SNEAK PEEK Deborah M. Shlian’s “Double Illusion”

IMG_4791I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the “Death & Damages” box set anthology with a stable of talented bestselling authors like the one you are about to meet.

These amazing writers have graciously agreed to let my blog readers share in an exclusive interview AND get a sneak peek at the book they have contributed to the Death & Damages box set – 25 stories for 99 cents!

Today, we sit down with Deborah M. Shlian, author of Double Illusion.


DAN: Tell my readers briefly about the story you are contributing to the Death & Damages anthology. What inspired your story?

Double Illusion is based on a real life incident that occurred in my own hospital many years ago. This was a very bizarre case of kidnapping from the hospital nursery. I fictionalized the story and created a psychological thriller. One of my goals in this novel was to create a plot twist that would surprise even the most sophisticated psychologist. The novel is 234 pages.

Tell me about you. 

I am a physician (now retired), healthcare consultant and author of nonfiction and fiction. People say write what you know. So it’s not a surprise that because I am a physician, all of my books so far have some kind of medically related theme. As a Family Physician, I have had an opportunity to get to know so many different individuals over the years, to learn about their lives from a kind of intimate perspective that is quite unique. That has given me a breath of experiences from which to draw my characters and situations. Even though some people call my books medical mystery/thrillers, I have tried very hard not to write the same book each time out, so that Double Illusion  is quite different from Wednesday’s Child, Rabbit in the Moon, Dead AirDevil Wind and Silent Survivor.

When I am not writing, I enjoy travel, tennis, photography, cooking and of course, reading my fellow authors’ books!

Where/when do you do your writing? 

 I always write at home at the kitchen table so I can look out at the view when I am stumped for words/ideas. When I was working full time as a physician and then as a healthcare consultant, I could only write very very early in the morning or very very late at night. I worked most weekends so I didn’t have much time to write then at all. Now that I am retired, my schedule is much more flexible, but I have tried to stick to a morning routine. I find my creative juices are freshest then. If I am on a roll, I may write for 4 or 5 hours before taking a break.

What does writing success look like to you?

“Hearing from readers who enjoy my writing.”

Do you ever collaborate?

Yes, I have written 2 stand-alones with my husband Joel (Wednesday’s Child and Rabbit in the Moon) and 3 in my Sammy Greene series with Linda Reid, physician colleague (Dead AirDevil Wind and soon to be published Deep Waters). I wrote my first novel, a romance for then Playboy Press and my latest medical mystery/thriller, Silent Survivor alone.

Tell about your process. What is the path from idea to finished story.

 I begin each novel with a “what if”? For example in Double Illusion which is included in the Death and Damages boxed set, the question I considered was ” what if a woman was desperate for a child. What would she be willing to do to get what she wants? Next I develop the main characters as well as a pretty extensive outline that includes the ending – even though I know that may change as I write.

 My latest thriller Silent Survivor is the first novel I have written without an outline.. Even with an outline sometimes characters will show up that I didn’t anticipate. However without an outline, it’s inevitable that characters will suddenly emerge in the process of writing. In Silent Survivor, I wasn’t sure how my protagonist Mackenzie (Mac) Dodd was going to deal with her feelings of guilt about a Marine’s suicide when suddenly Mac’s 20 year old neighbor Viv Wallach who is a social media expect showed up on my blank page and convinces Mac to start a blog called Silent Survivor. This allowed Mac to share her feelings and to encourage other veterans who have PTSD to share their experiences. That opened up lots of possibilities for subplots.

 Do you use critique partners? 

I always have a group of beta readers who review the various drafts of my novels. Depending on the subject matter, I look for experts in a particular area so they can make sure that what I am writing is authentic. For example, for Rabbit in the Moon which takes place in China and has both American-born and mainland-born Chinese main characters, I had representatives of both groups critique the manuscript. For Double Illusion  which is a psychological thriller, I asked several psychologists and psychiatrists to critique the early versions.

Do you have a favorite editor? 

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, my books that were published by mainstream publishers always had in-house editors. The past three books published by a smaller house outsourced the editing. But my favorite editor is still my husband.

What do you do for covers?

Except for my latest thriller Silent Survivor, all my books have been published by mainstream publishers who arranged for cover designers. For Silent Survivor I used a designer recommended by my friend John Ling who is a wonderful writer and whose covers are spectacular.

Tagline for Double Illusion:

A reporter and the nurse he loves put each piece of a deadly puzzle into place while a terrifying secret waits in the shadows…

Blurb for Double Illusion:

Every parent’s worst fear is coming true. Someone is kidnapping babies. Someone with icy blue eyes who leaves behind a blood-red trail of lipstick notes. From Atlanta to Los Angeles, a young reporter and the beautiful nurse he loves are putting each deadly piece of the puzzle into place. But still the baby snatcher stalks… down a deserted hospital corridor… in a darkened tenement… And with every step Victor and Anne take towards the truth, a terrifying secret waits.


* EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PREVIEW *

Double Illusion

Deborah M. Shlian

PROLOGUE

San Antonio

July 14, 1975

The light above labor room number two blinked. She rose and walked toward it as if in a trance, step by step. “I don’t know…” She paused as if to reconsider. “I’m not sure…”

The night nurse watched, disgusted. Such a ninny. After all the planning, the woman wanted to back out.

“Please put out that cigarette. It makes my head ache.”

She’s afraid, the night nurse thought. Well then, she’d just have to do it herself. She wasn’t afraid of anything.

The light above number two blinked again.

Grabbing a pail, the night nurse entered the brightly lit sterile room where Amanda Hodson, nine months pregnant, lay naked and exposed in the labor bed. “How’s the little mother coming?”

Spreading the patient’s thighs, the nurse noted that the baby’s head was very low, well lodged in the birth canal, the cervix dilated almost the full ten centimeters. Smiling to herself, she knew it was almost time.

“I…the contractions…Every minute.” Amanda took quick shallow breaths as the contractions began anew. Tiny beads of perspiration covered her forehead and upper lip.

Preoccupied with her pain, she never noticed the colorless liquid the nurse injected into her intravenous line. Soon she felt an overwhelming desire to close her eyes. “Did you call Dr. Van Patten?”

“Don’t worry, honey. We’ll call him when we need him. Now come on. One more push and you can go to sleep.”

Amanda barely understood the words. They seemed to echo through a tunnel.

With the next contraction, a big, blood-smeared head emerged from between Amanda’s swollen thighs. The nurse quickly reached for a scalpel and deftly sliced through the vagina, making a long vertical episiotomy like those she had seen performed many times before. She eased her gloved fingers inside, seconds later pulling out a healthy-looking baby girl, howling with gusto.

Massaging the woman’s large stretched-looking abdominal mound, she delivered the placenta with its white, yellow, and blue umbilical cord, thick and gelatinous in the bright light. She cut the cord, and blood spurted halfway across the room. Her heart beat with excitement. She was thoroughly enjoying this drama.

From the pail, she pulled a foul-smelling male fetus weighing less than four pounds. It had been dead at least three days, but that couldn’t be helped. Tonight was the first opportunity the nurse had had to carry out her plan. She scooped the fresh placenta into the bucket, planning to discard it later and placed the dead fetus between Amanda’s legs. Someone would wake this poor mother and explain that she had delivered a stillborn son. These things happened every day. She would probably be pregnant again in no time.

Just before exiting the room, the nurse dropped a note on the pillow. A message for the little mother.

She emerged, carrying the pink baby girl wrapped tightly in a blanket. “Here she is- -the kid you always wanted.”

The other woman cradled the baby in her arms – -a dazed look in her eyes.

“It’s unbelievable how easy it was,” the night nurse said. “I might just go into the baby business.” She felt triumphant. “Oh, and don’t thank me. Just forget this – – and I mean everything. Understand?” The tone was menacing.

The other woman nodded vaguely.

Everything.”

Footsteps invaded the silence.

“Damn, I’d better get out of here.” The nurse grabbed her cape. “Hey, smile. We’ve just had our baby!”

Moments later, a hooded figure carrying a small bundle emerged from the side of the hospital and hurried off into the night.

***

Houston

July 24, 1978

Janet Evans stirred beside her husband Bill, who was just nodding off. She lay on her side, long dark hair cascading over his bare chest. Kissing his ear, she snuggled closer, her warm breath caressing his face.

“Are you asleep?” she whispered.

He opened his eyes, sliding his hand over her full breasts, which almost spilled out of her silk nightie.

“Um.” One warm leg slid over his. He felt her nipples rise as he ran his fingers lightly over her breasts again.

“I’ve missed you,” he murmured. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

“The baby’s almost three weeks old.”

“I thought the doctor said we had to wait six weeks. Don’t want to damage the merchandise.”

“Doctor’s don’t know everything. Besides, you didn’t wait this long after Jason was born.”

“Two years ago we both were a whole lot younger,” he said with little conviction.

“Shut up and come here.” She silenced him with a long, lingering kiss.

A piercing wail from down the hall. Pulling away from his embrace, Janet sat up in bed. “I’d better pick her up.”

“Can’t you let her cry for a minute? You’re spoiling her.”

“She’ll wake Jason.” Leaning over her husband, Janet kissed him lightly on the mouth. “I’ll just be a second. Then we’ll pick up where we left off.” As much to herself as to Bill, she continued, “I’d better check Jason first. Make sure he hasn’t smothered in his Linus blanket. We’ve got to wean him away from that thing.”

“He’s your son.” Bill teased. From the bed he watched appreciatively as Janet pulled on a robe and headed for Jason’s room. He took the last cigarette from a crumpled pack on the nightstand, lit it, and inhaled deeply. A moment later, the baby’s crying stopped – – probably because Janet was rocking her back to dreamland. She really spoiled that kid, he thought sleepily.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when the nighttime quiet was shattered by a blood-curdling shriek he would never forget. Janet screaming the baby’s name over and over: “Justine! Justine!” Bill didn’t bother to put on a robe. He ran naked down the hall to his daughter’s room.

The coverlet was pulled back, and three-week-old Justine was not in her crib. He could still make out the imprint of her tiny body on the mattress. Near the open window his wife stood, whimpering, her eyes wide, staring vacantly.

Taking her by the shoulders, Bill shook her frantically. “Janet, where’s the baby? What happened?”

It was no use. Her lips formed words, but no sound came. He noticed an envelope clutched in her hand and took it. Removing a handwritten note, he read the words scrawled in red lipstick, but didn’t comprehend their meaning – – “Eye for eye.”

His mind reeled, rejecting the seeming finality of the message. He felt a ghastly hollowness deep in his gut, the sickening sensation of teetering on a high wire with only infinite darkness below. Someone had taken their baby. Why, dear God?

Turning back to Janet, now obviously in shock, he watched with a kind of bizarre fascination as her body trembled, and fell in a swoon at his feet.

When she regained consciousness, Janet could not describe the figure in the hood. The room had been too dark, and she’d had only a fleeting look as she ran to the window and watched the stranger carry her baby daughter off into the night.

There was one instant when the stranger turned and stared back at her. Janet knew that as long as she lived, she would never forget the torment she saw in those eyes.

***

Atlanta, Georgia

June 28, 1981

Timothy Hill’s rhythmic rocking back and forth on the playground’s wooden pony was hypnotic, and his mother, watching the three-year old with an expressionless gaze, soon felt her eyelids grow heavy. The child’s motion, couple with the soothing warmth of the Georgia sun overhead, was anesthetic.

Drifting off to sleep, she didn’t see the hooded figure in the distance or hear the footsteps creeping nearer. Only a frightened cry from her newborn infant in the carriage beside her aroused her to a level of drowsy consciousness.

“Timothy, it’s time to go home,” she called, her eyes still shut tight.

“In a minute,” replied the energetic three-year-old. “I’m not finished playing.”

She smiled to herself, yawning and stretching languorously, savoring the feeling of relaxation. She would see to the baby – – just one more minute. She didn’t want the day to end either.

“Mommy, where’s Shannon?”

The young mother’s heart skittered. “What?” she cried, suddenly at full attention, her eyes wide open. Timothy was peering into the baby carriage. My God! It was empty!

Even as she ran frantically around the playground, she knew. Just like the time they’d called to say her dad was dead. She had known, but she’d denied the reality.

Exhausted, she stopped, her mind processing the truth she couldn’t accept – – Shannon, her baby, was gone!


About The Author

Deborah Shlian, MD, MBA practiced medicine in California, where she also taught at UCLA. She has published non-fiction books, as well as medical mystery/thrillers. She has been the recipient of numerous literary awards nationwide, including the Gold Medal for Genre Fiction, Florida Book Award and the Mystery Book of the Year Silver Medal. She currently lives in Florida with her husband Joel.

Contact Deborah:

Website: www.shlian.com

 Blog: http://shlianbooks.com/category/musings/deborahs-blog/

 Twitter: @dshlian

Facebook: Deborah Shlian

Facebook Fan Page: Shlian Books

You tube @docwriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1357329

 Linked in: Deborah Shlian

Instagram: shlianbooks


Gang, please join me in thanking Deborah for sharing these authorly insights with us.

Click HERE to order your copy of Death & Damages TODAY and read the rest of this great story when it is released in the Death & Damages boxed set!

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Including Stories From…

  • New York Times bestselling author Patricia Loofbourrow
  • USA Today bestselling author Pauline Creeden
  • USA Today bestselling author John Ling
  • Award-Winning author Alexa Padgett
  • Siera London
  • USA Today bestselling author Shereen Vedam
  • Multi-Award-Winning author, Deborah Shlian
  • USA Today bestselling author Kelly Hashway
  • USA Today bestselling author JB Michaels
  • Maggie Carpenter
  • USA Today bestselling author Tiana Laveen
  • Angela Sanders
  • Award-Winning author Karen M. Bryson
  • Aime Austin
  • Lisa B. Thomas
  • USA Today bestselling author Fiona Quinn
  • Kerry J Donovan
  • Jane Blythe
  • Bestselling author Dan Alatorre
  • USA Today bestselling authors Muffy Wilson and Dariel Raye
  • Ja’Nese Dixon
  • USA Today bestselling author Terry Keys
  • Bill Hargenrader
  • Wall Street Journal bestselling author Judith Lucci
  • Award-Winning author Maria Grazia Swan

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