'Paperless' - How It All Started

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It Was a Bayou That Planted the Seed for This Story.

In fact Chapter 11 was the first to be written (you'll have to read the book to know why that's significant).  I wanted to paint a word picture of a southern bayou with our hero taking refuge in its slime and muck.

Initially I wasn't concerned about names.  I created placeholders in the text and thought I would go back later and do a mass replace of each placeholder with the appropriate name.  I quickly changed my mind.  Without names the characters just wouldn't come to life regardless of how many notes I made about them.  So I needed to give our protagonist in particular a name, and I chose Julius Barlow - it just sounded right.  

I then needed to find a reason for Julius needing a refuge such as a bayou.

While doing some research on bayous I stumbled across the story of the Alder Hey Organ Scandal and the plot started to form ... and over the next year or so the story began to solidify.  Lots of notes, lots of reading and many rejected story lines later, the current plot emerged.  During one winter, I think it was 2012, I sat down one day to write and scarcely saw the light of day for several weeks.  As the dialog and the story events flooded onto the page the story took a variety of turns I least expected.  In one sense much of the story wrote itself.

But we all know that early drafts are generally discarded - in their entirety, we are advised by the experts - but the story was there and it just needed to be made technically accurate and have the proper craft applied.

At a writer's conference a few years ago one of the session leaders made the comment that some authors are 'planners' and others are 'pantsers'.  Say what?  The comment was intended to differentiate between two great styles of writing:  a planning style where everything is mapped out in great detail and writing the story is a matter of filling in the blanks, so to speak; and a seat-of-the-pants style (hence the name 'pantser') where the author just goes with the flow and the end product is what it is.

'Paperless' was written using a mix of these two styles.  At the time I had no idea such styles had names - to me they just happened.  The 'pantser' style created the initial draft or two (or was that three or four).  The 'planner' style was then superimposed on the manuscript and major changes were made to hone the craft of the story, to correct time lines and to add more depth to characters.

At one point I couldn't figure out how to solve the health care fraud crime.  It seemed to be perfectly executed by Dr. Atchley.  Here is where your writing group or, for that matter, a single sounding board (generally a person, not a piece of wood), can be of immense help.  A fresh set of eyes.  A different mindset.  And voila!  Once the solution was found, the execution of the solution went very quickly.

After the story was down on paper and the basics of the plot and character development were done my wife and I travelled to Texas and hung around Marshall for a few days.  We visited the Caddo Lake bayous (the background of this text is a picture of one of these) and hung out at the Cyprus River and Harrison County airports.  We visited the Marshall police station where the character Rikki worked.  We had lunch at the Weisman & Co. mercantile where Rikki and Julius eat several times.  We drove the roads where Julius is hunted and we checked out the corner where the accident takes place (you'll have to read the book to get more out of me on that topic).

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Here are some pictures of the Caddo Lake bayou area that I took during my visit.

The slow moving water, the eerie tree trunks and the hanging moss make for a spooky environment.  A great place for Julius to hide from his killers.


"In an instant the symphony of sound in the bayou went deathly still as if the maestro, without warning, had dropped his baton. The creatures surrounding Julius had sensed danger and ceased their constant chatter. It was the silence that caused him to suddenly seek the deeper pool. In a heartbeat, except for a slight disturbance on the surface of the water, no evidence remained of Julius as his head slipped below the algae-slimed surface. No evidence remained, other than the tiny breathing tube that broke the surface like one of the leafless stems of the abundant water lilies."

Can you find the face looking back at you from under the water in this bayou?

"Vladimir ducked under the moss hanging on the trees that bordered the water’s edge and wormed his way among the ancient trunks and stumps down to the slimy edge of the bayou. He looked to the left and to the right for any sign of human activity but found none. He looked across the water and had to shade his eyes to protect them from the sun glinting off the constantly moving ripples. He instinctively moved his right foot back as a larger ripple lapped at his boot. He grated at this; he didn’t know why. He figured it was just his being protective of the four hundred dollar calf-skin boot—an indulgence he allowed himself as a reward for his last kill. Just as he was lowering his head to give his eyes a break from the kaleidoscope created by the moving moss and slowly undulating water, he thought he saw a face staring back at him just a few feet from the edge. He shook his head vigorously attempting to clear his vision and jog himself back to reality. Just as quickly it was gone. He stared at the spot for what seemed like an eternity but the surface of the water showed only the reflection of the patchwork sky, the inverted canopy of vegetation and the odd lily pad stem."

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'Paperless' - The Title of the Book is Born of Revolution

Over the course of the millennia mankind has undergone a series of 'revolutions' that have moulded the face of, and the nature of, society.  In this regard we often think about the discovery of fire and the wheel as transforming the way man lived.

The Gutenberg printing press (circa 1400) was arguably the beginning of the information revolution since it made information available to the common man.  The reformation (circa 1517) changed the way European societies looked at religion.  The industrial revolution (circa 1760 - 1840) is perhaps not yet over since we are still handing over manual labor to machines.  The transportation revolution (circa 1840 - 1910) altered forever the way people travelled and allowed local, continental and intercontinental movement of families, businesses and goods and services.  The information revolution (circa 1940) exposed the world to the separation of matter and information, and allowed information sciences to stand on their own.  The technology revolution which began in the early 1970's - and is still ongoing at an ever-increasing pace - has had a vast impact on society, interpersonal relationships and the workplace.

Each revolution made huge positive changes to society.  But each good thing created seems to be exploited for evil purposes.  For example, the industrial revolution brought with it child labor, sweat shops and human rights violations (a residual of these remains today).  As the new technologies developed, the promises of wireless and paperless loomed large and, in a significant measure, have delivered.  The concept of using computers to allow society to be paperless has offered many efficiencies such as email communication, electronic funds transfers and the like.  But, as with other revolutions, a paperless society opens the door for evil-doers.  Hackers, purveyors of ransomware, identity thieves and others have latched onto the paperless aspects of the technology revolution and have created an underworld which thrives.  Every day you and I receive emails that, if acted upon, would compromise our identities and/or bank accounts.

The children's hospital in our story world is committed to being paperless and has become the victim of those that prey on this benefit of modern technology.  The theme of paperless rings throughout the pages of the novel.

"After an awkward pause Carmen looked around for approval and, finding none, tried to speak between swallows, his voice resigned and rough. “Blake … came to this hospital after researching it thoroughly. He was looking for a place that had a strong commitment to a paperless environment and an IT department that had unusually tight security. He selected Parks Hospital for Children for just those reasons."

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