Monday, September 30, 2013

Featured Author: Glenn Shepard

I'm happy to have Glenn Shepard here today to talk about his thriller, Not For Profit, published by Mystery House Publishing Company.

About the book:

Renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Scott James is charged with murder after two bodies are found at his surgery center. Just weeks before the start of his capital murder trial, Dr. James is approached by a beautiful woman claiming she can help him gain information that would prove his innocence. 

As James hunts down the evidence that might free him, he faces a barrage of threats to his life and liberty--and makes one chilling discovery after another: Corporate corruption. A conspiracy to frame him for murder and for terrorist acts. A secret drone-control operation that takes out targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The true identity and intent of his beautiful ally. And a plot to blow up the local hospital and surrounding community.

Interview with Glenn Shepard

Glenn, how did you come up with the title for Not For Profit

From newspaper headlines and magazine and book titles dealing with some of the potential problems with non profit hospitals.

Describe your book in 5 words. 

Roller Coaster Ride in Writing. That's how I feel each time I read it even though I've read it thousands of times. My pulse races, and I turn the pages very fast as the end approaches, so much so that I've had trouble concentrating on the words of those last few chapters.

That's great! How do you get to know the characters?

When I write, I become the character I write about. I feel what they feel and see what they see. If they are happy, I am happy. When they are sad or scared or depressed, that becomes my mood. I become one with each person. It exhausts me at times.

That's the first time I've heard someone say that. Very interesting technique. What characters did I enjoy most in writing?

Scott James, Ethel Keyes, Detective Harris (it still saddens me that he had to die), Willie Wilson, Charlie Watson (I'm still depressed about this druggie), and in fact, I enjoyed each and every one of the characters. They were alive, vibrant, each had emotions and real feelings--even the "bad" people.

What would your main character say about you? 

He'd say that I put my heart and soul into his creation and the same into trying to save him from his inevitable fate.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

They are all real people in my world, a combination of people I've known, others that I've observed in daily settings (like people at restaurants I  hear and see). I have never copied movie actors or protagonists in a novel. Some are people who make news, and I try to project into their thoughts and motives for their actions. But in building them, I base the fictional characters on people I've met over the years, hence they're lifted from media sources and given a real place in the world as I see it.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book. 

I like the use of orchids, scattered throughout the book. The story of Orchis sets the mood for the plastic surgeon, who is in plastic surgery to create beauty, peace, and harmony. This all gets disrupted as his life is shattered by the murder charges and his humiliation. But he fights, overcomes many of the obstacles, and in the end restores himself, just as Orchis restores himself in the final paragraph. That final piece is my favorite everything about the book. It brings closure to all the words before it.

What's the first thing you'd buy with a million dollar book deal? 

I'd probably give it all away to one of the charitable plastic surgery groups that treat facial deformities, or an art museum (one of my hobbies is museum jumping to view paintings), or the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Or maybe for relief aid to Haiti, if I found a group that would really use to money to help the people there.

That's wonderful. What would your dream office look like?

I've already lived in my dream office, it had 10 foot ceilings with art work on every wall (some of it Hudson River genre antique art), a waterfall with an 8-foot drop-over, an open pond with fish, parquet floors and a couple oriental rugs, sculptures in alcoves, and you would guess...lots of orchids.

Wow. Sounds wonderful. What are you working on now?

Relief Aid Haiti is a novel, in the Scott James series, that will be ready for release later this year, projected for November. I gained a respect for the Haitian people in a brief rotation in a surgical hospital after the 2010 earthquake there. Plenty of money was donated to help, but it is slow to get back to the people. My story is based on people I met there and the poor conditions in which so many Haitians live.  

I hope you'll come back and tell us more about Relief Aid Haiti! Thank you for being here.

Excerpt from Not For Profit


Deep in a forest in Ancient Greece, a young man by the name of Orchis stumbled upon a festival in honor of the god Dionysius. It was a wild celebration filled with drinking and dancing. Young Orchis was drawn to the party and decided to join in. After a few hours and a few too many goblets of wine, he tried to rape a Dionysian priestess. Upon witnessing this violation, his fellow revelers tore him to pieces. The next morning,his father gathered together the pieces of his dead son, but he could not resurrect him. As he fell to his knees, Orchis’ father prayed to his gods for aid in bringing his son back to life. The Greek gods wanted to help, but they could not just restore Orchis. He needed to be punished for what he had done. So, instead of bringing Orchis back to life as a man, they transformed him into a slender flower—what we now call an orchid.

Cartersville, West Virginia

My patient was almost six months old. Bright blue eyes. Curly, platinum-blonde hair. Cute pink fingers. Her name was Britney Ann Cooper. She was a perfect twelve-pound baby girl—except for the angry, open gash that trailed from her nose to her mouth. For most children, the palate fuses together before birth, but for one in every 700, it does not.

Britney’s mother was distraught. Her friends kept saying that God had given Britney a cleft palate for a reason. They kept telling her that she was being punished by God for her sins. They said that if she tried to change Britney, God would strike her baby dead.

I disagreed. “Nobody’s dying in my operating room today. Not if I can help it."

Britney’s mom asked, “Is she gonna be okay?”

“Yep. I promise. Never lost one yet. Trust me. Gimme an hour, and she’ll be good as new.”

Britney’s mom had no insurance. She was unmarried, seventeen years old, and on welfare. I was standing next to her in a makeshift OR in the back of a free clinic in a single-wide trailer. Sweat dripped down into my eyes. It was 97 degrees, and there was no air conditioning. This part of West Virginia is as poor as some cities in Third World countries.

“Okay. Fine. Whatever. Just do it, but I can’t watch,” Britney’s mom said through tears before turning to run out of the trailer.

A nurse anesthetist stuck an endotracheal tube down Britney’s throat. One slip on her part and my skills would be lost on a dead baby. I tried to focus on the task at hand. I turned to the circulator nurse as she wiped my forehead. “Hey, if it’s too easy, it’s no fun—right?”

My patient rested on a gynecology examining table, the only table the free clinic had for surgery. The leg stirrups had been removed, but the attaching mounts stuck up so far from the table that it kept me at armsdistance away from my tiny patient.

I stared though my magnifying loupes and traced the length of the cleft. It opened at the floor of the nostril and down through the upper lip and back over the palate, dividing it all the way through to the uvula. I paused before lifting the scalpel.

If I had been in my air-conditioned cosmetic surgery office in North Carolina, I would have repaired the lip then and the palate the following year. Closing the lip early is essential to containing the mouth, so the baby can suck and feed on a nipple. Without the lip repair, the baby will become extremely malnourished. The palate closure is necessary for proper speech development, which doesn’t begin until eighteen months. But, since we were in a rural area and I wouldn’t be back next year, I had to do it all then.

I took a marking pencil and quickly outlined the cuts on the upper lip, with rotation advancement of the two halves of the upper lip and a tiny Z-plasty on the vermillion border. With my thumb and index finger squeezing the labial artery—the primary blood supply of the lip—I made the lip incisions, discarding only the thin rim of tissue that blocked the repair.

I heard Britney gurgle and took her pulse. It was slow, which meant she wasn’t getting the oxygen she needed. I ordered the anesthetist to take out the endotracheal tube and put it back in again.

The cautery machine was an antique. I hadn’t used one of these old ones since med school, and I was worried about excessive burning. To be safe, I touched the individual bleeders with a small 25-gauge hypodermic needle.

I took the smallest suture material available, 4-0 gut, for the muscle repair. I preferred much smaller sutures, but none were available. Three of the stitches aligned the lip exactly.

Twenty minutes and four forehead wipes later, I was almost done. Just the palate left to stitch up, but it was the most complicated part of the procedure. I felt sweat about to drip in the wound and turned quickly for another brow wipe. My back was killing me, but I adjusted my posture and put the pain out of my mind.

Just suture the palate. With some fine silk, 5-0, which was perfect for a mucosal repair, I placed five fine sutures in mattress fashion, to turn the lining of the palate outward.

I stepped back to admire my work. Damn! The vermillion borders of the lip didn’t match; the left side was lower than the right. The baby started gurgling and coughing. Crap! The nurse anesthetist had disappeared to prep another patient, and I was on my own. It wasn’t safe for Baby Britney to be out so long. I had to do this fast and finish up. I breathed in deeply and tried again. I made a 5-0 silk stitch and placed each side exactly in the vermillion border. I slowly tied the stitch and pulled.

Again, I stepped back and looked at my patient. The two sides slid into precise alignment as God had intended them. Perfect!

About the author:

Glenn Shepard was raised on a farm in eastern Virginia, went to college and medical school at the University of Virginia, completed surgery and cardiovascular residency at Vanderbilt and plastic surgery residency at Duke, and spent two years in the Army at Ft. Gordon Hospital in Georgia and the Second Surgical hospital in An Khe, Vietnam. He practiced plastic surgery in Newport News, Va. for 28 years  and directed the Riverside Facial Deformities clinic and the Riverside Laboratory for Microvascular research for most of those years. Writing has been a hobby all his adult life.

Friend Glenn:

Buy the book: