Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wayne MacDowell - A Literary Tribute to the Greatest Generation

Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, less than million remain. According to the National WWII Museum, “Approximately every three minutes a memory of World War II – its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs – disappears…the men and women who fought and won the great conflict are now mostly in their 90s. They are dying quickly – at the rate of approximately 555 a day, according to US Veterans Administration figures.” So it is imperative to honor them before they disappear into the annals of history. This was the inspiration for Not Just Another War Story, St. Pete Beach writer Wayne MacDowell’s tribute to the young airmen who risked their lives in the skies over occupied Europe.

Having spent his career in Sales and Marketing for national tea and coffee companies, MacDowell traveled widely throughout the United States. It was during one such trip that he got the idea for a story about a college football player who finds romance during a summer job. “I started the story on hotel stationery, writing ‘A Short Story’ at the top,” he recalls. About 370 pages later, the story became a novel he titled Not Just Another Love Story. While MacDowell had no formal training as a writer, he had on-the-job experience writing marketing and sales plans, and he published Not Just Another Love Story in 2000.

MacDowell’s next book, Not Just Another War Story, would be nine years in the making. Because of a football injury sustained while he was a college student, MacDowell was unable to pass the physical to become an Air Force pilot. Instead, he channeled his energies into a 40-year involvement with the 305th Bomb Group Memorial Association as a tribute to his uncle and godfather, 1st Lt. Wright E. Gerke, a B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot. “The idea of what could become a story came through my attendance at the 305th annual reunions where I spoke with those heroes of long ago and listened to their stories,” MacDowell says. “In the book, I wanted the story to be absolutely genuine – right down to the weather and each plane’s serial number.”

MacDowell describes Not Just Another War Story as “the story of the hopes, dreams and loves of a B-17 crew.” It is the tale of young Steve Carmichael, a University of Florida graduate who loves to fly.  Having learned to pilot a plane at the age of 12, Steve decides to join the Army Air Corps. He eventually realizes his dream of piloting a four-engine B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber into battle. While stationed in Britain, Steve meets an attractive British nurse at a USO dance, and sparks fly. “The book doesn’t center on just the fighting war,” MacDowell points out. “It also shows the human interaction and feelings, plus a beautiful romance in a war-torn world.”  For MacDowell, the best part of writing the novel was “watching my characters come to life and become people.”

 While promoting Not Just Another War Story, MacDowell travelled to England's Isle of Wight where some of the book takes place. Sandown, a family resort town on the Isle of Wight is the St Pete Beach International Sister-City.  He then went on to London where he hosted a book-signing at Harrrod's Department Store. He also visited Margroten, Holland where the Netherlands-American Military Cemetery is located. “I did a book signing there, giving the proceeds to a local charity,” he says.  Not Just Another War Story is dedicated to 1st LT Wright E. Gerke, a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot who was killed on a mission to Gelsenkirchen, Germany. This visit was my 23rd to place flowers and visit with my Uncle-Godfather. I know the number only because there is a sign-in family book. Like all of the overseas military cemeteries it is well worth the visit to these hallowed grounds which are beautifully maintained. They are American soil. While there, take a stroll out past the reflecting pond, past the memorial tower/chapel and into the cemetery where 8301 American ‘kids’ are buried. Walk out toward the American flag pole and over on your right in Plot 0 Row 6 Grave 6, stop by for a moment to visit Lt Wright E. Gerke.” MacDowell plans on returning to England and The Netherlands in the fall of 2018.

 Another memorable experience for MacDowell was an invitation to do a book signing with the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA).  “They flew their B-17 Flying Fortress into the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in June for a couple of days as a flying exhibit,” he recalls. “We worked out that some of the proceeds would go the EA. We sold out, and they asked if I would come the following week to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport for an additional signing. Again, we sold out and, at the end of the day, they invited me to fly as copilot on their 1928 Ford Tri-Motor former TWA plane. It certainly was fun! The old girl flew at just under 100 MPH and with the huge wings, was as steady as can be.”

MacDowell hopes readers will enjoy Not Just Another War Story and come away with a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices made by WWII veterans. “I hope the book will give the younger generation – those who had a father or grandfather who served – an understanding of what they went through during that time,” he says. “I try to bring out the toughness of that group of people who certainly had to grow up way too soon, and the joy of lifelong friendships made with individuals from all walks of life. To have the reader come along on the story-adventure and give them a front row seat was most important to me.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at www.waynemacdowell.com.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Russell James - Tales from the Dark Side

Move over, Stephen King and Clive Barker - there’s a new thriller writer on the scene. Longwood author Russell James is spinning tales that are sure to keep readers up at night. This former Army helicopter pilot has penned paranormal novels, novellas and short story collections that will delight horror fans.

James, a native of Long Island, never planned to become a writer. He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Business Management, earned his MBA from the University of Central Florida, and realized his lifelong dream of flying helicopters with the Army 101st Airborne.  But he discovered his more creative side during long road trips with his wife.  “While we were driving, I’d tell my wife stories, and she said I should write them down,” he recalls.  “I told her there was no way anyone would pay for something I wrote. I’ve been apologizing to her ever since.”  James’s wife took matters into her own hands when she gifted her husband with an online writing course for Christmas. This led to the publication of one of his short stories.  Then James enrolled in an advance writing class and began work on a book about a haunted house. At the suggestion of his instructor, James submitted the novel, Dark Inspiration, to Samhain Publishing, and the rest is history.

Dark Inspiration was followed by four more novels (Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, Dreamwalker,) two novellas (Blood Red Roses and The Antikythera Answer,) and several short story collections. James describes his work as “character-driven paranormal thrillers based more on suspense than graphic violence.” His next novel, Q Island, is the nail-biting tale of a prehistoric virus that turns its victims into psychopathic killers. Publishers Weekly praised the book as “…a seriously creepy page turner that will keep readers up at night.”

 His latest novel is Cavern of the Damned, an homage to the kind of monster movies kids loved to watch in the 1970s. Out-of-work paleontologist Grant Coleman signs up to be part of a documentary film about exploring a long-sealed cave, but he finds out it is really just a reality show to be filled with some fake scares. Park Service Ranger McKinley Stinson catches the crew trespassing, but before she arrests them, the cave entrance collapses. All are trapped inside, and the only way out is at the cavern system’s far end. Along the way they are attacked by giant cave dwelling creatures, including giant scorpions. Greed, double crosses, and mayhem ensure. The Haunted Reading Room said “Author Russell James delivers heart-in-mouth unstoppable action and terror. If you love creature horror, paleontology, megafauna, and scares-a-minute, love this!” In keeping with the spirit of the story, it is family-friendly with no sex or profanity. “It’s just the broadcast network-safe scary of a good monster flick, “James says. “I can finally direct kids at book signings to a book without adding a warning for their parents.”

Scheduled for release later this year will be Return to Q Island, a second story set in the world of Q Island. While millions want to escape a viral quarantine on Long Island, where they are terrorized by the infected, one man wants to get back in to save his family. His only way in is posing as a guide for an illegal safari hunting the infected. But he ends up being a slave to the hunters, and the infected are worse than ever.

While the primary reason James spins his scary tales is “to give readers an escape from the real world for a while,” he also hopes his writing will leave them with something to ponder. “All my novels have a theme embedded in them,” he explains. “Maybe readers will pull out that theme and apply the values to their own lives.” 

For more information, visit the author’s website at www.russellrjames.com.
For more about Cavern of the Damned go to  www.amazon.com/Cavern-Damned-Russell-James-ebook/dp/B071LMZFHJ)

For readers who want to meet James in person, he will be making appearances at Megacon in Tampa (September 29-October 1st) and Spooky Empire in Orlando (October 27-29) He invites readers to stop by for signed copies of his books or to just chat about reading and writing.