked’s strongest, most enjoyable feature. Each chapter is like a well crafted sermon, succinct but with impact. They develop Mallon’s character through intimate interactions in the bedroom, on the bar stool, and on web entries where he plays the role of both penitent and confessor. Another facet central to Mallon’s life is his diabetes, but like his friends the reader may come away nonplussed by this fact.

Though Post Marked is not traditional, and is delivered through a non-traditional platform and publisher, Mallon’s journey does reach an eventual conclusion that leads the reader to hope for more books by Mark Trost.

Monday, May 7, 2012

EOD Memorial Blog via New York Times

The first Saturday in May is when the EOD community solemnly places names on the EOD Memorial of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the previous year. C.J. Chivers wrote a great piece in the New York Times about this event entitled "Remembering the Dead: New Names for a Wall that Keeps Growing"

I recommend spending a few moments to read this blog, and remember those who served to the end.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Do I Prepare for EOD School?

Steven Watkins wrote on my facebook page :

"Hey, I just thought I'd let you know I signed my EOD contract to day. I ship October 29th. I almost lost my contract because MEPS messed up my paperwork and wrote I couldn't equalize my ears, but I easily passed the retest and swore in today. I'm very pumped up, any advice for dive school or EOD school?"

I receive this question often. I always enjoy passing on advice to those who volunteered for this challenging community. So, I've written this for Steven and for all those who may choose a career in naval diving....


As stated in Proximity, "An EOD Technician must have the brains of an engineer, the hands of a surgeon, and the courage of a martyr....when the Navy needs to place a limpet mine under an enemy ship it tasks the Navy SEALs, but to respond to such an attack – the Navy summons EOD."

Thus, you have volunteered to join one of the most elite elements in the U.S. military. So, "How to prepare?"

To be a U.S. Navy EOD Technician, one must possess physical and mental endurance. In the EOD pipeline these two traits are tested time and again to identify those who do not have the requisite aptitude needed and build upon the ability of those that do. There are steps that candidates can take to build their physical and mental endurance, to prepare themselves for EOD training and and an EOD career.

The best online resource to prepare physically for EOD is StewSmith.com . Stew is a Naval Academy graduate and former Navy SEAL. Visit his site for more details to include his books on fitness. Recognize then that EOD Techs must combine raw strength with the ability to swim and run. Too much time in the weight room may make swimming and running a challenge. Focusing too much on running may decrease muscle mass. Strive for a good balance of all three.

Additionally, EOD candidates can get a good leg up by working on their ability to swim with fins. I've written a note about this previously in a Blog post entitled, EOD Prep.

All Navy diver candidates must take the diver physical readiness test  depicted in this video. Not only is this test required to get into the Navy diving community, it is conducted several times during the curriculum. Thus, performing well on this test is an indication of relative preparedness for EOD school. I recommend taking the test with a buddy once a week. (Note: It is important when swimming to always have a buddy and/or safety observer.)

EOD school is also mentally challenging. The word "endurance" applies here as well. Academic failure is more often because the student did not put in the time than that they did not have the requisite IQ. Material is imparted to the student as a constant, rapid pace. Deciding to take one night off to go drinking often means the student is now behind when they show up to class the next day. To succeed, expect to put in for to five hours of study a night, five nights a week, for 18 months to two years.

EOD candidates get a go leg up on academics by obtaining a copy of the U.S. Navy Diving Manual. It is available online for free on several sites such as scribd.com    A waterproof hard copy is available on Amazon.com .

Again, congratulations on beginning your EOD career. You will soon find it is the best decision you ever made. HOOYA!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The Recipient's Son" is available for pre-order.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that The Recipient's Son is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Select one of these links or clik on the amazon.com window below.

Monday, January 30, 2012

EOD Prep

I'm often asked, "What should I do to prepare for EOD school?" What the candidate or "wanna-be" usually really means is, "I'm running, swimming, and lifting...but what secret, what gouge can you give me to ensure I'm doing everything possible. My recommendation?

Official Navy Photo: Bay Swim at Naval Diving Salvage Training Center

Swim with fins.

One of the most challenging parts of the diving curriculum are bay swims whether in Alligator Bayou (yes, it's named that for a reason...it is Florida folks) or Saint Andrews Bay. Why? Because the time/distance requirement is daunting. You have to be able to swim straight and fast. This requires an efficient stroke and accurate navigation.

To prep, buy a set of booties and fins. Practice swimming using only your legs. The technique requires one to kick from the hip, not the knee. After a few times practicing, the technique is easily mastered. Then, build up speed and stamina.

For open bay swims, navigation is another important aspect. Fine a "line" on the shore, like to trees, and use it as a range to keep you on track. In other words, if you keep the two trees lined up, you'll be swimming straight, and thus a shorter distance leading to a faster time.

MOST IMPORTANT: Always train with a safety observer.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Moving forward while looking back. "Angel" by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

              After winning the lottery, Tijmen Klein Gildekamp has a normal reaction. He takes off. Tijem and his girlfriend, a masseuse named Angel, run from everyday life or is it from their past?
Readers who identified with Tijmen in Arnold Jansen op de Haar’s King of Tuzla will enjoy catching up with him, but Angel does not feel like a sequel. In fact, an underlying theme is that Tijmen seems to be wrestling with his identity, but he starts by recognizing that he is focusing on a post-Bosnia Tijmen. Still, he and Angel both look to their families past to discover connections in the Dutch underground, and in Angel’s case, with German collaborators. Together they reach a point of recognition, an understanding, perhaps even an enlightened view that who they are in the here and now is what matters most. It is clear they could succeed in finding happiness, if only the       rest of the world, perplexed editors and former boyfriends, would leave them alone.
Jansen op de Haar continues to demonstrate a rare talent of writing succinctly, yet with impact. His chapters are short, but they draw the reader in and keep one moving through the story. The most refreshing aspect of Angel is that like Tijmen, one can sense they are reading Jansen op de Haar again, his voice is recognizable, but Angel does not feel like the same formula revisited, as is sometimes common among authors today. Angel makes a nice edition for those who enjoy books of romance, adventure, and self-reflection.