The Story Behind the Story

I love to write. I really always have. Many years passed me behind with maybe a poem here or a beginning of a story there. I have to say, writing a novel was always on my bucket list. A bucket that sat in the corner of my mind that occasionally got something tossed in but was never really going to be emptied. There was no real intent there.

One day my younger sister told me she had written a manuscript and was working on getting it published. It quickly took me back to a time where my mom, my sister, and I had come to the conclusion that we three should each write a short story about a nursing home. It could be a haunted story or one of happiness or even filled with sadness. It was a challenge and we each began building our stories. Mine was about two old women who had grown to despise each other. One woman was grouchy and relished her time in solitude and silence. The other woman was warm and owned an old antique wind-up clock that chimed loudly on the hour. Ka-Chong! One loud announcement for each hour. It had been passed down to her from her parents. She’d grown up hearing the loud announcement and it brought distant memories of childhood to her. The old crabby woman hated it.

Anyway, I dove headfirst into the story believing that my mother and sister were certainly ahead of me in writing theirs. As it turned out, our stories faded into the background of our lives and none of us ever finished them. I still have mine somewhere on paper in some box somewhere hidden. It’s still inside my head and I plan to one day finish it. My sister and I talk about the attempt from time to time and smile and laugh. My mom is now 87 and she too still remembers the challenge.

Anyway, that was the extent of my writing up to the point I’d heard Jenny, my sister, had actually completed a novel. She wouldn’t let me read it until it was published. My mom had read it and helped edit and proof it. She too had the knack for writing and had several of her poems published. I’m assuming it must have been from her that my sister and I had gotten the seed of putting words together into sentences and paragraphs. But now…she’d had actually built enough paragraphs to form chapters and then a completed manuscript! I was impressed. It felt like a challenge! I thought to myself, I’d always said I would do it and now my sister has! I must!

That thought went on for several months. It sat on my shoulder and came to thought occasionally, I even attempted a autobiography, but only made it through three or four chapters before it fizzled. I posted each chapter even though the story was very revealing about a past of mine I wasn’t particularly proud of, but I’m not one to hide things. I had a friend who said I was crazy for telling such a past. I was a youth director at our church at the time and he was afraid I would blow chances of remaining one if I continued. I laughed. I was almost sixty and these stories were from my twenties! I’ve changed a little since then! It didn’t really matter as I let the story wash from my thoughts and efforts even though I had several compliments, some with shock behind them.

My wife, young 12 or 13 year old son, and a couple with two kids and myself went on a camping and canoeing trip one weekend. It was down on a fairly calm river called Jack’s Fork. I hadn’t been on a canoe since I’d married my wife twenty years earlier and our son of course had never been canoeing. The first half was fantastic, the second half, well…not so much. We floated for several hours in calm slow waters and around the bend, the water got deeper and swifter and we ended up getting our canoe wedged into a forked limb that was from a downed tree. It quickly swamped our boat and pitched us all out. I emerged first, my wife second, and we couldn’t find our son. None of us had life jackets on because the water had been so calm. There were large tree root balls from flooded waters uprooting them. The water and rapids were fairly swift and deep where our accident happened. I know it must have only been seconds, no more than a minute, but it seemed like forever as we searched for our son. I feared he’d been pulled into the ball of roots from the large tree when suddenly his head popped up and I was able to grab him and pull him to shore. He’d survived being trapped underneath the canoe which was trapped under the water pinned by a limb. There was an air pocket and he wasn’t sure what to do. He finally held his breath and bravely swam out from under the canoe and fought his way to the surface. The experience absolutely terrorized me. I thought we’d lost him for good. I woke up nightly sweating profusely from dreams replaying the incident. That’s when it finally hit me. This was the story that I could write and finish. If it bothered me so deeply, it may just hit other people’s triggers also. I began writing almost immediately. I actually started off writing it on a tablet. My sister said I was crazy because I was using the keyboard on the tablet. LOL I ended up purchasing a bluetooth keyboard and probably after about 4 written chapters, splurged for my first laptop, realizing a tablet just wasn’t optimum at all.

I was surprised how quickly the story came to me and how my characters actually seemed to write the story itself. While it was loosely based on that one camping trip and the small town of Ash Grove that I had lived just outside of for the first seven years after my divorce from my first wife…the story is complete fiction. The characters are made up from several different people I’ve met in my life and are not based on any single person, although I’ve had several people try and guess who!

I wrote the novel titled The Waning Crescent, in under 6 months. I booked my first book signing gig at the fourth of July celebration in the Ash Grove city park and got the finished independently published copies just in time have them there. That book is published under my true name. Some say since I now write under the pen name of Eli Pope, that I shouldn’t reveal my true name. I see no reason now to keep them hidden from one another. After writing my second book and being suggested it be grittier and turned into a series, I chose a pen name so people who purchased my first book which I published as a Christian Fiction, wouldn’t be shocked at the content of The Judgment Game. My second book was finished within four months of my first and was written as a stand alone. After having a friend read it, they suggested to make it a series as that is what readers wanted more of nowadays. She also suggested to “dirty” it up a bit and make it darker and more thrilling. I’m afraid I may have done more than she suspected that I would. Thus was born The Mason Jar Series and the author Eli Pope.

I’m now about to publish book 4 of the series this November and am working on a novella for the series that I am considering book 4.5 as it is not a full length novel, but a very important part of the series that will then lead into book 5. I have no plans on ending the series unless I feel the story becomes lacking. I don’t want to end it on a fading note but instead a high note. So far, I’m far too invested in the characters to let go just yet! I do have several projects on the horizon though. I’m now writing short stories for my friend Paul J McSorley’s horror podcast named-Fear from the Heartland. It is an exclusive show from Chilling Tales for Dark Nights. These podcasts run weekly and Paul has named me a major contributor and so far I have had three stories produced and a special Halloween story named Welcome To Helltown will air October 30, 2021 just before Halloween. Paul also narrates all my books from the Mason Jar Series that are sold on Audible.com. He is a fabulous voice and wonderfully talented friend who is married to a fantastic musical genius that has done the music for my series. She also produces the Fear from the Heartland show that Paul hosts and narrates for.

It seems what was needed to re-stir and motivate me to write…was a sister to beat me to the punchline and publish a novel, showing it was indeed an achievable bucket list challenge and a near tragedy to get my blood pumping. Thank God for both my sister’s motivation and God sparing my son’s life. He still gives me a hard time for killing him off within the first pages of my first novel, even though he is NOT Jason, the main character’s son in that first written manuscript that got me rolling.

Eli

Published by Eli Pope

Author, Artist and Creative living in the Ozarks

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